Sponsored by Royal Travel and Tours, Best Travel Agent
Whether you’re charting a course for international adventure, planning a multigenerational family vacation, or just looking for the perfect spot for a staycation or weekend road trip, here’s where our readers love to travel.
Best Hotel (City)
The Peninsula Chicago
A crown jewel on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the Peninsula features 331 luxuriously spacious guest rooms and suites with breathtaking city views, award-winning spa and restaurants, and a famed afternoon tea. Don’t miss a dip in the half-Olympic indoor swimming pool with floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Langham, Chicago
Named the eighth best hotel in the country by US News & World Report, The Langham gets our readers’ vote for best in Chicago. A 22,000-square-foot health club, signature spa, reader-favorite restaurant Travelle at The Langham, and an impressive collection of fine artwork set this centrally located city escape apart from the rest.
Best Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line
Our readers love Disney’s Cruise Line’s industry-leading approach to family travel. Disney storytelling and world-famous franchises like Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar entice first timers on board, and the Broadway-caliber entertainment, award-winning dining, and Disney’s signature approach to customer service keep them coming back. A go-to pick for multigenerational travel, Disney Cruise Line’s fleet (including its newest ship, the Disney Wish) features numerous adults-only spaces—from bars and restaurants to pools and lounges, along with plenty of kid-friendly spaces and experiences like kids clubs and character interactions.
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
A global leader in luxury accommodations, Four Seasons consistently delivers elevated travel experiences across the globe. Our readers love Four Seasons resorts for their award-winning restaurants, spas, amenities and impeccably appointed rooms in locations far flung and right here in Chicago.
Best Theme Park
Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando
With four theme parks, two water parks, and a heaping helping of pixie dust, the “Most Magical Place on Earth” easily takes the best theme park crown, with Disney’s most ambitious and immersive land yet, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, further upping the ante. And this year is an especially opportune time to plan a trip to the Orlando House of Mouse, where an 18-month 50th anniversary celebration kicked off Oct. 1, 2021, complete with new attractions, nighttime spectaculars, a sparkling Cinderella Castle glow-up, and more.
Best Travel Agent
Royal Travel & Tours, Chicago
A perennial favorite and multi-year Best Of Travel winner, Royal Travel & Tours takes all the stress out of vacation planning, handling every detail for their clients. Family owned since 1972 and helmed by lifestyle and travel expert Kendra Thornton, Royal Travel helps you to do what you’re meant to on vacation — relax!
Best Hotel (Suburbs)
Deer Path Inn, Lake Forest
An homage to the classic English inn, this boutique hotel is an Anglophile’s dream, complete with stone fireplaces, richly upholstered furniture, and curated artwork. A stroll through the formal English garden after a traditional afternoon tea service will have you convinced you’ve crossed the pond.
Best Midwest Family Destination
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Less than a seven-hour drive from Chicago is blissfully car-free Mackinac Island with charming places to stay ranging from quaint b&bs like Cottage Inn to the ultra-luxe Grand Hotel. Get back to basics with eco-friendly activities like biking, horse-drawn carriage rides and kayaking, and enjoy a plethora of dining options from picnicking to fine dining.
Best Chicago Tour
Chicago Architecture Center Tours
Voted the Best Boat Tour in North America (USA Today Readers’ Choice 2021 Awards), the official Chicago Architecture Foundation Center (CAFC) River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady is operated in partnership by Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC). CAFC River Cruise is the only cruise narrated by CAC certified-volunteer docents.
The 90-minute CAFC River Cruise is the only cruise narrated by CAC certified-volunteer docents and travels up and down all three branches of the Chicago River, showcasing the city’s wide range of architectural styles, including art deco, neoclassicism, mid-century modernism, and postmodernism.
Royal Travel & Tours, Chicago
6 Top Travel Trends Driving the Industry Forward Now
By Kendra Thornton, Royal Travel & Tours Owner and President
Blurring the Line Between Business and Leisure
The blending of business and leisure travel now means that most of us can work anywhere. Other countries are catching on to this trend too, offering deals on longer stays for digital nomads.
Many hotel chains, tour companies and cruise ships are joining the ethical travel movement, banning single use plastics, including their beauty products and toiletry offerings. A possible upside to all the staffing shortages at properties is that because hotels are giving consumers the choice to not have the room cleaned every day and supplied with fresh towels daily, guests are making choices that result in more conservation for the planet.
Supporting the Local Community
Guests are also quite interested now in supporting local businesses in their destination. So many went out of business during the pandemic, and people see that we must support local small businesses to maintain options that you can’t get elsewhere.
Travel With Purpose
Where travelers may have booked an inexpensive package deal in the past, people are being more conscientious about the types of places they choose to visit, the authenticity of the location, and the impact on the people in the location. We find that guests want to have connections with the country they choose to visit, and we can set up local experiences and interactions that they could not otherwise get on their own. Things like visiting a local farmer’s market with a chef and planning a locally sourced meal is an experience that our guests love.
Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are more popular than ever. Families spent the past two years not knowing when they’d see each other again. They have decided that the time is now to plan the multi-generational trip that brings the family together and has something interesting for everyone. While beach vacations will always be a family favorite — a safari or river cruise with the grandparents will never be forgotten.
A New Approach to Cruising
Since people were apprehensive about large-ship cruising these past few years, Expedition Cruises and River Cruises have been a saving grace. These small ships take you to locations that you never could have seen on the larger ships and feel very personal. That being said, the large cruise ships are bouncing back in a huge way! They had to be at the forefront of testing and Covid protocols and have well established policies and procedures.
Kendra’s Top Local Picks
The Pendry Hotel Rooftop
230 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago
Did your plans to go to Le Discotheque fall through last year? This Cote d’Azur-inspired seasonal outpost overlooks our beautiful city while serving inventive sushi along with signature cocktails, and on the weekend — French House music. Open May-October.
Soul + Luna
1015 Tower Court, Winnetka, IL
If fretting about lost luggage gave you browlines this summer, then make your way to Sol + Luna for some heavenly treatments and indulge in health and wellness. This is a spiritual journey where you won’t have to worry about what you forgot at home. Think Miraval magic without the flight!
844 Spruce St, Winnetka, IL
Say “adieu” to your corn flakes and milk because Winnetka weekends have a distinct upgrade now that Pomeroy has added brunch to their lineup of superb French meals. Elevated dishes from crepes sucre to oysters to Avocado Tartine can be enjoyed indoors or on their new back patio. Locals love Pomeroy for dinner too! We recommend the Espresso Martini — C’est délicieux!
Piron Belgian Chocolates
509-A Main St. Evanston
In Belgium, when you are invited to someone’s house, you bring chocolates. This chocolate boutique is the most authentic you’ll get while you bide your time until your next weekend in Bruges.
North Shore Exchange
Locations in Glencoe, Wilmette, and Chicago
At Royal Travel, we save our money for trips so we love this designer consignment boutique that donates 100% of its proceeds to charity. We can always find something extraordinary to wear on our next dream vacation and can consign what we’re not wearing to help finance our next bucket-list destination.