Game-changing luxury travel tips from Dancing with the Stars finalist and NFL alum, Calvin Johnson.
He danced the cha-cha and twerked his way into our hearts each week on the most recent season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.
His 12-pack abs, 6'5 frame and humble demeanor helped get him voted into the show's big finale and a whole new level of TV stardom. He came in third place, but to sports fans, Johnson was already a champion. The former Detroit Lions wide receiver broke numerous NFL records and was voted to Pro Bowl (usually played in Honolulu), almost every season of his career. Having been to Hawaii several times, Calvin was the perfect celebrity to get tips from on how to jet set luxuriously as I planned my own visit to the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Here's what he shared, and how I used his awesome tips on my fabulous vacation:
When you're traveling how do you get through airport security anonymously and VIP-style?
I often go right through like a normal person. I wore a helmet all my career so unless you're a fan, you don't know [who I am]. If you want to avoid all the luggage stuff, like checking bags, private travel is the only way to go, really. But there are some new [commercial airline] programs that will take you from a [chauffeured] car straight to the plane.
How You Can Too:
Delta Airlines offers a VIP Select service. For an additional $350, first class ticket holders at select airports, can request a Porsche pick-up on the tarmac upon arrival. Passengers and their luggage are then whisked off through a secret airport gate unknown to mere mortals.
American Airlines has a Five Star program for first or business class passengers. Travelers can select add-on options that include car service coordination, a personal security escort or a private lounge check-in experience for an additional $225 per person.
If you're flying coach like I did, don't despair. While its not as fabulous, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a pre-check service for $85. It allows approved passengers to go through a special line at airport security without having to remove shoes, liquids, belts or jackets.
I didn't have enough lead time to register before my Hawaiian vacation but I'll be ready next go-round. All travelers must schedule an in-person appointment for a background check and fingerprints 3 to 4 weeks prior to the trip. Once approved, the clearance can be used for 5 years. Apply at www.tsa.gov.
What about hotels? How do you find a lavish place to stay?
I do my own research. I look at FiveStarAlliance.com. They have all of the top-notch hotels [listed by location]. After I find what I want, I go to an [aggregator] site like Trivago.com and find [the same hotel] at a cheaper price. If anything, I'm a hotel snob. I like my space so I want a spot with at least 1000 square feet. I don't like being boxed in - corner suites are a little bigger.
I tested Calvin's tips for my stay at the Four Seasons Ko Olina located in Kapolie on the west side of the island. Comparing rates on the sites he mentioned, there was a small $10 difference for a king room with an ocean view. Other room types were priced the same.
After I checked in, Four Seasons staff confirmed corner rooms can be up to 200 feet bigger. Some of them also offer better panoramic views of the island in case you want to watch the sunset from your balcony.
Do you make requests to have things waiting in your hotel room when you arrive?
Usually [guest services] will have a little extra waiting for me of things I like. A little dessert or fruit. If it's my wife's birthday or Valentine's Day, I might request a bottle of champagne or something special.
How It's Done:
When I arrived at my suite, there was a buffet of gourmet truffles and bottled water calling my name. How did they know I love white chocolate? The hotel concierge informed me they'll often look at social media to find a guest's favorite things.
When making a reservation, let the hotel know if you're celebrating a special occasion or if there's something that would make your stay more enjoyable. One visitor was spending the holidays at the resort and requested a small Christmas tree.
Many luxury hotels will provide smaller items as a courtesy but the guest who requested all artwork be replaced with paintings of dogs, was charged additional fees.
For dining, travelers can look for restaurants that have won prestigious culinary honors like James Beard Awards or Michelin Stars. How do you find a good meal on the road?
I'm not picky at all. I probably have Mexican or tacos or something like half the week (laughs). I do ask the locals though and I look for a 4 or 5-star [restaurant]. I even go on Yelp and if [the restaurant is] bad, I'll let you know!
Half the time, I'll actually cook my own food.
You can go to a hotel and prepare your own meal! To start, Ray German, Executive Chef at Fish House restaurant gave me a behind-the-kitchen tour which is available to any guest upon request, for no charge.
There was also the option of traveling to a nearby organic farm to pick my own produce or select an ingredient (i.e. garlic, cherry) for German to create an entire customized meal around. Fees for this experience are based on the complexity of the meal, the number of people in your party, etc.
If you're a DIY'er in the kitchen but need a little support, a private cooking class is a quick fix. I was schooled on how to make a mushroom pork dish with black truffle, egg and edible flowers. Aloha!
A lot of celebrities take a professional trainer with them on vacation. How can the average person get a good workout while traveling, if they don't have one?
Hawaii has a lot of hills. You can easily find an area with a lot of steps for a really good workout. You can also use a training interactive app. I feel like that's the only way I could [recommend] a VIP-experience for people looking for an athletic workout from a pro.
Getting In Cardio:
Calvin wasn't lying about the hills. I was overwhelmed by the number of mountain hikes to choose from on the island. I decided a rainforest option worked best for me.
I trekked through Manoa Falls in Honolulu.The trail is 1.6 miles long round trip at an altitude of 787 feet.
At the end of most workouts, the reward is a sense of accomplishment. But on this trek, it was the sight of a 100 foot waterfall cascading into a shallow pool.
As for train like a pro apps, Serena Williams has one called the Nike+ Training Club Workout. It's 15-minutes of high intensity cardio using squats, lunges and planks. Download for free here.
How do you get around in style when an Uber just won't do?
For my bachelor party, we were on a yacht for the day chillin'. I got to fly an airplane. You know the C-Plane? It takes off and lands in the water. We literally pulled the plane up to the boat. I didn't take-off and land it, I wasn't about to do all that but it was pretty dope.
Fly Like An Eagle!
My concierge told me any kind of alternative transportation could be arranged for a fee. At my disposal was a helicopter to tour the city or to drop me off at the airport for $1,500.
One of Bravo's housewives requested a helicopter for her family and another for her luggage. For those of us with smaller budgets, ask about the house car which is complimentary. It will take you to and from any destination near the hotel.
While staying at the Four Seasons, I was chauffeured in a Mercedes Maybach.
Any other luxury experience you can recommend?
On my honeymoon [in Bali], we did the facial, body wrap and the whole nine but half of it was outdoors. Definitely something you want to experience.
The resort's Naupaka Spa & Wellness Centre has four-levels with over 35,000 square feet but an outdoor massage allowed me to enjoy the ocean atmosphere I traveled so far to see.
Also, no soothing background music is needed when you have the real sounds of nature humming in your ear. This experience is only $25 plus the cost of the spa treatment.
While there, I was surprised to find something Calvin hadn't recommended - a cold plunge pool. Many athletes sit in an ice bath to repair the body after a game. It helps reduce swelling and flushes out toxins.
Heavy lounging and eating had taken a toll on my body, so I decided that I too needed to take a dip.
As my vacation came to an end, I returned to the airport via speedboat. The Maybach took me to port and a personal assistant loaded my luggage on-board and escorted me as well.
For thirty minutes, I was in a semi-horizontal position, clinging to the table for dear life as we leaped up and down over huge waves, Miami Vice-style. Even though I was petrified, it was another magical experience to have before the clock struck midnight and I closed the book on my Cinderella vacation
**Woman pictured in lead image is a professional model, not the author of this article.**