Category Archives: Delta

Delta and Palace Resorts Offer Bostonians a ‘Survive the Winter’ Giveaway

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Hey Bostonians, here’s another reason to celebrate. Delta and Palace Resorts have partnered to offer Bostonians the chance to “Survive the Winter” by entering to win a five-night stay at the all-inclusive Moon Palace Jamaica Grande and two VIP tickets to see the rock band Survivor perform at the resort on February 25, 2017.

Bostonians can enter to win on the resort’s Facebook page, which includes roundtrip airfare, free transfers and a $500 credit for two additional winners, courtesy of Delta. Enter by Friday, February 17.

This new route is part of Delta’s larger efforts to enhance Boston service including expanding its domestic and international destinations, as well as offering first class on every flight. In summer 2017, the airline will operate over 90 peak day departures from Boston, with daily service to 21 different cities and Saturday-only service to five cities.

 

My 5 Travel Goals for 2017

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Credit: Michael Mueller/Creative Commons

 

Happy New Year! I don’t really create New Year’s resolutions, but more and more I’m trying to set some goals to complete over the course of the year. Now with travel being an important facet of my life, I’ve been thinking about what goals I would want to accomplish during 2017. So far I’ve got two that I’ve decided on, and three in the works, so here are my 5 main travel goals for 2017.

  1. Try staying in an AirBNB or other kind of apartment rental. Except for spending a weekend at a hostel, I haven’t stayed a reservation in non-hotel accommodation yet. Maybe it’s due to slight worries about staying in a rental place (P.S. don’t read these types of horror stories) or just figured that a hotel lets me avoid dealing with any serious concerns. Yet for a conference I’m attending this summer in D.C., I decided to give AirBNB a shot due to the location of the property being super close to the conference center and being half the cost of a week stay in a conference-sponsored hotel. So fingers crossed and probably many email Qs sent to the apartment holder.
  2. Better budgeting/spending. Those who know me well get that I like to buy items while traveling – souvenirs, mementos, neat finds, even gifts for family and good friends. Yet, due to a budget that keeps changing, it’s best that I stop doing so (okay, maybe just one thing). I’m pretty good about trying to buy local, in terms of checking where a product is made from or shopping from markets or direct manufacturers. My biggest issue is when my heart gets set on something, and my head tells me it might be better to buy it and bring it home than not to and wonder about it later (hence my wishful thinking on regretting to buy a kimono in Japan last year). So instead of shelling out cash – and definitely avoiding pulling out plastic – I’m going to either set a stricter limit of what I buy or discipline myself in realizing that what I spend will have to come out of something else (eek, meals or attractions).
  3. Getting more comfortable with adventure travel. As a kid who was often picked last for teams in gym class, playing sports has never been my forte. Sometimes my work assignments have me scheduled to do more adventure-style travel, too. I’ve had to pass up on water activities because I’m not a strong swimmer, and I’ve (probably unnecessarily) freaked out over doing ziplining and even rappelling (both of which involve experts leading us through every step and checking our equipment). In hindsight, I’m glad that I did ones that brought me out of my comfort zone, and I also realize that I’m probably holding myself back from trying new things. Even if I suck at them, at least I know that I tried.
  4. Experimenting more with photo and video. 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of starting out my career in writing/media (wow!) but a lot has changed in my field that time. Even with travel, good writing is still appreciated but nowadays the game of storytelling keeps changing. A video segment of a destination totally provides a different perspective that the written, even spoken, word. And photography also has much to tell. A while ago, I won a GoPro Hero in a raffle and have to get on using it. I also want to invest in a good camera that permits good pics and video taking (if you have a recommendation, I would love to hear it), because it’s fun to learn and can provide some extra work.
  5. De-cluttering big time. This goal doesn’t seem like it fits on a travel list, but probably for the past 10-15 years I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff (from apartment living, clothing bought for special occasions/office work, a hobby of attending book signings, a revitalized interest in reading, and that damn site called eBay) that cost me not just money but also space, time, and, in some cases, emotions. To help me save on future expenses, I’ve been trying to reshop my closet for clothes I can reuse and perhaps give to charity like tag sales or libraries or maybe sell some items for a few bucks.

 

So, tell me what your goals are for 2017.

 

How to Maintain Relationships While Traveling

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Photo by twentymindsomething via Flickr.com

“And you’re never around.”

Those words stunned me. To be on the receiving end of them was both confusing and painful. Although the backstory is not entirely mine to tell, out of respect for the other party involved, what I can say is that the sentence probably was directed toward the fact that I travel often. I do so for work, for fun, for vacation itself. Some people get it, others don’t.

Being the road can take you away from those most important in your life for a period of time, but it doesn’t mean that relationships would be put on the back burner. Based on my experience, here are my suggestions on how to maintain relationships while traveling.

  • Bring back souvenirs. Think about picking up a small token or treat as a gift for someone or some people. It doesn’t have to be pricey, like a magnet or candy. Or perhaps you will come across what can be referred to as “a found object.” For example, in Copenhagen, I bought licorice for about roughly $2.50 USD each to give to relatives and friends. In Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Sweden, licorice is popular but comes in a salty version – opposite from its American counterpart. Or if someone I know wants learn more about a country or city I’m seeing, I grab an extra map or brochure for him/her.
  • Use technology to keep in touch. Unless you’re totally off the grid, it’s a given that Facebook, email, IM, Skype, and texting apps keeps you connected. So use it. I try to go online at night (especially if my time zone is earlier) and check and comment on friends’ posts or just drop a quick note to say hello. I email and, if I can, text people like my folks or sisters (or potential boyfriend) to see how their day is going and tell them what I’m up to.
  • Schedule some solid time at home. For now, I make it a point to be around home during holidays, personal milestones, and family events. I also try to schedule lunch dates, dinners, or outings with friends at least monthly or biweekly. Also, consider offering a hand or doing a favor. If a friend needs some help – like a house sitter – be open for it.
  • Accept personal differences. Like other topics, people can react to traveling differently based on their perceptions. Drawing from my humble opinion, I’ve learned to provide the basics of my trip (where, when, and what for) before I go and save more details for when I get back. I take reactions as they come, and try to avoid feeling the need to explain if necessary. Those who genuinely understand will. Those who don’t, for their own reasons, won’t.

5 Surprising Things about Cincinnati

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Before my visit in Cincinnati, I didn’t know much, if anything, about it. After spending a recent weekend here, I learned a few interesting things about this city near the Ohio River. Here are five of them.

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1) Flying into Kentucky
On a flight to Cincinnati, you might be surprised to discover that you don’t actually arrive in Cincinnati. Actually, you land in Kentucky, specifically at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which is about 15 minutes or so from Cincinnati. Instead of heading straight there, make a stop in nearby Covington, Kentucky. Its MainStrasse Village has German roots with a Main Street, U.S.A. feel. Its center square is the location for various festivals such as an Octoberfest and it’s lined with shops and restaurants housed in buildings from a past era. Good eats picks include Otto’s, an American bistro known for its fried green tomatoes and twist on the native dish, Kentucky Hot Brown; Frida 602, a mezcal and taqueria with décor inspired by artist Frida Kahlo’s Blue House in Mexico City; and Bouquet, a farm-to-table restaurant whose menu is dictated by what ingredients are in-season.

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2) Over-the-Rhine
Cincinnati has 52 neighborhoods, with one of its oldest being Over-the-Rhine. When the first wave of German immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1830s, many settled and founded in early Cincinnati neighborhood, so much that their native language became the spoken word and their culture thrived. Over-the-Rhine’s name comes from this legacy. Workers lived north of the Miami and Erie Canal and nicknamed it “the Rhine” after the German river, so their settled area was like going “over the Rhine.” Breweries and drinking establishments flourished here up until Prohibition. As residents moved out, and the Over-the-Rhine faced hard times. its revitalization began in the mid-2000s with a wave of artisan restaurants being ushered in. Find many of them along Vine Street. This section has become hotspot, with a medley of eateries, shops, and bars. Stand outs include: Taste of Belgium, for a great waffle fix; Senate, with the most amazing gourmet hotdog combos; The Eagle, for delectable fried chicken; Graeter’s, a hometown ice cream shop known for its Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip; and Holtman’s Donuts, for their maple bacon option. While Vine Street is about food, O-T-R’s Main Street has its share of finds such as Gomez, for innovative Mexican fare; Japp’s Since 1879, once a hair store but now a hip nightspot; and contemporary art murals created as part of ArtWorks Cincinnati.

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3) Quite a Beer Legacy
Speaking of German beer, by the late 1800s, Cincinnati was producing a serious amount of suds in Over-The-Rhine, so much that there was no need to export it outside of Ohio. By 1890, the city was the third largest beer producer per person in the country. Prohibition severely changed that, causing many breweries to shut down for good. Yet it wasn’t entirely over. In 2009, this legacy began its comeback with the resurgence of the brand Christian Moerlein. Now, over a dozen craft breweries and micropubs are in operation. Among them, Rhinegeist Brewery is housed inside the original Christian Moerlein bottling facility. In a sense, it’s a 21st century beer garden with long picnic style tables and cornhole, ping-pong and other games going on. Another brewery is Taft’s Ale House, named for our 27th President and Supreme Court Justice, William Howard Taft. It’s located inside a former church and features items relating to Taft and his wife, Nellie. Yet Cincinnati’s brewing past still lingers. Plus in recent years,an underground network of abandoned caverns used for cooling German lager have been discovered. See one of them on an escorted tour with American Legacy Tours.

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4) History with the Underground Railroad
In the mid-1800s, as the debate over the practice of slavery split national opinion, the U.S. was divided between free states and slave states. Ohio’s place in this part of our country’s history is connected to the Underground Railroad, where the Ohio River Valley was a key site for freedom seekers to head up north. In downtown Cincinnati, near the banks of the Ohio River, the National Underground Freedom Railroad Center traces how slavery came to the Americas up through the U.S.’s post-Civil War Reconstruction with historical imagery and artifacts. The center also covers the effects of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

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5) A Ton of Bridges
Bridges might not sound exciting, but Cincinnati has some iconic structures connecting the city to Northern Kentucky and other locations in Ohio. Its most noted one is John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which links Covington to downtown Cincinnati. Opened in 1867, it’s a nice way to go back and forth over the Ohio River. Plus pedestrians and cars have their respective paths. Though Roebling’s name might not ring a bell, this engineer’s modern marvels are well known. Roebling was said to use this baby blue colored bridge as the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened about two decades later. For a relaxing walk, the locally-called Purple People Bridge (it has a more official sounding name) can only be crossed on foot. It connects from Cincinnati’s Sawyer Point to Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky.

 

 

 

Review: Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic

 

On their voyage to the Dominican Republic, Fathom offers shore excursions similar to other cruises, but also hosts activities focused on creating a social impact. Passengers are escorted into local communities for hands-on projects involving education, reforestation, economic opportunities, and sanitary conditions. With their booking, passengers can select about three or so impact options. In picking mine, I weighed over what I wanted to do and how I thought I could be helpful with. Or at least I felt comfortable doing.

Our options were:

  • Reforestation and Nursery (Yes)
  • Community English Conversation and Learning
  • Student English Conversation and Learning (Yes)
  • Concrete Floors in Community Homes
  • Water Filtration Production
  • Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship (Yes; I was a last minute signup)
  • Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative (Yes)

Most of what I learned about these excursions happened when our ship was en route from Miami to Puerto Plata. Passengers are divided into section groups where we meet with a Fathom Impact guide to learn more about its mission and the Dominican Republic. There were other info sessions such as a Spanish 101 lesson and guidance on practicing English with students.

On land, Fathom collaborates two nonprofits: IDDI (which focuses on transforming rural and urban communities for the better) and Entrena (whose mission involves education and training.) Their reps joined us for our activities, giving background history, and acting as interpreters when needed.

So, how do it go? Here’s my quick recap.

Reforestation and Nursery
On Tuesday afternoon, after docking in Puerto Plata, my group headed to a tree nursery where mahogany and orange tree seedlings are prepared to go be permanently planted in a hillside forest region. Our IDDI guide gave us insights about how clearing trees for agriculture led to erosion and other resulting environmental impact overtime. On the site ground relating to this project, we worked in various teams handling different tasks. Some of us dug up seedlings from existing trees and transplanted them in a shade house where they will mature a bit before being planted at their new home. At the shade house, we worked in teams to put fertilized soil into bags and then putting seedings in these bags. We found out that the next scheduled excursion would head to the forest areas where these seeds/seedlings would be placed. I worked up a good sweat, got a little dirty, and felt I played a valuable contribution.


Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative

Two days later, I visited Chocal, a women’s chocolate cooperative in the town of Altamira that provides local women with meaningful work without having to go far from their home and families. We got to meet these employees and were shown step by step of the production process. We learned that nothing goes to waste here, as cocoa nibs are also sold and discarded shells are made into fertilizer. Our work involved tasks such as making chocolate molds and sorting and separating good beans from bad ones. With the latter, I wasn’t sure if I was picking the right ones or the wrong ones – our guide was pretty quick with going through her pile – but hoping that I didn’t make extra work for Chocal. We were mainly given about 20 minutes or so per project, but it seemed our contributions helped lightened their load.

Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship
With this excursion, I met the women who work for RePapel, a co-op which recycles discarded office paper and turns it into products such as sheets and greeting cards. These ladies were lovely, greeting us with a lively introduction, and breaking out into singing while we worked. At each station, they showed us to process from A to Z. We saw the salvaged office paper get shredded by hand (literally, these women rip paper apart), and then scraps get mixed with water to form a pulpy solution. The solution goes into a container that gives the paper its base. Once it dries out, it gets flatter. Our assembly line was going quickly, but I got to work on a few sheets. RePapel also produces handmade coasters and jewelry, but our allotted time and my slow hands didn’t get me far on this end. But the enthusiasm of the ladies of RePapel made our experience a fun one.

Student English Conversation and Learning
On our final day in Puerto Plata, my group headed to a grade-level school about 20 minutes or so from our port. Led by Entrena, my group met with students from different grades that appeared to have had previous instruction in English. We begun with a warm-up group session where we introduced ourselves, and then begun our first lesson paired up with about two or three students. I joined two other women in going over letters and numbers with two girls, and, then after a short break, two boys. We referred to our instruction manual to guide us in the lesson, but also adjusted it to fit with maybe a word or number that needed more practice. What really helped was that the students were polite and eager to learn – we even wrote in their school notebooks a mini progress report.

Wrapping Up
Fathom’s impact activities are scheduled during the morning and afternoon daily. However, it’s good to allow yourself some downtime, to rest and see the local area. Overall, I would say that Fathom is off to a good start, but I would suggest some tweaks such as more detailed explanation about the activities and perhaps allotting more time on specific tasks as supposed to doing a mix of everything. As for the ship, the Fathom Adonia features amenities including a library, spa, gym, a buffet area, two restaurants (one with a $25 per person surcharge), wine bar, and a pool/hot tub area.

If you’re interested in taking an upcoming cruise, click here for a savings discount.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this Fathom excursion and share this discount link. However, this review is entirely of my own opinion.

CityPASS Giveaway

Every major U.S. destination has its share of iconic attractions worth visiting, which can require even the most savvy traveler to factor admission prices into their budget. However, there are money-saving solutions like discount cards or booklets such as CityPASS that can extend your sightseeing options while keeping some cash in our wallet.

Recently, I met with a CityPASS representative to learn more about their admission discount program. It works like this. CityPASS booklets feature admission coupons to top-rated museums and institutions in currently 12 North American major locations.

They include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Southern California. Southern California’s CityPASS comes in a card format, while the others are all booklets.

However, every destination’s version contains admission tickets about four to six top ranking sites, with some of them being a choice between using it for one place or another. For example, in the New York CityPASS, there are tickets where you can opt to use them for either the Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum or either the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or the Intrepid. Once you start using the booklet, it becomes activated and validated for nine consecutive days (except for Southern California CityPASS, whose admission cards run for 14 days).

CityPASS might be suited particularly for first-time visitors or even families (there are kids and adult versions), but the perk is that CityPASS can be bought online or at your destination for the same cost. Plus it’s set up where you don’t have to wait at the usual ticket line to get inside.

CityPASS is letting me give away a pair of CityPASS booklets through my site. The only thing is that you have to do is tell me in the comments section below which of the CityPASS cities I listed do you want to visit and why (sorry, but Southern California CityPASS is not included). You’ll have until Friday, April 29, at midnight EST to do so. U.S./Canada residents only. Good luck! And keep checking back to see the results!

Disclaimer: CityPASS has partnered with me on this giveaway, but this post is based entirely on my opinions. (Thank you for entering. The winner has been chosen and notified.)

 

 

Westin Hotels & Resorts Introduces Sleep Well Menu

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Here’s some news from my inbox…. Westin Hotels & Resorts has been busy promoting their “Well-Being Movement,” a new travel wellness brand, with a messaging campaign and a FitStar by FitBit partnership introducing a set of exercise programs at their properties worldwide. Its latest addition to this branding initiative takes an edible approach to getting a good night’s sleep.

Said to be available 24/7, the Westin Sleep Well Menu offers superfood options specially designed to promote rest and recovery. According to a press release from Westin, this specialty menu was designed to help guests “ease into sound slumber so that they can easily adjust to a new time zone, recover from a hectic day of travel or prepare for an active day ahead.” With input from SuperFoodsRx, the meals on this menu contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals including magnesium, potassium, folate, serotonin, and thiamin to prevent insomnia and reset sleep cycles.

Choices include:

  • Grilled wild salmon with walnut quinoa;
  •  A micro chopped turkey salad;
  • Poached eggs on asparagus with snap peas and shitake mushrooms;
  • Oatmeal tabouleh, among others.

If guests prefer more of a bedtime snack, they can opt for whole grain crackers with peanut butter; non-fat yogurt with granola; edamame and whole wheat pretzels; or cherry walnut oat muffins. There’s tea too. Find herbals with a calming effect such lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, passionflower, lemon balm, ginger, chamomile or valerian root.

To celebrate their new Sleep Well menu, Westin Hotels & Resorts is giving away a five-night stay at any Westin hotel or resort, a Westin Heavenly® Bed, and other Westin items. Enter by April 30, 2016 by visiting this link.