Making the Most of Your Vacation Time

One thing I hear a lot of people complain about a lot is their vacation time, and as a travel agent, I hear people complain a lot. I have a friend who deals with a crazy commute every day, but she says she’d deal with the commute because she also gets five weeks’ vacation each year. Five weeks! We all can’t be that lucky though.

Me, the travel agent, gets a measly two weeks of vacation time a year, and being in my early 30s, most of that time is built around weddings, bachelorettes, and celebrating those milestones with friends. But I don’t let that get in my way. In the past five years, I have really made the most of my vacation time. There are a few little secrets that I have to make sure you get the most of your vacation.

Schedule your trip right
Take advantage of long weekends as much as you can. All of the trips I took in 2017 were based around a long weekend. When I moved across country, I lost all of my vacation time and had to start over earning when I started at my new company. I didn’t let not having vacation time keep me from exploring. You can visit a lot of new places over a weekend, and especially a long weekend.

Spend money on convenience
If you only have a short amount of time, now is not the time to pinch your pennies. Pay for a guided tour if that means you can see more in a shorter amount of time. Take that Uber rather than walking. Only have one night in Paris? Don’t wait in line at the Louvre, take a tour where you can skip the line and get to the front to see all of the must-see pieces of art. Spend the night at dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel or the Champagne Bar. Eating dinner and experiencing the tower kills two birds with one stone.

Make reservations or do quick food options
Don’t waste time sitting at an ok restaurant waiting to be sat. If there is a restaurant at the top of your to-do list, make reservations. Don’t really care where you eat, grab something on the go. You can still east local food quick, without wasting time. When I was in London, we wanted to try a falafel house that everyone was raving about. But we were in a rush the night we were near the restaurant so we ordered them to go and eat them as we walked. Got my falafel and went on my way.

Don’t cram in too much
Last summer I had to talk a client out of visiting 8 European countries in 15 days. She would have been spending more time going to airports and train stations then actually seeing anything. You’d be surprised how many people want to cram so much into a quick trip. Trust me, it will not be enjoyable.

Instead of trying to see a bunch of new places, dive into one city that you’ve never been to and explore. Before I go to a new city I always make a list of what I want to see and then I star a few things that I need to do. While I’m there I live like a local. Don’t rush through it. And then when you’re leaving, make a list of what you want to see next time you’re in town.

Take a red eye
When I was traveling from the west coast to east coast a few times a year, I had one of two options. Take a day flight which meant waste a whole day in the air, at an airport, and driving to and from the airport. But instead I always opted to drive to the airport after work, hop on a red eye and wake up in New York. Red eyes save you so much time. They aren’t always ideal, but get as comfortable as you can on board and sleep.

Do your research
Don’t waste time being indecisive or not knowing when attractions are open. Know your shit! It will help you save time. Now still be spontaneous, spontaneous and indecisive are very different. But if you have a restaurant you need to eat at, make sure you know when they’re open and make a reservation.

Whole 30: Week Two

Each January I take full advantage of it as a time to reset. I blame it on my time in retail where January was the time of year we could take vacation freely, work 30-hour weeks if we want, and had very little work. My January reset is kind of a big deal to me and I use it to plan a lot of my upcoming year. The new year means no more holiday excuses when it comes to food, not working out, and just being straight lazy.

Two years ago I did Whole 30 for the first time and it was amazing. I learned a lot about myself like a. I have very little self control and b. it’s a lot harder to teach an old dog new tricks than I thought. But two years ago, I did a lot better than I had expected. Last January I did Whole 30 again but I went on a trip home in the middle of the month and when you only get to eat your Italian mom’s cooking a few times a year, you eat as much pasta and cheese you can.

This December I indulged more than I have in the past. My job was slow, the cookies seemed to be endless and the wine was often. And hello an extra 10 pounds.

I am two weeks into Whole 30 and just like with anything, there are things I am winning at and things I am sucking at.

Biggest changes since the first time I did it

The biggest change that I have made since the first time I did Whole 30 is something that definitely affects me every day, and something that I didn’t really know ever affected me before. I have cut a lot of dairy out of my daily diet. I drank creamer in my coffee and now I like it black. I cut back a lot on ice cream, which is a big difference in my life. (Ice cream was really the only dessert I was allowed growing up and I worked at an ice cream shop while in high school. Ice cream was like a religion before.)

Since cutting back on dairy I’ve switched solely to almond milk for everything I need milk for. My protein shakes and even my Kraft Mac and Cheese gets almond milk. (I said I cut out most dairy… cheese is still in my life.) It makes me feel 100 times better. I never realized the way dairy slows me down and really just makes me feel like crap. Now cheese doesn’t affect me at all, which I am beyond grateful for. (Have you ever had non-dairy cheese? Yuck!)

What I’m buying

I do most of my grocery shopping at Trader Joes which is a great spot to pick up ingredients for quick and easy meals on Whole 30. Most of my lunches are salads with a protein. I love topping TJ’s turkey burger on a salad or chicken. Here are some of my other go tos:

Proteins: chicken sausage, chicken, ground turkey, salmon, shrimp, eggs
Veggies: zoodles, riced cauliflower/broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, butternut squash, avocado, broccoli slaw
Snacks: dehydrated fruits, almond butter, rice thins, Larabars, salsa verde, apples

Where I’m cheating and where I’m not

Okay, if I am completely honest I would have to say I am 85% complaint on Whole 30. I have cheated a few times when it comes to small ingredients. If I’m out getting dinner with friends or having dinner at my parents I use real salad dressing. I try my hardest to keep the main part of my meal complaint but a restaurant has a oil and vinegar based dressing, I’m going to go for it. I’m not about eating romaine lettuce with some lemon and calling it a day.

I also have cheated with dairy based butters. I was at my mom’s and she only had yogurt butter spread. Girls got to do what a girls got to do. And I figured that’s already better than real butter so it’s only halfway cheating. Right?

But there are some parts of Whole 30 that I am not even walking the line of cheating. My biggest problems, for sure, are cheese, carbs, and alcohol. So far two weeks in I haven’t touched any of them. I mean what I would do for a dish of pasta and a good glass of wine, but I’m halfway done with my 30 days so it’s all up from here.

The key is introducing these back into my diet in moderation. It’s been pretty easy for the alcohol. It has been beyond cold here so instead of a glass of wine, I’ve been opting for some hot tea. And not many people do much in the winter in New England as far as going out to dinners or bars, so meal prepping has been my best friend.

Weekend in Boston

Growing up in Connecticut you are one of two types of people. Red Sox or Yankees, Pats or Giants (ok, there are the few, like my family that shamefully love the Jets also), Boston or New York. I have always been a New York girl. My family are hardcore Yankees fans and the quick 90-minute train ride into the city always made it easy to go watch a play on Broadway, explore China town, or window shop on Fifth Ave.

I can count the number of times I’ve been to Boston on two hands, and each time I was with someone else who knows Boston much better than I do. I always took the back seat on planning, exploring, and leading the way. So basically, I feel like I have never been there until last month.

In December my sister and I took a weekend trip up to Bean Town to experience their winter activities, check out the historical sightsee, and find some amazing foodie spots. It was the perfect, preholiday getaway.

Where we stayed:
If you’ve been around here a while you know I love me a good hotel and here we hit the jackpot. Since becoming a travel agent, I have become quite the hotel snob. We spent two nights at Boston Park Plaza hotel, a AAA Four Diamond hotel that is registered with the Historic Hotels of America. We had a Deluxe Room that gave us an amazing view of Park Plaza and sunrise views over Boston Public Garden and Boston Common.

For the most part, everything was within walking distance to our hotel which was great because I don’t like driving through cities I don’t know too much. Also, lucky for us, it was easy on and off of the Mass Pike (Route 90) and Route 93. And while they had easy Valet parking just outside the door to the hotel, there was also an off-site garage about a half a block down the street where we parked.

Where we ate:
Directly next to our hotel was an awesome little Irish pub, MJ OConnors where we ate the first night we got there. Staying true to Boston’s Irish roots I got Fish and Chips. Okay, okay, I know this is a little more English but I’m an Italian girl so that’s as close as you’re getting me to meat and potatoes. While the food was great the drinks were just okay. Stick with what the Irish like and you’ll be good: beer and whiskey.

The next morning, we started with a cold brew from Ziggy’s Coffee Bar before eating an early lunch at 21st Amendment on the north-east corner of the Common. This little, prohibition era themed, whole in the wall reminded me of anyone’s neighborhood bar. I had the 21st Hangover Burger which was topped with a fried egg. Put a fried egg on a burger and I am a happy girl. But they also had a braised short ribs grilled cheese which is defiantly what I will be trying next time.

That night I wanted Italian. Boston is supposed to have fantastic Italian food and I wanted a taste. We headed down Newbury St. to Papa Razzi Trattoria where I started with a Caprese salad. Stepping outside of my normal, penne ala vodka for my first time at a new Italian restaurant, my sister and I both ended up having Porcini Agnolotti, a lightweight pasta with wild mushrooms in a sherry sauce. A. Maz. Zing. UH! Literally probably one of the best dishes I’ve had in a long time. The food was amazing, the service was fantastic. We had to wait a while for a seat, but in the city on a Saturday night, we didn’t expect anything less. Hands down most fantastic meal of the weekend.

We spent the night at Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen and then headed over to Off the Common, our hotel’s lobby bar for a night cap. The next morning, we headed back over the Newbury St. to the Thinking Cup. A cut little local coffee shop with three locations throughout the city.

What we did:
Saturday morning, we woke up pretty early and started exploring the city. We walked through Boston Public Garden and Boston Commons. The cold weather kept the Swan Boats out of the water but was perfect for the ice skaters on the Frog Pond.

We headed east out of the Common. past Granary Burying Ground where Sam Adams and Paul Revere are both buried, past the Old South Meeting House and to Faneuil Hall where we browsed the shops and debated on stopping for another cup of coffee. Tip: If you are visiting Boston to explore the historical aspects of the city, get a Freedom Trail map. We pasted by a lot of important spots like the Boston Massacre Site and the Old State House and had no idea until we were looking at a map later on in the day. Also go out near Faneuil Hall at night. It was freezing so we stayed pretty close to our hotel at night but I’ve been out in that area before and it’s a ton of fun. The Black Rose is fantastic and so much fun.

Across the street from Faneuil Hall is Boston’s City Hall where just behind there was a holiday market with an ice skating rink built for visitors. Boston Winter is open through February and has booths selling all sorts of homemade goods. Olive wood kitchenware, family crest historical pieces, homemade lotions, soaps and candles, and so much more. I loved it.

After spending the morning walking around and exploring, we took an Uber over to the Sam Adams Brewery for a quick little afternoon tour. While I have been on much more in depth brewery tours (Hey Guinness Storehouse!) the tour ended with a half hour long tasting which was super informative and delicious. Super interesting: the Boston brewery on Germania St. is the smallest location of all Sam Adams’ breweries. Because it’s so small, they can’t mass produce much so they use the location to test experimental beers on guests that sometimes go to make bigger batches, and sometimes don’t. We tried a Marzen style nano brew, which I loved.

Boston is a perfect getaway for anyone from New England or even just flying in for a couple of days before heading over to Europe. The food options in Boston were way better than I had anticipated and the coffee shops and little bars were perfect. And for the historians out there, is there anything more historical than Boston? Where’s your favorite spot in Boston? I’m hoping to get up there again this summer and would love some more recommendations!

Hello 2018!!

I usually don’t say things like this but I am more than happy to bid 2017 adieu. This past year was a big test to me. A test of strength in myself, friendships and trust, patience in my career, and prioritization of my life. This was also a year of exploration and travel. A year full of monthly weekend getaways.

I don’t mean to sound negative because I don’t look at this year as a bad year at all, just a year of growth and learning. And I am glad to put a lot of the year’s hurdles behind me and keep moving forward. I started this year in Scottsdale with my fiancé. Flash forward six months and I was packing up my life into my car with my sister and best friend moving back home to Connecticut. And now six months later, I am ringing in the new year in Newport, RI with the people who truly have been there for me for my entire life.

What I love right now:

I always try to stay away from trendy shows but somehow always fall on the bandwagon against my will. It took me two seasons to get into Walking Dead and six seasons to drink the Game of Thrones kool aid. But only halfway through season two I am fully on board with This Is Us. I binged all of the current episodes in 5 days. Obsessed! I cannot wait for the season to start again next month. Does anyone have any other good Netflix shows to watch?? I hear Riverdale is mindless and great. What do you think?

Per the usual during the winters I am stocking up on cozy sweaters and yummy candles. My new favorite are these DW Home candles that I found at Home Goods. I even picked up a few Rose Quartz for the spring. January welcomes back my weekly yoga classes that have become a good go to during my crazy weeks at work.

Where I went:

Like I said, 2017 is the year of the weekend getaway. I took only one week off over the entire year and it was completely consumed with my move across the country. Most of my other weekends were filled to the brim with weddings, bachelorette parties, visiting family, and exploring new cities. I have been so blessed to have lived in two amazing locations this year where I could take quick road trips.

Besides my west coast to east coast road trip this year I also road tripped to Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Vermont, Salem, MA, Boston and now this weekend in Rhode Island. I also took further trips home to Connecticut at the beginning of the year and down to Atlanta and Orlando this fall.

What I’m looking forward to:

One thing I learned in 2017 is to not plan too far ahead. This year I have two international trips lightly planned and that it so far. (Dates set, but not tickets bought yet.) Last year at this time I had bought and paid for 5 of 6 of my cross-country trips. In 2018 I plan on going with the flow and taking the year as it comes.

Today I started a new job, a promotion in an office much closer to my house. (I’m talking like a mile from home.) I’m excited for this next chapter since this is what I’ve been working toward for the past two years. Truth be told I tried to put this off as long as I could. My manager in California tried to make me take the plunge to the next step but I have this thing about really wanting to know everything about every job that I lead, so I decided to stay in my position and learn more. But sometimes you need to step outside of your comfort zone.

2018 Goals:

I have a big list of goals for 2018. I have personal goals, financial goals, and professional goals all written down in my daily planner where I can see them and be reminded of what I’m working toward each day. I do this every year and somehow, they tend to fizzle away mid-March. This year I created a few lifestyle changes to set me up for my goals. I’m hoping these will keep me in check for the rest of the year.

-Be better about self-wellness

Like I said earlier, I have been doing yoga once a week and since I’ve been back on the east coast, gym has been a semi regular part of my schedule. Both are great me time where I don’t think about anything and just work on myself. I defiantly plan on upping that in 2018.

I am also kicking off January with my third time doing Whole 30. My first time was in April 2016 which was super successful. I felt great and lost a lot of water weight. Then last January I did it again for about two weeks before going on a quick vacation where I blew it all. Plan is to get through the whole 30 days this time around. January 2 through January 30.

-Make a morning routine

Part of my self-wellness is removing the stressors in my life and one of the silliest stressors I have each morning, is not getting out of bed after my first alarm. It’s a terrible habit where I roll out of bed 10 minutes before having to leave for work. It has got to stop! New week, new year, new job. Since I live a whole 3 minutes from my new office I am going to keep waking up when I was before. That will give me almost an hour to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, while I get ready instead of rushing it on my way to work. It will also give me time for a second cup of coffee so #winning. The extra time will defiantly make mornings more relaxing.

-Create a weekly schedule

It’s been damn cold here in Connecticut and once I get home from work, the last thing I want to do is go out again. All I want to do is put sweats on and watch TV from my couch. But not this year. This year to encourage me to GSD (get shit done) I am going to schedule my weeks. Something like this: Sunday-gym, Monday-write, Tuesday-yoga, Wednesday-gym, Thursday-write, Friday-gym. I usually do pretty well on a schedule but this is a little much. We will see how it goes.

Most of all, in 2018 I just want to grow. Year after year, it doesn’t matter what happens to you, as long as you continue to grow as a person. 2017 you sure kicked my ass. Sayonara!