Travel, but don’t derail

I always used to think travel days meant bad airport food, lots of sitting, and swollen fingers for hours. Now with several years of working a traveling job under my belt, I have started to welcome these “off days” from work.

Usually a travel day means my one of two off days for work traveling home and then back the next day to the next production location. That’s not a lot of time on the ground at home. For instance, just now I am in Richmond, Virginia after flying home from Darlington, South Carolina yesterday afternoon. I spent the night at home though, did three loads of laundry and ate food from my own pantry. Oh the simple pleasures in life, right? Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.21.01 PM.png

With so much time spent on the go in terms of travel, it can be hard to eat right and get active, but I’ve come up with a few key things I do every time I’m airport bound to feel my best when I get to my next destination. Continue reading

Holiday weekend recap

Hi all, happy Tuesday! I hope you’re having a great start to your week and enjoyed your holiday weekend even more. 

We decided to stay local for this holiday, which left us in the same boat as Easter time. No family around, so up to us to make it extra special. It was also our first 4th as a married couple so I wanted to do something we would definitely remember. 

About a month ago, I purchased tickets to the Georgia Aquarium’s Red White and Brew fest– which included entry into the aquarium, dinner, unlimited beer samplings and live music all for $50 a ticket (if you were members $65 if not). Since we wanted to make sure we could go all out and make our lives easier we opted for a hotel room using some travel points at the Embassy Suites. The hotel was right across the way from the aquarium and made life super easy. 

The event was hosted in the Oceans Ballroom, where two walls were made of water tanks from floor to ceiling, giving you a special view of whale sharks, rays, and other underwater creatures while you at dinner and sipped your brews. And no, sushi was not on the menu, we actually had delicious barbecue catered by Wolfgang Puck. The macaroni and cheese was a definite favorite of ours.  

The event was packed and every ticket was sold. When you entered you received a commemorative glass with a noted fill line to take to any and every beer vendor you wanted all night long for samplings. I think next year they should add trivia or another activity just to keep the activity level high. All in all, it was a neat idea and I’m glad we went. Plus, we took some pretty cool selfies.  

   
A few days prior to the weekend, we made a last minute decision to book a hotel in North Georgia and kind of recreate our Easter getaway. This time, I found a deal for a hotel on Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee, Georgia. The pictures looked great and the reviews were favorable so we decided to head there. We were definitely not disappointed. For just over a 2 hour drive we were greeted with this view outside our hotel room window. 

  
We did everything super easy this trip– packed our own supplies of food, alcohol, etc., and “camped.” Except not really we had a hotel room, but Jarob’s birthday Yeti Cooler got its first use and all we purchased when we got there were two beach towels because that aspect slipped our minds. Planning ahead made for an extremely affordable trip!

We got some swimming in and even got a short hike on the Appalachian trail done before we settled in for the evening to watch the sunset. 

     

 
The next morning, we decided to stop in Rabun County and hike at Tallulah Gorge State Park. So did everyone else, the place was packed! For good reason though… For just $5 you could hike as long as you liked and see tons of wonderful views, some waterfalls, a suspension bridge, water damn and more. We opted for a 3.5 mile hike (inclusive of 221 steps down and back up the gorge which was easily the most challenging part). We left the hike sweaty messes, but a brief costume change from our luggage in the car changed all that.  

    
    
 Seriously, the views from that park are amazing… The video probably depicts in the best. 

It’s just incredible that so many cool places exist just two hours from Atlanta. Rivers, lakes, falls, the Appalachian trail, mountain views, wineries you name it. We love Rabun County more and more each time we visit. I think a fall trip is definitely in the works. 

By the time we got home we were exhausted! We caught up on grocery shopping, laundry and some cleaning before settling in for a relaxing evening. I absolutely cannot wait to go back and explore more of North Georgia. 

Flexibility is the traveler’s best friend 

Just after I posted my pack like a pro post and headed to bed, I was awoken less than 2 hours later to an automated call from American Airlines. I never leave my phone on loud when I sleep and from now on I will be doing this on purpose before traveling  since this accident was in fact a blessing.

My original flight from Atlanta to Chicago had been canceled and American had already rebooked me on a flight to Chicago, but through Miami. Yuck. I hate the Miami airport. It’s always packed and is a disaster to navigate around groups of people who have no idea what they are doing. (Thanks to a few years of traveling for work I now have become an airport snob and pick my favorites for layovers. MIA is not on this list). Also, Miami is not at all on the way to Chicago. That route would have landed me in Chicago 5 hours AFTER my originally scheduled flight. Blah. 

1am doesn’t seem like a great time to make travel arrangements, but at this point I was trying to get home around the same time as my mom was landing from LAX and my dad from Japan. We’re such such a traveling family..ha! Well, I had one option that I found online through Philly, so I called the number on my AAdvantage card and asked for an agent. That flight was sold out, but I could be rebooked through New York LaGuardia and land roughly 15 minutes before my parents arrived IF I was willing to leave for the airport at 3:30 for a 6am departure. Also to be noted, the connection time at LGA was only 45 minutes. Enough in the minds of employees, but even 5 minutes or so could delay a bag from transferring to the next flight, or worse, a longer delay could cause me to miss my connection altogether. Trust me on this.. Anything 45 minutes or less gives you a 50/50 shot of both you and your luggage making the next connection. I once traveled to Birmingham, Alabama through Charlotte and had to have my bag delivered to me at 5am the next day. At least I had clean clothes to wear to work. Also note, airports will not deliver luggage to private residences after hours, so you’ll have to wait until they can get to you unless you’re staying in a hotel in which case they can deliver at any time. 

*It can also help if you book your seat as far to the front of the plane as possible to cut down on disembarking time and give  you more time to reach your gate. 

After rearranging my flight, my new wake up call was exactly an hour from when I got off the phone with the agent. I decided I needed to shrink my luggage from regular to the smallest option I had so I knew I could carry it on and avoid the luggage transfer debacle. (The only thing worse than being delayed is having to go back to the airport several hours later for your luggage). I woke up my husband to ask him if he could take me to the airport two hours earlier and I laid in bed pretty much wide awake until my new alarm went off. 

330am might seem really early to leave for the airport when you’re only 30 minutes away. However, I am still trying to figure out the Atlanta airport and the best and worst times to fly. Having spent the majority of my life flying out of O’hare, I could almost always count on a window period of 3 hours to allow for leaving home, fighting traffic, parking my car, checking my bag and getting through security. More often than not I had plenty of time on the other end to grab a bite, buy a book, etc. 

From the minimal experience I have had at ATL, I know the first flights of the day (anything in the 5:30-7:00 window) mean lots of passengers and long, long lines. Today was no exception. At 4am, all the major airlines had exceedingly long lines to check in and curbside lines were flowing into the road. Thankfully I didn’t have a bag to check anymore and I had my boarding pass on my mobile app. I was able to scoot past all these wait times and enter security. Well, Atlanta is also only operating from ONE checkpoint currently. Yes, the busiest airport that boasts having traveled over 100 million passengers last year is feeding everyone through one line. There’s also no priority lane for first class or status fliers and the TSA pre check lane doesn’t open until 5am. Therefore, before 5am, no matter who you are, you and everyone else will be entering the same maze of security and will be fed into one of many channels. I made it through in under 25 minutes, however as I peaked over my shoulder the lines had grown immensely as all those baggage checkers had moved over to the next stage of their journey before getting to the gate. 

The hard part was done.  The only thing I had left to do (and that I recommend you do as well if you’re making a tight connection) is get ahold of the terminal map for your layover. Spot the gate you’re landing in and the one you’re departing from and make a mental note of how to get from A to B). Some airports require a bus or tram to get to the next terminal while others allow you to walk the distance. It helps to have a plan of action before you get there so you can hit the ground (maybe literally) running. Luckily my gates are only 3 doors apart. And knock on wood I think I’ll make it just fine. 

This could probably throw anyone into a tizzy and it did indeed stress me out a bit, but to make up for the uneasiness I decided to use two of my earned upgrade stickers to arrange a first class seat and soften the blow of an earlier flight, a new route with layover, and a day ahead of me on only 2 hours of sleep. Plus free breakfast and coffee out of a real mug don’t hurt either. **remember in my last post how I said to dress yourself appropriately for flying? You’ll have an easier time of being upgraded in tight situations if you’re dressed the part. Gate agents don’t want to put Mr. Plaid PJs and Miss yoga pants and flip flops next to their best paying customers. 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And it goes a lot more smoothly if you have a flexible mindset. We’re just about to touch down in New York! I’ve been blogging from the sky. Happy Thursday. 

Pack like a pro

It’s no secret that I both love and need to travel. I love going places for fun, and for the last three years, my job has requried a LARGE amount of travel. I think between 2013-2014 I went on upwards of 80 flights, set a record of 16 nights in the same hotel room, and had a wheels up, wheels down routine of less than 24 hours at home down to a science. I get a kick out of standing in line for “priority boarding” with a bunch of grey-haired-suit-wearing men trying to nudge me out of place with their “what are you doing in this important people line” body language. Hey, I earned that spot just like you did… By flying a heck of a lot.

As I write this I’m packing for a trip back home and I realized I truly have a routine that I follow and learned over the course of the last few years. I jotted down some of my recommendations below:

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Weekend Recap: Tourist in Atlanta

Hello everyone. I hope you all had a great weekend. It was warm and sunny here in Atlanta and we had friends in town to share the weekend with. The main event of our weekend was the Sweetwater 420 Fest 5k, but we also crammed in a lot of other tourist activities. Since we haven’t lived in Atlanta very long, most everything I do in the city is a first time experience.

We started the weekend with a trip to the World of Coca-Cola. Nestled right off Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coke can be toured for less than $20. After entering, you’re greeted immediately with a beverage of your choice (Coke, Diet Coke, or Coke Zero) and taken into a room full of historical artifacts. There’s lots to look at in this room, and an ambassador for the brand walks you through important points in history for the beverage. Next up, a movie theater type room, where you get to witness a short film made by Coca-Cola that actually made me tear up at points. It was one of those movies where they showcase the “greatness” of the brand and how it’s a part of important moments in people’s lives. Worked for me! After the movie, you have the option to guide yourself through the rest of the building. There’s a secret vault, photo ops with the Coca-Cola bear, a chance to learn about the processing facilities, and most notably, a tasting experience room where you can try Coke products from ALL OVER THE WORLD. Get ready to get your sugar/caffeine buzz on. This room is like Station Cool from Epcot on steroids.

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After the World of Coke, we headed to a well-known barbecue place for lunch, Fox Bros Bar-B-Q. For a 2:30pm lunch, this place was PACKED. We waited 45 minutes for a table, but it was well worth the wait. This restaurant is recognized as one of the top BBQ places in the city and I have been told by several people I work with that it’s the place to go once you land at Hartsfield Jackson. A couple of pulled pork sandwiches later (and some AMAZING TOTS. Yes, I got a pulled pork sandwich with tots) we headed back to our neck of the woods for a peaceful evening at home.

Saturday marked the 5k. We headed to Centennial Olympic Park for the start of the race. I have to say, this race was organized pretty poorly. Runners lined up in a giant group, then walked across a few streets while police were actively shutting down the roads the runners would be taking. Only half of each two lane side was closed to run in, meaning you could be running right next to a moving vehicle. The roads themselves weren’t in the best shape, there were not wave starts, strollers were allowed and people crammed themselves to the front of the start line when all they planned to do was walk. It took a good 5 minutes to get around strollers, walkers, confused runners and other obstacles to finally feel like you didn’t pay $40 to want to pull your hair out. Also, (yes one more gripe), the mile markers were displayed on tiny knee-high signs on the very right of the road, meaning most of the time you had no idea how far you had gone. Since this was only a 3 mile race, I knew it would be over before I realized it, and the fact that we were able to do something fun with our friends would supersede the shortcomings of the race. Plus, when you did get to the end, you got to enjoy a rather large Sweetwater Beer. I don’t think I will be signing up for this race in the future, but I am glad I got to get my first taste of running in the city of Atlanta.

The rest of the day was spent at Top Golf in Midtown, in and around Buckhead and finally back home. Sunday we laid low and enjoyed the day before it was time to take our friends back to the airport. I spent more time in Atlanta proper than I ever have and I am feeling like I am barely scraping the surface. I am excited to continue to get to know this city (and learn my way around it!). This week Jarob and I will be heading up north to celebrate my niece’s 4th birthday as well as a wedding shower for a beautiful friend. Can’t wait to cross the Mason-Dixon line for the first time in 4 months!!!!!

 

North Georgia Mountain Getaway

For a couple who leaves home as much as we do, you’d expect that we’d have a pretty good grasp on the state we live in. However, since moving to Georgia we have spent more time traveling out of it than exploring in it. Our geography of the state  (outside our city, of course) consists of remembering places with phrases like “that one exit with really cheap gas,” or “the one with that really nice Chic-fil-a.”

I’m excited to share that we have ventured as visitors a whole 2.5 hours north into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to appreciate the scenic views and small-town charm that Northern Georgia has to offer. We loved this short trip in our state, and our one major takeaway was “how have we not come here before?”

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Easter weekend is approaching 

With Easter fast approaching, my husband and I were contemplating our best plan of action for celebrating the Holiday. I know there will be booze involved, since we both gave up pop (or soda depending on where you grew up–shoutout to my fellow Midwesterners) and alcohol for the 40 days of Lent… But where would we spend it now that we’re split between our home states of Indiana and Florida? We discussed our options of traveling to our families, but with such a short weekend we wanted to spend more time on the ground than on a plane or in the car. So, we decided to stay in Georgia.  Continue reading