travel advice

LONG TERM PLANNER: 9 steps to creating your own 5-Year Bucket-List Travel Plan

bucket list

Your husband dreams of visiting the D-Day memorial near the beaches of Normandy. Your daughter has been dying to see the Great Wall of China ever since she learned about it in Social Studies. You have been secretly dreaming of setting sail on a cruise to Greece ever since you watched the movie”Mama Mia.”

Like many, your family has big dreams of seeing the wonders of the world but also struggles to come up with money for summer camps, save for college, and pay the mortgage. So what does a family do when they have unending travel ambitions but limited funds? They create a 5-year Bucket-List Travel Plan.

If you are like me, you have reluctantly observed that you can’t afford to go on the BIG trips to Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, or that Mediterranean cruise every summer. You might be able to pull off a big trip like that every 5 years though if you plan ahead and plan well. This year our family decided to stop dreaming and start planning and created our 5-year Bucket List Travel Plan.

If this plan sounds right for your family, here are 9 simple steps to making your dream a reality:

Step 1: Create individual Wishlists and share them with your family

Have everyone create their own bucket-lists and share them with the family. Make sure each person prioritizes the trips that are the most important to them. If you have younger kids, you might need to give them suggestions and have them decide which are their favorites.

When voicing your individual bucket lists, be sure and point out WHY you feel the family should choose this destination or experience as the next family vacation. Be persuasive. Family trips are a compromise but your powers of persuasion can definitely have an impact. Adjustments to individual lists can be made after hearing everyone read their list out loud.

Step 2: Determine the Order of the trips on the Travel Plan

Here are some things to consider when determining the order:

Analyze Age/Interest Differences– Determine if a 9-year old will really enjoy seeing the Sistine Chapel or would you be better off taking them to Disneyland Paris? Will your 5-year-old reasonably be able to make it on an 18-hour flight? Analyze the stage of life for each family member and decide when the best time is to take each trip.

-Timing– You might not want to plan that once-in-a-lifetime African Safari if you do not think the kids are old enough to remember it in 5 years. That 4-week trip to Australia and New Zealand might not be possible if your son has Football training in the middle of summer break (the only time of the year you could take a 4-week long trip). Some trips you might find are best to leave until after the “kids” are no longer kids and you are not dealing with school/activity schedules.

-Prioritize common choices- Discover which Bucket List trips all family members have in common and prioritize them. If you see that snorkeling the Great Barrier reef is listed on everyone’s list then maybe that should be high on the Family travel plan. If you find you are the only one who wants to see Machu Picchu, then it might be best left as a solo trip.

 

Step 3: Identify what the family wishes to accomplish and take away from each trip

The purpose of a trip can be very different for each person. Are you seeking education, relaxation, learning a skill or new language, sightseeing, or meeting people from different cultures? Make sure you not only agree on the destination for your next Bucket list trip but also ensure the trip follows its purpose. Determine as a family the purpose of each trip and plan accordingly.

Step 4: Create your 5-year Bucket-List Travel Plan

As a family, write out a timeline of the 5-year Bucket-List Travel Plan. Determine the best time of year to travel to each Bucket list destination. What is the weather of your destination like during different times of the year?  What times of year will be crowded or hectic? When is pricing more reasonable? Are there festivals or activities you would like to attend during a particular time of year? What dates will work best for your family to get away?

Step 5: Estimate the cost for each Bucket List trip

Research your destination online and start planning the trip.

-Determine how many days you would need to travel there and accomplish the purpose of the trip whether it be sightseeing, activities, cultural experiences, or relaxation.

-Based on current pricing, estimate the cost of flights for your family.

-Estimate costs for lodging for your family for the duration of your trip

-Determine daily food, transportation, and activities costs including admissions to museums or points of interest.

-Research Escorted trip options and compare with creating the itinerary on your own

 

Step 6: Open a  5-year Bucket List Vacation fund and start saving.

In order to conquer the Bucket list, you need to create a 5-year Bucket List Vacation fund. After estimating the cost of the trip and setting a date for your first trip, you can determine how much you will need to save each month to have enough money for the trip. Be sure to take into account when you will need to book the trip and pay any deposits and when you will need to pay the remainder of the trip cost.

Our family currently has money automatically deposited each month into our Vacation fund. We determined our Europe vacation will be about $10,000 and we had a little over 2 years to save that money since we wanted to travel to celebrate our 5-year Wedding anniversary and our daughter’s 16th birthday.

We have been putting $400 each month into the vacation fund so we would reach our goal in about 2 years. Of course, our first trip on the list we have a lot less time to save than the typical 5 years.

If we had 5 years, we could have had about 4 years to save enough for the airfare and deposit for the hotel or escorted trip and then another year to save for the balance and extras. In this 5-year scenario, we would only have had to save $175-$200 a month for the vacation fund.

You can always save a little extra for the other small trips you take each year as well.  I also suggest adding a portion of any bonus checks or tax refunds each year to help keep the Vacation fund healthy.

Step 7: Plan the first Bucket-list trip!

About 9-11 months before the trip is set to begin, plan on booking your hotel and airfare and placing any initial deposits. You can book this online yourself or have a knowledgeable travel consultant help you plan the trip. Reach out to friends and family that travel often and get recommendations on travel consultants or trip plans that worked for them. You should have enough saved up at this point in your fund to pay all the necessary airline and deposit costs.

Before finalizing the trip be sure to confirm time off work and check your calendars for important holidays or events to be sure you have chosen dates that will work for your family. Make sure everyone has passports or will be able to get them soon. Look into travel insurance to protect your deposits.

Step 8: Book small trips in between the Big Trips

Plan small getaways or inexpensive trips on the off years in between the Bucket list trips. You will probably find that the travel itch will need to be scratched from time to time leading up to the BIG trip. Use the money from the Vacation Fund to help pay for these small inexpensive getaways.

Step 9: Revisit your Travel plan annually

Have your families interests changed? Are you in a different phase in life and want a different type of trip? You might come home from Italy with a passion to go back and explore deeper. Your kids might discover their passion for Scuba diving in Cozumel and diving in other locales becomes the priority. This vacation plan is as flexible as you want it to be. It can be changed easily as the family’s priorities and dreams change. I hope you all find this helpful in your travel journey. Happy Planning!

 

Our Families 5-year Bucket List Travel plan (Always subject to change):

2020: London, Paris, and Edinburgh

2025: Alaskan Cruise

2030: Spain/Italy/Greece Mediterranean Cruise

2035: Australia/ New Zealand (20 year Anniversary)

2040: Egypt and Israel

2045: South Africa and African Safari

2050: Machu Picchu

2055: Thailand/Philippines/Malaysia

 

 

travel advice

VACATION ANXIETY: DO YOU DREAD COMING BACK FROM VACATION BEFORE IT HAS EVEN STARTED?

vacationanxiety

The idea came to me last night while chatting with my husband. We were lying in bed preparing for a busy work week and he asked: “Do you ever dread the start of vacation because then you will have nothing left to look forward to?” That is an interesting thought. Are Americans so stressed out, exhausted, and anxious that we can’t enjoy vacations without worrying about them ending before they have begun?

As most of us know, Americans have very little vacation time compared to other countries. The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. In comparison, by law, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation. Since our vacation time is so rare, most Americans look forward to our one or two week vacation all year long. Personally, vacation is the pinnacle of my year. I enjoy planning fun activities and daydreaming about the trip all year long. As the date approaches, I start the internal countdown to vacation bliss.  However, once the trip has begun many of us get anxious or sad that our much-anticipated vacation will soon be over.

A day or two into a vacation, the letdown usually begins to take hold. No more anticipation. No more countdown. No more pre-vacation shopping trips. No more dreaming of umbrella drinks and swaying palm trees. Some people can shake off the gloom and savor the moment. Others have a harder time shrugging off the feeling that while you are on vacation, you are walking the green mile. Each moment is a step closer back to the daily grind.

Say you are a lucky one who has managed to push away the dark thoughts and worries and fully embraced your vacation. When vacation ends and you are thrust back into the real world, many people struggle with coming off that high. When we’re on vacation, there’s a boost in two brain neurotransmitters — dopamine and serotonin — which are involved in mood and depression, says Baird Brightman, PhD, a Massachusetts-based psychologist and organizational consultant. People who are depressed have low levels of these neurotransmitters, and the work environment can make that worse. Post-vacation depression and anxiety is real. Who has not found themselves in such a packing frenzy before a trip that you leave your house in disarray and chaos? You come home from paradise to the exciting prospect of cleaning the house, doing laundry, sorting through piles of mail, and unpacking suitcases. You also go from excitement and relaxation to humdrum and hassles. It can cause some whiplash.

Here’s the good news: Vacations give us a chance to recharge our batteries — change the pace, alter the scenery, and improve our attitude. We just need to know ways to cope with the anxiety and roller coaster effect that goes along with vacation.  If you find yourself with the “vacation blues” before, after or during your vacation, here are a few ways to snap yourself out of it:

WAYS TO COMBAT VACATION ANXIETY

1.) Plan your trip well so you are less stressed while on vacation

Have you ever heard the phrase”Your Poor planning is not MY Emergency”? Well, your poor planning also does not need to be YOUR emergency either. Plan as much as you can in advance so you don’t have to do the work while on vacation. You are also less likely to have as many stressful emergencies spring up to make your vacation more anxiety-riddled.  However, be careful not to make your vacation too jam-packed or regimented. You need some flexibility and room to be spontaneous if the opportunity arises.

If deciding where to eat every night is a common argument with your travel companions, do the arguing before you go and decide where you all will be eating most of the nights.

If you think you might want to Scuba dive while on your trip, maybe investigate what you need to do to be prepared or what certifications or medical records you might need.

If you know that you will be tired and cranky after flying all day, arrange a private transfer to your hotel so you can avoid the hassle of making multiple stops before reaching your hotel.  Find ways to make the travel process as smooth as possible so you can relax and enjoy.

2.) Savor the Moment-

So you have planned the trip well, now it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor . Sleep in, eat ice cream daily, laugh loudly, enjoy the sun on your face, and find a new skill you never knew you had. If you feel the dark clouds rolling in, find something that AMAZES you and makes you come alive. You can worry about life the other 51 weeks of the year. Vacations are statistically GREAT for your mental and physical health, so enjoy them.

  • One 2005 study from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who don’t take regular vacations were two to three times more likely to be depressed compared to women who take regular vacations.
  • Another study followed 12,338 men for nine years — and found that men who didn’t take annual vacations had 32% higher risk of death from heart attack and 21% higher risk of death from all causes.
  • One study analyzed surveys completed by women enrolled in the 20-year Framingham Heart Study. Researchers found an eight times higher risk of heart attack and death among women who rarely took vacations (every six years or less) — compared to women who took at least one vacation every two to five years. (https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/vacation-depression#1)

3.) Come home to a clean orderly home and a short to-do list

No one wants to come home from a nice vacation to a giant to-do list. You don’t want your vacation to end as soon as you step in the door because you didn’t properly prep your house before you left. You don’t want to clean before you can unpack. Try and do a much as possible before you go on vacation so you can come back to a peaceful and welcoming environment.

4.) Plan fun activities to do when you come back

If you know that when you return home that you will have post-vacation depression, then find what best helps you snap out of it. Plan to do something you love a few days after you get back from your trip. Go out to dinner with friends and share vacation stories and pictures. Take a long walk in the park with the dogs. Get a post-vacation massage or pedicure. Binge watch the shows you missed while on vacation or go see a movie. Be pro-active and make sure you have things to look forward to when you get back home.

5.) Mentally start planning your next vacation

So you made it through your trip with a positive outlook and thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing week away. Now it is time to fly home. Mentally start accessing your vacation. What did you love? What would you change next time? Take this time to start planning where you would love to go next time. Will it be back to the beach or to a cabin on the lake? Who will come with you? Reflect on your incredible vacation and start the dreaming process all over again.

new york city travel, travel advice

Best and Worst from my NYC Dining experience

Food is important. Can we all agree with that? It keeps us alive, fuels our bodies, and often times monopolizes our minds throughout the day (or maybe that is just me).

Selling travel for over 16 years has taught me how important your food and dining experience is when you assess your overall travel experience. Let’s face it good or bad, food can make or break a vacation.

I will preface this by saying that I am not a food critic. I love food but cannot even put myself in the category of “foodie” because I love my Pan-seared Filet Mignon along with a side of some good ole boxed mac and cheese. I have met few casseroles that I did not like. However, I do appreciate good food and for most of my travels, food plays a big role in my planning and trip experience. New York was no different.

Most people think of bagels, pizza, hot dogs and cheesecake when they think of NYC. Or perhaps they think of swanky restaurants with $30 martinis and foie gras. We did try all of these staples (we passed on the foie gras) while we were there and really enjoyed them however we felt if this was all you ate while in New York you were missing out.

New York City is a melting pot and with its diversity brings a variety of cuisine. The food reflects the people and the heart of New York City. The place where people come to make their dreams come true or to find a community that accepts and welcomes differences.

We personally loved walking the streets and seeing an Irish bar sitting next to a Cuban restaurant then turning the corner and finding a tiny Thai place. The restaurants were as charming and unique as the people. Of course, we did not have enough time to fully plan or try even a small slice of the NYC pie but I wanted to share some of our personal favorites (TRY) from our short trip and places you might want to PASS by. Please also note our breakfast was included at our hotel each day so we do not have breakfast suggestions.

 

TRY

1.) CHAI TAI KITCHEN- 

This meal was a favorite for our trip to NYC and we sort of stumbled upon it walking around the theater district near our hotel. It is a tiny little restaurant with a charming atmosphere with hanging lanterns and muted lighting. We loved our noodle bowls and found the pricing very reasonable for New York City. We will definitely return if in the area.

 

2.) Carlo’s Bake Shop- Cannolis

We tried the cheesecake and cannolis and found the cannolis to be the real winner. They were incredibly crunchy, creamy and not overly sweet. Absolutely delicious. Busy place and very little seating but grab some cannolis and take them to a local park and enjoy!

 

3.) Juniors – Cheesecake with strawberry topping or Red Velvet cake

We tried both and found them to be delicious. I know everyone has their own preference with cheesecake but I found this recipe to be perfect for me with a hint of lemon.

 

3.) IndiKitch

This was our first experience with this New York regional chain. We absolutely loved it. It was like Chipotle with Indian cuisine. Fast, easy, affordable and delicious. I would recommend stopping in if you find one while in the city.

IMG_1971.HEICIMG_1970.HEIC

4.) Spicy hotdog at one of the food carts in Central Park

A hot dog is not a culinary masterpiece but I recommend checking out some street food while in NYC. We tried a spicy hot dog from a cart in Central Park and found it really delicious. They had creperies, gyros, and all kinds of other street food carts and trucks to choose from around the city. You can grab some food and sit on the stairs of the Met or on the patio at the New York City Library (A.K.A. Lion’s library) and people watch if the weather is pleasant. We saw a lot of people enjoying this city pleasure. Next time, I will need to remember to do this more.

 

 

5.) Los Feliz Taqueria by chef Julieta Ballesteros

Our New York city friends took us to this gem while visiting. We highly recommend the Quesadilla de Flor de Calabaza and a Spicy Cilantro Margarita if you like spicy! Thanks to our NYC friends, we were personally introduced to chef Julieta (a one time contestant on the hit TV show Iron Chef) and treated to a special sampling of ceviches and churros, followed up with shots of tequila from one of the restaurant’s dozens of tequila options!

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

PASS BY

1.) Loeb Boathouse- Visit but do not eat dinner

Beautiful atmosphere and location right on the lake in Central Park, however, the food we found to be overpriced and bland. Service was less than stellar as well. I ordered the Filet and it had very little seasoning or flavor. Jason ordered the Salmon and it was again flavorless. We loved watching the gondola rides and rowboats passing by with skyscrapers in the backdrop but should have just gone to the self-service bar and patio area instead of the more formal dining room.

 

 

2.) The View Restaurant

This restaurant sits 48 floors above New York City.  The revolving floor makes a 360° turn every hour, ensuring an ever-changing perspective of this celebrated city.

Again, we went for the atmosphere and unique experience of seeing the city skyline as the bar slowly rotates. However, the drinks were VERY overpriced and you had to pay a cover charge in order to get seated. We just went for dessert and found they only had a dessert buffet which was very expensive so we just had a couple of drinks and left. The views were very good but the restaurant was dated and there were screaming kids everywhere.  They also had some technical difficulties a few times with the rotation mechanism that made us nervous. I would probably never go back.

img_2140-heic.jpg

3.) The New Amity  restaurant

Not much to say with this one. It was boring, non-descript diner food. We both stumbled into this place starving and desperate for lunch and a place to sit. It did satisfy both of those needs, but if you have a choice, there are a lot better places to eat in the city. We both ordered burgers and fries and they were similar to what you would find at an amusement park concession stand. Taste and price!

IMG_2022.HEIC

4.) Broadway Deli-

We wanted to try one of the things New York is known for- Delis. Jason enjoyed his Reuben but I found my Italian sandwich pretty average. We both agreed the food was just ok.

IMG_2147.HEIC

5.) Angelo’s Pizza 

Another, just okay, place we stumbled upon for lunch. The waiter was friendly and prompt and the pizza we ordered was fresh and tasty but nothing extraordinary. Honestly, I have had better pizza at home in Lexington, KY. I am sure there are much better pizza places in New York to try instead.

IMG_2093.HEIC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

new york city travel, travel advice

Top 5 Must-See Places in NYC

Whether you are a first-timer or have visited more times than Frank Sinatra, these 5 places are Must-see for a visit to New York City.

I have been to NYC several times but not for 15 years or more (yes I just aged myself). This was my husbands second time here but first sightseeing experience. We had a pretty full itinerary for a 4-night stay but of course, it is not possible to see everything in 5 days or even 5 years in NYC. This place is forever evolving and new places open up daily. Please take my list with a grain of salt but these were 5 things we felt were worth your while seeing/doing on a short stay. (Please note that they are not in order of importance)

#1- The Metropolitan Museum of Art ( aka The Met)

Perfect for a rainy, hot or cold day in the city ( which is more often than not the case), the Met is my top pick if you have time for only 1 museum amongst many in this city.

Whether you love Classical or Modern art, sculptures, or Knights in shining armor this place has it all. My husband and I loved wandering through the many different rooms and finding a Van Gogh painting in one, Egyptian hieroglyphics and tombs in another, Roman statues in the next, and then finishing up with some modern sculptures. Even those that are not art enthusiasts can appreciate this place.

I would suggest spending an entire day wandering around and taking a leisurely lunch in one of the charming cafes or dining areas inside the museum. It is right near Fifth Avenue so if your feet can stand it after leaving you can wander around and do some shopping and grab some dinner or pick up a gyro or crepe from a food truck and enjoy it in neighboring Central Park if the weather permits.

#2- Central Park

After a busy day in the hustle and bustle of city life, Central Park is an oasis to refuel and reenergize. Over 800 acres of park in the middle of one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world.

We enjoyed Central Park so much we spent several hours on two different days here meandering around. We were fortunate to be here in late spring when the tulips and peonies were in full display and trees were beginning to fill in. It was a sight to see and surprisingly peaceful when a noisy city was just footsteps away. We toured the Shakespeare Garden, walked under beautiful bridges with saxophone players serenading us, and enjoyed watching couples row-boating at Loeb Boathouse. Central Park is a definite must-see if you come to New York. As you are leaving, you can also do some Fifth Avenue shopping or look at some of the high-end apartments that are Parkside.

#3- 9/11 Museum and Memorial

The tragedy of 9/11 is something that Americans will never forget. It was such a huge event in American history and for this reason, the 9/11 museum and memorial are on my Must-See list.

The museum is a wonderful tribute to all of those people who lost their lives that day. It provides special mention to the Fire Department, NYPD, and other citizens who gave their lives helping those trapped in the twin towers or in the wreckage.

The museum is located in the footprint of one of the towers. Inside, there are firetrucks and ambulances that had been damaged, debris and leftover supports, heartbreaking first-person accounts and memories shared of lost loved ones. The new museum was worth the entrance fee and I would allow a couple of hours to visit the large museum along with the public memorial.

#4- A Broadway Musical or Play in Times Square

I am an art fanatic so it is possible that my list is a bit lopsided with artistic selections, but I also feel a NYC trip is not complete without seeing a play or musical on Broadway. A substitute could be NYC ballet or Philharmonic but I did not get to experience them in order to recommend.

If you are not dying to see one of the cities “hot” shows like “Hamilton”, “Dear Evan Hanson”, “Harry Potter”, etc… you might consider saving some money and getting some same day tickets at one of the TKTS booths around the city. We visited the one in Times Square and scored 50% off tickets to see “School of Rock” musical. It was a wonderful family-friendly show with a talented cast. Two thumbs up for a fun night out.

If you are dying to see “Hamilton” or “Lion King” be sure to buy those tickets well in advance in order to get decent seats.

Make it a full evening and check out Times Square, do some shopping and maybe eat a nice dinner at one of the many Italian eateries nearby before the show.

#5- Top of the Rock or Empire State Building

No better way to see NYC than on top of one of these historic buildings. We personally chose “Top of the Rock” because neither of us had done it and we also wanted to tour Rockefeller Center.

“Top of the Rock” is a skyline tour on top of Rockefeller Center with stunning views of Central Park and the entire city. I highly recommend choosing a day that is not too windy or cold because being on the 68th floor intensifies the weather. If you have the extra money or time, a Helicopter tour over New York would be the only thing to top these views. I recommend going in the morning for less crowds or you can consider getting the Sunset package that will allow you to see the city both in the day and night. However, please keep in mind that this is popular and more crowded.

Side Note: I purchased a New York City Explorer pass on Groupon ( it gave us entrance into 3 different tour choices) for about $70 a person and this saved us money on this and two other tours we did ( Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise and The Met). I would recommend getting this pass or if you plan on going to multiple museums, tours, cruises, Hop on/off Bus, etc.. you could get the City pass which gives you unlimited tours, priority entrance, skipping the lines, and will save you if you want to do a lot of tours or will be in NYC for a while.

A close runner-up suggestion:

#6 – Take a ride on the free Statin Island Ferry for amazing views of Lady liberty and the city