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You Must Be This Tall to Scare

October 26, 2016
The Halloween season has returned, bringing with it ghouls, ghosts and zombies. Houses in the neighborhood are decorated, pumpkins are carved and faces are painted. But the holiday is not often considered a chance for travel; kids usually have school activities tied to Halloween and anyone older might not remember the magic of the day fondly enough to set aside time for a road trip.

However, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays at America’s theme parks. With an entire cast of characters in the spirit of the day, and plenty of resources available to transform spaces into truly frightening playpens of the macabre, there may be no better place to take in the atmosphere of the season than one of these amusement parks – each one a part of a fundraising auction travel package available through Mitch-Stuart.

In Southern California, Disneyland is putting costumes on costumes for the month of October, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others, wandering the park in their own Halloween outfits. Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and Sally from “A Nightmare Before Christmas” also wander the premises. But the big attraction of 2016 is actually a closing, rather than an opening: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is on its way out, giving way to a “Guardians of the Galaxy”-themed ride next summer. This is the last year to ride the elevator drop while listening to the spookily-soothing voice of Rod Serling.

On the other side of the country, meanwhile Disney World Orlando has a different take on the holiday, with some of the traditional villains of Halloween recast. Zombies find their voices with the Cadaver Dans, a barbershop quartet of the undead. The Sanderson sisters of Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” mix potions, shadows and some of their evil friends to create the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular show. And the fireworks show, a traditional favorite of a visit to Disney World, gets a makeover during the season, becoming HalloWishes and incorporating more of Disney’s catalog of antagonists.

But no amusement park may make a bigger commitment to All Hallow’s Eve than Knott’s Berry Farm. The Anaheim-adjacent theme park transforms each year into “Knott’s Scary Farm,” with mazes and monsters at every turn. “Scare zones” act as themed immersive atmospheres; this year’s include “Carnevil” and “The Hollow.” Mazes and rides also take on a creepy feel, and even dining gets a Halloween theme, with a “boo-fet” available each night before Knott’s opens (the scares are the roaming monsters, not any mystery meats). The park has even put together a less-intense experience, Knott’s Spooky Farm, for families with younger kids; it’s open during the daytime on weekends.

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Happy Centennial, NPS!

April 20, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

In 2016, the National Park Service turns 100 years young. Formed in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, the agency has had the mission, as the president said at the time, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” That’s a big task, but for a century the NPS has done exactly that, preserving some of America’s most scenic lands and making sure that people can enjoy them without harming the surrounding environment.

At Mitch-Stuart, we’re appreciative of everything the National Park Service has done for travel and travelers in America every day, but especially so during National Park Week, which in 2016 stretches from April 16-23. During this time, entrance to the parks is free, and there are different programs throughout the country, both educational and fun. If you’ve got a national park near you, you’ve got a couple more days to go for free, and if you’ve got donors who love the outdoors, you’ve got a big selection of trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog that can pique their interest.

The serene setting and outdoor beauty is a major reason that Jackson Hole has been an in-demand destination for decades. Part of that beauty comes from the surrounding national parks: Grand Teton is the closest, with its mountaineering and fishing opportunities, in the shadow of the mountain range of the same name, and Yellowstone, the wilderness that many consider to be the cornerstone of the national park system. Photo opportunities about here, of course, be it Old Faithful Geyser, Snake River or any of the hundreds of species of animals that can be spotted by a patient (and quiet) observer. Our “Premier Retreat in the Great American West” package can take your donors to two of the jewels of this country’s outdoors.

Not all national parks are far off in the wilderness, though. The National Parks of New York Harbor is the group name to 22 different monuments and ten parks in New York City and the surrounding area.  The most famous of these sights is the Statue of Liberty, but the list also includes the Federal Hall National Memorial (home to the first Congress and Supreme Court), Governors Island National Monument and the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the concrete jungle gets to be overwhelming, the Gateway National Recreation Area offers beaches, lighthouses and even archery ranges.

One of the most underrated getaways in the national park circuit, however, comes in the country’s northeastern corner. Acadia National Park goes from mountains to beaches, all within a short distance from Bar Harbor. Visitors can check out the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S., go biking or hiking on a myriad of trails, and even take a horse out on 45 miles of carriage roads. Our “East Coast Escape to Mount Desert Island” travel package can set your donors up with all the outdoor adventure and gorgeous vistas they could want.
Grand Teton National Park

Statue of Liberty

Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor


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Traveling the Earth, On Its Day

April 13, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

April 22 is not the Earth’s birthday, of course. But it is the day we’ve set aside to celebrate the rounded pebble on which we float through space, the home that provides water to drink, food to eat and gravity to keep us stuck to the ground. It’s also a day to think about the planet’s challenges, the areas that need the most help and support in offsetting human influence, be it deforestation, pollution or other ruination of natural resources.

Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to some of the most beautiful corners of the world, of course, but some of those Destinations of Excellence are also the most fragile areas. On this Earth Day, we spotlight some of those places where preservationists are hard at work – and places that could use tourism dollars to aid in conservation efforts.

While the Brazilian rainforests may be the most well-known, there are plenty of other stunning examples a little closer to home. In Costa Rica, for instance, Corcovado National Park has gorgeous views of the last remaining tropical lowland rainforests in the country, while the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains more than 2,500 plant species, many of which are visible from one of the reserve’s hiking trails or ziplines. Belize is another Central American country where rainforests remain; one of the largest remaining populations of the jaguar can be found there along with the howler monkey. And the Reef Bay Trail on the tiny Caribbean island of St. John is one of the most popular attractions there, incorporating both the beauty of the bio-diversity and the history of the island in the form of abandoned sugar estates and the remains of the last plantation.

One doesn’t have to leave America to find a bio-diverse environment, of course. In fact, one of the world’s habitats with the most varied collection of native species is the Florida Everglades. Stretching from just south of the Orlando area all the way to outside of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the marshland is home to more than 350 types of birds, including endangered species such as the wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Plant life thrives in the humid conditions, as well, and it’s also home of the Florida panther, of which only an estimated 80 remain, according to the National Wildlife Federation. With all of the parks throughout the wetlands, including Everglades National Park, there are plenty of ways to interact with the area while being respectful of the preservation efforts in place.

If you’ve got donors interested in a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience, though, send them to the coral reefs off the coast of Bali. The island is a part of the “Coral Triangle,” which has been called the “Amazon of the Ocean” because of its biodiversity; 76 percent of all coral species in the world are within the triangle, along with 37 percent of the world’s reef fish species. It’s been the subject of a high-level conservation effort for almost a decade now, called the Coral Triangle Initiative, and that work is partially supported by the $12 billion nature-tourism industry there. Exploring the region from the sea, whether it’s on boat or scuba diving in the ocean itself, is a must-do for the nature-obsessed.
Costa Rica Rainforest

Rainforest Howler Monkey

Bali Villa

Florida Panthers


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Rock and … Travel?

April 06, 2016
In a few days, the attention of the music world will focus on tiny Indio, California. The desert community just outside of Palm Springs will host one of the country’s biggest gatherings of rock, indie, hip-hop and youth culture. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (named after the valley that is home to Indio, Palm Springs and other neighboring cities) draws nearly 200,000 people to inland California over the course of two weekends, all to watch some of the largest names in music. Festivalgoers travel from around the world to camp outside of the Empire Polo Grounds, the host of the concert, or book hotel rooms across the valley.

Like a food festival, a particular sporting event or even a season change (like fall in New England or spring among the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.) music can be a great motivator for a traveler. Thankfully, Mitch-Stuart’s catalog of fundraising auction travel packages can absolutely be used to send a music aficionado on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure involving some of the great names and places in music history.

For music fans, there are few cities more accommodating than New Orleans. Beyond every café and bar in the French Quarter with a jazz combo playing in the back corner, the city is home to some of the country’s best music festivals. The New Orleans Jazz Festival brings in some of the world’s brightest lights in its titular genre, along with soul, R&B and even rock acts (Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder are headlining in 2016). The Essence Festival, traditionally held during the summer, may be America’s biggest celebration of African-American culture, including music headliners, guest speakers and others. And Voodoo Music and Arts Experience combines great tunes with interactive art in a way that draws fans of both.

For those who prefer music of a different era, a trip to visit one of the country’s museums dedicated to the art may be a great bidding motivator. Whether it’s the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland or even a smaller tribute (the Stax Museum in Memphis, for instance, dedicated to the classic soul label), a trip with a built-in musical attraction like one of these destinations can turn heads at a fundraising auction. These excursions can be bonus features to an already-existing package (a country fan bidding on our “CMA Awards, Country Music's Biggest Night!” item, for instance) or reasons to utilize one of Mitch-Stuart’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” packages, making them versatile selling points.

And if your supporters want to combine the energy of music with the star power of awards shows, we’ve got trips to two different nights filled with statuettes, live performances and surprises galore. As mentioned before, the “CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night!” takes donors to Nashville this November to watch the 50th annual Country Music Awards. And while the show itself is the centerpiece, fans will find plenty to do during the rest of the time; there’s a reason Nashville earned the nickname “Music City,” after all. And no city does glitz and glamor quite like Los Angeles, meaning that the 2016 American Music Awards, also held in November, attracts a who’s-who of the pop charts. The 2015 edition featured Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, One Direction and Coldplay – and the 2016 show could feature your supporters (in the audience, at least) with the “Rock On at the American Music Awards!” package.
Louis Armstrong Statue

New Orleans Jazz Band

Taylor Swift

Coldplay Concert


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April Foolish Travel

March 30, 2016
April Fools’ Day is Friday. Do not believe anything.

There may be no holiday more custom-built for the Internet than April Fools’ Day. Between joke articles on websites, the yearly Google “product announcement” video and the constant silliness of social media, the web goes all out for April Fools’ Day like Boston does for St. Patrick’s Day.

If you’ve got donors who go all-in on April 1, who push for your charity to send out fake fundraising letters or posts faux sonograms on their social media feeds, they may also be the type of person who would love to travel to one of comedy’s meccas, one of the cities responsible for the development and production of humor. There are several Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages that can put your supporters within a stone’s throw of comedy history.

Despite its reputation for being teeming with tear-jerking dramas, Broadway has shown its ability to be fall-down funny over the past 15 years in particular. Shows like “The Book of Mormon,” “Spamalot” and “Avenue Q” combine stage theatrics with big laughs, whether it’s social satire or pure silliness. “Mormon” is still on Broadway to this day, while “Avenue Q” has moved to an off-Broadway house. Of course, the rest of the city has deep roots in comedy, as well; Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club are two of the most famous stand-up stages in the country, and incubators like The Pit NYC and Upright Citizens Brigade feature the next generation of funny people first.

For those interested in the recent history of comedy, Chicago is an interesting choice for a vacation. It was here that Second City, the improv troupe and school that gave the world everyone from Alan Arkin and Fred Willard to Tina Fey and Chris Farley. Stretching back to the 1950s, when the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May were seen on stage at a Second City predecessor, the city of Chicago gave talented funny people room to create comic personas without the glare of Hollywood or New York’s bright lights. It’s also the home city of two classic comedies of the 1980s, “The Blues Brothers” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

For the best in comedy today, though, Los Angeles may be the destination. Improv theaters like The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade have been the primary farm systems for “Saturday Night Live” cast members for decades now, and everywhere from the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard to the Whole Foods in Pasadena (no, really!) now hosts stand-ups. One of our favorites is the Largo at the Coronet, a 280-seat theater near the Beverly Center shopping mall that hosts the best in alternative comics – stars like Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman are regulars there – in an artist-friendly environment (no cell phones and no talking in the theater). Bonus: It’s next door to one of the best cocktail lounges in the city, the Roger Room, making for a quintessentially L.A. one-two punch.
Monty Python's Spamalot NY

Chicago

Los Angeles


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Break for Spring

March 23, 2016
Maybe schools have it right, after all.

After a winter of tough weather, indoor activities and heavy coats, people are ready to get outside and run around at the first sight of the sun. Schools have long accepted this fact, giving kids a week off to go and burn off that pent-up energy. Starting with the Colgate swimming team heading south to Florida in 1935, the modern Spring Break is often wrapped up in parties, alcohol and an ever-increasing amount of corporate sponsorship (see: Most Florida beaches throughout the month of March).

But just because one leaves academia behind doesn’t mean that a Spring Break becomes unnecessary. After a full winter of going from home to car to office building and then back, getting into the outdoors for a few days can do wonders for the spirit. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer fundraising auction travel packages for all times of year, but many of our trips can help melt away the winter doldrums and serve as a spring break for the post-graduation set. Want some ideas for adventures to offer for auction at a spring-flavored gala? How about…

On the Links: Months off due to weather can leave a golf swing pretty rusty. And one way to get that Vitamin D infusion is by walking 18 pristine holes somewhere in the southern half of the country. Resort towns like Hilton Head, South Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona feature numerous course options for the semi-pro player all the way down to the weekend hacker. Meanwhile, desert towns like Palm Springs and Indian Wells are still temperate enough in the spring to play all day; those triple-digit mid-day temps don’t start showing up consistently until June.

Hit the Beach: Yes, plenty of college kids will be heading to cities in Florida, Texas or Southern California to celebrate the season (and we can send your donors to those places as well, if they want to join the revelry). But for those who prefer their beverages in containers other than red Solo cups, the Caribbean makes for a great getaway. Whether it’s five days in Aruba, Bermuda or Jamaica, there’s no place to get reacquainted with sunshine than on a beach chair, listening to the waves roll in. And for those with a limited vacation window, the Caribbean is a closer journey than you might think; take off from Manhattan in the morning, and you’ll be in Aruba in time for happy hour, for instance.

Head to the Islands: For students, hopping a flight to Hawaii usually is out of the question; between the travel time and the expense, the 50th state does not attract the kind of collegiate crowd one would expect based on its stunning beaches and warm climate. But for those who are just looking to miss that last cold snap at home and defrost under the springtime sun, there may be no more scenic place in America to do it than Hawaii. And with ten different trips to the islands, encompassing stays on four different islands, all the views of the state are available.


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The Romantic’s Valentine’s Day Gift

February 10, 2016
Chocolate? Meh. Flowers? They’ll be dead in a week. Jewelry? Sure, but do people really need more “stuff”? We may be biased, but there may be no more romantic gift than the gift of travel.

Mitch-Stuart can set up your donors with fundraising auction travel packages for any time of the year and for any occasion, of course, but there’s something special about sending two lovebirds out into the world together, to explore and make wonderful memories. Whether you’ve got supporters looking for a honeymoon excursion, a babymoon last hurrah, or just an adventure with the love of his or her life, setting them up with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Destination of Excellence® will plant you in their mind every time they reflect on that romantic getaway.

What makes travel so romantic? Some ideas:

Two people enter a relationship with lifetimes worth of experiences in their past. That extends to cities visited, which means that if one-half of a couple is a regular in, say, Las Vegas, the other half may feel more like a tourist following a guide than an equal partner. But when two people explore a new destination together, it can be a bonding experience. Want to give your donors the chance to make a destination feel like a shared romantic getaway? Offer one of our packages to a far-flung locale, perhaps like Bali, where your supporters can relax on beaches, get couples massages and explore an island while making it “theirs.”

Going on an adventure together can also push you and your partner out of your comfort zone. Whether you feel stuck in a rut or just would like to infuse your romance with a little spice, the adrenaline triggered by trying something new can be a great way to jump start emotions, as well. This could mean, for instance, heading for Africa with our “Explore Kenya’s Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife” package, which includes a gift card that can be used for game drives, bush walks and other safari experiences.

Finally, while the act of traveling is romantic on its own, the destination often has its own enchanting activities. We touched on that idea last year around this time, but it bears repeating: Booking the right itinerary once on the ground can make any place seductive. Exploring New York as a couple may mean a walk through Central Park at sunset or a date night at the Plaza. Any Southern California or Caribbean trip means walks along the beach. Skiing adventures in Aspen means après-ski cuddles by the fire. No matter the trip, there’s something waiting at the destination for couples.
Massage

Fairmont Kenya Safari

Central Park Carriage New York

The Buccaneer St. Croix


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Ho-Ho-Holiday Travel

December 24, 2014
Christmastime is here, and if you’re not already at or on your way to your preferred vacation spot for the holiday, it might be too late for 2014. Thankfully, you’ll get a chance to do it all again next year, and we’ve got you – and your donors – covered. No matter where your supporters would like to spend the holiday season, one of Mitch-Stuart’s charity auction travel packages can put them on a plane to a relaxing, wonderful time, from the white Christmas of a ski slope to the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. Need some ideas – especially for a “Christmas in July”-style gala auction? Why not think about…

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Disneyland California
Philadelphia: Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, the Christmas tree lighting, the store window displays, reenacting scenes from “Miracle on 34th Street” on 34th Street itself … the reasons to seek out New York City for Christmas are mostly well-known. That’s why tens of thousands of people go there every year. For a more relaxing experience, think about staying a short train ride away in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has its share of seasonal fun to explore, like the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s and the RiverRink at Penn’s Landing, with its views Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge. Plus, day trips to Manhattan are a snap; travelers can head into the city by train during the day, then escape it when the hordes of tourists become too much.

British Columbia: The Western Canadian getaway is not only a wintery wonderland, but our package to Whistler is also great for a family, with a one-bedroom condo suitable for two adults and two children. The area’s skiing is on par with the best of Europe, and Whistler averages almost 40 feet of snow per year, meaning that a December trip will very likely yield great conditions for downhill, cross-country or snowboarding. Back at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, meanwhile, even the pickiest eaters in the family will find something to love among the resort’s culinary offerings, like The Grill Room and The Mallard Lounge. Of special distinction: the Portobello Market and Fresh Bakery is a great quick-stop for families, while the Spirit Room inside the Mallard Lounge is where the liquor connoisseurs congregate.

Southern California: The lower half of the Golden State has a combination of traditional-style celebrations and warm weather seen in very few other places. Those looking to escape the biting cold can stretch out on the beach (and take pictures that will make friends at home jealous!), of course. But there is also seasonal fun to be had; Disneyland in Anaheim offers a snowy Christmas parade every day, and fireworks light up the night sky on a regular basis as well. In Los Angeles, the shopping centers combine the outdoors, the spirit of the season and the consumerism of the season to bring patrons events like “A Hollywood Christmas” at the Grove and the Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting in Beverly Hills. And the traditional house-lighting shows in Altadena along Christmas Tree Lane will remind anyone of Christmases past – just ignore the illuminated palm trees in the other parts of the city.


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‘Tis the (Shopping) Season

December 02, 2014
Nothing says the holidays quite like packed shopping mall parking lots, fights over the last toy-of-the-season and long, impossibly-slow checkout lines.

Ugh.

Somehow, the stockings have to get stuffed, the boxes have to get filled and wrapped, and that gift list has to dwindle. Wouldn’t it be nice to combine one of the most stress-inducing tasks of the holiday season with a relaxing trip out of your town? Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to give that opportunity to your non-profit’s biggest supporters, all while raising money for your cause and programs?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together destination travel packages for charity auctions that take donors all around the world for all sorts of purposes, whether it’s an awards show in New York City or a museum tour of Paris. We offer plenty of shopping of trips to the Big Apple of course; the allure of walking past the artistic window displays of Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and Barneys New York sells itself. But for those who aren’t up for the hustle and bustle of a New York excursion to take care of that present list, there are plenty of other great cities to which to travel.

Combine shopping with sunshine in southern California with trips to either Los Angeles or Palm Springs. Angelinos love to combine purchase power with solar power, and whether it’s strolling down Rodeo Drive, breathing the ocean air on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade or taking the trolley at the Grove, the options are plentiful. A couple of hours east, Palm Springs is home to outlet shopping, independent stores filled with the works of small artisans, and year-round sunshine.

Those willing to chance a bit more inclement weather would do well to head to Chicago and the world-renowned Magnificent Mile. A 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue, the Mile is home to homes, museums, nightlife and, most importantly, a massive collection of retailers, spanning from national chains to small boutiques. Browsing and buying are such integral parts of the strip’s experience that it hosts a yearly Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, with pop-up stores, a food fair and even a half-marathon.

Holiday shopping sprees don’t have to be confined to this country, though. If there are particularly fashionable people on your gift list, think about a trip to Italy. The fashion industry in Milan is almost unparalleled, but cities like Venice (with its signature masks and glassworks) and regions like Umbria (known for textiles and chocolates, among other artisan goodies) also provide access to plenty of potential presents. Even better: Travelers can finish a day of shopping with some of the best cuisine in the world.

Ready to send a donor on the shopping adventure of a lifetime? Reach out to Mitch-Stuart to talk about adding a trip to Chicago, Los Angeles or even Italy to your non-profit auction!

Nordstrom
Macy's
Galeries Lafayette


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Turkey Day Travel

November 25, 2014
AAA projected that more than 43 million Americans took to the roads, flooded airport terminals and even stood in long, snaking lines at train stations to get out of town for Thanksgiving in 2013. For many of those who traveled over the holiday, the trips were to see relatives, all gathering around a table somewhere for turkey and pumpkin pie.

Tiffany & Co
Rockefeller Center
The Fairmont Royal Pavilion
Skiers at Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Next year, help your donors make that “somewhere” a little more exciting.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., pairs with non-profit organizations to offer alluring charity auction travel packages to destinations around the world. Those can be used at any time, which means that when everyone else in the airport is schlepping to the same small towns they go to every year, your supporters can be heading to holiday fun in…

New York! Don’t make your donors watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television next year. Send them to the Big Apple instead to celebrate the holiday in style, staying at the Plaza (in a Rose Suite, no less!) and shopping at Tiffany’s with a $1,000 gift card. For supporters who’ve already taken care of Christmas presents, there are NYC packages that include brewery tours, Broadway show tickets, and even trips through the city’s delis.

The Caribbean! If the first blasts of winter have left donors depressed, tell them to leave the galoshes behind and find sand between their toes rather than snow. Mitch-Stuart offers trips to locales throughout the region, but all-inclusive resorts like Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas will take care of everything from dinner to entertainment, while those looking for luxury can find it in Barbados at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion or the old-world charm of The Buccaneer in St. Croix.

The Rockies! For those who seek out the cold of winter to experience the thrill of careening down a mountain, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to hit the slopes of ski resorts in Colorado and other regions. Send donors to any resort in Vail or Keystone, Colorado, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A day of negotiating “double black diamond” ski runs will burn off any caloric surpluses from a massive Thanksgiving dinner.

Getting ready for spring galas? Want to add that “wow factor” to your non-profit benefit auction? Reach out today to a Mitch-Stuart rep!


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Winter is Coming

August 26, 2014
There’s a reason that the end of August is often referred to as the “dog days of summer,” and it’s not that people have overwhelming love for them like we do our pets. It’s hot across most of the country, kids are getting restless as school is approaching, and everything from the sports world to summer television seems to be saying, “talk to us again next month.”

In the non-profit world, however, many organizations spend August gearing up for fall fundraising, and in particular, yearly gala or auction events. That means reaching out to us to talk about partnering for including consignment travel packages to destinations around the world, but it also means thinking about what will be on the minds of donors come the fall.

Let us help: Snow.

Offering the right trips that will garner the most interest is an important part of putting together a charity auction, and we can help. For your donors who love winter wonderlands, here’s a small sampling of the type of vacations you can offer (risk-free to your organization, of course!) by partnering with Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

When thoughts turn to winter, the mind almost immediately conjures images of snow, be it on city streets or mountaintops. While the former condition may be as annoying as beautiful, a peak covered in snow is an opportunity for high speeds and downhill thrills. Whether in the Canadian Rockies, the American west or even the mountains of Vermont, skiers can bid on perfect winter vacations when your non-profit pairs with Mitch-Stuart on a nonprofit travel package or experience. Resorts like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Nevada are known for their luxury services for the indoorsy types, as well, with spa packages and great dining.

The winter also has its share of gift-giving holidays, including Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Shopping malls get extremely crowded and browsing on the Internet can be more difficult than browsing a store’s selection in person. Why not make a vacation out of the experience of finding that perfect present for a significant other, family member or even for the entire office? One of our most popular packages, the to-the-point-named “Shop ‘Til You Drop!”, combines four nights at The Plaza in New York City with a $2,000 shopping spree at either Bergdorf-Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdale’s. Take the trip in December and revel in the splendor of a city preparing to celebrate the holidays, while crossing off errands from your to-do-when-I-get-home list.

When it’s time for those holidays, the stress levels increase. As families return to a home base, there’s cleaning and cooking to be done groceries to be bought and sets of “the nice dishes” to be broken out. Donors can skip every one of those steps by bringing the family aboard either a Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean International cruise ship for a trip through the tranquil waters of the Caribbean or Bahamas. Guests aboard each are treated to gourmet meals and 24-hour room service (no more standing in front of the refrigerator, picking at leftover turkey) along with state-of-the-art fitness facilities to work off all that food. With the entire family aboard, your donor can even take his or her photo for next year’s holiday cards..
Skiing the Rockies
Bloomingdales
The Plaza New York
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Learning on the Road

August 19, 2014
In the next couple of weeks, kids will go back to school, picking up a bag full of textbooks on the first day to learn about everything from the founding of the United States to the creation of the world’s great works of art. They’ll be presented by teachers as words on the page, artifacts of history that have long since been left to the passage of time.

The National Mall
Lincoln Memorial
Gettysburg Battlefield
Louvre, Paris, France
But those seminal events, those works of art, that meaningful history, doesn’t have to be left behind. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for any number of different reasons: Relaxation, excitement, a change-of-pace or even an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But some of our favorite vacations involve opportunities for donors to bring their families along and make history come alive. Give your donors the gift of education with one of these great travel packages.

Washington, DC is a living, breathing civics classroom, and a trip there can give life to an otherwise dry subject. The National Mall is filled with museums (almost all Smithsonian institutions feature free admission) and monuments, but with a little advance planning, travelers can also see the halls of power as they operate today. Reaching out to the local representative’s office can produce anything from a Capitol Hill tour led by a staff member to gallery passes to watch the House or Senate in action. Especially worthy of attention: The tour of the monuments at night is breathtaking.

To go a little further back in American history, a trip to Gettysburg immerses the entire family in the Civil War. The turning point of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest of the war, and because of that the city was also the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. Send a donor and his/her family here for bus tours, museums and reenactments. For when the history gets to be too much, visitors can retreat to the 30-acre nature reserve and relax.

Not all forms of history are about war, though. For those of a more artistic sensibility, Paris is one of the world’s leaders in galleries and art history, with museums like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. One of our trips to the French capital includes half-day tours of each of those, plus the Centre George Pompidou, home of the Musee National d’Art Moderne, the largest modern art museum in Europe. Works of great historical significance to the world are located in each, including those by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Vincent van Gogh and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” It’s practically a full AP Art course masquerading as a city.


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Summer’s Last Hurrah

August 13, 2014
Shopping carts filled with pencils and folders, registration days and “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” reports: While parents everywhere get ready to send their children back to school, those kids are desperately trying to hold on to their last days of freedom and escape the onset of the school year.

Help them.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together great charity auction travel packages for any occasion and with any combination of family members. Sometimes, that means romantic getaways for parents, and other times it means event-based itineraries to awards shows or sporting events. But in August, many families are looking for one last, great adventure before the school year begins, the type of experience that will make the other kids on the bus jealous when junior recounts his/her summer exploits. Give your donors those opportunities with one of these trips.

Of course, when one thinks of trips for families, the first idea often involves Mickey Mouse. Whether it’s Disneyland in Southern California or Disney World in Orlando, adventures to either coast’s Magic Kingdom are fun for the whole family. For either, though, Mitch-Stuart can round out the trip with some great options. Our package to Anaheim also includes a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm and a dinner at Medieval Times, along with a suite for four as accommodations. If Florida is the choice, trips can include excursions to everything from SeaWorld to Universal Studios.

If neither California nor Florida are in the cards, though, Mitch-Stuart can still help send a donor and his or her family to any of 50 different waterparks in the country. Whether it’s one of the Great Wolf Lodge waterparks in destinations like Kansas City or the Pocono Mountains, or perhaps CoCo Key Water Resort in the Boston area, there is family-friendly fun in 22 different states and even Ontario, Canada to be had. Each park has its own signature slides and amusements, and each package also includes quad-room accommodations and breakfast buffets.

Of course, the simplest way of bidding adieu to the summer is to find a beach and spend those last days of freedom running through the sand. We’ve mentioned our beach trips on this blog before, but one in particular is worth highlighting: The family-friendly confines of an all-inclusive Palace Resort in Cancun. With clubs and lounges for kids, separate pools for youth and even nighttime movie screenings, there’s plenty to distract children from the upcoming school year – and with swim-up bars and pampering spas, there’s plenty to distract parents, too.
Disneyland
Seaworld
Great Wolf Parks
Palace Resort


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Getting Ready for the Fall

August 08, 2014
August is upon us, and the weather across much of the country is helping the month live up to the phrase “the dog days of summer.” But as heat drives people to the beach (or, at a minimum, to air conditioning), charity auction planners have to start thinking about the fall, to galas and fundraising events. What will be the trips and travel opportunities that will bring in the most revenue for a non-profit?

This time of year is a favorite of ours at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., because we get to help pair non-profits with great charity auction travel packages for the fall season. One of the questions we’re asked consistently is, “what’s popular right now?” At this time of year, here are some categories to think about when deciding what to offer to donors.

When it comes to fundraising packages, it is hard to go wrong during any season with offering trips to places like New York City, Napa Valley and Las Vegas. The Big Apple is popular at all times of year, to people from around the world (ask anyone who has ever been in Times Square!). Trip packages there include foodie adventures, shopping sprees and even tickets to attend the Tony Awards. For the oenophile, Napa Valley involves wine tours, along with culinary delights. And Las Vegas, the City of Sin, is exactly what one would expect: Bright, flashy, with big-name chefs, live entertainment and even year-round chances for golfers to get in a few swings.

When the fall comes around, families start thinking about places to go for the holidays, as well. Give your donors a chance to include their families with trips to a place like Disneyland, which includes a stay in a hotel suite big enough to give everyone a chance to spread out. For those who might be looking to get the family outside, a trip to Buena Vista, CO could be popular, as well; our package includes a full week for two adults and two kids on a dude ranch, for an all-inclusive adventure involving hot springs pools, hayrides and horseback riding.

Not everyone is a fan of the fall, of course – and certainly those in snowy climes may do some dreaming about being beachside as fall gives way to winter. Those planning for a gala later in the fall could do well by offering a sunny giveaway to the Caribbean. Whether it’s the thrill of a waterside casino in Aruba, a cruise with an ocean-view stateroom or the ease of an all-inclusive resort in St. Thomas, your donors will thank you for giving them the snowbird trip of a lifetime – and you’ll thank them for their generous contribution to your fundraising efforts!
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Fore Father’s Day…

June 10, 2014
When a charity auction trip aligns with a desire from a bidder, it means a satisfied donor and a big check to a worthy cause. This time of year, a top priority for plenty of shoppers is finding a gift for Father’s Day, and hopefully one that does not involve another necktie or barbecue grill gadget. One of the most common types of Father’s Day gifts is golf paraphernalia, be it a new oversized driver or a set of golf ball cufflinks. There’s an entire industry dedicated to creating golf-nut knick-knacks, and Father’s Day is that sector’s equivalent of Christmas.

It may be too late for Father’s Day 2014, but Mitch-Stuart offers several charity auction travel packages that make perfect gifts for fathers, whether it’s a son or daughter buying for a dad or a father buying himself a vacation. Give your donors the chance to take care of a gift occasion by offering (on consignment, as always) a trip to one of these destinations at auction:

Hilton Head: In terms of sheer density of golf courses, it may be difficult to beat Hilton Head, SC. There are more than 20 courses on the island itself, with another dozen-plus more in neighboring cities. Add in the possibility of year-round play, and it’s little wonder that the area is one of the country’s premier golf destinations.  Each of Mitch-Stuart’s auction travel packages to the island include rounds at three different courses, and with our concierge service, extra outings can be arraigned with a single phone call.

Orlando: Every year, around the beginning of spring, the Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge near Orlando, FL. Mitch-Stuart can’t get your donors on the course that weekend, but during the rest of the calendar year the winners of the “Bay Hill Brings You the Best of the Best” trip can play twice on the 18 holes used as a run-up to the Masters. Another package also comes with a one-hour private lesson with a golf academy instructor and a nine-hole “playing lesson” for those whose golf game is a little less Tiger and a little more Kitten.

St. Andrews: While golf is the world’s game, it can only have one true home. And that birthplace is in St. Andrews, a small town on the eastern coast of Scotland. It was here that the sport was first played, in the 1400s, and it also is the home town of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, one of two organizations in the world that sets the rules of the game. Bidders who win Mitch-Stuart’s “Home of Golf” package get a $900 gift card to be used at the Torrance or Kittocks courses at the five-star Fairmont of St. Andrews. In addition, while staying at the Fairmont, experienced travelers can enter the local lottery for a chance to play the Old Course, the world famous 18 that hosts The Open Championship every five years.

Hilton Head
Sea Pines Resort Hilton Head
Bay Hill Club
St. Andrews Golf Course


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Eat, Travel, Love

June 04, 2014
One of the great joys of travel is getting the chance to experience a new culture, whether it’s by taking in beautiful sights, seeing local music or visiting area museums. But to really get a taste of a destination, find a dinner table; there may be no more authentic way to immerse yourself in a new place than figuring out the local cuisine. According to the U.S. Travel Association, “fine dining” is the fourth-biggest reason for leisure travel among Americans, and with celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern shining light on hidden foodie adventures near and far, that ranking seems only likely to increase.

L'Atelier des Sens school of cooking in France
La Cuisine Paris
Sorrento Cooking School in Italy
New Orleans School of Cooking
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we’ve put together a wide range of culinary experiences, both domestic and international, for use by non-profits as charity auction travel packages. Whether it’s gumbo and crawfish in New Orleans or pasta and wine in Italy, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to sample some of the world’s great cuisines – and put some extra cash in your non-profit’s pocket.

From Julia Child to today, France has attracted a reverence from many travelers when it comes to its cuisine. The nation has one of the longest list of Michelin-starred restaurants, and graduates of French cooking schools are considered to be some of the most qualified chefs in the world. Bring home a little bit of that knowledge after taking a class at the famous L’Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris with our “Parisian Culture and Cuisine” package. Participants will get a hands-on experience in either school’s kitchen, learning from master instructors. Travelers won’t be stuck making the food for the entire trip, though; the auction packages also includes lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel, the restaurant on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Hop in the kitchen in Sorrento, Italy, with a seven-day/six-night trip to the Amalfi Coast stunner. Along with a stay at the Esperidi Resort and a trip to Pompeii, travelers get three classes at the resorts Sorrento Cooking School, where the chefs-to-be will put together a four-course meal, along with receiving in-house lunches after each day’s lesson. Recipes prepared during the seminars will also be included, meaning that the globe-trotting foodies can bring a taste of Italy home, as well. That, of course, is just the on-site offering; the village itself some of the best dining in the country, often supplemented with amazing views.

Class is also in session in the Big Easy. Take a trip to the bayou and enjoy a three-hour class at the New Orleans School of Cooking, right in the heart of the French Quarter. Visitors will get a chance to learn about the city’s cuisine in a hands-on seminar, creating dishes like Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Creole and even Bananas Foster Crepes. Travelers will also get a chance to leave the kitchen and head out on a boat for a jazz cruise and Creole buffet.


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Memorial Day Getaways

May 20, 2014
The school year is almost over, the temperature is rising and the kids are ready to skip town. Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year, thanks to those reasons and so many more.

Bali
Bay Hill Florida
Ritz Laguna Niguel
Fairmont Empress, Vancouver Canada
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have travel packages for charity auctions that can be used year-round, including during the weekend that is often considered the “gateway to the summer.” And while an extra day off may not be enough time to send your donors to some of the more far-flung, exotic locales – just flying from the United States to Bali would take up most of the time off – there are still plenty of fun weekend trips that will allow them to make the most of the bonus 24 hours of vacation.

The combination of its family-friendly resorts and great weather make Florida a favorite Memorial Day weekend destination. With more than a dozen different catalog options for a Sunshine State getaway, Mitch-Stuart can make Florida a reality for a donor’s dreams, no matter what they may be. Disney World? How about a trip with park-hopping passes, pools and arcades? Is golf higher on the agenda? Our package to Bay Hill gives donors two rounds of golf and an hour of private instruction to shake the winter rust off of the swing. Or maybe your donors would like something a little more low key and relaxing? Our Key West trip, complete with complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, can fill the bill.

If Florida is too far out of the way for donors, the other coast is just as inviting. Memorial Day weekend can be the perfect time for one of your donors to visit Southern California, whether it’s being wrapped in the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, taking the tram above Palm Springs for breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley or star-gazing while in a poolside bungalow at a resort in Santa Monica. It seems like beach life is never more than a stone’s throw away when visiting the Golden State, and spending Memorial Day laying back and relaxing on the sand is a perfect way to welcome the summer months.

Not every vacationer is seeking out the sun come Memorial Day weekend, of course. In many southern parts of the country, it feels like summer has already arrived by the time it’s the end of May. For those donors or organizations in warmer climes, a trip to a city like Seattle could be a great break before the heat gets too extreme at home. Split that vacation time between the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, near tourist hot spots like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Waterfront, and the Conde Nast Gold List-recognized Fairmont Empress, in stunning Victoria, B.C. With average May highs in the mid-60s during the month of May, Seattle is a great place for one last fling with spring.


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New Season, New Trips

April 01, 2014
Spring is upon us (we promise!), and with it comes a variety of new trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog. Non-profits looking to raise more money by utilizing consignment travel auction packages now have more options, including some once-in-a-lifetime experiences! Let’s look at a few of the highlights:

Wrigley Field
Tea at the London Savoy
Highclere Castle
Seeing a Chicago Cubs game from inside Wrigley Field is a sports experience. But seeing the game from one of the Wrigley Field “rooftop clubs,” just outside the stadium, is a unique view of both the game and the city of Chicago. From the complementary food and beverages (no stale nachos or boiled hot dogs here) and the HDTV monitors to stay close to the action to the extra-wide stadium-style seating, the best visit to the ballpark in Chicago does not involve stepping foot inside the park at all. It’s the type of trip for which sports fan donors will go wild – and with a stay at one of Chicago’s best hotels included in the package, even the baseball-phobic will enjoy.

After a 100 million pound renovation, The Savoy has continued to define luxury travel for visitors from around the world. Central to many of London’s great museums and theaters and with a sparkling view of the River Thames, The Savoy is the place to stay in London in order to really feel at one with the city. Mitch-Stuart can send your donors there, too, for a five-night stay that includes $500 either in dining credit at Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill or for afternoon tea at the Thames Foyer.

But for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, send your donors to Downton Abbey. Technically the PBS hit television show is fictional, sure, but Mitch-Stuart has a package custom-made for the show’s fans. It includes four nights at The Royal Park in central London (with a fifth night at The Vineyard Hotel), afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel, and, most notably, a trip to Highclere Castle, the primary shooting location for “Abbey.” Walk the castle’s grounds, through the gardens and woods, and see the same vistas that Lord Grantham and family view on a regular basis. Afterwards, every episode of the television show will be your donor’s own personal vacation video, and a reminder of one of the best travel moments of their life.


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If You Think the World of Your Employees, Give it to Them!

December 04, 2012
Okay, maybe not the world, but certainly a well-deserved glimpse of it. Corporate incentive travel programs are a powerful way to tell an employee, “Job well done” even in this uncertain economy. According to a recent survey by MeetingsNet.com, although one-fifth of respondents are expecting cuts in their incentive travel budgets, 48% expect them to remain the same and 31% expect a slight increase.

So, what are some of the best ways to design and implement a successful incentive travel program? We asked Mitch-Stuart Inc. SVP, Business Development Michael Upp to share his top tips.
  1. Identify your goals Incentive travel can be used to motivate employees, reward current customers or attract new ones as well as increase sales of a product or service. It is crucial to decide at the outset what your desired outcome is so you can plan and select a package accordingly.
  2. Create a plan and budget Determine who is eligible, how you are going to communicate your offering, the duration of the program and give it a working title to help get the creative juices flowing. Budget will dictate the types of rewards you can offer, but rest assured there is a corporate travel package to fit any budget. A good rule of thumb for an overall budget is as follows:

          Rewards – 80%
          Promotion and Communications – 10%
          Administration – 5%
          Training and Research – 5%
     
  3. Select the rewards Companies such as Mitch-Stuart offer everything from a lavish Hawaiian of European vacation to a sports, shopping or sightseeing-themed package. You can scale back to simply domestic airfare or go the other way with a deluxe Kenyan safari or “Top Gun” experience.
  4. Promote! Maximize your results by getting the word out with all the tools at your disposal - use direct mail, email, newsletters, mobile marketing and more to stay in touch with your target.
  5. Measure the results Put measurement tactics in place to gauge the effectiveness of your program. Was the target audience motivated? Did you see a measurable increase in employee satisfaction? In customer loyalty? Measurement will help you determine what worked and what can be improved for the next time.
If you have some examples of successful corporate incentive programs, please share them in our comments section.

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