Weekend road trips for peak foliage viewing

Autumn is arguably the most beautiful season, notable for cooling weather and dazzling changes of scenery. One of my favorite autumn activities is a lazy afternoon drive spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the vibrant colors. There are many places throughout the country to view peak foliage, but here are my suggestions for short, northeastern road trips:

New York’s Finger Lakes

The Adirondack region is often praised for its fall colors, and for good reason. The Finger Lakes area boasts unrivaled fall foliage and country scenes worthy of calendars. Start in Lake Placid and drive the Olympic Trail Scenic Byway, which runs for 170 miles of amazing views.

Northwest Connecticut

This stunning 100-mile loop in Northwestern Connecticut is perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Start in the Town of Falls Village, which looks straight out of a 1800s movie set, and continue to meander through covered bridges, horse farms and state parks full of hiking trails.

Vermont Green Mountain Byway

This 220-mile trip deserves a full weekend. Start in Waitsfield and relish one-lane highways weaving through mountains, valleys and pastures. When you need to stretch your legs, hop out and climb Mount Mansfield to see views from the state’s highest peak.

I suggest getting started early, with a cup of coffee and a tank full of gas. Happy foliage hunting!

Tips for Working While Traveling

As our workplaces become more and more dependent on technology, our business contacts increasingly expect us to always be productive no matter the circumstance – even while 30,000 feet in the air. Thanks to technology, we can continually be connected at the touch of a few buttons. There are almost always inconveniences that occur when working remotely, however. From my experience, I have gained some insight on how to increase productivity despite these inconveniences.

Here are three simple ways to make sure that you are prepared for any travel situation that comes your way:

·         Pack and Plan – Looking ahead at your next business trip, plan for those situations when you are waiting to board the airplane or waiting on your hotel to be available.  During these simple gap periods, you’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish. With these gap periods in mind, package together what you think you might need for different tasks.  Will you need an iPad and a notebook on the plane? Do you need to catch up on the professional development book you’ve been needing to read? Plan ahead and pack for these small but crucial situations. 

·         Prepare for no Wi-Fi and no power – Technology glitches are bound to happen.  And if you are like me, they tend to happen when you need technology the most. Plan for these moments and save a few key documents to your desktop instead of relying on Dropbox or Google Drive. You might also find it helpful to print out a few copies of documents also, just in case you find yourself without the luxury of Wi-Fi.

·         Find ideal work and food locations – Research ahead of time nearby coffee shops and local food spots with free Wi-Fi.  It’s much easier having places already mapped out by the time you arrive with tasty snacks readily available to make your work a little more enjoyable. 

Lastly, don’t expect to get everything you need done accomplished.  Working remotely can be time consuming.  Be mindful of that, and you will already be ahead of the game when you the business trip is booked for the near future.

    – Penny Kokkinides


Vermont Vacation

Some of my favorite escapes this time of the year come when I can sneak away for a vacation in Vermont. A place where 75 percent of the state is covered in forests and billboards are illegal provides the perfect place for me to unwind.

Aside from hikers, adventure seekers and skiers, Vermont isn’t often thought of as an ideal vacation location. News flash: it absolutely is – unless you are unwilling to give up fast food. Vermont’s state capital (Montpelier) doesn’t even have a McDonald’s, and there are only 20 in the entire state.

If you’ve ever been to Portland 0r Seattle, you’ve probably been inspired by the friendly community, creative culture and abundance of fresh, organic food. Vermont is the Seattle of the Northeast. It is top ranked for happy, healthy and educated people. As of 2009, there were 543 organic farms in the state. That’s not all, though! To protect the dairy industry, it is illegal for restaurants to use margarine without stating on the menu that the margarine is artificially colored in 2 inch font. 

A must-see is Sugarbush Farms. It has beautiful grounds that are perfect from strolling and it has free cheese and syrup samples for visitors! Yum!

There are also a number of inns and hotels to stay at, but if you get the chance try to stay a night at Homestyle Hostel. It is beautifully decorated with an internal environment to match.

Have you been to Vermont? If so, tell me about some of your favorite stops in the comments!

Planning Your Next Vacation

Winter in New York is harsh, but it makes you appreciate when the weather is warmer. As winter finally starts to die down and the anticipation of spring is becoming unbearable, it is time to start planning your spring/summer vacation.

Tropical climates might be cliche for vacation, but I personally need to warm my toes in the sand and absorb some fresh vitamin D.

If you’re planning your “break-free-from-winter” trip for the spring, it is advised that you avoid Florida and Mexico. Spring breakers can quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a trip you want to repress more than they do.

Here are a few places to consider:

·         Dominican Republic

o   Beautiful beaches and a culture to match, this place is one for the bucket list! Try to pick up The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic 3 for many useful tips.

·         Phuket, Thailand

o   Thailand is full of dream-like atmospheres that will have you reconsidering if you really need to go home.

·         Bora Bora

o   Turquoise lagoons, plush sand and swimming with sea turtles is all that needs to be said.

·         Bali

o   If you’ve ever seen Eat, Pray, Love, you are probably already dreaming about your Bali trip.

·         Tenerife, Spain

o   The largest of the Canary Islands, this place has it all. Hiking and climbing for the adventurers. Yellow and black sand beaches for the beach bums.

Snow, Snow, Go Away!

Have you ever wished you had the Fairy Godmother skills to simply make something disappear? That’s how I currently feel about snow. I would love to bippity-boppity-boop and not hear from it for the rest of the season. Over the weekend, the city got 26.8 inches of snow – just 0.1 inches shy of reaching the record accumulation!

The issues snowstorm Isaac has cause are wide-ranging, and include public transit delays and the fact that people in Queens haven’t seen the local streets in days. Folks who have a risky time getting to work should take the day off. And if you can’t make it to the nearest store or market for dinner, I recommend ordering take-out. It’s more important than ever during these times to stay safe.

However, the unwelcome white stuff has also been causing some issues around the city more serious than frigid toes and occasional shivering. Five deaths have been reported across the city due to heart attacks induced by shoveling snow. If you have to shovel snow around your home, be very careful and have someone nearby to call for help if needed.

If you’re an active, young adult who still feels invincible against the snow, the city is looking to temporarily hire people to help clear snow from city-owned properties. Perhaps you could even ask if your elderly neighbor needs help – it may save their life.

Do NYC as the Locals Do

When vacationing, it’s often hard to get a sincere experience of the culture. In NYC, this is especially true. Times Square is lined with chain restaurants, tourists and overpriced hotels. If that’s what your dream NYC experience is, then by all means, partake in those staples of American life.

For travelers interested in pretending to be New Yorkers for a few days, I have compiled a list of tips:

  • If you want to see the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island Ferry.
    • The ferry gives you great views of the Statue of Liberty and the city. It’s also free, if you take the metro to the ferry.
    • Also, while you are waiting for the ferry, you have the option to purchase beer and drink it on the ride! How fun is that?
  • Buy a week/month long metro pass.
    • Sure it is more expensive upfront, but you will quickly learn that constantly refilling your metro card is both timely and costly.
  • Always carry cash.
    • You would think that in a modern city like NYC, credit cards would be king. Not exactly. Many restaurants have credit card minimums or simply only take cash. For instance, if you want to go to Tom’s Restaurant, the Seinfeld hotspot, you better bring cash or “no soup for you.”
  • Avoid Times Square.
    • This is unless, of course, you’re in the market for some overpriced “I heart NYC” boxers.
    • For a more relaxing time, try the Highline and the nearby Chelsea Market.
  • Walk quickly.
    • Keep up or risk getting run over. Walk the same block a few times if you want to marvel at its beauty. After all, you’re on vacation; you have time.

How to Travel in Good Health

As a healthcare professional with a penchant for travel, I strongly believe in the health benefits of traveling. Vacationing is a great way to relax, reduce stress and enjoy time with loved ones.

However, Harvard Business Review recently listed several risks to those who travel for business, including an increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, a correlation to unhealthy lifestyles, higher stress levels and sleep problems.

With all these added risks, it is important for travelers to maintain healthy habits while away from home, as I’ve said before. Whether your travels are occupational or recreational, here are some tips for staying healthy while you travel:

  1. Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is an easy way to keep your immune system strong while traveling. While drinking lots of water is an obvious solution, limiting alcohol intake is equally important. Stay hydrated and swap that glass of wine on the plane for a bottle of water instead.
  1. Sleep is your friend. Sleep is usually at the back of our minds on a jam-packed trip. Among obvious health benefits of adequate sleep, a lack of sleep can lead to feeling hungry even if you aren’t. Get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly to avoid overeating!
  1. Don’t overindulge. Many people look at travel time as a chance to overindulge in food and alcohol. While it may seem appealing at first, overindulging often leaves us feeling guilty and our bodies bloated. Order smaller portion sizes to eliminate the temptation to overindulge.

Traveling is not an excuse to completely derail a diet plan or sleep schedule. While traveling does disrupt daily routines, use the tips above to stay healthy on your next trip. You’ll leave your vacation feeling refreshed – not like you need a vacation from your vacation.

Pack Your Bags

If you’re like me, you start dreaming of your next vacation the second you get home from your last one.

There’s nothing wrong with a little wanderlust. And as the New Year rolls around, the endless travel possibilities of 2016 are being brought to light.

Here are just a few of The Huffington Post’s picks as the top travel destinations for 2016:

  1. Hawaii

Although this destination has always been popular, this year marks 75 years since the Pearl Harbor Attacks. This historic moment, which will be commemorated with special events, is sure to draw in a big crowd of history buffs, along with the regular wave of tourists.

  1. New Zealand

While many have only ever dreamt of visiting the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand, travelers will be thrilled to know that this trip has become much more attainable for the new year. After American Airlines announced that it will offer a non-stop flight from L.A. that will begin in June, Air New Zealand immediately lowered their prices for the same route. (I know where my next vacation will be!)

  1. Brazil

With the 2016 Olympics being hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is gearing up for a tourist-packed year. The usual American visa requirement has even been waived in preparation, which will take out some of the hassle for travelers. Bonus: the U.S. dollar has amazing buying power in Brazil!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look at flights. Safe travels and happy New Year!

Staying Warm in New York

As a lifelong New Yorker, I can confirm the Big Apple is a wonderful place to visit any time of year. But staying warm in these winter months can be difficult. Luckily, for tourists who have been in town in recent weeks, the city has been unseasonably temperate. (We set an all-time record by hitting 68 degrees last weekend! In the middle of December!)

When the weather outside is a little more frightful, however, some people find their time in NYC a little less pleasant. With some preparation, however, conquering the elements is entirely possible. The blog New York Stay has provided “Top Ten Tips for Surviving the Big Freeze” in New York City, and the points cover some absolutely essential points, such as:

  1. Decent shoes or boots that will remain watertight. I must admit, I’ve had a chuckle or two at the expense of out-of-towners who thought they would explore the city in high heels or some other unwise shoe decision. You don’t want to be stuck in that situation.
  2. Thick socks. With all the walking that doing NYC right requires, I typically tell friends to bring thick socks anyway. But in the winter, these will be your best friend.
  3. Gloves. I recommend “tech touch” gloves, with forefingers and thumbs that will allow you to access to crucially important Google Maps on the go.
  4. A nice, soft scarf. New York is the scarf capital of the world. In addition to keeping you warm, this item will also help you blend in.
  5. Long johns or thermal underwear. Nothing can salvage your body temp like a good set of long johns. The best part – nobody can tell you’re wearing them!

If you should arrive in New York and realize you forgot to pack any of the above, I have no doubt the stores on 5th Avenue (which are so beautiful at Christmastime) will be happy to supply you with whatever you need!

Stay Safe on Vacation Rentals

In recent years, vacation rental sites such as Airbnb or TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals have grown in popularity among travelers seeking a budget-friendly, unique place to stay. While these sites do offer amazing deals and experiences, it is important to remember that there are some people out there simply looking to scam you (crazy, right?).

Fortunately, U.S. News & World Report has highlighted ways that you can stay safe when booking with vacation rental sites.

Firstly, never conduct business through an unsecure service. Make sure you are booking through the company’s official site, staying away from any hosts who suggest doing business off of the vacation rental site. If you’re asked to use an instant wire service or to send money through your bank, a red flag should definitely be raised!

If the host also has few to no reviews, you have another reason to be wary. This is when you need to do additional research. You should cross-search on other sites to ensure you are not being scammed. Some sites even offer “verified” accounts that have been checked for authenticity, offering you piece-of-mind.

In addition, it is important to review the listing’s contract agreements to identify the important terms – payment, security deposit, cancellation rules, and amenities. If contracts lack these terms, you may find yourself in a rental scam.

Lastly, if a listing has odd rules or regulations, you may want to pass. Different cities have different rental policies – some don’t even allow overnight rentals! It is up to you to do your homework to ensure the listing you are about to book is legal.

Don’t be one of the many with nightmarish tales about your unconventional vacation rental experience – instead, just be on high alert and take precautionary measures when booking. Prove to that unconvinced friend that these “sketchy” rental sites can actually offer awesome and unforgettable vacation experiences!