9 Tips for a smoother fall vacation

9 Tips for a smoother fall vacation

Many of us are looking forward to long-awaited travel this year. So far, travel this summer has been challenging, especially when going by air. Staffing shortages are hindering airlines’ ability to meet demand. The following tips will help you deal with any interruptions in your fall vacation.

Tip 1:  ALWAYS ARRIVE EARLY AT THE AIRPORT

airport security lines

Get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. For international flights, that means arriving more than four hours before departure.  For domestic flights, you should plan more than two hours in advance.  Lines will be very long at the ticket counters, baggage check, and security.  So if you cut it too close, you run the risk of missing your flight.  Also, remember to take advantage of your frequent-flier status on the airline to check in using the preferred or first-class line.

Tip 2:  PREPARE FOR FLIGHT DELAYS

flight delays

If you must change planes to reach your destination, schedule a longer connection time than you would normally.  Even if you think you have plenty of time, a crowded airport will take you longer to make your way to another gate or terminal. 

Consider booking a nonstop flight, even if it’s more expensive.  Additionally, try to book the first flight of the day as they are much less likely to experience delays.  Likewise, don’t book the last flight of the day because that limits your options.

Tip 3:  USE CARRY-ON BAGS INSTEAD OF CHECKED BAGS

luggage for airport check in

If there’s a delay or cancellation, you won’t have to wait for your luggage to be pulled or be without your bags if you miss your connection.  Most people over-pack, so only bring what is necessary.

Tip 4:  Prepare for delayed checked baggage

Ensure you are taking your electronic devices and chargers, a change of clothes, and any needed medications in your carry-on if you check your bags.  In the event of a long delay, you’ll be glad you have them with you.

Pro tip:  Use Apple Air Tags to track your luggage so you know where it is at all times.

Tip 5:  TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CLUB MEMBERSHIPS

If you’re a member of an airline club lounge, utilize the staff at the service desk to make any changes caused by flight delays or disruptions.  They will frequently go the extra mile for members.  Also, take advantage of club-use privileges that come with credit cards you may have, such as American Express Platinum or Capital One Venture X.

Pro tip:  Some clubs have limited admission to cope with peak-period overcrowding.  Before leaving the club to head to your gate, double-check to ensure there are no potential delays.  Once you leave the club, you may have to get back in line to re-enter.

Tip 6:  DOWNLOAD AIRLINE APPS

check airline app

The airline apps are excellent sources of up-to-date information on flight status, tracking of your bags, and proactive re-booking for missed connections.  You can often make same-day flight changes for free in the app, so you don’t have to wait in long lines at the gate or ticket counter.

Tip 7:  INCENTIVES TO TAKE A LATER FLIGHT

take a later flight

If you have time to spare, consider taking the airline up on travel credits in exchange for changing your flight when your original one is overbooked.  You could rack up some free trips for later in the year.  Insist on cash credits rather than miles which may restrict your ability to redeem.

Tip 8:  REMAIN FLEXIBLE AND CHILL

There may be times when you’ll feel frustrated or angry, but taking it out on the people who work at the airport won’t get you anywhere.  You are much more likely to get help from a sympathetic airline staff member by showing empathy than by being aggressive.

Tip 9:  Extend your trip by a day or two

Think about adding a few days onto either side of your trip. If you’re going away for a weekend, a flight delay could mean you lose valuable time at your destination.  A cruise or tour is no different.

It will help if you plan on arriving at the starting point a few days before the event.  You don’t want to miss your vacation because of a flight delay.  Your travel advisor can help you arrange a hotel and car rental, if necessary.

When planning your fall vacation, please don’t hesitate to contact us to offer expert advice on where to go, where to stay, and which flights to take.  And if there’s a delay or cancellation, rest assured you will have a human you can quickly contact to help resolve the issue.

7 Top Restaurants in Positano

7 Top Restaurants in Positano

Positano’s charms aren’t simply superficial, though it’s as postcard-perfect as you imagined. Dive into the flavors of the Amalfi Coast at any of these top seven restaurants in Positano, and you’ll feel the region’s soul.  Don’t stop at one indulgent meal.  There are too many idyllic coastal gems to hem yourself into.  From sought-after seats at Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy cafe-style eateries, these are our favorite places to taste the fruits of Positano, both from the sea and the land.

Guests at Chez Black have been dining at this beachside restaurant since 1949, including locals and celebrities from Italy. They dished out lavish plates of Spaghetti con Ricci di Mare (orange sea urchins), bowls of olive-oil-drizzled Zuppa di Pesce locale (locally sourced fish soup with redfish, octopus, mussels, and clams), and their signature heart-shaped pizzas.  Not sure what you want?  The staff will gladly order for you.

Next door to Chez Black, the indoor/outdoor seafront bistro La Cambusa offers excellent seafood.   Pulled directly from the waters you’re facing so you know it’s fresh.  Wash down pasta with squid ink or seafood stew with a cold white wine.  And don’t forget to order the lemon-flavored tiramisu.  We love the bohemian air of the place with its brightly painted chairs, ceramics, and glassware.

seafood-spaghetti

Ristorante Valle dei Mulini’s menus feature Italian, Mediterranean, vegetarian, and vegan options. They serve all the region’s specialties at prices that won’t blow your dining budget. Attentive and cordial staff present delightful meals such as antipasto with prosciutto, mozzarella, and melon, or Polipo con Fagiolini (octopus with green beans) on vibrantly colored ceramic plates made here in town.

Located in the Hotel Villa Franca, Michelin-rated Li Galli is a gorgeous choice for a celebratory meal. Although, let’s face it. You’re in Postino, so every moment is a celebration! Savor the fruits of the sea as you take in the sky-to-sea Positano view. The menu features local Campanian culinary traditions, using the best regional fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meats.

top restaurants in Positano

Il Grottino Azzurro, recognizable by its white and light-blue sign, is romantic and cozy. The hard part is deciding between the menu’s Neapolitan and Southern Italian choices. There are many delicious Italian dishes, from Gnocchi all Sorrento to Caprese salad to Tagliata di Carne. Wooden cutting boards hanging on a stone wall reveal handwritten signs with the daily specials.

Trust me; you can’t go wrong at the homey and rustic La Tagliata.  Located east of Positano’s main beach, this hillside restaurant offers delicious food with mesmerizing views.  Seafood graces the menu, but you can also get a nice steak cooked over the coals here.  The first ravioli course with provola cheese, arugula, and mozzarella may be our favorite.  To avoid walking up the hill to the terraced restaurant, the restaurant offers a shuttle service.

gnocchi with butter and sage

7.  Rada

Clinging to the cliffside, Rada is the epitome of Positano dining. Grab a table by the beach and order the Crudo Misto, which means “mixed raw.” This incredible concoction of raw oysters, clams, shrimp, and whatever’s fresh is well complemented by a cold white wine.

Ready to dine your way through Positano? Learn more by scheduling a discovery call.  

How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in Paris – The Do’s and Don’ts

How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in Paris – The Do’s and Don’ts

Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world, full of chic locals living their best lives. While France is one of the most-visited countries in Europe, this doesn’t mean you want to stick out like a sore (foreign) thumb! Here are a few ways not to look like a tourist in Paris.  

What to wear in Paris

dress casual chic in Paris

It’s no secret that Parisiens are stylish, and the city itself is a hub for fashion and creatives alike. Before you go out and buy a whole new wardrobe fit for Paris Fashion Week, take stock of your closet. You probably already have an attire that would blend in on the streets of Paris. 

Do: Bring plain t-shirts, well-tailored pants, a nice pair of shoes

Don’t: Bring your baseball caps, Hawaiian shirts, and sports jerseys

Read more:  Paris Travel Guide

Vocals

inside the shop-Paris

No one likes a loud talker, especially in Paris. French people tend to be even quieter than the rest of Europeans. Anglophone voices have a habit of carrying and standing out, so use your inside voice (even outside).

Take some time on the plane to brush up on some basic French. Learning some basic French phrases goes a long way and is a sign of respect. Speaking of respect, say “bonjour” when you enter a store, “au revoir” when you leave, and “non merci” if someone is offering you something that you don’t want. 

Do: Speak softly, and make an effort to communicate in French

Don’t: Shout into your cell phone, or expect everyone to speak to you in English.

Paris Dining

dining in Paris

From Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy neighborhood cafes, it’s hard to beat the dining scene in Paris. For the French, dining is an experience and not rushed. As a tourist in Paris, don’t gulp your meal, and certainly don’t expect the fast food and service you may experience in North America. Expect your meal to take some time, and enjoy the slower pace that allows you to appreciate every sip and morsel. 

If you happen not to finish your meal, do not ask for a to-go container (aka a doggy bag). And while it’s customary in the United States to tip up to 20%, in France, the gratuities are included – listed as “service compris” on your bill and is usually about 18%.

Do: Try restaurants off the beaten path, further away from the tourist attractions.

Don’t: Request modifications to your meal at a restaurant, as it’s considered rude (unless for medical or dietary restrictions)

Day to Day Life

learn a little French before you visit Paris

Paris is a charming and romantic destination and a major metropolitan city. With that in mind, you need to keep your wits about you and be conscientious of pickpocketers who prey on travelers. Utilize the safe (if there is one) in your hotel to store valuables. Keep your bag or valuables in front of you when using the metro or visiting crowded tourist attractions. Avoid hanging your handbag on the back of your chair in restaurants and cafes. And don’t carry an excessive amount of cash on you. 

Forget your checklist of attractions to see, and instead, consider flaneur (strolling or meandering) with no real end game. While traveling, the best times are often not visiting attractions or following your itinerary to a ‘T.’ Rather, they’re the genuine, authentic moments in between. It’s the buttery pain-au-chocolat you eat on a park bench, or the fromagerie you discover as you meander down cobbled side streets, or even the pride you feel when you complete a basic exchange in another language. Your memory of the trip will be what remains after your suitcase has been unpacked. And that’s what you’ll be looking forward to experiencing again. 

Do: Soak it all in, people watch, and leave room in your travels for free time.

Don’t: Visit Paris only once.

If you’ve been dreaming of visiting Paris and don’t want to stand out like a tourist, Let’s talk! You can reach me here. 

 

The 6 Best Things To Do In Tomar, Portugal

The 6 Best Things To Do In Tomar, Portugal

Just two hours from Lisbon by train, charming Tomar, Portugal, sits in the central part of the country. Often overlooked by mainstream tourism, it’s ideal for visitors seeking an under-the-radar destination. In Tomar, you can stroll about a historic town center and explore quirky museums. 

There’s more to do in Tomar than ever before. Tomar maintains its timeless appeal and remains a quieter tourist spot than other more well-known locales in the country. Before the secret is out, go now. Here are my top six favorite things to do in Tomar, Portugal.

1.  Convento de Cristo

convento de cristo Tomar

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is undoubtedly Tomar’s top attraction, presiding over the town from its esteemable hilltop position. The Convento de Cristo (Convent of Christ) originated in the late 12th century when it was built as headquarters of the Knights Templar and blessed by Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques. When the Knights Templar dissolved, the structure housed the Knights of the Order of Christ.

The convent was built over five centuries and showcased a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque architectural styles. The Oratory of the Templars, a 12th-century rotunda was inspired by Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre Rotunda, is a must-see.

2.  Pegões Aqueduct 

tomar-aqueduct

While you’re visiting the Convent of Christ, don’t miss the aqueduct that dates back to 1614, which was used to bring water into the complex. If you don’t mind the height, walk along the top for fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. Or, wander along the base of the aqueduct, seeing the impressive arches.

3.  Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes

entrance to gardens

If you can’t resist a good urban green space, take a breather in the Seven Hills National Forest (Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes). Join the locals as they walk, jog, and picnic in the park. Follow the trails through the forest to the Charolina fountain, built as a meditation retreat by the convent. 

4.  Old Town and Praça da República

old town Tomar Portugal

Spend a few hours in the historical center of Tomar, starting on Rua Serpa Pinto, which connects the Nabão River to city hall. Look across the square from city hall to the attractive sculpted-stone Manueline doorway to St. John the Baptist church. Admire the intricate tile work on many of the buildings and the colorful azulejo tiles. Grab a bite to eat or a coffee at one of the many delightful cafes and bakeries.

templar tiles

From here, make your way to the Praça da República, where you can see the patterned paving stones laid in honor of the Knights Templar. You’ll see the statue of Guladim Pais, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar and the founder of Tomar.

5.  Museu dos Fósforos (Matchbox Museum) 

Convent of São Francisco

Check out the eccentric Matchbox Museum, housed in a series of rooms in the former Convent of São Francisco and housing a collection of 43,000 colorful matchboxes from around the world. There are boxes depicting everything from political leaders to cartoon figures. Collector and Tomar local Aquiles de Monta Lima started his collection after meeting an American matchbox collector during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in London.

6.  The Azulejo Studio at Oficina de Olaria e Azulejaria

azulejos tiles

Azulejos tiles, Portugal (photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Immerse yourself in the artistic traditions of Tomar by visiting the ceramics workshop in the corner of the convent courtyard. Watch as the expert ceramicists paint, glaze and shape their pieces – then pick up a few to bring home as souvenirs.

More things to do in Tomar

river view in Tomar

There are a surprising number of excellent attractions in Tomar despite its small size. I suggest including the Church of Santa Maria do Olival, the Synagogue Museum, and the interesting display of presses, mills, and power station in Levada D’el Rei if you have the time. For history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, art lovers, and anyone seeking an off-the-beaten-path Portugal experience, Tomar makes for a delightful day trip.

Of course, if you’d like to see more photos we took it Tomar visit us on Instagram. Is Portugal is on your bucket list, contact us here to start planning your trip of a lifetime.

4 Top Hidden Gems in Rome

4 Top Hidden Gems in Rome

Rome is the perfect place for discovering hidden gems.   When you’re roaming, you’ll stroll past millennia of history – with a single street housing ancient ruins, medieval churches, and Renaissance palaces. All in the same place. All jumbled – gorgeously – together.   But, let’s be honest. Rome isn’t exactly a travel secret – almost 15 million visitors flock here each year. So, how can you experience the real Rome without feeling like just another tourist? Check out these 4 Top Hidden Gems in Rome.

PIZZA BY THE COLOSSEUM

pizza in Rome

Whether it’s your first or fourteenth visit to Rome, viewing the Colosseum never ceases to impress. This stone stadium could seat 50,000 spectacles for live battles and gladiator matches in its hay day. With my help, you can enjoy a private tour inside the Colosseum with skip-the-line tickets. After your immersion in ancient history, you’ll be hungry for a taste of Rome. 

Nearby, I recommend Li Rioni Pizzeria – hidden on a non-touristy side street just a 5 minutes’ walk from the main ruins. 

Be sure to order here a wood-fired pizza, tomato-crowned bruschetta, and the creamy house tiramisu!  

VILLA BORGHESE

villa-borghese-rome hidden gem garden

Not far from the famous Spanish Steps, you’ll find a green jewel in the heart of historic Rome – the Villa Borghese Gardens. Built by the noble Borgia family (including a pope!) atop a former vineyard in 1605, the Villa Borghese Gardens were the largest green space built in Rome since ancient times. You can also access the Villa Borghese gallery from this vast and manicured park, housing masterpieces by artists such as Caravaggio and Titian. Bring art history to life with a private visit alongside an English-speaking guide.

JEWISH QUARTER 

vatican-rome

Rome is home to many sacred sites – including St. Peter’s tomb and the Vatican. It also boasts one of Europe’s oldest Jewish communities, which reside principally in the city’s scenic Jewish Quarter.

In addition to vaunting kosher-friendly carbonara, this quiet cobblestoned quarter also houses some spectacular ruins – including Teatro Marcello. This theater dates back to 13BC and resembles the Colosseum (minus the crowds). Columns and remains of temples are scattered around this open-air theater.

After wandering the Jewish Quarter’s back streets, walk to the nearby Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) for a gelato at Tiberino Gelateria

TRASTEVERE

santa-maria-in-trastevere

Rome’s stunning Trastevere quarter is located on the far side of the Tiber River – easily accessed on foot by crossing one of the city’s scenic bridges. Boasting cobblestone alleyways, Renaissance palaces, and ivy-clad buildings, Trastevere bustles with local charm during the day and at night. It’s also home to some of the city’s most authentic Roman ristorante – including Trattoria Da TeoPizzeria Ai Marmi, and Da Enzo al 29.

Ready to roam through the real Rome? Contact me to start making your dream trip a Roman reality.

In-Flight Experience:  7 Ways to Make it Better

In-Flight Experience: 7 Ways to Make it Better

From foot-kicking neighbors to an overly-talkative seatmate, it’s always a gamble when you step aboard an aircraft. Flying can be exhilarating, stressful, boring, and downright scary at times. Follow these 7 tips to improve your in-flight experience when you take to the skies and possibly even make your travels downright enjoyable!

Prioritize Comfort

improve your in-flight experience by dressing casual

Sure, you may want to step off the plane in New York looking fabulous in your jeans or new dress – but you don’t want to sit for an extended period in them. Think comfort and ease, whether it’s your favorite wrinkle-free trousers, yoga pants, or t-shirt. Don’t discount comfortable footwear either. It’s very common to retain water weight on planes, puffing up in the ankles and feet, so sneakers or flat footwear with some room are best.

Don’t forget to layer! Consider the air-conditioning of the airplane and then your arrival destination. If they’re vastly different, pack a spare outfit in your carry-on to change into before landing.

Set the Mood – For Sleep

If you’re on an overnight flight, increase the odds of getting some shut-eye with a good sleep mask, neck pillow, and earplugs. I always bring a small blanket when I travel, which can be used as a pillow or a blanket in a pinch.

Pack Provisions

Bringing extra snacks means you’re not at the mercy of the busy flight attendants. And you can stay satiated (and hydrated) on your own timeline. Furthermore, limit impulse purchases to save your credit card and sodium levels.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

And I’m not talking about drinking water. Bring moisturizer and even Vaseline for your lips and the inside of your nose. The recirculated air on airplanes is notoriously drying. Combined with the decreased blood flow at 30,000 feet, your skin will suffer. Try using a mini spray bottle of Evian to refresh.  

Listen Up

noise cancelling headset for quieter flights

Bring your own headphones, not only to be able to connect to the inflight movies but to fend off chatty neighbors. Are the headphones even plugged into anything? Only you know, but it sends a clear message that you’re not available for conversation. Try the Bose headphones to improve your in-flight experience, one of my personal favorites.

Clean it Up

Bring your own travel set of Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer, and ensure you give your seat tray and armrests a thorough wipe down before settling in. There’s often a very short time when turning around a plane.

Tried, Tested & True

Now is not the time to break the mold and try that new mask (if your airline mandates wearing them) or skin cream you’ve been trying. Stick to your favorites and well-used versions of everything, so you have no surprises at 30,000 feet.

For more flying tips, reach out to me directly, and we can get you up and away on your next vacation.