Travel in 2013

Dotted World MapHappy (Almost) New Year!!!!

We’re finishing up the year 2012 with a sneak peek at the best destinations for travel in 2013. Whether you’re traveling by yourself or with a meeting group, you’ll love these lists of up-and-coming hot spots in the U.S. and around the globe!

First up, courtesy of Lonely Planet, we have the the Top 10 U.S. destinations for 2013. (Some of them may surprise you!)

  1. Louisville, Kentucky
  2. Fairbanks, Alaska
  3. San Juan, Washington
  4. Philadelphia Pennsylvania
  5. American Samoa
  6. Eastern Sierra, California
  7. Northern Maine
  8. Twin Cities, Minnesota
  9. Verde Valley, Arizona
  10. Glacier National Park, Montana

For those looking to venture outside of the U.S. border, Smart Meetings has compiled a great list of international meeting destinations. These spots are equipped to support a wide variety of groups and have been dubbed “meeting-friendly.”

  1. Vienna
  2. Paris
  3. Barcelona
  4. Berlin
  5. Singapore
  6. Madrid
  7. London
  8. Amsterdam
  9. Istanbul
  10. Beijing

Finally, we have a round-up of the top meeting and incentive hotels in the United States from Meetings Net!

  1. The Langham, Chicago
  2. Omni Nashville Hotel
  3. Quad Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
  4. El Encanto, Santa Barbara, California
  5. The Godfrey Hotel, Chicago
  6. Manhattan Park Hyatt
  7. Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Va.
  8. Andaz Maui at Wailea
  9. Ace Hotel, Los Angeles
  10. Delano Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Have you been to any of these cities? Do you agree with the rankings? We’d love to hear your feedback!

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Choosing an All-Inclusive Hotel

Ok, we know you’ve all struggled with the decision whether or not to go all-inclusive. Is it worth it? Is it really all-inclusive? Maybe your drinks are included by your tennis lessons aren’t. So, here’s a quick guide to help you decide, courtesy of Smart Meetings.

Benefits of All-Inclusive

Location. All-inclusive venues are usually either located near gorgeous, exotic beaches or tucked away in private areas, like mountains. These places can afford to be all-inclusive because they are popular destinations, so it may be worth your money to choose a location that is nice to look at.

Great for budgeting. If everything is included, you can really stretch your dollars and take advantage of everything the hotel has to offer. Also, hosting private events on location becomes cheaper than it would cost for a noninclusive hotel.

Saves time. For someone who doesn’t have time to sit down and plan activities, meals, and events for a large group of people with varied interests, all-inclusives are a huge weight lifter for planners.

Relaxation. Without the stress of carrying wallets or finding transportation to off-site dinners, guests are able to relax a little more. Everything is obtained a little easier, so guests get a greater sense of satisfaction.

Networking. When groups stay in such close quarters, individuals are more inclined to network and meet one-on-one with coworkers to discuss ideas or even just to chat, creating a great group dynamic that lasts beyond the trip.

Green. Large all-inclusive hotels are often easier on the environment because they are more equipped to handle large groups and use their energy wisely.

Potential Drawbacks to All-Inclusive

Work may suffer. By sending employees to an exotic location, you may find it difficult to pry them away from the pool and free drinks to get any work done.

Stuck in one place. Part of staying at an all-inclusive hotel is having everything contained in one place. If your group is likely to want to venture outside of the hotel, you may want to make other plans.

Inability to customize. All-inclusive packages often don’t allow the switching of events or meal options because they are catering to the masses and have to satisfy large groups of people. Also, an all-inclusive package may come with benefits, such as nature walks or yoga classes, that your group may not be interested in, making the all-inclusive package appear wasteful.

Not enough time. On the other hand, let’s say you love every option included in the all-inclusive package. Between your scheduled activities and small bouts of free time, you may not have time to take advantage of every offering and may leave the hotel having paid for unused benefits.

The buffet. All-inclusive venues make meals for large groups on a daily basis, so the best way to do so is often by providing a buffet for guests. Based on your group’s preferences and prior experiences, they may not be used to buffet-style meals and may end up disliking the experience.

Other things to consider when deciding on an all-inclusive package

  • Do any of your guests have certain food allergies that aren’t supported by buffet-style meals?
  • Do any of your guests have specific mobility needs that a large all-inclusive resort cannot support?
  • Does your group like to be adventurous or will they enjoy spending time solely at the hotel?

To conclude, all-inclusive deals can be very handy for certain groups and a hassle for others. Most importantly, when planning a trip, you must consider your group specifically and whether the package will cater to their needs and wants. Then, decide if the all-inclusive hotel is worthwhile based on what is specifically being offered to you. All there’s left to do now is relax and enjoy your stay!

Did this list help YOU decide? Leave your feedback below!
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Your Next Meeting Destination – Sydney, Australia

If you had the chance to plan a meeting or event anywhere in the world, would Sydney, Australia be at the top of your list? If yes, good choice! If no, maybe it should be!

Sydney Skyline DaytimeSydney offers countless venues and entertainment options for meeting and corporate events of all sizes.

The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre is a prime location for meetings and events. Located in Darling Harbour, this exquisite venue is easily accessible by road, ferry, and monorail! Auditorium capacity in the Sydney Convention Centre is 3,500, with 20 meeting rooms that accommodate 20 to 600 people. Five exhibition halls of 54,000 square feet are located in the Exhibition Centre and have housed many important international meetings in recent years.

The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre

In addition to meeting venues, Sydney offers many attractions and entertainment options, most with a beautiful view of the harbour!

Darling Harbour has become a tourist attraction after recent renovations and now hosts 15 million visitors per year! Features wiCircular Quaythin Darling Harbour include the Star City Casino, the Cargo Bar on the water, and Malaya, an intimate restaurant that suits groups up to 300 people!

Spend some time at Circular Quay for dining, shopping, and nighttime entertainment. This area is known for it’s excitement and street performers, who can turn an ordinary day or night into a festival celebration!

Got a nice day to spare? A ride on the Manly Ferry is a great way to relax and explore the area! Get out onto the water with this 30-min ferry ride to Manly, Sydney’s “laid-back beach suburb.”

Manly Ferry Sydney

If green efforts are high on your list of priorities when searching for a meeting destination, you’ll feel at ease in Sydney. Sydney has come to be known as a “clean green city,” which is a big incentive for eco-friendly event planners looking for locations.

Ecowise Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre Green Credentials

The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, the city’s main meeting complex, boasts plenty of green features itself as well. Eco-friendly efforts are driven by Ecowise, a division of the staff members at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre who dedicate their time and energy to reducing their carbon footprint. Since it’s formation, Ecowise has made a significant impact on energy and water usage at the Convention Centre and has found a way to donate excess food through the organization OzHarvest.

Two 5 star hotel properties in the area include the Marriott Sydney Harbour and Amora Hotel Jamison, both located near popular attractions, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay.

Sydney Opera House Recognized by the events industry for its scenery, climate, venue options, and friendly locals, Sydney could be the perfect destination for your next meeting or incentive trip!

Traveling for the Desserts

Often when traveling to new places, we are stuck eating unfamiliar foods with the small hope that we’ll like them as much as the locals do. This got me thinking. Why travel to a place just to gamble with the food? Why not find the best foods offered around the world and go searching for them? I came across this list of the top 5 desserts to try in the United States, so check it out! Happy traveling!

#1 Smith Island Cake (Maryland) Named after an island in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s Smith Island Cake became the state’s official dessert in 2008. With seemingly endless layers of cake stacked high and topped with fudge frosting, this dessert would make anyone hop the next plane to Maryland!

#2 Kuchen (South Dakota) Kuchen, South Dakota’s official dessert since 2000, is a flat dessert made of sweet dough and often filled with fruit. Special thanks to the Germans who brought this dish to South Dakota so long ago for giving us this great snack to go with our morning coffee.

#3 Bizcochito (New Mexico) Great with wine or hot chocolate, these shortbread cookies became New Mexico’s official cookie in 1989. Step into Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque and get one of these delicious cinnamon cookies on the house!

#4 Boston Cream Pie (Massachusetts) French pastry chef Monsieur Sanzian made the first Boston Cream Pie in 1855. Contrary to popular belief, the Boston Cream Pie isn’t a pie! It’s actually made with two layers of cake sandwiching a layer of thick custard and is topped off with a chocolate glaze.

#5 Key Lime Pie (Florida)This official pie of Florida since 2006 is served “everywhere” in the state. Topped with whipped cream, meringue, and more, Key Lime Pie recipes vary greatly from place to place around the Keys.  But no matter where you find your Key Lime Pie, you’re sure to be satisfied!

Now, doesn’t that list just make you want to pack your bags and go to these 5 states? If dessert wasn’t my reason for visiting them before, it is now!

Historical Meeting Venues in the U.S.

U.S. historical sites double as great meeting spaces for private events! Don’t believe us? Any of these four famous United States locations could be the perfect place to host your next event. Read on to find out more!

New York Stock Exchange (New York City)






It’s difficult to picture the New York Stock Exchange without the chaos it sees by day, but after business hours, the Trading Floor is an open venue for receptions of up to 500 people! Other rooms up for grabs for smaller parties at this iconic location include the Main Dining Room and the Lounge & Card Room!

New York Public Library (New York City)





Another NYC gem, the New York Public Library makes a great meeting location with its 6,400-square-foot Celeste Bartos Forum and glass-dome ceiling. Dating from 1911, the New York Public Library is an official city landmark and could serve as a beautiful and meaningful venue for your next meeting!

Union Station (Washington, D.C.)





Since its recent restoration, Union Station now serves as a special events location, in addition to being an integral part of transportation in Washington, D.C.! The Main Hall, East Hall, and Columbus Club make great settings for private events, like receptions and seated dinners.

The Spanish Governor’s Palace (San Antonio)






You’ll be surprised you’re not in Spain when you visit this historic site in San Antonio, Texas! With architecture and décor dating back to the Spanish Colonial period and reception spaces galore, this location makes for a great and memorable meeting place.

Incentive Trips to Spain Offer Unique Team-Building Activities

When organizing an incentive trip, team-building activities can be very fun and beneficial to a company or group.  Team-building activities incorporate adventure and fun with teamwork and problem-solving to create a meaningful experience for everyone involved. Each activity comes with its own challenges and “Wow factors” while providing the benefits of team-building initiatives. Interested in what incentive trips in Spain could offer to you and your company? Read on to find out more!

Team Sports

If you are looking for a way to get active and competitive on your incentive trip, the following team sports may be perfect for your group!



  • Sailing Regattas– Groups will experience a combination of sport, sightseeing, and fun in this unique sailing race.
  • Golf tournament– What is better than a company golf tournament? A golf tournament in Spain! Groups will take part in a private tournament, including lessons, catering, and photography, if desired.
  • Watersports– Make your incentive trip unforgettable with this unique opportunity. Mix and match water sports of interest to your group, such as parasailing, waterskiing, or dolphin spotting, to maximize your experience!
  • Beach Olympic games– Groups will be divided into teams and will compete in various Olympic-style games to win prizes.

Fun and Games

If you prefer a more low-key activity to get your group involved, consider these fun options for your incentive trip.



  • Segway challenges– This original activity supplies groups with segways and necessary equipment to compete in various speed and agility tests within a tailored segway obstacle course.
  • Laser clay shooting– Lasersport Clay Pigeon Shooting is an experience that can enjoyed by all! Players use modified shotguns to shoot infrared lasers at clays launched into the air. This activity is perfectly safe and great for groups who are looking for fun with a competitive edge.
  • Drum circles– Groups will be divided into subgroups and given instruments with which to tell stories through music. Great as an ice breaker and everyone gets to participate!
  • Local culture discovery– Groups will come together while learning about typical activities of the land, including cooking, dancing, and more!

Exercise Alternatives

If you are looking to offer health and exercise to your group, try these activities, designed to get your group up and moving together.



  • Bicycle guided tours– Groups of 5 to 50 people can enjoy a relaxing bike ride while learning interesting facts about the land. Groups will bond over exercise and cultural discovery.
  • Self-defense– Group members will learn safety and situational awareness in this activity through Krav Maga self-defense techniques.
  • Hiking & trekking– Take your group on a hike up the Djebel Musa in Morocco, where they will learn the mythologies of the mountain and the neighboring Strait of Gibraltar.
  • Health & fitness day– Groups will be divided into teams for a day-long fitness experience, incorporating opportunities to exercise and to learn to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The key to a successful incentive trip is combining excitement with knowledge and self-growth.  No matter your interests, Spain offers many unique and tailored team-building activities for your incentive trip.

My Experience as an Intern at A&M Meetings & Incentives

Interning at A&M has been a rewarding and enriching experience that has contributed to my knowledge of social media sites, travel destinations and the methods of improving worker relationships and inspiring workers. Through my work experience, I have learned about a multitude of destinations, ranging from exotic to family-friendly. These destinations, including South Africa and Indonesia, offer an assortment of activities bound to intrigue diverse groups of people.

Additionally, working at A&M has allowed me to understand how to improve an incentive trip. Planning an incentive trip is all about the activities that are available to the participants; specifically, every destination has something different to offer groups, which is why the choice of location is very important. One trend that I believe is successful is planning out-of-office experiences for employees. More and more, companies are looking to bring people outside of the conference room. This can be done by having employees volunteer within the community or by planning day trips. Another trend gaining popularity aims at engaging employees and incorporating outside input. Companies are using social media sites to get more people involved; companies are asking people to ask questions on twitter and are creating groups where information can be shared and discussed.

Before starting at A&M I did not know much about CSR; despite this, I have quickly learned how influential and how widespread the trend has become. Companies today are increasingly looking to become more responsible both socially and environmentally. “Going green” is another trend that I have learned more about during my time at A&M. Companies all over the world are looking to implement ecofriendly practices as a means of cutting down on production costs, attracting customers and improving the environment.

I have been rewarded with a lot of great opportunities at A&M and have truly gained a lot of knowledge about improving meetings, travel and current business trends.

– Olivia