Packing Light: Today’s Travel Necessity

 

Packing light has never been easy, and with recent changes in the airline industry, learning to pack light is now more important than ever.  I have to admit that I am not good at packing. I always looked with envy at the people who were gone for two weeks and only had one bag, as I stumbled through the airport with my luggage cart.

The answer to my dilemma came when I stumbled upon packing  organizing systems. They are light weight items that are specifically made to go into your suit case or carry on. They  organize your clothes for easy access, wrinkle-free travel, and economy of space. Several brands  provide organizers including: Eagle Creek, eBags and Travelon .  All provide a host of items from which to choose including: cubes, shelves, squares, envelopes/folders and pouches.

My preference is the large envelope, because you can get so many items into it, and I like the way that you fold the clothing. The envelope holds fifteen (15) items. I bought small pouches for toiletries and jewelry. Depending upon the type of packing organizer that you select, some come with a compartment for dirty clothes. This is helpful if you are going to be away for some time without access to laundry services.  All the brands have “starter packs” that include three (3) items. This is an economical way to begin your experience and to determine which item and brand best meets your needs.

Pack-It Starter Set_eaglecreekCredit: Eagle Creek13032_3_1_eBags packing set Credit:  eBags

 

Finding a packing organizer system  has given me a new sense of freedom. I no longer have to agonize over how to pack my clothes. I know that I can get everything  into one case, and it is accessible upon arrival. The organizer saves me both time and money in luggage fees. That’s a win-win. Now, I can go shopping for shoes. Oh, I guess I need an organizer for that!

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That Special Place

It is the beginning of the year, and everyone is releasing their list of the top properties and restaurants. This includes travel magazines, travel sections of news papers, and anyone who routinely writes about the travel industry. Here are my top places to stay.

Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee.  If you are looking for an exquisite resort, look no further than this Relais  & Chateau located  in the Smoky Mountains approximately twenty-five minutes from the  Knoxville airport. This resort has everything that one could possibly want; award winning dining and wine service, one of the top spas in the country,  golf, tennis, fly fishing, biking, walking trails, and a conference center.  This is the place that you go to for a weekend to  relax and get away from it all. The accommodations are superb. The cottages  are decorated in a shabby chic style with working fireplaces, in case you elect to come in cooler weather. Each cottage has a front porch that is quite suitable for reading, talking, or people watching.  Everything is top-notch at this resort, and you are treated like royalty. This resort has won almost every award in every major category.  It makes other resorts seem as though they need to “catch-up.” However, royalty has its price. So get ready to pay to play.

The Grand Beach Hotel, Surfside, Florida  This is an all-suite hotel. The design of which is breath-taking. The lines are clean and simple, using a color pallet throughout the facility of blue, white, and tan,  with all the furnishings as white. The layout of the hotel is quite open, so upon arrival, you enter the lobby and are able to look straight through to a large open bar/ lounge area, pool and the beach. You see glass and trees everywhere, and at a glance, you are not sure if you are outside or inside. It is visually both relaxing and appealing. There are two pools on the first floor and one on the top floor for adults only. This one is particularly interesting with its view of the  Miami skyline.  The suites are spacious and furnished in light wood. Request an ocean front room. The amount of glass in the room provides a perfect backdrop to the light colored furniture. The service is impeccable. They make you feel as though you are staying at a residence rather than a hotel. Its close proximity to high-end shopping at the Bal Harbour Shops, makes this hotel a “must stay” in the Miami area.

The Hutton, Nashville, Tennessee  It is an absolutely gorgeous hotel that makes you feel as though you have stepped into someone’s well decorated home with an outstanding art gallery.  The rooms, while small, are so well appointed that you want to take decorating tips from the designer. The bathroom with its waterfall shower is enchanting and romantic. This is the perfect hotel for the romantic weekend. A lively bar and good restaurant can be found on the first floor, and represent an excellent place to stop prior to returning to your room.

The Bohemian Hotel,  Savannah, Georgia is simply magnificent. You check in at a small desk in the lobby that is manned by friendly staff who serve as front desk and your concierge,  They are very knowledgeable of restaurants, events and all things, Savannah. One of the best features of this small beautiful hotel on the river is that the staff remembers your name  and calls you by name as you come and go. It is a very personal touch. The rooms are nicely appointed with a bit of a masculine feel. Request a room on the front of the building so that you can watch people stroll by, and it is quieter than the more popular river side. The Bohemian has a roof-top bar, which is popular for daytime drinks or evening fun with friends.

Hotel Monaco, Washington, DC. This is a Kimpton Hotel, and it was formerly  a bank building. The architecture in this hotel is stunning.   The lobby is large, yet welcoming, and the rooms are stylish and comfortable. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.  This is definitely a place to meet your friends or business associates.  The  Poste Moderne Brasserie, which was recently re-launched for the winter, is a a trendy spot that serves great meals and equally fine cocktails.  You will not be disappointed. If you long to leave the hotel to discover other places in the area, you will not have any problems. The hotel is situated close to attractions and restaurants so that you will not spend all of your time calling Uber or hailing cabs. This is just what you want for a Washington, DC experience.

Living the Life

Have you ever considered how you might want to spend your retirement years? Most of us dread the thought and therefore don’t place very much time into thinking about it.

If you could spend your elder years  in any one place, where would it be?”  Answering this is not as easy as it seems, which is why most of us “stay put” and don’t make any changes. But wonder if you could make a change?  Where would you go? Perhaps a little house in a  small village by the beach; or live in a high-rise building with lots of people around you, with a spectacular view of sunrise and sunsets; or move to a house on a ranch, or to a cabin in the mountains. What would make you say… ” This is my spot!”

The Huffington Post reported about one woman who knew exactly where she wanted to spend her latter years.  She and her husband always liked to take cruises, and after he passed, she decided to take up residence on a cruise ship. What an idea! Now, I don’t know that I could live on a cruise ship, but I could live at a golf resort with a spa. Do you think that I can work a deal ? I’ll look around and get back to you.

Read the story and set your own fantastic retirement dream into action and be prepared to Live the Life. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/22/lee-wachtstetter-cruise_n_6524822.html

The Future is Now

Are you willing to pay for your restaurant reservation? The LA Times reported about a new trend in the restaurant business of apps that charge fees for reservations at restaurants. http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-future-food-dining-out-20150117-story.html

I can understand why this has started. Too often people contact restaurants and make a reservation, only to not show up. This “fee-based” app approach will make people be more thoughtful about their dining selections and planning.

The question is do we really need another app for this, or could this transaction actually be handled through a reservation mobile system like  Open Table? It would seem that would be more efficient. Also, the question is how much, and would there be a fee for all restaurants or only the better restaurants?

I would like to hear from you on this one.

Would you be willing to pay a fee for a reservation? ___ Yes  ___ No

How much would you be willing to pay?   __< $5 __$ 10_$15_$20 _>$20

Leave your response and comments below.

Make It Happen!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trick Questions.”

It would be so exciting to be interviewed by a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. It would be a dream come true. I would have the opportunity to talk about the blog, and what I am trying to accomplish. However, I recognize that interviews can sometimes be difficult, particularly if the interviewer is skilled at providing questions that are unnerving.  Here are three (3) questions that I would not wish for the reporter to ask. It’s not because I can’t answer them; it’s more because I’m not sure I’m ready to answer them.

Q1. “ What frightens you?”

Q2.What is your responsibility to address social/political issues?”

Q3. “Why should people read what you have to say?”

The interview is over. I surprised myself. I was more ready than I thought to answer the questions. The reporter’s questions gave me  time to further narrow my blog focus.

I’m on a quest to try something that I’ve never done before. I am currently operating outside of my comfort zone, and it is scaring. What keeps me going is a statement that I  always told my children…” Just do it!” They have, and now  it’s my turn.

Try Something New

My husband and I have our favorite restaurants in the local area that we frequent. Each time we go, I immediately turn to the dish that I ordered the last time we were there. My husband  says… “Why don’t you try something new?” Really, after all I love the way that this restaurant prepares calamari or salmon.  Wonder if I am not satisfied, then it has been a waste, right? With encouragement, I tentatively move out of my comfort zone and try a new dish. Each time I  am pleasantly surprised and now have an additional item to add to my repertoire.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read the post “Stick Your Neck Out” written by blogger, Jan, the Silverliningmama (silverliningmama.com). This posting reminded me of how tentative we are about trying new things and when we don’t, it robs us of the excitement and joy of exploring the band width of life’s offerings.

So whether you are planning a trip or determining where to dine, think outside the box. Do something you have never done before. Go beyond your norm. Eat food that you haven’t tried; travel to a part of the country or world that you haven’t visited. Bask in the glory of knowing that you will not be stuck in the ordinary, that you have the courage to try something different and learn from the experience. I think I’ll even try a trip to a cold climate. Okay, I’ll have to think about that.

I am interested in you sharing a time that you decided to Try Something New and what happened.

Top Destinations to Visit Released by New York Times

The New York Times Travel section recently released their list of the 52 Places to Go in 2015. The list comprises destinations from all over the world.  Toping the list is Milan, Italy. Number two(2) on the list is Cuba. As I perused the list, there were places that were no surprise at all, while there were others that made me say… ” How did they make the list?”

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/01/11/travel/52-places-to-go-in-2015.html

The interesting aspect is there is a brief description as to why the area or city made the list. I started out looking at what I thought were the cities or areas of my interest, but suddenly found myself reading each listing and discovering points about the cities or areas that compelled me to read more. For example, I loved reading about Bolivia, Macedonia and the Faroe Islands. Not sure that I will make it to those places, but it provided me with a perspective that I had not considered in my travel plans.  This calls for a new To Do list.

Cleveland, Ohio made the list, and I was totally unaware of all of the renovation that has occurred in the waterfront area of the city. This is now definitely a city that my husband and I will stop in enroute to Montreal, QC this summer.

Still there were other areas that I would simply love to see: Tanzania, North Coast of Peru, Elqui Valley, Chili, and there are others to which  I now long to return to such as New Orleans, Louisiana. Perhaps, I should pack my bags for the upcoming jazz festival in the spring.

It’s Miami Time!

It’s winter and many of us who live in cold climates automatically think of heading to Florida. Actually, I think of heading to Florida almost any time. Specifically, Miami. There is something about Miami that draws me to it like a bee to honey. When I get off the plane, I feel relaxed and ready to have a great time, and Miami is there to deliver.

However, there is a trick to traveling to Miami. You have to know what will be your primary focus for your trip: beach, shopping, night life, golf, rejuvenation. All of these things are available in the greater Miami area, and will determine where you will want to stay.  They are just offered in different communities.

When you think of night life, you think of South Beach. But as a retiree, I know that my husband and I are not going to be in night clubs every night, so we tend to only want to visit South Beach. For beach and access to good shopping, we tend to stay in Aventura. It is close to Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale. When we want to relax, but not have the energy of South Beach, we  go to Fort Lauderdale and stay at hotels on the Intercostal. There, we can sit by the pool  and watch the boats go by, and use the water taxi to transport us to restaurants or shopping venues.

If you want to be close to Fort Lauderdale and South Beach, have a private beach, and access to the top shopping in the country, then you will want to select a community called Bal Harbour. There are three hotels in Bal Halbour: The St. Regis, Ritz Carlton (formerly One Bal Harbour), and the Grand Beach Hotel, which is actually listed in Surfside, which is the adjacent community, but is only one block away.

In July, my husband and I elected to stay at the Grand Beach Hotel. It is an all-suite luxury hotel. The entire hotel is decorated in white, tan and blue. The suites are amazingly large. Definitely go for the ocean front suites, you will not be disappointed. If possible, request a corner suite, as we did, and you will have a suite that has a terrace that wraps around on two sides. Views are outstanding. Service at this hotel is simply superb. Best thing is that they have two pools, one on the first floor for families, and one on the roof top for adults. The hotel also has a spa. It had not opened when we were there, but I am sure  it is magnificent.

Lobby
Lobby
The Corner Suite Terrace
The Corner Suite Terrace
Ocean view
Ocean view
View of pool area
View of pool area
Comfortable and chic hotel lobby
Comfortable and chic hotel lobby

For those of you who like to shop until you drop, The Bal Harbour Shops will simply take your breath away, and most of your money. It is worth the experience to go and wander through this outdoor shopping mall to see all of the designer showrooms. As you are strolling through the manicured gardens of the mall, and you’re getting that feeling that perhaps, you are really a “rock star,” remember not to let your jaw drop when you see the price tag of an item. After all, it’s just money, and part of the experience.

So when it is cold and dreary outside, and you want to have someplace warm to go, consider Miami. It has something for everyone.

Next trip will be golf in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I still have not made up my mind as to where I am staying, but I know I am looking forward to the trip. Or, maybe I’ll just go back to Miami. After all, I can play golf there too.

2015: Looking Forward – My 3 Words

Kate goes Global

Last year I quit making New Year’s resolutions. They were far too easy for me to break! Instead, I chose 3 words that frame what I wanted my year to be.

My 3 words of 2014: Grow. Simplicity. Radiant.

Picking 3 words instead of coming up with a wish list of (mostly unrealistic) resolutions may seem like an easy task at first, but trust me – framing an entire year in just 3 words is a tough job!

After reviewing my the past twelve months and carefully contemplating what I would like 2015 to look like, I chose the following 3 words to lead me through the year:

Rise. Dare. Unplug. 

Rise

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

I have never been an early riser, but after devouring Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast early May last year, I was ready to give it a go. Surprisingly, waking up early became one…

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