Pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea and settle in for some summer travel dreaming. My girls in the Luxury Travel Blog network have been getting around and share some swoon worthy stories.
New York, New York
In the Four Seasons online magazine Have Family, Will Travel I share my go-to guide for enjoying the Big Apple with Kids. To be clear, Bergdorf’s is just around the corner from Dylan’s Candy Bar and Central Park. It’s divine planning.
Mrs. O Around the World returned to her hometown of Lisbon. Portugal is on my bucket list, if I go, I’m going Mrs. O style. Actually, anywhere I go I should go Mrs. O style, if you’re not following her, you should be.
Memory Lane, Columbia University
The adorable (and impossibly young) miss Nadine Jolie took a Stroll Down Memory Lane at Columbia University. But the real story is that she got engaged in Paris last weekend. Congratulations to Nadine and we can’t wait to read that story!
Where to Eat in Charleston, South Carolina
As you know, we have a home in South Carolina and Charleston is my second favorite place on earth, right behind Paris. Katie Goldstein sacrificed her waistline to give us this round up of the best places to eat in the Holy City. She also proves out my theory that everything is better with bacon.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Another destination on my “list”, Santa Fe. Charu Suri reviewed the historic Hotel St. Francis. Not only is it gorgeous, it’s affordable!
Look for the Luxury Travel Blog Network round up every month where we bring you the best places to eat, stay, and play all over the globe. Someone has to do it.
I don’t often write about my personal life on my website – but this is a story I need to tell.
I spoke to my real dad last night. My entire life I’ve dreamed of finding him, and now I have.
My mom told me my birth story when I was in college. She had a short affair with an Air Force medic when she was young. I was born 9 months later. She actually gave me up for adoption and I went to a foster home. Being born with crossed eyes had made me “unadoptable” and I would be a ward of the state. Her aunt encouraged her to raise me and they came back for me.
Not knowing who my father was never seemed weird to me as a child. She married a man when I was four who adopted me and they had my brothers and sister. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I felt the hole inside of not knowing who my real dad was. Do my boys look like him? Did my love of travel come from him?
Last week I was on Facebook (shocker I know) and saw a comment on an old friend’s profile. The person who commented had the same last name as my dad. It’s an unusual name, the person lived in Seattle, and honestly, I thought we looked like we could be relatives. Then I sent the weirdest Facebook message ever. I asked him if his brother might be my dad. Luckily for me he has an adopted daughter and was willing to help me.
So last night I made the phone call I’ve dreamed about for so long. I called my real dad. I had always worried that if I found him he might not want to know me, or he might be a jerk, or a million other horrible things. But my dad is awesome. He is gentle and kind. He is funny. He’s a zen Buddhist, how cool is that? And he wants to know me.
So my travel this summer is going to include a trip. To see my dad.
This is the best Father’s Day ever.
Have you heard of the Jawbone UP bracelet?
My totally hot Fed Ex guy dropped off a shiny new Jawbone UP at my house the other day (that has nothing to do with the story, but seriously, this guy is smokin’). When I took it out of the box my husband freaked out. It might be the first time that he’s EVER been impressed by my job. Not the cover of Greenwich Magazine, not spots on CBS, but a free UP bracelet for review.
He knew all about it, apparently it’s been in the Wall Street Journal and he has been quietly coveting one and immediately tried to steal mine. He tried to make the case that “he works out more than me” and he “understands this stuff”. He also doesn’t “have a blog” or any “influence”. So I snagged the bracelet and ran.
I am SO obsessed with this thing that I actually ordered him one for Father’s Day. Ok, I actually ordered one in a cuter color for myself and I’m giving him the used one. He’s welcome.
What it does and why I suddenly can’t live without it:
You launch the UP app on your phone for free. When you connect your bracelet (super easy, you literally plug the it in to the headphone jack) it has you set up a profile. I’m telling you, I didn’t even read the instructions, it’s totally intuitive.
You wear it 24/7 and it tracks your steps and your sleep, after a few days it will give you trends. When you set up your profile it will tell you how many steps a normal person your age and sex generally takes daily. For me it’s 10,000 steps. On the days that I’m below that number I will take the dog for a long walk or go for a run. I am competing with imaginary middle aged women and I’m determined not to let them beat me, in my mind.
It tracks your sleep. It tells you how long it takes you to fall asleep, if you stay asleep, and somehow it even tells you how much light vs. deep sleep you get. This has been life changing for me. I often take a sleep aid because I wake up in the night. After looking at the data I realized I get much less deep sleep on those nights. If I let myself fall asleep naturally my sleep is higher quality. Also, it doesn’t take me as long to fall asleep as I think it does.
You can have a virtual team. When you set up the app you can link it to Facebook and it will tell you which of your FB friends have UP and give you the option to add them as team mates. So far it seems to be a lot of techie early adopter types. My friend Monica who’s site The Online Mom is something every parent should follow, works out a LOT. My friend Kier, from Europe Express, doesn’t sleep much. He lives in Seattle, I think it’s the coffee.
The teammate function could be really powerful for a group of people trying to encourage each other to exercise, or sleep really. I should start a sleep support group.
In my opinion the Jawbone UP does more than just track your activity, it changes your actions. The Hawthorne effect is how people behave when they know they are being observed. I find I am more likely to take the stairs or increase my run because I know my numbers will be recorded. You can do a lot more with the UP than I’m currently doing. I’m pretty sure you can track your food and lots of other stuff to make it even more useful.
The UP costs $129 and I’ve had several people ask me if it’s worth it. It’s worth it at twice the price, seriously. One piece of advice, buy an extra pack of caps when you buy your bracelet. When you plug it in to your phone to upload your data or in to your computer to charge it you take the cap off, they are small and easy to lose. I know this because I lost mine. Also, make sure you measure your wrist to ensure it fits properly, instructions are on the website.
I was not compensated for this post and the purchase of the second bracelet was a full priced purchase at my expense. I just really freaking love this thing.
So I asked you to send me pictures of what brings you joy to enter the Havaianas #InstantJoy campaign.
I LOVE these photos – they cover everything from throw back family pics to tennis to baby piglets.
I love seeing what brings everyone #instantjoy. Thank you for sharing them with me, and for playing along.
The winner is – the baby piglets send in by one of my oldest and dearest friends Linda.
Here’s to everyone finding a lot of joy and a lot of sun drenched beach days this summer.
Havaianas provided the flip flops for the giveaway and paid me for my time with my own sassy pair.
So I was asked to be a Verizon blogger-which means they send me stuff-I try it-then I tell you what I think.
I know, right?
So a few weeks ago the new Blackberry Z10 arrived by FedEx. I was around for the first generation of Blackberrys, remember how cool they were? Everyone from teens to stock brokers had one and BBMing was the thing. Then the iPhone came along and suddenly the Blackberry looked like a dinosaur. No apps, no touch screen, no hipster factor.
When I heard the Blackberry was back I was expecting the same old Blackberry, but maybe with apps or whatever.
This is what the new Z10 looks like
I was less excited about the new Blackberry than my son was. I have an iPhone, I know how it works. I like stuff that I know how it works. So he’s trying to sell me on why the new Blackberry Z10 is cool and I should convert.
Also, how does he know all this stuff? This is him explaining the wireless speaker that you can pair with the Blackberry (it’s a separate purchase). He knows I haven’t figured out how to pair my iPhone with my car and that I like to listen to music, so it’s a smart move on his part.
As I figure out more features, I will give you the scoop. Which you realize actually means “as JJ figures out more features, I will videotape him.”
Havaianas is doing such a fun campaign this spring I decided to join in. I love joy – I love shoes – actually some shoes (most shoes) give me joy.
But if you really think about what gives you joy, it’s not usually your the material things, it’s the small moments-an ice cream covered kiss, a nap in the afternoon sun, a phone call from an old friend.
I actually have a Pinterest board devoted to the things that bring me joy because sometimes we need a reminder about what really makes us happy, not just what we think makes us happy.
Top of my list? The sound of church bells – closely followed by the smell of a campfire. Oh, and some JBJ. (my kids too-right after JBJ)
So here’s how the campaign works-
Share your photo of what brings you #instantjoy with me – I’ll draw a random winner from all of the entries the morning of May 31.
You can share them with me by tagging your photos on Instagram with #luxurytravelmom #instantjoy
Post them on the Luxury Travel Mom Facebook page
Post them on Twitter and tag them #luxurytravelmom #instantjoy
E-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll be pulling the photos and doing a post every day next week sharing what brings you #instantjoy
Havaianas is giving away some fab prizes as part of their campaign (way more than a pair of flip flops) – be sure to enter.
Havainas is providing me with a pair of Slim Flip Flops to give away, you choose the color. To thank me for my time, I get a pair too. But let’s be real, I’m not going to spend a week on a campaign for a $28 pair of flip flops. I’m all about joy and I hope this campaign reminds you what brings you joy and I can’t wait to see your photos!
This month’s edition of the Luxury Travel Blog Network has a little bit of everything from midwest travel (yes, people go there) to luxe flights on Qatar Airways.
Here’s what’s happening in luxury:
Charu Suri from Butterfly Diary has done the hard work of rounding up the best of spa treatments from around the world, you’re welcome.
Ana Silva O’Reilly aka Mrs. O Around the World took a business class trip on Qatar Airways just to give us the report. Spoiler alert, it puts Delta to shame, and then some.
The fabulous Nadine Jolie lived the M Life in Las Vegas. Wondering what that is? It’s RIDICULOUS luxury in sin city, I seriously need to check this out next time I’m there – without kids – as if that’s going to happen. Seriously, read her post and drool.
Katie Goldstein from Traveling Panties makes the case that Cleveland is more than just a fly over city- check out her 10 Best Things to do in Cleveland list.
Keep up with all the fab travels of my posh posse at The Luxury Travel Blog Network.
Lindley Pless knows a good vacation. From pounding the pavement in Paris to hiking the Na’Pali Coast in Kuaii – she is most happy when exploring new terrain. She now lives in the burbs with 2 young daughters so itineraries have changed since her footloose and fancy free pre-kids days. Now she scours the world – looking for just the right resort to host a husband, wife, and elementary aged children. When not travelling Lindley writes for The Sentimentalist and DuJour Magazine. She is also the founder of the non-profit Little Wings Foundation – that hosts family volunteer days and donates to charities worldwide. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The article broke in the New York Post a few days ago. My inbox was flooded with friends asking me about it since I write so often about Luxury and Disney that I am the second Google search result on the subject.
Of course I’ve heard about these gray market services. My friends at our country club are shocked that I pay full price for the VIP service offered by Disney at $300 per hour. No, it’s not given to me by Disney or even discounted. I pay it fair and square. Though I’m offered numbers for tour guides that are former Disney employees who can “game the system” for you or handicapped guides who “need the money so it’s a win-win” I always pass.
It’s telling my children that cheating and using other people’s misfortune is ok because we are better than other people, we shouldn’t HAVE to wait in line. Isn’t that what these moms are saying to every other person who plays by the rules? I’m better than you and the rules don’t apply to me.
On a recent trip to Disney I was joined by one of my best friends in the world, Karin, founder of Special Needs Travel Mom, and her disabled daughter. I learned how difficult enjoying the parks can be for a child who truly has special needs. Veronica can’t walk, see or speak. Just sitting her in a ride is a challenge. The help provided by the Disney cast members at every attraction was crucial to her experiencing Disney. Is it fair that someone who is using a “disabled guide” but is perfectly abled, just too “important” to stand in line should be placed in front of her? The moms traveling with special needs children DESERVE the front of the line, they need it and they are exhausted when they get there.
If a family afford the $120 an hour to hire the cheaters they can afford the $300 to hire the legitimate Disney service. Their money and time is not more important than anyone else’s. Would it be ok to pay a kid to take their test because “he needs the money” and “Johnny doesn’t have time to study?”
Our children are watching our every move, I want mine to learn that breaking the rules is not ok just because it’s convenient and we can afford it.
Luxury Travel Mom writer Lindley Pless flew her whole brood to Jamaica for a family vacation at the Tryall Club. According to Lindley “This was the first vacation I can remember taking with small children where I actually relaxed.” Enough said, we are IN.
As we got off the plane we were embraced by bright sun and the warm winds of Jamaica. Sunglasses were donned and sweaters were peeled off. It was hard to imagine that just over 3 hours earlier we were boarding our direct flight from JFK to Montego Bay…
Jamaica welcomed us with the hustle and bustle of bright colors and crowded streets as we were shuttled in a small van for the 30-minute ride through the city and along the coast to the resort. As we turned off the small highway we were greeted by a serene hillside resort that immediately took me back to times gone by.
The Tryall Club is a tropical oasis where ripe fruit dangles from mango trees that cling to the lush hillside. The bright white stucco buildings are clean and well kept but you sense they haven’t changed much since the club was opened to visitors in the 1940s. Once a sugar cane plantation, there are traces of the storied history hidden amongst the 2,200 acre property.
The villas are nestled among 50 foot palm trees – almost every one offering views of the Caribbean Sea. Golf carts (included with each villa) shuttle visitors from place to place and sarong-covered bathing suits are standard attire. We loved the casual feel of the resort – dressing up only for the all-island cocktail party Monday night (where we had the chance to meet and speak with hotel management) and for the Beach BBQ on Wednesday. I guess it was three times that we donned our island-chic attire because we also headed to Reggae night on Friday down on the beach – and it was fabulous! While at the villa we dined in sundresses and khakis with casual polos. Each villa comes fully staffed and has its own pool. We went from table to pool – lingering over our morning coffee and Times Digest while the kids scampered away from the table to take a dip in the pool.
The staff at our villa Serenity was soft spoken and kind – eager to meet our every need. I personally liked that a hotel manager called to check on us each day as well, making sure that everything in our villa was satisfactory. As usual I over-packed, not realizing that it is customary for the villa staff to do your laundry. Each morning as we headed to the beach they made the beds, cleaned the rooms, and collected the previous days clothes. They were delivered back to our rooms each evening after having been washed, line dried, and ironed.
The in-villa chef was spectacular – impressing us with local fare like jerked chicken and rum bread pudding. I can’t speak to the talents of other chefs because each villa has a chef that works only within that one home. That perhaps might be the risk of “villa style” housing. I subtly interviewed others who were at the resort at the same time as us and I can report back that they all said their food was very good.
(One bit of advice – do not eat your meals at the Main House. They are not used to many people using their services and while the food was very good the wait was painfully long. With great chefs in the villas – breakfast and lunch are best eaten at home. I never had a chance to eat at the beachside restaurant but I heard the wait there was also quite long.)
At the beginning of the week our chef asked us what types of foods we liked to eat and from that point on his interpretation of our tastes were spot on. Once or twice we requested special things – like pancakes for the kids or lobster for the adults. The day we ate lobster the fishermen came to our door and the chef introduced us to our evening meal. The 2 lobsters (a little more than 1 lb each) were paid for with $60 cash. This was probably the priciest expense of the week.
I love that all the water sports are included at the beach. Free services included incredible snorkeling (gear provided) 100 yards off the peer. We also had a blast trying paddle boarding. The beach staff worked quickly and upon request set us up with chair covers and towels. The beach is a little smaller than what I was used to in Mexico and Turks & Caicos but the sand was clean and the water clear. Because of the reef the beach is almost wave-less. That makes it ideal for toddlers who can play along the edge without getting knocked down. The big permanent straw umbrellas are necessary since the sun is intense in Jamaica. One note –beach chairs and umbrellas were almost all being used by 11:00am. If you want them – get there by 10am.
While at Tryall I was given a tour of 5 other villas. They really ran the gamut – and I returned home to tell my husband that Tryall did have something for everyone. Hummingbird House, which had just been renovated, would be ideal for 2 or 3 families to share. It is one of the most expensive homes on the island but the open aired spaces and views seem well worth it. I did see a few homes that felt a little dated – I think getting a housing recommendation from those who have been there before is the best way to pick a villa.
The golf course is incredibly well kept considering it was the dry season. The caddies couldn’t be nicer – although I must admit that the “Just relax mon!” mantra was grating on my nerves by the tenth time I drilled my golfball into the thick trees that line many of the holes. The “Cocktail Waitress” who cruises the course in a cart at all hours and the water views made me forget about my terrible playing.
It was blissful to be able to sneak in 2 rounds of golf – knowing that our kids were happily playing at the Kids Camp with our babysitter Antonise. The sitter service is a dream come true. Babysitters cost just $5 an hour ($2 fees are added for additional children) and we were able to book the same person each of the 7 days we were there. She was full of energy and our kids liked her immediately. I felt better knowing she was CPR certified and an excellent swimmer. The kids camp is open all day and children 5 and up can hang out there on their own. Children 4 and under must attend with a sitter or parent. The Kids Camp staff was fabulous and very creative. The girls enjoyed making tie-dyed t-shirts, beading bracelets, and doing mini-Olympics on the beach most of all.
Wednesday night’s beach barbecue was a highlight of the week. The girls stayed up until 10pm (a first for them) – dancing the night away after enjoying a buffet full of traditional Jamaican food. The beach ride on a friendly donkey adorned with flowers, and a show that included limbo, fire eating, and traditional Jamaican dance was being talked about long after we got home. The other people staying at the resort at the same time as us couldn’t have been nicer. It was great getting to know them over a cocktail as all our children who recognized each other from Kids Camp danced nearby.
We also treated ourselves to in-villa one-hour spa-treatments on our last afternoon in Jamaica. My husband and I both remarked that we had rarely had such good massages on vacation. Both women who came to the villa and set up in 5 minutes flat, had lovely relaxing demeanors and were excellent at their craft. Rumor has it that the spa is ripe for a redo – so we had been told to get our services at home. We felt the breeze and listened to the exotic birds chirping in the background during our treatments – clearly staying at the villa was the right choice.
Lastly – I did make a quick trip to the commissary mid-week to see what it had to offer. I was surprised to find a full grocery store where you could buy everything from fresh fruit to candy. I grabbed 6 bottles of Grace’s hot sauce to bring home with us and a container of Jamaican Curry Powder. The hot sauce has been used many times since our return. A spicy remembrance of our fabulous week at Tryall… Would I go back next year? Absolutely!
Kids Shampoo (Our villa provided us with Molten Brown. Ideal for adults but stings kiddy eyes!)
Cash/Small Bills (Prices are very reasonable and tips are expected by caddies/tennis hitting partners/ball boys so save yourself the cost of converting money while there)
The staff at the villas do laundry so pack light!
Towels are aplenty at the beach so no need to lug towels from your villa
Babysitters are $5/hour (that is not a type-o)
The golf course has great views and you don’t need to bring clubs (I rented brand new Taylor Made RBZ’s)
Jet Blue flies direct to Montego Bay, Jamaica-the kids loved the free TV and snacks
Lindley is a guest writer for Luxury Travel Mom. This is her review of a family vacation, she was not hosted by Tryall nor compensated for her article. Although I do plan to crack open a nice bottle of pink champagne with her. Find more of Lindley’s writing on her blog The Sentimentalist.