Southwest Airlines to Greenville, South Carolina?

There has been many mixed messages and information about Southwest Airlines expanding their coverage to Greenville, South Carolina. A week ago the Greenville News reported that Southwest Airlines wasn’t going to be extended service to Greenville in 2010. However, in the last couple days there have been reports that Greenville is still on Southwest’s radar for 2010. So, the questions remains, is Southwest Airlines coming to Greenville soon? If not, are there other low-fare carriers that could start flying out of Greenville soon.

For months there have been reports in Greenville newspapers and conversations on many social websites about the possibility of Southwest Airlines coming to Greenville. Southwest and GSP Airport confirmed that Southwest was looking at Greenville as a possible location for expanding their service in 2010. Many believed that a decision would be made soon after the new year. That’s when the Greenville News reported that GSP wasn’t on Southwest’s radar for 2010, but possibly in the future. The article stated that Southwest was pursuing other cities. However, reports have come out in the last couple days stating that that was not exactly the case. GSP’s new manager has come on record to state that Southwest and GSP are in on-going negotiations. Both parties aren’t saying much, but it’s still yet to be seen what will happen.

Whatever the case, everyone agrees that it is imperative that Greenville gets a low-fare carrier. For travelers departing from Greenville, it can be quite expensive and cumbersome. Travelers are often paying much higher fares and riding on small commuter planes to east coast cities to connect on a larger plane. Some air fares can be as much as $100 to $200 more than flying out of Atlanta and Charlotte. With that in mind, many travelers simply drive to Charlotte and Atlanta, which is usually cheaper, as well as more convenient.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks more will rise to the surface on the possibility of Southwest Airlines coming to Upstate South Carolina. If Southwest doesn’t make it to Greenville, it’ll be a disappointment to the upstate, but at least GPS sounds like they’re actively pursuing to make sure a low-fare carrier finds a home in Greenville.

Alternative Lodging in the Carolinas

Having worked behind the scenes in the hotel industry, I’ve attained somewhat of an affinity for lodging. I’m probably borderline snobbish, if not a snob. As much as I like hotels, it’s often those off the beaten track accommodations that I enjoy the most. It’s that quaint cottage on the beach, the cozy mountain cabin or the countryside bed and breakfast. It’s these accommodations that have the most character and uniqueness that sets them apart. I recently stayed at a beachfront cottage in Charleston that reminded me of my love for these type of accommodations.

I want to begin by stating there was no compensation or complimentary lodging that was provided as a result of this post. I enjoy vacation rentals and since I’ve yet to write about them, I wanted to spend some time writing about vacation and timeshare rentals in the Carolinas. It’s important to note that although you’ll find these in many cities across North and South Carolina, there’s a higher concentration of them at the mountains and the beach. Typically, the Asheville area in the mountains and Charleston and Wilmington at the coast are some of the best areas for finding a timeshare rental. I’ll talk more at a later time about vacation rentals, but want to talk in this post about timeshare rentals.

The main difference of a timeshare rental as compared to a vacation rental is that they are owned by a group of owners typically. Previously, to take part in timeshare rentals, people had to be a part of that group of owners. However, many timeshare owners are now offering their properties for rent like a vacation rental. Usually, these are one week rentals; from like a Saturday to a Saturday. Timeshare rentals can start as low as $100 per night.

With the rise of the fast digital age, timeshare renting is typically taking place online at websites that connect timeshare rental owners to travelers. A top resource for vacation timeshare rentals is Redweek. Similarly to many vacation rental websites, Redweek helps travelers find a property based on location. People can browse or search from the homepage and pull up properties that show photos, property descriptions, amenities and rates. The lowest property I saw was a beach property at Atlantic Beach that started at $82 per night.

When you’re planning your next family vacation, don’t just go for the same name brand hotel you’ve always chose. Consider a timeshare rental. These can sometimes be cheaper than staying at a hotel and even many other types of vacation rentals, while also giving independence.

The John Rutledge House Inn in Charleston, South Carolina

Let me begin by stating that I received one complimentary night at the John Rutledge House Inn. However, let me remind readers that these views are solely my own. The owners, unless they were told by the concierge, were probably not even aware of the events of my stay. You can view more about my editorial policy here. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to predominantly talk about the hospitality I received at the John Rutledge House Inn in Charleston, South Carolina. To read a full review of the Charleston bed and breakfast, you can view it at Uptake.

First of all, hospitality in my book is probably the most important aspect of a trip. Good hospitality often makes a trip, while bad hospitality will break it every time. I can be at the most upscale hotel with everything I could ever dream of at my finger tips, but bad hospitality makes that experience null. Having gained quite the taste for bed and breakfasts, I was initially a little surprised at the setup of the John Rutledge House Inn. As I walked through the grand front entrance, ahead of me was the concierge desk, where the young concierge had me sit down and we chatted for a few minutes while she got me checked in. Without asking for it, she was quick to highlight some of the things within walking distance that I could enjoy during my stay. She was very lively and rather than having to ask questions or figure out the inn’s service and amenities on my own, she ran down everything from breakfast the next morning to afternoon tea to specific features of my room.

Though the concierge went beyond what many inns have done in the past, check-in wasn’t what stuck out in my mind from my visit at the Charleston inn. Later in the day I had a bizarre happening where the lock on my room door jammed and I couldn’t get back in. After many failed attempts, I went to the concierge desk, where the same young woman sat. I told her the problem and she didn’t forward the request to the other staff who I thought would typically take care of this, but she immediately stopped what she was doing and walked with me to my room. After more failed attempts, she apologized several times and quickly called the locksmith; which wasn’t a problem, as I was going out for the evening. When I returned later in the evening, she was still there and was quick again to apologize, told me the problem was resolved and was quick to inquire if there was anything the inn could do to make it up. Again, things like this happen, and the situation really wasn’t a problem for me.

For many people, the above occurrence may not be the extraordinary hospitality that I’ve touted it as. What I saw was a young college student at one of the most prestigious inns in Charleston (The John Rutledge House Inn is one of only a handful of inns in the Carolinas on the Select Registry, Distinguished Inns of North America), who quickly sprung to action and never showed a moment of being flustered. This is southern hospitality at its finest. I had an excellent stay at the John Rutledge House Inn, with a large delicious breakfast and huge, comfortable carriage house room; yet why I would return is not for these things, but the hospitality I received at the bed and breakfast in Charleston. Next time you’re in Charleston, stop in for the weekend. You don’t want to miss the large breakfast, which they can bring to your room and afternoon tea, which includes wine and homemade delicacies.

Photos courtesy of the John Rutledge House Inn.

Kiawah Island Resort Near Charleston, South Carolina

What I love about traveling is that no one travel experience is like the other, unless you’re one of those people that stay on the same beach in the same hotel in the same room. I’m sure there are people out there who try that. However, if you’re normal, then you probably don’t do that. It’s often that I find myself coming back from a trip and praising a hotel, attraction or restaurant as the best I’ve ever been to. It’s those experiences that make travel so much fun. I had just one of those experiences when I stayed at the Kiawah Island Hotel and Resort near Charleston, South Carolina.

I’ll begin by saying that the Kiawah Island Hotel and Resort were gracious in providing a free stay at their accommodations near Charleston for a weekend. Growing up in the south, I’ve certainly stayed in some pretty shabby accommodations, but this was far from it. To this date, I have to say that the Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island is the nicest accommodations I’ve ever had.

To begin, the hospitality at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort were first-class from the beginning to the end. The entire staff was very classy and sincere and always spoke to me even if they were just walking by. Our room was a standard guest room that featured two queen beds. The bathroom was one of the highlights, as it featured a huge walk-in shower and a large bathtub with folding shutters beside it that opened up to the living room. I could’ve actually sat in the bathtub and watched football on the large flatscreen HDTV in front of the beds, but I didn’t. Another highlight of the room was the balcony that overlooked one of Kiawah Island’s golf courses and offered a view of the ocean. The balcony had a couple chairs and a coffee table, making it a great place to have coffee and breakfast in the morning or drinks at sunset.

If you’re new to Kiawah Island, then it’ll be helpful to know that most of your daily activities and entertainment happen at the resort. Kiawah Island’s attractions is the Kiawah Island Golf resort. I recommend getting a round of golf in at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, which is home to the 2012 PGA Championship. Other activities you’ll find on the resort’s property include tennis, bicycling and croquet. There are several dining options at the Sanctuary Hotel at the Kiawah Island Resort. I recommend the Jasmine Porch, which is the hotel’s low country casual restaurant.

Save a vacation at the Kiawah Island Resort for a special occasion. You’ll spend a couple thousand dollars by the time you get back home. Rates at the Sanctuary hotel start at $300 per night for a standard room and go up to $700 for their nicer suites. The only drawback to the hotel I would say is that they encourage you to bill everything to your room, so make sure you’re keeping a tab on your expenses.

Photo courtesy of the Kiawah Island Resort.

Hyatt Place Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina

I’ve been to the Hyatt Place in Greenville a couple times, but this week was the first time I really got the full experience of the Greenville hotel. What made this visit a little different than many of my hotel visits is that I didn’t tell the Greenvile hotel that I would be visiting, nor did I tell them during the entire time I was there. If a hotel knows you’re a writer, then they’re often much quicker to make your stay as perfect as possible. With this, I was able to get the real picture of the hotel and the service it provides.

I was warmly greeted by the Greenville Hyatt Place Hotel’s Gallery Host, who quickly got me checked in and did a great job explaining all of the features and amenities of the hotel. Although not necessarily a mark against the hotel, the staff was a little more distracted the next morning when I checked out and it didn’t go as quickly and smoothly as most of my checkouts at Hyatt Place properties. If you like finding the little (and big) differences that stretch across different properties within a brand, then don’t expect to find that at the Hyatt Place. As an uppity business hotel, you’re going to find things almost exactly the same at each property, from the way the lobby is laid out, to how things are arranged in your room. Since business travelers typically are there to stay connected and get a restful night of sleep, that shouldn’t be a problem at this hotel in Greenville, South Carolina.

My favorite thing about the Greenville Hyatt Place Hotel is the room. You’ll get some added space in one of the suites, but their standard room offers plenty of room. As you walk in, you’ll notice the room is split up into three areas. To the left, there’s the large sofa with an ottoman that looks at the HUGE flatscreen HDTV. To the right, you’ll notice a work area with a leather chair that backs up to the wet bar, which includes a sink and refrigerator. The end of the room is where you’ll find the bedroom area and bathroom. Unlike many business hotels, the Hyatt Place offers plenty of space, which can be convenient if you’re traveling with more than one person. An added perk to your stay, which you don’t typically see at classier business hotels, is the complimentary breakfast.

All in all, I had another great stay at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina. It offers the comfort, space and ambiance that I wish for in most business hotels, but rarely get. If you’re still not sold on the Hyatt Place, than I suggest you read Christopher Elliott’s piece on 10 things he loves about the Hyatt Place.

5 Best Charleston Seafood Restaurants

A few weeks ago I took a calculated risk by attempting to come up with the best barbecue restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina. Restaurants included what I thought featured the best barbecue the city had to offer. Coming up with the best restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina is challenging enough, but deciding on the best barbecue restaurants is all the bit harder. Well this week I’ve stepped up to the plate once again to take on a challenge that is equally difficult, if not more so. Below, I’ve come up with the 5 best seafood restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. Like my Greenville best barbecue restaurant list, I expect opinions to drastically vary. So what’s your take on the best seafood in Charleston?

  1. Hyman’s Seafood. Certainly not the king of seafood restaurants in Charleston, this one may come with the biggest controversy. Many tourists to Charleston love the restaurant, while many locals beg to differ. If you want your standard Charleston seafood restaurant experience, then I recommend giving Hyman’s a try.
  2. Hank’s Seafood Restaurant. This Charleston establishment is usually near the top of most people’s list. Recently celebrating its 10th anniversary, Hank’s certainly stands as one of the best seafood restaurants in Charleston, if not the best, as it’s been rated as the best by the Charleston City Paper for the last 10 years. A little more upscale than most, you receive hearty, but fresh portions that you just won’t find at your token Charleston seafood restaurants.
  3. Charleston Crab House. This isn’t your chain crab house like, Joe’s Crab Shack, but a genuine Charleston crab house that can’t be beat. Though some may disagree, I chose the Charleston Crab House for its seafood, but also it’s environment, which can’t be beat, with comfy dockside dining and beautiful views at sunset. Of course their snow crab and Low Country crab cakes are there specialty, but they offer an excellent fish selection including their special Mahi Mahi.
  4. Coast. If you’re just coming off the beach or going out with some friends, then Coast might be your best bet. Similar to the Charleston Crab House, Coast offers a fun ambiance in a restored warehouse. Although it can be noisy on the weekend when it draws a younger crowd, the Charleston seafood restaurant boasts many eclectic and spicy selections you won’t find at some of the other seafood restaurants in the area.
  5. Boathouse Restaurant. There’s just something about the name “Boathouse” that has character and charm to it and that’s just what this Charleston seafood restaurant has to offer. Like many of the other Charleston seafood restaurants on this list, the Boathouse has a unique ambiance about it, and separates itself from other local establishments with its outdoor raw bar. If you’re vacationing for the weekend, let me recommend the Sunday Brunch, which few Charleston seafood restaurants do. A Charleston favorite, you’ll have to drive outside of the city to get to it.

Stay Chic at the Hotel Indigo, Asheville

You probably have a hard time imagining the term “boutique hotel” and “Asheville” combined together. Although Asheville is known for their many boutique shops, this unique southeastern city is not known for it’s boutique hotels. Asheville is better known for its charming bed and breakfasts. You may also have a hard time imagining a boutique hotel mentioned alongside the likes of Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites, yet this is exactly what you’ll find in the Hotel Indigo, which is a part of the same brand, IHG, which owns these three hotel brands and a couple more.

The downtown Asheville Hotel Indigo certainly fits right in with the Asheville ambiance and culture that is unlike any other city. As you look up at the exterior of this boutique hotel in Asheville, you’ll notice that it’s no different than many of the rising brick buildings in Asheville. However, as you get near the top, you’ll notice that the last few floors feature a unique glass exterior that blends in with the brick. That is because the Asheville hotel doubles as both accommodations and residences. The last few floors of the Hotel Indigo are several luxury condos that can be rented out on a short-term basis.

Although many of the Hotel Indigos around the world offer the same primary amenities, the Asheville Hotel Indigo is worth a stay because of the style and feel you simply won’t find in any other hotel in Asheville. Unlike a city like New York, where you find many boutique hotels, it’s not the same in Asheville. A simple Google search should speak for itself, but if you need more convincing, the downtown Asheville hotel has most of the amenities you would come to expect in a boutique hotel. Asheville visitors will find amenities that include a 24-hour fitness center, on-site full-service restaurant, complimentary high-speed Internet access and stylish decor. 

What makes boutique hotels so extraordinary are often found once you actually get into your room. That is certainly the case at the Asheville Hotel Indigo. Each room features colors and decor that change seasonally, hardwood floors and a chic ambiance that has the feel of more of an apartment. Each room offers luxurious bedding and a seating area and every single room in the hotel has a view that can’t be beat. Take your pick at whether you want a view of the mountains, the city or even both. Rates at the Hotel Indigo in Asheville start at $100 per night.

 

Day 3-Gulf Coast Road Trip

I quickly jumped out of my car with my camera thrown over my shoulder, HD camcorder in hand and collapsible tripod jutting out of my back pocket. I ran up the boardwalk, scooted up the two sets of stairs to the top of the sand dunes into the covered shelter for what awaited me. I’m not sure what I expected, but I wasn’t ready for this. Like those climatic, slow motion scenes from the movies, I slowly did a 360-degree, when the words came out: “What in the HELL is going on?”. Overhead coast guard helicopters flew over, groups of oil spill cleanup workers were coming back on shore in boats and dropping off their rubber gloves and masks, military hummers were coming and going on the road, large sand dunes lined the beach so that high tides and over wash wouldn’t make its way to the island’s national habitat and in the distance, oil rigs lined the horizon.

After day two at the Gulf Coast, I had reported that outer appearances suggested that life was going on as usual at the Gulf, but that you had to get beyond the surface to see that life actually wasn’t the same. Well this certainly wasn’t the case at Dauphin Island. This scene I described pretty well sums up my last day at the Gulf. I didn’t even mention the federal basecamp that was on the elementary school grounds on the other side of the public park. I came across several groups of locals and vacationers on the pier who wanted to see things for themselves. Many of them taking photos of the situation itself. One local couple I came across was in a heated argument about who was to blame for the oil spill and how they wanted their beach back.

There were some recreational boaters out on the water at Dauphin Island, but most of the boats were volunteer and work crews. Coming across the bridge onto the island, I saw the most instances of “boom” that I had seen. Boom is a long flotation device that helps contain and prevent oil from reaching the shore. Weeks ago it was highly celebrated as a leading alternative to stopping the oil from reaching the shore. However, it’s come under criticism and many claim that it has missed the mark and not reached expectations. With high winds and ocean currents it can sometimes be difficult to maintain and keep up with.

The best part of this day was probably what I didn’t see: oil residue and tar balls. I went to several different beaches and didn’t see any oil on the beach, although there continues to be reports of oil reaching some of the Gulf Coast shores. It gave hope to see fish jumping in the water, crabs scurrying along the sand and birds flying closely along the water. But will this last?

This concludes the summaries of my trip to the Gulf. You can see a full summary of my live tweets from the weekend here. I’ll be following up this post with a general post that sums up the weekend, as well as a separate post about how people can get involved.

Day Two-Gulf Coast Roadtrip

I first of all have to say a HUGE thank you for everyone that’s been following along. I’ve gotten such great comments via the blog, but especially Twitter. If I could put all of you in my backpack and travel around with you then I would, because the support and encouragement has been overwhelming. Now on to Day Two, the first full day at the Gulf Coast in Alabama.

My day got started doing a couple of interviews. The first was with a grassroots organization along the Gulf that with the help of Jimmy Buffett, had built and rigged three boats for helping with wildlife rescue. They were going to put them in the water at strategically placed locations along the Gulf. Well, the U.S. Wildlife Association found out and said that’s a no no. With the sensitivity of the animals and without properly trained participants, the grassroots organization wasn’t allowed to take their boats out. However, the U.S. Wildlife Association did say they could lend the boats to them and have their professional trained staff use the boats in rescue efforts. Jimbo and his crew were happy to do this. As he put it, “we aren’t pointing fingers, we just want to lend a hand”.

Jimbo was quick to say that this is unlike any crisis the gulf has ever faced. Unlike disasters such as Katrina, they happen over a relatively short period of time and residents can pick up their lives and start moving on. The oil crisis has been happening since April and although there are comments that it could be capped by August, that is only an estimate, as it could in fact stretch on much longer. There are many uncertainties that face the Gulf Coast’s present and future and this raises concerns among everyone.

Judging from many of the looks of it, there doesn’t seem to be blatant things that stick out when driving around the Gulf to make it seem like life is that much different. It’s often small, unrecognizable things like light traffic heading to the beaches, small crowds at shopping malls and few boats on the road. It was after I got to the beach that I really noticed the impact. I started off at the marina, which was a graveyard. The only people there were a group of boat owners who were sitting around looking out at the marina while drinking beer. This might sound like a funny scene, but for boat owners and fishers, this sums up how many of them feel. For many people, there’s nothing they can do, but sit and watch. However, the highlight of my day was seeing a couple dolphins playing and swimming just yards from the dock. I only hope that is the case weeks and months from now.

My final stop was at Orange Beach. I was amazed. I was the only non-government car that parked in the public beach access parking lot on one of the busiest vacation days of the year. It wasn’t completely empty, as there were people walking down the beach and some people laying in the sun, but during most summer weekends you would have a hard time vying for a spot on Orange Beach. I noticed many people coming down to the beach just to get photos of the emptiness and see the scene for themselves. There was one couple who had their vacation planned for months and were taking pictures just so they could say they were at the beach, but were disgusted at the situation. Red flags were up, so the public wasn’t allowed to get in the water. Although there have been reports of oil residue and tar balls, I didn’t see any.

**I’ll add more pictures and video later on. Continue to follow along here and on Twitter at #gulfa.

Photo from Infrogmation on Flickr.

Day Two-Gulf Coast Roadtrip

I first of all have to say a HUGE thank you for everyone that’s been following along. I’ve gotten such great comments via the blog, but especially Twitter. If I could put all of you in my backpack and travel around with you then I would, because the support and encouragement has been overwhelming. Now on to Day Two, the first full day at the Gulf Coast in Alabama.

My day got started doing a couple of interviews. The first was with a grassroots organization along the Gulf that with the help of Jimmy Buffett, had built and rigged three boats for helping with wildlife rescue. They were going to put them in the water at strategically placed locations along the Gulf. Well, the U.S. Wildlife Association found out and said that’s a no no. With the sensitivity of the animals and without properly trained participants, the grassroots organization wasn’t allowed to take their boats out. However, the U.S. Wildlife Association did say they could lend the boats to them and have their professional trained staff use the boats in rescue efforts. Jimbo and his crew were happy to do this. As he put it, “we aren’t pointing fingers, we just want to lend a hand”.

Jimbo was quick to say that this is unlike any crisis the gulf has ever faced. Unlike disasters such as Katrina, they happen over a relatively short period of time and residents can pick up their lives and start moving on. The oil crisis has been happening since April and although there are comments that it could be capped by August, that is only an estimate, as it could in fact stretch on much longer. There are many uncertainties that face the Gulf Coast’s present and future and this raises concerns among everyone.

Judging from many of the looks of it, there doesn’t seem to be blatant things that stick out when driving around the Gulf to make it seem like life is that much different. It’s often small, unrecognizable things like light traffic heading to the beaches, small crowds at shopping malls and few boats on the road. It was after I got to the beach that I really noticed the impact. I started off at the marina, which was a graveyard. The only people there were a group of boat owners who were sitting around looking out at the marina while drinking beer. This might sound like a funny scene, but for boat owners and fishers, this sums up how many of them feel. For many people, there’s nothing they can do, but sit and watch. However, the highlight of my day was seeing a couple dolphins playing and swimming just yards from the dock. I only hope that is the case weeks and months from now.

My final stop was at Orange Beach. I was amazed. I was the only non-government car that parked in the public beach access parking lot on one of the busiest vacation days of the year. It wasn’t completely empty, as there were people walking down the beach and some people laying in the sun, but during most summer weekends you would have a hard time vying for a spot on Orange Beach. I noticed many people coming down to the beach just to get photos of the emptiness and see the scene for themselves. There was one couple who had their vacation planned for months and were taking pictures just so they could say they were at the beach, but were disgusted at the situation. Red flags were up, so the public wasn’t allowed to get in the water. Although there have been reports of oil residue and tar balls, I didn’t see any.

**I’ll add more pictures and video later on. Continue to follow along here and on Twitter at #gulfa.

Photo from Infrogmation on Flickr.