Four Healthy Amenities I’d Like to See in US Airports

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports on airports getting healthier, and as any seasoned traveler can attest, this shift is long overdue.  I like to think of myself as a health nut – one with a serious weakness for Swedish Fish and French Fries – and I’ve had my own frustrations finding fare that wasn’t a greasy burger or sugary muffin.  Without the choice, little red fish it is.  But airports are taking initiative, and locations like Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) and Indianapolis (IND) are incorporating free yoga rooms and walking paths to kill time during a lengthy layover.  Others are forcing the issue, requiring within a new tenant’s lease to offer healthy food options.

So, I got to thinking – why stop at Yoga rooms?  Here are a few other sporty amenities I’d like to see in terminals:

  • Calorie Counts on Menus – nothing makes you think twice about those nachos than seeing the 1200 calories they pack – Bloomberg is onto something here in NYC and airports should follow suit
  • Walkstations – let travelers check their email or rebook a flight while they walk off that flight
  • Recumbent Bikes at Gates – a little something to get you moving during that 30 minutes delay without getting you too warm to potentially offend your seatmate; maybe it could even power your iPhone charger?
  • Freshen Up Station – On that note, how about personal hygiene bar to freshen up after your walk around the terminal.  Unfortunately, sometimes travelers who don’t move around need this too…

Maybe some of these won’t be in the near future, but at least we can now justify wearing our comfy Lululemon gear on the plane.

What healthy options would you like to see at airports?

Greetings, from The Bahamas!

It’s been a fantastic first few days in The Bahamas, and I can’t wait to share what I’ve been up to.  Look for lots of updates in the next weeks – assuming I have WiFi – some of these islands are pretty rustic, especially as we head down to the Exumas. 

XO,

La.

Last Minute Memorial Day Ideas for Budget Travelers

According to the Wall Street Journal, AAA projects auto travel through Memorial Day weekend to rise 5.8% from a year ago.  This is the highest level since 2007, with 32.1 million Americans expected to be on the road.  Additionally, gas prices are expected to fall by the weekend, further encouraging Americans to hit the road.

If you don’t have plans yet and want to stick to a budget, here are some last minute, wallet friendly ideas to celebrate the holiday:

Celebrate the true meaning of the holiday and pay tribute to our troops with air shows and parades

The annual (free!) Jones Beach Air Show, outside New York City, will showcase the US Navy Blue Angels at this years shows on Saturday and Sunday.  Just don’t forget to bring layers – it was chilly and windy at last year’s event and we spent most of the afternoon huddled under the blankets we brought to relax on.

Washington DC will host the annual National Memorial Day Parade on Monday, beginning at 2 p.m.  The parade will feature marching bands and veterans from all 50 states.  Other cities hosting parades include Chicago, IL, Gettysburg, PA, and Milwaukee, WI.

Many military historical sites will also host events throughout the weekend, including the USS Pampanito, San Francisco’s World War II submarine.

Watch fireworks light up the skies

If you love fireworks (and who doesn’t?), there will be many shows throughout the weekend.  South Padre Island off the southern coast of Texas kicks off it’s Annual Summer Weekend Fireworks on Saturday at 9:15 p.m.

Chicago’s Navy Pier also kicks off it’s annual firework show series on Sunday. Book ahead to watch the show from the water.

Even our neighbors to the North get into the pyrotechnics, with the Niagra Falls Memorial Day Fireworks in Queen Victoria Park in Ontario.  There will be free concerts starting at 8 p.m., with the fireworks kicking off at 10 p.m on Monday.  I think this show would be especially cool with the reflection of the fireworks on the falls.

Experience local culture

With the long weekend, many areas of the country boast annual festivals celebrating local foods and culture:

Images Courtesy of SeattleSt.com, NiagraFallsMarriot.com and blog.nola.com

New York Hosts Macaron Day for Gourmet Cookie Lovers

Mac-a-what?  Sugary Bliss.  That's What.Maybe a bit more pretentious than a cupcake, but it appears the Macaron is putting the pressure on New York’s favorite dessert.  This Saturday, March 20, New York is hosting the first (annual? please?) Macaron Day.

It’s very simple, just visit a participating restaurant/bakery, mention that you’re there for Macaron Day and enjoy a free treat.  Here is a list of participating venues:

Macarons are actually a favorite of mine, especially those from Bouchon (noted in the recent birthday post directed at boyfriend), so you know that I’ll be in line early for my freebie.  Actually, as the Web site notes that quantities are limited, I should probably direct you elsewhere.  In fact, don’t go there.  They don’t melt into sugary goodness with every bite.  They don’t have delicious, seasonal flavors.  Nooo, don’t go to Bouchon…

BTW, proceeds from macaron sales that day will benefit City Harvest, a fantastic local organization that helps the city’s hungry.  It is the world’s first food rescue organization, and feeds 260,000 hungry New Yorkers every week.

Image courtesy of Bouchon Bakery

Let The Madness Begin…

Ready to jump into the bracket pool?Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…sharpen your pencils and finalize your bracket, because the 2010 NCAA Tournament is here!

This year, the field is strong and, as ESPN puts it, the bracket is a “work of art.”  Fans and sports-lovers alike will pilgrimage to the sites of the games for first round upsets all the way to the final championship game.  With so many host cities across the country, there really is no excuse not to take a roadtrip and get in on the action.  If you are planning to make a trip, here are a few tips:

  • If cheering on your own team, avoid seats in the opposition’s section.  Nothing looks more lame on TV than a lone fan in a sea of contrasting color.  If you’re unlucky and end up here, don’t pick a fight, stupid.  You’re completely outnumbered.
  • The classic path to the 3-second fame of catching the camera eye includes, signage, body paint or being a blonde cheerleader.
  • Signs should be homemade and clever.  Consider the classic acrostic poem, which tends to be a camera favorite.
  • Tie Dye looks awesome on TV (Especially Black and Yellow – Go Deacs!)
  • If seated behind the basket, appropriate distraction props could include giant bricks, foam fingers, sweat towels, or kazoos, but get creative.  Otherwise, a generous arm wave at least shows some effort.
  • Need Tickets and can’t get them through your school or alumni group? Check out StubHub.com (but prepare to splurge for the good seats…or any seats at all, if you’re purchasing for the final rounds)

Here is a breakdown of the host cities for this year’s tournament, with links to travel information:

Rounds 1 & 2
Buffalo
Jacksonville
Milwaukee
New Orleans
Oklahoma City
Providence
San Jose
Spokane

Sweet 16 & Elite 8
Salt Lake City
St. Louis
Syracuse
Houston

Final Four and National Championship Game
Indianapolis

Image courtesy of Zimbio.com

Outward Bound Takes Adventurers FAR from The Beaten Path

Sea kayaking on the Northwest CoastWho says all vacations have to be luxurious?  As schools across the U.S. prepare to let their students out on Spring Break, I’m thinking back to one of my favorite spring break experiences: Outward Bound.

Outward Bound (OB) is a non-profit organization providing leadership expeditions around North America.  Focusing on character development and service, OB programs challenge 70,000 participants annually to exit their comfort zone in adventures like sea kayaking and rock climbing. Some example courses include:

  • Minnesota Dogsledding and Skiing
  • Maine to Bermuda Schooner Sailing
  • Southwest Canyon Backpacking
  • Alaska Glacier Mountaineering
  • Florida Keys Sea Kayaking

I’m actually a two time alumni of OB – backpacking in North Carolina and sea kayaking in the Bahamas.  Looks like the Bahamas trips aren’t being offered today, which is a shame because that trip was really amazing.  I’ll never forget getting caught in a current and my instructors paddling next to me, encouraging me to paddle through the challenge.

Keep in mind, OB is not for everyone.  Backpacks are heavy, temperatures can be hot and the adventure itself is at times strenuous.  Some level of fitness is required, depending on where you go and what you do.  One girl on my Bahamas trip actually had too be evacuated because she couldn’t keep up with the group and had sustained a pretty nasty sunburn (it was too hot for her to wear a long sleeved shirt like the rest of us).

I took a lot away from my OB experiences.  I believe it made me a better leader and built a mental stamina that helps me push my limits on a daily basis.  I also learned that I’m not the biggest fan of lugging a 50lb backpack around.  The travel experience was also stellar.  Both of my trips left me surrounded by amazing physical beauty, exploring untouched areas and waking up in parts of the world few people get a chance to see.

Image Courtesy of OutwardBound.org

Travel Alert: Chile

Alert: the US State Department is urging people to avoid all “non-essential” travel to Chile following this weekend’s powerful earthquake.

Many airlines are waiving change fees for flights booked to the region.

Cruise travel has been relatively unaffected – in fact, Princess Cruise lines today announced that passengers scheduled to disembark today in Santiago may stay aboard a little longer in light of flight cancellations.  Other ships will stay in port longer to accommodate passengers arriving late due to the disaster.

The New York Times has more information on their travel blog regarding this alert.

UPDATE: The Perrin Post breaks down where it is (and isn’t) safe to travel in Chile right now.

The Swimming Pigs of Major Cay

Greeting a visitor at Major Cay in the ExumasMost visitors to the Bahamas rarely see the most beautiful region of the island nation, The Exumas.  There are limited accommodations and it’s not easy to get to but, as a favorite, unspoiled destination of mine, it’s a reality that I’m not complaining about. ;)

On a day like today, when I’m plagued by the Mondays and beyond sick of my Ugg boots and down coat, there is no other place I’d rather be. The Exumas consist of two major islands (Grand Exuma and Little Exuma) along with 365 little cays on the southeastern tip of the island nation.  Most of the islands are uninhabited or owned privately, and many lay within a national nature preserve and park that limits building and fishing activities.

In a nutshell, it’s untouched beauty. Transparent blue waters, soft sand (private!) beaches, vivid sunsets and…swimming pigs?  Yep.

Major Cay is home to a family of large wild pigs who roam the island on their own terms.  Preferring to stay in the shade during the sunny hours, the pigs are known to venture onto the beach and even into the shallow water to greet visitors arriving by dingy.  They’ve been Enjoying some potatoesconditioned to know that visitors more often than not mean food.

During our visit last summer, we took our dingy over after eating lunch on Staniel Cay.  After we circled for a few minutes, two large spotted pigs waddled down the beach towards us and our gift of potatoes.  The huge animals (easily as large as a Shetland pony) were friendly and not shy.  At all.  In fact, one even put it’s hoof(?) up onto our boat, anxious for food. When were out of potatoes, they rambled back towards the shore and under the palm trees to enjoy the rest of the afternoon in the shade…or until more boats and visitors arrived.

How they got there?  I’m not really sure.  Feel free to drop any insight in the comments section.  Best guess is that their ancestors were dropped off on the island as a food source for British/Spanish trade ships and thrived.  Today, they are probably still a food source for locals.

For a taste of the Exumas (sans swimming pigs), set your NetFlick’s queue to send Splash, Into the Blue or the James Bond flick, Thunderball, both of which were filmed in part in this gorgeous part of the world.

Back to the shade - not a bad idea in early July!

Images Courtesy of TheWanderWoman

Happy Birthday to Me! Gifts for the Travelista

Buttercup Bakeshop Cupcakes...mmmm!So much for the Christmas or Valentines gift guide – I prefer a holiday closer to my heart: my birthday!  It’s a still a little early (and boyfriend doesn’t even read my blog), but here are my picks for a girl on the go:

For the Girly Girl: CarryOn-Friendly Sizes of her Favorite Bath Products
I’m a big fan of Bliss’s Lemon+Sage product line (it compliments my favorite Dolce and Gabbana perfume) and Bumble and Bumble hair products, but many brands make travel sizes of their more popular products.  Too boring, you say? How about products that remind her of a favorite destination, like Tocca’s Bagno da Viaggio – Florence.

For the Photographer: Gorillapod by Joby
I received a Gorillapod for Christmas and I love it.  Whether it’s snapping the recent snow falling outside my apartment window in NYC or capturing the natural light of a vacation sunset, it’s compact,  reliable and is great for getting unusual angles or self portraits. Really, it’s the perfect tripod for taking on the go.

For the Obsessively Organized: Garment Cubes from The Container Store
Say you’re the practical type when it comes to gift giving…it’s not a sexy gift, but these cubes from Eagle Creek make organizing a suitcase (especially for longer trips) a cinch.  My friend A. illustrated this on a girls weekend over Labor Day weekend, and I was sold.  Multiple sizes make it easy to customize for your own suitcase.  Maybe hide a pair of Choos in there to jazz it up a little…

For the Traveling Athlete: Garmin Forerunner 305
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, running is a great way to explore someplace new.  For the more serious athlete (or someone who just loves knowing exactly how far she goes), the Garmin Forerunner is a wristwatch on crack.  Tricked out with a GPS that tracks not only where you go, but also elevation, speed, pace, you name it.  Note – Amazon’s pricing is a bit better than purchasing from Garmin directly…just sayin.

For the Foodie: Local Favorites
These are different for every girl, but my top choices for NYC would be (just not all together):

  • Lemon Cupcakes from The Buttercup Bake Shop
  • A plate of cheese from Murray’s Cheese Shop (don’t forget the La Tur!),  a bottle of Spanish wine and fresh honeycrisp apples from Whole Foods or the Union Square Market (I’ll have to wait a few months for these)
  • A trip to Grom for a very large cup of gelato
  • Macaroni and Cheese from Delicatessen

Image Courtesy of CookAndEat.com

My Apres Ski of Choice: Vermont Cheese!

Grafton Village Cheese CompanyThe little state of Vermont is know for quite a few things.  It is the home of the fraternity that inspired Animal House (Dartmouth), Snowboard Cross champion Lindsay Jacobellis, as well as those geniuses Ben and Jerry.  It produces the most tombstones of any state in the union, while teddy bears, handmade art and maple syrup are more popular take homes with the tourists.  My favorite of all is, without a doubt, Vermont Cheese.

Boyfriend and I, along with some good friends, spent a few days this past long weekend on Stratton Mountain in Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountain National Forest.  The conditions were great for snowboarding and the trails were friendly (especially for an perma-novice like me).  It’s always nice to enjoy an easy path from the top of the mountain with gorgeous vistas all the way down…especially when you spend as much time on your butt as I do.

Flavored Cheeses from Grafton Village Cheese CompanyAs much as we enjoyed our time on the slopes, one of the highlights of the trip was a stop on the way home.  Cut to the Grafton Village Cheese Company.  This cute little shop in Brattleboro boasts all the wares that Vermont is famous for (minus the tombstones).  Walls are lined with shelves of maple syrups, mustards, jellys, local wines and, of course, cheese. The clerks proudly display the different cheddars and flavor varieties to sample side by side. Never knew the difference between a single year aged cheese versus a four.  Both were delicious.  I also liked a few of their flavored varieties, especially the garlic cheddar and the maple smoked.  We picked up a Spanish style, which was a little lighter and I wish we had brought home more.

Happily, we can order more from Grafton Village Cheese Company’s Web site.  Too bad they don’t retail Lactaid as well…

Images courtesy of Grafton Village Cheese Company