MintStyle with Rachel Weingarten: Traveling in Style


The best part of summer is escaping on a well-deserved vacation. The worst part of taking a summer vacation is knowing you’ll likely be fighting to get the best deals on destinations, flights, hotels and more. And then there are the concerns about being crammed on an overbooked flight or finding out that your hotel deal includes a leaky faucet and a noisy room on the highway. After that kind of getaway, you might just come home more tired than you were in the first place.

For that reason, I propose you consider a more lavish escape this summer. That’s right — I’m suggesting you spend money on your vacation this summer, instead of trying to nickel and dime your way through it.

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to live in a mansion or summer in a chateau? While you will never know what it’s like to live in Buckingham Palace, you can experience the better things in life for a few nights.

Since your vacation will recharge you and provide you with the impetus to continue to work and save, it might be time to indulge instead of just making do with the only available deals.

Live Like a Vanderbilt

If your last name is Trump or Astor (or Cooper), chances are you already know what it is like to live in high style. If you possess a more pedestrian last name like Smith or Jones (or Weingarten), chances are you have only dreamt of living like a Vanderbilt in Newport, Rhode Island, where the American elite once summered in houses big enough to comfortably sleep entire football teams.

Well, this summer, you can live like a Vanderbilt — at least for a night or two.

The Vanderbilt Grace hotel (formerly Vanderbilt Hall) was built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1909 as a summer escape for his family and is now part of the family-owned Grace luxury boutique hotel group. The mansion’s 33 rooms and suites were recently renovated to allow guests to experience the glamorous life, complete with sumptuous bedding, spa showers and so many tiny extra details that will make you feel spoiled silly.

The luxury spa offers world class massages and treatments and the property also has both indoor and outdoor pools and two restaurants including Muse, created by famed New England chef, Jonathan Cartwright.

The Vanderbilt Grace is within walking distance to Thames Street, the famed Touro Synagogue and the historic Newport Cliff, where you can see historical cottages such as The Breakers and Miramar and Hammersmith Farm, the childhood home (and wedding reception site) of Jacqueline Kennedy. Be sure to stop by the Newport Historical Society and talk to Matt Delaire for a fascinating history of how the other half lived.

Stay in a Mansion

You know those urban legends about the most amazing hotel ever? Well, I’d heard about the Honor Mansion in Sonoma wine country for years, before I finally experienced it firsthand. While curious to visit, I couldn’t imagine that a relatively small B&B located in Healdsburg, California could live up to all the hype.

The history alone proved interesting enough. In 1883, William S. Butcher, used some of his fortune amassed in the days of the Forty-niners and gold prospectors to build the mansion in 1883. His family and descendants lived there for the next 108 years until mansion was bought by current owners, Steve and Cathi Fowler. The Fowlers expanded the property to encompass four acres and a mixture of 13 rooms and suites in the mansion and extended vineyard area.

While each room holds a special charm, it’s the amenities that elevate the entire experience of staying at the Honor Mansion. The list is extensive and ranges from bocce, croquet and tennis courts, to fresh cut flowers, endless appetizers, a fairly amazing breakfast, cookies and snacks at all hours, or even the potential for in-room massages (on your own private deck, if you’re in a Vineyard Suite). It’s tempting to stay in your room instead of visiting all the local wineries and restaurants.

Escape to a Chateau

If you’re longing for a trip to Europe but can’t afford it this season, consider visiting Ottawa. Only about an hour’s flight from the East Coast, Canada’s charming capital city has both the architecture and allure of a small European city. And, they speak French! Ottowa has a fantastic array of restaurants, museums and attractions. There is also a canal with a bike lane circling the city and  a Chateau. Oh là là!

Fairmont Chateau Laurier cost $2 million dollars to build in 1912 and charged guests just $2.00 per night, per room. While prices have increased considerably since then, the old world manners and luxury remain unchanged. From healthier menu options at their restaurants, which include specific menus for everyone from those with high blood pressure or diabetes, to guests with vegan and macrobiotic diets.

High tea at Zoe’s Lounge includes freshly-baked scones and Devonshire cream, along with tasty tidbits like cucumber sandwiches (rinds removed, of course) and biscuits, including a custom tea menu. Local attractions include the magnificent Parliament Building (attached to the chateau via a now blocked secret tunnel), and a four-block square known as the Byward Market, which is crammed with a collection of cafés, eclectic boutiques, galleries, restaurants, pubs and specialty food shops.

Inn Style

If castles, chateaus and mansions just aren’t your thing, consider the Inn of the Five Graces in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This unique property looks like it would be right at home in a location like Morocco or Marrakech, rather than in the Southwest.

If you prefer your travel on the exotic and opulent side, you’ll appreciate all of the incredibly intricate details that go into the décor, which include tile mosaics, rich kilim carpets and tapestries, and quirky touches, like candelabras. You might find a dream catcher on your pillow, or be treated to local ghost stories and adventures told by the staff.

Afternoon wine and cheese is also augmented by local flavors, like serving margaritas, too. The hotel also purchased the Pink Adobe restaurant, which now serves as the hotel restaurant. Best yet, the inn is a non-tipping property, which means all of your extras are already included in the price of your room.

I consider each vacation to be an investment and opportunity to recharge and experience new things. For me, I relish the opportunity to feel spoiled as a reward for working so hard the rest of the time. I’d rather spend slightly more, instead of cheaping out and creating an experience that leaves me wishing I had stayed home instead.

Rachel Weingarten’s friends are perplexed by her deep love for hotel visits. She’s a style expert, marketing strategist & personal branding consultant for CEOs, politicians and celebrities and the creator of MintStyle. She is the award-winning author of Career and Corporate Cool and Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ‘40s-‘60s. Rachel writes for top media outlets including CNN, Fortune, Forbes Life, MSN, USA Today, Yahoo Finance and many others. She is a regularly featured expert on TV shows including Good Morning America and The Today Show. Visit her online at or on Twitter @rachelcw Write to her with your burning style questions at