Let’s Start Planning Your Summer Vacation!

Summer is here! It’s time to break out the sunglasses, the BBQs, the sandals and just relax. I’m sure the big buzz at your office right now is all about where everyone is going for their vacation. Some people have planned it a year in advance and others are hoping to snag a last minute deal. Either way it’s something for us to look forward to.

Like all other aspects of my life, planning is key  when it comes to vacations. Before I pick a spot I do a lot of research into the area, figure out where I’d like to stay and to eat. This helps me to know that I’m going to get the most out of my time there!

Here are a few travel resources  I’ve found to make sure I’m ready for the perfect vacation:

NextVacay – The first step for planning the perfect vacation is figuring out where you want to go. The idea behind NextVacay is totally brilliant. You input your closest airport and their software will sift through all of the flights going in and out to find when an airline is offering amazing deals. For instance, I put in NYC airports and I get emails about cheap flights to Bali, Lisbon and Tokyo.The more flexible your situation the better, plus it’s really good for people who don’t know where they want to go. You get 1 month free trial and after that it’s $25 for the year. So it’s relatively inexpensive to try and you could save a lot more.

TripAdvisor – So you know where you want to go, what’s next? Make the most of your trip, whether you’re briefly visiting a destination or staying for a few weeks. Definitely plan some time to cruise TripAdvisor. It really helps you to narrow down the best attractions to see which restaurants are worth visiting. I have major FOMO when it comes to these things so checking this site guarantees I won’t miss out. I love being able to check other people’s experiences and see their candid reviews. I always make sure to add my favorite and not so favorite places when I return. If you’re interested in reading some of my reviews you can see them here.

MeziSo you know where you want go and what you want to see, now you just need to book somewhere to stay. If you’re going to a big city or popular resort you can easily become overwhelmed by options. Do you pay a little more to be closer to the city center? Or stray further out and rent the whole apartment? Mezi is an app that helps you find the right hotel for you, based on your personal preferences. The twist is that it’s all done by artificial intelligence. It’s a little but futuristic and AI can use deep learning tools to search through hundreds of options and create links that we might not notice – it could find your perfect getaway! If you try the app I’d love to hear what you think about it!

Global Entry – I tell everyone I meet about this – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! If you travel even one time per year, it’s worth doing. This program has several benefits for 5 years and a $100 price tag. First you are eligible for TSA Precheck within the United States. That means you get to basically skip the line at security, keep your laptop in it’s bag and forego taking off your shoes and sweaters. Plus, when you’re returning to the US you get to bypass all the lines! I wrote a blog post explaining why this is a must have for any regular travelers.

My Suitcase is Smarter Than Yours

I headed to Boston a few weeks ago to present at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was a very impressive conference. There were about 11,000 attendees and keynote speeches included Gayle King, Kevin O’Leary and Sarah Blakely.

I hosted a session called, (what else?) “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.” There were lots and lots of amazing list makers in the crowd. I even signed my very first to-do list! I also signed a lot of books and I got to meet one of the long time readers of this blog – Eileen Wyner! She was also a member of my VIP Launch Team when Listful Thinking was published. Grateful to meet her and share list stories!

I also moderated a session called, “Work Life Integration: Lessons From the Trenches” where I got to use my skills as a producer and interview two executives from Boston Scientific. We all shared stories of when we realized there had to be a better way to be successful in our careers and also happy at home. My lesson came when my appendix ruptured earlier this year.

Read more

Best Free Resources for Life Long Learning

For the first 18 years of our life we are focused solely on learning. We study, make flash cards and brainstorm new ideas. For some of us this learning goes on well into our twenties with college. But once we leave university, most of us move on from learning into the workplace and never really go back.

I loved learning when I was a kid and I always make it a point to learn something new whenever I can.  As a journalist I’m naturally curious and one of my favorite parts of my job is that I get to become an expert in many different subjects even if just for a day.   

Just because you’ve left school doesn’t mean you have to give up on life-long learning. In fact, many of the long-term bucket lists that I see include learning a language or new skill. But these long term goals tend to get overlooked because they can be quite costly or because people don’t think they have the time to achieve them. Read more

A Trick to Make Traveling So Much Simpler

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Jay and I at the Colosseum.

I’m feeling refreshed and reinvigorated after returning from Italy and Switzerland last week with Jay and a few of our friends. Jay and I went to Rome on our own — taking a tour inside the Colosseum and the Roman Forum plus having our favorite pizza in the world at Baffetto.

We also ate our way through through the Testaccio neighborhood.If you go to Rome definitely take a food tour with Eating Italy Tours — it was a highlight. And I’ve recently had to follow a gluten free diet as a complication of my appendix rupture and they were so sweet and accommodating about it!

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Eating my favorite pizza at Baffetto.

Then we were off for Geneva to meet up with our traveling friends Peter & Nicole and Nancy. We hopped in an SUV and drove an hour to Montreaux for the 50th annual Jazz Festival there.

The jazz festival was lots of fun with wonderful gourmet food, wine and lots of cool music. The town of Montreaux itself is really adorable with lots of shops and restaurants. Plus it’s right on a lake so the views are amazing. A note if you’re ever in Switzerland – it’s super expensive. Think 35 dollar cheeseburgers and 15 glasses of wine (and the pours are miniscule.)

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In the adorable town of Montreaux, Switzerland.

Off to Lake Como from there with a 4 hour drive through the Swiss Alps. Such a cool experience to drive through nearly untouched mountainsides. We saw snow capped mountains and lots of animals on our twisty travel. Those roads are all over the place and obviously very high up. It was a bit unnerving at times but we made it through with good music and snacks!

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The beautiful Lake Como!

We stayed in a small town called Varenna and absolutely loved it. It was so charming and picturesque. We were in love. We stayed at a villa called Casa Stacy and I highly recommend it. Not only did Stacy make sure we had everything we needed but she also hooked us up with some fun excursions. We went on a boat tour of the entire lake and had a private wine tasting that was amazing.

On a boat with our friends Peter and Nicole

On a boat with our friends Peter and Nicole.

Then it was off to finish the trip in Milan where we got a full tour of the city and got to see The Last Supper thanks to Milan Day Tours. It’s so interesting to see ancient art up close. When I saw the Mona Lisa I was a bit underwhelmed because it’s so tiny.  Not like you’d expect.  But this piece by Leonardo di vinci is huge. It takes up an entire wall and I thought it was in very good shape. We learned all about the restoration and history. I’m glad we did that tour.

My vacation was full of amazing food.

My vacation was full of amazing food.

Trick to Make Air Travel More Bearable

Our travels throughout Italy and Switzerland went off without a hitch. Air travel is usually the biggest headache for me when I’m on vacation.  But here’s the trick I promised — get Global Entry. It’s amazing how much time you save.

Global Entry gives you several benefits for 5 years and a $100 price tag. First you are eligible for TSA Precheck within the United States.  That means you get to basically skip the line at security, keep your laptop in it’s bad and forego taking off your shoes and sweaters.

Then when you travel internationally there’s another perk – you get VIP treatment when you return home and go through customs.

We just had to scan our passports and fingerprints. We got a printed pass and brought it to the customs officer.  It took us about 7 minutes to do this.  So from the time we landed to the time we were in a taxi at JFK heading home — just 37 minutes went by. That is a far cry from the usual experience we have when coming home internationally.

Other than the cost — the other catch is that you have to go for an in person interview to get access to Global Entry. It’s a pain to carve out the time in your calendar – I totally get that. But I have to tell you – not having to wait in line and prolong an already long trip was key for me. I’ve been trying to mitigate stress in my life and this is definitely one way to do it while traveling.
If you go for Global Entry let me know how your experience is. I’m giving mine two thumbs up!

Free Up Time Now For a Fabulous Summer

summer-still-life-783347_640The days are starting to get longer, the weather’s a bit warmer – summer is on it’s way! I always love summer not just because of of the vacations, slower pace and sunshine — but I’m a summer baby.  My birthday is in the summer so it’s always a fun time.  

Are you ready for the summer? If you want to make sure you have the best summer possible you need to start planning now! I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m a firm believer in planning for vacations, events and fun in advance. It’s why I start my Christmas shopping in August!

Here’s how to guarantee that you have a fantastic Summer 2016! Read more