Valentine's Day Destinations

Valentine’s Day is overrated, right? But any excuse to travel is not! Whether you’re looking to give the gift of travel, or are searching for a romantic getaway with your better half, these New England, Auberge Collection hotels are worth the escape.

The Mayflower Inn & Spa

Photo By: Mayflower Inn & Spa

Photo By: Mayflower Inn & Spa

Located in Washington, CT, this charming Inn is only 2 hours from NYC, and was recently acquired by Auberge Resorts.

The MayFlower Inn has a fresh and modern twist on the New England countryside. Activities range from hiking, golfing, swimming, meditating, to even going to an old-time movie theater. If you’re looking to relax, I suggest enjoying various treatments from their in-house spa.

The vanderbilt

Also new to the Auberge Resort Collection comes the Vanderbilt in Newport, RI. This luxurious, boutique hotel is walking distance from the beautiful Newport waterfront, and hosts a variety of experiences that guest can enjoy during their stay. From spa treatments to a taste of Newport’s mansions, this hotel is the perfect place for a romantic retreat.

Photo By: Vanderbilt Hotel

Photo By: Vanderbilt Hotel

Photo By: White Barn

Photo By: White Barn

After a profound renovation, this hotel now offers a breathtaking atmosphere right on the charming coastal town of Kennebunkport, ME. Not only did the Inn join the luxury, award-winning Auberge Collection, but it is also part of the Relais & Châteaux family.

Dine at the Inn’s AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star restaurant, take a mixology class, or have a spa date night! You really can’t go wrong with any activities here.

Use this Valentine’s Day as an excuse to experience these upscale and quaint hotels. Give these getaways as a gift to yourself, your girlfriends, or significant other, and spread the love of travel.

If I Had All The Money In The World, I’d Stay In These Hotel Rooms…

What if you could snap your fingers and travel anywhere in the world you wanted? Where would you go? Where would you stay?

Now let’s fantasize a bit more - what if you had the means not only to pick your desired destination and hotel, but also your choice of hotel room? Would you stay somewhere practical, or somewhere ridiculously over the top?

If you picked practical, you can stop reading. If you picked ridiculously over the top, you’ll want to read on because I’ve researched some of the most expensive, lavish, and hippest hotel rooms in the entire world worth staying at.

Amanoi, vietnam - Ocean Pool Villa

Many of you may be familiar with Aman properties around the globe. Amanoi is one of the top resorts within the Aman collection, and the most exclusive room is the Ocean Pool Villa. The room harbors a sundeck and infinity pool overlooking the scenic coastline of Vietnam, and is perfect for honeymooners who want complete privacy. Click here to see more photos.

W SINGAPORE - SENTOSA COVE

Singapore is one of the hottest destinations for 2019. For those of you who are die hard Bachelor fans, you may have recently seen this hotel on Colton’s season.

The best accommodation in this hotel is the E Wow Suite. The full bar alone makes the room worthwhile. With a Las Vegas, asian mix, this room is great for bachelor/bachelorette parties. Click here to see more photos.

ritz carlton, bali - Pavillion villa

Bali is known for its temples, beaches, and volcanic mountains, and is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations.

You can’t go wrong with a Ritz Carlton, so I picked this beachfront villa to showcase just how private and romantic a trip to Bali can be. The Pavillion Villa has a private cabana and pool, which adds to the meditative ambience. To see more photos, click here.

Photo By: Ritz Carlton Bali

Photo By: Ritz Carlton Bali

Photo By: Ritz Carlton Bali

Photo By: Ritz Carlton Bali

Intercontinental,Fiji - Natadola Suite

Last but not least is the infamous Fiji. The beautiful South Pacific country is comprised of over one hundred islands. Most of my honeymooners end their itinerary with Fiji so they can relax from their previous adventures in prior destinations.

The Natadola Suite at the Intercontinental is the most exclusive room at the resort, and comes with club level access. To see more photos, click here.

In a magic world, we’d ideally be able to stay at these incredible hotels in these extraordinary rooms, but for now we can keep living vicariously through my research and clients. That being said, if you put your mind to anything, you can do it! So maybe in the not-so-distant future I’ll be getting a phone call from you saying, “I won the lottery, and I’d like to stay in this Instagramable hotel room you posted about.” :)

How Do You Cope With Reality After Coming Back From Vacation?

It’s been over a month since I’ve gotten back from my honeymoon, and the withdrawal is REAL. Basking in the French Polynesian sun, and climbing the snow-capped New Zealand mountains was a three week fairytale. Now, coming back to reality and routine is HARD! 

So how does one cope when coming back from a honeymoon or long vacation? Here are some tips that have worked for me thus far:

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1) get busy

Be productive, delve into your work, and be present.

Usually when people come back from vacation, their inbox is flooded up to the wazoo- and this is actually a good thing!

Although it can feel overwhelming to come back to so much work, remember it’s better to be productive than to be sitting alone reflecting on how much you miss martinis on the beach. Although day dreaming can be a calming effect, it can also make us feel depressed and not appreciate what we have in front of us.

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2) try and plan your honeymoon or vacation close to the holidays

I am extremely mindful of timing when planning vacations. If you have the flexibility when you can take your vacation, try to do it either before the holiday season or in the summer. Why? Because most people have the holidays off anyway, plus you’re coming back to a festive season. In the summer, everyone is in a good mood, so you’re not only coming back to a cheerful environment, but great weather too.

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3) throw a welcome back party

There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with your loved ones to get you happy again. This is especially true for honeymooners.

Honeymooners have just come off the high of their wedding, which was filled with all the people they love in one room. Throwing a welcome back party or a dinner allows you to feel that high again (on a lower scale), but still gets you excited about sharing your trip with your support system.

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4) relax

Make sure you take a few nights after you get back to unwind.

You might be suffering from jet lag, so taking time to either do a spa day or just Netflix and chill is a good idea.

5) plan another trip!

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It’s always important to have something to look forward to. I know, I know, you just came back from a HUGE trip, how can you possibly think about taking another one? Don’t worry, you don’t have to completely empty your savings account. You can take a quick weekend getaway at a cozy inn, or even plan a day trip to go hiking. There’s always an economical way to recharge your batteries.

Coming back from your honeymoon or vacation can be depressing and overwhelming, but following these tips and tricks will hopefully make it easier for you to adjust back to reality.

Feel free to contact me for recommendations, suggestions, or to help plan your next escape!

Honeymoon Advice From Newlyweds

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with various couples to plan their dream honeymoon. I decided it was time to share a love story from one of my favorite couples I recently worked with, who just came back from a Mediterranean cruise and Greece.

I interviewed Robert and Princess Kerins, who met in New York City back in 2010. Princess was 21, and decided to visit friends during her last semester of undergrad, while Rob was 23, starting off his career at UNICEF as a Program Assistant. After an amazing six years, Rob proposed on a Puerto Rican beach, and the wedding and honeymoon planning began.

Photo By:  Windstar Cruises

Ilana: Why did you decide to do a cruise and then Greece?

Princess: Early on in our relationship Rob and I went on a cruise to the Caribbean, and after a trip to ring stores, he said if the time ever came, we should do a Mediterranean cruise. So naturally after Rob proposed, we immediately knew we had to make our dreams come true.

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Since most cruises leave on Sunday, we initially thought we may not be able to make it work right after the wedding. We thought we’d have to return to work and leave for the honeymoon a bit later. Then Rob met you, and you saved the day! You were able to put the PERFECT itinerary together for us.

We also wanted to make sure we ended our honeymoon in a relaxing destination. So Rob worked with you to make Santorini happen after our cruise. It was the perfect combination of activity, exploration and relaxation.

Ilana: Why use a travel agent? What’s the benefit?

Princess: We had never used a travel agent before, but now we know why people do! You helped us put together an itinerary that made sense for us- we wouldn’t have been able to do it without you. You were very knowledgeable about the locations, and gave us great recommendations for food and accommodations.

Robert and Princess Kerins on board the Windstar Surf- Yachtman's Harbors of the Rivieras

Robert and Princess Kerins on board the Windstar Surf- Yachtman's Harbors of the Rivieras

Ilana: What honeymoon advice do you have for newly engaged couples?

Princess: Make sure your honeymoon makes sense for YOU! If you both have always wanted to zip line in the rainforest, hop around to different cities, or just sit on the beach, make sure your honeymoon reflects that. Sometimes you want different things and that is okay- create an itinerary that encompasses BOTH people, and you will surely have the best time of your life, TOGETHER. Oh, and if you go the active route, I suggest taking at least a day or two at the end to relax by the beach - the struggle is real going back to work afterwards.

Ilana: What’s one thing you learned about each other on your honeymoon that you didn’t know before?

Princess: We learned that we haven’t stopped falling in love with each other. Every day we fall a bit more (as cliché as that sounds). Hear me out- when you are together for eight years, and go on a two-week vacation spending every moment together, you might think you’d be ready to get back to your regular routine. On the contrary, we were just constantly reminded of all the things we love about each other.

Ilana: What’s on your bucket list for your next big trip?

Princess: My husband and I are embarking on the trip of a lifetime- we are moving to London! My bucket list is to travel to as many countries as I can before we settle down and start making some kiddos!

After the interview, I reflected on what Mrs. Kerins said about arranging a honeymoon that make sense for the couple. I get clients who know exactly what they’d like to do, and other times I get clients who need my guidance because they have no idea what they want. There is always a balance, and by working with me, we can create a honeymoon together that makes sense for YOU.

Robert and Princess Kerins in Santorini, Greece

Robert and Princess Kerins in Santorini, Greece

The Perfect Honeymoon

A honeymoon is a big decision for a lot of couples. Why? Because it may be the last big trip you get to take before having kids (eek!). So, my husband and I debated where we should spend 3 magical weeks. Where should we go where we may never get to again? After researching tons of itineraries, we landed on New Zealand and Bora Bora.  Our goal was to exhaust ourselves in the first leg of the trip, so that we could relax for the second half. I could not recommend combining these destinations more, and so here is our honeymoon is a nutshell:

New Zealand- North Island

Photo By: Solitaire Lodge

Photo By: Solitaire Lodge

Where to stay: solitaire lodge

Set on Lake Tarawera, and only 30 minutes from the thermal wonderland (an active geothermal area) of New Zealand, this all-inclusive lodge houses 9 luxurious suites with magnificent views of the lake and volcanic backdrop. New Zealanders are proud people full of character by nature, but at this lodge, the hosts took hospitality to another level. Not only were they accommodating to all of my dietary restrictions, but the staff catered to my husband’s and my every need (including doing our laundry without asking!). The service was impeccable, and we made friends with the entire staff.

Other recommendations on where to stay in the North Island: Huka Lodge, Cape Kidnappers.

Photo By: Solitaire Lodge

Photo By: Solitaire Lodge

What to Do

New Zealand is known to be the adrenaline capital of the world, so there are many adventurous activities to choose from. However, my husband and I aren’t quite as adventurous as some, so we stuck to activities that wouldn’t elevate our blood pressure, like:(Listed in order of my favorite)

  1. Climbed Mount Tarawera (this was hard!)

  2. Bathed in a thermal hot springs

  3. Went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

  4. Visited Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest

  5. Walked through Huka Falls

  6. Walked around Mount Maunganui

  7. Climbed to Tarawera Falls

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New Zealand- South Island

Where to stay: Blanket Bay

Voted as one of the most luxurious New Zealand lodges, Blanket Bay rests in the heart of the Alpine snow-capped mountains. Only 45 minutes from Queenstown, this lodge captures the true essence of a home away from home. Like Solitaire, the service was top notch and personalized. The general manager came down every night to pre-dinner drinks to mingle with the guests, creating an intimate and cozy experience.

Other recommendations on where to stay in the South Island: Matakauri Lodge

What to Do

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There is definitely more to do in the South Island, and the landscape is even more breathtaking than the North. We upped our adrenaline a bit, and decided to partake in some exciting activities, such as:

(Also listed in order of my favorite)

  1. Took a helicopter ride (landed on a glacier, landed on a beach, explored Milford Sound)

  2. Explored wineries (Top 5: Wetjacket, Aimsfield, Gibson Valley, Kinross, Chard Farms)

  3. Explored Queenstown (Don’t miss lunch at Public Kitchen!)

  4. Horseback riding

  5. Hiked Mount Crichton

Bora bora

Where to stay: St. Regis Bora bora

Load up on your SPG points ladies and gentleman because you do not want to miss going to this destination in your lifetime.

Located in the tropical French Polynesia, Bora Bora is truly the definition of paradise. The St. Regis is the best and newest property on the island. I highly recommend getting an over the water bungalow- nothing shouts freedom more than being able to jump off your deck in the nude into crystal clear water!

Besides leaving the resort to swim with the sharks and stingrays, snorkel, and float in Marshmallow Bay, there is no other reason to abandon the property. The resort has its own lagoon where you can snorkel and feed the fish. There’s also an incredible spa where we got a couples massage (ask for Tarita if you want someone strong).

There are 4 dining options at the resort, but my favorite restaurant was Jean George’s Lagoon. Probably one of the most delicious dinners I’ve ever had, because obviously you can’t go wrong with Jean George.

Like I said, there are many places around the globe to choose from when planning a honeymoon, but this itinerary really hit the nail on the head. If you need help planning your next romantic getaway or want to brainstorm ideas, feel free to contact me!

5 Popular Destinations Where You Need A Visa For 90 Days Or Less

I cannot tell you how many times clients have come to me wanting to travel abroad, and I say, “you know you need a visa right?” A lot of travelers are not aware of the visa requirements in some of the most common destinations. This is why I’ve tallied up a list of the 5 most popular places where a visa is required for traveling for 90 days or less.

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  1. AUSTRALIA

Nemo didn’t need a visa to get to the land down under, but it doesn’t mean you don’t!

If you are traveling for business or pleasure 90 days or less, you can obtain an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) visa. Check out itseasy.com to learn more and apply.

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2. Brazil

With its vibrant cities and white-sand beaches, it’s no wonder travelers would want to explore this beautiful country in South America.

Brazil visas can get a bit complex- there is the traditional paper visa, and then there is an e-visa. Watch this video to understand the difference between the two, and what you need for your trip.

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3. RUSSIA

Who wouldn’t want to go to the largest country where vodka is as available as toothpaste?

Like Brazil, Russia’s visa situation is a bit complicated. There are several visa options, including a new “Casual Business” (AIM Tourist) visa- check out this tutorial to find out the difference between each.

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4. India

A spiritual, artistic land filled with ancient traditions and spices, India is a one of the most popular places travelers need a visa.

Similar to Brazil, there are traditional visas and e-visas. Apparently the e-visa is super easy, but the traditional visa is a little bit more complicated. This video can explain what you need.

5. China (also known as Gyna)

This magical, ancient country is not only a popular vacation spot, but is notorious for business travel as well.

This video will help describe the issues you can come across while trying to obtain a Chinese visa, and will demonstrate how to mitigate any complications from occurring.

Although I have named only 5 hot-spot destinations where you would need a visa when traveling, there are many other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam where a visa is required. To apply for a visa and understand which type of visa is right for you, check out itseasy.com, or call me!

Travel with Tovita- 9 Tips and Tricks from Tovita Nutrition

As a travel agent and online health coach, I take pride in having my gluten free cake (literally), and eating it too. A lot of people think that travel and health are mutually exclusive. Well registered dietitian nutritionist (RDNs), and founder of Tovita Nutrition, Leah Silberman, is here to blow your mind and tell you that it is totally POSSIBLE to exercise and eat healthy while exploring the world.

Photo By: Tovita Nutrition

Photo By: Tovita Nutrition

1) What snacks do you take on the plane?

It depends on how long the flight is. If it’s a short trip, 3 hours or less, I like to eat Enlightened Bean Crisps because they have lots of fiber, and hold me over for a substantial amount of time. If it’s longer than 3 hours, I’ll usually grab a turkey sandwich with avocado on whole grain bread because that will fill me up, and keep me from grabbing chips and pretzels, which add up.

2) How much of your health is attributed to diet vs. exercise?

It’s hard to quantify how much of your overall health is attributed to diet vs. exercise. They are both very important to maintain and achieve optimal health. When it comes to weight loss, however, diet is the major player, and exercise tends to take a backseat. You can go to the gym 7 days/week, but if your diet is poor, it won’t be surprising if you’re not losing weight.

3) What are some tips you have On staying healthy while traveling?

Make sure to keep up with meal times. Don’t skip meals, and bring a snack with you if you know you might not be able to eat within a 5 hour time span. Set yourself up for success and be prepared- bring snacks, stay hydrated, and don’t skip meals.

4) If i’m going away and want to lose weight before a big trip, Describe the diet you would prescribe for that patient.

Each client is different, with different health histories, goals, ages, etc., so each weight loss plan looks different. Some general guidelines tend to be: increasing fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans/legumes, eating sources of lean protein like wild fish or pastured eggs, and consuming healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados. Of course all of this is important to consume in proper portion sizes. I always tell clients to combine a source of protein + fiber at meals and snacks to help keep them full and satiated until their next meal.

5) Explain what is the most important point to remember in nutrition when traveling.

Moderation is key. Whole foods are key. And remember, it's just food!

6)  How much water should an individual consumer per day?

Photo By: Tovita Nutrition

Photo By: Tovita Nutrition

I like to say aim for a minimum of 2 liters, but more if possible! If you are an athlete, you’ll likely need more depending on your exercise regimen.


7) being a trained and licensed dietitian, what are your thoughts on the craze and fall of some social media “wellness gurus”; how do you feel it impacts the well-being of people following along?

On one account, I think it’s great to have so many people in the health and wellness space. It means that people care about their health, their bodies, and the quality of their lives. It means that people value good nutrition and are spreading the important message of prevention.

On the other hand, it also means that there’s more room for wacky health myths like, “fruit rots in your stomach” example to float around. There are more instances of people taking various unregulated pills and vitamins to mitigate health conditions, which often have negative side effects. It is important to seek advice from verified health professionals, and that goes across the board! Someone who has a passion for skin care (myself included!) may be a great resource for learning about new products, but they probably shouldn’t be recommending your eczema regimen. The same applies to nutrition.

8) Can you talk about how taking care of your body now can impact you when you're older?

The aging process starts as early as your late teens, and certainly takes place by the time you’re in your 20’s! Often people in their 20’s and 30’s can’t even process the fact that they’re aging, let alone know how to manage it decades before they feel its’ effects. However, it’s extremely important to think ahead! Your body is made of billions of tiny cells that have lifespans, and they are impacted by the food you eat. Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and antioxidants are going to help to slow the aging process, and mitigate age-related chronic disease. Think arthritis, joint pain, heart disease, alzheimers, etc. Contrastingly, a diet loaded with processed foods, sodium, unhealthy fats and synthetic ingredients may ultimately catalyze mutations or expedite the onset of conditions in our genes, like heart disease or diabetes.

9) What’s one of the wackiest nutrition myths you’ve heard of?

That fruit can rot in your stomach. The minute fruit enters your mouth, digestion begins to take place! By the time it hits the acidic pH of your stomach, it’s already an entirely different substance - partially broken down and heading into the small intestine. There is no such thing as fruit rotting in your stomach!

Photo By: Tovita Nutrition

Photo By: Tovita Nutrition

So next time you’re about to hop on your next trip, stop and think about what you can do to mitigate coming back from your travels 10 pounds heavier.

If you are interested in working with Leah (and I highly recommend you do), feel free to contact her at: info@tovitanutrition.com

And if you need help planning your next getaway, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!




Ciao Bella- The Amalfi Experience

There are few places in my life that I've been to where I said, “Somebody pinch me.” The Amalfi Coast was one of those places.

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So Where Did We Stay? 

In Capri: The Quisisana of course! Known to have welcomed guests like Jackie O, this classic, 5-Star Hotel has by far the best location on the island.  Walking distance from the shopping district and main square, The Quisisana dominates the historic area of Capri. The service at the hotel is unmatchable; every concierge knows your name, and every guest is treated like royalty. The rooms are a bit tired, but the views are spectacular, and as a package, overall worth the stay.

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In Ravello: Palazzo Avino.  Scented with pink roses upon arrival, the hotel's entrance is breathtaking. The resort is built into a mountain, and rests on different levels, which means....? A plethora of incredible views. From swimming in the pool on the lower level, to bathing in the solarium on the top, your eyes are blinded by the beauty. Our favorite part of the stay though was visiting the hotel’s exclusive beach club (only a 15 minute shuttle ride away), where guests have complimentary access to the various beach platforms.

 

So, What Did We Do?

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Capri: Besides stuffing our face with gelato (dairy free for me!) at Bounocore, the first thing we did was sit at a café in the town square, and people watched. Yep, we totally stalked people from afar and it was freakin’ awesome. We then got lost in the winding, cobble stone streets, and found ourselves in a gourmet chocolate shop (YUM). 

The next day we rented a boat for 8 hours, and toured all of the grottos- yes there is more than just one grotto. The Blue Grotto, which was the coolest experience by the way, and a MUST, has a line as long as the Great Wall of China, so make sure you leave ample time for waiting. Also, the tide has to be PERFECT, so make sure you ask your concierge when the right day is to go visit. 

Ravello: Still stuffed our faces with gelato, but this time we charted a boat on our OWN (yes, my fiancé was the captain, now), and sailed along the Mediterranean. We explored the islands of Li Galli, visited Positano, and drove along the Amalfi to Sorento.

Where Did We Eat?

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Capri: My favorite restaurant was Il Geranio because of the view. The food was spectacular, and their chicken was the most tender breast I ever tasted. Other recco’s include: Villa Verde (casual), Da Giorgio (romantic), Lo Sfizio (a hole in the wall, but the best pizza on this planet), Da Paolino (aka The Lemon Restaurant).

Ravello: My favorite restaurant was Mimi’s because their pizza was phenomenal, and the ambiance was charming. Other recco’s include: Rossellinis (expensive, but the most spectacular view), Garden Restaurant (great food and view), Cumpa Cosimo (casual, authentic, family-run restaurant). All of these dining spots are walking distance from the hotel- I'm a woman of convenience, can you blame me?

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Saying arrivederci to the Amalfi was extremely difficult, but I know we will get back their again. In like, two years. 

If you are looking to go on a honeymoon, mini/baby-moon, or just need to get away and eat some pizza, message me, and I'll be sure you can say Ciao to the most incredible trip of your life!

TROUTBECK- A LUXURIOUS, RUSTIC GETAWAY

Last weekend, my fiancé and I decided to venture out of the box, and try out Amenia, NY.  Amenia who?  Does anyone even know where that is?  I sure didn't, but I am soooo glad my mom (retired travel agent) gave me the scoop on this hidden gem, because this place was beyond magical.

So where did We stay? 

Photos Courtesy of Troutbeck

Photos Courtesy of Troutbeck

Troutbeck is a newly renovated ($16 million worth of renovations I might add) resort located in the mountains of Amenia, NY.  With its charming aesthetic and intimate staff, this hotel pretty much has everything you would want and more for a weekend getaway.

Just two and a half hours from NYC, the hotel harbors its own unique culinary experience. The restaurant is worth the trek, even if you don't stay at Troutbeck.  With its locally sourced ingredients, this farm-to-table restaurant has the freshest food, and is extremely allergy friendly (hint hint gluten, dairy, etc.).

The weather was nice enough to sit outside, so my fiancé and I lounged by the fire pit for a leisurely cocktail before it was time for our meal. With the birds chirping, and the smell of camp fire, we felt like we were at a glorified sleep away camp. 

Besides the service and food, the property itself is most enchanting. The array of activities varies from tennis, to biking, to lounging at the swimming pool (with a DJ on hand on Fridays), and cultivates a diverse crowd from couples to families to pets! 

SO what Else did we do?

We decided to take the jump (literally), and opted for a horseback riding lesson with Cari Swanson. Cari is not only the nicest person you'll ever meet, but she breeds and trains horses- she even trains film stars to ride on movie sets! 

I haven't rode a horse in 18 years, so you can imagine how nervous I was to hop on a saddle again. However, as soon as I mounted onto my horse, Diamond, my fear quickly subsided, and I was able to trot freely with a smile. 

What Else...

Photo Courtesy of MillbrookWinery

Photo Courtesy of MillbrookWinery

After horsing around, my fiancé and I headed over to Millbrook Winery- by far one of the most beautiful vineyards I've ever been to. We did a tasting, laid out on the grandiose lawn, and listened to jazz music while sipping the vineyard's home grown Chardonnay. It was romantic, magical, and nobody wined about it. 

And Last but not least...

We ended our beautiful weekend with brunch at Back in the Kitchen, an organic, gluten free-vegan cafe. Their gluten free, coconut, blueberry muffin was out of this world, and their eggs were as fluffy as they come.

After fueling up our bodies with some grub, we decided to bring it home with a three mile hike...up a mountain. If you know anything about me, you know that three months ago I couldn't have done this hike, for real. And if you've been following my Instagram lately, you also know that with my program kicking my butt, I was able to climb the mountain with breaking a very little sweat. 

The hike turned into a beautiful metaphor, as the view from the top posed as the light at the end of the tunnel for a strenuous climb. In life, we often face challenges and think we are incapable of overcoming them. Maybe it's too hard, maybe it's too painful, but in the end, we CAN push through, if we don't give up, keep fighting, and keep climbing!  

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MOTHER’S DAY THE CALIFORNIA WAY

Photo Courtesy of Westin Mission Hills

Photo Courtesy of Westin Mission Hills

For the past 18 years, my mom and I have been bonding over the beauty of California. We've explored some incredible properties along the way, and our passion for travel has only brought us closer. I cherish the memories of site inspecting new hotels, missing flight connections, and getting purposely lost in unfamiliar places. I only hope that for the rest of our lives, my mom and I continue the tradition of exploring new and exciting territories.  So, in honor of Mother's Day, I’ve put together a few Golden State destinations that are worth considering for your next mother-daughter trip.

 

Laguna Beach

Photos Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Photos Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

An artist’s colony at heart, Laguna Beach is a mix of coves, beaches, and natural beauty.  Home to an array of cultural festivals, the Orange County town offers surfing, hiking, and gallery tours year-round.

Where to stay: The Montage

This seaside retreat is known for its mosaic pool, expansive landscape, and art collection. A portion of the hotel has been newly renovated, while other sections of the property have an expected update by the end of this year.

What makes the Montage unique is its partnership with Cadillac. Feel like being chauffeured around like a Queen? No problem!  Guests are invited to enjoy complimentary rides to and from town in one of the award winning Cadillac vehicles. 

Palm Springs

Photos Courtsey of Westin Mission Hills

Photos Courtsey of Westin Mission Hills

Palm Springs is a beautiful, clean, mountainous escape just 2 hours from L.A. This exclusive part of California is located in the desert, so make sure you go when it’s not too hot (April is the perfect time). 

Start your journey by renting a car from the L.A airport, and driving through the desert with your iTunes playlist turned up. Feel the fresh, California air slap against your hand as you stare at the breathtaking mountains that are impossible to ignore. 

As you approach Palm Desert, you’ll notice a wind farm with hundreds of energy windmills that will put you in a hypnotic trance. If interested in learning more about the windmills, you can take a tour that will guide you through the windmill farm.

Where to Stay: The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa

Located in Rancho Mirage, just a 10-minute ride from Palm Springs, this AAA, Four-Diamond hotel has the most spectacular mountain views. Make sure you book a room facing the jaw-dropping 350 acre golf course.

Local attractions include: El Paseo Shopping District, which is equivalent to an intimate Rodeo Drive. The Westfield Center Palm Desert also has great shopping, a new art-house cinema, and one of the remaining Cold Stone Creamery’s.

Santa Barbara

Photos Courtesy of Bacara

Photos Courtesy of Bacara

This charming, upscale city is on California’s central coast, with beautiful wineries, and attractive shops and restaurants at your fingertips.  The town of Santa Barbara has Mediterranean-style architecture and climate, as well as a plethora of waterfront activities.

The most intriguing part of this destination would be the laid-back vibe coupled with an elite, small-town ambience.

Where to Stay: Bacara

I have to say that to this day, I still think about the bath and shower products at this property. The soaps and exfoliants are extremely soft and soothing on the skin, and are reflective of how the resort makes you feel as a whole.

Bacara is a five-star property part of the Ritz-Carlton family.  Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this resort spreads across two beaches, has three salt-water pools, and a highly recognized spa and fitness center. Make sure to dine at the Angle Oak restaurant, where you can find a smorgasbord of housed wines.

Although we can’t all celebrate Mother’s Day in California, I hope that some of these destinations will make it on your future mother-daughter bucket list. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are interested in taking advantage of one of these gateways. As always, I am here as a resource for any guidance to make your trips more memorable!

A MINI-MAX MOON

According to the dictionary, the term mini-moon refers to, “a short break spent together by a newly married couple, typically in advance of a longer vacation to be taken at a later date.” Although this is the technical definition of the millennial phrase, let’s not discriminate already married couples from partaking in a mini-celebration of their past nuptials. Whether you walked down the aisle two days ago or thirty years ago, everyone deserves a mini-moon.

 

Photo Courtesy of Demetria Estate

Photo Courtesy of Demetria Estate

Okay great, so where should I go?

Somewhere that exceeds your expectations. Somewhere like Santa Ynez. 

Despite the unprecedented natural disasters that the region of Santa Barbara, California recently faced, the resilient community has made a thriving recovery. This hidden gem is about 50 miles outside of Santa Barbra wine country, and is home to 125 wineries. Competing with Napa for its breathtaking rolling hills, fine wines, and friendly locals, Santa Ynez is less touristy than its neighboring counterparts.  

 

where to stay

The Santa Ynez Inn of course.

Want to feel like Cinderella after she married the Prince? This enchanting inn will make you feel like you are in a real-life fairytale. 

Photos Courtesy of Santa Ynez Inn

Photos Courtesy of Santa Ynez Inn

The staff could not be more gracious and accommodating, and the property itself could not be more charming. The food is fresh and delicious. Breakfast, and afternoon wine and pastries are served in the main dining room. You can cozy around the fireplace and raise your glass to relaxation. 

The rooms are spacious, and quaint. You can even take hot bath while watching the electric fireplace glisten in the background.

 

Where to eat

SYKitchen. 

Just around the corner (walking distance) from the Santa Ynez Inn is a hidden local hotspot called SYKitchen. Their rustic, farm-to-table atmosphere combined with their modern Italian style menu makes for a perfect romantic night out. Their brick oven pizza is phenomenal, and their wine selection is sourced from local vineyards. 

**Photos Courtesy of SYKitchen.

 

Best Winery

Demetria Estate.

Photo Courtesy of of Mike Larson Photography

Photo Courtesy of of Mike Larson Photography

My fiancé and I stumbled upon Demetria Estate by accident.

We were introduced to this winery by one of the fellow workers at a local tasting room. The worker told us about an incredible, secret winery and said we could only get in if we had a reservation. After a bit of schmoozing, the worker was kind enough to call his friend (who worked at Demetria’s), and put in a good word for us. The next thing we knew, we were driving through the winding hills overlooking wine country, up to the estate.

When we got out of the car, we were stunned by the beauty of the landscape, and quickly stole the only open table on the patio we could find. We ordered a bottle of rosé, listened to live music and then strolled among the vineyard to explore the rest of the property.

Two bottles of wine later, we decided to go back to the hotel and order in Dominos (yes, Dominos delivers to hotels). Maybe I’m old fashioned, but to me that was a perfect day, and will remain one of the best memories I have with my fiancé.

Photo Courtesy of Demetria Estate

Photo Courtesy of Demetria Estate

Santa Ynez is just one of the many hidden gems around the world that I would recommend for a mini-moon. If you can afford to get away, I suggest taking a mini-moon every 3-6 months.  Traveling with your partner is an important part of keeping a relationship alive and new, and making fresh memories helps strengthen the bond couples long to form throughout marriage.

If you feel like replicating this romantic adventure, feel free to contact me for special offers. More posts to come about other secret and hot destinations where you can maximize your mini-moon.

3 TIPS ON TRAVELING WITH A DOG

Loss can motivate us to become the best version of ourselves.  Reflection and nostalgia can be the fire that lights a spark leading us towards enlightenment and productivity. Oreo, my dog of eighteen years who passed away this week, is the fuel to my fire for writing this article. 

I hope none of you ever have to deal with the loss of a pet, but I’m sure many of you have, and know how unimaginable the pain can be. All we can do is remember the good times when they salivated over a rotisserie chicken, and thank our pets for teaching us patience, loyalty, and the ability to love outside of ourselves.

After reminiscing about all of the incredible adventures we had with Oreo, I thought about all of the pet owners out there who still have time to make new memories with their beloved canines. Take your dog on an adventure! But remember, your best furry friend can turn into your worst nightmare if you don't plan accordingly, so make sure to follow these three tips to make traveling easier with your pet.  

 

TIP #1: THE SHERPA BAG

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Imagine heading to airport security wheeling your carry-on, holding a heavy backpack or purse, and trying to get out your boarding pass while simultaneously holding a dog? Although we sometimes think of ourselves as superheroes, this is indeed a recipe for disaster. 

The Sherpa Bag was a lifesaver when traveling with Oreo. Although he was resistant to the enclosed space at first, Oreo started looking forward to entering the Sherpa after treats were sprinkled into the bag prior to his travels. We also gave Oreo antihistamines to calm him down prior to flying, so make sure to talk to your vet about medications to help your pet relax before going away. 

Most major airlines have approved this bag for use, but you can also use the bag on a bus, in a mall, and on a car ride. The Sherpa comes in sizes small, medium, and large, and is perfect for pets up to 22 lbs.

 

TIP #2: THE COLLAPSIBLE CUP

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When my parents and I would venture to the Hamptons for a day trip with Oreo, we never left home without this portable, eco-friendly, light weight, collapsible travel cup. 

We would plan ahead for pit stops (this is important) at gas stations, parks, and beaches, and would latch the cup onto Oreo's leash in case he got thirsty during his stroll.

I recommend anyone taking long car rides to bring this cup with them- there's nothing like reusing a dirty, plastic cup- yuck!

 

TIP #3: THE STROLLER

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A few months back, my fiancé and I took Oreo for a hike in New Jersey using the doggy stroller. Oreo had trouble walking during the last year of his life, so the stroller was a convenient way for us to keep him active on family outings. Although Oreo wanted to jump out of the stroller at times (really every 5 minutes), the mesh screen windows zippered to prevent him from falling out. 

The stroller is weather resistant, easy to fold, and is perfect for smaller dogs.

 

Photo by:  ASB Photography

I hope this article was helpful to new and familiar pet owners.  Feel free to message me about pet friendly hotels that we partner with if you're looking to get away with your furry friend!

Thank you to Taryn Blank for the article suggestion, and to all the people who have been supportive throughout this hard time.

 

~In loving memory of Oreo Mugsy Mollick~

All photos are credited to their original source, which is hyperlinked above the picture.

 
 

 

Luxury Redefined

Picture by  Tovita Nutrition. 

A few weeks ago, I attended the New York Times Travel Show, an annual event hosted by the industry’s top professionals, with exhibitors from destinations around the globe. This Valentines Day I wanted to share the gift of luxury, and travel highlights with you for the upcoming year.

So what's new?

 

*Adventure is hot.  

            And not just in warm places. Now more than ever travelers are craving to explore every inch of the globe. Due to an increase in multigenerational travel, there are a lot more resilient travelers wandering about- think, mid-twentiers quitting their jobs to “find themselves”, or the adventurous parents cashing in on their “empty-nesting.” Regardless of everyone’s personal motivation to travel, there’s no doubt that people are willing to plunge into a YOLO moment, and seek adventure.

            Spirited nomads are also yearning to connect with others, and social media has recently dominated the definition of connection. This means travelers have to take risky pics in order to get the most likes on Instagram. That being said, social media creates a comradery within the travel community, making experiences worth sharing with the world.

 

*Wellness is in.

            And is a way to satisfy the traveler's desire to disconnect. In order to gratify this idea of "turning off", the first question one must ask is: how does one define wellness?

            Some people associate wellness with tranquility, and so a deep tissue massage at the spa will do the trick.  Others define wellness as exercise, and so sweating out all the toxins at the gym will check off the wellness box. Then some define wellness as meditation, and quieting the mind becomes the key to healing. 

Regardless of whatever wellness means to you, I think we can all agree that the common theme in "being well" is to disconnect from everyone so that we can focus on ourselves. With 300 emails being slammed into our inboxes every day, it’s important to take time to focus on our health and well being. As a result, hotels, cruises, and even planes (think, future in-flight exercise) have adapted to this idea of wellness.

 

*We are redefining luxury.

            To understand what luxury is we must first look at what luxury is not. Luxury is not stressful; it is not time constraining, it is not uncomfortable, and it is not inflexible. The luxury market is being redefined because the definition of luxury is being restructured. Travelers now want their experiences to be “authentic”- as organic as a clementine from Whole Foods.  Stuffy is out, and all natural, eco-friendly is in. This means greener hotels, and attainable pampering.

            The diversity of the luxury market is such that hotels, cruises, and aircrafts are adding a component of luxury to make experiences more...well, luxurious.  An example: The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills has launched flexible check-in and checkout times. Why? So that customers have one less thing to worry about (hanging around the lobby until their room is ready, or rushing to leave their rooms before they take a shower). This little touch makes all the difference when choosing a hotel to stay at.  

            Additionally, the travel industry is making great strides towards adapting to luxury equality. All-inclusive resorts are becoming more popular by making upscale travel affordable to everyone, and making all guests feel like they’re on the VIP list.

 

All in all, good things are in store for the travel industry and the consumer in the coming year. The industry is adapting to what the client wants, and more importantly, listening to what the customer doesn’t want.

So spread the love this Valentines Day, and give your heart the gift of travel. Feel free to reach out to me for recommendations, or to help plan your next escape.

 

       And remember…. “Not all those who wander are lost.”- – J. R. R. Tolkien
 

 

 

 

 

 

FAVORITE COZY GETAWAYS CLOSE TO NYC

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Winter weather can make us want to stay inside all day, but why not make it fun? Here are some of my favorite cozy winter escapes that will make hibernation feel luxurious. 

1) The Four Columns Inn- Newfane, VT

This inn is a year-round snuggly retreat. Whether you're drinking spiked hot chocolate by the fire, taking a hot bath in a deluxe Jacuzzi, or playing board games while listening to jazz music in the lounge, this cozy inn embodies a true seasonal hidden gem.

The tradition started when I was ten years old, when my family and I would go every Columbus Day weekend to see fall foliage in Vermont. We went for five years straight to the inn, then life got in the way, and since going back last year, the Four Columns is still thriving.

favorite restaurants:

Artisan Tavern - This restaurant is part of The Four Columns Inn (super convenient).  Their locally sourced ingredients makes each dish more mouthwatering than the next.

Williamsville Eatery - A hole in the wall on the outside, but a food orgy on the inside. It’s extremely hard to get a reservation on the weekend since there aren’t a lot of tables. Their American, pizza, vegetarian, and vegan friendly options made it difficult to choose what to eat in one sitting.

winter Activities:

Skiing - The inn is very close to a bunch of ski mountains- Mount Snow (20 minutes) Stratton (25 minutes) Magic (35 minutes) Bromley (40 minutes).

Take some yoga or meditation - Village Yoga will get you prepared for the day by accessing your chakra.

Horse drawn sleigh rides - Friesians of Majesty has riding lessons, performances, and carriage/sleigh rides for you to enjoy. 

2) The Peacock Inn- Princeton, NJ

Footsteps away from Princeton University, this charming boutique hotel makes you feel as smart as Albert Einstein, and as pampered as the Queen of England.  

My fiancé and I first visited the inn last year for our six-month anniversary.  The history of the campus, juxtaposed with millennial college students, made Princeton a fascinating and unique cultural experience.

favorite restaurants:

Elements - Great for a special occasion, and their variety of tasting menus are fresh and delicious.

Teresa Café - Great and affordable brunch spot. Their breakfast pizzas are a MUST.

winter Activities:

Explore Princeton University - If you’re a history buff or Harry Potter enthusiast, exploring the campus is a way to broaden your historical and architectural mind.

Visit the Albert Einstein House - Whether you’ve watched the show Genius on Netflix or not, Einstein’s house tour gives you the backstory of the genius behind the theory of relativity.

See a show - The McCarter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts is one of the country’s leading theaters. Go see what’s playing!

3) The Cornell Inn- Lenox, MA

One summer during my acting years, I performed in the show Oklahoma at The Berkshire Theater Festival. Throughout the run of the show my parents would frequently come visit, and stay at The Cornell Inn. I was privileged enough to sneak away to this inn, and ended up becoming a consistent visitor myself. I fell in love with the hotel’s country breakfast, charming garden, and friendly staff. I wouldn’t go back to performing in Oklahoma, but I would definitely return to The Cornell Inn.

Favorite Restaurants:

Alta - The sangria here is phenomenal, and compliments the Mediterranean cuisine.

Café Lucia - An intimate farmhouse turned Italian farm-to-table restaurant. Great for a date night.

Winter Activities:

Skiing and snowboarding - Go to any of these 12 Massachusetts ski areas.

See a show - The Colonial Theater is part of the Berkshire Theater Group (where I performed in Oklahoma). They have fabulous entertainment all year round. 

Shopping - Spend a day discount shopping at Lee Premium Outlets.

4) Twin Farms- Barnard, VT

This is an all-inclusive luxury resort in the heart of the Vermont mountains. The property is 300 acres, and dog friendly (canines up to 100 pounds are welcome). The history of the property is fascinating, and the service is spectacular.  The accommodations are not cheap, but worth the experience. 

Favorite Restaurants:

Since the resort includes meals, I suggest trying the Wine Cellar or the Chef’s Table for a more exclusive and intimate dining experience.  

Winter Activities:

Pamper yourself - Get a treatment at the Bridge House Spa.

Play pool - The iron walking bridge on the property crosses over to the pub where you can play  billiards while listening to music from an old school jukebox.

Sledding - Emulate Santa for a day, and ride on a sleigh!

5) The Lodge at Woodloch- The Poconos, PA

Only 95 miles from NYC, this adult only resort is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. I especially enjoyed their heated indoor pool, the outdoor steamy Jacuzzi, and the fire pit, which gave a warm welcome to us wine drinkers.

Favorite Restaurants:

TREE Restaurant and Bar - This restaurant offers food selected from the lodge’s own organic garden. Their veggies are super tasty.

The Settlers Inn - A 12 minute drive from the lodge, this American fusion restaurant has one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon's I’ve ever tried.

Winter Activities:

Wine tasting - Learn to differentiate between good and great wines (Fridays 4:00 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.).

Wine and chocolate pairing - Who doesn’t love mixing chocolate AND wine? (Mondays 8:30 p.m. - 9:20 p.m. // Saturdays 3:00 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.).

Cooking demonstrations - Learn new techniques on how to cook and bake by watching the chef dazzle your pallet right in front of your eyes.