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August 05, 2007|Jane Engle; Vani Rangachar; Mary E. Forgione; Rosemary McClure

No one puts it on like the Ritz

They're back and ritzier than ever. Ritz-Carlton, flush with $350 million in renovations and a Tokyo venue (above) that opened in March, seized the top spot in the 2007 guest-satisfaction survey by J.D. Power and Associates. The key was upgraded facilities, said Linda Hirneise, J.D. Power's executive director of travel practice. Ritz-Carlton opened its Tokyo site in March. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, ranked No. 1 for the last three years, slipped to No. 3 because of "a general decline in guest experience," Hirneise said. A Four Seasons spokeswoman disputed the findings, saying the company's own surveys show its customers are "highly satisfied."

Tasks for tots

Historic Hotels of America has a program to put pint-size proletarians to work. At the Fairmont San Francisco, kids can be doormen; at the Peabody in Memphis, they can toil as a duck master's assistant (shepherding ducks to and from the lobby fountain); and at Mohonk Mountain House in New York, they can be junior naturalists. Eight hotels are offering work programs, some seasonal and some year-round. Info: (800) 678-8946, www.historichotels.org.

-- Vani Rangachar

Look of Grace

The Principality of Monaco is hosting a major exhibit through Sept. 23 about its most famous princess, Grace Kelly, who died Sept. 14, 1982. "The Grace Kelly Years" at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco (www.grimaldiforum.com) explores her life in decorated "rooms" that start with her life in Hollywood and lead to the room where she married Prince Rainier in 1956. The Hotel de Paris, Hotel Hermitage, Hotel Mirabeau, Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort are offering companion two-night packages that start at $540 to $985 per night. (Go to www.visitmonaco.com.) From Oct. 15 to 26, parts of the exhibit move to Sotheby's in New York to coincide with the 25th Anniversary Princess Grace Awards Gala, an event that benefits the arts. Two outfits belonging to Kelly -- a Givenchy-designed dress and bolero, and a Helen Rose ball gown -- will be auctioned off for charity. Go to www.sothebys.com.

-- Mary E. Forgione

Keep it together

Bag those odds and ends instead of losing them the next time you queue up in an airport security line. The Scanner Bag, a luggage tag with a split personality, opens up to expose a quick-fold pouch that will hold your cellphone, belt, keys -- all the things that end up loose in a security bin or plastic dish. Fill the pouch with them instead, then refold it into the luggage tag attached to your carry-on. Presto: Everything stays together. Available in vinyl or nylon with leather trim, $13.85 to $24.85, www.gadgetduck.com.

Alterna-gifts

Need help finding the perfect gift for your minimalist friends? The website www.excitations.com sells experiences, rather than things, as gifts, so there's no need to find room for one more tchotcke. Offerings vary from a hot-air balloon ride to a fighter-pilot experience ($1,915 per person). Not all trips are so pricey. A dune buggy tour in Palm Springs is $50 for one.

-- V.R.

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