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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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Peak Vegas

March 22, 2017
There are a number of ways to enjoy a Las Vegas vacation at any time of year. The city’s restaurant portfolio has exploded in the last decade, with celebrity chefs cooking everything from haute cuisine to pizza. There’s a surprising amount of art on display in the city, be it the whimsical signs of yesteryear of the Neon Boneyard or the touring exhibits stopping by the Gallery of Fine Art at the Bellagio.

But to get the full Vegas experience, it may be whom you see it with that is more important than what you see; it’s beneficial to see the city in a crowd. Las Vegas comes alive when people from around the world descend on Sin City. Our non-profit auction travel packages can take your donors to Las Vegas at nearly any time of year, but here are a few times on the calendar that give the city its reputation as “America’s Playground.”

The only state in the U.S. that has fully adopted sports gaming is Nevada, which makes Las Vegas a very popular place to be during sporting events. Sunday afternoons during NFL season are almost as popular as Saturday nights. But the most interesting time to be in town may be during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, or “March Madness” as it’s colloquially known. It’s the perfect intersection of big crowds and good weather; March tends to be when high temperatures start their upward trajectory and the big pools begin to open up after the windy desert winter. And if the sports don’t interest you, that just means you can get better poolside seats by going early in the day.

Some of the biggest draws to the city combines work and play in a very specific way. Almost six million delegates visit Las Vegas for more than 20,000 conventions each year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Some of the biggest, including January’s International Consumer Electronics Show and April’s National Association of Broadcasters show, brings tens of thousands of people to town, each of whom are splitting time between the button-up corporate world and the more relaxed nightlife of the city. The energy when surrounded by people letting loose after work and set free into the neon nights can be infectious.

But not every crowd in Las Vegas needs a specific occasion. For those who want to see the city in its most natural state, just pick a three-day weekend. With a built-in chance for recovery, a vacation to Las Vegas can go from the hurried pace of a 48-hour turnaround to a more leisurely, stop-and-stare-at-the-neon affair. If Monday is the extra day off, the vibe in Vegas on that Sunday night can be hard to beat; the over-the-top revelry is out of everyone’s system, and the city’s fine restaurants and cocktail lounges often become the focus.


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Beyond the Beach

February 15, 2017
If you live in the Great Lakes region, early-to-middle February tends to be the coldest time of year. According to a report from the Guardian in 2012, we are in the middle of the coldest week in England of the year. February 13, 14, 17, 18 and 20 are five of the ten coldest days, on average, in the U.K. And for almost everyone else, the snow on the ground and the tiny “high” temperatures each day act as constant reminders that we’re in the depths of the winter.

It is at times like these that travel thoughts often drift toward sandy beaches, tropical drinks, and all of the sun one can soak up on an island vacation. But while we love sending your donors on adventures with our fundraising auction travel packages, we also love it when your supporters get to fully explore a destination, not just the space directly around a beach chair. Our island-based trips include some destinations that are both about the beach and the culture or activities found inland.

There certainly are beaches on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, but the sand that most immediately associate with the resorts there sits in fairway-adjacent bunkers. The island is the home of 24 different golf courses (there are 40 in the area overall), and it’s become one of the most popular destinations in the country for both the weekend duffer and the scratch (that means even par, or very good) player. It’s also the home of 300 tennis courts, a major arts center and a tremendous local dining scene. It’s possible, in fact, to spend an entire vacation on Hilton Head without ever touching the sand – as long as you keep the ball in the fairway.

Golf isn’t necessarily high on the amenity list on Mount Desert Island in Maine, despite its name; being that far north usually makes courses unplayable for much of the year. But what it may lack in putting surfaces, it makes up for in natural beauty. The island is the home of Acadia National Park, the first park east of the Mississippi River, established in 1919. The park’s roads make for perfect hiking and biking trails. Bar Harbor, one of the island’s biggest towns (only topping out at a little more than 5,000 people), is a well-known tourist destination, and its downtown sector is a particular draw during the summer months.

Whether it’s the height of summer or the dead of winter, the isle of Ireland is better known for its green grass than its beige sand. That’s not to say there aren’t places to break out the beach chairs, of course, but a trip to Ireland is a trip focused much more on culture than suntans. And despite being an island, Ireland has its fair share of geographic variety, too; the coastal mountains don’t reach the heights of the Rockies or the Alps, but they do provide for both recreation and dramatic backdrops for photographs. Its rolling green hills, meanwhile, draw visitors at nearly every time of year.


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The Rise of Bleisure

January 25, 2017
Type “bleisure travel” into Google, and the search engine may try to correct your spelling. It is not a graceful portmanteau, and in a way it represents the exact opposite of its meaning: Business travel that is either expanded for or planned to include leisure travel elements (in the combined word, it looks like it’s the business that’s tacked on).

For donors who might not feel they have time to take a “full,” week-long vacation, offering them a chance for a weekend stay in a city in which they may already be working combines convenience with relaxation, and makes them active participants in any non-profit fundraising auction. If, instead of planning work around a weekend away, your supporters can simply skip the return flight and have some unencumbered fun in a new city, it may inspire more of your gala attendees to consider bidding on a travel package (and more bidders often means a higher closing price).

Want to offer some of your donors a chance to extend those business trips? Here are some thoughts on how to capitalize on the trend.

A Weekend Away:
Bleisure travelers are different than the regular business travelers, who are often ready to come home immediately after finishing their work (if not sooner). But even if the business traveler does want some extra time to explore a city, they’ll have already been away from home for a few days. A weekend trip makes perfect sense: Work for a couple of days, then spend a couple more days having fun.

Cities to Consider: If you’ve got some donors who may be interested in bleisure travel, then picking the right destination is important. While we adore destinations like Bali and the French countryside, your donors may not be taking too many meetings during poolside yoga sessions or winery tours. Places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, of course, are common destinations for business travel, while Las Vegas may be the convention capital of the world.

Evergreen Events: Some of our travel packages are notable for taking donors to our Destinations of Excellence™. Others find their biggest value in tickets for specific events, like the Super Bowl or an awards show. But if you want to attract bleisure donors, make sure your trip has access to a tremendous attraction that happens year-round. Think, for instance, about a trip with a food or beverage tour (like the pizza tour that comes with the “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago”), or maybe one with a round of golf or two included. A trip that works for business travelers is one that they can use no matter when work calls.


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What’s Hot for 2017?

December 28, 2016
We love every trip in our catalog of more than 300 non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, but each year we get asked the same question: What’s hot? What’s motivating donors right now? What’s drawing the biggest bids?

There are, of course, evergreen answers to that question. Trips with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities attached – Super Bowl or award show tickets, for example – will always be popular. Certain destinations, like New York or Napa Valley, will likewise always draw eyeballs.

But as we get our tuxes and dresses ready for New Year’s Eve, we wanted to take a look at some other ideas for 2017. Based on trend-spotters across the travel industry, here are some of the areas to consider if you want to ride the wave of a current surge in interest to a bigger fundraising haul.

Return of the Snow-Seeker:
People “pinning” snowbound travel adventures on Pinterest have increased by more than 300 percent, according to the site’s “Pinterest 100” trend report for 2017. Destinations like Vancouver, Colorado and Jackson Hole may see an uptick in interest for those looking to get a blast of winter cool while snowshoeing or skiing.

Bali is Big: One of Booking.com’s picks for trendy locales in 2017, Bali is seen by many as a great choice for a relaxing “sanctustay,” coupling sightseeing with spa visits and wellness activities like yoga. Giving donors the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Pacific may prove to be even more popular in the coming year.

Go National: The National Park System celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, and the increased attention to jewels like Yosemite and Yellowstone seems to have whetted the appetite of travelers. Parks and park-related activities have been seen an increase in “pinning” on Pinterest of 66 percent, again according to “Pinterest 100.”

Baby Boomers Looking at International Travel: According to AARP, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United Kingdom are the three leading destinations for Boomers looking to use their passports. And while 51 percent of those surveyed are looking to stay in the U.S. (Florida and California being the two leading domestic vacation spots), 43 percent are planning to take at least one trip beyond our borders.

Cajun Hospitality: According to the trend-spotters at JWT Intelligence, New Orleans looks to be a major player in 2017 tourism. With cultural events like Jazz Fest and the Essence Festival growing larger each year and conferences like the tech-centric Collision moving to the city, there may not be a better time to offer your supporters a chance to see the Crescent City.


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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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Comfort Food for the Traveler

November 22, 2016

As the temperature drops, what we eat and drink changes. Lemonade is swapped out for hot chocolate. Apple juice becomes apple cider (and, in some cases, apple cider spiked with rum or bourbon). And those summer salads and watermelon become the rib-sticking, carb-heavy cuisine known to many as “comfort food.”

There may be no true dictionary-style definition of this genre of dish; just like Mitch-Stuart’s fundraising auction travel packages, comfort food comes in many varieties. And during this season of big meals and tryptophan comas, selling a trip by appealing to donors’ stomachs may not be a bad idea. Here are a few of our favorite destinations from our catalog for filling, comforting cuisine.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Lone Star State, the home of chili con carne and the league leader in brisket, excels at comfort food. But while Austin and San Antonio get the lion’s share of plaudits for their cuisines, Dallas has its own food culture, with richer dishes playing a major role. Rudy’s Chicken, with a line of cars around the block, is a local institution thanks to its fried chicken, while hungry diners have filled Norma’s Café for sixty years to try its chicken-fried steak. Ask any local, and you’ll get a long list of eateries serving up heavy meals.

Of course, if the idea of “comfort food” has a spiritual home in this country, it would have to be in the Southeast. One of our favorite destinations in the region is Savannah, with its southern charm, cobblestone streets and historic squares. From the Boursin Chicken of 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant to the hole-in-the-wall charm of Walls’ BBQ, this is a city with a comforting, filling meal around every corner. Bonus: The food walking tour included in our Savannah travel package will allow your donors to walk off the calories, too!

There are a few staples of the comfort food world – chili, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, lots of other fried things – and then there’s the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans. We posit, however, that those two things don’t need to be considered separately. Cajun gumbo will keep the hungriest diner full and warm, while beignets round out any starch-friendly meal. Restaurants like Mr. B’s Bistro (with its Gumbo Ya Ya) and Commander’s Palace (with its famous, rich Turtle Soup) may not serve up chicken-fried anything, but there’s still plenty here to satisfy that comfort food craving.




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Mitch-Stuart Endorses…

November 02, 2016
What feels like the longest election season in history is finally (mercifully?) almost over. Less than a week from now, voters will go to the polls to choose the president, senators, representatives and ballot propositions. During the run-up to any vote, newspapers and other media organizations put forward their choices of the candidates, dating at least back to the New York Times throwing its weight behind, a tall, skinny guy from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

At Mitch-Stuart, we’re in the business of fundraising and travel, not politics. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get in on the fun of backing some of our favorite aspects of travelling. Note that this is not an all-inclusive list, of course; to list all of the great qualities of travel would take us through the next presidential race.

So, for 2016, Mitch-Stuart endorses…

Wine Tastings: We heartily endorse wine tastings for several reasons, but the best one may actually come after your donors return from their trip. For the rest of their life, when they see a certain varietal at the store or on a menu, they’ll recall that magical time they had in Napa, or France, or Italy – and they’ll remember the organization that sent them, too. (As a bonus: We also wholly endorse Designated Drivers, which is why many of our wine tours also include private drivers.)

Wallet-Free Vacations:
Whether it’s a cruise to Alaska or relaxation on a Caribbean beach, all-inclusive vacations allow your supporters to enjoy time without worrying about trading currency or calling credit card companies to confirm purchases. There’s a variety of choices for these kinds of trips, from basics included to anything goes, and we endorse all of them.

Award Shows: Want to really “wow” your gala attendees? Offer them access they can’t get from a travel agent. The American Music Awards, the ESPYs, the People’s Choice Awards … by giving your donors a chance to rub shoulders with their favorite athletes or stars, you’re giving them a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that will always get our endorsement.

Getting Outside: No matter the time of year, breaking out of the office and hitting the great outdoors is en vogue. That’s why we endorse fly fishing in Canada with every bit as much gusto as skiing in Colorado or horseback riding in Costa Rica. Some prefer the cold, some prefer the heat, but everybody prefers the sun to those fluorescent lights in the office.

Travel: This will not come as a shock, of course. We believe in travel both as a fundraising tool for non-profit organizations and as an important part of life, as a chance to expand ones horizons, and as an opportunity to take time away from work and relax. We believe that the stats are true: People who travel are healthier, more productive and happier. And we believe that by pairing travel with your organization, you can make positive connections that will last a donor’s lifetime.

Voting:
It’s game day for democracy. So, get out there and vote on November 8.


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You Must Be This Tall to Scare

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Thankful for Canada

October 05, 2016
In America, were getting ready for Halloween at the end of this month, but our Canadian friends are skipping right past that and heading straight for Thanksgiving. Canadas version of the holiday occurs on the second Monday of October each year (meaning October 10 in 2016). Starting from a desire to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, todays version is about gratitude for all things good people, events or circumstances.

Canada is one of our favorite destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, and so this seems like as good a time as any to tip our cap in appreciation of our friends to the north.

So, why are we thankful for Canada? Here are three of many! reasons:

Hockey! The clich is true: If youve never seen hockey live, you havent experienced the sport at its finest. And though the Canadian teams of the NHL have struggled a bit in the recent past (no teams from our northern neighbor made the playoffs in the 2015-16, the first time thats happened since 1970), places like the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens are epicenters of the sport still. With our Go to Any NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS Game or PGA Tournament travel package, your donors can celebrate the countrys national sport with a trip to any of the seven Canadian cities with teams. (For the record, that package also works with basketball, a sport invented in Massachusetts, but by a Canadian its a sort of athletic dual citizen).

Gorgeous winter wonderlands! The Pacific Northwest is beautiful at all times of year, but the winter months are when it really shines. Vancouver practically sparkles through the season, and neighboring Whistler is one the worlds great snowy playgrounds. Trips like Perfect Winter Wonderland and Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific can transport donors to this stunning region for a seasonal getaway. Whether its exploring the charms of Vancouver itself (like the ice skating rinks that remain from the 2010 Winter Olympics) or barreling down a ski run in Whistler, the seasons charms come alive north of the border.

Fun fishing expeditions! Outdoor activities in Canada arent limited to ice and snow, though. During the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and become an outdoorsperson (even if its only for a vacation). One of our favorites: the guided freshwater fly fishing experience that comes with the Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada package. Escape to either Alberta or British Columbia and spend a day with a guide and enough equipment to catch that evenings dinner. Theres little more relaxing than taking in that summery lake view from a boat on the water.






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Chasing the Summer to the South

September 28, 2016
The early days of the fall are so charming, with the leaves changing colors and the air possessing that small bite. And the early days of the winter are cute too that first light snowfall, maybe, or the first night gathered around a roaring fire. But once the first blushes have passed, winter can be a slog. And weve all had that feeling, maybe sometime in January or February, of desperation, waiting for the sun to return.

Of course, when the northern hemisphere is at its coldest, our neighbors to the south are basking in the summer sun. And there are plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalog that can send one of your supporters south of the equator to chase that summer feeling, even when the weather at home is stuck in a deep freeze.

A few of our favorites:

Winter in Australia is more myth than fact, as it is, especially in the North Queensland area. The coldest month of the year features average high temperatures in the high 70s, so your supporter can go on our Experience Two World Heritage Sites trip at any time of year and be guaranteed some rays. But for the most tropical experience, December and January is the time to get on the plane, with temps in the 90s. Of course, your donors will have the chance to cool off, while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing in their villas private plunge pool.

Of course, much of the southern hemisphere has that same year-round summer feel. A good example: The Summer Olympics this year were technically held in the winter August in Rio de Janeiro should, by the calendar, be the equivalent of February here. Of course, Rios February looks much different than ours; by average, its the hottest month of the year, averaging 81 degrees for its daily high perfect weather to explore the beaches of the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood on our Sunsets, Samba and Soul trip.

The closer one comes to the equator, though, the less seasons tend to matter. And Bali is the closest of our destinations to the middle of the earth, meaning that theres never a bad time to visit. The average high and low temperatures barely fluctuate throughout the year; our winter and their summer is mostly designated by rainfall rather than degrees. And while it does rain more in Bali over the winter months, this is a lot different than the driving, bracing rain one may find in colder weather. For those not afraid of the occasional cloud cover during a vacation, finding the warmer temperatures of Bali during our winter months can still make for a great break from the doldrums of the season.
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NYC at Its Best the Fall!

September 21, 2016
New York City doesnt need much help in the way of tourism marketing, but someone in City Hall should likely tip a cap in the direction of Matthew Broderick around this time each year. For a generation of moviegoers, its Ferris Buellers lip-synced version of Danke Schoen that forever tied the countrys most famous urban park to the autumn: I recall/Central Park in fall But theres plenty of reason to seek out New York in the fall beyond the central Manhattan attraction.

Mitch-Stuart produces non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to be used at any time of year, and supporters often use them to head to the beach in the summer or to the ski slopes in the winter. But unlike the heat and humidity of a Big Apple summer or the wet, biting cold of the city in the winter, the fall is the perfect season to explore a city best seen while walking its avenues.

Need more reasons to head to NYC for a fall vacation? How about:

Outdoor Museums: The Museum of Metropolitan Art is a year-round concern, of course; air conditioners and heaters work wonders. But the fall brings interesting exhibits outdoors, like at the day-trip-worthy Storm King Art Center, with more than 100 works of sculpture dotting 500 acres of beautiful fields and hills. Closer to home, the Queens County Farm Museum features a three-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch and haunted house.

Broadway: The fall also brings with it a host of new Broadway shows. Star-studded revivals are on tap, led by The Front Page with Nathan Lane and John Slattery, along with world premieres and musical adaptations of Hollywood films (watch for Holiday Inn, the stage version of the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire classic, to draw big crowds). After a slow summer season, Broadway is often heating up just as the temperature is starting to drop.

Festivals: Oktoberfest is a favorite celebration everywhere where there are people who imbibe, and New York does it up right with its biggest celebrations taking place in Central Park and on the East River. 2016s biggest dates have already passed (American Oktoberfest is mostly celebrated in September, due to weather concerns), but beer fans can start planning for next year. Or, if theyd like a boozy celebration sooner, theres also Cider Week, observed this year from October 21-31.
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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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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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Healthy Habits as Travel Souvenirs

July 13, 2016
Whether it is postcards, that perfect sea shell or even a snow globe for a collector at home, trinkets from vacation always fill any leftover space in luggage when a traveler returns from a voyage. But not all souvenirs are physical; some globe-hoppers may come back with fascinating stories, others with a new affinity for a specific wine varietal. Some may even have figured out how to finally hit that untrustworthy pitching wedge (just kidding, of course no one knows how to do that). But maybe best of all is when someone returns from time away with something healthy to add to their life a new habit, perhaps, or a positive change in outlook.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that travel is inherently positive, whether its as healthy as a beachside yoga retreat or as gluttonous as a weekend in Sin City. But there are some habits that your donors can pick up on the road that can translate to a healthier lifestyle at home, and a vacation away from the stresses of the day-to-day life may be the perfect time to acquire those patterns.

One healthy habit that can be picked up while on the road is also our first form of transportation walking! Exploring a new destination on foot can be one of the most insightful ways of seeing what makes a city tick, along with being a way for travelers to find their own hidden gems those corner cafs or small parks that dont make the guidebooks. Spend a week walking around a dense, urban center like New York or London, and one may want to come home and spend more time discovering the lesser-known neighborhoods their own city has to offer.

Of course, not all by-foot exploration needs to be urban. Some of our favorite trips give donors a chance to go hiking in some of the worlds most beautiful destinations. Getting out and seeing the sights of the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, or the wilderness of Jackson Hole, may be the catalyst a donor needs to conquer that hike closer to home, and get a good workout in at the same time.

American take-out food consumption has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as has obesity rates. Correlation doesnt prove causation, of course, but the added ingredients in a lot of the fast food we consume certainly dont make us healthier. If you want to start a new habit of eating better food, you can go on the road to a few different cities for inspiration. One trip to take may be to San Francisco, where chef and food activist Alice Waters opened her first restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971. In doing so, she sought out organic foods to serve, long before farm-to-table was a buzzword, and her restaurant continues in that tradition to this day. For those who want to have control over a meals ingredients by learning how to cook it themselves, several of our trips to Italy, France and even New Orleans feature cooking lessons, as well.

Weve spent some time recently extolling the virtues of stress relief while on the road, but its important enough to mention again: Traveling doesnt have to be a tension-accumulator. Thankfully, many of our trips include treatments at resort spas, like those at the all-inclusive Palace Resorts in Mexico, several trips to Florida and even some adventures in Californias wine country (combine a massage with a glass of wine for full relaxation).

London


New York


New Orleans Cooking School


Massage at Bali Villa


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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-Worthy Tributes

May 25, 2016
In pop culture, Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, cookouts, spontaneous beach trips and, for younger people, finals and the end of the school year. And with the exception of those year-end tests, were in favor of all of those ideas, too. But its also important on Memorial Day to take time and reflect on the reason for the holiday: Honoring those who gave their lives, what Abraham Lincoln once called the last full measure of devotion, to protecting and serving this country.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have hundreds of non-profit fundraising travel packages that donors bid on in order to go on relaxing, energizing, or just plain fun vacations. But our trips work for any occasion, including paying solemn respects this weekend at one of these monuments to our fallen Armed Forces members.

Many travelers make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana on Memorial Day weekend for the Indy 500, one of Americas great car races and one that has been scheduled on or near the end of May since 1911. But the city is also home to one of the most iconic memorials in America, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument. At just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, the obelisk was built as an ode to Indiana residents who fought in the Civil War, but has over time expanded to honoring soldiers in the Revolutionary and Spanish-American Wars as well. It also now houses the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. When it was established in 1902, it was thought to be the only monument at that time to be dedicated to the everyday soldiers, the rank-and-file, rather than a general or a commander.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is made up of nine different locations in three different states, but the majority of the locations are in Honolulu, at the site of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Arizona Memorial is a tremendously-designed monument; the structure straddles the sunken battleship, without ever touching it, allowing for unique visual perspective of the wreckage. There are also monuments to the USS Utah and Oklahoma there, while the USS Missouri, not technically a part of the monument, is also docked in the harbor, having been turned into a museum.  Taken in whole, its a powerful reminder of those who gave their lives in the Pacific.

The largest concentration of memorials, however, is in the area of our nations capital. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial may be the most famous, its wall of names receiving more than three million visitors each year, but the DC War Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial and the World War II Memorial all also fall not just within the city limits, but within a short distance of each other. With Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Imo Jima memorial) located a short subway ride away in Northern Virginia, not to mention all of the presidential monuments and other historic landmarks in the metro area, there are many opportunities for patriotic visitor to pay their respects.

Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Pearl Harbor

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial


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Bid and Stretch Trips for Yogis

May 18, 2016
For many, the goal of a vacation is to relax. Its a chance to leave the worries of day-to-day life behind, get on the road and unwind, even if its just for a few days. For those who cant get out of town in between, say, the end of work today and the beginning of work tomorrow, though, theres the stress-relieving properties of yoga.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Americans who participated in a yoga class at least once in the year increased from 17 to 24 million. Thats nearly as many yogis (of varying levels) as there are golfers, according to USA Today. Chances are, there are supporters of your organization that have a favorite class or teacher in your hometown and theres also a good chance that some of their identities may surprise you.

At Mitch-Stuart, we have fundraising auction travel packages that take donors all over the world, to hot sports for golf, foodie culture, music and high culture. Yoga has such centers, too, and for those who want to get some downward-facing dog time while on vacation, these destinations may attract extra bids.

A favorite of Worlds Best Yoga Spots lists, Bali is the home of the yearly Bali Spirit Festival, a confluence of dance, music and, of course, yoga. But the island is a favorite of yogis all year, with places to practice on the beach, in the jungle and everywhere in between. And despite having a reputation for attracting regular practitioners, many of the classes in Bali are considered more restorative and relaxing, meaning that theyre appropriate for all experience levels.

Costa Rica is a favorite nation for yoga retreats, with places like the Blue Spirit Retreat Center and the Luna Lodge hosting traveling groups from around the world for weeklong sessions in the wild and on the beach. But your donors dont have to commit to a full seven days worth of downward-facing dog to get in a stretch or two. The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort features multiple classes a day in beautiful Nosara, for instance, and Montezuma Yoga hosts morning and evening sessions in Playa Montezuma. Even some of our partner resorts offer their own classes, like those at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa.

None of this is to say that your donors need to leave the country for a yoga-cation. Major metropolitan areas in the country like New York and San Francisco have so many options for classes that to list them would take days. But if you want to find Americas great yoga secret, head to Asheville, North Carolina. No, really: The city was named one of the top ten cities in America for yoga by Yoga Journal, thanks in part to its close-knit community and surprising variety of styles.

Bali Villa

Bali Beachfront Villa

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Port Douglas


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Oh The Places They Will Go!

May 11, 2016
May brings Mothers Day, the Kentucky Derby and, of course, flowers (according to the Theory of April Showers). But its also the time of year when students get together, listen to one final lecture, and walk across a stage to be handed a piece of paper. It is graduation season in America, and this can be a fun time, celebrating the academic achievements of friends and relatives of friends. But it can also occasionally be confusing: What present does one get for a recent graduate?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s fundraising auction travel packages are often used as gifts, whether its for birthdays or anniversaries. But there are plenty of trips in our catalog that make a lot of sense to give to a college graduate as a celebration of their maturation into the real world, while also raising money for a good cause.

As anyone who has joined the working world knows, there may be no freer period of ones life than the one that comes between graduation and a first job. Whether its just a couple of weeks after final exams or a job search that stretches throughout the summer, there often are few worries as post-grads start to dive into the real world. This means that there may be no better time in the near future for a traveler to take that major trip, the week-long one to a part of the world that falls way outside of weekend getaway status. Several of our Destinations of Excellence fall into that category, but the hottest one right now might be Bali, the Indonesian island that has been popping up in travel magazines for the last several years. Its the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that is meant to be savored, and not rushed perfect for the recent graduate with a little bit of flexibility on his or her hands.

The backpacking trip across Europe has been a staple of post-graduate travel for generations. The romance of the open road, sleeping in train cabins, and seeing the entire continent is a major draw to the young and adventurous. It also can be stress-inducing for the parents of those doing the traveling, however. Help your donors split the difference with the Hit the Road, Jacques! travel package, which sends a donor or a donors gift recipient to both Paris and Rome, with stays in nice hotels (no sleeper cars here!) and tours of the city on a vintage motorcycle and a Vespa, respectively. The trip couples the thrill of roadtripping with the knowledge of where a traveler will be sleeping and showering, allowing worried parents to sleep better.

Of course, for some, getting out of school is a stressful enough proposition that a recent graduate may just want to sit on a beach chair, sipping a frozen drink that has a cocktail umbrella in it. For those ex-students who need some time to decompress, there may be few better places to do so than at Montego Bay in Jamaica, at an all-inclusive resort like the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. Its the best of both worlds for a young traveler: A diversion-filled property where the food and drinks are complementary, on an island known for its world-class culture, lively arts scene and fascinating cuisine.

Bali Villa

Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France

Vespa in Rome

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall


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Luxurious Travel for Mom

May 04, 2016
Mom. She gave you so much while, in many cases, sacrificing her own desires. Each year, we set aside a day to celebrate the mothers in our lives, and give them gifts of gratitude. And while most mothers are happy with a brunch and a scented candle, doesnt it feel like we can do more?

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love it when donors win our fundraising auction travel packages as presents for others. Whether its a graduation adventure, a birthday gift or a special anniversary getaway, we think that travel is one of the worlds greatest experiences and, therefore, one of the worlds most meaningful gifts. Some of our Destinations of Excellence can act as perfect getaways for moms, as well, giving them the chance to relax in the arms of luxury.


If mom has a taste for the finer things (or if your donors want to give her that taste), there are few cities more attuned to the luxurious lifestyle than New York. And while we have several trips to Big Apple, one of our favorites is the Exquisite New York Dazzles Like Never Before package. The adventure includes a stay at The Plaza, the world-famous hotel located right off of Central Park, in a Rose Suite, with a separate sitting room and a marble wet bar. But the biggest highlight may be the $1,000 gift card to Tiffany & Co., perfect to pick up that special necklace, pair of earrings or ring.


Does mom have a sweet tooth? If so, maybe San Francisco is the destination for her. The city by the Bay is known as a tech industry hub, as a place with stunning views and fantastic seafood. But its also the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and on our San Francisco Sweet and Savory trip, mom can go on an Ultra Chocolate Tour, featuring seven tastings and even some wine and cocktail pairings! That adventure also includes a stay in a suite at The Fairmont San Francisco, with its unparalleled view of the city from the top of Nob Hill.


Of course, there are few cities on the planet more closely tied with luxurious indulgence than Paris. From its bustling caf culture to its rich cuisine, the City of Light is a place for relaxation, for letting loose and for enjoying high-end experiences of extravagance. Our Royal Parisian Palace package features a hands-on cooking course at one of the citys top schools, a lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel in the Eiffel Tower and even a cruise along the River Seine. Its capped off with accommodations at Le Littre, right on the Left Bank and a short distance away from Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.

The Plaza New York

Ghirardelli San Francisco

L'Atelier des Sens

Eiffel Tower at Night


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Spring Updating: The New Catalog!

April 27, 2016
Spring is the time to declutter, the time to go through closets and get rid of that which you dont need anymore. We do it to create space for ourselves, both metaphorically (dont you feel more relaxed when surrounded by less stuff?) and physically. But best of all: All that new space means youve got room to store new purchases.

Weve got the same impulses at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., but in our case its more of a freshening up. Thats why our new catalog of fundraising auction travel packages features some brand-new trips to the worlds greatest destinations.

Whats new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Check out:

  • New continents! Weve brought back an adventure to Australia that is perfect for your outdoorsy supporters; it includes a stay in a three-bedroom villa and chances to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. And we also return to South America with a trip to Rio de Janeiro, with a weeklong stay in the prestigious Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will host a large number of venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Stays in gorgeous villas! Give your donors the chance to take a whole family or crew on vacation to places like the island of St. John in the Caribbean and the Rich Coast of Costa Rica (both with four-bedroom accommodations). Catch your dinner in Costa Rica and bring it to a private chef to prepare, or visit Caneel Bay, also known as the Rockefeller Estate, in St. John
  • More options in Bali! Stay in a five-bedroom beachfront mansion on one outing, or get in touch with your spiritual side with a trek to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. And weve also added a trip to nearby Thailand, with a stay in a villa located just minutes from the countrys stunning West Coast beaches.
  • More golf courses! Play a round at Pete Dye's Valley Course, the sibling to the world-famous Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while staying in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Or take a shorter break in Scottsdale, Arizona while still getting in games at the Troon North Golf Club, named one of the Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine.
  • More beachside fun! New options in Belize, St. Thomas and Cabo San Lucas combine sandy fun with luxury and adventure.

If youd like to hear more about any of these new ways to send your donors on the vacation of a lifetime (while making money for your organization), reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today.
Port Douglas Australia Villa

Rio de Janeiro

Bali Beachfront Villa

World Golf Village Florida


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Happy Centennial, NPS!

April 20, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

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

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

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

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

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

Statue of Liberty

Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor


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Traveling the Earth, On Its Day

April 13, 2016
Happy Earth Day!

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

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

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

One doesnt have to leave America to find a bio-diverse environment, of course. In fact, one of the worlds habitats with the most varied collection of native species is the Florida Everglades. Stretching from just south of the Orlando area all the way to outside of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the marshland is home to more than 350 types of birds, including endangered species such as the wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Plant life thrives in the humid conditions, as well, and its also home of the Florida panther, of which only an estimated 80 remain, according to the National Wildlife Federation. With all of the parks throughout the wetlands, including Everglades National Park, there are plenty of ways to interact with the area while being respectful of the preservation efforts in place.

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

Rainforest Howler Monkey

Bali Villa

Florida Panthers


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Rock and Travel?

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

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

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

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

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

New Orleans Jazz Band

Taylor Swift

Coldplay Concert


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April Foolish Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago

Los Angeles


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Break for Spring

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

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

But just because one leaves academia behind doesnt mean that a Spring Break becomes unnecessary. After a full winter of going from home to car to office building and then back, getting into the outdoors for a few days can do wonders for the spirit. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer fundraising auction travel packages for all times of year, but many of our trips can help melt away the winter doldrums and serve as a spring break for the post-graduation set. Want some ideas for adventures to offer for auction at a spring-flavored gala? How about

On the Links: Months off due to weather can leave a golf swing pretty rusty. And one way to get that Vitamin D infusion is by walking 18 pristine holes somewhere in the southern half of the country. Resort towns like Hilton Head, South Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona feature numerous course options for the semi-pro player all the way down to the weekend hacker. Meanwhile, desert towns like Palm Springs and Indian Wells are still temperate enough in the spring to play all day; those triple-digit mid-day temps dont start showing up consistently until June.

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

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


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Celebrating Americas Diversity

March 16, 2016
This Thursday, people around the country will fill Irish bars, drink a pint of Guinness and toast St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. But while, for many, intoxicants and green clothing will make up the bulk of the revelry, theres a great amount of cultural significance to the day in this country; its a celebration of the Irish people who meant so much to Americas development when they began coming to the United States en masse in the 19th century.

These types of celebrations, these recognitions of cultures that have contributed so much to the American fabric, can be great reasons to travel to some of Americas favorite cities. For your donors who win a fundraising auction travel package from Mitch-Stuart, here are some great holidays worthy of a trip.

According to numbers from the Migration Policy Institute, there are more people from Mexico in Los Angeles County than there are in any individual city in Mexico itself, save the capital. With such a large population, its no wonder that L.A. is a national leader in Cinco de Mayo celebrations. But while every Mexican food restaurants from Tinseltown to the border will offer some sort of special menu, and some revelers will be much more interested in the libations of the country than the culture, those with an interest in the heritage of our southern neighbors will head to Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles. Theres food and drink, of course, but theres also music, exhibitors, and traditional dancing. Even bigger: The streets Dia de los Muertos celebration each year stretches for almost a week, and includes nightly processions and stunningly-decorated alters.

Long considered the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, San Franciscos version of the neighborhood throws one of the biggest Chinese New Year parties in the country. The area around Telegraph Hill in the City by the Bay plays host to a parade, a run, and a gorgeous street fair with great food, merchants and artisans teaching traditional Chinese cultural arts like lantern- and kite-making. About a half-million attendees walk the streets each year during the celebrations, making it a popular choice for travelers looking to see San Francisco through the prism of one of its oldest neighborhoods.

Spotlighting New York City for its celebrations of international culture feels like a cheat; in the Big Apple, nearly every nation in the world has a sizeable population (and, in many cases, a pride parade). One of our favorites, since we love to travel for foodie adventures, is the Feast of San Gennaro, held in the citys Little Italy neighborhood. Theres a procession here, as well, but theres also musical entertainment, remembrances and ceremonies, and most importantly all sorts of Italian food. Restaurants and cafes open their doors and offer special menus, those with bigger stomachs participate in a cannoli-eating competition and chefs demonstrate how to add that touch of Tuscany (or other provincial cuisines) to any home-cooked meal. The 2016 edition is expected to draw more than a million visitors to lower Manhattan from September 15-25.
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Awards for (Auction) Winners

February 24, 2016
The tuxes are pressed, the limos are gassed up and the neighbors of Hollywood’s Dolby Theater have listed their apartments on home-sharing sites to make extra money. It’s awards season in Los Angeles, and it culminates this Sunday with the Academy Awards presented live in front of a theater filled with celebrities and a home audience measuring in the multiple millions.

But while the Oscars represent the end of film’s awards season, there are plenty such ceremonies throughout the year, evenings that combine star power with glitz and glamour. Mitch-Stuart has tickets for your donors to some of the biggest award shows of the year in our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, including these great 2016 commemorations.

There may be no greater intersection of sports and pop culture than the year ESPY Awards, held next in July of 2016. From its downtown Los Angeles home, the ESPYs recognize great achievement in sports over the previous 12 months, including top players, top plays and top teams. But whether a donor’s favorite franchise won the Super Bowl or didn’t even make the playoffs, there’s plenty to celebrate – and plenty of stars of film, music and television with whom to celebrate. And for those who wish to balance their sports with some art, the trip package puts the auction winner at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, mere blocks from The Broad, one of contemporary art’s splashiest openings of 2015.

For a trip that combines big names and a down-home feel, offer our “CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night” package. Held in Nashville this November, the Country Music Awards honors the best and brightest in the genre, while featuring plenty of performances; last year’s show saw “The Voice” host Blake Shelton, “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood and the legendary Reba McEntire take the stage, with even Justin Timberlake helping out his buddy Chris Singleton on a song. Combine that night of stars with three days and one more night of Nashville’s local music scene, tremendous food and historic beauty, and it’s a weekend that will make lifelong memories.

But the longest-running award show in our catalog will take your donors to the Great White Way for the 70th annual Tony Awards. If you’ve got a supporter in love with the smash-hit musical “Hamilton,” this will likely be the year he or she wants to go; the show is likely to be up for everything from “Best Musical” to “Best Soundtrack With Which to Sing Along While Stuck in Traffic.” Throw in a likely performance, and this June’s Tonys could be the night for a “Hamilton” obsessive – and the two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt New York, a stone’s throw away from Central Park and Times Square, means that the fun doesn’t stop at the doors of the Beacon Theatre.
Drew Brees

Carrie Underwood and Katie Cook

Brad Paisley

Tony Awards


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Las Vegas: Spring Wonderland

February 17, 2016
The summers in Las Vegas can be brutal. Average high temperatures in Sin City during the summer months stay in the triple digits, with a peak of 106 degrees on average in July. The winters head to the other end of the spectrum; while average highs in December and January are just under 60 degrees, the lows get down to nearly freezing, and the desert winds can run right through a snowbirds bones.

Thankfully, theres the spring. While Las Vegas doesnt have as many of the blooms that other cities might have (theres nothing in the area that could compare to, say, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.), the more moderate temperatures of March, April and May can draw visitors out of the air-conditioned casinos and into the fresh desert air.

At Mitch-Stuart, our non-profit auction travel packages are designed to be used at almost any time throughout the year, but there are definitely seasons that, depending on a travelers hobbies and activities, are more pleasant than others. And if youve got supporters who love poolside libations, golfing, or just outdoor sightseeing, springtime in Las Vegas is hard to beat.

One of the favorite pastimes of spring Vegas visitors is camping out poolside for an afternoon, with a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) in one hand and a good book in the other. The pools at the major casinos start opening for business in mid-March, and with temperatures being warm (especially for those coming from colder, snowbound homes) but not scorching, there are plenty of chances for working on that tan while relaxing in a lounge chair. Hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Caesars Palace have raucous poolside atmospheres, while Paris Las Vegas Soleil Pool is a calming oasis in the shadow of the resorts replica Eiffel Tower.

Playing golf in the tremendous heat of a Vegas summer can feel more like a death march than a game. Going in March or April rather than July or August, however, keeps the heat on simmer rather than broil. And the city is an underrated stop for golfers, too, with a major variety of courses in the area; the TPC Las Vegas is a stunner appropriate for strong players, while Angel Parks Cloud Nine is a shorter, executive course designed for hackers of all levels. Players dont even have to leave the Strip, with the Wynn Golf Club providing an 18-hole layout in the shadow of the resort.

Even sightseeing can take on a labored pace in 100+ degree heat, meaning that natural wonders like the Grand Canyon may be better appreciated in the spring, rather than the summer. For all the manmade, neon diversions of Sin City, its most beautiful vistas can be found in the surrounding desert. Red Rock Canyon offers tremendous hiking and rock climbing, and Hoover Dam is a unique architectural marvel. And though it sits in the neighboring state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon hosts visitors from Vegas every day, thanks to a plethora of tour operators flying helicopters to and from the natural wonder.
Las Vegas

Maverick Helicopters Las Vegas

The Wynn

Grand Canyon


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The Romantics Valentines Day Gift

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

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

What makes travel so romantic? Some ideas:

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

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

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

Fairmont Kenya Safari

Central Park Carriage New York

The Buccaneer St. Croix


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Mardi Gras Around the World

February 03, 2016
Its a funny reason for a Christian holiday: The night before the purging season of Lent, Mardi Gras celebrates binging, preparing for the relative austerity of the weeks pre-Easter by over-indulging for one night. For some, that means plenty of adult beverages, while for others its fatty and sugary foods. No matter the gluttony of choice, Mardi Gras is best observed by consuming too much of something that will put the celebrant in confession the next day. Of course, like other holidays, Fat Tuesday (as its known in some parts of the world) is only partially about religion anymore, as it has been adapted as a secular celebration for revelers of all (or no) faiths.

While New Orleans may be considered the holidays epicenter, Mardi Gras parties arent the sole domain of the Crescent City. In fact, with our fundraising auction travel packages, Mitch-Stuart can send one of your supporters to a celebration in any one of the great travel destinations around the world. Want to enjoy the day without a trip down Bourbon Street? You and your donors have options.

While New Orleans may be the city most associated with the holiday today, its origins are in French Catholic traditions. It should be no surprise, then, that France has nationwide celebrations of Carnival and Mardi Gras to this day. Parades in Nice, Paris and other cities mark the occasion, with large floats, ornate masks and confetti being the coins of the realm. Nice, in particular, is a special celebration; it attracts more than a million visitors to the city.

In Italy, Carnival is tied closely to Mardi Gras, as well; Fat Tuesday is the final day of the celebration that involves fireworks, special dinners and parties, and art. In 2016, the Venice festival is featuring almost 150 separate events, leading up to a best mask of Carnival contest, a closing ceremony and fireworks at the Arsenal of Venice.

Your donors dont have to leave the country to celebrate Mardi Gras, either. Universal Studios in Orlando celebrates the holiday on select dates between February and April, with parades and concerts in a family-friendly environment. Music is a major part of the fun here; 2016 features traditional New Orleans Zydeco bands in the French Quarter Courtyard and big name touring acts like Adam Lambert and Diana Ross on the Music Plaza stage.

And while New Orleans will always be the gold standard of Mardi Gras celebrations in America, most major cities in the country mark the day with some sort of event. In New York, the 2nd Avenue Mardi Gras Stroll enters its 19th year of libation-fueled fun, while the Mardi Gras Ball in Boston is into its third decade of existence. Mid-sized communities get into the act, as well; In North Carolina, Asheville has its own parade on the weekend preceding Fat Tuesday, and Snowmass, just miles outside of Aspen, kicks off the day itself with the Mother of All Ascensions, an uphill snowshoe race.
Carnival in Nice

Carnival in Venice

Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida

Mardi Gras at Snowmass


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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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Trip of the Month: St. Thomas

April 01, 2015
Mitch-Stuart, Inc., is the industry leader in non-profit auction travel packages, with a worlds worth of options from which to choose from Boston to Bali, from Las Vegas to London and from Palm Springs to Paris. With such a massive catalog, choosing a trip to offer to your donors at your gala fundraising auction can seem overwhelming, so each month were going to highlight a top-selling adventure available through Mitch-Stuart, including its accommodations, its draws and ways that we can even sweeten the deal.

The Trip: All-Inclusive Fun Under the Sun Island Style!

The Destination: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

The Reason: After a tough winter across much of the country, anything with a beach view is going to get the attention of a prospective bidder/donor. And there are few places that scream beach view quite like the Caribbean.

The Hotel: The all-inclusive resort Bolongo Bay Beach Resort caters to almost every whim of its guests. A regular fixture on best beachfront hotels lists, Bolongo Bay offers gratis meals and drinks yes, unlimited cocktails to those staying on the property. This means everything from eggs and OJ in the morning to lobster and wine in the evening is pre-paid. There are no pockets for your wallet in those swimming trunks anyway.

The Add-Ons: Lounging on the beach all day while sipping colorful frozen drinks is one way to do a trip to the Caribbean. But another is to get active and this package includes an introductory SCUBA lesson in the Bolongo Bay pool, along with a half-day snorkeling trip for an up-close-and-personal encounter with the local turtle population.

And More!: St. Thomas is known to be the most cosmopolitan of the Virgin Islands, and theres as much to do here as any other part of the Caribbean. The Mahogany Run Golf Course features a three-hole run called the Devils Triangle, which awards a certificate to any player who can simply get through them without taking a penalty stroke. After 18 holes, it might be time to get a massage; there are day spas all over the island for relaxation. And though the resort dining is spectacular, those looking to head off into the island for different fare can look up Old Stone Farmhouse, where diners meet with the chef before the meal to prepare their own, personal menu.

Want to find out more about this trip? Want to get the rundown on the rest of our catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel packages to offer your donors? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart Travel Expert today.

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Destination Spotlight: Costa Rica

March 03, 2015
When one thinks about vacations south of the border, Mexico is often the first destination that pops to mind. For others, a cruise around the Caribbean may be in order. But the travel experts, those whose passports are running out of room for new entry stamps, know that Costa Rica, even with its upswing in ecotourism over the past couple of decades, is the hidden jewel of the equatorial Americas.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has non-profit fundraising travel packages ready for destinations all over the world. But while cities like London and Paris attract a lot of attention, Costa Rica is sometime overlooked. This is great for the knowledgeable traveler: It means fewer tourists and more space to explore all the country has to offer! In fact, Costa Rica has something for every type of vacationer.

Costa Rica
Pinilla Canapy Tour Costa Rica
Los Sueos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort
JW Guanacaste Resort & Spa
For the beach-comber: With coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the nation has almost 300 beaches, with more than a handful sure to suit the personality of any sun worshipper. The Papapgayo Gulf is a favorite for those visiting the resorts of Guanacaste, while the isolation of Uvita makes it a perfect place to hide out from the world. The youth and culture surrounding Montezuma make it the equivalent of a Southern California coastal community, and its impossible to take a photo of the white sands of Nosara that is less than postcard worthy. With such a diversity of experiences, one could spend a whole week in swim gear.

For the jungle explorer: Around 25 percent of the land in Costa Rica is in either a national park or other protected area, but the best to explore might be Corcovado National Park. Once called the most biologically intense place on Earth by National Geographic, Corcovado contains endangered species like the Bairds tapir, a sort of pig-hippopotamus hybrid, and the Central American squirrel monkey. The stars of the show, though, are the two- and three-toed sloths. Other smaller parks and rainforests are scattered throughout the country, and tour operators take visitors sightseeing using everything from cars to zip lines.

For the luxury lounger: While the outdoors are attention-grabbing, theres plenty of beauty to be found indoors as well. The view of the ocean from the room balconies at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa is tremendous, and the on-site spa includes saunas, pools and even palapas, or thatched-roof huts, to mix clean air with a massage. In San Jose, the Cala Luna Boutique Hotel and Villas features a poolside dining experience unrivaled, with local flavors and farm-to-table foods. Visiting the city is no excuse to skip finer living, either: The Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose is a converted Victorian mansion, with a secluded rooftop Jacuzzi terrace that has to be experienced to be believed.

Beach, jungle and luxury Costa Rica has it all! Let your donors bid on a once-in-a-lifetime trip at your next gala auction. Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Travel Expert today to get started!


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Destination Spotlight: Augusta

February 04, 2015
There are a lot of signs of spring beyond longer and warmer days. For some, its the first day of baseball season. For others, its the return of music festivals, or maybe the first barbecue invite. But one of our favorite rites of the season is The Masters, one of golfs oldest and most prestigious tournaments. Each year, the planets best golfers descend upon Augusta, Georgia for four days that could make or break a professional players career.

But while the biggest action may take place at the Augusta National Golf Club, the city and surrounding area has attractions for both golf aficionados and everyday travelers alike. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we pride ourselves on creating once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions, so our trips to Augusta features day badges to either one or two days of The Masters. But those hours on the golf course arent the only reasons to head to the city.

Thanks in part to Augustas age, there are plenty of fascinating architectural elements to explore. The Lamar Building, in the citys Downtown Historic District, was built a century ago, but its rooftop glass enclosure was designed in the 1970s by famed architect I.M. Pei (he designed the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris). The entire district, in fact, is on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks in part to its diversity of building styles; everything from Art Deco pieces to Craftsman homes can be found by discerning eyes.

That type of range can also be seen in local cuisine, where southern comfort food can be found steps away from white-cloth, upscale restaurants. High-end eateries like Le Maison are in major demand during The Masters; reservations are often made months in advance and credit cards are used to hold spots. But down-home diners like Ruths Family Restaurant have an appeal all their own, as well, with locals gossiping over biscuits and gravy during the breakfast rush.

But one of the best-kept secrets about the Augusta area is its natural beauty. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors (and maybe work up the appetite for those biscuits and gravy!) at local parks and other sights. Take a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk, for instance, and stop and smell the flowers at its various gardens, along the Savannah River. Or rent a bike (or, for the more adventurous, a canoe) and explore the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. Keep an eye on the boat tour schedule, too; the canals Music Cruises are popular ways to both experience the scenery and local culture, with bluegrass and beauty in equal measure.

The 2015 Masters start April 9 and weve still got time to help you send a donor there! Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today.

The Masters
The Masters Golf
The Masters Golf
The Masters Golf


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Destination Spotlight: Hilton Head

January 06, 2015
Certain destinations are synonymous with their biggest attractions. Its nearly impossible to think about Orlando without conjuring images of Disney World. A visit to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower is unimaginable. And when one thinks about Hilton Head Island, the resort community in South Carolina, golf is the first word to spring to mind. In the past, weve written about the amazing opportunities for golfers at Hilton Head. The town has one of the highest concentrations of course available in the world, with difficulty ranging from professional-level to links appropriate for amateur hackers.

Hilton Head
Hilton Head
Hilton Head
Hilton Head
But Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s charity auction travel packages to Hilton Head are about more than just putters and drivers. The city has plenty for the non-golfer, whether its natural beauty, culture or fine dining. Whether its waiting for a family member to finish up a round, or looking for a refueling stop after 18 holes, Hilton Head Island has a lot to offer.

For instance, not all sand in Hilton Head belongs to a formidable golf course hazard. Coligny Beach is a lovely oceanside walk, with public access and nearby shopping and dining, while the Mitchellville Freedom Park features hiking and a look at the interesting history of Hilton Head Island. Theres a beach for every type of vacationer on the island, and they each can make for a great post-golf relaxation spot, an easy way to forget about that hooked drive or terrible three-putt.

In addition, Hilton Head has a lively arts scene, especially for a city of less than 40,000 residents (according to the last Census report). Touring Broadway musicals come to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina; shows like Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash and Gypsy are on their way to the ACC in the first half of 2015. The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is also highly rated, and features Maestro John Morris Russell, a Conductor Designate of the world-renowned Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. For a less-formal cultural experience, the annual Hilton Head Island Arts Festival and Craft Marketplace allows visitors to both see beautiful works and take home a memento of the trip.

After a day on the golf course, frolicking on the beach or checking out the local art scene, travelers can have their pick of the islands restaurants, spanning the world of cuisine. An eatery like A Lowcounty Backyard Restaurant replicates family cookouts convincingly, while Alexanders Seafood is a white tablecloth experience with a wine list in the triple digits and a surf-and-turf-inspired menu. And throughout the year, Hilton Head plays host to a tremendous number of food festivals, like the Seafood Festival (held March 1-7 this year), the Wine and Food Festival (March 9 through 14) and the Beer, Bacon and Music Festival in May.

Ready to send a lucky auction winner to Hilton Head? Reach out to one of our representatives today!


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Ho-Ho-Holiday Travel

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

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

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

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


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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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Destination Spotlight: Chicago

December 10, 2014
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love working with non-profits to provide charity auction travel packages as fundraising tools. One of our favorite destinations is the Windy City, the one that gave the world the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Bill Murray and numerous politicians, athletes and influential figures. More than 30 million people visit Chicago as tourists each year, and with our travel packages, some of your donors can stay and play there, too.

Why send a supporter to Chicago?

Spacca Napoli Pizza Parlor in Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Wrigley Field
Chicago has a lively culinary scene, with fascinating new restaurants opening on a weekly basis. But even with the diversity of options available, the city will likely always be known as the home of deep-dish pizza, the pie-like creation of Pizzeria Uno. Stuffed with cheese and overflowing with toppings, the pizza is popular enough with Midwesterners that its comparing it to New York-style pizza is a nationwide debate on the level of Pepsi versus Coke. Tours of area pizzerias (like the one offered with our Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago read it aloud package) take on the feel of a Napa winery expedition, with different varieties of not only the famous deep-dish, but also tavern-style and the more familiar Neapolitan styles.

For those seeking a vibrant downtown center, Chicago provides urban travelers a cityscape filled with cultural monuments. Take an architectural tour of Frank Lloyd Wrights home, for instance, or explore the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. After taking in works of art all day, indulge in purchasing a work of art for your home (or your body!) on Magnificent Mile, the citys premiere shopping destination with more than 3 million square feet of retail, restaurants and hotels.

But if one asks 100 people on the street to name a Chicago landmark, its quite possible that Wrigley Field may be the top answer. The home of Major League Baseballs Chicago Cubs, Wrigley was built in 1914 and has hosted All-Star Games, World Series (though never a championship for the Cubbies) and other major events. While the Cubs arent much of a threat to bring home a title any time soon, checking out a game either from inside the park or, as one Mitch-Stuart travel package offers, VIP rooftop seats across the street is a wonderful way to pass a summer afternoon.


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Tis the (Shopping) Season

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

Ugh.

Somehow, the stockings have to get stuffed, the boxes have to get filled and wrapped, and that gift list has to dwindle. Wouldnt it be nice to combine one of the most stress-inducing tasks of the holiday season with a relaxing trip out of your town? Better yet, wouldnt it be nice to give that opportunity to your non-profits biggest supporters, all while raising money for your cause and programs?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together destination travel packages for charity auctions that take donors all around the world for all sorts of purposes, whether its an awards show in New York City or a museum tour of Paris. We offer plenty of shopping of trips to the Big Apple of course; the allure of walking past the artistic window displays of Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and Barneys New York sells itself. But for those who arent up for the hustle and bustle of a New York excursion to take care of that present list, there are plenty of other great cities to which to travel.

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

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

Holiday shopping sprees dont have to be confined to this country, though. If there are particularly fashionable people on your gift list, think about a trip to Italy. The fashion industry in Milan is almost unparalleled, but cities like Venice (with its signature masks and glassworks) and regions like Umbria (known for textiles and chocolates, among other artisan goodies) also provide access to plenty of potential presents. Even better: Travelers can finish a day of shopping with some of the best cuisine in the world.

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

Nordstrom
Macy's
Galeries Lafayette


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Turkey Day Travel

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

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

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

New York! Dont make your donors watch the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade on television next year. Send them to the Big Apple instead to celebrate the holiday in style, staying at the Plaza (in a Rose Suite, no less!) and shopping at Tiffanys with a $1,000 gift card. For supporters whove already taken care of Christmas presents, there are NYC packages that include brewery tours, Broadway show tickets, and even trips through the citys delis.

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

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

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


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Destination Spotlight: Colorado

November 11, 2014
The northeast is known for its foliage during the fall. Southern California and the Florida coast is known for sunny summer days and boardwalks. Washington D.C. is known for its springtime cherry blossoms (and government bustle). But when the snow starts to come down in earnest, Colorado gets its chance to shine.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s charity auction travel packages can take donors all around the world, but there are few destinations that group luxury, natural beauty and outdoor activities quite like the Rocky Mountain State. Take a look at the options that are available to the traveler:

Skiing: Almost 20 percent of U.S. ski resort visits happen in the state of Colorado (more than the second- and third-place states combined), at one of the more than 20 resorts that belong to Colorado Ski Country USA, the non-profit organization that represents the states skiing community. It is big business for the state its estimated that skiers and snowboarders contribute nearly $3 billion annually to the local economy so its not a surprise that so many mountain towns are based in large part around resorts. And when it comes to skiing in Colorado, downhill may be king but cross-country skiers have almost as many options, both at resorts and at specialized Nordic centers in places like Aspen and Crested Butte.

Hiking and Mountain Biking: One doesnt have to strap wood to ones feet in order to enjoy those peaks, however. Many of the states 30,000 acres of skiable land, when not covered in snow, are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Beyond that, though, there are a staggering 58 mountain peaks in the state that break the 14,000-foot elevation barrier. There are hikes for the novice and the expert, whether its the short ascent to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs or longer, more challenging climbs, like the 500-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango. There are even mountain biking trails that ride along the Continental Divide (Monarch Crest) and to the top of mountain passes (Kenosha Pass).

Food and Drink Adventures: While the mountain communities have a long way to go before matching, say, Kentuckys Bourbon Trail, the microdistillery scene is alive and well in Colorado, stretching from Stranahans in Denver over to Woody Creek Distillers in the mountains outside of Aspen (the only distillery in America with control over every step of the vodka creation process). Microbreweries also dot the landscape, starting with the famed New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins (with an outlet in Snowmass, outside of Aspen).

Thinking of sending donors to the Mile High State? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart rep to find out how to offer a consignment, charity auction package sure to add the WOW factor to your gala!
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Christmas at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Hiking at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa
Crested Butte, Colorado


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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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Terrified Travel!: The Best of Halloween

October 28, 2014
Its okay to be scared when flying. Its okay to be scared when spotting twin girls in the hallway of your hotel, asking you if you want to go and play with them forever. But would you travel solely for the purpose of frights?

Its Halloween time, and that means ghouls and goblins. But whether the holiday means haunted houses or costumes and libations, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has a charity auction travel package that can send your donors to a great Halloween destination. Celebrate in whichever way you like in one of these cities:

If New York can claim New Years Eve as its own and Boston gets St. Patricks Day, it may be fair to give Halloween to Los Angeles. It should be no surprise that a city filled with young people who want to play dress up and tell stories in front of cameras would celebrate the holiday with such enthusiasm. The walk down West Hollywoods Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween night is almost a rite of passage for newcomers, but for tourists (and those traveling with families), Universal Horror Nights at Universal Studios and Knotts Scary Farm are favorites. And just down the road in Long Beach, the docked, 12-deck Queen Mary hosts Dark Harbor, with mazes, rides and ghost hunters.

Travelers looking for more of a party atmosphere wont be surprised to find out that Las Vegas throws its share of Halloween celebrations. Nightclubs like Hyde at the Bellagio and Drais at the Cromwell will fill dance floors with zombies and superheroes, respectively, while Tao will go with a Great Gatsby theme (along with a guest appearance by Snoop Dogg). Circus Circus, meanwhile, will again turn its amusement park into the Fright Dome, with haunted houses and live entertainment. Even just walking up and down the Strip, however, can be an eye-opening experience on All Hallows Eve; the entire casino district turns into an open-air masquerade.

Of course, for sheer numbers of revelers it is hard to beat New York and its Village Halloween Parade. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014, the parade weaves through Greenwich Village and attracts a reported 60,000 or more participants each year. And with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, visitors can expect celebrations to last long into the night (and the next morning!) at bars and restaurants throughout the five boroughs. For those looking for a spookier experience, the Wall Street Walks Ghost Tour takes participants through the haunted alleys and graveyards of lower Manhattan. It combines frights with history to both inform and scare.


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Destination Spotlight: Bali

October 14, 2014
Many of the trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog take donors on dream vacations, to the types of destinations that occupy the covers of travel magazines and the forefront of our travel thoughts. Sending contributors to New York City, Las Vegas or even Europe can fulfill wishes while also bringing in sizeable donations.

For some travelers, though, the expected may not be enough. Maybe they are seasoned travelers who have been all over the country. Perhaps theyre looking for a trip that can set them apart, one thatll get the attention of everyone to whom the bidder tells the story. Or maybe the donor is shopping for a younger family member, one who may be more interested in a trip that doubles as an adventure.

If thats the case, it may be time to talk about Bali.

An island in Indonesia, Bali has become a hot destination for travelers over the last few years. Prestigious travel magazine Travel and Leisure gave Bali its Best Island award in 2010, and it is regularly singled out for its stunning beaches in different guides. Being used as a setting in 2010s Eat Pray Love film adaptation certainly hasnt hurt its reputation, either.

Of course, as someone taking advantage of one of Mitch-Stuarts charity auction travel packages, though, its about the wow factor. So what is it about Bali that can get an audience to gasp?

The culture: Art galleries like the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud and the more abstract art-minded Randelli Gallery in Seminyak feature tremendous collections of both local and international works, and Balinese music has an interesting diversity, from traditional gong compositions to jegog, played on large bamboo instruments. But a cultural tour of Bali has to include checking out a barong dance performance. A traditional, sacred ritual, the dance centers on the mythical Barong, a lion-like beast and represents all that is good, in battle against the evil Rangda.

The outdoors: Snorkeling and diving? Check out Pulau Menjangan, a neighboring island accessible from Bali that features a nearly-unparalleled (in the region) coral reef. Hiking? Get to the village of Munduk, where waterfalls and lakes are only a short walk (or long walk, if youd like) away. Want to run away from lava in slow motion like in an action movie? Dont do that! But you can climb to the top of one of the islands volcanos and pretend. There are plenty of ways for visitors to interact with nature in fun, active manners.

Its beauty: Its easy to describe almost anywhere in the world as beautiful; if one searches a country long enough, the land is sure to yield a stunning vista or two. But just look at the photos to the side, here. Between the lush green grasslands and the aqua blue Pacific Ocean drifting up on shore, postcard-worthy views are everywhere.

Want to hear more? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!
Bali
Bali
Bali
Bali


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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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Lobby Libations

October 01, 2014
Delayed flights. Lost luggage. Fellow passengers reclining practically into your lap. Long security lines. While in transit, it can be hard to remember why we travel in the first place.

At Mitch-Stuart, we specialize in setting up trips of a lifetime, the types of charity auction travel packages that will wow gala attendees, draw in big bids and leave your donors with a satisfied feeling whenever they think of your cause and organization. Unfortunately, we dont have the magic power to make the actual airport experience any easier.

The good news: At many hotels, including our partners, theres always the hotel bar. The perfect destination for the traveler stressed from a day of lines and flights (and maybe a touch disoriented from time zone-spanning travel), a quick drink after checking in can help someone transition from travel mode to vacation mode. Whether its a fancy cocktail, a drink and a show or a stunning view, there are as many different types of hotel bars as there are hotels themselves.

Some of the fanciest hotel bars in the country can be found in New York, a city which elevated the lobby watering hole to an art form.  At The Plaza are two favorites: The Rose Club overlooks the hotels restored lobby and features live jazz, while the Champagne Bar boasts a bubbly-infused cocktail list alongside excellent appetizers. For the teetotalers in the party, both venues also offer non-alcoholic mixed drinks like the Ginger Peach and the Shirley Temple, meaning that everyone can get in on the fun. Best of all: Both make excellent perches from which to indulge in that great New York tradition of people watching.

It almost seems like cheating to include a Las Vegas hotel bar in this list; the city long ago realized that giving patrons a drink or two may help them be a touch more generous at the roulette or blackjack table. But Parasol Down at the Wynn is nowhere near the Sin City norm. The drink list features modern takes on classic drinks, like the Sinatra Smash, alongside a varied list of wines and spirits. But the star of the show is on the patio: The view of the Lake of Dreams, Wynns manmade waterfall. During the day, its a tranquil respite from the energy of the Las Vegas Strip, and at night the thrice-an-hour shows include everything from projections to a massive inflatable frog that lip-syncs to Friends in Low Places, among other songs. It works as a destination for a welcome-to-town drink, a meeting place before heading out into the city or an end-of-the evening stop for a relaxing nightcap.

Of course, while the Wynn and The Plaza both have bars with great views, neither of them may be able to match that of a beachside hotel. In the Caribbean, places like the Cabana Bar at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda or Iggies Beach Bar and Grill at Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas boasts views seemingly ripped from postcards and tropical-themed drink menus. There may be no better way to shake off a long travel day and get acclimated to island air than standing on the beach, sand between your toes, while sipping a Mai Tai or a Dark and Stormy. Youve got plenty of time to see the sights later.
The Plaza
The Wynn
Fairmont Southampton
Bolongo bay


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Destination Spotlight: The Caribbean

September 10, 2014
The average high temperature in Aruba peaks at 91 degrees in September, and falls all the way to 80 degrees in January. In Bermuda, the highs run from 70 in the winter to 86 in the summer. Consistency is the norm for Caribbean weather, where any time of year is beach time.


No matter what style of vacation your donors seek, though, they can find it in the Caribbean. A consistent favorite for both travelers and auction organizers, travel packages for non-profit auctions that involve islands like the Bahamas, St. Croix and St. Thomas can fetch big money and really impress gala attendees. When a potential auction bidder sees the words Caribbean vacation on display, he or she may be thinking about several different types of trips.

Postcards sent home from Caribbean sojourns, of course, tend to emphasize beautiful beaches and with good reason. The sands of Aruba, the Bahamas, St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others, are all welcoming to beachgoers of all ages and stripes. For those who want to interact with the environment rather than pull up a chair and relax, theres plenty of opportunities for everything from swimming with the dolphins to sailing or paddleboarding across the tops of the waves.

Theres more to island life than beaches, though. Head to Bermuda, for instance, for an adventure that includes art galleries and horseback rides. Tour the Cruzan Rum factory on St. Croix, or hike through the islands rain forest. Pull out the credit card on St. Thomas for what many describe as the duty-free shopping capital of the world. Hit the hot spots of Aruba, with restaurants and bars in the resorts that line the beach. Not every Caribbean expedition requires sunscreen and bathing suits.

For the island-goers interested in sampling the entire region, the Caribbean Sea has, at any individual moment, one of the highest concentrations of cruise ships in the world. Make stops at all of the above islands and more, with excursions for beach lounging, shopping and exploring. Along the way, enjoy the luxuries of cruise travel, from expansive staterooms to all-you-can-eat meals and on-board entertainment. Its like a Whitmans Sampler of some of the most gorgeous travel destinations on the globe.
The Buccaneer
The Buccaneer
Isla Mujeres Palace Resort
Celebrity Solstice, Virgin Islands


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Winter is Coming

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

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

Let us help: Snow.

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

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

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

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


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Learning on the Road

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

The National Mall
Lincoln Memorial
Gettysburg Battlefield
Louvre, Paris, France
But those seminal events, those works of art, that meaningful history, doesnt have to be left behind. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for any number of different reasons: Relaxation, excitement, a change-of-pace or even an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But some of our favorite vacations involve opportunities for donors to bring their families along and make history come alive. Give your donors the gift of education with one of these great travel packages.

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

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

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


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Summers Last Hurrah

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

Help them.

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

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

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

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


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Getting Ready for the Fall

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

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

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

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

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

July 22, 2014
When you (or a donor) dines out, do you check the label on the bottle of wine? Can you tell the difference between a single-malt scotch and a blended whiskey? Do you know about the latest and greatest Indian Pale Ales?

We pride ourselves at Mitch Stuart, Inc. in putting together charity auction travel packages that take donors around the world in pursuit of their passions. For some, that might be great sporting events, for others it could be beautiful beaches, and for still others, its the lure of trying a new beer, wine or spirit or just seeing where a favorite label is made.

An area does not get the moniker Wine Country without earning it. There are more than 400 wineries in the state of California north of San Francisco, according to the travel experts at Fodors, and while seeing each of them may be a bit ambitious for a week-long sojourn, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can help a winning donor make it to plenty of them. Napa and Sonoma Valleys are favorites of wine connoisseurs around the world, and wineries like Grgich Hills Estate, Frogs Leap and Long Meadow Ranch give aficionados and amateurs alike a deeper understanding and love for vino. In addition, travelers can discover smaller wineries by taking our private winery tour, which allows guides to introduce oenophiles to the hidden gems of Northern California wine country.

For those who like their adult beverages a touch stronger a trip across the pond can yield a great adventure. Heading to Edinburgh means heading to a land known (maybe best known) for its scotch whiskey, and whether its via visits to distillers or a private master class, an appreciation for the spirit is easily obtained here. The Irish whiskey drinkers can have their fun as well; a trip to Dublin also involves a premium tasting experience at the Jameson Reserve Bar. (Those trips to Europe can also be wine-centric, as well, thanks to adventures through Barcelona, Tuscany or the French countryside.)

One can combine high-end beverages with sun-soaked beaches, too. San Diego has been called the Craft Beer Capital of America, and a trip to any one of the more than 80 licensed breweries and brew pubs will show why. Hop aboard the San Diego Beer Train and see the coastline while tasting local brews, or stop in at famed microbreweries like Stone Brewing Co. and AleSmith Brewing Company separately. Either way, therell be a variety of beer for every taste.
Napa Valley
Wine Tasting
Guiness Storehouse
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station


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Life is Always a Beach

July 15, 2014
Sandcastles and plastic shovels. Tropical drinks with little umbrellas. The company of a breezy novel. From childhood through the retirement years, people may change how they enjoy summer days on a beach, but the desire to set up shop on a sandy shore during June, July and August never abates.

Mondrian South Beach
Moon Palace Resort
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Whether its a family-friendly trip to warmer climes or a wild weekend away, Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can help send your donors on any type of beach adventure with its charity auction travel packages. Which of the numerous beach travel packages should your organization put up for auction? It depends on who are your target bidders.

Some of the most beautiful beaches in America are found on the coasts of Florida, and for those looking for a combination of sand and nightlife, Miami Beach tops the list. Resorts like the Blue Moon Hotel and Mondrian South Beach cater to hip clientele and beachgoers simultaneously; the Mondrian, for instance, is right on the ocean, while also being just blocks away from the best of the citys nightlife. For youthful donors or donors shopping for gifts for twenty-somethings there may not be a better combination.

If your donors are traveling with kids, theyre likely to appreciate the ease of a trip to an all-inclusive resort. The family-friendly properties of Palace Resorts in Cancun, Mexico, give both children and adults the chance to play. Both Beach Palace and Moon Palace provide great beach access, and kids at Moon Palace will love The Playroom, with toys, video games, a mini-theater and two playgrounds. At Beach Palace, Kids Club features its own pool for children, one that includes a water slide that might make the parents a bit jealous.

After the kids have grown up and moved on, vacations can be a chance to mellow out, to relax while sitting oceanside. If its an escape that a donor desires, the island of Kauai may be the perfect trip. Attracting fewer tourists that Oahu or Maui, Kauai features beaches just as beautiful, but in a more laid-back atmosphere. And at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, guests can have dinner beachside with the hotels Share the Stars with Someone You Love sand-side service or attend a luau while spending time an ocean away from the stress of day-to-day life.


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Play Ball!

July 08, 2014
High definition television. Multiple 24-hour sports networks. No fee for parking. In our modern times, there are a lot of advantages to watching baseball games from the comfort of a living room. But no cable channel or fancy TV can replicate the smell of freshly-cut outfield grass or the camaraderie of the seventh-inning stretch. Even the hot dogs at the stadium somehow taste better.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love to help non-profits send their donors on once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities through our charity auction travel packages. Every summer, some of those travel packages involve getting great seats to any baseball game in the country everything from a Wednesday afternoon get-away game with an early afternoon first pitch to the MLB All-Star Game (this year taking place at Target Field in Minneapolis).

Those experiences can differ wildly depending on the location, though. Where should a non-profit look to send a winning bidder? Major league baseball stadium experiences can be broken down into three categories, making them easy to pair with a gala theme or non-profit mission:

  • The Latest: Whether its the free wi-fi of the aforementioned Target Field or the more than 1,000 high-definition monitors at the new Yankee Stadium, some of the latest Major League Baseball stadiums feature technology previously unimaginable to fans. Some of them also act as curators of the sports history: Yankee Stadium has its own museum along with Monument Park, which features plaques dedicated to and uniform numbers of retired players, while Nationals Park has a Ring of Honor that bears the names of the franchises top players.
  • The Throwbacks: Maybe the best combination of retro ballpark design and modern conveniences can be found in the stadiums built in the 1990s, starting with Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. That ballpark, along with Coors Field in Denver (opened 1995) and Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas (opened 1996 as the home of the Texas Rangers) kicked off a trend in stadium design that takes the aesthetics of older stadiums lots of brick and exposed steel and updated the technology. Many of these parks also acted as catalysts for development in surrounding areas; Oriole Park helped revitalize the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore by drawing more people to the neighborhood, while Lower Downtown (LoDo, to the locals) in Denver is now one of the citys hottest destinations.
  • The Classics: For those who want a connection to the history and heritage of Americas pastime, though, there are still two parks in operation that can transport a fan back in time. In Boston, Fenway Park is uncomfortable, cramped and still a must-see for the baseball aficionado. Everything from the walk to the Park from the T to the first glimpse of the Green Monster in left field feels like moments taken out of a movie. So well known and regarded is Fenway that it was granted a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, 100 years after its opening. In Chicago, meanwhile, Wrigley Field is two years younger but just as big a part of baseballs fabric. Its ivy-covered walls and outside marquee may be the icons most closely associated with the entire city, while some of the best seats arent even in the stadium; rooftop viewing parties on neighboring buildings are as much a part of the stadium experience at Wrigley as hot dogs. Throw in the Chicago Cubs tradition of day games, and on summer afternoons in Chicago it can feel like the entire city is playing hooky.
Yankee Stadium
Fenway Park
Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field


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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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Memorial Day Getaways

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

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

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

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

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


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Live the Life: Traveling for Experiences

May 13, 2014
Imagine, for a moment, being a driver. Not a freeway driver, or a backseat driver, but a racecar driver, careening around turns, trading paint with your rival and earning the checkered flag. Or how about being out on the range, riding horses through central California? Maybe the sea calls instead, with you aboard an Americas Cup-qualifying yacht?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., can send your donors around the world via a charity auction travel package (and can help your non-profit earn big bucks at a fundraising event or gala), but it can also help set up once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the types of activities that separate an everlasting memory from a trip.

Those seeking to hear the roar of an engine can pick either the closed-track thrill of NASCAR or the open road of the American West with different packages. For the four-wheel enthusiasts, theres our trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for the ultimate NASCAR experience: A trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and an eight-lap sprint at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. If the added rush of a motorcycle is more the speed of your donors, they can find themselves riding a Harley Davidson through Nevada and Arizona, checking out the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Route 66. Or, their motorcycle excursion can involve the beachside views from the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, as they cruise between Los Angeles and San Diego.

If the ocean is more appealing, your donors can spend five days and four nights in San Diegos stunning Mission Bay, culminating in an afternoon experience aboard a racing class yacht. Climb aboard the Stars & Stripes, which competed in the 1995 Americas Cup, and either get hands-on experience or sit back and take in the beautiful ocean views. Afterwards, head back to the Maritime Museum of San Diego and jump on a tall-sail adventure for a four-hour tour, or stay on dry land and check out the boats, sailing ships and submarines on display.

Not all adventures need speed or engines, though. Be a cowboy for four days and three nights in Solvang and take on the more than 50 miles of horse trails. At the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, visitors get to indulge in a throwback lifestyle, one more suited to a time when the American West was about exploring a frontier. After horseback riding, unwind with some fishing at Alisal Lake (which is reserved for guests of the resort), either in solitude or with a guided fishing trip. Hunting is, as one might expect, not on the menu, but one can combine an afternoon learning archery with the barbecued steak of the Ranch Room to get the benefits of the hunt without the hours crouching behind trees or the orange vests.
NASCAR
Motorcycles
America's Cup Sailing
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort


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Mother's Day Spa

May 06, 2014
When you were a child, Mothers Day was about craft projects brought home from elementary school art class. As an adult, though, construction paper flowers may not cut it.

Hyatt Key West Spa
Spa
Spa
If your donors are in the same position, we can help.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers a wide range of charity auction travel packages to countries near and far, and sometimes the destination is the star attraction. But what donors do when they get to the locale can be just as important, and for Mothers Day trips, a relaxing spa visit can be every bit as important as a five-star meal. These are trips that make great presents from an appreciative husband to his wife or child to a mother. Here are just a few of our options:

If mom would like to combine pampering with the great outdoors, heading to Jackson Hole may be the right fit. Jacksons Rustic Inn sits practically on the edge of civilization, with cross-country skiing, hiking and other outdoor adventures. But when mom wants to calm down after a day of snowshoeing or other activity, she can find her way to the Rustics spa for a Seaweed Algae Mud Wrap, or get a deep tissue massage to help minimize the next day soreness.

Or, send mom to the beach in Key West, with a three-night stay at the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa and a hotel gift card that can be used for spa services. A favorite of travel publications like Conde Nast Traveler, which ranked it in the Top 100 Spas in 2012, Jala Spa at the Hyatt offers a tremendous menu of services, including a special massage for mothers-to-be and a Cuban coffee body glow scrub. Some of the massage treatments can even take place in room.

International trips can involve the peak relaxation of a spa, as well. All of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s all-inclusive trips to a Palace Resort in Mexico come with gift cards for spa services. With Palace Resorts locations in Mexican hotspots like Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, most vacation trips south of the border can also involve a relaxing massage, a luxurious body wrap or a cleansing facial. Even better: Most of the resorts also feature golf courses, so dad can stay occupied, as well.










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And the Winner Is

April 08, 2014
The biggest awards show of the year, it would seem, is always the Oscars. It is the one that inspires day-long media coverage from the red carpet to the post-show parties, the one that inspires living room parties and betting pools and the one that inspires much of America to say, Honey, we should really go see that movie just before settling in to a viewing of Paul Blart: Mall Cop on a Netflix-rented DVD.

But its far from the only occasion for the talented and famous to rub shoulders and many of the others can be more fun than the sometimes-stuffy Academy ceremony. Mitch-Stuart can help send one of your donors via our charity auction travel packages to one (or all!) of these, which could make your charity the winner of Best Non-Profit in a contributors eyes.

MTV Music Video Awards (November) and Movie Awards (April): If your donors have kids who would be much more interested in awards like Best Kiss and Best Villain than Best Adapted Screenplay, send them to Los Angeles for either of the MTV awards shows. Loaded with young Hollywood stars and live music performances, theres rarely a dull moment.

The ESPYs (July): One would think that winning championships and, for the professionals, very large contracts would be enough, but once a year ESPN brings the top stars of the sports world together to celebrate the preceding 12 months. There are lots of opportunities throughout the awards week to rub shoulders with the athletes (for those who can reach LeBron James shoulders, at least), and seeing so many heroes of the gridiron/diamond/court together in one place can be a nostalgic trip for the right donor.

American Music Awards and Country Music Awards (November): Are your donors a little bit country, or a little bit rock and roll? November brings awards shows for each, with the AMAs handed out in Los Angeles and the CMAs awarded in Nashville. In both cases, the performances on the stages are only matched by the secret shows and other concerts held in the vicinity leading up to and following the awards presentations.

Twilight Saga MTV Movie Awards
Drew Brees
Carrie Underwood and Katie Cook, Country Awards


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Las Vegas Spring Break for Families

March 12, 2014
There was a time when the lobby of the MGM Grand featured a massive statue commemorating The Wizard of Oz and the back of the property held an amusement park. There was a time when one of the most popular businesses along the south end of the Las Vegas Strip was a major arcade. Before the promise that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the largest city in Nevada tried desperately to market itself as a family-friendly destination.

That pretense has been gone for years, but as Las Vegas has grown, it has added opportunities for families to enjoy time together. If your donors have children, big or small, a chance to support your charity and win an auction for a trip to Las Vegas doesnt have to mean finding babysitters and leaving the offspring at home.
Las Vegas

Taking a dip in the hotel pool is always a good place to start when traveling with kids of all ages. But not all pools in Las Vegas are created equal for children. At the MGM Grand, the lazy river circles the pool deck and there are also shallow pools for the very little ones. Theres also a waterslide for kids at the pool at Excalibur. But the most interesting aquatic experience for kids (and adults alike!) may be the Trainer for a Day program at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. For one afternoon, anyone 13 years old and up can swim with, feed and interact with a bottlenose dolphin in a secluded habitat seemingly far away from the commotion of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Going to a show in Las Vegas does not have to mean staring at half-naked showgirls, either. Sin City is Americas capital of magic, for instance, so seeing a performer like Mac King at Harrahs is a great way to enjoy the Las Vegas experience. His stage show combines magic and humor in a family-friendly setting, complete with an afternoon start time. Over at the Venetian, meanwhile, comedian Rita Rudner plies her trade. Known as one of the cleanest comics of her generation, Rudner has been one of the reigning comedy stars of the city, selling more than one million tickets in Las Vegas since beginning her run there more than a decade ago.

Grand Canyon
A trip to Las Vegas with the family doesnt have to stay within the city borders, either. The southwest is filled with beautiful vistas and opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing and other activities. Just outside of the city, Red Rock Canyon attracts more than one million visitors each year, people drawn to its red cliffs, its wildlife and abundance of hiking trails. There may be no more popular Vegas escape, though, than one of the myriad of helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. Though the Arizona landmark is 300 miles or so away from Las Vegas, it still attracts visitors looking for a chance to see one of the countrys most spectacular views. Many of those same helicopter tours also take patrons for a ride over the Strip, giving the tourist chances to take in two breathtaking, if entirely different, vistas.



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Springtime in New York

March 04, 2014
As of the end of February, the winter of 2013-14 has been the seventh-snowiest in the history of New York City. Nearly 60 inches of snow have fallen in the Big Apple, and with another storm making its way through the metropolis on the first days of March, theres a chance that this winter could move into the top five of all time. But even during the coldest, dampest, darkest days of the season, there is hope. Even though it may not feel like it, the sun will return, the birds will chirp, and the Mets will lose a lot of baseball games. Spring will come.

Experienced travelers know that spring is one of the most magical times of the year in New York City. The energy is indescribable; millions of people who have spent the last few months cooped up in small apartments and layers in coats and sweaters go back outside, all at once. Its the perfect time to drop in for a visit, or to send your donors via a charity auction, raffle or other fundraising event.

Of course, Central Park is one of the first landmarks that comes to mind when one thinks of a New York spring. The most visited urban park in America is more than just a place to sit in the sun and relax, though; the Central Park Conservatory leads walking tours of the parks gardens, art and iconic views, among other topics. Theres even a seminar on bird-watching, designed specifically for families and led by members of the citys Audubon Society. Meeting places and reservation information is all available on the Conservatorys website, which cuts back on aimless wandering around the park, asking random strangers if they are with the tour.

While Central Park may have more than 150 years of history going for it, one of New Yorks newest urban parks is stealing its older brothers spotlight. The High Line has gone from rail to trail, with the mile-long stretch of elevated track that runs through the lower west side of Manhattan reopened to the public as a park in 2009 (with an extension opening in 2011). From the walkway, the tourist has a view of the Hudson River to the west and the shops of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea to the east. In addition, it may be the most lodging-convenient park in existence; it literally runs through the Standard High Line hotel.

Not every spring event revolves around a single park, though. At times, the entire city gets wrapped up in one going-on, such as when the sailors come to town. Yes, Fleet Week is more than just a plot line from that one Sex in the City episode. For one week out of the year, New York City honors the Navy and Marine Corps. 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the event, and the city will be filled with ship tours, military demonstrations and tributes to fallen heroes. Thank a hero, check out a warship and get caught up in the spirit of a city finally released from the grasp of winter weather.

New York Mets
The Plaza, New York
Central Park, Duke Ellington Statue
New York

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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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Travel with a Ticket

February 04, 2014
Masters
Indianapolis 500
Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby
 
On February 6, the pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks will report to training camp in Scottsdale, AZ. Theyll be the first players to open pre-season workouts, and the first athletes to send the thoughts of sports fans racing to the spring months. But the return of baseball is far from the only sporting event to think about when the snow starts to melt and the days get longer; the calendar is loaded in the months of March, April and May with major events and championships in several sports that your donors might care about. Why not couple a charity auction travel opportunity with a ticket to a major spring sporting event? Mitch-Stuart has you covered, with trips revolving around everything from one of Americas oldest sporting events to one of the countrys most prestigious golf tournaments.

Since 1934, the Masters Tournament has held a special place in the hearts of golf fans. Traditionally the first of the PGA Tours four major tournaments each year, it takes place in Augusta, GA. every April, a time of year when the temperature averages in the 70s and there is little precipitation. Its a perfect setting for a vacation, too, with Hickory Knob Resort State Park and the cities of Savannah and Atlanta all within reasonable driving distance.

Not every sports fan craves the tranquility of the links, though. For those who like their competition to be a bit louder, consider heading to the capital of Indiana for the Indianapolis 500. More than 250,000 fans cram into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend to see their favorite drivers race while enjoying experiences ranging from infield tailgating to, as Mitch-Stuart has arraigned for charity auction winners, seats in the Penthouse Tower. Its a holiday weekend away at one of the most prestigious race events in the world.

Cars at the Indy 500 can boast of more than 600 horsepower, but in Kentucky, the most important race is between combatants that dont need engines at all. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of horse racings Triple Crown, and is not just a sporting event, but a way of life for residents and expatriates of the Bluegrass State. The Mitch-Stuart travel package takes winners to both the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks race on the day prior, while even taking care of souvenirs. Bring your own big hats, though.


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WOW your Valentine!

January 28, 2014
This Valentines Day, get some romantic planning advice from the experts at Mitch-Stuart, Inc. They know the worlds top destinations and have provided some options for sweeping your loved one off to parts unknown. As part of their planning for 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, theyve got the goods on whats great this Valentines Day.

Consider a trip to Sonomas wine country. Set in the idyllic, world famous wine growing region abundant with local products, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa features a signature Michelin award-winning restaurant, a treasured golf course set on 177 acres of rolling terrain, and one of the top spas in the country. For hundreds of years, ancient thermal mineral waters have graced the site of The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. Today, the resort is proud to be one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water.

Guests will savor the fruits of the wine country on a personalized five-hour tour of the Sonoma Valley in a chauffeured luxury Sedan. Whether you are first-time visitors or veteran wine tasters, you'll enjoy an enlightening, fun-filled day in this picturesque region. The informative winery tour will be customized based on your individual wine preferences.

Find Love in the City of Light. Whisk your Valentine off to the Hotel Littre in quintessentially romantic Paris which is sure to bring a spark to your life, from the fashion, the culture, the architectural heritage, gourmet cuisine, and of course, the romance! Come explore the capital of France and discover the magic that has beckoned visitors for millennia. Youll visit one of the worlds most iconic landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, on your half-day tour, and youll be blown away by the beauty of Paris at night on your Paris by Night tour - bonjour!

There is so much to see in Paris, from Place de la Bastille, a historical and modernly political square, to the trendy Right Bank district of La Marais, the artists studios of Montparnasse, to the high fashion districts of Faubourg Saint-Honore.

Treat her (or him!) like royalty.
What could be more luxurious that a trip to Monte Carlo The Fairmont Monte Carlo is a unique four-star luxury resort located in the very heart of Monaco. A principality known to everyone, Monaco is nestled between Italy and France on the Cte d'Azur, and when you ascend to the top of The Fairmont, you can see the majestic view of all three countries! Immerse yourself in the beauty and sophistication of this world-class destination with a stay at the Fairmont Monte Carlo.

The Riviera offers over 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. Although the fabulous climate is a primary attraction, visitors are also drawn to Monacos warm engaging colors, the variety of its surroundings, and the friendliness of the locals. From the deep blue of the Mediterranean to the dazzling white canyons of the inland countryside, this region never stops revealing surprises.

Pamper the People you Love. Embrace the warmth of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel or Isla Mujeres, Mexico for some well-deserved pampering, discover the freedom of an all-inclusive stay at Palace Resorts, where one price covers your hotel, mouthwatering dining options and snacks, top shelf drinks, non-motorized water sports, exuberant nightly entertainment, and so much more. Palace Resorts deliver a better class of all-inclusive in tantalizing destinations throughout Mexico. There is no comprising on your experience!

Youll find luxurious touches and elegant appointments at every Palace Resort, ensuring that regardless of the destination, your vacation will be exceptional. Bask in the beauty of Cancun, which sits at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, where you are invited to explore the areas natural reserves, archeological sights and attractions. A few miles south along the ancient Riviera Maya, are three more Palaces, including two offering some of the finest golf courses and spas in Mexico, dot the white sands of the coast. The islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are home to more Caribbean Palaces and on Mexicos Pacific Coast. With six all-inclusive Palace Resorts dotting the sands along gorgeous beaches, to choose from, one of them is certain to provide the perfect setting for your next vacation.

Be sure to check out the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence Catalogue for more treasured trips





Couple drinking wine
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Paris Eiffel Tower
Paris
Monte Carlo
Fairmont Monte Carlo
Palace Resort Isla Mujeres


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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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Dont Sacrifice Fitness When Youre Traveling!

September 04, 2013
These hotels make it easy

A recent poll shows that 53% of Americans like to stay in shape while on vacation, with about the same percentage opting for the hotel gym as their workout choice. Smart hotels have gotten savvy about what they offer their guests a couple of weights and a treadmill just will not do! This is important for those who organize charity auctions and fundraising events as well, since crafting the perfect travel package is key to success.

There is a trend now to offer health and wellness professional consulting and training including: body composition assessment, personal training, private yoga, nutritional counseling, group exercise and more. Here are some examples of hotels and properties that really do it right for their clientele.
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts provides gym clothes and shoes gratis for all members of their President's Club (free to join). Fitness at the Fairmont means Reebok workout apparel and footwear, an MP3 player and a yoga mat with stretch band, all of which can be delivered directly to your room upon request. The service is complimentary for Premier and Platinum members with a small service charge for Club members.
  • Ritz Carlton Washington DC for $15.00 a day guests can visit the Sports Club/LA and full access to 100,000 square feet of fitness machines, basketball courts, squash, a lap pool, boxing area and more than 100 weekly classes. The Ritz-Carlton - Bachelor Gulch - has amazing outdoor activities including a private, guided outdoor adventure in the surrounding White River National Forest, ideal for the mountain enthusiast and other adventures like the Winter Private Snowshoe Adventure, water therapy in the Gulch Signature Copper Tub Soak (for individuals or couples) and the Roaring Rapids (Inspired by white water rafting, this hydrotherapy massage experience includes a choice of detoxifying mustard or relaxing herbal mountain blend and is a wonderful alternative to a hands-on massage.) The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel ultimate beach vacation offers three miles of sandy beach with captivating views of the pacific while exercising in the Fitness Center or taking yoga outside on the bluffs. The Spa emphasizes the Art of Well including balance, energy and vitality. Fitness center - Cardiovascular & Strength Training, Resistance & Weight Training, Personal Training, Wellness Classes - Yoga and Pilates - all situated atop a 150 foot bluff.
  • Hyatt at the Bellevue guests gain complimentary access to the Sporting Club at Bellevue, accessible by an enclosed sky bridge and home to 93,000 square feet of strength and cardio equipment and an indoor running track.
  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco Sports Club/LA runs this hotel's on-site, 127,000-square-foot fitness center, which has out-of-the ordinary amenities such as a boxing studio and basketball court. Guests can attend workout classes for free and get advice from personal trainers.
  • Marriott Renaissance Club Sport in Aliso Viejo, California with full access to Renaissance Club Sport, a world-class sports club boasting 75,000 square foot facility offering a 12,000 square foot fitness floor, six group exercise studios, court sports, aquatic center and childcare services. The hotel near Laguna Beach, CA creates a superb suburban spa-style hotel and fitness center while offering many resort-like amenities for their guests. They can also enjoy jogging and fitness trails.
So many choices, so little time! Do your homework and see which offering appeals to you and your organization.


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A Chocolate Lovers Guide to Travel

August 27, 2013
Google chocolate and travel and you get about 300 million results! Theres a good reason for that, with chocolate topping many favorite things to eat and travel topping many favorite things to do. Savvy organizers of fundraisers and charity auctions will want to combine these two audience pleasers.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. offers plenty of these (guilty) pleasure trips to some serious chocolate capitals. Feast your eyes (and then your palates!) below:

San Francisco Get a true taste of the city on one of three delicious tours! Youll enjoy a spectrum of chocolate flavors on the Ultra Chocolate Tour, including French, Belgian and American chocolates, and a blind chocolate bar tasting. Top if off with a Chocolate Lover Card entitling you to discounts and VIP treatment at nearby boutiques!

Boston Bostons not just about seafood The Original Chocolate Walking Tour will take you to the best chocolate shops, bakeries and cafes near vibrant Newbury Street.

Asheville Prepare your palate for a delicious epicurean combination! Youll get to enjoy a red wine and chocolate truffle tasting! A friendly host will guide you through your tasting, and you will learn about the red wine-making process and why chocolate and red wine are considered a natural pairing.

New York The Big Apple is actually a chocoholic paradise, which hosts two of National Geographics Top 10 Best Chocolate purveyors. Read on for a sampling of some of New Yorks most amazing shrines to the cocoa bean.
  • The City Bakery specializes in hot chocolate, all year long, but particularly in Februarys month-long hot chocolate festival featuring a different special flavor daily as well as original. Considered the best by many, its rich and thick with a homemade marshmallow.
  • Vosges offers a bacon chocolate bar and a mushroom chocolate bar and chocolate covered spicy fire tortilla chips. Sounds weird yes? But very cool and different.
  • Jacques Torres is renowned for rich and delicious and hot chocolate bar. They also sell some chocolate with sex appeal such as caramel body spread etc. Something for everyone.
  • Max Brenner is on the Nat Geo list, and has a complete restaurant menu in addition to fine hand-made chocolate. They have vats of chocolate and unusual offerings such as praline waffle balls!
  • Serendipity is a must-do as they are open late and serve food and are famous for the frozen hot chocolate! The landmark offers other amazing desserts and the atmosphere is classic and cozy.
  • Magnolia Bakery is also on the Nat Geo list and is best known for its daily cupcakes with flavors such as Truffle: devils food cake and chocolate or white chocolate truffle filling covered with chocolate ganache or German chocolate cupcakes.
Let us know you travel for your chocolate fix!






Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco
Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco
Chocloate Pastries
Serendipity Hot Chocolate
Jacques Torres Chocolates


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Autumn in Nevada

August 20, 2013
Ok, its not April in Paris, but there are some lovely advantages to offering vacation packages to the delightful desert oasis of Las Vegas especially when the temperature dips below 100 degrees as part of your charity auctions or fundraising events.
Las Vegas Strip
Exotic Car Racing
Cirque de Sole Beatles Love
Las Vegas Rodeo
Blue Man Group
Grand Canyon
Mitch-Stuart Inc. offers a decidedly different take on the Las Vegas experience combining luxury hotel ambience with extreme thrills of exotic auto racing and aerobatic flight simulation, helicopter rides, to unique entertainment options such as attending a rodeo.

If a different customer take on Vegas is what your organization is looking for, here are some examples of whats new under the (Las Vegas) sun!
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Exotic Car Racing Experience
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at the Wynn Las Vegas with Economy Class Air, Including an Aerobatic Flight Simulator Experience
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Four Days & Three Nights at The All-Suite Venetian Resort Hotel Casino with Economy Class Air, Including Round Trip Airport Transfers, Tickets to Your Choice of Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles or Mystre, and an Evening Helicopter Ride over the Strip
  • A Trip for Two to Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection with Economy Class Air, Including Show Tickets
  • A Trip for Two to The National Finals Rodeo Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada for Three Days & Two Nights at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Including Two Tickets to Your Choice of Any Session with Plaza Level Seating (December 2013) (Land Only)
And if you want still more adventuresome Vegas, there is no shortage of interesting day trips. The world famous Hoover Dam lies about an hour from Las Vegas. Right outside of the city is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon that offers plenty of either easy or more strenuous hiking and mountain biking trails and for a more extensive day trip, you can even visit the Grand Canyon. Closer to the strip but still a world away, visit the Mob Museum which showcases both sides of the notorious battle between organized crime and law enforcement, or the Neon Museum which is loaded with the huge signs that once beckoned you into casinos like the Silver Slipper, Stardust, and El Cortez. A trek to Lake Mead is beautiful as well.

But if all you really want to do is gamble, shop and then eat well dine like the locals at these palate-pleasers:
Anything we missed? Let us know your favorite Vegas visitor spots.



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Concierge Services to Die For

August 13, 2013
In the uber competitive world of luxury hotels, a key secret weapon in the arsenal is often the concierge. Defined as a staff member of a hotel or apartment complex who assists guests or residents, as by handling the storage of luggage, taking and delivering messages, and making reservations for tours this doesnt even begin to cover the breadth of services todays top-notch concierges provide for high-end clients such as those who seek deluxe custom travel packages for charity auctions and fundraising events.

To be truly at the top of the concierge game ala a Four Seasons, Fairmont or Ritz, a hotel had better be able to provide complimentary access to myriad products and services including:
  • Sports Clubs
  • Private car services
  • Personal shopping services
  • Sports gear (helmets/bicycles/etc.)
  • Rose petal turndown service, drawn baths and butler packing and unpacking
  • VIP tables at top restaurants
  • Exclusive private outings such as private wine tours
  • Sought after tickets to cultural shows and events
  • Finding canine companions
And these are just the standard concierge fare! Some hotels have really raised the service bar, hiring specialty concierges (is that redundant? NO!) We have discovered specialists who go by titles such as:
  • Pillow concierge (choices of pillows)
  • Soap concierge (from cinnamon to vanilla)
  • Tanning concierge (no need to apply your own sunscreen)
  • Wedding proposal/honeymoon concierge (rose petals to loud speakers)
  • Technology butlers
  • Golf concierge
  • Pet concierge (treats/toys/clean-ups/walkers)
  • Ski concierge
  • Even romance concierge (less said the better)
We are certain there are even more concierge listings waiting to be created. Got any services youd like to see offered at your favorite hotel? Let us know!


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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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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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2013 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends and Fundraisers

January 16, 2013
Even though we only just barely escaped the fiscal cliff and the Mayan calendar and we still have the debt ceiling to worry about, top travel prognosticators are forecasting upturns all around the industry. This is good news if you are planning a charity fundraiser and worrying about donations.
Take a look at some of the trends we are tracking as you plan your winter/spring events.
Modern Family Vacation
You, your kids, your parents, the in-laws everyones invited on these multi-generational, often money-saving family getaways.  With people looking for economical ways to travel and keep their family close (we never see the grandchildren) group bookings are more popular than ever. Some cities we like for the family that plays together include Telluride, Colorado, Maui, Hawaii and of course Disney resorts. (Mitch-Stuart Hot Trips)
Friend, Share, Like, BOOK!
Just saw your FB friends fabulous photos from Down Under? Your college roommate tweeting his jaunt to Jakarta? Someone you dont know at all pin some food porn from Paris on Pinterest? You may be suffering from a case of vacation envy that can only be cured by booking a similar trip. Social sharing may be the best advertising going right now. Smart planners will scan social sites and see whos wandering where as a guide to planning some 2013 excursions.
Unwind, Unplug
Digital detox is predicted to be high on travelers to-do lists this year. Savvy planners will look for destinations without WIFI for this crowd. Locales offering deluxe loafing like Nevis, West Indies or St. Kitts, should be included in auction items you are considering (know your crowd of course before you offer) 
Travel & the Big Game (er Games)
Once-in-a-lifetime events and sporting spectacles occupy a spot on many a bucket list, but if the 2012 Olympics in London are any indicator, people want to check that item off pronto! And there are so many opportunities all over the world from serious soccer matches to Formula 1 and the NFL to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA or the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
Death of the Staycation
Theres a lot of pent-up demand to see the world!  Many who lost jobs, were downsized or just felt the need to be thrifty are seeing some financial light at the end of their tunnels and are itching to explore! Experienced auction planners know that means, adding some dream trips such as private tours of Rome or Florence complete with top-notch cooking lessons, Napa Valley Wine Trips, New Orleans, New York or even the Primetime Emmy Awards and Governors Ball in Los Angeles.
All in all, we at Mitch-Stuart are looking forward to a spectacular travel year and we would love to hear your opinions on some hot spots for 2013. For more information on any of the trips listed above click here.

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