Enjoy a different winter vacation. From top left, clockwise: French Leave Resort, Lido Beach, Resorts World Bimini and Renaissance Tuscany .
Popular Destination: Florence, Italy
Go Instead: Barga, Italy (Serchio Valley)
In the heart of Italy’s beloved region, Tuscany, the mountainous Serchio Valley is authentic as it gets. A little over an hour from Florence and Pisa, two hours from Cinque Terre, and an hour and a half from seaside towns like, Viareggio and Forte de Marmi, the Serchio Valley is a quiet, peaceful retreat without all of the tourists. Surrounded by quaint, medieval picturesque towns like Lucca and Barga, here it’s easy to get to know the friendly locals and feel at home while traveling. Nestled on the hill of an expansive two-mile estate in Tuscany, the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa overlooks the mountainous Serchio Valley, one of the most unexplored areas of Italy. The resort features 180 luxurious rooms and suites, a full-service spa, two restaurants serving local cuisine and a lounge, an indoor swimming pool, a health club, onsite cooking lessons, and varied excursions within the surrounding area. Starting rates begin at $150/night. For more information, visit http://www.renaissancetuscany.com/en/.
Popular Destination: Jamaica
Go Instead: Bimini, Bahamas
43 miles from Florida there's a whole other world...Bimini that is..a charming Bahamian Out island that is just a 20 minute sea plane flight from the coast of Miami. Bimini boasts miles of pristine beaches and some of the best diving and fishing sites in the world. Its intriguing Caribbean mystique and laid-back nautical lifestyle have long captivated travelers, as the island was a favorite escape for notables, including Ernest Hemingway, Johnny Cash, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Travelers to the island can stay at the brand new 305-room Hilton Hotel at Resorts World Bimini, which is home to a world-class casino, six restaurants all curated by a Bravo TV top chef, four pools, a spa and the largest private marina in The Bahamas. Whether you want to hang with the high rollers at the only casino in the world with panoramic water views, or channel your inner Hemingway with a big game fishing excursion, you can unwind from your day at one of Resorts World Bimini’s six restaurants and bars or with some shopping at Fisherman’s Village, the property’s open-air promenade. You’ll be on island time in no time! Starting rates at the property during the holiday season begin at $269/night. For more information, visit www.rwbimini.com
Popular Destination: Miami, Florida
Go Instead: Sarasota, Florida
Specializing in sunsets and all things R&R, families, couples and snowbirds consider Lido Beach Resort their go-to destination when life demands the simplicity of a perfect Piña Colada and a tan. The 112 newly renovated suites are a major draw for families. Ranging from 595 to 1,000 square feet in size, the spacious suites were completely overhauled and now boast all new flooring and furniture in main areas and in separate bedroom(s), new kitchens (new countertops, sinks, fridges, dishwashers, cabinets, etc.), completely new bathrooms (new toilets, showers, counters, sinks, mirrors, etc.) and the private balconies have new furniture as well. If you can drag yourself out of the suite, grab a spot on the 300-foot stretch of powder white sand or snag a seat at the poolside Tiki Bar, where the mix of locals and Lido Beach experts (this place sees a ton of repeat visitors) will keep you company. Live music sets the mood for epic nightly sunsets, and don’t miss the unreal bloody mary bar at the Lido Beach Grille, complete with Sarasota’s only panoramic view of the city skyline and west coast shoreline. Rates for deluxe guest rooms start at $199/night and suites at $329/night. For more information visit http://www.lidobeachresort.com/.
Popular Destination: Dominican Republic
Go instead: Eleuthera
Situated on the tranquil, Caribbean island of Eleuthera, French Leave Resort is the ideal secluded hideaway for travelers seeking a luxurious holiday escape away from life's daily hustle and bustle. Overlooking one of the most beautiful pink sand beaches and picturesque harbors in the world, Cupid's Cay, the property currently features four expansive seafront cottages, each elegantly decorated with British colonial interiors, a freshwater pool, fitness center, special events lawn and a wedding pavilion, two mega yacht slips, as well as one of the island's best restaurants, 1648 Bar & Grille. The project represents the first construction of true seafront cottages on Governor’s Harbour since the late 1940s, as the 270-acre site had been unavailable for private ownership for more than seven decades. The property will launch as Marriott's newest addition to the Autograph Collection in the Caribbean, and will expand to 12 bungalows by mid-December 2016. For more information, visit www.frenchleaveeleuthera.com.
Popular Destination: Jamaica
Go Instead: Barbados
The island of Barbados, often overlooked by American travelers, is one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems with platinum white beaches on the west coast, yet rugged breathtaking cliffs on the east coast. From rubbing elbows with the locals in Bridgetown to the laid-back windsurfers in Bathsheba, it’s easy to feel a sense ofBajan pride and nationalism, especially as the country gears up to celebrate its 50th independence anniversary this November. At the vibrant Turtle Beach resort on the island’s lively south coast, guests can get knee-deep in local culture right from the comfort of the hotel. Whether it’s learning to play beach cricket (the island’s popular pastime), making pastries with unusual ingredients like noni flour and cactus, learning to speak like Rihanna with dialect lessons, or jamming to calypso classics on the steel pan, the resort has something for everyone to enjoy this winter. For more information, visit www.turtlebeachresortbarbados.com.