Erin Raub

Planning a European getaway is one of the travel world’s greatest pleasures. Explorers envision romantic strolling in Paris, tapas tasting in Barcelona, and museum-hopping in London. But just as daydreaming turns into legitimate agenda-forming, sticker shock often backslaps like a champion street fighter. The Euro and the Pound are a tough pill to swallow for American and Canadian vacationers, but Europe isn’t all sky-high prices; we promise there are actually excellent deals to be found across the pond, especially when you plan your escape to miss peak season. We scoured our favorite cities for 3+ pearl hotels that come in under $150 a night in mid-September – the perfectly not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-crowded time to visit Europe!

Conscious Hotel Museum Square, Amsterdam

Conscious Hotel Museum Square

Price: $148 for a 3-pearl property

The Conscious Hotel proves you don’t have to go ultra-budget or far-flung to get a good deal in Amsterdam. This quirky, eco-themed hotel is located within walking distance of the Van Gogh Museum and local tram stations for a quick ride to the city’s historic center. The inviting hotel earns points for its large-for-Amsterdam sized rooms, natural light, and modern décor. Guests drawn by the eco theme will enjoy the organic daily breakfast, tree photo murals, and on-site bike rentals.

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Summer is a time for celebration, family bonding, and — most importantly, in our book — travel. But when vacation extravaganzas to far-flung islands and ancient cities don’t fit into the budget, the answer is not to skip vacation: it’s to nearcation! (Yes, we just made a new word. And we think it’s kinda awesome.) Avoid the cost of flights, currency exchange, and pricey destinations for some spectacular cities that are just a short drive from major U.S. cities — we know where you live… So without further adieu, check out five nearcation destinations that won’t break the bank, but will be just the amazing vacation break that you need!

Atlantic City 

Driving Time from New York City: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Atlantic City

When most people think of Atlantic City, they think gambling, and casinos galore. While that’s certainly a major part of the destination, Atlantic City is also an excellent choice for a wallet-friendly summer vacation that doesn’t have to include time spent at the tables. In fact, this sparkling seaside city offers one of the East Coast’s most impressive lineups of comedy shows, concerts, festivals ,and events, and then piles on plenty of outdoor attractions: sandy beaches, a festive boardwalk (don’t miss the saltwater taffy!), New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, an aquarium, ballet, sport fishing, golf, museums, trolley tours, surfing and a lot, lot more. (Bonus: Check out our non-gamer’s guide to Atlantic City.)

Where to Stay: It’s easy to score a great deal at one of Atlantic City’s casino hotels, but our value pick goes to the Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City. Decked out in Roaring Twenties-themed decor and just steps from the boardwalk, this hotel in an extremely affordable option.

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We get it, you love your kids. But some occasions — anniversaries, romantic holidays, and even just good ole sexy time — require an adults-only escape. Enter these six sensual (and beautiful) adults-only resorts and inns, each of which promises all the accouterments of the ideal vacation a deux. From fluttering bed canopies to massages for two, from private rainforests to seaside cliffs (and some secluded corners private enough for a little hanky panky, as well!), these six kids-free vacations deliver the ultimate in romantic luxury.

Gaia Hotel And Reserve

Gaia Hotel And Reserve, Costa Rica

The adults-only Gaia Hotel, located in spectacular Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, is a romantic tropical haven. Surrounded by a private rainforest reserve, this boutique boasts exotic blooms, hooting howler monkeys, and lush scenery at nearly every turn. Many couples appreciate the quiet, the ambiance and the attentive service, which includes freebies such as delicious breakfasts and a 20-minute spa treatment.

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Every year, millions of Americans celebrate Memorial Day weekend as the official kickoff of summer. Hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and, of course, travel — these traditions endure throughout the ages. Another thing that never changes? The most popular Memorial Day destinations. Year after year, Americans ring in the summer season in the same places that are, not surprisingly, the nation’s most accessible, beautiful and celebratory destinations, that boast awesome hotels to boot. The following five cities were some of the most popular of 2013, and are sure to be just as hustlin’ and bustlin’ this upcoming weekend. Read on to find out why they’re just so great for Memorial Day weekend — and where you can stay in each.

The Plaza

1. New York City

New York City is always a great choice for Memorial Day: if free concerts, hundreds of landmarks, patriotic parades and free summer movies aren’t enough, this year the city’s famed Fleet Week also coincides with Memorial Day celebrations. Events include ship tours, air shows, a music festival, parades, and a marching band — all great choices, especially for revelers with kids in tow.

Where to Stay: It’s hard to find a deal in New York on a holiday weekend, so why not go all-out and stay at the city’s landmark hotel, The Plaza? Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking gold-plated bathroom fixtures and Central Park views!

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Even in the world of luxury travel, some hotels offer pretty average amenities. But then there are others with extravagant extras that amp up the wow factor till it’s totally over-the-top (and if you know us at Oyster, you know we love a little over-the-top-ness). So here we’ve rounded up nine of the most luxurious, over-the-top hotel amenities EVER. Get ready to splurge…

The Ritz-Carlton South Beach

1. Tanning Butler: The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami

The Ritz-Carlton chain is known for luxury, but it’s South Beach outpost has upped the ante with the tanning butler.The hotel’s signature tanning butler patrols the pool deck to help guests apply sunscreen (even those hard-to-reach areas) and offer a buffet of tanning products, sunglasses and other sun necessities.

 

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When you’re in the mood for love but only have a few days to spare, a weekend getaway — in a destination that won’t take all weekend to get to — is just what you need. And if you choose a hotel with features like private fireplaces, Italian linens, enormous soaking tubs, and spectacular views, your few days can add up to a perfectly romantic escape. Here are seven romantic hotels in hometowns across the United States that are great for a quick getaway with your better half.

Captain's House Inn

Captain’s House Inn, Cape Cod

There’s something inherently romantic about New England’s historic inns, charming hospitality, and breezy beaches. Cape Cod’s Captain’s House Inn revels in this trifecta, adding cozy ambiance with English country decor, in-room fireplaces, and soaking tubs. An adults-only policy (no children under 10) and a delicious gourmet breakfast (as well as afternoon tea) add to the romantic vibe.

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Despite its Spanish moniker, Cinco de Mayo is an American holiday, originally instituted to commemorate freedom and democracy during the American Civil War. In the 1940s, the holiday rose to it’s current renown – and became inextricably linked to wild parties and plenty of tequila. That said, Cinco de Mayo does double-duty as a day to down some margs and celebrate Mexican heritage and pride. After all, it is a Mexican holiday — just to a lesser degree. No matter how you slice it, the fifth of May is always a great day to let loose, grab a Corona or tequila shot, and get your fiesta on. Here are five of our favorite Mexican hotels perfect for south-of-the-border celebrations.

 

Krystal Puerto Vallarta

1. Krystal Puerto Vallarta

On a wide, sandy beach just outside of Puerto Vallarta, the Krystal Puerto Vallarta is a great budget pick — and the complete review with photos was just recently added to Oyster.com! There are six pools and six whirlpools, plus a poolside bar — perfect for Cinco de Mayo reveling. The wallet-friendly day spa offers inexpensive massages, aromatherapy treatments, and salon services — and best of all, guests on the all-inclusive plan get 30 percent off all treatments.

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Earth Day may roll around just once a year (it’s today, by the way), but the great thing about travel is that you can celebrate your commitment to the planet anytime and anywhere! So whether you’re planning a last-minute bash to celebrate Mother Earth, or just want to go green for your next vacay, these seven hotels have you covered… And if you’re asking what makes a hotel eco-friendly, the answer varies depending on whom you question. Some of our picks have launched awesome recycling programs; another is LEED -certified; and yet another sits on a 1,000-acre private rainforest reserve, home to scarlet macaws. Read on for all the tree-hugging deets, and have a very happy (and green) Earth Day!

Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach, Los Cabos 

Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach

Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach, along with its sister hotels Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa, and Pueblo Bonito Rose Resort & Spa, is committed to green initiatives and promoting sustainable tourism throughout Mexico. The hotel has taken lots of steps, both big and small, to reduce its environmental impact, from launching an initiative to protect sea turtles in the area to headlining an innovative recycling program. Pueblo Bonito also organizes beach clean-ups, composts much of its organic waste, and works to protect local whales, brown pelicans and other wildlife. Oh, and it’s a gorgeous luxury property with direct access to a private beach.

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“America the Beautiful” was originally a poem written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, who was inspired to pen the historic words after taking a memorable — and clearly, scenic — cross-country train trip from Massachusetts to Colorado. In the late 1800s, such a trip might have been grueling, but it was nonetheless considered exotic — whereas nowadays, it sometimes seems travelers aren’t impressed unless they’re crossing vast oceans and getting multiple stamps on their passports. But America is still the fair beauty of Bates’s poem, and tons of gorgeous sites and settings can be found right in our backyards. Even better, local travel is often relatively cheap and easy: There’s no currency exchange, language barrier, or passport required, and even if you do fly, flights are certainly less expensive than those to far-flung international locales. Here are six amazing sites in the U.S. that you’ve got to see. (And don’t worry. If you really must cross an ocean to feel like you’re on vacation, we have some U.S. destinations where that is a necessity as well).

Bioluminescent Bay, Puerto Rico

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If you’ve ever questioned whether the U.S. could be exotic, the Bioluminscent Bay in Puerto Rico’s Fajardo will have you properly convinced. Just a short drive from Old San Juan, this famed “Bio Bay” puts on nature’s most magnificent light show: At night, when the bay is inky black beneath the light of the moon, microscopic plankton glow turquoise as you paddle or swim through the water.

Where to Stay: El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is just about as close as you can get to the Bio Bay. Even better, this luxe resort offers some of the Caribbean’s most epic views.

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Easter is fast-approaching, and leading up to the springtime holiday is Holy Week, which, in Roman Catholic tradition, is the last week of Lent, taking place right before Easter (which falls on Sunday, April 20th this year). Parades, processions, traditional celebrations, lively festivities, marching bands, festive foods: These are the sights, sounds, and flavors of Holy Week around the globe, and for travelers who sample a country’s culture as much as its fine cuisine and beautiful scenery, visiting a celebratory country during Holy Week is the holy grail — no pun intended — of cultural travel. Here are our six top picks for the most festive spots in the world to visit during Holy Week.

Guatemala

La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences

Guatemala is one of the world’s most renowned destinations for celebrating Holy Week, thanks to the nation’s vibrant and ornate religious festivities. To kick off the week, Guatemalans decorate their streets and homes with palm fronds on Palm Sunday, and the celebration continues through Good Friday. In Antigua, residents scatter the country’s famed alfombras – dyed sand and sawdust, with pine needles, flowers and plants — on the cobblestone streets to create spectacularly colored “carpets” that lead the way for religious processions.

Where to Stay: Just 30 minutes from colonial Antigua, La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences gets you close to the Holy Week action but not too close: visit during the day and escape at night to avoid the pulsating — and often overwhelming — crowds.

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