Things I Tell my Customers, But Don’t Always Do Myself

As a travel agent, my job is to have off the beaten path sights to see, know what to do in unforeseen situations, and stop as many unanticipated situations as possible. I can give all the advice in the world, but it doesn’t mean I always follow my text book advise myself. Each time I’ve traveled in the past few months I’ve been thinking more and more about what I would tell my clients rather that what I was doing and I thought I’d throw together a little what I tell clients vs what I do post.

Show up to the airport two hours before your flight, three hours if it’s international.
I once showed up to a flight a half hour before the flight took off, got my luggage and myself on the plane, and had a drink before take off. I wouldn’t recommend it and it was pretty stressful, but usually, you don’t need to arrive at the airport super early. Know your airport and when you’re traveling. That was at a small airport just outside of Los Angeles, I would have never done that at LAX or any of the airports here in New York City, or if my flight was first thing in the morning as that is the busiest time at an airport.  But an evening flight out of Vegas, you bet ya. I’ll see ya an hour before my flight TSA.

One Quart-sized bag of liquids.
I have literally one time in my life put my toiletries in a plastic bag, and it was a gallon, not a quart. I don’t know if that is something TSA is actually looking for but I feel like they talk about the 3-3-1 rule so much I may just keep getting lucky. One thing I won’t budge on in the 3.4 ounce rule. I once forgot I had hairspray in my carry on and I was stopped at every airport for the next week and a half of traveling. Not worth it.

Book directly with the airline or hotel.
Usually this is going to be your best bet. You’ll 90% of the time get the best price right on the hotel or airline’s website, and the fare will be a little more flexible. But there has been a time or two where I’ll check Expedia or Orbitz and if the price is hundreds of dollars in savings… I’m booking there. Truthfully those third party websites tend to have super strict fares that are nonrefundable, and their customer service is generally below par. As a travel agent we won’t even look on those sites.

Like I said earlier, there are some tips that I definitely don’t lie about and usually it’s because I’ve learned the hard way. Here are a few things that I am sure to be before or during each trip.

Weigh my suitcase.
I’m not here to pay over weight fees to the airlines. I already have to pay to bring my suitcase most of the time. I have a luggage scale that I use it before every flight that I am checking a bag. You can get one pretty cheep on Amazon that works just great. Don’t think that they’ll give you leeway for a pound or two. It depends on who you get at the counter, but I’ve had to move around my luggage too many times.

Put your boarding pass on your phone.
There are some airlines that I always have their app downloaded on my phone (hey JetBlue, I’m talking about you) but if I am flying an airline I don’t usually use, I make sure to download the app while I’m traveling. Once I check in, on the app I screen shot my boarding pass, or add it to my wallet. That way, its always available while I’m at the airport. When I have a paper boarding pass, I tend to throw it into the bottomless abyss that is my purse making it so hard to find when going through security or when actually boarding.

Buy necessities once you get there.
There is ALWAYS that one thing you forgot. If you know you’ll have a little bit of time once you get wherever you’re going, leave your shampoo and conditioner at home and stock up once you get there. If you can get by with just a carry on, checking your bag because you have to bring your shampoo isn’t worth it.

Use TSA Pre Check domestically and Mobile Pass for international.
This year I finally hopped on the TSA Pre Check bandwagon and let me tell you… heaven! Living so close to New York City, I usually am dealing with pretty big airports with a TON of people. Skipping any line is always a dream. Mobile Pass is also awesome if you’re coming back into the country. Double check if it’s taken at your home airport and if it is, sign up! I not only got to skip the customs line at JFK but I also cut in front of the people who had Global Entry.

What to do in Banff for the Non-Hikers

The Canadian Rockies are known for a few things. Gorgeous blue lakes, stunning mountain peaks, and thousands of hiking trails, but there’s a lot more to do in Banff besides just hike… up the mountains… to the blue lakes. Last fall I took a trip up to Canada where we spent a week in Banff. Here you can read more about our trip to Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise and how we got there.

As a travel agent a lot of people come in all the time not knowing where to travel. They’ve done a lot of our US National Parks and don’t know where to go from there and when I suggest the Canadian Rockies, the response I get most is… “we’re not really the outdoorsy type.” Well good news… you don’t have to be. Here are 8 things to do in the Canadian Rockies for the non-hiker.

1. Canoe on Lake Louise
Ok, so this isn’t the least strenuous activity on the list but it sure is one of my favorites. During our 45-minute canoe ride we rowed to the furthest part of the lake and on our way pack, a piece of ice from the glacier above came crashing down. Like what!? A real life avalanche?!!! One of my number one bucketlist actives for Banff National Park and it got even better than I could imagine!

2. Hot Springs
There are a ton of options for hot springs throughout the Rockies. Some of the most popular are right in town at the Banff Upper Hot Springs right near the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. But locals told us to steer clear, there are better springs not too far away. We didn’t get to take the drive, but Radium Hot Springs is apparently well worth the hour and 45-minute drive south.

3. Shop
Between Banff Ave and bear St. there are hundreds of local shops to support. You can find anything from art galleries, souvenir shops, sports stores, and casual shopping. Some of my favorite stores we stopped in were Branches Marketplace, Rocky Mountain Flannel Company and the Rocky Mountain Soap Company. We even stopped into Banff Doghouse to bring home some treats for our furry friends.

4. Glacier Skywalk
I’m a pretty big scaredy cat when it comes to heights but this glass walkway in the middle of the Icefields Parkway was well worth concurring my fears. Suck it up and get out there! You end up right in the middle of a canyon and it’s only of the best places to see some wildlife. Plus, you get to hear a lot of good history on the drive out there.

5. Heli-Tour
Ok we did do it but there are dozens of places to take a helicopter tour of the amazing Rockies. I don’t usually like to leave a place without doing some of my top bucketlist experiences but I also am glad I have someone to bring me back. Seeing the Rockies from above is apparently breathtaking.

6. Spa
Like any 5 star hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise both have amazing Spas that would relax anyone needing a little get away from reality. Manicures, pedicures and full body massages. There is so much to choose from at both locations.

7. Eat
The food options in Banff are out of this world. It was like we were eating in New York City restaurants. My two favorites, hands down, were Block Kitchen + Bar and the Grizzly House. Your definitely need a reservation at the Grizzly House, and be prepared to wait at Block but both are worth the wait!

 

8. Moraine Lake Lookout
They say it’s a hike but really, it’s a pretty simple walk. If you can walk on uneven pavement or cobblestone, this .25 mile “hike” will be cake for you and the views will knock your socks off. A lot of the times the best views are from above but sometimes straight on is just a beautiful.

 

Weekend in Charleston, SC

Yes way FROZE! Last month a big group of us headed down to Charleston to soak up some sunshine, sip on froze and celebrate one of our best friends for her bachelorette weekend. A group of us bridesmaids have been planning this trip for almost a year and for it to have finally come and gone, all I can say is TAKE ME BACK!

There was a lot to think abut when planning this trip. First of all, there were thirteen of us. Yes you heard that right… 13 girls! Second of all, none of us had ever spent too much time in Charleston, or that area of South Carolina, so we were planning a lot of the trip blindly.

Where We Stayed: the islands vs. Charleston
Having never been, we used Google Maps to our advantage. We opted for a beach house on the Isle of Palms, an island about a half hour outside of the city. According to the locals, IOP is mostly full of vacation homes locals rent out for most of the year.

I personally really enjoyed staying on IOP. There was a little bit of everything you may need. A grocery store, a decent amount of restaurants options, a golf course and a marina for boaters. But my favorite part was the beach. Charleston itself doesn’t have beaches to lay out on. For a proper beach day, you need to head out to the islands, and IOP’s sandy beaches and warm water was perfect for our trip.

One thing to know is that if you’re looking for nightlife, you may want to stay closer into town. We wanted a nice quiet weekend by the water and that was what was perfect for us. We had a general store down by the marina that we were able to walk down to in the mornings for coffee and breakfast, and for nightlife there was really only one bar to hang out at: The Windjammer.

Pro-tip: We didn’t rent a car, and there were a lot of us so we needed a few Uber’s when heading into town or areas of the island we couldn’t walk to. But calling a rideshare wasn’t the easiest during this time of year. (We went in early April.) I’m not sure if as the season picks up this is easier but just give yourself time if you need to call a ride.

Sullivan’s Island is the next island south of IOP and is connected by a small ridge. This island has a much more local feel with a bunch of restaurants and bars along Middle St., right by the town hall. The famous writer, Edgar Allan Poe, had spent sometime on Sullivan’s Island and you’ll see a lot of acclimates to him, including restaurants, and street names.

The other two popular islands are Folly Beach and Kiawah Island, both of which are south of Charleston and neither of which we went to. According to a few shop owners and Uber drivers, Folly Beach has a pretty bad reputation for being a big party area. Something our 22-year-old selves would have loved, but at 32 we were happy we didn’t pick that island for our weekend home. Kiawah, while popular for boating and fishing, is most well known for the beautiful golf courses they have.

What We Did:
We spent our first day in Charleston exploring King St. King St. is the main drag through Charleston and has storefront after storefront of amazing restaurants, shops, cafes, and ice cream stores. Super cute but go here during the week because it gets packed! Friday when we were walking around it was pretty busy, but Saturday it was insane. A few of us went into town to do some quick shopping and it was a mad house walking up and down the street.

Friday night we went back into Charleston to be as basic as we could get and go candle making. Candlefish not only sells hand crafted candles with over 100 scents to choose from, but they also offer DIY candle making workshops where you can be your own Chandler (candlemaker). What I loved was there were a lot of us that night and we each have our own fragrances we prefer and lean towards. I gravitate toward musky, woodsy smells, while some of my girlfriends go for the  florals or vanillas.  We had so many options to pick from and could really choose what we each liked.

Everyone made two candles, they set overnight and we were able to pick them up the next day or get them shipped (which we opted for). One of the best parts of the whole experience…. BYOB. We brought a few bottles of wine and while I’m sure wrangling 12 tipsy girls in their 30s was not what our Chandler wanted to do on her Friday night, Sarah was amazing with us.

Saturday, we spent the day on the water with Aqua Safaris. We chartered a sail boat, the Serena, to pick us up in Isle of Palm. Captain John took us out onto Copahee Sound and into the Atlantic Ocean. Our three hours on the water was the perfect amount of fun in the sun to completely drain us for the rest of the day.

We were able to bring our own food and drinks onto the boat, so we stopped at the Marina Market right near the dock to grab lunch for the sail. Captain John and his first mate did an amazing job of bringing us around the area and telling us about the nearby islands. They made sure we had an amazing time.

Since we lucked out with such amazing weather for our sail, we decided to keep it going with a full beach day on Sunday. A few of us went exploring and we headed over to Sullivan’s Island to check out the Lighthouse and Fort Moultrie which are both part of the National Park Service.

We spent our last day in Charleston exploring the city itself. We started down by Washington Square and headed over to Rainbow Row before cutting over to Waterfront Park. Wow, wow, wow. Every turn was more stunning that the last. We spent a lot of time at Waterfront Park, soaking up the time by the water and avoiding the crowded, city streets filled from the cruise ship that was in port.

Pro Tip: Charleston is a super walkable city. Looking at a map before we got there, it seemed like everything was pretty spread out. I assumed we would need to Uber or get taxis to get around, but once you are in the city you can really walk anywhere.

On our way out of Waterfront Park, we did a little shopping on Vendue Range before climbing to the highest floor of the Vendue hotel for a cocktail at their rooftop lounge. The 360 views of the city were stunning during the day. From our seats you could see over to Mt. Pleasant across the Cooper River and even to the Ravenel Bridge, which is a must for all Bravo fans.

Another must see spot in town is the Historic Charleston City Market where you can pick up souvenirs from local artisans. Homemade soaps, artwork, sculptures, clothes and spices lined Market St. for nearly four blocks.

Where We Ate
After a long travel morning, the first day we dropped our luggage off and headed straight to the Daily, a coffee shop on King St. to fuel up. Their cold brew was exactly what I needed. The Daily had lots of quick bites, dips, grape leaves, couscous and noddle salads. Perfect options for a quick lunch or even to pick something up and bring to have lunch at Waterfront Park.

For lunch we headed south on King St. and stumbled into the Rarebit, a small restaurant with a 60s vibe and retro feel. Their Bloody Mary’s brought us all back to life but definitely ask for it spicy. It was insane. Most of us had salads and sandwiches but since it was national grilled cheese day I had to indulge. Their grilled cheese and tomato soup were amazing and hit the spot.

We wandered down King St. to the Skinny Dip, a cute boutique on the first floor with an even cuter second floor cafe to get their super instagramable frozes on the rooftop patio. We spent our first night in Charleston living up the rooftop life at one of their most popular lounges, Eleve. We started outside with their truffle fries and flatbread and a few bottles of champagne. But when the live music began, we headed inside for a sit down dinner. The truffle fries were so good we had to get a second round. I also got their lobster and crab bisque and fried oysters. Heaven.

For brunch one morning we went to the Barbados Room at the Mill House, a Wyndham Grand Hotel. Charleston has a thing for their crab soup and this did not disappoint. Their oysters were pretty amazing too, and that’s just what we started with. At this point I was in desperate need for some greens so I was more than happy with my shrimp Caesar salad.

Charleston had so many amazing eateries we had heard about we obviously couldn’t make it to them all so here is a list of some places I’d want to try next time I’m in town:

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits
The Ordinary
The Rise Coffee Bar
Magnolia’s
82 Queen
Leon’s Oyster Shop
Poe’s Tavern
Stars Rooftop
Charleston Crab Shack

Because we had a pretty fully packed weekend, we decided to spend out last night in an hire a private chef to come to us. Chef Jen Solazzo came to us and prepped a three-course family style meal of amazing Southern food. We started with buttermilk biscuits with brie and fig, deviled eggs with bacon, pimento cheese with a huge platter for dipping and of course a huge salad. And that was our cocktail hour. Jen then served us our dinner of homemade shrimp and grits which were probably the best grits I’ve ever had. We ended with a homemade cheesecake for dessert.

I honestly couldn’t recommend her more! She did it all from the shopping for groceries, bringing the serving plates and dishes, plating and serving the meal and even the cleanup. I’m pretty sure that kitchen looked way better after she left then when she got there. Jen does private parties of all sizes and occasions, cocktail parties and even food styling and recipe development. If you’re getting a house, a private chef is the perfect way to unwind, all you need is to bring the wine and relax as you live like luxury.

Have you guys ever been to Charleston? What were your favorite places to grab a bite to eat or drink??

Meal Planning When Living Alone

Living alone and meal planning can be a little tricky. I try to do my big grocery shopping day for the week on Sundays. I take into account what are the staples that I am running out of, and what do I have in my fridge that I need to have cooked early in the week. I also try to plan out all my meals, including snacks, for Monday through Friday. I have found that if I don’t have healthy snacks on hand, that’s when I go for the chips, brownies and cookies.

I like to eat healthy and fresh. I use a lot of fresh vegetables and meats when I cook but, to make sure I am not being wasteful with my fresh ingredients, it can be pretty easy to cook large portions just to use the veggies, or whatever, up. Nevertheless, no one wants to eat the same thing over and over again. I’ve become pretty good at making a plan for the week that makes different meals, reusing the same veggies, meats, and carbs.

This week I grabbed two small heads of broccoli, a squash, a pound of russet potatoes (which was way too much) and a small container of baby bella mushrooms. I had ground turkey in the freezer and picked up a package of six thinly sliced chicken breast. I grabbed a half a pound of salmon from the fish guy and pretty much had all of my meals covered for the week.

For breakfast and snacks I try to keep them pretty whole 30 approved, that way I don’t feel so bad if I have pasta for dinner or throw some cheese on my fajita.

For breakfast I always, always have eggs in the fridge. If I have the day off I will make a veggie filled scramble and throw in some goat cheese to cheat a little. Otherwise, hardboiled eggs are a great breakfast or snack to keep me full. For snacks, berries have been my go to these past few weeks. They’re so easy to have on hand and throw in over night oats, yogurt or just as a quick pick me up midday.  Apples with almond or peanut butter are always a quick and easy snack I can have at work or at home or of course my favorites: a LaraBar or a RXBar.

For lunch and dinner I made a meal plan below. The main ingredients for each meal come from the groceries I picked up on Sunday.

I hope this helps for you ladies or gents who live alone. You really don’t have to eat the same meal you made on Monday all week long. Try to be creative!

Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

A few months ago, I moved into a new apartment. At the time I had a bunch of boxes I hadn’t seen since I moved back from Southern California. So since I haven’t seen a lot of my stuff for the past year and a half, it seemed like the perfect time to go through my clothes, shoes, and just stuff in general. I cleaned out my makeup, skincare products and it felt great. But now it’s been five months and spring is finally upon us in the northeast so I am back into full spring cleaning mode.

The past week I’ve really enjoyed coming home from work, opening all the windows in my apartment, and cleaning my life up. (Old lady excitement.) But if I’m being honest, sometimes staying motivated and on track and be a little rough. Here are some tips on how I get through my spring cleaning list:

Make a list: Lists work for me. I use them every day: at home, at work, it’s how I get my shit together. I write down everything. Like everything. Do laundry, fold laundry, put laundry away. I know this could all be covered in one line (laundry) but the more steps I cross off the more motivated I feel.

Take away distractions: Instead of having the TV on I play my Amazon Echo and blast some fun music. Or lately I’ve been listening to podcasts to keep me moving. If the TV is on I cant help but sit down and start watching whatever show is on, so I eliminate that possibility all together. And to avoid the phone distractions, I keep in on it’s charger, in my room, where I can’t be distracted by group messages or Instagram. (Both of which I was scrolling through a few minutes ago.)

Think outside the box: Your house isn’t the only part of your life that needs some spring cleaning. This is a good time to once a year go through your finances, take a look at your insurance, make doctors appointments and all of that other stuff no one ever looks forward to. Here I made a list of all of my “spring cleaning” to-dos.