Kelsey Blodget

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Haven’t planned your beach vacay yet? Or trying to figure out how to pay for that relaxing trip to the sand? A lot of us are in the same boat, and with the weather so beautiful, the beach is beckoning. Oyster may be able to help! Since we know how much our Oyster fans love to travel, we are giving away $500 toward your summer beach getaway. Hurray! All you have to do is sign up for a chance to win. Pretty easy, huh?

Enter Here >>

Don’t have Facebook or don’t want to enter on Facebook? Not a problem. You can also enter here using the subject line “Sweepstakes Entry.”

And of course, make sure to read the fine print!

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Sometimes, the journey is about the destination. Because the destination is so special, your whole travel experience is wrapped up inside it. We’ve traveled the world and have been to some pretty special spots. From a western dude ranch to a Florentine palazzo to an African canoe excursion, these 11 trips offer a far richer experience than your typical overnight stay.

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Tuscany is a dream destination for many — rolling green hills, charming medieval towns, stone farmhouses, and acres of vineyards are what usually come to mind. But there’s a side of Tuscany many may not know about — a steamy side. No, not that kind of steamy (well, maybe that too), but steamy in the literal sense — many Italians and Europeans flock to the little town of Saturnia for its natural thermal waters. These charming properties take full advantage of this unique geographical feature.

Agriturismo Le Cascatelle

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Set among olive and fruit trees in a quiet field, this bed and breakfast consists of four simple but clean, well-stocked apartments slightly set apart from one another, furnished with the basics. A few rooms are available for rent within the compound’s main house. Wine made by the owner is available for sample and sale, and a much-lauded homemade breakfast is offered each morning at a very reasonable price. The main advantage of this location is its convenience vis-à-vis the Saturnia waterfalls (within walking distance), as well as its proximity to several towns of historical and cultural interest, including Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana. The owner organizes full and half-day mountain biking excursions for guests for an extra fee. Read More »

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Beyonce isn’t the only one with a message for all the single ladies out there — a growing number of hotels, in an effort to target single female travelers, are offering women’s-only rooms and floors. These range all the way from shared hostel accommodations to entire floors of upscale business hotels. So for the hostel dorm rooms we’re pretty much on board – we know we wouldn’t love having to possibly change in front of strange dudes — but we’re a bit conflicted about having women’s-only rooms and floors in nicer hotels, where it’s less a matter of practicality and more of a marketing gimmick. These properties are targeting well-heeled businesswomen with female-oriented amenities such as curling irons and glossy fashion mags; some may find it convenient, others a bit insulting.

We can see that it might be nice to leave the yoga mat and nail file at home for those who often pack up all their supplies for just a short weekend getaway — but other women may find the selection of amenities discriminatory (after all, I’ll take the standard NYTimes over Cosmo any day). Also, for hotels with women-only floors (rather than select rooms), there’s an implied security element — it’s as if the hotel is promoting a way for women to stay safe and non-sexed on their next business trip. (Kind of like, er, staying in a convent.) What do you think — are women’s-only floors convenient or anti-feminist?

To help you decide, we’ve rounded up nine properties around the world with dedicated dude-free accommodations.

The Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver

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The women’s-only Orchid Floor has 18 rooms, all equipped with extra amenities for women, including flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, ladies emergency kits, and lifestyle magazines. The upscale hotel is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance of numerous Vancouver attractions.

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Some hotels just can’t keep their naughty parts to themselves — in fact, they flaunt them. When it comes to decor, we’ve seen everything from the strange, to the racy, to the almost pornographic on our travels. Sometimes hotels just have a style sense that’s — let’s say broad-minded? Other times, like at the Hotel Amour in Paris and the Desire Resort and Spa in Riviera Maya, they’re deliberately trying to get guests in the mood. No judgement here; if you’re the type of traveler that gets a kick out of lounging on a phallic chair, more power to you. We rounded up seven naughty hotels that can’t help themselves when it comes to being a little nude-y. Check out the risque hotel decor below — and just wait until you see number five on this list.

1. The Morgan, Dublin

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Hardly ladylike, Mona! But we have to say, a mural of Mona Lisa mooning guests is pretty creative — it’s not quite what you’ll see in the Louvre. Read More »

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Plenty of people visit UNESCO World Heritage sites on vacation. Not too many get the experience of actually sleeping in one. But that’s exactly what Parador de Granada in Spain offers its guests: This former Moorish Palace is actually within the walls of La Alhambra, the famed medieval palace and fortress that has influenced countless works of art and literature. (Among them: Washington Irving’s Tales of Alhambra.) This upscale boutique hotel also once operated as a Franciscan convent, and today, it has elegant, contemporary rooms and a traditional restaurant that’s known for having hosted First Lady Michelle Obama. The serene gardens offer stunning views of Generalife, La Alhambra’s beautiful 13th-century royal palace. See more amazing pics after the jump >>

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Worried about a Game of Thrones style invasion on your next trip? Roving hordes? Zombie armies? We totally feel you. Travel can be a bit scary, and if you’re the type that likes to feel extra secure when you get away, you might appreciate the idea of staying in a hotel that’s, well, fortified. These five hotels are actually in ancient fortresses, so if you find yourself needing to fend off rebel invaders on your next romantic retreat, you’ll at least have all the battlements, arrowslits, and watch towers your heart could desire right at hand. Hey, you never know…

Castello di Petroia, Umbria, Italy

Castello di PetroiaThe gorgeous Castello di Petroia dates all the way back to the 11th century; with a picturesque setting in the Umbrian countryside, it was at one time a medieval fortress. Back then this region consisted of vying independent city-states, and the fortress was the birthplace of the Duke of Urbino. Today, this 800-acre wooded estate is a charming and undeniably romantic retreat, with a seasonal pool and candlelit gourmet restaurant. The castle is comprised of three buildings: the Major Castellare, the main building with medieval halls and a library; the smaller Minor Castellare, where the castle’s guardian’s once lived; and the 66-foot Tower, which has a three-tiered guest room. The 13 individually-decorated rooms have historic flourishes such as stone arches, wood beams, and frescoed ceilings. Read More »

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pool--v2178798-1024Do you like Italy? Do you like castles? If you answered yes to either of those questions (and if you didn’t — seriously?), you’ll probably be into the gorgeous Castello di Monterone in the rolling hills of Umbria. This 13th-century castle has an impressive degree of preserved medieval character, and offers a romantic setting for a true getaway. One of our Italian investigators only just visited this stunning property, and we spent quite a while ogling it in the office. You can expect gorgeous stonework, breathtaking views,  battlements, and even a suit of armor (of course — this is a castle, in case we didn’t make that crystal clear). It’s almost hard to believe that these insanely beautiful photos are not remotely Photoshopped (if you’re new here, that’s kind of Oyster’s whole thing). Just be careful not to drool on your keyboard. Pinners, get ready.  Read More »

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Miami BeachYes, you read that right — Miami Beach is getting (another!) hip boutique hotel. Thompson Hotels — who we already know and love from the Smyth Hotel, Gild Hall, and Thompson Toronto, among others — will be opening the Thompson Miami Beach in late 2014 on Collins Avenue, just south of the Fontainebleau. The hotel was a whopping $200 million investment for Commune Hotels & Resorts (the hotel management company for not only Thompson Hotels, but another lovely boutique chain we love, Joie de Vivre) and the property will reportedly have preserved Art Deco features blended with contemporary glamour and bohemian flair. Sounds about right for what we’ve come to expect from the area’s trendiest boutiques.

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So Spain’s Costa del Sol is pretty renowned (and justly so), but it doesn’t get quite as much international love as the French Riviera or Amalfi Coast. We’re not quite sure why, because it’s pretty friggin’ gorgeous, and hotels here are a fraction of the price of those in more famous Mediterranean beach destinations. If whitewashed buildings in charming Andalusian seaside towns sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll probably dig these seven hotels. It doesn’t hurt that the views are postcard-perfect….

Hotel Balcon de Europa

Hotel Balcon de EuropaThe Hotel Balcon de Europa is one of many four-pearl luxury hotel choices on the Málaga coast, but what sets this 108-room property apart is its prime location on the beach in the center of tourist-friendly Nerja. There’s definitely an adult vibe here thanks to the rooftop swimming pool, spa facilities, and a romantic restaurant with views of the beach through floor-to-ceiling windows. Read More »

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