By Ariel M. Weinshanker
Hosting a retreat for your social meetup group, fitness clan, club or religious community can be a simple 10 step process, when you leave the work to Vosant Meetings & Travel!
1. Connect with us! Share your vision and any details you have considered or decided upon. If you are unsure of your attendees’ interest level and budget preferences, Vosant Meetings & Travel can arrange a custom online survey that you just have to forward to your members and friends.
We can even provide space for anyone who has their own feedback for the ideal retreat. It will be up to the decision maker to choose if the comments will be incorporated.
2. Once we have an idea of the event, including the general location or location attributes, budget or cost range and estimated number of guests, you can relax! Vosant Meetings & Travel will source Hotel and Venue options for your one-of-a-kind retreat.
We will hone in on options that are in line with your Vision. If you have members coming from all over the world, we will focus on destinations that are near major airport Hubs. If your attendees love a certain type of fitness equipment, we can seek out locations with such machines on site, or those which can accommodate bringing in such gear at the group’s expense. And if your guests follow strict dietary guidelines, we can focus on places that can accommodate such needs. Just let us know and we will include it in your Vision board.
3. After Hotel(s) and/or Venues have been sourced, we will arrange your options and assist you in selecting the top three destinations that can execute your vision. We can even compile colorful details for you to share the top three options with your planning committee or Executive decision maker.
4. Once a site has been selected, it will be time for us to contract your preferred accommodations, meals, transportation and activities. Any other components will be compiled to calculate the total cost of attendance per guest. This will be one of the last times to decide on any special surprises the group would like to include in the event budget.
5. If your event website, with countdown clock, has not already debuted, it will be. This site is customizable with your group’s preferred colors, logos and verbiage, allowing us to share all the details with your attendees.
6. Vosant Meetings and Travel will create a timeline of events with you and/or any applicable planning committee member(s). This will include scheduled personalized emails for your guests. Again, all executed by Vosant Meetings & Travel on your behalf.
7. The custom event website will be updated and become bookable for your attendees. When signing up for the weekend, they will be asked for their preferences, allergies and if applicable, clothing size. If you have offered your attendees options or sessions, they will be able to select them at this time as well.
8. Any custom apparel that has not yet been designed, will be in advance of ordering. Many Reunion type groups opt to engage attendees by asking them to design apparel as part of a competition.
9. In the weeks leading up to the event, attendees will be given access to your customized mobile application and receive the pre-coordinated event emails getting them ready.
10. Vosant Meetings & Travel will work with the destination hosts and other vendors to ensure a seamless coordinated event for you and your attendees. While allowing you to take credit and enjoy an incredible retreat!
Hot Chicago Hotels
By Ariel M. Weinshanker
Image taken by Ariel M. Weinshanker
In March, we visited Chicago to see some show stopping Hotels and we were impressed.
Many of the best Hotels in the Windy City have either been built or renovation in the past decade. We really appreciated the attention to detail and plethora of well-maintained properties.
Whether you are traveling for work, pleasure or both, Chicago is a great destination. Don’t let the windy city’s weather fool you, its central location in the United States and extensive selection of non-stop flights from major metropolitan cities makes it an easy choice. And those hosting Meetings are sure to enjoy the amount of event spaces with windows!
Our top 5 list of Hotels are presented in no particular order. If we missed one of your favorites, please share with us in the comments:
1. Viceroy Chicago
The first Chicago Hotel we are thrilled to highlight is the 180 guestroom, Viceroy Chicago. This stunner opened at the end of 2017, on the site of the former historic Cedar Hotel, located in the Gold Coast neighborhood. The color forward property might as well be a living piece of artwork with its artsy fixtures, unique design and poem wall.
Fun fact: The bricks on the lower floors were rescued from the original structure and used to create the 18-story property which now stands today.
Walking through the hallways, we loved the different colors on the guestroom doors, as well as the in-room closests that open into both the guestroom foyer and changing area. For those looking to upgrade their stay select suites feature expansive terraces with sweeping vistas of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.
If you don't have a chance to call the Viceroy home for at least a night or two, there are numerous worthwhile Food and Beverage outlets to enjoy. The Viceroy Chicago's restaurant Somerset and Rooftop, Devereaux are run by Chef Lee Wolen's team. Devereaux, located on the hotel’s 18th floor, is a popular nightlife hot-spot that we highly recommend getting on the guest list for.
If the name Chef Lee Wolen rings a bell, do not be surprised. After being the Sous Chef at New York City’s, Michelin-starred, Eleven Madison Park, he made his way to Chicago. It was in Chicago where he eventually became the Executive Chef at Boka Restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Award and named one of the top 30 Chefs to Watch.
For show stopping events, their luxurious 2,200 sq. ft. Cedar Ballroom has an adjoining outdoor Terrace.
What else is there to love about this hotel? Their house car is a Tesla! Guests have complimentary access to this amenity which is based on availability.
2. Waldorf Astoria, Chicago
We are not sure what comes to mind when you hear the words Waldorf Astoria and Chicago, but we immediately think of an exceptional sense of arrival. This hotel’s porte cochere and overall arrival experience was magical, even on foot as a pedestrian. It too is locaed in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, a perfect location for dining, shopping and feeling like a resident.
Of the 215 accommodations spread among 19 floors, we loved the rooms and suites that featured private terraces and fireplaces.
Fun Fact: Back in 2012, Waldorf Astoria, one of Hilton Worldwide’s 14 brands, took over the Elysian Hotel. Today they are one of a handful of 5 Diamond Hotels in the Windy City.
Like many of the hotel’s on our list, the Waldorf Astoria has a Spa with an indoor pool. But what makes this property’s wellness center truly special is the private Pilates and Gyrotonic room! Guests can secure, for an additional charge, their spot in a group class or schedule a private session. Talk about unique fitness opportunities that do not require leaving the hotel.
The delicious food and beverage at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago is by Michael Mina. This includes Margeaux Brasserie and Petit Margeaux Patisserie. We absolutely loved the Patisserie’s convenient location off of the main lobby, perfect for grabbing your morning coffee or a sweet afternoon pick me up. Yes, the pastries are hand made on property-we asked and tasted.
For those planning an event, their 2,294 sq. ft. Sinclair Ballroom features an imitate private Terrace that would be the perfect compliment to Corporate or Social occasions. And just like the other properties on the list, they have a house car and their event space features floor to ceiling windows.
Protip: When booking, make sure to ask about room types with a Terrace and Fireplace.
3. The Peninsula Chicago
Within the past three years The Peninsula Chicago underwent a renovation and we are obsessed with the innovative and thoughtful touches at this 5 Star Hotel located in the heart of Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Of the 339 guestrooms that are some of the largest in all of Chicago, all 82 Suites feature hand painted artwork!
Fun Fact: The Peninsula Chicago has received both the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond awards, for more than ten consecutive years!
The top drawer in all guestroom night stands are equipped with electronic device chargers, a power outlet and a leather surface to reduce any vibrations from your mobile phone. If that were not enough, every guest room has not just one, but two bedside tablets. Naturally one for each side of the bed. Gone are the days of having to reach over to the wrong side of the bed in order to adjust the room to your comfort.
As one would expect from a Peninsula, the service is attentive, afternoon tea is always an experience, and all guestrooms have their own oversized desk, complete with a printer, scanner and fax machine.
The relaxing, two story, 14,000 square foot Spa the Peninsula Chicago is sure to impress guests. Protip: Whether you are enjoying a treatment, working out in the windowed Fitness Center or swimming in the half-Olympic length swimming pool, be sure to give yourself time to enjoy the captivating views of the Chicago skyline from the Sun Terrace, weather permitting of course!
Among the hotel’s many F&B outlets we can’t recommend Z Bar, Shanghai Terrace and Pierrot Gourmet enough! Z Bar is a lounge with a wraparound terrace, named after the Hotel Group’s first female General Manager, Maria Zec and features Pugs with an uncanny resemblance to her own fur baby. Pierrot Gourmet is a European-style café and bistro perfect for people watching. And Shanghai Terrace serves Shanghainese and Cantonese fare.
The 4,782 sq. ft. Grand Ballroom is ideal for captivating events. And just like the other properties on our list, there is no shortage of windowed meeting rooms or unique event spaces.
And what is a luxury hotel experience without being driven in a luxury house car? The Peninsula Chicago offers, based on availability, access to a bespoke BMW house car.
4. The Langham, Chicago
Our favorite Chicago Hotels list ends with honoring a property whose achievements include being named the #1 Hotel in Chicago according to Travel & Leisure. If that were not enough, The Langham Chicago is the only property in Chicago to have a 5 Star Spa as rated by Forbes and is the newest Hotel in Chicago to earn 5 Star status.
The 52-storry landmarked tower was designed by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe. The Langham Chicago is the only Luxury Hotel in the Windy City with hardwood floors in their guestrooms, all 316 of them. The property’s River North location makes it the closest five-star property to the Windy City's Financial District as well as a convenient base for the must see landmarks.
Protip: Splurge for the Club Lounge. In addition to gaining access to the lounge itself, Club guests enjoy VIP privileges including use of the property’s in-town car service, within two miles of the hotel, subject to availability, Butler Service, Boardroom Access as well as private arrival and departure.
Like most Langham Hotels, the Chicago property features a stunning club lounge with floor to ceiling windows showing off city. The 4,000 square foot lounge offers panoramic views while serving breakfast, all-day refreshments, afternoon tea, premium bar services and hor d’oeuvres.
We felt like VIPs enjoying refreshments and working in the Club Lounge during our visit. We especially enjoyed the lounge’s writer’s nook. Fun Fact: Many of the books in the writer's nook were written in the hotel! The nook pays homage to a similar space in The Langham London.
For those hosting events, 90% of the property's meeting space has windows, including the hotel’s 4,876 sq. ft. Devonshire Ballroom. We love that The Langham Chicago participates in the Connect Conference program providing meeting planners the option to select sustainable meeting solutions which offset the environmental and social impact from hosted events. We cannot wait to host a meeting to use their event Carbon Footprint Calculator.
As the only Forbes rated 5 Star Spa in Chicago, The Langham’s Chuan Spa should be on your to do list in the windy city. Even if you are on business, you will want to visit the fitness center and swimming pool even if you do not have time to indulge in a relaxing treatment.
5. Honorable Mentions
Chicago Athletic Association
A visit to Chicago isn’t complete without going to the historic Chicago Athletic Association, a landmark building that started its life in 1893 as a private men’s social club. The 241 room Hotel features original touches alongside beautifully renovated guestrooms. Visitors must checkout the Indoor basketball court that doubles as a unique Event Space, Games Room, Cherry Circle Room, Milk Room speakeasy, Cindy’s rooftop bar.
The historic, windowed event space is impressive as well with the 3,580 sq. ft. White City Ballroom featuring unobstructed views of Chicago’s Millennium Park and Lake Michigan’s blue horizon. Talk about a come back considering in 2008 the hotel’s building was named on the nation’s 11 most endangered places according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Park Hyatt, Chicago
The Park Hyatt is home to the cutest-one eyed- pug named Parker. She is a rescue that was able to find a loving home thanks to the Hotel’s Manager that saved her life through adoption!
Some other highlights of the property include an impressive private Art Collection, Nomi Spa, 2 yard lap pool, central location near Michigan Avenue, Award-wining cuisine and their 2,800 sq. ft. Grand Salon Ballroom.
Superior Travel Customization
By: Ariel M. Weinshanker
Image taken by Ariel M. Weinshanker.
What's the difference between an average Trip and a Bespoke Experience? Customization! And what's Key to executing customization for discerning Individuals and high-end Groups? Preparation!
TLDR: Allergies, Loyalty Club Numbers, Preferences & Headshots
Just like every organization has its quirks, guests attending a Meeting, Program or Event may come with their own set of unique needs. It is key to capture these attributes at the very beginning of the confirmation process in order to share these notes with your Hotels, Airlines and other applicable Vendors.
When collecting details for a new guest you have not worked with in the past, consider arranging a secure, online Survey, requiring responses for each question. Surveys often give the creator a spreadsheet report and an individual response view. For returning guests, be sure to contact them to confirm their information is still accurate. We have included a sample questionnaire at the bottom of this blog post, to get you started.
Don't wait until confirming final headcounts to ask guests if they are Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free and/or require Kosher or Halal meals. Ask when confirming their attendance and share with the venue or program host, as soon as possible. While most professional venues-and Event Hosts- are equipped to jump in with an alternative at the last minute, they will appreciate being notified well in advance to prepare comparable options. Planning an event can be stressful, try to focus on being organized from the start.
I once had a client who informed us of a Gluten-Free guest a day before arrival, when all attendees were set to receive Welcome chocolates. Our team on-site had already set aside the chocolates. While it appeared that we were able to easily execute a Gluten-Free alternative for the guest, it became a mad dash. Had it been a custom designed pastry, procuring a comparable welcome gift may have been difficult.
Loyalty Club Numbers
Even if your Hotel or Air bookings will not yield points or loyalty club benefits to individuals-it is likely you will be asked to provide these details to your Hotel or Airline.
Why should you ask if they will not earn points or other value adds?
(1) Most Loyalty Club Numbers attach to custom guest preferences-set by the User- that hotels and airlines can arrange in advance.
(2) Bookings connected with a Loyalty Club Number can provide access to custom mobile applications, such as a Hotel’s Keyless Entry, Virtual Concierge and/or Text alerts.
Just like Allergies, it is imperative to ask guests about their preferences when confirming their attendance. Beyond food preferences-often mixed in with allergies-don't forget to ask about Airline Seat and Hotel preferences.
When it comes to Hotel preferences, it is a good idea to reconfirm with the hotel what is actionable given the rooms you have contracted. For instance, be careful how you prompt guests for their preferred bedding type or view, if you have contracted Run-of-House rooms.
If your event is longer than one day and/or includes accommodations, secure Headshots of your attendees. And if you are hosting a high-end event, consider including headshots of your attendees, along with VIPs and Speakers.
Imagine attending a Sales Incentive for the top 20 Associates of your company. How would it make you feel, if as you departed the car from the airport the bellman opened the door and was able to greet you by name, without being prompted? Talk about a WOW!
Bonus: If a hotel is small enough or has enough staff and you can (1) provide flight times to the host Hotel (2) provide the drivers of your airport transportation a number for the hotel’s guest relations team. (3) The Hotel can often work together with your transportation vendor to coordinate a personalized welcome.
ProTrip: By preparing Headshots with names and tiles of your attendees in advance, Event organizers and Hosts, can easily locate specific guests in the crowd.
Ready to start planning?
Click for a copy of our Guest Checklist or reach out to us directly to handle the details.
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