Why you should travel more

There is a stigma around using all of your vacation days or even sick leave in the corporate world. In the past, it has signaled that you were maybe not serious about your career – you weren’t a hard worker if you didn’t stay past five every day and work the weekends.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tsika Photography

I’m breaking all of these unspoken “rules” and I’m traveling more. Here’s what traveling ACTUALLY does for you and if you are the boss here is what it does for your employees.

  • It allows you to take a mental break from your day to day routine and experience new things outside of your comfort zone.
  • Traveling is healing. Ok, I know this one sounds a little “head in the clouds”, but if you have recently lost a loved one, maybe you are going through a breakup or just need a freaking break (can I get an amen) – traveling can help your mind switch gears to focus on the future.
  • Traveling creates new memories. A lot of people are foregoing their traditional gift giving this season and seeking a travel “experience” or “destination” gifts.
  • You’ll be happier. Yep, it’s true and it’s that simple. Since starting my blog and travel adventures almost a year ago, today, I’m happier, more confident and open minded.
  • You’ll have something to talk about at awkward work socials. (I’m joking – kinda.) Having new travel experiences around the state, nation and world gives you plenty of material when meeting new people and it will also help you connect to other people. We all want to find some common ground… what if your recent trip to the Florida Keys helps you make a new friend?
  • You will arrive back from you trip renewed… ok just kidding – you will be tired and you will have tons of laundry. BUT I’m guaranteeing you it will make you happier, healthier and you will have a better quality of life for taking the time to travel and experience new things.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tsika Photography

Join me this year in making a New Year’s Resolution to Travel More. Leave me a comment and tell me where you are traveling in the new year!

Happy Trails – xx Jennifer

8 Packing Essentials for Disneyland

Turning 36 and “officially” entering into my late thirties doesn’t have to be all tears and sadness, no I spent my birthday this year at the most magical place on earth… Disney.  Growing up, Disney has always been a family vacation tradition and one day I hope to take my children.

But in the meantime I’m living it up as a single person and unattached, I am kicking off a new blog series. Similar to my “Girlfriends Guide to Fredericksburg” blog series, I’m giving you all the Disney insider travel tips for your next trip to Disney with your bestie.  PS… did I tell you my bestie is a Disney Travel Agent?  Yeah that helps a little.

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First on the list, what do you even pack when you go to Disney?  If you are an over packer like me then I have a great list for you of items you may not even think of as you arrive at the park.  And I know I said 8 packing essentials… well I’m giving you 2 extra bonus tips.

Disney Packing Essentials

  1.  Etsy for the win.  Etsy really came through for us on custom Disney t-shirts, I also found a lot of great choices on Amazon.
  2. The Perfect Backpack. This Amazon backpack is seriously my favorite purchase.  It was the perfect size, light weight and easy to maneuver on and off while jumping on rides.  The multi-pockets allowed me to store my phone, charger, snacks and carry a bottle of water.  It comes in some many fun colors, I would highly recommend this bag.
  3. Portable charger.  Who has time to stop and charge your phone while you are at Disney? The answer is no one… but carrying a portable charger was great.  I recently bought one on Amazon and love it, I use it for all of my travel and I highly recommend traveling with one in your bag.
  4. Mickey Mouse Ears.  Anything goes at Disney and wearing Mickey ears is a must at the park.  We jumped on the rose gold bandwagon and pre-ordered our ears to have in our suitcase upon arriving at the park
  5. Save your feet.  It is so tempting to wear cute shoes, but I’m telling you right now we averaged about 9 miles a day in the park.  You will want to wear the most comfortable shoes you own.  And if you don’t own a pair, Amazon has you covered.
  6. Bottled Water.  You can enter the park with sealed bottles of water.  Throughout the park they had recycling bins for your empty bottles. It was nice to have water on us at all times to stay hydrated as we ran around the park like teenagers.
  7. Sunscreen.  Although the temperatures were cooler the sun was bright, and in the afternoon you could especially feel the heat.  Sunscreen is always a good idea.
  8. Lily Shades.  We found a really affordable pink mirrored shade at Lilly Pulitzer that of course matched our rose gold Mickey ears.
  9. BONUS TIP:  Travel corkscrew.  Have you ever tried to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew… yeah guilty, but save the hassle and buy TSA approved travel corkscrew.
  10. BONUS TIP:  Amazon Prime is your friend.  Consider having essentials delivered to the hotel bellhop before arriving. We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel and didn’t have an issue with ordering ahead and they even delivered it to our room upon our arrival.  Items we ordered were….wine of course, water, fresh fruit and granola bars.

Sundy House

A tropical and historical step back into the early 1900’s; the Sundy House Restaurant, Boutique Inn and Botanical Garden in Delray Beach, Florida stole my heart.  The Sundy House is already back on the list for any future trips to Delray Beach – and here’s why…

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Beautiful brick pavers lead the way to the entrance of the Sundy House restaurant where we began our morning enjoying their famous Sundy House Brunch.  Every sense was triggered, as we found our seats in the Sundy House dinning room.  With every sip of the endless mimosas – the taste of crisp bubbles filled our mouths, a solo vocalist’s voice echoed through the tall ceilings and the aroma of freshly prepared waffles and crepes filled the air.

Brunch spanned two rooms, ranging in delicious traditional breakfast foods to a charcuterie station, seafood, fried chicken, mac & cheese, desserts, and ice cream.  If you would like to indulge in this tasty feast of a brunch be prepared to pay $75 per person (adults), plus tax and gratuity.  My recommendation would be to make a reservation and note the the max seating time is 2.5 hours due to the high demand.

After brunch we took our mimosas and strolled out into the tropical gardens to experience the lush greenery, statues, and water features that spanned throughout the boutique inn courtyard.  Although we did not stay at the Inn, we agreed that we would come back very soon.

Not far from the Sundy House is Downtown Delray Beach where you will find streets lined with shopping, art galleries, dining and nightlife.  This charming little seaside town was full of life and friendly, it’s a great place to have a romantic getaway or even take the family.

Happy Travels – Jennifer

Travel More, New York City

There is something about New York that has always been magical for me, maybe like Disney is for a 3-year-old.  I am inspired and renewed each time I visit, I always feel like I could conquer the world. It’s the only destination I’ve ever traveled to that I actually miss when I leave… almost like a home sick kind of miss.

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New York City, Central Park, 2016

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My best girlfriends and I have traveled to NYC on girl’s trips over the years, each time the experience is different, a good different though.  Exploring the city can be overwhelming with all of the endless choices of food, entertainment and activities 24-7.  I’ve summarized some of my favorite spots we’ve visited from my favorite food spots, sweet treats, shows, outdoor and touristy activities that are a must.

We have our favorite Hilton hotel on 35th that we typically stay at, nothing fancy, but it’s clean and in a great location to catch a metro or start each day.  The year we found a basement Japanese and Tapas Restaurant, Izakaya MEW, turned out to be a hidden gem right next to our hotel.  Although it was in a basement we must have passed it a million times.  Walking down a dark set of stairs, we went on faith that we weren’t walking into a death trap.  Once we turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs we were greeted by a friendly hostess and our ears filled with the sounds of a DJ’s beats.  With a mix of a night club and beautiful lights that created a romantic and magical setting, we hit the jackpot. Izakaya Mew is now our go to meal the first night we are in the city.

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Izakaya MEW – our dinner aftermath

One of my favorite things to do is dress up and go to a Broadway show.  Nothing says New York like the theater.  Quick tip:  Decide up front what shows you are interested in seeing with your friends and then fill in around that show once you have arrived.  You have options to use TKTS and the ticket lottery systems.  We typically always purchase one show before going so we know that we have one night out with dinner and a show. One of my favorite Broadway experiences was Jersey Boys (no longer on Broadway, but you can catch a decent off Broadway production on New World Stages in Hell’s Kitchen or most likely a city near you.  I treated my parents last year to a night out at our local theater, MSC Opas, and they had a blast).

Before the Jersey Boys show my friends and I decided to try out a Cuban restaurant and bar, Victor’s Cafe.  We quickly found seats in the bar, sending us back in time to old-Havana, circa 1963. (Side note: Victor’s is actually a beautiful restaurant, a few years later I went back and had the entire experience over again and dined at the restaurant – this is a must.)  This night was full of excitement as we walked into the Victors Bar we were immediately greeted by the bar tender and decided to order an array of Cuban topas and Cuban drinks dressed with sugar cane sticks and some sort of wild fruits I can’t recall.  The band had just started playing and as the three of us had our “Sex in the City” moment of cocktails in a packed NYC bar, we laughed and flirted with the band members.  We realized the time and quickly made our way over to the show just in time for curtain call where we danced and sang throughout the entire production of Jersey Boys.  It was a night I will always remember, with some of my best friends who will forever be in my world.

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Victor’s:  It’s a blurry picture, but a beautiful snap shot of our friendship and a night I’ll never forget.

There are several parks that are a must during your visit to the city:  Central Park, Bryant Park, High Line Park are a few of my favorites.  At the top of the list of course is Central Park.  Every time I visit this park I have a different experience, it is a great outdoor destination for exploring.  From renting a bike and cruising around the park, outdoor yoga, to traveling back to the 70’s and watching roller skating gatherings, the park is always an adventure.  Last year we decided to have brunch at The Loeb Boathouse Central Park and we had a blast sipping our mimosas and watching all of the tourists attempt to climb into their paddle boats.  True confession, I secretly was waiting for someone to fall in the water.  I remember the food being delicious, but not as much as the people watching – make sure and get a table by a window for the best water views. (You’re welcome).

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Central Park – The Maine Monument, Columbus Circle  

 

 

Bryant Park was whimsical and a trip back to my childhood.  I absolutely fell in love with this colorful carousel filled with all kinds of creatures.  Visitors relaxed under the shade trees, playing games, reading books or enjoying lunch.  During the summer they offer movies in the park, I’m adding this to the list the next time we visit.

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Bryant Park, NYC

The High Line is another really neat outdoor space on the west side of Manhattan.  It spans only 1.45 miles long, but it’s charm is the elevated green way including an old rail trail that runs through the center.  I was probably most impressed with the flowers that generously covered the railways and brought life back to a retired track.  You can actually see the Statue of Liberty off in the distance from the High Line, add this one to the list.

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High Line, NYC

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High Line, NYC 

Foodies listen up… next stop is Chelsea Market, in the Meatpacking district, it’s a culinary must. Enjoy wandering through the halls with aromas of fresh spices, eateries, and shopping.  This would also be a great place to pick up a bottle of wine (or two) and select a few cheeses to take to a park for a nice and relaxing day outdoors.

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Chelsea Market, NYC

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Chelsea Market, NYC – Nabisco Oreo

Canal Street is where East meets West.  The streets are lined with vendors in Chinatown and I found a lot of art that I would have loved to take home with me.  This is a cultural experience in itself.  My friends and I enjoyed our first rolled ice cream at 10Below.  I’d like to go back to Canal Street when I have a little more time, we were limited on time when we visited, I’ll be putting this back on the list for next time we visit.

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Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge was another great adventure the last time we visited the city.  After making our way over the bridge we found the original Grimaldi’s Pizza and enjoyed every heavenly slice…. side note you don’t need to travel to NYC to enjoy this city treat, they have franchised and you can find it in almost every major city in Texas. So if you are craving Pizza in NYC I would recommend trying out a few other local flavors, a basic yelp search will point you in the right direction.

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Now my favorite topic…. SWEET TREATS! 

Serendipity 3, home of the famous iced hot chocolate and featured in the film Serendipity, staring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, the romantic in me had to have the full experience.  We lucked out and enjoyed our delicious iced hot chocolate treat at the same table featured in the movie!  Again, further proof that NYC is just magical.

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Magnolia Bakery is also one of my favorites, it has gained a lot of popularity and they have several locations across the city.  But those cupcakes are just too good to pass up, they also have cakes and cookies for days.  Swing by if you are in the area, you wont be disappointed, I promise.

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Dominique Ansel Bakery NYC, creator of the famous “Cronut”…. so if a croissant and a donut had a baby this is what it would look like.  The cronut became a tourist destination fully inclusive of long lines and limited purchases per guest (limit 2 per customer).  With the “fear of missing out” mentality we quickly jumped in line.  The cronut has a delicious fruity filling that changes daily, so be prepared that it will be different every time you visit.

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Other stops to consider while visiting NYC…

If you are a huge Sex and the City fan, NYC of course offers a complete tour bus experience.  One year we thought it would be fun to take a city tour in true sex in the city fashion.  It was a lot of fun and it didn’t disappoint.

The Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial are both obligatory destinations on your visit as an American.  We took the Staten Island Ferry to visit see the Statue of Liberty, this is a budget saver if you’re limited on time or don’t really want to spend time on the island.  When you visit the 9/11 Museum I will warn you that it is intense, so be prepared that this could be a challenge emotionally.  Disclaimer, I have not visited the museum because it was not open yet when I visited the memorial, but going to ground zero changed my life much like 9/11 did.  It’s incredibly powerful.

Here are 10 links to check out while planning your trip to NYC:

  1. Hilton Garden Inn, 63 W 35th St., New York, NY 10001
  2. Izakaya MEW Japanese and Tapas Restaurant
  3. Victor’s Cafe
  4. The Loeb Boathouse Central Park
  5. Chelsea Market
  6. TKTS
  7. Serendipity 3
  8. Magnolia Bakery
  9. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  10. Grimald’s Pizza

Where ever you end up on your trip to NYC just know that it will be an experience you will never forget, it will bring you life and inspire you to do more.  I can’t wait for my next big adventure in the city! xx-Jennifer

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