Champagne and croissants should be office staples

Coffee and doughnuts are overrated. After last week, I say champagne and croissants should be office staples. With production well underway, last week I was asked to jump in and help tackle content for our forthcoming Europe brochure.

Eiffel Tower -  Photo Credit: Apple Vacations

Eiffel Tower – Photo Credit: Apple Vacations

 

Sounds simple enough, right?  Unfortunately, I developed a bit of an affliction along the way; a temporary condition I deemed “Chronic Creative Fixation”.  My symptoms included rapid-fire googling, endless image-scrolling, and gross abuse of adjectives.

I became 100%, head over heels, smitten with Paris.  Some may say obsessed, I say “creatively fixated”.

Oh Paris, you’re so dreamy. You are everything they say you are.

So steeped in history and culture that it would take a lifetime to take it all in. A culinary epicenter that plays host to everything from the renowned Le Cordon Blue, to quaint open-air bistros. A fashion mecca where names like Hermés, Vuitton and Chanel are not just a brand, but a national treasure. Paris is truly a city that exudes style, romance and elegance like no other.

:Le sigh:

With something to see, experience or taste around every corner, planning a Parisian getaway may seem a bit daunting.  Here are some suggestions when touring the City of Lights.

Already been to Paris? What did you think? Do you have any advice? Any must-sees?

We’d love to know what you think.

Merci!

Honeymoon Planning – Help!

Aloha Juice Readers!

 Hawaii

It’s been quite some time since my last post, but it’s good to be back.  I haven’t been lounging beachside, I’ve been off planning a wedding.  Thus far things have been pretty easygoing – not too much stress.  That was, until it came time for the honeymoon.

I know, of all things to stress about, the honeymoon?  I work for a travel company.  This should be a cinch right?  Wrong!  The number one question I have been asked this entire time is, “where are you going on your honeymoon”?  This is supposed to be THE trip.  The trip of a LIFETIME. That’s some pretty serious pressure.

So, after some serious back-and-forthing, we’ve made just a few decisions:

Now what?

Maui, Hawaii

Readers, this is where you come in.  Tell us what you think!  Any Honeymooning words of wisdom?  Where did you go? Have you been to Hawaii?  Can you offer a recommended “must see”?

As the trip gets closer, you’ll be able to following along with our planning, and your recommendations will become our reality!  And who knows, maybe we’ll drop you a few postcards along the way.

Mahalo for your help!

Shannon

 

The Big  Island

Best. Flight. Ever.

My bags are finally, completely, 100% unpacked. Yes, we returned home about a month ago. Don’t judge. I finally committed to dramatically shaking out my beach bag and watching the last teeny tiny remnants of beautiful Maroma sand slowly, and sadly, fall to the floor. So not only is vacation over, I also have to vacuum. Awesome!

Ok, here we go. Naturally the beach was fab, the drinks quite tropical and the food amazing (seriously, if anyone can FedEx my fiancé and I Himitsu’s Tempura Ice Cream, we’d be forever grateful), but, but, but, one part of my vacation I often gloss over, is the flight.

Let me just say: Best. Flight. Ever.

Seriously!

I’m usually just a bit “meh” about the whole getting there part, and I’m certainly very “urgh” about the entire coming home part. To make the time in-flight pass as quickly as possible I’ll read (rarely), work (sometimes), sleep (more like it), and play Mario Kart (there it is). This time? Not so much.

I flew Frontier for the first time ever from Philly to Cancun. I got Preferred Perks as per usual, and during check-in I was given an envelope with 4 drink tickets and 2 snack-box tickets (presents!). Let’s do the math: Drinks on a plane are about $7 each, snacks and meals can be the same… so I basically paid $39 to receive $42 worth of goodies PLUS get more legroom, priority boarding and super-speedy baggage handling.

Win!

So we board, take -off, hit our cruising altitude and, much like good old paper money, my coupons start burning a hole in my pocket. So I got a drink. A snack-box. And another drink because well, why make two trips?

By the way, it’s ok to drink Chardonnay before 10am if you are on vacation, the flight attendant said so.

So here I am,  happy girl with a tray table chock full of practically free goodies, and I look over to see I’ve lost my fiancé and his refreshments to watching baseball, football, jai alai or some other sport of sorts on TV. (Yep, there’s even TV!)
So even airborne somewhere over the Carolinas, I still can’t escape sports.  But wait!  I start to flip through MY channels on MY own personal television and, bye-bye SportsCenter, hell-o Bravo and Food Network. Not only do I have snacks and drinks, I now have almost three hours of solid Real Housewives and Barefoot Contessa. Sold!

Needless to say, the video games didn’t come out once. My vacation started literally the moment I stepped on that plane. I know it seems small, but I really, thoroughly enjoyed getting to my destination. And ya know what? Frontier made the ride home a bit more bearable, too. Overall, two very enthusiastic thumbs up! Thanks for sending me off, and brining me home in style, F9! Let’s do it again soon.

PS: Yes, I brought my parents and they had an absolute blast, too.  Truly good times had by all.

Happy travels!

Family Vacation

After working here for 12 years (eep!), I am thrilled to take my parents away for the first time EVER this weekend.  It’s been quite some time since our last family vacation.  As a kid, every year, we packed up the car and headed north to the lake house for a few weeks.  We’d load the car the night before, remembering to leave room for groceries we’d have to get along the way, and then it was up at 4:30AM to get into the car and out on the road by 5:30AM so we could avoid any dreaded construction traffic.  All told the ride was about four hours, unless I drove with my grandmother and then it was easily six.  Ok, more like five, but she always let me control the radio.  Once we got into ‘town’ we’d spend another hour in the grocery store, and then finally, we’d drive that last thirty-minutes to the lake.  While I will forever cherish the memories made there, I have to say lounging under a palapa at an ultra-exclusive resort in Mexico is a bit more to my liking these days.  Why? Options and convenience.

The lake house was fantastic; a truly great way to get away but unfortunately, there wasn’t much going on.  Of course there was swimming, biking, hiking, etc… but somewhere between ages 12 and 20, I traded muddy trails for mud baths.  As far as nighttime activities, we always fell back on rather spirited, and occasionally brutal games of Monopoly.  Again, I wouldn’t trade these summers for the world, but the vacation options offered in resort areas of Riviera Maya are incredible, affordable and quite frankly, I can get there quicker, and for less than renting our lake house for a week.  Plus, I don’t get stuck doing dishes for the entire week if I land on Boardwalk and can’t pay-up during one of our knock-down-drag-out aforementioned game nights. 

Told ya.

Brutal.

What’s got me so stoked about this vacation is hearing everyone plan their own itinerary.  My parents are rather seasoned travelers and like to get out and about.  Me?  I’m a beach girl, so I’ll be there.  My folks will get their culture on at Chichen Itza and also head out snorkeling.  My fiancé and father will golf (and play Ping-Pong).  Mom will shop.  And… I’ll still inevitably be at the beach.

Note:  If someone could kindly remind me to turn over occasionally, that would be appreciated.

And then there’s my favorite vacation moment of all.  That moment where my parents will stare at me in amazement and I get to explain, again, that “yes, everything is included”.  There’s no greater feeling for me than seeing someone experience their first luxury All-Inclusive.  Champagne? Done.  Kayak?  It’s yours.  Giant marshmallows for breakfast?  You got it (and you know who you are).

So while I’ll always love the lake and our family vacations, I’m thrilled to finally return the favor.  I’m glad to see that family vacations don’t have to stop once the kids are grown.

Hawaii changed me! Part two…

Hawaii North Shore

I could go on for an hour about how much I loved Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial, the Mai Tais at Dukes, a vast array of rainbows, how much fun we had on the trolleys around town, and the amazing, I cannot stress this enough, the amazing shopping available (not one but two Chanel boutiques less than 2 miles from each other!), but we didn’t spend all of our time there.  We headed west to the resort area of Ko` Olina where we stayed at the JW Marriot Ilhilani.  We saw the shell going up next door for the Disney Aulani which even then, looked phenomenal.  Once there, we headed to our first ever Luau at Paradise Cove.  What an experience.  I thought it would be kitschy, but it wasn’t at all.  It was an absolute blast, and it was there that I got to see the most amazing sunset. 

The next day we headed into the surf towns of the North Shore, passing through the pineapple plantations and mountains along the way.  They say Ireland is green, but I say Hawaii gives it a run for its money.  We stopped for shave ice at Matsumoto in Haleiwa town, we toured Turtle Bay resort and saw where they filmed numerous movies and television shows: Lost, Pirates of the Caribbean and Forgetting Sarah Marshall just to name a few. 

Excuse me, can you pick-up those names I dropped?

Oh and I forgot to mention.  I drove this entire time.  Yep, let it sink in.  I was responsible and drove an entire group of us around Hawaii with nothing other than my iPhone to guide us, and we didn’t get lost once.  Ok, well once I got lost trying to get gas, but that was entirely the fault of my co-pilot (sorry, Sarah) and I, and in no way the fault of the state of Hawaii, or the lovely island of Oahu.  

I digress.

I spent five of the most amazing days of my life in Hawaii.  I will never forget the smell of an orchid lei.  I regret not hiking Diamond Head.  I developed such a sense of gratitude and reverence to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.  I’d love to have another Mai Tai on the beach.  I wish I would have stopped the car to see the sea turtles crawling out of the ocean on our way to Haleiwa. And I can only imagine what the other islands have in store for me.

I spend my days in an office, at a desk in the ‘burbs outside of Philadelphia, staring longingly at a picture taken at our luau and all I can say is, I must go back.  Like London or the whale sharks, there’s just some incredible force that calls me back.

Hawaii changed me in ways I never anticipated, and if you have the chance to get there, I promise, it’ll do the same to you, whether you expect it or not, you won’t be the same.  You’ll need to go back.

Hawaii changed me! Part one…

View from my room

Travel sort of sneaks up on you.  When you least expect it, a new place, experience or even an image can sort of, I don’t know, change you.  Ok, before I lose you, I have to say that excluding the occasional Disney movie, I’m not a sappy person.  That said, there have been a few moments during my years of travel that I will forever hold so exceptionally close to my heart.  It was a quiet, misty morning – about 4:00AM in London while I stood out front of my hotel waiting for a cab to take me back to Heathrow.  The city had an incredible peaceful silence about it.  I felt so small, so young and incredibly blessed to be there.  I was sad to see my time there ending, but knew I would have to go back.  It was riding in a small boat past the famous Cabo arch heading out to see humpback whales, and of course, finally spotting them traveling in a pod, or a family of sorts.  It was that first gigantic whale shark rising from the deep off of the coast of Cancun, and watching it swim past me so gracefully, knowing that Jacques Cousteau, a man I admired as a child had spent his days searching for these creatures, and here they were.  And finally, it was Hawaii.  I can’t say there was one particular moment in Hawaii that changed me.  It was the place as a whole. 

I was heading to Oahu on another travel research trip and aside from what the Brady’s and the Tanner’s taught me on TV, I was pretty clueless.  I was told to expect Chicago with a beach.  I was told it was ‘nice’, but I really should have gone to Maui or Kauai to get the ‘true Hawaiian experience’.  So I went, and I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much.  I was expecting a nice beach, a new location added to my repertoire and a really long flight.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the moment we arrived and were greeted, at the gate, with a lei, I could tell this trip was going to be different.  We transferred into Waikiki, to our hotel the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  We checked in and headed to our rooms.  Up the elevator I went, I swiped my key, threw my purse on the bed and, as has now become habit, I immediately threw back my curtains to my balcony.  I was presented with, hands down, the most amazing view I had ever seen.  I looked straight down Waikiki to Diamond Head.  I saw an ocean with amazing personality – not just the beautiful turquoise water I was used to, but one with reefs, sandbars and *gasp* surfers!  The first day was a tiring one heading from hotel to hotel and I thought I would easily sleep away any time change issues but, thanks to the old internal clock, I was up at 3:00 AM.  Instead of cursing the lack of sleep, I got to witness one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever seen.

Winter Blues

It happened. I officially have the post-holiday, it’s-too-cold-to-get-out-of-bed, wake me when it’s April, doldrums. It started on a Monday this year (naturally). It’s that sad, sad moment when I woke up and realize the holidays are now just a memory. I can no longer eat cookies for breakfast, the only pine smell filling my home will come from my vacuum cleaner, and aside from shimmer of hope offered by Valentine’s Day, I have absolutely nothing to look forward to until the first flowers pop in April.

Wait, it gets worse.

It also flurried.

The first official flurry of the season sets me into a panic stricken, snow-driven shame spiral. Stage one, First Flurry Freakout, lasts approximately 15 seconds, and goes a little something like this:

“Is that snow? It’s snowing. That’s not really snow. It is. No it isn’t. Wait, it is. It definitely is. I can’t leave the house. I despise driving in the snow. Do I have canned goods? Do I have good tires? Do I have bread, milk and eggs? No? But I must. I knew I should have gone to the market. We probably should have bought a snow blower. I refuse to shovel. Maybe this is the only snow we will see this year. Think of those poor folks stuck on Lake Shore Drive last year in the Chicago blizzard. I miss Chicago. I miss the shopping on Michigan Avenue. It could be worse; I could be in Michigan – in February. Why didn’t we just buy that snow blower? Remember when snow was fun? The DMV should warn you that the true cost of possessing a driver’s license is losing that magical snow day feeling. We should have moved to Mexico. Next year, we’re definitely moving to Mexico. Does everyone make French Toast when it snows? That’s it. I can’t leave my house. It’s unsafe. I have to quit my job. Say goodbye to my friends. And crawl back into bed for three months. Black ice will never find me there.“

Don’t worry. The above is completely internal.

Once my initial snowspasm grinds to a blinding halt, I commence stage two, the dreaded, three-month long, First Flurry Funk. And alas fine Juice readers, that’s where I am. I wish I could be beach blanket blogging from a beautiful seaside resort, but my next vacation isn’t scheduled until April 1. A crippling 86 days away. (Side note, we’re going to the Riviera Maya, of course, and taking my parents along for the ride. It’ll be their first time ever in Mexico at an All-Inclusive resort, and my father hates sand. It’ll be interesting.)

So why 86 days away? Why not tomorrow? Why, it’s busy season, folks. This is the time we in Reservations and our travel agent partners dig our heels in and book the bulk of your sunny vacations. See, I’m not the only one who gets the Winter Blues. Apparently, it’s a relatively normal process and sends folks on a mad dash to get to a warm and sunny destination.

As I write this, I just grabbed my smart phone and used our On The Go app to check the weather in Cancun. 82° and sunny. Philly? Feels like 46°. And it’s a “good day” here. Sigh.

So here’s my point. If you have the ability to throw on some sunblock and get somewhere warm, why are you still reading this? Now’s the time. We have amazing deals, some of the most affordable peak-season vacation packages we have ever offered. So pack those bags and get beach bound, babies. There’s no better way to burn off the calories consumed over the holiday than breaking a sweat poolside. And please feel free to post your pictures and stories to our Facebook site. It’s the only way this chilly girl can live vicariously through your travels.