Visit Virginia Beach Pop Up Travel Agency

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The tourism board, Visit Virginia Beach, has “set up shop” in Brooklyn with a pop up escape the room attraction that brings attendees inside a past-meets-present travel agency in Williamsburg at 135 Kent Ave. On April 22 and 23, 2018, visitors can come to the agency and discover more about Virginia Beach by playing the game. Their visit to the agency will end at the store’s back room speakeasy, with Virginia Beach inspired food and drink. Reservations are required. To book, visit this link.

 

See How Your Hotel Soap Can Help Someone Else

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From the e-mail bag: Recently, Delta Hotels by Marriott announced a new amenity partnership with Soapbox Soaps, a bath product company that promotes a buy-one-give-one business model around the world.

According to a media release, Delta Hotels and Soapbox will provide an estimated 1.4 million bars of soap to communities in need across the globe this year. As part of their business relationship, each amenity kit will include a unique “Hope Code.” Delta Hotels guests can enter the Hope Code found on their individual in-room amenities on Soapbox’s website, to see where that particular kit’s contribution will be allocated.

I’ve also been told that this amenity partnership will give customers another opportunity to see how it apparently will work. Marriott Rewards, the points program for Marriott, will be offering a cause-related experience in India next November with Delta Hotels and Soapbox charitable partner, Sundara. One Marriott Rewards member and a guest will be selected to see how Delta and Soapbox’s contributions will aid in Mumbai’s neighboring villages. They will be said to witness the launching of hygiene stations and facilitating soap recycling demonstrations. More information can be found here.

Granted, most travelers I know often bring unwrapped bars home and donate a collection of them to charities or directly to those who could use them most. If nothing else, we could always keep this practice going while staying at a Delta hotel.

 

 

5 Female Travel Experts You Should Know

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Credit: Jessie on a Journey/Facebook

With March being Women’s History Month and having an International Women’s Day, I wanted to write a post about how women have been really making strides in the travel industry. Travel is becoming more inclusive because of people – in particular women – taking initiatives and creating their own paths toward obtaining their goals. They’re not only seeing the world; they’re leading by example.

Over time, I’ve been meeting or following female travel bloggers, writers, vloggers and overall experts. They go beyond the cookie cutter mold of a single look, status, background, shape or age.

Here are five of them that I follow and consider to be my friends.

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Credit: Jessie on a Journey/Facebook

Jessie Festa

I have to say that I’ve been writing for Jessie’s two websites (her solo travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and her responsible tourism e-zine, Epicure & Culture) for a few years now. Outside of working for her, I like to keep up on her adventures as a solo traveler, tour guide and blogger. What I like about Jessie is that her writing makes us feel like we’re coming along with her but she tells us about the good, bad and ugly that can happen on a trip. She also doesn’t shy away from sharing some mistakes she’s made or humorous events that she’s encountered (like odd fellows on the subway). Speaking of sharing, Jessie gives out a ton of tips on everything from starting a blog to avoiding pickpockets for good.

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Credit: Oneika Raymond

Oneika Raymond

Describing herself as a “bona fide travel junkie,” Oneika gets you just as excited about exploring as she is. And she’s a busy lady. Along with her blog, “Oneika the Traveller,” this gal not only is an in-house travel expert for CTV Canada’s news program “Your Morning,” but also hosts two Travel Channel digital series, “Big City, Little Budget” and “One Bag and You’re Out.” Along with her continuous energy and enthusiasm, Oneika focuses on inspiring females and people of color to see the world. If she can do it, we can too! She really is like your travel BFF, as on her blog and web shows, she talks about how to dress within certain locations or staying in shape.

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Credit: Kelly Lewis

Kelly Lewis

I met Kelly through the Women’s Travel Fest, a weekend event she co-puts on every year. You’ll find your sisterhood at this event, which features talks and workshops given by noteworthy female travel experts and entrepreneurs. Kelly builds community in other ways. She’s the founder and CEO of Go! Girl Guides, a guidebook series specifically for women. For a previous travel article, Kelly told me that she started Go! Girl Guides out of her frustration in finding a void of information for female travelers. Her company creates guides to dispense advice on women’s health and safety overseas, along with tips on a destination’s lodging ops, culture and food. One thing, among others, Kelly pointed out, “If it’s impossible to find tampons, we tell you. If a bus station is sketchy at night, we tell you.” Her latest venture: Damesly, a women’s tour operator.

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Credit: Women’s Travel Fest

Vicki Winters

Vicki told me that she can be all over the place but it’s for good reason. She’s a travel agent, brand ambassador and actress/model who lives life on her terms. She’s also a fun storyteller. Follow her on her Instagram (She’s @mybigfatmouth on there and Twitter) and you’ll see her venturing around New York City on her bike or two feet. While it’s easy for New Yorkers to pass by their surroundings without a second thought, Vicki engages in what’s happening around her. She’s not hesitant to go out on her own or talk to people. Also, she knows her stuff with social media. Vicki’s given teaching demos for travel clients and at conferences. Ignore the stereotype that only certain ages do social media; Vicki totally surpasses that notion.

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Anne Howard, with her husband, Mike Howard. Credit: HoneyTrek

Anne Howard

Anne is different from the others I’ve mentioned because she’s part of a twosome. I mean, she works and travels with her husband, Mike, constantly. As in being on a honeymoon since January 2012. Together, the Howards brand themselves as “HoneyTrek,” as travel influencers and advisors with the goal of having the world’s longest honeymoon. Anne handles much of their writing on their blog (Mike’s the photo taker) but together they do speaking engagements and, for National Geographic, co-authored a couple’s adventure book. I also chose Anne because she shows that a solid partner can join her on life’s journey. Granted these two probably have their share of ups and downs but I can tell by being around them that they know how to work together as a team – as travelers and husband and wife.

 

Is there someone you follow? Let me know in the comments below.

JetBlue Card’s Flip the Forecast Contest

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From the email bag…. if you’re in a wintry part of the United States, you know how much weather can screw up your flight plans. Apparently, JetBlue is making the most out of this current East Coast scenario with a “Flip the Forecast” contest.

Taken from the message I received:

JetBlue Card parked branded Airstream trailers in two drastically different locales, Boston and San Diego, connecting customers at each destination through a livestream video experience. Participants on both ends had the chance to win a pair of roundtrip tickets to the opposite location if they were able to convince and agree to swap locations with the other. We captured the challenge Bostonians and San Diegans faced on film to inspire other forecast flips across the JetBlue network: https://youtu.be/0nwSemuicaA

Apparently you can join in the fun too through “Flip the Forecast.” Starting today (March 6) through Saturday (March 10), JetBlue customers can submit a short video pleading their case for why they should flip their forecast through a national Instagram contest for the chance to win a pair of roundtrip JetBlue flight certificates.

Here’s how it works:

  • Ensure you have a public Instagram account (of course)
  • Create and upload a video telling us what city you live in and why you need to travel to a different one with a different climate
  • The city you reference must be in the United States and a city that JetBlue currently serves
  • The video post must include @jetblue, #FlipTheForecast and #Contest, and comply with Instagram community guidelines.

For more information on how to enter the “Flip the Forecast” contest, see the official contest rules.

At the conclusion of the contest on March 10, 2018 at 11:59 PM ET, JetBlue will judge and score each eligible entry based on creativity, storytelling and desperation. The 10 people with the highest scores will be notified via Instagram.

Why You Should Visit Minneapolis Even after Super Bowl LII

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Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

I got sent to Minneapolis in early January to do a quick piece on the city before it would welcome in a ton of ticketholders for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. While NFL fans are flocking here for the game, I found that Minneapolis can provide many other reasons for visiting year round (of course, their sports teams are valid ones).

Here is also why you should visit Minneapolis even way after Super Bowl II.

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Walking along the Skyway

Besides the usual ways of getting around a city, Minneapolis has one that’s pretty well connected. It’s the Minneapolis Skyway System, a network of enclosed bridges above street levels that is linked to various buildings and 80 city blocks and can be accessed through street-level entrances (in some cases, you can access certain parts via elevators). On a cold day or night, you definitely have the chance to stay warm by cutting through.

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Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Remembering Prince

Sadly we lost this amazing musician in 2016, but Minneapolis keeps its native son’s memory in harmony. Yes, if you didn’t know, Prince is from this city and you can see where he did his best works such as murals of him like the one above in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. Within downtown Minneapolis, the nightclub First Avenue has its exterior walls adorned with silver-painted stars naming acts that have graced its stages – and of course Prince’s stands out in gold. If you’ve seen the film “Purple Rain,” then you’ve seen interior shots of this venue. Then go further by taking a half-hour ride to Paisley Park, Prince’s creative compound turned museum in Chanhassen.

Listening to a Ton of Music

While Prince will always have his place here, there are music clubs for hearing current and upcoming talent. The laidback Dakota Jazz Club in the downtown area provides a more intimate venue for its cabaret style seating and local nightly acts. Also within downtown, Fine Line Music Café can get a bit smushed in with music-goers at times, or so I’ve read, but it offers live music and a bite to eat. In an area known as Dinkytown, the Varsity Theater is a glowing concert hall with a well-planned event schedule.

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Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Stepping Into Nature Easily

What might surprise you about Minneapolis is its close proximity to nature. The city’s got an extensive park system that encompasses regional and neighborhood parks with trails, paths, gardens and other outdoorsy highlights. Perhaps its most popular park is Minnehaha Regional Park, with its key attraction being an incredible 53-foot waterfall and limestone bluffs. Plus, the park has garden areas, walking and biking paths, and look out posts. Another prime spot is Lake Calhoun, also known as Bde Maka Ska, the largest lake in Minneapolis. Part of the city’s Chain of Lakes, it’s surrounded by city park land and circled by bike and walking trails.

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Learning about Its Flour Power

Did you that for about two centuries Minneapolis was a major flour milling city? You can still see remnants of this past near the city’s riverfront. The Mill City Museum is based inside what was once the largest flour mill in the world (Washburn A Mill). Its “Flour Tower” is an elevator ride that takes you on various floors of the mill while playing recorded interviews from workers. The upper levels offer great overhead views of the region, while the ground floor features flour-related exhibits and a bakery where you sample a sweet treat.

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Multi-Cultural Dining

The people who’ve come to make Minneapolis their home brought their cuisine to the plate. In the Northeast section, Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company is all about Eastern European foods, with sausages and breads made on the premise. House specialties include their cabbage roll or sandwiches stuffed with bratwurst or in Polish or Hungarian versions. Nordic cuisine is represented in places ranging from a FIKA at the American Swedish Institute to a The Bachelor Farmer, an eco-conscious eatery within the North Loop. Midtown Global Market is a culinary incubator for small business owners and restauranteurs with meal options extending to Moroccan, Mexican, Indian and Thai or American fare or pick up some coffee or baked goods.

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Many Museums

Along with the City Mill Museum, other museums in Minneapolis represent different cultures or collections. The Museum of Russian Art puts on exhibits on various mediums and perspectives involving religious icons, Soviet era works, or cultural symbols such as the matryoshka doll. Known also as Mia, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is a massive treasure trove with decorative arts, Asian architecture such as a Japanese teahouse, African and Native American craftsmanship, European art, and paintings/drawings— and general admission is free! Then there’s the Walker Art Center, a contemporary mixed media museum with free entry on the first Saturday of every month. Across the street, the Minneapolis Statue Garden holds pieces from the center’s collections with its centerpiece being “Spoonbridge and Cherry,” whose name reflects exactly what this sculpture looks like.

Have you been to Minneapolis too? What recommendations do you have?

 

12 Over-the-Counter Health Products for Traveling

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Creative Commons photo / Marco Verch

It’s always good to bring certain medicines or first-aid treatments with you when traveling. Aside from prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications and first aid products from chain drug stores and companies can help with relieving symptoms or sudden medical issues (however, always check with your doctor on any concerns you have or seek medical help within your location.)

Here are some products I suggest taking with you:

Pain-Relievers Like Aspirin or Ibuprofen

They’re best to have on hand the case of an injury or achiness or fever.

Antacids/Stomach Relievers

If you have to watch how certain foods react to your system, or you’re a risk-taking eater that might not know how you’ll handle the aftermath of perhaps a super-spicy dish.

Cough Drops

If you find your throat gets dry or feel a cough coming on, just unwrap and pop one in your mouth.

Anti-Diarrheal

Just in case.

Anti-Fungal Cream

If you’re prone to fungal infections, and going on a trek involving damp weather conditions, this suggestion is your call.

Melatonin/Sleep Aids

If you have trouble sleeping in a new bed or it takes a while for you to get some ZZZs.

Antihistamines

For combating known – or even unknown — allergies or rashes that come up. (Read labels to see drowsiness is a side effect.)

Motion Sickness Pills/Bands

If you’re on planes, trains or boats, and even the good old automobile for a long period of time, keep tabs on your system.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

I’ve been hearing a lot about these gastrointestinal aids keeping your gut healthy. Prebiotics are fiber-based, while probiotics are yeast centered; they both introduce good bacteria.

Condoms

I’m doing to leave this one up to you. If you’re going to a place where you think you might have a hookup, it’s best to be prepared. Note one other thing: learn how condoms are seen in your destination, in particular countries with very strict ties to religious beliefs and/or imposing laws.

Band-Aids/Plasters

Because cuts and scrapes can happen. Plasters can help with your feet.

Anti-Bacterial Wipes

To quickly clean a cut or your hands or even your in-flight tray table.

When bringing genetic meds, keep them inside their boxes or bottles in the case that customs officials need to check them. Also, confirm what and how much of an over-the-counter drug and/or prescription meds can be permitted to be brought into your destination.

 

 

2017 – My Year In Review

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Creative Commons photo / maf04

2017 was a good year. I had some ups and downs but I made some pretty neat accomplishments. At the same time, I’m realizing with every year literally flying by, that I’m starting to more and more figure out where I want to be heading, travel and otherwise.

Here’s how 2017 went for me with a few milestones.

Working at an awesome museum

In order to help keep a steady cash flow for my travel budget and overall livelihood, I took a part time job at one of NYC’s most popular museums. With having a “come and go” schedule, I was nervous about whether or not my manager would understand, or more so accept, my “other job.” Or the fact I maybe could only work certain days or be gone for periods of time. There were some rough patches at first, but so far I’ve been lucky to be able to balance both my museum job and my travel job at the same time.

Having More First-Time Destination Visits

One of my dream trips since childhood was to see China (I think I actually tried to dig a hole in my backyard but didn’t get far.). In May, I got to fulfill this wish with my visit to Suzhou, China, a city that resonates with Old China due to having canals, waterways and classic gardens. And I got to travel to destinations I probably never would have imagined: Israel, El Salvador, Guatemala, Croatia, and the Bahamas. I left prayer notes at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, tried surfing at a beach called El Tunco, toasted marshmallows over lava-generated heat at a volcano called Pacaya, and went on a Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik.  Not bad!

Staying at an Ice Hotel

A February snowstorm altered by plans for a work trip to Canada’s Quebec region, in that I completely missed the first day. But I still got to experience one major activity – spending the night in an ice hotel. Located outside of Quebec City, Hotel de Glace is a chilly location in which you can either go on a tour of this seasonal lodging (completely made from an ice and snow mixture) and/or pay to spend the night in one of its room. You have to get dressed well enough to handle an overnight stay (think winter gear that’s breathable while keeping you warm). I felt prepared and woke up once, maybe twice, but overall was glad to have tried it – and then to head back into a more warmer accommodation.

Seeing More of the US

I harp on this a lot but, in terms of travel, there is a lot more to the US than meets the eye. While the current political climate is pulling us in different directions, our nation’s cities and town have their respective offerings that can appeal to any traveler. I visited Montgomery, Alabama, which is the central point for major Civil Rights events such as where Rosa Parks’ arrest and the responding Montgomery Bus Boycott. Up north, Philadelphia has so many ties to the American Revolution, but it’s also got a major arts scene and a culinary assortment of everything from Israeli, to Southern, to German and Cuban eateries. For 2018, I’ve already booked a few trips to other US cities; can’t wait.

Choosing to Be More at Home

While I’ve been really grateful for all my 2017 travel opportunities, I’ve been trying to be better about exploring more of New York City. For the next two years, I’m viewing NYC as my homebase. Lately much of my exploring involves going around the neighborhood I stay in and going to and from work and meetings. So, I want to be sure in 2018 to see more of this city. I’ve tackled a lot – museums, landmarks, festivals – but I would love to discover more of its restaurants and districts. I’m also trying to expand my social circle more (most of my friends are married with children and others have moved on) so I want to get out there and meet new people. But if that next cool trip comes up…

What would you like to see or do in 2018? Let me know.