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Stay Fit and Raise Funds

April 19, 2017
For many, travel is the chance to let go, to indulge, to break any sort of diet for a few days and eat and drink like those calories won’t be coming home. But one of the biggest travel trends of 2017 involves people going the other direction, taking time out of the rat race to go somewhere, re-center themselves, and maybe even come back to “real life” with a new routine or way of dealing with the world.

“Wellness travel,” as the industry has come to call it, is not just a passing fad. At Mitch-Stuart, we’ve been created nonprofit fundraising auction travel packages for more than 20 years, and giving donors a chance to rest, recharge and feel well has always been a top priority. What does that look like in 2017? Here are some of the ideas that make up the trend, and how you can capitalize on them.

For those interested in wellness travel, yoga retreats have become a big draw. Taking place in gorgeous destinations around the world, these gatherings give yogis the chance to both deepen their practice and take in stunning views. But your donors can incorporate yoga into their travels without spending an entire vacation on the mat; a trip to Bali can be timed to attend the BaliSpirit Festival, which involves music, dance, and yoga in almost equal parts.

[For more about travel opportunities for yoga practitioners, click here.]


Of course, trips involving spa routines have long been big sellers at nonprofit fundraising auctions. But the market for men’s spa treatments has been expanding over the past few years, as well. According to industry website eHotelier, many male travelers are coupling spa visits with vigorous workouts or other physically-demanding activities. This makes destinations like Jackson Hole a perfect fit; a supporter can go here, spend all day hiking and climbing through the Grand Teton National Park, then get a sports massage (maybe add in a Arnica sore-muscle salve?) to wind down.

The easiest path to wellness while on the road may be less in what a traveler does and more in what a traveler doesn’t. The “digital detox” is becoming a popular way for vacationers to separate themselves from the day-to-day and remember that life doesn’t happen on a small screen. If you’ve got some donors who could use some time away from the Internet, you might offer a more isolated destination; being surrounded by a city often makes it more difficult to fully disconnect. May we suggest a trip to Costa Rica? The underappreciated gem of Central America has every type of terrain, and the birds, land crabs and sloths (yes, sloths!) your donors may encounter are unlikely to be impressed by a big Twitter follower count. And the best part: At the end of each day, your supporters will get to return to luxury accommodations – digital detoxing doesn’t have to mean roughing it.


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(Inter)National Park-Hopping

January 04, 2017
With Yellowstone, Yosemite, Denali and so many other national parks beckoning, it can be easy to become American-centric when planning an outdoor vacation. In a country this size, it feels like there’s always an open space to explore. But to keep the focus so close to home is to ignore some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.

The destinations of Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit fundraising travel packages are chosen for any number of reasons: an amazing local culture, a tie-in with an event of some sort, or massively popular sights. But one of our favorite reasons is natural beauty, letting donors escape the day-to-day and get outside and into the world. And even if they may not be the focus of individual trips, these grand parks in other countries make for great additional selling points to help drive interest during a charity auction.

The phrase “active volcano” can conjure a few negative thoughts: Burning in lava, covered in ash, Vesuvius. The titular attraction of Arsenal Volcano National Park is no threat to the citizens of nearby towns, thankfully, but hikers can still see the consequences up close. It’s far from the only attraction, though; with waterfalls, brave cane (a grass-like covering that grows to be tall enough to make a field maze-like) and a variety of bird species unmatched in Costa Rica all in one place, those looking for an escape into the natural world will have their wishes granted here.

The weather is usually a touch cooler in Alberta, the Canadian providence that is home to Calgary, Edmonton and the remarkable beauty of Banff National Park. A favorite for ice skaters, snowshoeing and ice climbing, Banff is a year-round destination; fans of warmer weather appreciate the hiking and swimming opportunities in the park in July and August, in particular. In addition, traveling to Banff also means being a short drive away from Jasper National Park, the largest in the Canadian Rockies and the home of Pyramid Lake and Marmot Basin ski area. Even the drive between the two, along the Icefields Parkway, is stunning.

For a national park that blends the beauty of wilderness with at least a touch of modernity, Cinque Terre may be the best choice. Located two short hours from Florence (our “Indulge in the Italian Culture and Countryside” package includes car rental, making a visit to the park possible), it was the first “national park” recognized by the Italian government, two years after UNESCO had named it a World Heritage Site. The hilly, seaside landscape of Cinque Terre has been a symbol of societal interaction with nature for decades, thanks to the fishing villages that line the shore, and has accordingly become a leader in sustainable tourism, working to protect the area from erosion and other dangers. Hiking over the foothills and down into Vernazza, with its pastel-hued buildings and restaurant kitchens filled with pasta and the catch of the day, makes for a truly magical combination of nature and community.





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On the Road, In Search of Unique Gifts

December 21, 2016
The pressure is on; with only days until both Hanukkah and Christmas, the malls are loaded with frantic shoppers, and online stores are keeping delivery services busy all the way up to the holidays. But the internet’s reach has meant that it can be difficult to find that one-of-a-kind present, the one that could only come from you and be given to a special someone. Every person everywhere has access to the world’s great stores.

At Mitch-Stuart, we believe that our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages make great gifts, of course. But for those looking to check off an even longer list of present recipients, we love the idea of travelling to a different locale in search of unique items, the ones not sold in department stores or on websites. Thankfully, even in this age of megamarts, there are still cities with great local markets, the types of places where artisans, antique dealers and craftspeople get together and sell their wares. And it’s at these exchanges that some of the most interesting gifts can be found.

If your donors are fortunate to find themselves in Provence, France on a Saturday morning, thanks to winning one of our non-profit fundraising travel packages, tell them to get up early. The market scene in the region gets going around 8 a.m., and it’s both a shopping and social destination. Vendors of all sorts can be found under awnings or in stalls in seemingly any village in the region, selling clothing, art, antiques and food to locals and tourists alike. Bring cash to the markets – and maybe extra luggage on the trip to get everything home.

With options around the corner from nearly every Tube stop, London has managed to maintain its market culture     through the years. Markets like Spitalfields can trace their history back centuries    , and many are in areas of general interest as well; a trip to Piccadilly Market, with its antiques and collectibles, can be folded into a day at the nearby Circus or an evening at a West End theater. Some of the markets are marvels themselves, like Covent Garden and its neo-classical architecture. To wander London’s bazaars and talk with the sellers is to live like a local, even if it’s just in between tourist stops.

Not all great bazaars are a trans-Atlantic flight away. Santa Fe’s open-air markets are so plentiful that Travel and Leisure once wrote that the city “feels more like it belongs in Europe or Latin America.” Whether it’s the once-yearly International Folk Art Market, the nearly-year-round Santa Fe Artists Market or the Railyard Artisan Market, open every Sunday, there’s plenty of chances to browse the works of local artisans. Everything from paintings to leatherworks, sculpture to hot sauces can be purchased here and brought home to give to an appreciative recipient.


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Five Great All-Inclusive Perks

October 19, 2016
All-inclusive is an easy enough term to understand; it simply means everything is included in a trips price. But when our non-profit partners offer a fundraising auction travel package that includes a stay at an all-inclusive resort, or on a similar cruise, theres a question always asked: What does all-inclusive actually mean? What is the everything that comes with the package price?

If you want to help your donors understand just how great a deal all-inclusive travel can be, we can help. Here are five of our favorite perks that come with the package price at some of our destinations.

  1. Food: When one thinks of meals being included in a purchase price, its easy to remember the last disappointing, cold Continental breakfast in a chain hotels lobby. But whether its the 24-hour room service of a Celebrity Cruise journey though the Caribbean or the nightly lobster course at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the cuisine already figured in to the trips package price is leagues beyond stale bagels and soggy bacon.
  2. Equipment: Many of our favorite all-inclusive resorts are in gorgeous locations with plenty of outdoor activity options. So being able to borrow snorkeling gear in Costa Rica or a kayak in Bolongo Bay allows visitors to take advantage of the beautiful scenery without having to pack a ridiculous amount of gear.
  3. Entertainment: Get a taste of the culture of the destination at a resort like Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica; a stay there may include an international dance show, a street music revue or even a steel band playing the night away. Theres never a cover, and your room is only a short walk away (although far enough to be able to retire in peace).
  4. Classes: Want to learn how to scuba dive? Its included in the price when you go to Bolongo Bay. How about a class on making sushi? The Westin Playa Conchal Resort and Spa in Costa Rica has you covered. Heading to an all-inclusive resort can sometimes mean bringing home a new skill or obsession.
  5. Kids Activities: Not every all-inclusive resort is kid-friendly, but those that are do a wonderful job of keeping the young ones entertained. Moon Palace in Cancun, for instance, features game rooms with playgrounds, mini-movie theaters and a fully equipped arcade, among other attractions. And with the resorts staff supervising the children, the parents can sneak off and get in some golf, a spa treatment or just some quiet time walking along the beach.

Thinking about offering your donors an all-inclusive vacation? Talk to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today!

Bolongo Bay


Playa Conchal Costa Rica


Playa Conchal Resort


Moon Palace Resort


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The Food of Napa Valley

September 07, 2016
Calvin and Hobbes. Tailgating and barbecue. The Chicago Cubs and well get em next season. Some pairings just make sense. The art of matching gets taken to a whole new level in wine-centric destinations; sommeliers have made whole careers out of perfecting suggestions for pairing wine with food.

Napa Valley is one of our most popular Destinations of Excellence, and the first reason that springs to mind is, of course, the areas wineries. Some of the best American vinos are made here, and a visitor can spend multiple trips to Napa and still not run out of new tasting rooms to visit. But those in the know also understand that the wine capital of America has a thriving culinary scene, one to match the highs of its bottled treats and that very clearly holds up its end in any food and wine pairing.

With the prevalence of alcohol in the Napa culture, it should be no surprise that there are plenty of ways to get around the valley sans auto. And while walking and bicycling around is a fun way to see everything up close, theres a major drawback: Its hard to eat while walking, and nearly impossible to do so while on a bike. Thats where the Napa Valley Wine Train comes in, and with it a three-course gourmet meal. Enjoy roasted beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin or even a catch of the day fish entre en route to the Grgich Hills Estates, for a private tour and tasting. Theres even a dessert course for the ride home, for those whom have worked up an appetite seeing the Grgich grounds.

Just down the road at Saint Helena, the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is the home of chef Timothy Mosblech, recognized by California Home and Design magazine as one of wine countrys best kept secrets. His Chefs Table (a component of our Napa Valleys Perfect Blend of Indulgences package) lunch includes a plethora of farm-to-table dishes Long Meadow Ranch is one of a handful of wineries that also grow their own grub paired with their flavor profile wine siblings. And as recognized as Long Meadow is for its wine, dont miss out on its award-winning olive oil, also available.

Unfortunately, Chef Mosblech wont fit in your donors carry-on luggage, which means your supporter will have to leave behind the cuisine of Napa Valley upon departure. But they can learn how to recreate some of Northern Californias magic at home with the Raise Your Glass and Say Cheers to Napa trip. Donors can choose to take a class from an expert chef, including seasonal ingredients, expert cooking techniques and, crucially, what wines to pair with their new recipes. Its a perfect way to make sure that your supporters return from their trip with something to share because getting them to give up one of their new bottles of wine might be difficult.




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Travel with a Ticket

August 31, 2016
Almost 50 percent of Americans did not use any of their vacation days in 2014. Its easy to understand why, on one hand: If one feels overworked, taking a week off might seem like setting up a work avalanche upon returning to the job. And its not like that dream beach or ski resort is going anywhere, right? But aside from the well-documented health benefits of vacations, getting out of the office means getting the chance to see some pretty special events, the type of once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that wont be there waiting during that mythical down time at the job.

Mitch-Stuart sends donors to dream destinations regularly with its fundraising auction travel packages. But as amazing as it sounds, it can sometimes be tough to get supporters to actually take a vacation. One of the easiest ways to fix that: Give your bidders a chance to win a trip that is not just to a place, but an event, one that only occurs once a year. In addition to the appeal of leaving work behind, these trips also speak to supporters who need a date certain on the calendar for which to plan a getaway.

The most prestigious film festival in America is Sundance, which takes place every year in the winter wonderland of Park City, Utah. The most prestigious film festival in the rest of the world is Cannes, which takes place in its namesake, a sunny, summery destination on the southern coast of France. And Mitch-Stuart has your donors ticket to either one. Whether the dream itinerary involves American indie films and skiing, or international movies and time on the beach, supporters can be the first to see the films about which everyone will be talking within the year. And the parties at each festival are legendary.

For those who want even more of a red-carpet experience, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to one of several spectacular awards shows. We wrote earlier this year about the different ways that your supporters can rub shoulders with the superstars of sports, music and stage; the chance to center a trip on such a glamorous event is one at which supporters will leap. In addition, the cities involved in these award show packages places like Los Angeles and Nashville are Destinations of Excellence on their own, meaning that theres plenty to see when not hobnobbing with celebrities.

If your donors want to have a say in the event ticket that goes with their travel package, let them choose their own adventure! Our Any Live Concert or Theater Production Experience trip allows your winning supporter to pick a show to attend anywhere in America. The biggest Broadway productions? Sure! That arena-sized concert? Absolutely! Even passes to a multi-day festival are in play here. Whether its for themselves or for a family member (thanks to the personalization, it makes a great gift item), donors love the chance to control their itinerary with this trip.






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On the Road Again

August 24, 2016
Theres so much to do in some of our Destinations of Excellence packages that it can be hard to fit everything into an itinerary. Throw in time to relax in luxury accommodations, and finding time to even sleep seems difficult.

But an underrated use of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is as home bases, places where a supporter can start a trip, but then head off to other nearby communities. Having a nice suite or villa to which to come back can simplify a road trip, giving the traveler less reason to worry and more space to have fun on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Some of our favorite home bases:

Less than six hours separates the three biggest cities of the Pacific Northwest, making the triumvirate of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver prime road trip fodder. Starting in British Columbia, check out the gorgeous sites of Vancouver (and neighboring Whistler) before heading across the border to Seattle and its iconic skyline not to mention its great coffee! From there, the Rose City is just three hours to the south, with its lively street food and microbrew scenes.

The Kentucky Derby is one of our favorite sporting events, and weve got a couple of travel packages that can take horse racing fans to the jewel of the Triple Crown. But once the horses have retired to their stables and the crazy hats are back in their boxes, it might be time to hit the Bourbon Trail. The distilleries of favorite big-name bourbons like Evan Williams, Jim Beam and Bulleit are all in the city itself, but there are several more (including Makers Mark and Four Roses) within a short driving distance. The trail is made up of nine distilleries in all, and the thirsty traveler who visits each one gets a free t-shirt.

Of course, Northern California has its own share of boozy tourism, and the Anderson Valley wine trail is one its lesser-known treasures. About 100 miles north of Napa, the trail may be just ten miles or so long, but its home to 25 different wineries. Its also the home to several major events each year, including a Pinot Noir festival and a barrel tasting weekend that involves almost every different vino producer in the area. (Obviously, for both this one and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, bringing a designated driver is a must).

But one of the most underrated home bases for great road trips is the City of Sin itself, Las Vegas. Sure, the town has its fair share of diversions, too, but its also a half-day or less drive from the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Zion National Park and, if ones willing to spend just a little while longer in the car, Yosemite National Park. For a city best known for its neon signs, the natural sights within a short distance of Las Vegas may be even more impressive.

Vancouver

Kentucky Derby

Napa Valley

Grand Canyon


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What I Did During Summer Vacation

August 17, 2016
For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

For families across the country, August means heat waves, last-minute trips and the return of school. And along with the beginning of the educational year, the sons and daughters of your supporters will each be asked one simple question, whether its in the form of a written report or playground small talk:

What did you do during summer vacation?

The good news: You can help your supporters make sure that their kids have a good answer.

Mitch-Stuart offers non-profit fundraising auction travel packages for all sorts of occasions, whether its a bucket-list cruise or a honeymoon villa on a tantalizing island. We also can help gets kids ready to answer that first question of the school year with stories, photos and mementos that will make them the talk of their classes.

That final trip before the school year begins can be used to help the kids warm up their brains before heading back into academia, and there may be no place that combines history and modern fun better than Washington, DC. With monuments and museums scattered all around the city, the District of Columbia is a perfect place for youngsters to learn about history while also seeing some of the worlds most recognizable sights. Our Celebrate the Heart of the Red, White and Blue trip includes an Old Town trolley tour with more than 100 points of interest, and the Smithsonian museums have always strived to make learning fun for all ages (the Air and Space Museums ride simulators give kids the chance to feel the thrill of space flight or air combat, for instance).

There are plenty of souvenirs of summer, but there are few that look better in a homeward-bound carry-on bag than leis and sea shells. Yes, the charms of Hawaii make for a great send-off to summer, and our Captivating Island Culture package includes a suite stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani on the island of Maui. With the beach just steps away, kids can spend their last days of freedom running through the surf, building sand castles and searching for the perfect sea shell to show off at home. Your donors can bring home an excellent memento, as well; the resort offers complementary photo sessions to capture the whole family in one of the worlds most beautiful environments.

If your donors really want to give their kids an experience that will make the youngsters the talk of the class, though, theres Disney. Whether in Southern California or Florida, Mickey Mouses theme parks are so beloved, in part, because of the number of only-in-Disney experiences and sights available. Even better: Mitch-Stuarts trips to each park also include experiences at other, nearby attractions; Happiest Place on Earth takes supporters to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (and even includes dinner at Medieval Times!), while the The Most Magical Place on Earth package includes passes to Universal Studios (with its The Wizarding World of Harry Potter parks) along with Orlandos Disney World. Coming back to school wearing those instantly-recognizable mouse ears will earn a donors son or daughter instant cool points during recess.

Washington DC

The Smithsonian

The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

Disneyland


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Ever heard of

August 09, 2016
People love to be in the know. Whether its the secret pop-up restaurant, the speakeasy with an entrance through a barber shop or the newest underground music act, theres a thrill that comes with experiencing something different, something that your peer group hasnt discovered yet.

We love our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to places like New York, Las Vegas and Hawaii, of course. But not every trip needs to be to one of the capitals of tourism. If your supporters are looking for that hidden gem of a vacation, the one that none of their friends have taken, these options may be for you.

Have your donors thought about traveling to

Asheville? The North Carolina retreat is a cultural oasis in western North Carolina; theres nearly as much live music here as there is in a city like Nashville, and even though the population has been booming as of late, it still maintains the feel of a small town. Theres also the historic charm of the Biltmore House & Gardens, a winery tour and even a chocolate tasting included in our travel package for the city.

Boothbay Harbor? Small town living never seemed as picturesque as in this Maine destination. Go whale-watching on one of the ships that works the harbor, or spot the historic lighthouses that dot the rocky shores. Ditch the rental car and walk through the charming town itself, stopping in at the various antique and curio shops. Or charter your own yacht and set sail for a day on the water. One summertime trip to Boothbay Harbor can make the town the little secret that one of your donors loves to talk about!

Charleston? The southern charm of South Carolinas second-largest city has been recognized by others; Travel + Leisure magazine named it Americas Most Friendly City in 2011, and Conde Nast Traveler has called its people insanely nice. But the hospitality of strangers is only one reason to visit this underappreciated jewel; walking along cobblestone streets and admiring the gorgeous, preserved old homes will work up an appetite, and the booming restaurant scene in the city will fill your donors back up.

Riviera Maya? The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is an incredibly scenic area, with beaches and jungle to complement the almost-mandatory trek to the ruins of Chichen Itza, one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. Combine that with the luxury found at the Fairmont Mayakoba, and you get a vacation that will appeal to a wide cross-section of your supporters.

The Biltmore

The Nonantum Resort

Charleston

Fairmont Mayakoba


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Travel Obsessions

August 03, 2016
This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will face off against the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game. Its the first exhibition game of the season, one in which star players like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck will likely play for the first quarter, if even that long. And yet it will still be a ratings bonanza for ESPN, as millions of football-starved fans tune in. If baseball is the national pastime, then football has become the national obsession. But Americas not the only country with a major infatuation.

Our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages can take your donors almost anywhere in America and to any NFL or college football game, as well! but they can also be used to check out the obsessions of other countries around the world. For those who want to find and enjoy those local passions, here are a few options.

Staying in the sports realm, the English Premier League is known around the world as one of the top levels of play in soccer. And within the country itself, the words of a former Liverpool manager ring true: Some people think footballs a matter of life or death. I assure you, its much more important than that. Theres nothing quite like walking into Old Trafford in Manchester, Anfield in Liverpool or Stamford Bridge in London to witness the passion, the pageantry and the colors of a Premier League match in person.

With grape-growing regions throughout the country and more than eight billion bottles produced each year, France is a world capital of wine. But its not just one of the countrys top exports; the French take their wine seriously, and study it closely. Theres even the Cite du Vin, a new museum dedicated to wine in Bordeaux, thats been informally named the Disneyland of Wine, with more than 14,000 bottles from more than 80 countries. For anyone who cares deeply about wine, theyll find doppelganger obsessives in France.

For a closer sojourn, there are few countries that can legitimately claim to be the spiritual home of a genre of music. But Jamaica has always had a sort of claim to reggae that few other nations hold on one style or rhythm; an artist gets immediate credibility in reggae just by having Jamaican ancestry, much less being from the island itself. Any trip to the country would be incomplete without stops at places like the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. And if the travel plans line up, Reggae Summerfest in Montego Bay is the worlds biggest and best festival for the genre.


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This or That?

July 26, 2016
Some of the Destinations of Excellence in the Mitch-Stuart catalog are synonymous with an interest, an attraction or even a climate. Oenophiles know to go to Napa Valley or on one of our adventures in France. Want beaches? Thats why weve got trips and cruises that go throughout the Caribbean. But sometimes, a traveling pair may differ on what each wants. Cityscapes or nature? Warm weather or sweaters and fireplaces?

For those donors who cant decide on the type of vacation they want, we can still help. Many of our charity fundraising auction travel packages appeal to not just different interests, but even direct opposite ones. If youve got supporters who dont know what they want to do, but do know that they want to get out of town, one of these trips could raise big bids.

Do your donors want

Nature or Luxury?: For some, vacation perfection is a tent, a campfire and smores. For others, its infinity pools and relaxing spa treatments. The island of Praslin in Seychelles combines both with Raffles and its 86 villas, restaurants featuring cuisine ranging from Creole to sushi, beachside spa and two infinity pools staring down the Indian Ocean. Beyond the resort, there are ample chances to explore nature, with hiking, ziplining and even rock climbing available in the nearby forests.

Hot or Cool?: Summers in Telluride, Colorado feature a little something for everyone in terms of climate. The average high temperature in the city in the month of July almost hits 80 degrees, warm enough for t-shirts and shorts while hiking or mountain biking through the Rocky Mountains. In the evening, though, bring a coat: The average low temperature dips hovers around 40 degrees, which is great bonfire weather. For those who like either sunscreen or sweaters, summertime in Colorado is perfect and with golf courses and private outdoor hot tubs, our Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip will let your donors experience both.

Fast-Paced or Relaxed?: Southern California has a little something for everyone. Visitors can even ski in the morning and watch the sunset over the beach in the evening, if they like. But with the opening of the citys newest light rail line, Los Angeles has made it easier than ever to go from the bustling atmosphere of Hollywood or the hip downtown district to the laid-back, beachside vibes of Santa Monica or Venice. If your donors want to see the sights of the City of Angels while also getting in a surf session in the morning or a beachside picnic dinner in the evening, this might be the best time to do so.

Raffles Praslin


Raffles Praslin


Telluride


Santa Monica


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Geek Out On the Road

July 20, 2016
Tonight, thousands of costume-clad fans of pop culture will flood the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con, the largest gathering of fans of comic books and comic-adjacent entertainment in the country. Between July 20 and 24, more than 130,000 attendees will look for rare issues of comics, watch new trailers for forthcoming movies and flood the restaurants and bars of the host citys lively Gaslamp District.

Your donors may not be into cosplay (dressing up like favorite fictional characters), or willing to stand in long, snaking lines for free posters, but we guarantee theyre something that theyre equally as geeky about. And whether its a genre of music, a type of wine or even cooking from world-famous chefs, Mitch-Stuart quite likely has a non-profit fundraising auction trip that can send your donors to the home base of any passion.

Music lovers can be incredibly dedicated to their favorite genres, and some cities are inexorably tied to the styles of song that have made a home within city limits. Two in particular stand out at great destinations for great tunes: Nashville is, in many ways, the spiritual home of country music, and with either of our travel packages that can take your supporters to the Country Music Awards, donors can rub elbows with the shining lights of the genre as well. A few miles south, jazz music is such a part of the blood of New Orleans that its jazz festival is one of the worlds greatest. Go to any bar around town, and a combo is likely to be playing in one corner. Or better, let your jazz-obsessed winner go to Preservation Hall, dedicated to preserving the citys musical heritage (and home of the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band).

Some call themselves oenophiles. Others are fine with winos. Whether fancy or simple, wine lovers are motivated to travel to taste their favorite varietals. A quick word search of our catalog reveals more than 30 different trips that involve the spirit in one way or another. Your supporters can tour wineries closer to home, in Napa Valley or the Williamette Valley of Oregon. If they want to go bigger: How about adventures to Italy, Spain or France? There are chances for wine fans to fly all around the world in search of that perfect label, that rare bottle or just the opportunity to geek out with fellow connoisseurs.

Of course, those destinations are already on the lips of fans of music or wine. But did you know that one of the biggest gathering of chefs and wineries each year AND the one of the biggest art shows take place in the same city? And that its not New York or Los Angeles? Each year, thousands of foodies and art fans flock to Miami for (during different weeks, of course) a chance to surround themselves with like-minded aficionados at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and Art Basel Miami Beach, both in the sunny city of Miami.  The conventioneer website BizBash named each event the top in the country in their respective categories, meaning that, besides the world-class entertainment and gorgeous beaches, theres yet another reason that a supporter might want to take the chance to support your cause while also heading to Florida.

New Orleans


B Cellars Vineyards And Winery


Chateau Angelus


South Beach Food & Wine Festival


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Travel in a Time of Brexit

July 06, 2016
The news of Great Britain leaving the E.U., known as Brexit, has left the world in shock. The vote sent waves through every international market, and while stocks have mostly evened out and in some cases gained back the losses they suffered one important economic marker has yet to fully recover.

The American dollar has not been as strong against the British pound in recent memory, with one pound now fetching around $1.33 US. This is in comparison to around $1.46 in the run-up to the Brexit vote, and more than $2 per pound in October of 2007.

Mitch-Stuarts fundraising auction travel packages can take your supporters to Destinations of Excellence around the world, but there may be no better time than now to offer your donors a chance to head to London, where the dollar currently goes further than it almost ever has before. How does this translate on the ground? Your auction winner can:

Catch a game: The Premier League is one of the worlds most popular sports associations, with soccer fans around the globe tuning in on a weekly basis to watch teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and 2015-16 champion Leicester City. The drop in the pound also means that ticket prices have fallen, as well; Arsenals league-topping cost of 97 pounds on average for a single match ticket now comes in at just under $130, as opposed to almost $142, while Leicesters 22 pounds price sure to go up after winning last seasons title has fallen from $32 to under $30, a steal for championship-caliber soccer anywhere.

See a show: Londons West End is a favorite destination for theater-lovers from around the world, a close second maybe to only Broadway for the peak of the art form. Accordingly, admission prices are higher here than in most theater districts around the world; an average high-end ticket cost almost 100 pounds in 2014. The current dip translates to a $13 dip enough for a post-show pint at a nearby pub after the show.

Grab a meal: The English capital city has some of the worlds most inventive chefs working, but getting a table at Sketch or The Grill at The Dorchester may cause a bit of sticker shock. Those prices are a little less shocking now, though; The Grills summer prix fixe menu gets a small haircut (now under $75), while the Michelin-starred Sketch can now come in under triple digits.

Theres never really a bad time to help a donor visit London, but theres almost never been a time during which the dollar has gone further than today. Want to set up your supporters with a chance to visit the United Kingdom? Reach out to one of our Travel Experts!


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The Summer of Cool

June 15, 2016
The stereotypical images of summer vacation involve beaches. Whether its lounging on the shore, playing in the sand or swimming in an ocean or lake, the images that spring to mind when people talk about the summer months are those of surf, sandcastles and sunscreen. But just because snow is far from the average mind not to mention the weather report doesnt mean that mountains and colder regions should be considered off limits.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages to destinations all over the world, and many times winning bidders want to see the sights during peak seasons. But as summer gets ready to make its entrance, its nice to remember that the best places to vacation during these months arent always the sandy beaches. In fact, heading to a location best known for its winter escapades can be the best way to spend a summer break.

Its strange to see a destination with Lake in its name and think of wintertime fun, but Lake Tahoe is probably best known for its world-class skiing, both downhill and cross country. During the summer, though, Tahoe still shines, thanks to its diversity of entertainment options. Water-based activities are a must in the resort town, of course, with stand-up paddle boarding and jet skiing possibly the most popular. But the surrounding mountains are great during the warmer months, as well; rent a mountain bike and head downhill, or grab your gear and go hiking through some gorgeous wilderness. Theres even some fine art, for those who want to take it a little easier, in the form of summers Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which takes place in the stunning Sand Harbor State Park.

The hottest average high temperature in Bar Harbor, Maine, is just 75 degrees (coming at the end of July). Thats just one of the reason that the town has become a prime escape for northeastern city-dwellers. Exploring Acadia National Park is a treat as the climate becomes more temperate, and with so many New Yorkers and Bostonians coming to town, there are plenty of concerts, pop-up art spaces and interesting dining experiences here, as well. Make sure to stop in at some of the historical monuments and collections, as well; the Abbe Museum is a repository of Native American artifacts and stories, while younger kids tend to love the Dorr Museum of Natural History.

The cities of Vancouver and Victoria are thought of by many as great skiing outposts. In fact, the towns are so synonymous with winter that the former was awarded the Winter Olympics in 2010. But in the summer, the largest city and the capital city, respectively, of the province of British Columbia are just as beautiful and have just as much to do. Scheduling a trip around Victorias Summer Splash is a good way to go; the local symphony performs a program from a barge in the Inner Harbour, while locals either picnic on land or float around in kayaks. Outdoor activities about in both the two cities and the surrounding area, with hiking and mountain biking being favorites. And, for those who absolutely must have a beach trip, Vancouver landmark Kitsilano Beach fits the bill nicely.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino


Bar Harbor Maine


Acadia National Park


Vancouver


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Picnicking In Paradise!

June 01, 2016
Spring is turning into summer right before our eyes, which means its time to dig the beach-and-pool gear out of the closet and stock up on sunscreen. June, July and August are ingrained in the minds of many as a time for leisure, going all the way back to the summer vacations of childhood. Longer days mean staying out later into the evening, and even the heat itself manufactures a certain unhurried pace.

One of the best ways of soaking up that sun during the summer months is getting a group of friends, the extended family or even just your significant other outside for some al fresco dining. The picnic is practically a summer must: Go to any public park in a temperate climate on a Sunday afternoon and youll see blankets spread out everywhere, homemade food, mini-speakers playing music and the occasional football or Frisbee being tossed around.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages often put your donors in the middle of cities with incredible restaurant scenes, making it tempting to spend the trip dining in. But it would be a shame to not get some food to go in one of these destinations and spend a leisurely afternoon outside, admiring one of the worlds great vistas.

When Travel + Leisure put together its list of the top cities in America for picnics, two of the top three choices were in Southern California. It makes sense: The Southland has year-round picnic-acceptable weather and plenty of beachfront land upon which to lay out a blanket. But both San Diego (which finished second) and Los Angeles (third) also have fantastic options for picnic-ready carryout meals (important for those traveling with little access to a kitchen) and a variety of landscapes; spend a day in LAs Griffith Park or an afternoon in Balboa Park in San Diego and youll see these two gorgeous cities from a different angle.

To go to Paris and not enjoy a baguette al fresco would be a crime of some sort, surely. The good news: Possibly the best view of the Eiffel Tower comes in the citys 7th Arrondissement (or district), on a grassy strip of land, called Champ de Mars, leading up to the base of the monument. In fact, many of the most well-known sites in Paris have green areas nearby to admire the view while dining on that glorious French food; outside the Sacre-Coeur, alongside the River Seine and in the Luxembourg Gardens are all lovely spots. Eating outdoors is a popular enough pastime in the city that several services will deliver a picnic lunch to tourists true blanketside service!

Of course, when it comes to parks that are perfect for picnics, there may be no better example in America than Central Park in New York. The crown jewel of the citys open space, Central Park has been attracting visitors with blankets and baskets for more than 150 years. Its not the only great vista in the Big Apple to take in while dining, though; the High Line has plenty of space to dine while overlooking Chelsea, and for those heading to other boroughs, Prospect Park is a perennial favorite. Even better: Your donors can pick up their meal at one of New Yorks great delis with one of the gift cards that comes with our Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis package.

Santa Barbara Beach


Eiffel Tower


Central Park


Central Park


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Travel With Your Pack

January 06, 2016
Multiple times every year, we gather together our travel experts and put together new trips for our Destinations of Excellence catalog. These fundraising auction travel packages can be sold at galas or via raffles, and are sold on consignment, meaning theres no upfront cost to the charitable organization.

Our last catalog update included the expansion of our Villas and Residencies section, featuring trips with accommodations for up to ten people, in housing beyond the normal hotel room. From private residences to water-side villas, these vacations can not only bring in bigger bids, but can appeal to very specific types of bidders. If any of these motivations for shopping at your charity auction sounds familiar, weve got just the trip to make your supporters happy, all while raising funds for your important cause.

As some parents may have discovered over the last month, buying gifts for kids especially college-aged or grown kids can be tough. But experiences never go out of style, and globe-trotting with friends is even better. If youve got supporters who have kids that are ready for traveling with their peer group, offer them the chance to bid on trips like our This is Your Balinese Paradise or Balis Breathtaking Beauty packages. These type of international adventures can spark a lifelong love of travel in a recent grad, and in most cases will be otherwise out of reach financially for the gifts recipient. Theyll also get a great chance to bond with their friends, classmates or new coworkers in a way that transcends the connections forged at, say, happy hour.

For your donors who might have formed their own social clubs, be they ski, wine or golf-centric, the prospect of getting the whole group out to explore its passion can bring in big money. For the golfers, the Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip takes up to eight people or two foursomes to Telluride, with discounted green fees and access to the Telluride Golf Clubs Members Club. Oenophiles will love heading to Sonoma, California with up to six people staying in a private residence. And skiers can head out on the slopes in Deer Valley or Telluride, with up to eight people. Meeting at the local wine bar or playing the nearby 18 may never feel the same.

But the most common and trendiest reason for travelers to need extra room in their accommodations is multi-generational trips. Getting the entire family together and getting out on the road can lead to the creation of lifelong memories, the type that are rehashed at holiday dinners for years to come. Any of the trips in our catalog are capable of creating those once-in-a-lifetime moments, but our trips to Italy may be the best at offering fun for the whole family. The Under the Tuscan Sun package allows a donor to bring nine more people to Tuscany, and includes an in-villa gourmet meal for the entire family, either an artisanal cheese or olive-picking experience and, for the grown-ups (or grown kids), a full-day wine tour.
Bali
 
Villas at Tristant
 
Sonoma
 
Tuscany Villa


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What to Auction in 2016

December 30, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart are many things, including purveyors of great non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. What we are not are soothsayers. Just like we didnt predict the poor-dancing Left Shark from the Super Bowl or that NASA would discover water on Mars, we cant tell you what will dominate the pop culture landscape in 2016.

However, when it comes to auctioning off travel packages, we can see the future.

Looking at some of the trends that professional travel agents, journalists and others have predicted for the new year, along with information from 2015, we can figure out some of the trips that will bring in big cash for non-profits in 2016. Some ideas for your upcoming galas:

Hawaii: Of course, trips to Hawaii make for great auction items any year, but 2016 is already looking to be a busy one. Advance bookings are up over those leading into 2015, and with plenty of attraction openings (including an outpost of the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club on Waikiki Beach), our trips like Captivating Island Culture and Hawaii is a Lovers Paradise are likely to garner big bids. In addition, 2016 will mark a somber, special anniversary for any of your supporters who happen to be veterans of the Armed Forces: December 7 will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Europe and Canada: Theres plenty of reasons to head overseas, from the culture to the food, but one current one is the conversion rates. Weve written about this in this space before, but the Euro is currently at a ten-year low against the American dollar. But when looking to make that (American) dollar last longer, do not ignore our northern neighbors, either. One American dollar currently fetches almost $1.40 in Canadian cash, meaning that exploring Vancouver (Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific) or Victoria (Escape to Victorias Elegance and Grandeur) is even easier.

National Parks: There will be celebrations at national parks throughout the country in honor of the National Park Services 100th anniversary, starting with the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Years Day. There are parks near many of our destinations, but one of our favorites is the Grand Teton National Park, where your donors can float along the Snake River, hike on more than 200 miles of trails and, with our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package, go on a safari-style adventure.

Cruises: 24 million people are expected to hit the seas in 2016, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Its another year-to-year increase for one of travels growth industries; Just 15 million travelers opted for a cruise in 2006, and 2015s final tally is estimated to be 23 million passengers. This could mean even more interest in one of our cruise packages, ranging from the chilly (Alaskas Majestic Frontier) to the sun-soaked (Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas).

Multi-Generational Travel: Its less about a single destination and more about how people want to travel, but the experts at Frommers saw a 20 percent jump in multi-generational travel (families, from grandparents to grandkids, traveling together) in 2015, and that number is likely to continue to grow. Bigger parties traveling, though, means bigger rooms needed for accommodations and thats where we can come in, with our expanded Villas and Residencies catalog. Whether its in a ten-person villa in Bali (Pampering Balinese Sanctuary) or a six-person setup in Tuscany, Italy (Villas, Views and the Valdichiana), the entire family can relax and enjoy some of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
Hawaii

Banff Canada

Grand Teton National Park

Cruise

Italian Villa


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Sparking Nostalgia with Travel

November 11, 2015
Nostalgia was once considered to be a disease. Once thought an illness of the immigrant class, the feeling of longing for a previous time was originally labeled by a Swiss physician as a condition that caused both mental and physical maladies, according to the New York Times. Today, however, we understand that its a natural part of life, and one that can give us comfort; studies have shown it to counteract loneliness, anxiety and even boredom.


There are as many triggers for nostalgia as there are memories themselves, but one of the most common is a destination. To see a news report about a faraway island, for instance, can trigger a longing to go back there, or a film set in the Caribbean could be a strong reminder of a honeymoon.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we know that people travel for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, its to explore brave new worlds, to head to locations not before seen. But often, we leave the comfort of our home to remember, to feel closer to a time past, and to share in a memory with loved ones. For those nostalgic travelers, we have several places in our Destinations of Excellence that can trigger those sepia-tones feelings.

Theres a sense of wonder that comes from the first time standing on the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the skyscrapers and feeling the energy that comes from New York City. That initial experience of the metropolis is hard to replicate, but one of our several non-profit auction travel packages to the Big Apple can give a donor a chance to, at least, catch up with the City that Never Sleeps. Whether its a horse-and-carriage tour through Central Park or a Broadway show, we can send supporters on the type of big city adventure that will bring back memories.

The locks of love that were once attached to the Pont des Arts Bridge have been removed, so if any of your donors had once left a memento of their affection there, thats one less memory to revisit. But there are plenty of landmarks in the City of Lights that can spark nostalgia for visitors. The sight of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour of the Louvre, or even a champagne cruise down the River Seine are each such indelible moments for a tourist that returning to them at a later date can be powerful.

Sights can, of course, bring back memories, but they seem to become even more powerful when paired with distinctive smells. For those who live in landlocked regions, standing on a beach and smelling the ocean air can bring back memories of sandcastles, family vacations and even bonfires. Sending supporters back in time via a trip to the coast is as easy as picking the destination, with sandside vistas available on either American coast, on several Caribbean islands and even facing the Mediterranean Sea.
New York
 
The Plaza, New York
 
Eiffel Tower Paris
 
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell at Chinese Theater


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Auction Synergy

October 14, 2015
In this space we have talked about pairing trips with auction themes, with the season of the year and even with food menus. There are plenty of ways to tie a Mitch-Stuart non-profit charity auction package into a gala event, but the most meaningful for your biggest supporters may be to offer a trip that dovetails with your organizations goals, one that deepens their commitment to your cause or helps celebrate it.

This, of course, isnt easy, and it might not work for every organization. Few want to spend a tremendous amount of money on a trip that doubles as a lecture, and some charities dont lend themselves easily to travel-related celebrations. But for others, offering a cause-related once-in-a-lifetime experience will keep your efforts and work in the front of a donors mind, even as they enjoy the fruits of their generous bid.

Conservancy groups, for instance, have a great wealth of opportunities to send supporters on trips that pair well with their cause. This could take the form of a visit to an underexplored corner of this country, a place where outdoor activities are front and center; Jackson Hole comes to mind. But sending a donor to the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya, one of the worlds great animal sanctuaries, will bring into stark relief the important work that conservancy organizations do. Our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package will send your supporters to Masai Mara in style, with seven nights at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a favorite of international travelers.

Educational charities have plenty of options when it comes to trips; almost every destination has a great museum, university or even historic library to see. But only Washington, D.C. has all of those in the kind of numbers that could fill an entire itinerary. The Exciting Downtown Washington, D.C. Experience trip pairs a three-day, two-night stay with an Old Town Trolley tour, which stops at places like the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the myriad of museum options along the National Mall. Its the kind of trip that can ignite a love of learning in anyone, young or old.

Childhood obesity has been a cause in the spotlight over the last seven years, as Michelle Obama has spearheaded reform efforts. One of those programs that the First Lady has pushed is Lets Move, an initiative that helps convince kids to get outside and run around. Thats not bad advice for adults, either, and its hard to imagine a more beautiful place to do so than Colorado, on one of our trips (such as Breathtaking Allure of a Rugged Winter Wonderland or Mountain Village Enclave). The state has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and its system of trails, mountain bike paths and ski runs is one of the reasons why. Nothing reinforces the importance of physical activity quite like getting into the outdoors and trying it for oneself, and when your donors look at vacation photos taken from the top of Colorados breathtaking trails, theyll remember your cause, too.
Fairmont Mara Safari
 
Washington Monument
 
Lincoln Memorial
 
Little Nell


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Saving Summer

October 07, 2015
The transition between the summer and the fall comes with all sorts of lifestyle changes: The grill may get packed up for the season, windows that have been open since mid-May might finally get closed, and equipment from summer activities may get put into the far back reaches of the garage for their winter hibernation. Your organization, however, can help your supporters take those bikes out for one last spin, those clubs out for one last round or even those surfboards out for one last wave.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we help non-profit organizations raise money with consignment fundraising auction travel packages to all corner of the world and for all times of the year. One of the ways that charities and other groups can sell big-ticket travel at galas is by helping donors defeat the calendar and find parts of the country where their favorite summertime activities are year-round affairs.

For much of the country, golf is not possible for months out of the year; hitting a white golf ball into a snowbank certainly makes it difficult to find for the second shot. But the weather in Hilton Head is amenable to hacking through 18 holes at any time of year. The average high temperature there per month never gets below 60 degrees, and though it may get a little wet in the winter that certainly doesnt stop many golf diehards. If youve got donors who will play a round in rain, sleet, snow or any other weather, one of our trips to Hilton Head could be the excuse they need to donate big to your cause.

Of course, when the winter comes, mountain biking becomes much more difficult. But two-wheel enthusiasts can still find thrills, even if they dont come in the snow-covered Rockies or Cascades. Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when it comes to big peaks, but Sedona is one of the top destinations for downhill biking in the country. The West Sedona Tour is a local favorite, a 13-mile loop that joins together eight different trails and has tremendous views of places like Bear Mountain. And when Colorado and Wyoming are still snowed in during the late winter, the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in March features bike demonstrations, live music and great riding.

One of these summer activities can actually improve in the wintertime. Surf towns are often overrun in June, July and August, but during the off-season, theres more room to maneuver. Spots like Southern California (especially in the San Diego area) and Hawaii (where the winter is more about rain than cold temperatures) go from being tourist magnets to having manageable crowds, which is better time for spent in the ocean and on the land. In fact, when Coastal Living named its top five winter surfing spots, places like Oceanside (in between San Diego and Los Angeles) and Kauai took up the top three spots.

Got some active donors who long to chase the sun in the winter months? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert about offering a trip to one of these destinations at your next auction or gala!
Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head
 
Sedona Mountain Biking
 
Huntington Beach, CA
 
Hawaii


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Summers in Europe

May 06, 2015
Weve written before in this space about the relative weakness of the Euro against the dollar, but it bears repeating: Your money has not gone further on the European continent than it does right now. Depending on the expenses, some voyages to countries like France, Spain or Italy will likely be hundreds of dollars cheaper this summer than last, just because of the fluctuation of the currency exchanges.

How can your donors take advantage? Glad you asked.

France
Plaza Puerta del Sol in Spain
Sistine Chapel
Cooking in Italy
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. puts together once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit auctions, the types of items that bring the wow factor to any gala and send supporters to all corners of the globe for all sorts of memory-making activities. Right now, some of our most popular itineraries take advantage of the exchange rate and the upcoming summer season to send supporters to gorgeous European destinations, like

France: Non-profits and charities can send their donors to several different parts of France with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel package. Trips like A Decadent and Delicious Parisian Experience couple city exploration with cooking class and a champagne cruise, while art lovers can see the Louvre, Musee dOrsay and Centre George Pompidou with the Paris as an Art History Destination Magnifique! package. Those looking for a coastal experience instead can head to Cannes for the world-famous film festival and some much-needed beach time.

Spain: Whether its a flamenco show in Barcelona or the gardens of Madrid, theres plenty to see on a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. excursion to Spain. The country may be best explored through its cuisine, with tapas and wine tours in Barcelona. And with accommodations in Madrid near so many of the citys famed landmarks everything from Puerta del Sol to Teatro Espanol within walking distance! donors can see it all at their own pace.

Italy: There may be no more popular European destination in our catalog, however, than Italy. Mitch-Stuart offers more than a dozen trips to the Mediterranean jewel, with activities like cooking classes, wine tasting, museum tours and more. The Discover Romes Eternal Charm package may be the highlight for those who enjoy interacting with history while on vacation, thanks to tours of the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Forum, while oenophiles will love the Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas itinerary, which includes a private, secret wine bar tour. Under the Tuscan Sun is also a favorite: The trip includes seven nights in a five-bedroom villa, with one private villa feast prepared by an Italian Master Chef.






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Cruising Cuisine

December 17, 2014
For some, going on a cruise represents the chance to smell the ocean air and lounge in the beautiful weather of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. For others, its the chance to visit either multiple islands at once or see wilderness only described in adventure novels (like the wilds of Alaska). Many enjoy the family bonding available on a cruise; the ships are great places for the entire family, with plenty of diversions for kids.

Still others, though, are there for the food.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for every type of traveler. Weve got several great trips to explore the cuisine of big cities like New York City and smaller towns like Asheville, North Carolina. But some of the best food available to a traveler can be found aboard cruise ships, which combine a number of influences to provide a wide range of tastes and dishes to their clientele.

On each ship, the main room dining options are vast and the elegance is astounding especially for an experience whose price is already baked in the price. The main dining rooms on the ships of Royal Caribbean deliver tremendous menus and great wine selection, all in an atmosphere that is upscale without feeling intimidating (as in, bring the kids!). As for the ships of Celebrity Cruises, the dining rooms of the Solstice and the Equinox were recognized by Travel + Leisure in 2009 as the Best Cruise Ship Dining Rooms, thanks to beautiful two-story wine towers and dishes like roasted California quail.

Main dining areas are only a few of the places where a cruise ship traveler can sate his or her hunger. Specialty restaurants serve fun takes on Italian, Mexican and seafood-based cuisine aboard most ships. And despite having to cater to a wide variety of tastes, ship cuisine can have some idiosyncratic fun, as well. At the Lawn Club Grill on Celebrity Cruises Silhouette and Reflection ships, diners get in on the action by grilling their own steaks. Each party gets to pick a Grill Master, who gets a lesson in open-flame cooking by helping one of the boats chef in preparing the main course. The Lawn Club Grill also offers classes on both grilling and pizza-making for those who would rather separate learning from dining.

But the newest highlight of the open water may be upping the bar for dining options. Royal Caribbean Internationals Quantum of the Seas features offerings from superstar chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz amid an 18-restaurant menu. Whether its top-notch bar food, Japanese small plates or even what RCI has taken to billing as the first-ever food truck at sea, the SeaPlex Dog House, every culinary itch can be scratched on board.

Celebrity Cruises
Sushi on a Celebrity Cruise Ship
Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises


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Footloose and Fancy Car-Free

November 05, 2014
See a city by car, and youll get introduced to its traffic patterns, its street signs and its preferred obscene gestures. See that same city by foot, and youll get introduced to its people, its places, its sounds and smells.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors all around the world via our charity auction travel packages, each one tailored to fit a specific destination. In cities like Los Angeles or in more rural locales, that might mean setting up a rental car or shuttle services for a traveler. But for those looking to leave the automobile behind, these trips can also take people to cities and attractions best seen on foot.

New York
London
Napa Valley
When one thinks of exploring a city on two legs rather than four wheels, its hard not to start in New York. The Big Apple may have the most thorough public transit system in America, with local subway lines snaking through the boroughs and dropping tourists off at landmarks everywhere. In fact, some of its best vistas like Central Park, the parks that line the East River with magnificent views of Manhattan, and even the High Line are either off-limits or severely restricted to automobiles. Ferry rides are also popular ways to get unique angles on landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Let the cabbies do the (insane!) driving on the isle of Manhattan and take the train.

International travel can often become more complicated when factoring in car rental, which is just one reason why a trip to London can be so appealing. The citys Underground system has more than 250 stations and stretches throughout the city and out into neighboring counties. Well over a billion people take the Underground each year. The system also connects to Eurostar rail, which can take passengers to Paris or Brussels and, from there, to the rest of Europe, all by train.

But traveling by foot isnt just the best option in sprawling metropolises. In Napa Valley, the combination of alcohol-based tourism and relatively open roads has led to people avoiding their cars and the development of a thriving bicycle culture. Tourists can rent bikes by the day or week, and some enterprising tour companies offer Napa-by-bicycle tours, as well. Shuttles are also often available to and from wineries, as the proprietors of the establishments want everyone to get home safely as much as the patrons do. In addition, the train trip to Grgich Hills Winery must be experienced to be believed; a gourmet three-course meal is served on board en route to the winery, with desert served on the homeward leg of the trip.


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Go Euro

October 07, 2014
There are plenty of reasons to head to Europe: The culture, the beaches, the history. For the first time in years, though, we can add an economic one, as the dollar is currently stronger against the Euro now than it has been in the last twenty three months. For American travelers, that means their money goes further now than almost ever before.

Paris
Paris
Paris
As of October 1, the American dollar is worth .79 Euros, while one Euro fetches $1.26 American. Those figures havent been this promising for American currency holders since November of 2012. The trend in 2014 has been promising, as well; the dollar has gained almost .05 Euros since the beginning of the year, with the growth being fairly steady since May.

How do these small numbers practically affect travelers? Even a .05 difference in Euro rates, when multiplied by a trips expenses, can pay off big. Take, for example, a trip to Paris. For a couple, lets assume a 5,000 Euro budget. On October 1, that converts to around $6,300. Just one month earlier, those same 5,000 Euros would cost $6,560, and in March it could have been as much as $6,960. Over the course of the last six months, the cost of an identical vacation has dropped by $660 thats nearly 10 percent!

Do those numbers seem out of line? Light lunch at that gorgeous caf you walked past on the way to the Eiffel Tower likely runs around 20 Euros. Dinner with a view? Le Jules Verne will seat you inside the Tower itself for a five-course dinner at 185 Euros per diner. A trip through the Louvre: another 16 Euros per person. Thats more than 200 Euros spent in one day by one person. Double that for a couple, multiply it by five days, then consider that hotels dont tend to be free (the Hotel Plaza Athenee, which just reopened in August, can run up to 1,000 Euro per night!). Its easy to see how two people can hit 5,000 Euros in costs for five days in the City of Light.

What could saving an extra $660 get you while on vacation? In Paris, that could be two tickets in fantastic seats to see Paris Saint-Germain, one of Europes great soccer teams, live (with money left over for concessions). It could be two Eurail passes to head to Spain for a vacation-within-a-vacation. It could even be a shopping trip through the Faubourg Saint-Honore district, with its streets lined with designer shops.

Currency conversion rates arent always the most entertaining of reasons to head out of the country, but in addition to all of the fun and relaxation of vacationing in Europe, getting a good deal is a solid rationale to head over the Atlantic Ocean in the near future.


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Destination Spotlight: Hawaii

June 18, 2014
Spring officially turns to summer on Saturday morning, and travelers around America will head to warm-weather destinations like Miami (June average high temperature in Miami: 87 degrees) New Orleans (average high: 90) or even Las Vegas (average high: 100). But sun worshippers dont have to spend their vacations sweating.

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
Hyatt Regency Maui
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
With average highs in the low 80s, even at the peak of summer, Hawaii is a beautiful, temperate place to send donors and their families. Its also a place of surprising diversity, with activities for everyone to be had somewhere throughout the island chain. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer a variety of charity auction travel packages that can give your donors once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, represented by four different Hawaiian islands.

From 36 holes of championship golf to snow-capped mountains, the big island of Hawaii hosts nearly all climates, and therefore nearly all sorts of adventures. But there are more esoteric activities on the island as well; Kona coffee can only be produced on the big island, and many of the farms that grow the beans have tours and tasting rooms to visit. Also worth seeing: Kilauea, one of the worlds most active volcanoes.

Maui has a mixture of urban and rural areas, offering a little bit of everything for the traveler. Those looking to commune with nature can head to Haleakala National Park and watch a spectacular sunrise or sunset from the summit of the dormant Haleakala volcano or hike through the Haleakala Crater, which sinks more than 2,500 feet into the island floor. City slickers, meanwhile, can walk through Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and check out the restaurants and nightlife of Front Street.

Travelers looking for a more city-like vacation experience would do well to head to Oahu. The island, informally known as The Gathering Place, is home to Hawaiis capital, Honolulu, and about 75 percent of the states population. Its also home to one of Hawaiis best-known tourist destinations, Waikiki Beach, where white sand is reserved for both sunbathers and surfers and where nightlife reigns just steps from the ocean.

Nicknamed The Garden Isle for its verdant fields and forests, Kauai may be one of the lesser-known outposts, but its beauty makes it worth a visit. The island is the home of the Princeville at Hanalei, one of the worlds great golf clubs; its Prince course is one of the best on any of the Hawaiian islands. For those who like their outdoors time sans crooked sticks and golf carts, boating adventures along the Na Pali Coast are very popular.


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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 its 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., weve put together a wide range of culinary experiences, both domestic and international, for use by non-profits as charity auction travel packages. Whether its gumbo and crawfish in New Orleans or pasta and wine in Italy, Mitch-Stuart can send your donors to sample some of the worlds great cuisines and put some extra cash in your non-profits 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 LAtelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris with our Parisian Culture and Cuisine package. Participants will get a hands-on experience in either schools kitchen, learning from master instructors. Travelers wont 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 days 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 citys 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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Keeping the Torch Lit

February 18, 2014
The 2014 Winter Olympics is days away from finishing, with the elaborate Closing Ceremony planned for February 23. Once the big show leaves town, though, Sochi will still have all of the infrastructure improvements, added attractions and other bells and whistles that come along with hosting an event the size of the Olympiad.

(It will also still have an uncomfortable number of
stray dogs and some mangled bathroom doors.)

While going to the actual Olympics can certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there are still remnants of the Olympic experience left behind in host cities and countries. Give your donors the chance to take advantage of all the perks of the Games without all of the hassles of an overstuffed host city by offering a trip to one of these former homes of the Winter or Summer Olympics.

Vancouver may have been the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, but nearby Whistler was the home of many of the skiing events, thanks to the presence of Whistler Blackcomb. The resort, the largest in North America, already had its own Olympic history: It was conceived for Vancouvers bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics, then constructed anyway when the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Grenoble, France. Almost 50 years after those games, Blackcomb finally got to host its own Olympic races, including the alpine skiing series. But even if your donors are not the adrenaline junkie types, they can drive the Sea-to-Sky Highway, considered by many to be one of the worlds most beautiful road trips, or take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that links the Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.

When the IOC brought the Games to London in 2012, it knew that the Olympics would be held in a modern city well-equipped to host the world. But the competition still needed a central home, a place that would live, breathe and pulse the spirit throughout those 16 summer days. With that in mind, what is now known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was created. Visitors to the park will be able to get a birds-eye view starting in April, when the ArcelorMittal Orbit, an observation tower with two platforms that, combined, overlook the enormity of the space.

Its all well and good to see the Olympic sights, but experience is the key word when visiting Albertville, France, the host of the 1992 Winter Olympiad. At the La Plagne Bob Experience, visitors can take off down the same bobsled run used during the Games more than 20 years ago. Whether its with friends sitting behind a professional driver in a bobsled going 120 kilometers per hour or riding solo in a luge/sled hybrid, your donors can experience a taste of the Olympic spirit. Cheering crowds, gold medals and sponsorships not included.

Olympic Torche in Vancouver
Winter Olympics Whistler
Gondola at Whistler
London at Night
London Eye


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2014 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends for Fundraisers

December 31, 2013
As you begin planning for your most successful 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, take a look into Mitch-Stuart Inc.s crystal ball for some travel trends of note.

Whether youre 20-something or 60-something. Travel preferences are changing and decision-makers need to cater to the differences. Millennials are showing a preference for urban destinations and are more likely to travel in groups. They also demonstrate great interest in seeking out destinations which dovetail with their daily pursuits and preferred activities.

Seniors, who comprise 1.3 billion to 1.6 billion people worldwide, are unstoppable when it comes to travel. Their often vast travel experience coupled with tremendous disposable income also tends to make them the most demanding travelers. Those who cater to this cohort will be wise to choose amenity-rich packages with incredible customer service.

Have you tried creative tourism? Creative tourism can be defined as tourism that offers visitors a creative pursuit (including arts, crafts and cookery workshops), with the opportunity to stay in high quality accommodation, and to connect with local people in a distinctive destination. Research indicates that people want more time, space and energy, and a greater sense of wellbeing. They are demonstrating a growing desire to connect with each other and feel more in touch with local communities. You will see this trend reflected in several Mitch-Stuart packages involving cooking lessons and other pursuits within local communities.

Trends in Multi-Generational Travel. The popularity of resorts and destinations catering to the every whim of kids, tweens, parents and grandparents shows no sign of slowing down. The older the boomers get the more family travel we will see, from more African safaris to unusual cruises for the adventurous family.

What is new though is the rise of the PANK! Professional Aunts, No Kids who collectively spend billions lavishing nieces and nephews with meaningful travel experiences and other goodies. Savvy Auntie, a U.S.based website community for aunts and godmothers, estimates there are 23 million PANKs in the U.S. who spend a whopping $9 billion annually on children.

Cooking Class in France
Hikers at Lake Louise, Canada
Alaska Cruise
Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona Arizona
As far as the economic outlook for travel spending, the U.S. Travel Association is predicting 5.1% growth in travel expenditures. What do you predict?

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Veterans DayMaking It More Than Just Once A Year

November 05, 2013
As we approach the annual salute to our nations veteransthose individuals who have given so much and served so well to protect democracy, freedom and our way of lifewe realize the holiday designed to remember and honor them is indeed a wonderful tribute. BUTgiven what they do or have done on our collective behalf to keep America safe and freewe should try at other times of the year to think about and consider their tremendous contributions.

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Arlington National Cemetery
Gettysburg
USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial
Here are a few easy, thoughtful and educational ways to do just thatwhether as an individual or an entire family. We think the following trips can be memorable learning experiencesand at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. we are proud to be able to offer them as charity auction or other fundraiser options for packaged travel at your events.
  • Washington DC: Nowhere in America will you find more beautifully done tributes and memorials to veterans and our greatest leaders than in our nations capital. Whether youve never been thereor have visited several timesa tour of Washingtons monuments is always a highly moving, emotional experience. The Vietnam, WWII and Korean War Memorialsjust to name a feware both soul-searching and beautiful. Have you ever walked the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, looked up at the huge sculpture of the great man himself, read the Gettysburg address printed on the wallsand not been electrified by the experience? Your trip can also include stops at Arlington Cemetery where those who gave their lives for our liberty are interred and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. DC is a GREAT way to honor and remember.

  • Gettysburg, PA: Site of the greatest battle ever fought on American soil is likely one of the mostif not THE mostwell preserved battlefields in the world. More than 150,000 soldiersfrom both North and Southmet face-to-face on this relatively small plot of ground which ultimately decided the outcome of the Civil War. The scores of statues and memorials saluting and honoring those brave men from both sides along with a stay at an actual battlefield bed-and-breakfast makes a tour an incredible, unforgettable experience.

  • Hawaii: Of course Hawaii is all about fresh and floral air, the warm, tranquil waters, and the breathtaking natural beauty, but the islands have quite the place in American military history. After you have taken in the glorious scenery and explored some of the  culture and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people, you must be a witness to the history of Pearl Harbor complete with a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, the National Cemetery of the Pacific and Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, extraordinary homages all.
Sothink about all our Veterans have done for us this Veterans Day . . . and reflect on how we can remember and honor them at other times of year as well.






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Fetch! Pet-Friendly Hotels you should know about

August 06, 2013
Many of Mitch-Stuart, Inc's  hotel partners have gone above and beyond when it comes to embracing pets. Certain hotels even have their own pet mascot. In fact, some of them are superstars!
Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel
Marriott Dog
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Dog
Hyatt Dog
Fairmont Whistler Dog
Take Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan. She even has her own hotel package which includes a continental breakfast for two, a welcome cocktail in the lobby, a Matilda coloring book, a feline-focused book called "Fabulous Felines" by Sandy Robins, a plush stuff Matilda cat and chocolates for the kids, and a "CATabulous" eye mask!!!

Pet mascots have become so famous that they even have their own merchandise. Sparky Kia Smith is a Labrador-Jack Russell who is stationed at the Hotel Palomar in Arlington, Virginia. Sparky has trading cards with pet advice and travel tips available for purchase.

Its no secret that pets make great companions. While many hotels consider pets a nuisance, there are a few hotels that are pet-friendly and understand that your furry friends can add a special element to your next vacation package. Mitch-Stuart has found FOUR hotel chains that not only welcome pets with open arms, but have special benefits for them.
  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts. Each of their pet-friendly hotels offers various facilities specifically designed to accommodate pets and their owners. For guests who enjoy fitness, the Marriott has on-site health and recreational facilities that offer ample opportunities for exercise when you cant hit the trails with your pet.
  • The Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton treats your pet like a star. Pet services range from a Burberry raincoat (on loan) to a canine massage therapist. The hotels that do accept pets offer treats, toys, beds and bowls. Canine room service and spa treatments for dogs are also available.
  • Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.  The Hyatt has 90 locations that welcome canine and feline companions. The amenities offered include a special dog bed, bowl, ID tag, and welcome card. At check-in pick up a dog welcome letter and door hanger. Theres also a designated dog walk area complete with fully stocked cleanup stations.
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.  All Fairmont Hotels are dog friendly andas a matter of fact18 of their properties have "Dog Ambassadors"obviously something to give the guest "paws"!!!

Does it make you feel better to take pets with you when you travel? Share your pet travel experiences below!


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Common Things People Forget When Traveling in the Summer

July 23, 2013
With August fast approaching, everyone is trying to fit in a vacation before the Labor Day holiday and back-to-school. While youre sure to remember to book the essentials, like a flight and hotel, you may forget to pack some key items. According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., Choosing the right travel package is the most important part of ones travel plans. While your destination is of great importance, use this checklist to make sure youre never without these travel items!
  • Chargers and batteries. Whether theyre for your smartphone, tablet, e-reader, or camera, you need your chargers and batteries. Batteries may come cheap, but chargers for smartphones and tablets dont. Make this one of the first items you pack.
  • Adapters for different electrical currents. If youre traveling internationally, you need to check out the different voltages in different countries. Pick up an adapter for your devices before you board the plane, this way you can plug in your camera or camcorder while you unpack for an extra charge.
  • Copies of your passport and documents. While the original is always the best form of any document, having a copy is a good backup. Accidents happen, so making copies of your passport, ticket and other important documents can come in handy. In the unfortunate scenario where you are robbed, having copies of these documents stored in your hotel safe doesnt hurt either. If applicable, download your boarding pass to your phone. Many airlines have apps that store your ticket on your phone.
  • Maps & Directions. Its always best to write down the information for the hotel you are staying at just in case you get lost and arent near your destination. You can store this information on a piece of paper or in your phone. If you have a smartphone, download a GPS app; however, a physical map is still the way to go just in case your cell phone dies or youre in an area without cell reception.
  • Photos of your belongings. Take pictures of your suitcase, expensive possessions, and anything else that you value should it become lost or stolen. Pictures provide proof and make negotiating with foreign police or airport staff easier.
  • A memory of your passwords. You may have to use a public computer when you travel, so the luxury of auto-memorized passwords doesnt apply here. Before leaving, make sure you know all your passwords. This will save you a lot of time, hassle and money.
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. If your sunglasses break, you buy another pair. If your glasses break or you lose a contact lens, youre in serious trouble. You may not be able to replace the broken or lost pair until you get home, so a spare will be essential for your holiday.
  • Duct Tape. This particular tape can fix and repair almost anything. You never know when a zipper on your suitcase might break.
  • Bonus: Call your credit card company and tell them youre traveling.
What items have you forgotten to pack when traveling? Leave a comment below!


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Destination Spotlight: San Diego

July 09, 2013
SAN DIEGO: SO MUCH TO SEA. . .SO MUCH TO DO. . .SO MUCH TO ENJOY. . .AND ALL FOUR YOU!!!!!

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. invites you to take a trip to beautiful San Diego four trips actually! Get to know Californias second largest city via our itineraries below. We know that whichever one you pick, this coastal water wonderland beckons with blue skies keeping watch on 70 miles of beaches and a gentle Mediterranean climate that begs for a day of everything and nothing. Heads up to donors! These four trips are fantastic auction travel packages waiting to be scooped up.


Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina in San Diego
Americas Cup Yacht
Killer Whales at Seaworld
San Diego Wild Animal Park Lions
F-8 at USS Midway Museum
The first trip is for those who love to sail, since this is an Americas Cup yacht experience you dont want to miss. Stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina, which puts you close to the sheltered waters of San Diego Bay. You'll have the unique opportunity to experience almost two hours of boat racing, including a race on a current generation America's Cup yacht. The Hyatt Regency and Mission Bay Spa and Marina offer panoramic views of the marina and the Pacific Ocean along with a pampering spa and water playground with multiple slides.

If youre an animal lover, this second trip is perfect for you. Your stay at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina includes a one-day admission ticket to SeaWorld, or a second option, where a one-day admission to either the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park is also included. Venture beneath the waves for an up-close look at Shamu, moray eels, California bay rays sea lions, harbor seals and other exotic creatures closer than ever before! Enjoy the adorable black and white pandas, the meerkat and camels at the San Diego Zoo; or witness the rare and exotic animals up close at the exciting shows at Safari Park.

Theres so much to do and see in San Diego. With our third option, choose to stay at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina or the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa and experience endless activities. Jet-ski, sail, or simply sit and breathe in the ocean air on the resorts 16 waterfront acres across the bay from downtown San Diego. You can also take the Old Town Trolley Tour, which will guide you around San Diego hotspots, including the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and Seaport Village. You can also visit the island of Coronado, the Crown City, Balboa Park-a city park that combines open space and greenery with cultural attractions- and El Prado- a long promenade running through the park, lined with Spanish architecture.

Finally, our fourth itinerary offers exploration beyond the city limits. Separated by the San Diego Bay, Coronado is a playground outside of San Diego. Watch as yachts and sailboats glide past the majestic Coronado Bridge. Check out the Ferry Landing Marketplace, the Silver Strand Bike Path and 18-hole Coronado Golf Course, all in walking distance. At the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa enjoy luxurious spa treatments and outdoor heated pools, lighted tennis courts and bicycle rentals.

Take in the sights and sounds of San Diego and experience all this amazing city has to offer! Donors will love these trips, and these four packages also make for great fundraising opportunities. You dont want to miss out!


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Home Is Where the Hotel Is

June 25, 2013
Not a phrase many would say upon entering their hotel room, but major hotel chains are trying to change that. Slowly but surely, more hotels are leaning towards home-like and family-friendly atmospheres. These brands are out to attract with the addition of kids clubs, teen programs and kids nights out. They also assist with planning family outings.

Many hotel brands have transformed standard hotel rooms into over-the-top bedroom sanctuaries. Gone are uncomfortable sheets. Now there are better linens, duvets, and pillows to make a hotel room feel more like your bedroom at home. Also, harsh lighting has been replaced by soft, natural light. To top things off, plug-ins and docking stations for all your electronic gadgets have been conveniently added to help you use your phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops and portable gaming devices from the comfort of your bed.

According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., Our clients are even reporting that room service has experienced an extreme makeover. Hotels know room service can be expensive and that many of their patrons seek food outside the establishment. Here are some solutions savvy establishments are implementing. Everything from Starbucks to all types of food options are now featured in the lobbies of many hotels.

Guests who felt like the mini bar offered the best meal, are now free to explore other options within the hotel. This has been great for guests who are on business trips, or for those who still need to work while on vacation. These guests no longer feel they have to work from their hotel desk, but rather they can take their laptops and iPads into the hotel lounge and coffee spots and work comfortably there.

So, what hotels are offering these home-like experiences? Heres a couple:

The Residence Inn by Marriott describes their hotels as places to enjoy, unwind and work. These rooms come fully equipped with in-suite kitchens, which feature a full-sized refrigerator, stove, microwave and coffee maker. Other amenities include:
  • Free daily hot breakfast with a variety of options
  • Free Wi-Fi in all suites and lobbies
  • Free grocery delivery
  • 24-hour market
  • Dry cleaning & on-site laundry
  • Private meeting spaces for events & family gatherings
  • Outdoor spaces with fire pits & barbeques
  • Complimentary evening socials
  • Business center services: free access to computers, printers and fax machines
HYATT recently underwent a reinvention. Part of the reinvention includes the HYATT Has It program. Theres always one, two, or sometimes three things that you forgot. Well the HYATT Has It program has a list of complimentary items as well as items to borrow or buy. They are stocked up on everything from curling irons to yoga mats.

What hotel made you feel like the most at home during your stay? LET US KNOW!


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Destination Spotlight: Paris

June 18, 2013
OOO-LA-LA!!!! From the exquisite culture and cuisine, to its rich art history and beautiful monuments, theres plenty to do while in Parisconsidered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers several different experiences in the City of Light that caters to your hearts desire.

Eiffel Tower in Paris
L'Atelier des Sens Cooking School
Louvre Museum in Paris
Notre Dame in Paris
Basilique du Sacre Coeur in Paris
Enjoy cookingand dining? Your first option involves Paris culture and cuisine. The trip for two is a six day, five night stay at the Hotel Le Littre. Included in this package is a hands-on cooking class at L'Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris, a two-hour sightseeing tour of Paris, lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel at the Eiffel Tower, and a one-hour River Seine cruise.

Located on the Paris Left Bank, the Hotel Le Littre is peacefully located between Saint Germain des Pres and Montparnasse, the new areas for fashion designers and luxury shops. Food lovers wont be disappointed as the LAtelier Des Sens and La Cuisine Paris offer cooking classes led by skilled chefs who will impart their lessons on everything from macaroons and croissants to the quintessential French baguette.

Are you an art and history buff? The second option is the coup de grace!! This trip includes a six day, five night stay for two at the Hotel Le Littre. Half-day shared tours of the Louvre Museum, Musee d'Orsay, and the Centre George Pompidou are included in this package.

Visit the renowned Louvre, one of the worlds largest and most visited museums; then make your way to the Musee dOrsay for the impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. End your trip at the Pompidou Center and explore the modern art it houses.

Looking for romance? Look no further. The third option is for the romanticist in all of us. This trip for two at the Hotel Le Littre includes a romantic Paris by night tour, a one hour Seine Cruise, which includes a full course dinner, and a private illuminations tour. The City of Light is sure to bring a spark to your life, from the fashion, culture, architectural heritage, gourmet cuisine, and romance! Come explore the capital of France and discover the magic that has beckoned visitors for millennia.

Get pampered with the proverbial royal treatment? Another Paris option is just that!! This trip for two is for seven days and six nights at the Le Royal Monceau and Raffles Paris. Included in this package is your choice of either a half-day private tour of the Louvre Museum or a half-day private tour of the Musee d'Orsay, both skip-the-line entrance tickets.

Le Royal Monceau offers the elegance, prestige, luxury, and hospitality that have been signs of high European culture. Only in Paris, France, steeped in history, passion, beauty, and "lart de vivre", could this legendary hotel begin yet another life in a refined new design that recalls its origins as it appeals to the contemporary traveler, who desires not merely a place to stay but a place to feel truly welcome.

Whatever your age or interest, each month in Paris has its unique attractions and pleasures: cutting-edge fashion, food, and fun offered against a backdrop of 3,000 years worth of history! Take some time and come see Paris now.

Paris is THE place!!!!


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Beware the Hungry Road Warrior

April 16, 2013
Road warriors know certain truths. First, if you are trying to stretch the travel budget never, ever stay at the conference hotel. There is always a better deal, often right across the street. Second, clear Homeland Security early. Its better to wait on the other side of the wall.

If flying out of San Francisco, you might want to get in line the night before the flight. It is without a doubt the worst of the major airports when it comes to clearing security.

That brings us to food. No real road warrior would pay United Airlines $7.99 for a microwaved cheese burger or $7.49 for a snack box of stuff you wouldnt buy if you were on the ground. Real road warriors know where and when to eat. The food at airports is overpriced in all cases but you can get a decent meal if you know where to look.

A favorite place is in Houston at the George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport. In Terminal C youll find an area called Real Food. Its cafeteria style. Theres everything from barbecue to salads to meatloaf to chicken and deli. It is airport pricing, but the portions are respectable. If Im going to or through Houston, I wait to eat there.

My home airport is Newark Liberty International. The food there is early American shopping mall food court. For the trendoids, theres a Crumbs Bake Shop if you want to spend $3.95 on a cupcake or $4.25 on a cannoli. There is a Gallaghers Steakhouse in Terminal C. Its nothing like its namesake in New York City and the food has been uneven in multiple tries. But, its probably the best of what Newark has to offer.

You would think that the food at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans would be mighty tasty. Youd be wrong. Its got to be in the top five worst airports for food. Likewise, youd think there would be decent food at Ronald Reagan International Airport with all of the important folks going through there. Youd be wrong again, although a Five Guys hamburger joint just opened.

Whenever one of those celebrity chefs opens a chain of eateries in airports you can expect to be disappointed, like I was at Cat Coras Kitchen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That isnt the case in Chicago at OHare International Airport where Rick Bayless has opened Tortas Frontera. Theres a guacamole bar, soups, salads and breakfast sandwiches. The main attraction is the tortas, griddle-baked Mexican sandwiches with a variety of fillings such as beer-braised beef short ribs, chipotle chicken, garlicky shrimp and goat cheese. Heres the best part. It has a list of the local farms from where the food was sourced.

Its a long way from San Francisco International to downtown. Grab a cup of soup at the San Francisco Soup Company near Gate 80. They have a great variety of nice soups and, of course, some sour dough to go with it.

You dont have to be hungry or under-nourished while on the road. To steal a phrase from celebrity chef Alton Brown, you can find good eats at the airport.

Paul Clolery is vice president and editorial director of NPT Publishing Group in Morris Plains, N.J., which publishes The NonProfit Times and its sister publication the magazine Exempt. He also has oversight responsibilities for the editorial content The NonProfit Times Online, the e-letters NPT Weekly, NPT Instant Fundraising, NPT TechnoBuzz, Exempt and NPTJobs.

Often a speaker for industry meetings and conferences, he has spoken at conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, The American Society of Association Executives, The American Institue of Certified Public Accountants, The DMA Nonprofit Federation, the Blackbaud user conference, the Kintera user conference, the Convio user and the Sage Software user conferences. He also has been master of ceremonies for events at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


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Oscar Goes Traveling

February 12, 2013
And the Oscar goes to YOU!

Have you ever fantasized about going to the location of your favorite movie, walking the streets the characters walked, and pretending to be a part of their experience? Well, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers packages that give you the chance to do just that! Below are examples of some of our packages that serve as themes and locations for Oscar-nominated movies.


Silver Linings Poster Image Silver Linings Playbook Silver Linings Playbook has been nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture. In the movie, the main character, Pat, attends a Philadelphia Eagles game that his father has bet a lot of money on, as his good luck charm. Mitch-Stuart offers a trip for two to any regular season NFL football game, such as a Philadelphia Eagles game.  Hopefully you can be a better good luck charm for your team than Pat was!


Les Misrables Also nominated for Best Picture is Les Misrables, a film that takes place in early 19th century France. Mitch-Stuart offers six different French packages that include hotels all over Paris, including the Marriot Champs-Elysees and the Hotel Le Littre. One of our trips to Paris includes a trip for six days and five nights, including a cooking class at L'Atelier Des Sens or La Cuisine Paris, a Tour of Paris, Lunch at Altitude 95 at the Eiffel Tower, and a cruise down the River Seine. From learning how to make macaroons, croissants, and the quintessential French baguette, youll take home the best souvenir of all: French culinary savoir-faire! Les Misrables Poster Image
Snow White and The Huntsman Poster Image Snow White and The Huntsman Colleen Atwood is nominated for Best Costume Design in Snow White and The Huntsman. Snow White and the Huntsman is a modern take on the classic story of Snow White. Although this film was not a childrens movie, a trip to Disney World is a great way to enjoy the Snow White we all know and love. Mitch-Stuart offers Disney fans a family trip for four to Orlando, Florida for five days & four nights at the Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, including three-day My Way Passes to Disney World.  At Disney World youll be sure to enjoy rides and attractions, and of course Snow White and all the Disney characters!

Beasts of the Southern Wild Beasts of the Southern Wild is nominated for Best Picture, among other awards. The movie takes place in a fictional Louisiana town, Bathtub. Mitch-Stuart offers a trip for two to New Orleans, Louisiana for five days and four nights at the JW Marriott New Orleans, including a Dinner Jazz Cruise, a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking and a $200 Commander's Palace Gift Card. To get more of the feel of the film, visit Isle de Jean Charles, not far from New Orleans, which is where the film was shot. Beasts of the Southern Wild Poster Image

Life of Pi Poster Image Life of Pi Life of Pi, which is nominated for Best Picture, tells the story of young Pi who sets sail to Canada with his family. After a storm hits the ship he is found on a rescue boat alone, but with the company of a Bengal tiger. Unlike Pi, you CAN make it to Canada on a Mitch-Stuart trip; we offer trips throughout the country! You can enjoy resorts and hotels in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Vancouver. One of our trips to British Columbia includes a trip for two for five days & four nights at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler and a $600 Fairmont gift card for ski lift tickets. Chateau Whistler is a top-ranked ski area in North America, and was home of the 2010 Olympics.

Without a doubt, Oscar certainly logs his miles! These trips are a great way to reward a movie buff, or generate a standing ovation at your next auction; but we have more where they came from! Be sure to check out our catalog for the rest of our trip selection.


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