Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 U.S. Cities Perfect for Long Weekend Trips When You Work Full-Time

Excerpted from by Becky Mahan

Americans, we suck at travel. It’s a fact: studies show that American employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation, and about 40% of Americans don’t use it at all! While we feel you should use that time off (it’s yours, after all), we also get that Americans have a raw deal when it comes to how much vacation time we get. Two weeks per year is hardly enough to go gallivanting around the world. But that’s okay. If you can be smart about it, you can knock off a ton of globe pins in a year: particularly, by book-ending weekends and taking advantage of holidays.

Think about it: Saturdays and Sundays are built-in “vacation” days. If you use just one of your precious PTO days, you can take Friday (or Monday) off and hit the airport on Thursday night (or Friday night.) If you use, gasp!, two PTO days, you can head out Thursday night, spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and most of Monday in your destination, and head home Monday night. (Just make extra coffee Tuesday morning when you’re back in the office.)

But where can you go for only 3.5 days, you ask? Luckily, with only a 6-hour average flight from coast to shining coast, our beautiful country offers plenty to do on a long weekend. Here are some of the best places to go, whether you only have Saturday and Sunday or longer:

First time in Chicago? Don’t worry, your selfies with the Bean and that monster deep-dish are acceptable. And the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Museum of Contemporary Photography, and Millennium Park are all must-dos, as well. But check off other obligatory (and far less-known to visitors) boxes, too: spend some time in Wrigleyville if you’re sports-inclined, or head west and walk along the 606, a discontinued train track that has been re-purposed into an art-filled link between four Chicago neighborhoods, if you’re not.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Who hasn’t spent a wild weekend in Vegas? Perfect for weekend turnarounds because, well, it’s Vegas, Sin City is so packed with things to do that you might want to take an extra day off just to sleep. Don’t spend all your vacation money in the casinos, though: if nightlife is your thing, hit the clubs, like OMNIA at Caesars Palace (not where the real Caesar lived, by the way) to enjoy top DJs and bottle service that costs a mortgage payment. Or head downtown to Old Vegas and Fremont, where there’s a new restaurant and bar scene, and the slots and tables are cheaper, too. But no matter what, don’t leave without hitting up at least one buffet or fine dining establishment: Vegas has some of the top cuisines in the whole freaking world, and you’d be sorely remiss if you didn’t indulge in the ridiculous world cuisines of the Rio’s Carnival World buffet, or the monster double-deckers of beef at Gordon Ramsay’s BurGr.

As most visitors are wont to do, your weekend will best be spent in the famous colonial-era French Quarter, where you’ll find the equally famous Bourbon Street and its infamous bars, nightclubs, and other nighttime hangs. Of course, you can’t miss the fabled beignets at Cafe du Monde, or the various other Nawlins’ food favorites, like muffuletta, jambalaya, and gumbo, at the many eateries nearby. And while good hotels are available everywhere, only stay in the French Quarter if you have a good pair of earplugs (or want to embrace the action.)’

You’ll want to rent a car here; Los Angeles is huge and diverse, and you’ll be able to see much more in a weekend if you have your own wheels. Spend some time at the beaches and their easygoing, chill communities, including Santa Monica and Venice Beach (and the eclectic Venice Boardwalk.) If clubbing is your scene, you’ll want to settle yourself in Hollywood for the night, or check out the music on Sunset Strip and the hipster indie clubs in Silverlake. Art lovers will want to pilgrimage to the Getty Center and Getty Villa, or climb to the Griffith Observatory for spectacular nighttime cityscapes. And, of course, Beverly Hills and ritzy Malibu are worth even just a drive through the neighborhoods and their jaw-dropping mansions.

You’ll also want a car to get around the sprawling metropolis of San Diego, where you can hit the beach, snowy mountains, sparse desert, and country highlands all in one day. The “city” is really a massive complex of individual towns and communities, so whatever you crave, you’ll find it. Stroll around Seaport Village and the downtown districts (including the historic bar and restaurant-laden Gaslmap, and art-centric East Village), or catch a ferry across the bay to the “island” of Coronado with its cute wharf and bay-front boardwalk. Little Italy is chock-full of trendy eateries, taprooms, and rooftops with amazing views (and one of the biggest farmer’s markets in the country), while eclectic North Park is like a mini Portland, and Hillcrest is the self-described “gay-borhood” of the city. Del Mar is luxe and high-end (if you go in the summer, hit the fair, and in the fall, the horse races), while the chill hippie beach town vibes of Encinitas and Carlsbad just beg you to stop and sip a cold-brewed coffee. Pacific Beach. or “PB” as the locals call it, is also a “chill beach town,” but with much more of that nitty-gritty, dumpy clubs and dive bars-feel that is somehow still cool. And did we mention the plethora of microbreweries (or the king of them all: Stone Brewing), beaches, and San Diego's food of choice, fish tacos?

If you want an escape/retreat sort of weekend, Napa and neighboring Sonoma are a sure bet. As one of the world’s premiere wine-producing regions, Napa Valley boasts over three hundred wineries and wine-centric eateries. And nearby Sonoma is just as beautiful, but without the crowds and overpriced tastings, so it’s a much more mellow alternative. Wherever you make your base, be sure to scout out the smaller vintners, who have just as much class and charm as the mega-wineries, but with arguably more authentic character: like Castello di Amorosa's 12th century castle or Frog's Leap trails and 19th century barn. Looking for a bit of an outdoor adventure? Ditch the car and pop between the wineries on bike, or by private chauffeur — or even the awesome Napa Valley Wine Train. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this region is all wine and only wine; the towns of Napa and Sonoma themselves are charming and vibrant, offering plenty of culture, art galleries, and distinguished restaurants and cafes.

Welcome to the urban traveler’s paradise: with iconic clanging cable cars, Victorian row houses, quirky neighborhoods and stunning waterfront, it’s rare we hear anyone say, “I hated San Francisco.” (We’re also slightly biased.) Make the most of your weekend by living like a local: rent a bike and explore the beautiful trails of  Golden Gate Park. Graze on organic oysters, cheese, and sustainably-grown heirloom tomatoes in the Ferry Building, or try to choose from the concentration of the best. burritos. in. the. world. in  The Mission District, or sip on Irish coffee at the Buena Vista and bread bowls of chowder in Fisherman's Wharf. Or, hop on a ferry and explore Sausalito, Tiberon, or Alcatraz — just don’t forget a jacket.

Old World charm meets vibrant New World sophistication here, where a thriving restaurant culture and booming theater and art scene are king. Stroll down the beachside boardwalk, The Battery, or take a horse and carriage through the cobbled downtown streets to see centuries-old mansions, Spanish moss-draped trees, and spooky cemeteries. At night, the gaslamp-lit streets make you feel as though you stepped into the 1800s, but pop into one of the innovative restaurants for a trendy dish and you’ll instantly remember what year it is (or, opt for the classic Southern fare of sweet tea and crab soup or fried alligator.) Still, history oozes out of Charleston’s every orifice, and Civil War buffs in particular should not miss Fort Sumter, or the stately homes-turned-museums.

Selfies at the Rocky statue after you run up the steps are obligatory. Go for it. And deciding which cheesesteak is better between Pat's and Geno's is also okay (though we recommend going off the beaten path to try smaller vendors, as well.) You’d be remiss if you didn’t taste American history at the Liberty Bell and Constitution Center, and the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary is a unique, spooky experience. But just a few blocks away from the noise and crowds of downtown, shady cobbled alleyways await, with red-brick colonial houses, hidden eateries, and pockets of history. Meander through Fairmount Park or while away the afternoon beneath the trees in iconic Love Park, people-watch in  Rittenhouse Square, or sip a sundae at Franklin Fountain in Old City for a taste of what makes Philadelphia an actually quaint and unpretentious city.

Everything you’ve heard about this eclectic city is (probably) true: filled with artists and activists, rose gardens and microbrews, vinyl and coffee (all done to perfection), it just oozes “hip.” Get a taste of the thriving restaurant culture, fueled largely by the region’s countless wineries and organic farms. Try porchetta and dirty fries at  Lardo, fried rings of lard at Voodoo Doughnuts, nitro cold-brewed coffee at  Stumptown Roasters, or sustainable poached eggs at The Screen Door; you won’t be sorry. On the south side of the city, relax in Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden, or head outside town to the iconic Multnomah Falls. And in between, peruse the many markets for everything from organic dog treats to re-purposed bamboo-framed sunglasses.

Still wondering how you can travel more while working full-time? 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Day

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 
Martin Luther King Jr. 

#travelingcynthia #mlk #martinlutherkingquote #martinlutherkingday

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Been There, Seen That: Alternatives to Europe's Biggest Cities

Excerpted from AFAR by Andrew Richdale

Where to go in Europe, once you've explored Berlin, Rome, Barcelona and more.Visit the continent with fresh eyes this year by booking a trip to these rising-star cities.

If You Like Rome . . .
Visit Parma, Italy
UNESCO recently named the birthplace of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese the world’s first Creative City of Gastronomy.
What to do: Enjoy langoustines and shrimp beignets at F.I.S.H. Sample salami at the market near Strada Matteo Renato Imbriani. Drink your fill of the local lambrusco. And top it all off with the creamy fior di latte gelato from Cremeria Emilia.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
If You Like Berlin . . .
Visit Leipzig, Germany
A breeding ground for young artists, Leipzig, with its warehouse parties and Soviet towers, could be Berlin right after the wall fell.
What to do: Don’t miss Spinnerei, a 25-acre former mill turned studio compound for 100 artists. Wander through provocative photography exhibits at Halle 14 and shop for elegant coral-like sculptures at Claudia Biehne’s studio and shop.

If You Like Barcelona . . .
Visit Malaga, Spain
Sunny days by the sea, tapas binges, a bounty of trippy architecture—it’s Barcelona without all the hippies and students.
What to do: The port city has been occupied by more than five different civilizations in its 2,800 years. Admire the ruins of Phoenician lighthouses and Roman theaters. Back in this century, sip Spanish beer at the new El Rincon del Cervecero.

If You Like Copenhagen . . .
Visit Aarhus, Denmark
Like Copenhagen, this second-largest Danish city is home to eye-grabbing modern design and a thriving New Nordic food scene.
What to do: Aarhus is full of forward-thinking minds. Challenge your palate with  the calf’s-blood macaroons at Frederikshoj and admire the spiky Iceberg apartment complex. Get around using the city’s new light-rail, which opens this year.

If You Like Zurich . . .
Visit Bern, Switzerland
Bern has the same sophisticated vibe, Old World architecture, and green spaces as Zurich—just with one third of the population.
What to do: It’s all about the good life here. Hike up to Rosengarten, a park with 200 types of roses and sweeping views of the old city. And visit the Zentrum Paul Klee for an exhibit on Klee’s relationship with the Surrealist painters of Paris.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How to Survive an Insanely Long Travel Delay

The chillest guide to actually enjoying holiday travel

Excerpted from AFAR by Maggie Fuller

Nothing activates that noxious, gut-dwelling ball of dread as quickly as the words “travel” and “delay” in the same sentence. Every year, traveling with unpredictable weather and the universe’s morbid sense of humor create the perfect storm of travel disasters. Will you be trapped on the tarmac for five hours? Or find yourself unwillingly stepping into Tom Hank’s role in The Terminal? 

While we’re all dreading the reroutes and delays and predicting the worst, we have to keep one thing in mind: A travel delay can actually be awesome. Yes, you read that right. Being forced to stop running around, relax, and enjoy an entire airport of increasingly delightful food, drink, and entertainment sounds like a pretty good deal to us. Here’s how you can turn a disastrous delay into a mini-vacation-within-a-vacation.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Come prepared
The good news is that if you’re well-prepared with the necessities for a long flight, you’re also well-prepared for a comfy stay in an airport. If you’re not already traveling with an over-sized scarf that doubles as a blanket, this is the perfect time to start. Keeping crucial toiletries on hand will also allow you to freshen up whenever you want. Traveling with others? Consider investing in headphone splitters so that you can actually snuggle up and enjoy the movies and podcasts you’ve loaded on your electronic devices together. Throw in a pair of fuzzy socks or two and you’ve got yourself an airport slumber party. Most importantly, it’s an open secret that a multi-port USB charger or a multi-port adapter will guarantee you access to a coveted outlet, and a few new best friends to boot.

Plan Your Emergency Strategy Ahead of Time
Let’s just agree to assume that a flight delay is inevitable. The only thing more stressful than a delay is Googling “what to do in the event of a travel delay” seconds after you find out your plane has been delayed. While it takes a little extra planning, getting your logistics sorted out ahead of time will let you start enjoying your surprise airport vacation sooner.

Consider travel insurance—since we’re assuming you’ll be delayed, it’s going to come in handy. Most airlines’ flight protection policies and conditions of carriage don’t cover weather-related delays, so check on the extent of your coverage from any rewards credit cards, or consider buying from a travel insurance company like Travel Guard. Just like that, you could while away your extra-long travel delay lounging in a hotel robe, enjoying room service, and watching a popular movie from two years ago—at no extra cost.

Even if you have travel insurance, your airport vacation won’t last forever, so you should stay on top of your itinerary changes. A delay can affect everything from car rentals to hotel reservations to tours you may have booked, so keep those contact numbers (or email addresses) handy so that you can alert rental and travel agents of your change of plans and re-book as soon as possible, if necessary.
Finally, add key travel apps to your arsenal, like the all-in-one TripIt and TripItPro. These apps will help you navigate your terminal, send you updates and notifications on your flight, and some can even help you easily re-book your flight online so you don’t have to wait in line.

Maintain your Zen
Once they’ve announced that your flight has been delayed, don’t panic. If you find that you do need to relocate your center of calm, find the nearest yoga or meditation room. Often complete with mats, wood blocks, and sometimes even instructional videos, yoga rooms are popping up in airports all over the world. These days you can get your “ohm” on in San Francisco International, Chicago O’Hare, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, and more. USA Today reports that we can expect to see an increasing number of airport yoga rooms in the coming years. Most are free to use, but a few are part of larger fitness facilities or lounges and may require a small fee (which, to us, is worth it).

Head for the Lounges
Even if you’re not a member of a rewards program or rewards credit card, the best thing you do when facing an indefinite delay is to buy a day pass to an airport lounge. Escape the fluorescent-lit and echoing halls of the terminals to be cocooned in the style and comfort of plush couches, curtained windows, Wi-Fi, and available electrical outlets. Depending on the airline and location, your closest lounge may offer free food and drinks or shower facilities, and all lounges come fully-equipped with peace and quiet. There’s never been a better time or place to dive into that bestselling book you’ve been meaning to start, accompanied by a glass of champagne, of course. Most lounge day passes start around $50.

(Don’t) Sweat it
Can’t shake that flight delay anxiety? Work it off in an airport gym. Airport gyms have long been popular with business travelers whose hectic schedules make it hard to fit in exercise, but gyms are lifesavers for weary, delayed travelers. will help you locate fitness lounges and centers in airports across the United States and Canada. For airports without fitness facilities, the site lists nearby gyms and the fastest way to get to them, which is usually a short taxi ride. Stretch your cramped legs and sweat out all that lethargy—just remember to pack your gym clothes and shoes in your carry-on.

Spring for the Spa
If there is ever a perfect time to treat yourself to a massage and a manicure, this is it. We’re not just talking about massage chairs, either. Many major international airports and airport hotels around the world are home to top-quality spas that offer a full range of services, from quick-fix massages to longer, full-body treatments that target common travel complaints from dehydration to achy muscles. If you have the time, airport hotel spas offer a more comprehensive sanctuary experience, but if your plane may take off at any time, Be Relax and XpresSpa both have locations onsite in multiple terminals across the country. You’ll be so relaxed and rejuvenated, you might just “forget” to get on your flight.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year's Wish

My 2017 New Year's resolution is not to make a resolution, but rather have a wish.

“I wish the world were half as big, and I would live twice as long.” 

#travel #traveltuesday #travelquote #travelingcynthia