For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: RAE KAUDER
Getting up early with a cup of coffee on the beach to watch the sun rise over the ocean horizon is a pretty great way to start the day. It’s a fairly common occurrence for landlocked meeting attendees visiting Florida’s east coast, but some planners might think an upscale resort by the sea is a little ambitious for their group’s budget.
“We go to some fairly nice hotels in places like Pasadena, Phoenix, Atlanta, New York, and I gotta tell you, I’m sick of paying $15 for a Bloody Mary—it’s ridiculous,” says Rae Kauder, group director for Octagon, a sports marketing agency for clients on the NASCAR circuit. “Whereas Daytona is a lot more affordable, and it’s very up to speed in terms of the facilities, professional organization and hands-on service.”
Kauder works with VIP groups of up to 100 people from NASCAR sponsors such as Home Depot, Bank of America and Sprint. In Daytona, they stay at The Shores Resort & Spa, the only 4-diamond hotel in the region.
“It’s so beautiful in Daytona and quiet too towards the south end away from the crowds,” she says. “And they’ve really cleaned the area up since the days when it was mostly about spring break, Bike Week and all that. Daytona has always been an enticing and pretty place. I grew up there. But it’s so much more now since they’ve renovated most of the older hotels, and added some great upscale restaurants.
For offsite excursions, Kauder says golf is popular at the LPGA Headquarters’ championship course, and some attendees will do post-meeting trips to Orlando just over one hour away, especially if it’s a regional event and attendees bring their children.
But she’s a bit of a gear head, herself.
“The Daytona 500 Experience is awesome, it’s the coolest thing,” she says, “and so well suited for groups since there are so many unique teambuilding activities.”
Visitors can practice real-time pit stops, drive 80% scale racing simulators in Acceleration Alley, check out winning stock cars from over the years, and watch IMAX movies. Meanwhile, planners can host large functions in the 60,000-sf Velocitorium.
But wait a second. Isn’t the themed racing attraction mostly for kids and teenagers?
She laughs. “Are you kidding? No way! I take my 82 year-old father there and he thinks it’s the best thing going.”