In Syndication …

Hey friends,

Just a quick note here to say that Weary Wanderer is now in syndication — awahoo! From time to time the travel site We Blog the World will be picking up posts and photos from good ole’ WW and running them on their site. (Check out my author page here.)

We’re thrilled to be a part of the We Blog the World team, and hope the relationship lasts for years and years to come!

[Also check out the blogger button to the right of my page, which links directly to WW posts on We Blog the World.]

Bis bald, friends!

In the News: A Deadly Metro North Accident

^^Views from the Metro North train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie^^Views from the Metro North train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie

I’ve taken the Metro North Hudson Line train from Grand Central to Beacon and back more times than I could ever hope to count. This train takes me from my home in New York City to birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases and much more at my mom’s house in upstate NY. I was on it last Tuesday, actually, as I traveled home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yesterday, the 5:54 a.m. train from Poughkeepsie flew off its tracks in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring dozens more. It’s the first time in the history of Metro-North that a passenger was killed in a crash.

Today, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is saying that it appeared that the train was traveling too fast as it hit a curve in the tracks, which likely caused it to tip over.

When things like this happen, it only makes sense to look for something — anything — to blame. A faulty break. An err in conductor judgement. An electrical issue. As someone who travels via mass transit practically daily — whether it’s on a train, subway, bus or plane — I try hard to never think about what could go wrong. Of course buses have crashed. Trains have derailed. Planes have gone down. As a mass transit traveler, you’re putting your life in the hands of someone else every single time you step on that train, bus, subway, etc.

And sometimes, accidents happen.

My heart and prayers go out to all the victims and their families. In life, we don’t get to pick  when our time is up. I can only hope that for those who lost their lives, they were able to spend a truly fantastic holiday with everyone they loved the most over Thanksgiving.

In the News: Feeling Stunned

Sad news from The New York Times today about a shooting at one of my absolute favorite spots in the city — the Bryant Park ice skating rink.

If you’ll recall, actually, I was just there this past Thursday

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^^ I love the atmosphere here this time of year. And the music! Love the old-timey music.

The reason for the shooting? A jacket. A jacket that some idiot teenager wanted. And wasn’t given. And therefore felt the need to shoot and potentially kill for.

What do you do when one of your favorite places to go suddenly becomes a place you fear. A place where something horrible and sad and scary happened. Ice skating rinks. High school parties. Airports. Schools. Movie theaters.

Where can we go in America without worrying? The list is getting smaller and smaller …

My dad and I actually got into a discussion about this over the weekend (before I even knew anything had happened at Bryant Park). I argued that with the way America has become recently, I’m more than happy to have some of my personal freedoms stripped away if it’s going to help keep me (and my family and friends) safe. My dad (the retired Army Lieutenant Colonel) argued that these policies (stop and frisk, for example, and airport pat downs) are un-American, un-democratic and go against everything America stands for.

I understand that argument — I really do. But what do you do, I wonder, when you start to worry that at any moment, any place where you are, someone could pull out a gun and just start shooting? Because they’re angry. Because they’re mentally ill. Because someone offended them.

Because they want your jacket.

All I know is I want my ice skating rink back. And now, a small part of it will never be the same.

 

New Study Proves Just How Much Millennials Love to Travel

I promise to get to the third and final installment of our Australia trip soon, but very quickly I wanted to throw up a post about a new study just released that found out a whole ton of information pertaining to Millennials and their travel habits.

Some bullet points:

  • 37% of Millennials said they would spend more of their company’s money on room service, compared with 21% of those between the ages of 46 and 65.
  • 42% of Millennials said they would spring for a fancy meal on their company’s dime while traveling, compared to 26% of their older peers.
  • More Millennials than older respondents said they were likely to spend company money on a flight upgrade to business or first class and on alcohol.
  • More Millennials travel for business and pleasure than travelers from 31 to 45.
  • 26% of younger travelers said they had posted a negative travel review in the last year, compared with 14% of their older peers, while eight in 10 Millennials find travel reviews to be “very important” or “somewhat important” when they book their travel.

Intrigue. While I’m definitely not disputing the claim that Millennials tend to travel more frequently than older generations, I do have to wonder how honest the older respondents were in answering the questions pertaining to spending on their company’s dimes. In my own personal experience, if anything there’s way less company money to be spent on travel now than there ever was before. I happen to have one friend in particular who travels multiple times internationally every year for her job — and never once has she been offered (or taken it upon herself to get) an upgrade to business or first class.

One thing I absolutely agree with, though, is the part about reviews being very important when it comes to booking my own travel. I honestly can’t remember the last time we booked a hotel or tour without first checking out the reviews.

Actually I can — the Toilet of the Sea Cruise.

You only need to make that mistake once before you start living by TripAdvisor!

What do you guys think — do Millennials take advantage of company money when it comes to travel?

In the News: New Travel Site, GetGoing.com, Launches Today

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Can this new site make leisure travel cheaper?

Hey friends,

So I know I owe you a D.C. post (don’t say I didn’t warn you that we do a lot of hangin’ around when we’re together), but I wanted to jump on a press release that I received in my email this morning about a new travel site that, I think, has a lot of potential.

So the site, called GetGoing, works on what they’re calling a ‘pick two, get one’ process. What that essentially means is that users design two different trips (including dates, flight times, number of stops they want, etc.), and GetGoing works to get you the best discounts so you can actually purchase whichever trip turns out to be cheaper.

The system works because airlines often offer up to 40% off airfare for leisure travelers in order to fill up their empty seats. “Nearly one in five seats on all flights worldwide are empty, and we view that as a huge opportunity for more people to get out and see the world,” Alek Vernitsky, co-founder and CEO of GetGoing said in their press release. “So we decided to help flexible leisure travelers get great deals on those open seats by proving that they are actually traveling for leisure.” (Hence the reason users are prompted to pick two destinations.)

GetGoing is currently flying to hundreds of major airports in over 50 countries.

Check out the full video explanation of how the site works here:

What do you guys think? Would you try out GetGoing?

A Quick Newburgh Catch-Up

How could a town so beautiful be so crime-ridden?

Hi friends,

So I don’t have a ton of time, but I just wanted to give ever-the-quickest of updates as to the weekends’ activities.

If I’m being totally honest here, I would have to say that the town where I spent most of my young adult life growing up is, as they say, a bit rough around the edges. Newburgh, New York, has seen its fair share of crime (I mean, New York magazine had an in-depth profile on it almost exactly one year ago entitled ‘Welcome to Newburgh, Murder Capital of New York.’)

What I can say in all honesty, from having grown up in Newburgh and having spent four years attending high school there, is that this town is what you make of it. My friends, for the most part, were awesome, amazing people who, on occasion, managed to find trouble, sure–but what high schooler doesn’t?

Then, of course, there was the other side of Newburgh–the gangs and high school drop outs and high poverty rates. These were part of the side of Newburgh that I tried not to get to know too intimately.

Now, having not fully lived in Newburgh for more than 11 years, what I can say is that every time I go back, I’m impressed by all the improvements that it seems like the city is really trying to make–especially when those improvements are in and around the city of Newburgh, where the crime is at its worst.

And that, my friends, is really the point of this post. Yesterday was my younger sister’s birthday, and so Chris and I hopped the train to Beacon yesterday afternoon (after having stopped off for a late lunch at Junior’s because, let me tell you friends, I still maintain that they have the absolute best veggie sandwich in the world, and I love, love, love the free bowl of pickles, beets and cole slaw that you get) to hang out with Steph and her boyfriend.

Since both of them have been around Newburgh a lot longer than I have, and more recently, they tend to know the new, best places to hang. And so, the first place we went to celebrate Steph’s 24th year of life was to the Newburgh Brewing Company.

The Brewing Company can be found on the outskirts of the city of Newburgh, in what I’m pretty sure must have been an old factory building. It’s got those great tall, beamed ceilings, and ample open space for a live band (which we were privy to when we arrived) and some game tables.

A note from the founders on the site reads:

“Honor. You’ll find a good deal of it in everything we do here at the Newburgh Brewing Company. We honor the natural goodness of our ingredients, by working hard to make them shine through in every sip. We honor the rich history of Newburgh, a tough-minded town that’s still as hardscrabble as it was when General George Washington stationed his army here more than 200 years ago. That earnest, pull yourself up by your bootstraps energy still abounds in Newburgh and it’s reflected in the simple, honest flavors you’ll find in our beer. People have been brewing beer in Newburgh since before America was America – it’s a tradition we’re proud to be a part of. Most important, we honor you. We love making beer. We pour our passion into this brewery every day and we are deeply honored each time you choose to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”

Should you find yourself in Newburgh sometime in the near future, might I suggest a trip to the Newburgh Brewing Company, where I would highly suggest the Saison beer, especially if light, wheat ale beers are your schtick.

After the Brewing Company, we had dinner at Il Cenacolo, an adorable little Tuscan restaurant on South Plank Road. There we shared two bottles of red wine, stuffed mushrooms and tomato and mozzarella appetizers. Then I had the Farfelle alla pumate for dinner, which was pretty awesome, too.

Our last stop of the night was to Billy Joe’s Ribworks, on the water. To be fair, the Newburgh Waterfront has always been a point of interest for our little town, and within the past few years the restoration effort really picked up pace, and you can see a vast difference down there from what I remember growing up in Newburgh. It’s now home to tons of bars, restaurants, spas and salons.

Billy Joe’s itself is right on the water, with an open floor plan inside and a humongous deck outside, perfect for another live band to perform. (Nuts in a Blender. I’m not being gross. That was honestly the name of the band that performed last night. Surprisingly, they weren’t that bad.)

Anyway, all of this is to say–I’m proud of all the energy that has been put into building up Newburgh. In only a few short years, they’ve managed to really make a difference in many of the abandoned buildings and old storefronts.

Newburgh really has a lot of potential–and I think people are finally starting to put in the valiant effort needed to reach it.

Image courtesy of Umbra Newburgh

Tips for International Travel

While Chris and I get ready to head out to Palm Springs tomorrow (ummm…yay!), I have my head quasi in our trip this upcoming Fall to Berlin, Munich, Rome and Cinque Terre (which is a new destination for us, taking the place of what was formerly going to be Venice. Thanks for the heads up Libby and Allison!).

Don’t worry–once we’re in Palm Springs tomorrow I will officially have my head in the game!

Anyway, back to our Euro-trip. We have our hotels booked in Berlin, Munich and Rome, and our flights booked from NYC to Berlin, and back from Rome to NYC. Then, yesterday, we booked our flights from Berlin to Munich (turns out, that’s probably cheaper than training it…)

I came across this little diddy in the New York Times today about money tips for globe-trotters, and I’m finding it very useful. Some helpful advice includes:

  • Get a credit card with a chip
  • Tell your bank where you’re traveling
  • Learn the exchange rate before you land

Etc., etc. Anyway, just thought I’d share.

Okay, wish us luck! Tomorrow is moving day at my office, and then I’m off to catch the plane to California!

Too. Much. Fun.

New DOT Rules Change the Deals That Make It Into Our Inboxes

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I thought I would just share the interesting news I just got in an email from Travelzoo. According to the email, today new government regulations went into effect requiring all airlines and travel companies to include taxes and fees in published airfare, making the pricing more transparent for consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE THIS. The tone of Travelzoo’s email was worried at best. For example, in the second graph they write:

“When we tell you about fare deals from airlines or online travel agents, now we are also including these taxes, so prices will initially appear to be higher. But we’re still finding great prices, including some of the best fares we’ve seen in months.”

Fear not, Travelzoo—at least on my part, I will continue to eagerly read your travel updates in search of cheap flights. I do, however, look forward to this new transparency. Gone are the days of booking a flight advertised at $79 each way, only to find I am meant to pay $139 in taxes.

Because that seriously used to blow.

Unlimited Vacation: A Do?

Are your vacation days sitting around, unused?

There are some pretty sobering statistics in this WSJ article about the gaining popularity of companies offering open-ended vacation days. According to the piece, only 38% of U.S. employees use all their allotted vacation time; the average worker took only 14 of 19 days permitted.

Last year was my first year at my company where I was given three weeks vacation, along with my two personal days. And let me tell you, my friends, I used every last bit of those days (as you may recall from this. And this. And this).

This year, though, I’ve found myself with a plethora of vacation days leftover. This trip only required 3 vacations. This was a press trip, so it required no vacation days. My upcoming Chicago trip will only require two days, and Jamaica three. I’ve put in to take the Monday off after the Philly 1/2 Marathon, as well—but that still leaves me with 15 days to plan for. 15 days! Imagine all that traveling I can do with 15 days!

To me, having a solid number (albeit a relatively large number, compared to some other people I know) of vacation days to plan makes the actual process of planning more fun. Of course last year, when I went vacation hog-wild, who knows? Maybe it would have been nice to have a few extra vacation days thrown in there.

What do you guys think? Do you use all your vacation days? Would you like to have an unlimited number of vacation days, or do you think, like the article mentions, that that would actually make it harder to take time off?

In The News: Airlines Cashed In On Baggage Fees Last Year

You'll never guess how much airlines made off these bad boys last year

Well, we knew this day was coming. The day when we get the final total for how much the airlines made off of us—the suspecting passengers—on baggage fees.

It’s worse than you thought.

U.S. airlines collected $5.7 BILLION in fees alone last year, with baggage fees being the top source of fee-based revenue.

Another big income-maker for the airlines? Change-of-ticket and cancellation fees. That brought in $2.29 billion.

Holy cow. It’s time to ditch those extra bags and just carry on, people (yes, Chris, I said it. And I may even take my own advice now that I see how much extra money these airlines are making off of us).

Want tips on how to avoid baggage fees? Who doesn’t, right? Check out this USA Today piece for ideas.

In The News: South Padre Island “Best Affordable U.S. Vacation”

 

South Padre Island

U.S. News & World Report  has named South Padre Island the “Best Affordable U.S. Vacation” and “Best Family Beach Vacation” in their first-ever Best Vacations rankings, found here. According to a press release, the rankings compare the most popular travel spots against one another for the benefit of prospective travelers. They use a combination of how strongly a collection of published travel writers recommend the destination and how strongly U.S. News Travel website users recommend the destination to determine the winners.

In The News: Mexico Tourism Drops With Ongoing Drug Violence

Miss all this because of a drug war? Not me!

As a person who has visited Mexico twice in the past three months (first to Cancun, then Cabo), I’m saddened by all the recent headlines about the huge drop-off in tourism there. It’s not that I can’t understand why people wouldn’t necessarily chose this particular time to visit —just last October a Canadian tourist in Acapulco was found dead in his rental car, and another was shot in the leg during a firefight in Mazatlan.

And as much as a tourism company or media outlet can say over and over again that the violence isn’t, for the most part, directed at tourists, for some that reassurance simply isn’t enough.

I, for one, wasn’t the slightest bit worried when I went to Cancun and Cabo. Firstly, my own high school was a breeding ground for drug and turf “wars”—I don’t need to travel to Mexico to see that. Secondly, I live in New York City, and let’s be honest, this isn’t necessarily the safest of places in the world, either.

But  more importantly, I knew that the places I was traveling to were as safe as they possibly could have been—large tourist destinations during months where (in previous years) and lot of other tourists would be traveling as well. What exploring we did during those trips was not too far from the hotel, and always at the advice of hotel staff or other tour guides. To be honest, I felt more unsafe around the hoards of drunken American Spring Breakers than I did out and about in the town in Mexico.

Seriously, drunk kids can do stupid things sometimes.

Having said all that, I would never, ever, in a million years recommend to someone that they should travel to Mexico if they felt even the slightest bit uncomfortable or unsafe. Mexico is beautiful. And it’s fascinating and fun and exciting. You can’t experience all of that when you’re constantly looking behind you and worried about whether or not you’re going to get shot by a drug lord.

Sadly, it seems that until these senseless, disgusting acts of violence in Mexico are over, the entire place will suffer…..

P.S. Check out this sobering graph, courtesy of the WSJ, to see just how badly Mexico really is suffering:

Courtesy of WSJ

Back In The Borough: A Very Hamptons Update

The Hamptons=classic New York summer getaway

If you are one of the lucky few who make it a habit of exiting the sweltering summer city heat for the gorgeous Hampton Shores, you might want to check out this article from The Huffington Post with some info on new places in the area.

I’ve always wanted to visit The Hamptons. I just texted my sister and said we should throw it on the list of possibilities for this summer. Probably not realistic, but one can dream, right?

In other news—tonight Chris will be booking our trip to Prince Edward Island for when his mom comes to visit from Australia. According to the site, PEI is Canada’s smallest and greenest province. Oh, and it was also where Anne of Green Gables was shot.

Bis bald, friends!

In The News: Ferris Wheel Fall Kills Young Girl

I have fond memories of Wildwood in New Jersey, but this story is just so devastating. In what is being called a “freak accident,” an 11-year-old girl died after falling from about half-way up a ride on the Giant Wheel Ferris wheel on Friday.

Authorities are unsure yet of what actually happened, but Ferris wheels have always been a bit scary to me. Not sure how this will affect Wildwood visitors for the rest of the summer season, but for now the park is closed.

Stay safe when traveling this summer.

In the News: In the Market for a Timeshare? Now’s the Time to Buy

Check out this video from MSN Money about why now is the best time to snatch up some prime timeshare properties (One man was even forced to give his away. As in for free. I’ll take a free timeshare in Hilton Head, thank you very much!)

The one point that the video makes is that while yes, there are fabulous deals to be had right now, don’t forget the added monthly costs that come along with owning a timeshare. They can really add up—and that’s why some of these people are being forced to sell their properties for rock bottom prices.

Bis bald friends! Hope you had a fabulous Memorial Day!

 

In The News: The Ins and Outs of the Home Swap

Here's a home. Would you like to swap it?

My DailyWorth newsletter had some awesome advice in it today about how to make sure you’re picking a reliable home to swap for your next vacay getaway. Here are some tips from the newsletter:

1. Use KnowYourTrade.com to pick a reliable home exchange site to start your international shopping. For the world’s coolest cities check out Geenee, and for the largest selection check out Homelink.

2. Cough up the money. According to the newsletter, most reliable networks charge a small membership fee, but it’s worth it because you’re more likely to get qualified, serious swappers. However, the swaps SHOULD BE FREE. If the site you’re using asks you to pay for the actual swap, it’s probably a scam. Check out Airbnb for some listings of homes that are for rent, instead.

3. Verify before you swap. Sure, it’s always a bit of a leap of faith, but read the reviews, Skype or chat via email or phone before you agree to anything—generally, just be sure you do your homework.

Happy swapping friends!

Photo via

In The News: Drunk Passenger Causes $40,000-Worth of Damage on Flight, Disrobes Seat Mate

Yowza Jason Dixon—your name should certainly be added to the list of ‘do not fly’ names after the little stunt you pulled on May 2.

According to this AOL Travel piece, 32-year-old Virgin Atlantic passenger Jason Dixon became so intoxicated on his flight from Britain to Jamaica that he somehow managed to become involved in a physical altercation with his seat mate (after she turned down his advances, of course), ripping off her clothes and yanking out her hair, and then causing nearly $40,000 in damages to the plane.

Sounds like a model passenger (and person). Really.

Bis bald, friends! In only 6-days time Steph and I will be Cabo-bound! Cannot wait!

In The News: Have a Peanut Allergy? Better stay away from Air Canada…

Thank you, Mommyish, for turning me on to this crazy story about Air Canada turning away a 19-year-old boy because he had a peanut allergy.

This is my favorite part from the linked story above: “The comments (to a story about how April Burns son was turned away from Air Canada because of his allergy) focus on how far airlines should go to accommodate people with allergies. Some argue Air Canada had a right to deny her son a seat on the plane; others feel any accommodation was an imposition for other passengers.”

First I’d like to point out that those two points are basically the same thing—siding with Air Canada for their refusal to seat the child. Is no one on this kid’s side? What is he supposed to do, never fly because he’s allergic to peanuts?

Secondly, in what scenario would it be appropriate for a fellow passenger to kick up a stink about needing to skip his bag of peanuts (which, by the way, usually contain about 12 peanuts total, if you’re lucky) because a fellow passenger has a deadly allergy to them. How exactly would that go?

As a side note—the boy was on his way to Fiji where he was going to be volunteering for a few weeks.

As an additional side note, the boy had five EpiPens with him. One could therefore deduce that he was not placing the sole responsibility for his peanut allergy on the shoulders of Air Canada.

I feel enraged by this, but maybe that’s just me? Of course the boy would have to assume some of the risk of getting on a flight in general, knowing that other passengers may have peanut products on/with them, and that Air Canada cannot be held responsible for every single passenger on its plans. But to deny him a seat at all? That seems a bit off the mark, if you ask me.

Bis bald, friends! And don’t bother flying Air Canada if you’re allergic to peanuts!

In the News: Peace Corps Cover Up

Although I may have never mentioned it here (or even out loud at all, for that matter), the Peace Corps has always been in the back of my mind as one of those potentially fabulous opportunities to combine travel with community service. The time commitment is what always kept me from looking more into it.

However, this piece in the NY Times today is terrifying. As a volunteer in a foreign country, you of course plan for all contingencies, I’m sure, to include the horrible events like what took place with poor Jess Smochek when she was a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh.

I’ll spare the gritty (and they are gritty) details outright here, but let’s just say it looks like the Peace Corps may have some serious explaining to do.

Bis bald friends, and please, be careful when you’re traveling.

In the News: TripAdvisor Announces Travelers’ Choice Destination Winners

Thank you, Aol Travel, for pointing out that TripAdvisor has announced its Travelers’ Choice Destination Winners.

So which city was No. 1? None other than my own hometown of NYC.

Check out the full (somewhat unsurprising) list through the link above.

Bis bald, friends! Only 10 more days until I’ll be in Cabo, Mexico!

In The News: Why Do You Travel?

I travel because there's just so much to see

The NY Times asked an intriguing question of its readers today—Why do you travel?

Through the reader-submitted essays, which range from sweet to sad to factual, the answers really allow us a small glimpse into what drives other people to travel. For my own part, travel means a thousand different things to me. I travel to learn new things and to challenge myself. I travel to see different parts of the world and experience history. I travel for fun, or passion, or to just get away. I travel to visit friends and family, or to spend quality time with friends and family. I travel because it’s what I’ve done my whole life, and I hardly know how to be without it.

Why do you travel?

Bis bald, friends!

Back in the Borough: A Twist in Fate

Tonight I traveled back from a weekend in D.C. to my home in good ole’ Manhattan. In a twist of fate, I managed to miss my 5:30 p.m. TripperBus back into the city. As my friend Lisa and I sat in her car in the parking lot waiting for the 7 pm. bus, I mused, “Maybe there was some reason I wasn’t supposed to be on the 5 p.m. bus.”

Then, at around 11:15 p.m., as our bus approached the city, I glanced up at the open laptop of the girl sitting in front of me and saw the headline “Osama bin Laden dead, Obama to announce.”

Sure enough, I googled the news on my own iTouch and discovered it to be true. Then, I looked out the window, as we passed over the bridge towards the Lincoln Tunnel, and saw the beautiful New York City skyline glistening in the night.

So that, my friends, is why I missed my 5:30 bus—I’m sure of it. I was in the right place, at the right time, to be reminded of just how proud I am to be American. And just how far we have come since that fateful day in September. My city was waiting for me to come home, and I embrace her with open arms.

Bis bald, friends!