Divided We Stand: Can Americans Even Agree on Travel?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching the news lately, it’s that Americans don’t agree on much of anything anymore. We’re seemingly split down the middle on every issue. But, we wondered, does that also extend to travel? To find out, we enlisted our own Mark Fedeli, from the editorial/marketing team, and Daren Grisham, who oversees our hotel relationships, for a spirited debate on some of the most important travel issues facing Americans today, and also: Taylor vs. Kanye.

Estancia Vik vs Post Ranch Inn

What’s more rewarding, domestic or international travel?

MARK: This is a little bit embarrassing to admit, but I prefer traveling in the US, and I don’t usually consider international destinations. I love flying into a random US city and then road-tripping around the state, getting a sense of what makes it different from my own. There’s a romance to it that I never get tired of. And it’s nothing to do with any lack of intellectual curiosity or fear of “the other.” I’m obsessed with seeing all the places I want to see in the US before I can move on to international travel. I still need to see the Pacific Northwest, New Orleans, and a bunch of national parks. I still haven’t even gotten to the Post Ranch Inn! My lady is waiting patiently on that promise.

DAREN: Don’t you think it’s a little narrow-minded to restrict yourself to just the country of your birth? Variety is the spice of life. Learning about different cultures and customs is a huge contributor to your growth as a human being. You only live once, and you never know for how long. You’re missing out on some incredible things you’ll never see in the US — not to mention the feeling of losing yourself in a foreign land. Letting go of control and figuring out how to navigate in an unfamiliar place is an irreplaceable, supremely rewarding experience.

MARK: I agree, life is short, and you have go with what’s most immediately satisfying to you. I’ve been out of the country, I’ve been to Europe a number of times, and it’s been fantastic. But I treasure the anthropologic aspect of diving more deeply into the familiar and peeling back the layers of the onion. I prefer that to a cursory overview.

DAREN: It certainly doesn’t have to be one or the other. With proper time and planning you can have a similar experience anywhere in the world. And I guarantee you, you’ll come home with a much more valuable understanding of humanity.

MARK: I don’t know, I guess I’m just a completist. I also own every Springsteen album on vinyl and CD, if that means anything.

DAREN: If you say so. I say you haven’t lived until you’ve been to Estancia Vik.

Pelican Miami vs Sparrows Lodge

What town is better for a winter escape, Miami or Palm Springs?

DAREN: Miami is perfect for escaping winter weather. You don’t need a car, dining options are abundant, flights are cheap and plentiful from all regions. Most importantly: water features. You’ve got the ocean, the bay, pools and hot tubs at virtually every hotel, etc. It’s one of the better spa cities in the country and a great place for an active wellness lifestyle. Plus, it’s uncomplicated. People just go down to relax and don’t worry as much about cultural happenings or having a huge to-do list. And if you want to party, you’re in the right place.

MARK: I love that you said “water features.” Palm Springs is the world capital of mid-century modern architecture — that alone puts it ahead of Miami. You’ve also got desert, you’ve got oasis, you’ve got Joshua Tree National Park, you’ve got the San Jacinto mountains, which means you can have snow and cold temps up there, but hot and dry conditions down below. You can go in for a weekend of fine dining and high-end shopping, or explore more intellectual pursuits like museum and design tours, or take a more rugged route, hiking and camping in a variety of ecosystems.

DAREN: Oh, now you care about variety? Let’s talk about hotels. That’s where I think Miami has the clear edge. My favorite might be the Pelican. It’s the capital of kitsch, but it’s right in the middle of it all and isn’t trying to be anything it ain’t. You’ve also got a proven veteran in the Standard, which offers a little peace and quiet from the main drag, and the new Confidante, with its prime beachfront location, plus the Setai and their all-world spa.

MARK: Palm Springs hotels provide some uniquely interesting experiences you don’t often find elsewhere. Take something like the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, where the rooms are fronted by private patios with fireplaces. With the coolest restaurant, bar, and pool in town, it’s a full-service compound you’d never have to leave. Parker Palm Springs offers a similar experience, but for a more affluent client. Sparrows Lodge is a new one that’s heading in the right direction, with an industrial interior design that breaks from the mid-century modern thing (and also has one of the top kitchens in town).

Cape Kidnappers vs Stowe Mountain Lodge

What’s the better resort activity: golf or skiing?

LAURENT (TABLET CO-FOUNDER AND CEO): The answer is snowboarding.

MARK: Thanks, boss! Here’s something for you: I think golf is underrated. Think about it, it’s the ultimate mental and physical clash with nature. It’s essentially a more active version of chess, where the board is different every move. I admit, the history of golf has not exactly been, shall we say, inclusive. And golf resorts went through some dark days in the mid-to-late 20th century, but a revolution of more artisanal, more sustainable courses has begun, getting the game back in touch with its more primative and unpolished past.

DAREN: I notice you didn’t mention anything about accommodations. Nothing beats a great ski resort. It’s a full-on ritual from start to finish: get out early, cut some fresh tracks, enjoy a hot chocolate, a big meal, and then a hot tub outside in the crisp, clear night. Super cozy, super fun, and if there’s a cooler idea than a ski-in/ski-out resort, I haven’t heard it. And gorgeous snow-covered mountains top flat, overly-manicured golf courses any day.

MARK: If you’ve seen St. Andrews or Cape Kidnappers you know the landscapes can be extraordinary, as well as the lodging.

DAREN: Meh, I’ll be at Stowe Mountain Lodge, or one of these beauties. I should also mention that skiing is a sport the entire family can enjoy, with far less risk of father angrily tossing a club at their head.

MARK: Yeah, that part is probably true.

Dean Hotel vs Ace Pittsburgh

What’s America’s Most Valuable Hotel?

MARK: I interpret this to mean, the hotel that brings the most value to the town it’s in. I know I’ve been tempted over and over to visit cities I hadn’t considered before simply because they added a killer new hotel. Believe or not, I’m going to mention another Ace Hotel, this time in Pittsburgh.

DAREN: Another Ace?

MARK: Like I said, I’m a completist. Pittsburgh is a city that’s having a renaissance and becoming a serious tourist destination once again. And the addition of an Ace hotel plays a huge part in that. The city finally has a world-class boutique hotel that, for New Yorkers like us, might be the exact thing that convinces us to make a road trip. Like we wrote about last week, it’s another hotel that brings an entire social life with it. Like all the best hotels, it’s destination unto itself.

DAREN: I’ll go with the Dean in Providence. Pittsburgh is a pretty big city that already had a bunch going for it, with professional sports teams, Fallingwater, and the Warhol museum. Providence is a much smaller place, and a top-notch boutique hotel is exactly what they need to become a more desirable destination, especially for people from the Northeast. And again, water features. Providence has more than just three rivers, it’s got an entire ocean right around the corner. The potential of a bona fide boutique hotel is explosive.

MARK: Maybe we should do a separate story on this subject. There are a ton of hotels that fit the bill, and some of them aren’t even an Ace, like the Granada Hotel & Bistro in San Luis Obispo or the 21c Museum hotels in Bentonville and Oklahoma City.

DAREN: Or the Iron Horse in Milwaukee, the Pomegranate Inn and the Press Hotel in Portland, Maine, and the Modern Hotel in Boise. Agreed, let’s give this one its own feature.

The Bowery vs The Rose

Who has better hotels, New York City or Los Angeles?

MARK: Despite being a New Yorker, I have to go with Los Angeles. Mostly for all the different types of hotels you get to choose from. Big hotels, little hotels, downtown hotels, hotels on the beach, secluded hotels, hotels in towers, hotels in castles, hotels in bungalows, hotels with city views, hotels with mountain views, hotels with ocean views, hotels with views of extremely attractive people. In New York City, the best you can hope for is a view of… the city.

DAREN: Yeah, the greatest city in the world. New York hotels are better because the standards at New York hotels are the highest anywhere. The service, on average, is unparalleled. It’s a fast-moving city and the hotels need to be well-oiled machines, and hotels like Crosby Street and the Bowery definitely are.

MARK: I’m a low-maintenance guest. I don’t need the staff attending to my every need. I’d rather be practically on Venice Beach at the Rose, or in a lush, secluded garden at the Bel-Air. And you’re never too far from oceanside cliffs, like at Terranea Resort, or being right in the thick of things at Palihouse West Hollywood. I want to get out and experience the environment around me, and in LA, there are so many different kinds of environment to experience.

DAREN: Considering how we started, it’s surprising that you wound up being the variety advocate. But where can you experience so much in so small a place as New York? Walk out the front door of your hotel and you immediately have a thousand options to explore, all without having to sit in traffic. Each neighborhood offers its own unique slice of life, from the low-rises and boutiques of the West Village, to the steel canyons uptown. From a modern masterpiece like Standard High Line to an Art Deco classic like Bryant Park. And to your point, since the environment outside the walls isn’t always changing as dramatically from hotel to hotel, the hotels work harder to make the environment inside the walls all the more special.

MARK: Did I mention there’s a great Ace Hotel in Los Angeles?

DAREN: Enough.

Finally, the most important question: Taylor Swift or Kanye West?

DAREN: Kanye by a mile.

MARK: I can’t choose a side. I genuinely like them both a lot. I think there needs to be a support group for people like me.

DAREN: That’s one thing we can agree on.