Flying the Friendly Skies with Air Miles

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There are many ways to rack up miles to use for plane tickets. I have a couple of credit cards I use to collect them. While there’s a lot of thoughts around how best to do this, the other challenge with the air miles game is how best to use them. Last summer I was on the other side of the globe needing to get home and had no plane ticket. BUT I did have a big stockpile of miles and some flexibility. This is where I Fly With Miles came to my rescue.

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After I finished the EPIC Mongol Rally, I was over in beautiful Bali but wanted to get back to Boston by Labor Day weekend. While I would never say no to a business or first class ticket it is definitely not my mode of flying transport. I’d rather spend my money other ways. However, I Fly With Miles was able to get me business class flights from Bali to New York City for a minimal amount of miles used and small taxes and fees out of pocket. It really opened up my eyes to the opportunities of using miles and the benefit of having someone to help me navigate the mileage system.

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I worked with Mike from I Fly With Miles who took into consideration minimum legs, working with partner airlines for luggage ease, least layover time and best use of mileage. For example, I flew from Bali on Singapore Airlines in business class to Singapore. It was awesome to go to the check in and not be in a long line to check my luggage. Also, my 3rd leg was going to be on Air India, both airlines are part of the Star Alliance, so my bags could be checked in Bali all the way through to New York. What a huge hassle relief. Finally, flying business class afforded me lounge access which was also nice for the layover parts of my long journey home.

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Besides the spacious seating, wonderful customer service, delicious meals and electronic outlets that made me giddy, my favorite part of my journey home was being met in Delhi by a Singapore Airlines representative to insure my way through security and transferring to the Air India lounge without any issues. He was so friendly and helpful – I didn’t expect this level of care. What a wonderful way to travel.

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In all, it was 78,000 miles I had to put into partner airline programs to sort out my return. I had these points in my American Express Membership Rewards account and Mike with I Fly With Miles told me what frequent flyer accounts to create (if I didn’t already have them), how many miles to place where and if any needed to be transferred elsewhere. Baggage fees were included because of the class of service. All I had to pay for was a one-way ticket home from JFK New York and the taxes/fees associated with using the mileage for a ticket. Out of pocket, it cost me less than $200 to fly back from Bali to Boston.

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Check out I Fly With Miles and all that they can do for you and your stockpiles of miles. Who has time to figure that out? It’s a small consulting fee toward their frequent flyer booking service, that’s it. I’d rather just think about packing my bags and spending my hard-earned money on some yummy meals and a swank hotel. Don’t  you agree?!

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Filed under airlines, bali, boston, singapore, travel

The Buzz about Iceland

Iceland is my favorite place in the world I’ve visited so far. In fact, it’s really a favorite amongst many travel writers and there’s a very good reason – it is absolutely stunning and so much more. I read constantly how it should be on any travelers ‘to-do’ travel list. I agree.

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Listed on Forbes as one of The Coolest Places to Visit in 2015 - um, yes, and last year and next year and always – if you have visited, you know just what I mean. Iceland produces repeat visitors. I alone visited twice last year. I actually put the question out to some fellow travel writers “what makes you a repeat Icelandic offender?” ;) Some of their responses:

Candice from Candice Does the World – “Because Iceland is rad.”

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Josh from Engineer on the Road – “The elves made me do it.”

Yishyene from Small Crazy – “It’s the lamb soup.”

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Katie from Viator – “No where else that makes me as happy. There’s no where else that feels so comfortable yet continues to surprise me.”

There are so many people in love with this incredible country and no time like the present to visit. Iceland is only 4.5 hours from Boston, 5 hours from New York and 7 hours from Denver – there really is no excuse. And let’s not forget Icelandair allows a free stopover on your way to/from Europe up to 7 days.  But if that’s not temptation enough, read some different writers’ reasons here.

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Candice tells us about Eating Puffin in Iceland.

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Yishyene has all kinds of fun posts about Winter Fun in Iceland.

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Katie, four time offender, gives us 15 Incredible things to Do in Iceland.

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David & Auston of Two Bad Tourists tell us about Gay Iceland: Your Guide to Reykjavik Pride.

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And then there’s Inga, Iceland’s *BEST* ambassador and the lady behind Tiny Iceland – a website full of Iceland resources. Here she shares What to See and Do in South Iceland - a very popular destination outside the capital.

Talk about BUZZ…BuzzFeed gives 32 Reasons Why Iceland is the Best Country Ever and, just this week, Fare Buzz wrote about fare deals and why Iceland is A Must See Destination with Amazing Sights.

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I think Owen Gaddis, interviewed by Forbes, said it best. “Traveling to Iceland is like being transported to a parallel world where every waking moment is filled with adventure, incredible landscapes, folklore and understated pleasures. It will make you believe in the magical again.”

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Filed under iceland, travel

Best Traveled Dress

I travel a lot. And I’m often asked about travel essentials and how and what I choose to pack. There are few staples depending upon the climate but there is one standout dress that seems to accompany me almost everywhere for the last five years and is still going strong!

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The Calypso Classic Ro Dress. Calypso St. Barth is a favorite store of mine found in some lucky locales throughout the USA and, of course, the original in St. Barth. I’ve visited a few but the Boston store is where I do the most damage. Five years ago or so I bought my first Ro dress and knew instantly what a great staple dress this was but since have truly learned it’s value. (The classic Ro dress retails at $195)

I have worn it as going out nighttime dress, a touring day dress, a beach cover up or just something to quickly throw on. This is a dress that keeps you cool and comfortable. It’s a dress that consistently gets complimented. It is a dress that’s forgiving – I think it would look good on anyone. Best of all, you can machine wash it or, in times of necessity, hand wash it in a sink. It looks great with a casual denim jacket or cardigan. It can be worn with leggings and boots. Mine has gone on fancy dinner dates, out dancing at clubs or just chilling at beach bars. Plus, obviously, it travels well in your bag. It is my go-to everything dress!

This dress has literally traveled the globe with me. It’s been to Miami virtually every time I go. Hello cover up or a dress to throw on for lunch. Same idea for Hawaii and Palm Springs. And, seen here on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

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In St. Martin and St. Barth it’s been a going out dress. Also in London, Bali and seen here in Istanbul.

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This dress traveled with me for my 10,000 mile drive from the United Kingdom to Mongolia. It is that diverse and essential. In Cambodia it was a touring dress of the Phnom Penh Night Market.

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In Thailand it saw the grandeur of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

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And as a day dress it met children in an orphanage in Bangalore India.

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Calypso St. Barth has grown from a modest resort-wear boutique to a luxury lifestyle brand with a passionate international following. Inspired by travel, culture & the arts, the brand reveals unique & feminine pieces that can be mixed and matched for effortless elegance, which women of every age have come to love.

Calypso St. Barth’s namesake collection is displayed alongside carefully curated pieces from international designers for an eclectic assortment with wide appeal. To me, entering Calypso St. Barth is like taking a mini-vacation to somewhere exotic. And each of my Calypso pieces are very unique and special to me.

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Join me next Tuesday, March 10 from 6-8pm at Calypso St. Barth’s in Boston, 114 Newbury Street. I will be hosting a soiree to showcase Calypso’s Spring 2015 collection. You can come enjoy snacks, sips and shopping after hours as a special VIP guest. Better yet, Calypso is offering 20% off the entire store. Bring your travel questions and stories and be inspired by Calypso!

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Filed under boston, cabo san lucas, cambodia, caribbean, fashion, miami, mongol rally, phnom penh, st. barts, travel, turkey

Sexy and the City

I heart Sexy City Travel, do you? I return to all 3 of these cities again and again. I’d love to hear which cities are your Sexy Travel Spots. Here are my top three Sexy Cities.

Paris

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I love Paris. I always have. The people look as delicious as the food and wine! It’s a romantic city but it’s also a sexy city. There is top everything from see and be seen shops, hotels, restaurants and clubs. But, you don’t have to be in the know to get the sexy vibe there. You could just be sitting at a cafe watching the world go by eating French onion soup and drinking a little vin. The French language is sexy. The French women and men are sexy. The French ophthalmologist shops are sexy. French artists make sexy French art. Famous writers from around the world wrote about sexy times in Paris. It’s indisputable.

New York City

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Well, they did make a show about ‘sex’ in this city after all! New York is sexy for many of the same reasons as Paris. I wouldn’t say New York is romantic but it is a fast paced place where there’s always something exciting going on. Again, the people watching is incredible. It’s edgy and fun and that makes it sexy to me. It’s a bit of a rebellious city. Like the sexy rock star! You never know what or who you’re going to see when you step onto the streets of New York. This is one exciting and very alive city. You can feel its energy pulsing at any given hour practically anywhere.

Miami Beach

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Now this city, to me, is the most sexy of the three. It just feels more exotic. The chill international vibe. The swanky sporty cars and scantily clad people. Sex is literally in the air in Miami. That suntan oil summertime smell and lounge music drifting all around. I mean the sand and ocean tend to make you think of sexy things, am I right? Lots of sun-kissed skin. But even the dinners, drinks and dancing is sexier in Miami. That must be why I love it so much.

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Filed under miami, new york, paris, travel

Fun Forecast: Girls Getaway in Nola

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I recently went to New Orleans for a long weekend with my girlfriends. It wasn’t my first visit to the Big Easy by any means but it was definitely my favorite. Even though I often choose Miami as my girls getaway destination, I have to say, New Orleans is now also a top contender.

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Why? Well there are many factors that go into what would make a great girls getaway destination such as lots of things to do for everyone’s tastes. Good food options in all price points. Great watering holes for yummy cocktails and making new friends. New Orleans has all of this and more. With so much history and lore, there’s no limit to activities if you don’t feel like just eating and drinking. For example, some of my girlfriends went for a neighborhood guided run. Ghost and vampire tours are offered daily or you can visit voodoo shops and have your fortune read. Another factor that’s important to consider when traveling with a group is whether it’s a walking city and are taxis readily available. New Orleans is just that kind of city. Plus, the southern charm and hospitality CANNOT be beat. Here are my four favorite discoveries from my recent girls getaway in Nola.

St. Bernard’s Project

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Two of my girlfriends and I went down to New Orleans a day early so we could volunteer time to help work on a Katrina house with St. Bernard’s Project. Having done a Habitat for Humanity build before, this was very appealing to me. It’s a great way to give a little time back to the community you are visiting and a good way to feel more connected. The St. Bernard Project’s Rebuilding Program in New Orleans rebuilds homes for senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with children who can not afford to have their homes rebuilt by contractors. We were working on an existing home for a couple that has been displaced since Katrina. It was so fun and rewarding to learn how to fire block. The girls and I felt empowered wielding hammers & drills and cutting wood with a chop saw (something none of us had ever done before). And what’s really great with this organization is there’s really no major time commitment. A perfect way to make a small difference. I will definitely return and do another day or two with St. Bernard’s as there are still many homes to be rebuilt from Katrina’s devastation.

FlipKey Vacation Rentals

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When you go away with your girlfriends part of the point is to have a ginormous slumber party together. The issue is the more people traveling together the harder it is to achieve. This is where renting apartments and homes makes SO MUCH SENSE! For a fraction of the cost of a hotel, you can get a kicking place to share with your best buds. We found the perfect apartment through FlipKey on the other side of Canal Street, so a bit out of the French Quarter madness but close enough to walk back and forth as any and all wanted. It couldn’t have been better suited for us. A 3 bedroom and 2 bathroom apartment with Nola flair, a big shared living space, washer/dryer and all in a secure building. We all decided this is a premium way to go with a girls getaway.

Flytographer

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Another repeat for me but still definitely deserves the mention is working with awesome Flytographer. It is one of my absolute favorite things to mix into a girls trip. One of the things that I really want to highlight with this mention is how you learn something(s) new about a city while on a shoot. Since the photographers hired are local to the area, they always end up sharing tidbits you wouldn’t otherwise know about the city you’re visiting. New Orleans was no exception. Lizzie was incredible about choosing places to shoot and suggesting choices of drinks and small bites and introducing us to local sweets. I don’t know if there was a single other activity we all enjoyed more than our Flytographer shoot and our photos came out AMAZING. Flytographer has photographers in over 100 cities worldwide and packages start at $250. (Bargain when split among friends, right?!)

Commander’s Palace

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While we all loved the *obligatory* stops to Pat O’Brien’s and Cafe Du Monde, we hit up some other yummy spots and I want to give a BIG shout out to by far my favorite New Orleans foodie experience yet – Commander’s Palace. We went for Sunday Jazz Brunch and BOY did we get the royal treatment. This wasn’t unique to us. This is just how Commander’s Palace rolls. Since 1880, Commander’s Palace has been a New Orleans landmark known for the award-winning quality of its food. The history of this famous restaurant offers a glimpse into New Orleans’ antebellum past. We loved every second of our multi-course brunch. Basically, my mouth is watering right this second and this establishment will be a repeat on every subsequent visit to New Orleans. It’s THAT good. I had a trio of soups including gumbo, lobster bisque and their famous turtle soup…when in “Rome”. My entrée was shrimp and grits (OMG) and dessert was the well-known house specialty, creole bread pudding soufflé. Of course, cocktails were sampled as well. Not only was my mouth and belly completely thrilled but our service might have truly been some of the best I’ve ever experienced.

* We were graciously given a media discount with FlipKey but regardless this was the most cost-effective and best way to stay in Nola. More on FlipKey:

What makes FlipKey such a great place to find a vacation rental?

  • We feature 300,000 vacation homes located in over 11,000 cities throughout the world
  • Every owner is verified by FlipKey staff to ensure you are only dealing with nice and trusted people
  • We feature the largest collection of authentic guest reviews and photos in the industry
  • Over 5,000 special deals are featured on the site every day
  • Millions of travelers visit FlipKey every month to help find the perfect vacation home
  • FlipKey is a TripAdvisor company and powers the vacation rental experience on TripAdvisor.com—the largest travel site in the world—and other TripAdvisor Media sites

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Filed under fun forecast, new orleans, travel, USA