3 unpredictable destinations – Update from Chicago Travel & Adventure show

IMG_6454This past weekend I attended the Chicago Travel & Adventure show.  I have been to the show several times it remains to have a strong focus on weekend getaways and domestic travel.  It is a great event for anyone looking for inspiration on future travel plans yet half the size of the New York Times Travel show in comparison.

My main take aways from the show include:

Oklahoma City:  This is an interesting city with an Arts District, Bricktown entertainment & dining, and historic Uptown with eclectic boutiques.  I spoke with the representatives from the Oklahoma City booth to  discover you could see most of the cities attractions in the downtown area over a weekend without a car.  This is going higher on my wish list and as the song goes “Oklahoma is the place to be…”.

French Lick Resort:  Did you know there is a National Historical Landmark European hotel resort and spa in Indiana?  Wait scratch that….there are actually 2 hotels only 1 mile apart!  Visitors were first drawn to this spa for it’s mineral waters starting back in 1855.   The list of awards for these hotels, their spas and golf courses is longer than the mile between them.  In 2015 it received the Best Historic Resort in USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards.  I can hardly wait to check this place out!

Colombia:  This country has been listed on several 2016 top destination list from and I can see why.  Did you know that within the country of Colombia you have the Amazon, Andes mountains, Pacific Coast and Caribbean Coast?   It is home to many UNESCO sites including the walled city of Cartagena which looks absolutely spectacular.  I am looking forward to exploring and drinking some of the best coffee in the world.

Seek your adventure!

Prepare for New York!

One of my favorite things about New York is that every trip is different because there are so many amazing places to check out.  However chances are the cool places to see, visit and eat that are on your wish list are probably on many other visitors or locals as well.  This last trip earlier this month was all about the travel show and catching up with friends over a good meal.

So my biggest advice for New York is prepare your “must have” list in advance and make a booking.  One of my long time friends this week was looking for advice on a special birthday gift while visiting New York. I personally think spending your birthday traveling is the best idea ever!    So if you are looking for gift ideas for me or anyone else who loves travel there are many options including airline gift certificates, hotel gift certificates, or Viator offers day tours in many global locations. “Actually the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…”  Lewis Carroll

Right,  so back to preparing for New York.  I historically have organized tickets in advance for the following type of events which can be pre-purchased with an electronic ticket.  You will need to check the details about who needs to be present if you are going to buy for a gift.

1. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are part of the National Park Service but you need to purchase a ferry ticket for the transport.  In the summer time lines can be hours long so definitely book ahead!

2. September 11th Memorial & Museum you can purchase tickets up to 3 months in advance.  While they were building the museum I had registered for free tickets to visit the Memorial park which was worth it.  Access to the park is now accessible to anyone without a ticket but the museum on weekends can still be a hot ticket.

3. Empire State Building is infamous for having a very long wait.  It was not until October of last year that I finally made it to the top of Empire State Building because there was no line dragging around the outside of the building.  There are options to purchase advance tickets including a VIP tickets that allows to you go straight to the elevators with no waiting.

4. There are many city bus tours that offer hop-on and hop-off service ticket valid for multiple days and routes.  Check out the options in advance and when I booked in advance there was a significant savings.  Just google it and you will find many options to choose from.

5. Friday night and Saturday night dinner – New York restaurants are generally very small so seating capacity for one evening is limited.  Sure there is always another restaurant you could go to but if you are only in New York for a few days make sure you go where you want to go!  I usually start by googling “best New York Indian restaurants”  or any cuisine.  It will come up with a number of articles and I read the reviews to narrow my choices.  Look at the restaurant website and menu.  Then search opentable.com or email/call the restaurant directly to see if there are any free tables.   My last visit we had an amazing Italian dinner Friday night at Tavola and then Saturday night we had an incredible Indian dinner at Dhaba.


One last tip for today.  You don’t have to plan ahead for this one other than perhaps a short wait in line.  On my last visit my favorite bagel place has gotten crazy busy with a line almost out the door.  I highly recommend a small shop called Best Bagel & Coffee on 35th between 7th and 8th.   There are only about 10 seats in the place so you will probably need to take it to go but it is so worth it!

By the way, if you have never heard me say it before “I love New York” just ask my 5 year old niece.  She has heard me say it so many times she declared me Queen of New York : )

Seek your adventure!


New York Times Travel Show – Book your own flight to Cuba!

NYTimes travel showThis past weekend I attend the New York Times Travel Show in one of my favorite cities.  I love New York!  This is the largest travel show in North America and it was impressive.  I can hardly wait for next year’s event.

Here are the highlights of what I learned from the seminars, exhibits, vendors, etc…


You can take yourself.  No Group required.  No special visa required.  Identify travel activities in one of the 12 categories.  As Arthur Frommer the “grandfather of travel” says  book your own flight.


Best airfare prices

  • Domestic travel book at miminum 57 days advance
  • International travel book at minimum 171 days advance
  • Sunday is cheapest day of the week to purchase average 19% lower
  • Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to fly
  • skyscanner.net & momondo.com consistently showed lowest airfare prices

2016 Top Destinations

  • Colombia – new airline from Miami called Viva Colombia with low prices
  • Iceland
  • Chennai & Kerala India
  • Canada – amazing exchange rate!
  • Japan – amazing exchange rate!
  • Champagne France – amazing exchange rate and drink real champagne all day!
  • Celebrate 100th anniversary of National Parks
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Washington DC
  • Russia – amazing exchange rate!


Seek your adventure!

Say what? TSA won’t accept driver’s license for security?

UPDATE on 12 Jan 2016:  The official update from the Department of Homeland Security to clarify any rumors.  The State of Illinois got another extension until January 22, 2018.  That gives you plenty of time to get your passports now.

In case you have not heard the news  TSA is in the process of reconsidering what is valid form of identification.   For myself and friends in Chicago area this is urgent according to the news article;  starting on Sunday January 10th the state of Illinois you may be required to provide an alternative government approved identification.   The word straight from Department of Homeland Security is that passengers will be notified in advance so we are getting mixed messages here.

I personally always travel with my passport as identification partially because one never knows where a trip may end up taking you. : )

My advice folks is bring your passport to the airport for security to be safe.  If you don’t have have a passport; what the heck are you waiting for?  Get off the couch and get one!

Seek your adventure!

Micronesia Island Hopper Flight (United 154)

So I booked this flight literally last Christmas Day 2014 as soon as the seats open for the award travel.  It is a “hot award” ticket in the travel geek circle so much that I actually did not get my first choice of dates even though I was ready to book the day the seats opened 330 days in advance.  I attend several travel seminars over the last few years and had heard about this trip in one of the sessions.    After seeing a few aerial view photos it was immediately added to my wish list of travel ideas. So to say I was like a kid on Christmas morning getting ready to take this flight is an understatement. I had waited nearly a year.  I had obsessed over which side of the plane has a better view and based on reading many travel blogs of those who completed the journey before me.   I took their advice and choose to sit in a window seat on the right hand side of the plane (i.e. the right hand side when you are sitting down looking towards the cockpit).

United Premier Access in Honolulu

  So the morning finally arrives I head to the Honolulu airport early in the morning to catch the 7.25am flight.  I spent the extra frequent flier miles and I am traveling first class with my award ticket as the total travel time is over 14 hours.  I have  an official “house policy” after flying 25 hours in economy class return from Bali last year.  House Policy:  If the flight is over 10 hours either split the journey into multiple legs or fly business class.  

My boarding passes for the day!

So my first class ticket, my TSA Precheck, my carry on luggage and I go to security.  I get the TSA agent and the alarm bells go off.  “Excuse me miss but you have security code SSSS on your ticket and this will require us to search all of your belongings.”  OH NO!  Seriously?  So of course I am very patient as they do extra body screening and open all of my carry on luggage and test everything for chemical residue.  So my only guess is that not many people would on purpose make all these extra stops through Micronesia and Marshall Islands so it caused some alert to trigger.  There are plenty of direct flights from Honolulu to Guam that don’t stop 5 times along the way.  Anyway moving onwards…..  So by the way the TSA agent was so impressed with how incredibly organized my suitcase was on the inside.  Apparently she had never seen anyone with packing cubes before.  She loved them and was going to buy some!  


Interesting facts about United 154

So a few interesting facts about this flight that I discovered in preparation and during the flight.  Given that it is such a long journey with no nearby airports they take 2 entire sets of crew: pilots and flight attendants so they do not run into the FAA regulation.  In addition the flight takes their own mechanic every time in case there is anything that needs to be fixed along the way.  In the event that a part is needed the flight would be delayed until a new plane or part could arrive from Honolulu or Guam.  Hmm okay let’s get ready to roll!


Boarding gate at Honolulu airport

                    Honolulu to Majuro (Republic of the Marshall Islands) There were some lovely views of Honolulu from takeoff that was great.  The flight was about 5.5 hours  with not much to see out the window during the flight.  I enjoyed the flight with a lovely breakfast, a movie and a wee little nap.  The arrival into Majuro had some amazing views.   Oh and we crossed the International Date line which is exciting in a very geeky travel way but this was the first time I crossed the date line I awake.  My historical trips crossing the International Date line I was sleeping as it was in the middle of the night on the way to Australia; by the way there is nothing to see when you cross the line…I checked : )

My first class seat for the day : )

Breakfast is served!














I deplaned and checked out the airport terminal which was a glorified bus stop.   There was a small snack shop that appeared to have coffee, chips, candy etc.  Although there was a local woman selling handicrafts at the gate….let’s be clear there is only one gate.   I bought a lovely handmade headband from her for a reasonable price.  We were on the ground for less than 1 hour then onto the next flight.

Majuro to Kwajalein (Republic of the Marshall Islands)

Once again the views at take off were amazing and I snapped photos like it was a major sporting event.   In first class they serve a variety of light snacks on the 1 hour flight between the islands. The island of Kwajalein is in a coalition with the US Military and you are not allowed to deplane the aircraft unless you are Marshallese, US Military or have a permit from the military.  US Miltary base with some crazy missile testing things going on here.

Kwajalein to Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia)

The flight to Pohnepei was just under 1 hour with continued incredible aerial views even with the rain!  It is apparently one of the wettest places on earth.  I deplaned to visit the small airport terminal to enjoy some free wifi!  I also was surprised to see an NBA basketball game as the group choice on the 1 TV for entertainment while waiting for the flight.

Pohnpei to Chuuk (Federated States of Micronesia)

This was another 1 hour and 20 minute flight with again light snacks served in first class.  They saved the best for last in regards the aerial views as Chuuk was absolutely incredible!  The island has many tourist for diving and snorkeling here including many WWII remnants which became famous after Jacques Cousteau visit.

I deplaned to the terminal which was little larger in size than the others.   I went immediately to the snack shop looking for something to eat of substance.  They don’t really plan for people to join the crew for the entire days journey and while I had an amazing breakfast that was now 8 hours ago.  The light snacks they served on the other flights were not holding me over.  I was pleasantly surprised to find available chicken veggie bao; if you have never tried a bao bun before check it out.   So while I am enjoying my bao from inside the terminal I am watching a heavy tropical storm blow from a clear blue sky.   They wait until the storm passes before we board the plane for the next flight.

Chuuk to Guam

Phew last flight of the day!  I am having a great time and totally enjoying this journey however the United safety video which is funny yet informative after the 5th time in the same day is wearing on me.  So the last flight of the day is 1 hour and 40 minutes with more amazing views that never stop.  On this last flight they served a light lunch which when the steward came to deliver he realized I had not eaten a meal for 8+ hours.  He apologized as of course most people don’t join them for the whole day.  No worries glad I always carry snacks in my bag as you never know what the journey will bring.


It was an absolutely amazing experience to visit these tiny little islands literally in the middle of no where.  The views were so much more beautiful than I could have imagined or hoped for.  I am so glad I brought the nice camera and reserved the window seat on the right hand side.  It was a lot of flying time for the limited about of time I had to enjoy the aerial views yet I am very happy I had experience.

I had so many awesome photos I loaded them to a brief 1 minute video.  Enjoy!

Seek your adventure!