When you've been on the road a lot, you know what works and what doesn't when it comes to traveling in comfort and style as well as what will save you time and how to cut down on bringing extraneous items with you.
Here, I share my experience that will hopefully save you time (and back pain!).
It might sound like #firstworldproblems to some, but losing your airline status is truly a terrible thing.
What to do when you lose your airline status
It might sound like #firstworldproblems to some, but losing your airline status is truly a terrible thing. There has never been a worse time for air travel with jam packed planes, everyone and their mother bringing carry-on bags and jamming them into the overhead bins, and just overall rude people. Having status on a particular airline takes the sting out of it juuuuust a little bit with priority boarding, lounge access, upgradability to business or first class, and access to extra leg room seats at no additional charge.
One of the issues with airline status these days is that with so many airline mergers, some of the loyalty programs have become almost completely useless. Your chances of being upgraded are slim to none with everyone on that upgrade list. This combined with credit cards that offer nearly almost all of the same things as airline status make it pretty hard to reap the benefits of a loyalty program due to so many people. However, sometimes it can make all the difference.
So what do you do when you've become accustomed to all of these perks and they suddenly go away because you haven't met the mileage goal or the minimum yearly spend required? This was something I had to figure out at the end of last year when my Premier Platinum status on United was going to disappear. For years I was a loyal traveler on United (and on Continental long before that), so when I hit my highest status level ever at the end of 2016 I was ecstatic. The only problem was that I achieved it on my final flight before I was changing jobs to one that kept me grounded for an entire year. So, for an entire year, I had Platinum status and was never able to fully appreciate it. Sure, I made a trip back home every few months, however I was using miles to cut down on the pricey tickets from Honolulu to Newark. This resulted in me not flying on one single paid ticket. Everything in my account showed "0." It was a little unsettling!
As the end of 2017 approached and there was yet another job change that was going to put me back out on the road, I couldn't fathom flying without status (like I said, #firstworldproblems). I thought if there was a way I could appeal to a kind United agent that maybe, just maybe, something could be done. I called up and spoke to a lovely lady named Rose who advised me to call back as it got closer to the end of the status year.
Calling back, I explained my sob story to the agent who told me that there was something that could be done. United will make an exception once every five years to those who have been status holders for the past few years. She went back in my records and noted that, indeed, for the past few years I had Premier Gold. She noted in my records that the reason I did not make a status level was due to a job change and she confirmed with me that I wanted to go through with this because again, it would not be able to be done for another five years. Since I had been Gold more than I had been Platinum, she was only able to offer me Gold level which I happily accepted. It became effectively immediately and I was off to the friendly skies with some free extra leg room.
If you should find yourself in a similar situation, call your preferred carrier to see what can be done. With so much competition out there, the odds are pretty good that they will be able to help you out for fear of you jumping ship to another airline. If you do not hold status but travel often, you should consider committing to one airline, even if this means you may have to take more connecting flights than non-stops from time to time. You'll thank yourself when you're sitting in economy and the gate agent comes on the plane and hands you your new boarding ticket for seat 2B.
TWA Reviews: Phone charging bracelet
You know the feeling: you're traveling and not near a power outlet for hours on end. Or maybe you have the new iPhone where you can't plug your headphones in and charge your phone at the same time so forget about plugging in your phone when you're on a plane that doesn't have TVs and uses "personal device entertainment" (don't get me started - eye roll!).
Over the years, Mark & Graham has become one of my favorite brands for on-the-go accessories with their unique styles and clever products. Case in point: their phone charging bracelet. Stylish and extremely functional, this bracelet caught my eye immediately. On a recent trip from Honolulu to Mexico, I gave this bracelet a test drive.
I usually travel with minimal jewelry - a thin necklace, stud earrings, and an Apple Watch - so I was curious if this would be too bulky. The bracelet comes in two sizes: Small (.75" w x 3.25" diameter, 3 oz.) & Medium (.75" w x 3.5" diameter, 3.5 oz.). I chose the smaller size because my wrists are, well, small. The fit is good - not too loose that it's sliding all over my arm and not too tight that it doesn't move at all.
It opens with a hinge, revealing a micro-USB port and an Apple Lightning port. Once plugged in, it will take about an hour and a half to fully charge which might seem like a long time, but the good news is that the charge in the battery will hold for up to 30 days. You'll know it's fully charged when the four little lights inside the bracelet are all illuminated (you can see in the top right photo to the left that my bracelet was near dead with only one light lit).
While the battery in the bracelet takes a while (about 45 min) to charge your phone up to 50%, it is definitely a lifesaver. I've had many external battery chargers which are great because they can charge up your devices to full battery, but doesn't it seem like every time you're in a pinch and need it you don't have it on you? Who carries an external charger in their pocket? I always end up getting rid of mine.
It's for this reason that I love this bracelet. Not only is it good for traveling, it's also good for nights out. We've all been there when we're nearing the end of a girls night, had one glass of wine too many, need to get home and your phone is dying. It's quick and easy to pop it off your wrist,
plug your phone in and not only be able to call an Uber, but to be safe on your ride home as well.
You can be sure I'll be wearing this on all my travels and nights out. Looking forward to seeing what other kind of variations of this Mark & Graham come out with next!
(out of 5)
on the go snack: roasted chick peas
Hummus is amazing, chickpeas on a salad are good, but roasted chickpeas are incredible. If you've never had them, you can thank me later. I always keep a snack in my bag when I'm in transit and these are the perfect snack companion. United, you can keep your little bag of pretzels! They can be flavored however you'd like (I've even seen cinnamon sugar), but the recipe below is my go to.
*This recipe is based on one can of chickpeas, but (full disclosure) I usually cook up two cans at a time since they will last a few days in my bag.
1 can of chickpeas, drained, washed and dried
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and spread out evenly on a tray pan. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Roast for 40-45 min, stirring halfway through. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil and then enjoy!
Click on the photos below to see step-by-step instructions:
how to stay healthy on the road
There are so many health pitfalls when you're on the road. Breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings, airport food, airplane food, and eating on the run to name a few. Then there's the feeling of being somewhere new and wanting to sample all the local specialties. Beignets in New Orleans, pizza in NYC, and Tex-Mex in Texas can really pack on the pounds. But life is all about balance. TWA sat down with some road warriors (and one is a nutrition health coach!) to get their tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the go.
As a corporate event planner, Krissy Wylie travels frequently to places all over the globe. Her profession means that she is constantly entertaining clients, sampling food menus, and generally sitting at a desk when she's not traveling. This naturally led to her interest in nutrition and how to live her healthiest life. She's now a certified nutrition health coach and I've asked her to share with me her top tips for not derailing when you're away from home. Here's what she had to say:
Bring your own food
Airports don't always have the healthiest grab and go options. On top of that, unexpected delays may mean that you do not even have time to stop for food between flights. Bringing food from home makes you feel nourished and can sustain you until you reach your destination. One of my favorite snacks is a trail mix that consists of raw nuts, seeds, unsweetened coconut, and goji berries (sometimes dark chocolate chips too). I'll also bring a baggie of cut veggies like red bell peppers, cucumbers, and baby carrots with a small container of hummus and I ALWAYS have a few clean protein bars like RX Bars, Larabar, or Kind Bars in my bag to hold me over on unexpected delays.
do your research
Make this a habit before you leave home. Depending on your location, it's now so easy to have food from Whole Foods or Amazon delivered right to your hotel room. If this isn't an option, find a local grocery to stock up on some staples like fruit, almond butter, avocados, lemons, protein bars, and/or protein powder that can easily be mixed with water, almond milk or coconut milk.
ask your hotel for a fridge
Make sure your hotel has an in-room fridge that is not already stocked with alcohol and junk. Simply ask the hotel to put a mini fridge in your room upon arrival. If there already is one, ask the hotel to remove the minibar snacks (and alcohol) so after you visit the grocery store, you can stock your fridge with healthy fresh produce and easy grab and go snacks.
blend it up
Bring along a small blender or ask the hotel if they will provide one. A blender really makes healthy traveling so much easier! I've got a small Nutribullet that packs easily in most suitcases. Surprisingly, some of the more high end hotels will provide one for you in your room. You never know until you ask! Smoothies can pack in so much nutrition and make the perfect quick and easy breakfast on the go. A favorite of mine is a simple smoothie that can be done without a stocked fridge. All you need is vegan chocolate protein powder, powdered super greens, a banana, almond butter (or an avocado), water, and ice. So easy and so tasty!
go off the menu
You actually don't have to order from the menu when you're at a restaurant. While most cities have plenty of local cafes or restaurants that serve healthy farm to table cuisine, you may find yourself at one that doesn't offer up healthy options. Use the menu as a guideline for what they can do and ask for substitutions. Most restaurants are very accommodating to special requests. Build your own salad, order steamed veggies with salmon or chicken, brown rice or quinoa with a veggie medley, etc. You can ask to leave out the heavy sauces and substitute with olive oil and lemon juice.
move your body
The body thrives on movement! Building exercise into your trip, even if it's only 20 minutes a day, can keep you feeling energized and vibrant. Get up 30 minutes early and either walk/run or hit the hotel gym.
drink your water
For most of us, traveling means we're eating out more than usual. The result is that we consume more sodium in our food, which can leave us feeling bloated. Make sure to drink at least 1/2 of your body weight in ounces plus a little more if you are at high altitude or exercising. Staying hydrated also helps with hunger and our ability to control food cravings. Most of the time, you think you are hungry when it actually is just thirst! If you're needing to mix it up a bit and drink something other than water, try some ultra-hydrating coconut water which contains natural electrolytes.
get your beauty rest
This is sometimes the hardest to do while traveling. Late nights and early mornings make it tough to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. Jet lag can also really mess up your sleep schedule. With all of these factors, it's so important to focus on good quality uninterrupted sleep. When you get back to your room, draw the blinds, power down, do some deep breathing and sprinkle some lavender essential oil on your pillow. This will set the intention for deep sleep and a well-rested night.
Charlotte Frederick, another road warrior friend, knows how important it is to exercise while traveling. I sat down with her to ask her about her routines because her dedication to making it a priority is inspiring.
TWA: What tools do you find useful for staying healthy on the road?
CK: I check out the fitness facility of the hotel I'm staying in and check out the surrounding area on the MINDBODY app. Not all hotel fitness centers offer classes, so I find the app is an extremely useful tool when I'm on the road because you can enter your location, choose your fitness option, and find the classes closest to you. It's a great starting point when you are in a new place. The best part is that you can easily try a bunch of different studios or stick with the same one if you like it.
TWA: How do you maintain your workout schedule?
CK: It's so much easier when I plan my schedule in advance by looking at my work schedule and then try and find a location/routine that has a fitness program that works with it. If I only have very early morning available then I find a local studio that offers that as an option. If I manage to plan it out to make it work for my needs, I feel better mentally and physically, which helps me ease and control stress, my emotions and allows for more energy. Exercise is a great way to stave off jet lag too!
TWA: What are some tips for eating healthy when traveling for those that find it challenging?
CK: Eating healthy can definitely be challenging on the road but just like everything else, it's a mindset and your brain can always be retrained. Long hours and high stress can lead to poor eating, so try and notice the difference between how you feel during those times and how you feel when you're taking care of yourself. My mind functions better when it is nourished properly. For this to happen, I find places and things that allow me to eat healthy the way I would at home. This can definitely be a challenge but I am finding it is becoming much easier as most places are adapting more local, farm to table, healthy options.
TWA: What are some common pitfalls that people can fall into with regards to eating on the road?
CK: It is very easy to lose track and let the travel, stress, and exhaustion take over; late night dinners and drinking every night will challenge anyone. It is all about balance and taking care of yourself. I needed to learn that it is important to nourish my body and mind through food and lifestyle and if I can set my mind to remember that and make my plan in advance, it helps. If late night dinners are not required and I can get out for a walk or to a yoga class I am much better the next day. It is a constant reminder to myself that I feel better when I remain physically active and maintain my healthy lifestyle.
Charlotte & Krissy pictured above post-yoga class on a business trip
On a recent trip to Austin, I joined Charlotte & Krissy at a yoga studio, Wanderlust Yoga, which was around the corner from where I was staying. I love doing yoga at home and this studio just so happened to have a schedule that worked well with mine. In doing movements that are familiar to me, it helped to keep my mind focused and clear. The best part was that they had a little cafe which served up some healthy fare like smoothies, juices, and bowls.
Check out the warm welcome on my first day!
Blenders & Bowls had the best avocado toast and açaí bowls!
They drizzled honey and red pepper flakes on their avo toast which was perfection
It's so easy to get caught up in the hectic schedules and the temptations of airport and restaurant food. If you follow the tips outlined above, you'll truly thank yourself when you get back home and your time away will feel more zen.
"The greatest wealth is health"
Shoes that do double duty
I, like most women, am obsessed with shoes. My obsession dates back to the second grade when my mom let me purchase my next door neighbor's green satin pumps from her high school prom at their garage sale. Despite being too big for me, I wore them that year, along with her sequined prom dress, for Halloween and marched around the school grounds at the annual Halloween parade to the shock of many parents. I kept those shoes for many years, most nights wearing them down to dinner or trying to be cool and leaning back only on the heels while raiding the kitchen for an after school snack, leaving two round imprints in the kitchen linoleum right in front of the refrigerator (sorry, ma!).
It continued on to high school when my parents took my cousin and me on an Alaskan cruise (thanks to my older bro for being "too cool" for family vacations!) and between the two of us we had 22 pairs of shoes packed. It was then that my parents tried to teach us the value of "multi-use" shoes to which we scoffed in horror. After scaling back on the number of pairs I packed, I think I may have worn those classic Steve Madden black slide sandals with an evening dress on the "fancy night." Yes, I'm cringing too.
When I became an adult, I tried to learn from my ways, but it wasn't so easy. On a trip to Grand Cayman, my bag was so overweight with all of my shoes that the ticket agent dared tell me I had to leave some behind or face steep heavy bag charges. I looked at her stone faced and said "charge me." Not expecting me to call her out on it, she replied that on a flight of this sort, it would be an arm and a leg ($300 to be exact). I tried devising a plan for how I could expense that fee and was coming up short. Admitting defeat, I shoved as many shoes as I could into my oversized purse. The family behind me looked on in amazement. To their delight, we were also staying at the same resort where they proceeded to call me "shoe lady" and examine that day's footwear selection every time we ran into each other.
After many dollars spent at the chiropractor to mend the damage to my back from lugging all this around, I've learned that less is definitely better when it comes to traveling. To spare you this learning process, I've compiled this list of shoes that do double duty:
1. The sneaker in disguise
I'm generally against traveling in sneakers because I feel like the world has decided it's ok to be at an airport looking like you're hungover with yoga pants and messy hair, but sometimes you just need to do it. The last thing you want to do when you're going through TSA is to hold up the line by having to untie your sneakers, loosen the laces, and then try to desperately get them back on once you make it through all while hopping on one foot to avoid having to sit down.
I came across these New Balance Fresh Foam sneakers via an Instagram ad and I'm so glad I did. Notice how the part around your ankle is not like your typical sneaker that can make getting your shoes on in a pinch near impossible. It's more of a soft fabric that has the feeling of putting your socks on and the handy little handle in the back makes it a cinch.
Bonus: because of the neutral colors and leather touches, they're super stylish for regular clothes and a day of walking around and they can double as your running/gym sneakers once you get to your destination!
2. The Ballet flat
Ballet flats are always a good idea on a trip. You can wear them on the plane, to walk around and sightsee, and even with a pair of pants or a dress for a night on the town. I always stick to neutral colors so that they pair easily with nearly everything. Steve Madden is great for inexpensive flats.
I bought a pair of suede booties that have a zipper up the back and a stacked heel before a trip to Milan. I was going for 72 hours, so I didn't want to check a bag and needed shoes that would be comfortable walking around the city and that I could also wear comfortably on the plane. I hit up my local TJ Maxx and found the most comfortable booties imaginable. I wore them on the plane which was a bonus because they easily slipped off, allowing me to be wearing just socks. I also paired them with skinny jeans and an oversized chunky sweater which was fantastic for the fall weather and cobblestoned streets of Milan. I took it one step further and paired them with black pants for an evening out which included drinks at the Armani Hotel.
4. the rain booties
For that same Milan trip where my double duty shoes were more important than ever, I purchased some rain booties from J. Crew. The weather forecast wasn't looking too promising and I wanted to protect my feet so that I wasn't walking around on a cold wet day with damp socks. As it turned out, I ended up wearing them even when rain wasn't an imminent threat. They were super comfortable with a very flexible sole. They kept my feet warm without sweating and best of all, their neutrality also allowed me to be able to wear them out for dinner at night.
On those warm weather trips, espadrilles are a must. Wear them to a meeting, to the beach, doing some day shopping, and to a night on the town. They are a comfortable way to bring some style to your outfit in multiple settings.
Carry on product essentials
We all have our different preferences of things we like to throw in our carry on bags from books to scarves and everything in between. There are, however, a few personal products that I always make sure to include (note: all in travel sizes). I try to stay away from the very strongly scented items because while I may think it smells fabulous, the dude behind me in 12C may be thinking otherwise. I know if someone whipped out some lavender spray I may be running to the lavatory.
1. DISINFECTANT SPRAY/WIPES
No, I'm not one of those OCD people who take out their anti-bacterial hand wipes and wipe down the seat back tray, the arm rests, and the seat belt when I first get on a plane (although I see your point, folks), but it is a good idea to carry something of the sort with you. Not just for planes, but for hotel rooms and rental cars. Things are just not always up to your own personal cleanliness standard.
2. A non-oily lotion
The air in planes can definitely dry you out, but you also don't want a thick goopy lotion that is going to leave you feeling even more oily than you sometimes do after being on a plane for a while. My favorite is this light lotion from Bliss. Confession: I hoarded a bunch of these during a stay at the W Barcelona. Sorry, housekeeping!
3. Kiehl's under eye de-puffer
I don't know if it's just me getting older or if life's stress is manifesting itself as delightful little puffy bags on my face, but I will not go a day without this magical product. I was introduced to it by someone who swore by it and told me not to feel put off by the fact that it's in the men's section. I bought it without shame and I've been hooked ever since. Prior to landing or before heading out for a day of sightseeing I swipe this cooling stick under my eyes and I can almost watch the dark circles and bags disappear. Tip: keep it in the fridge for extra cooling and more of an impact!
4. REFRESHING beauty spray
I am notorious for going to Target for toilet paper and coming home with a whole new wardrobe and a swan shaped pool float. You know, the necessities in life. This Beauty Counter Nourishing Rosewater Mist was something I picked up on one such run thanks to a particularly attractive display at the end of an aisle. Damn you, Target! This, however, is not something I regret buying (for the record, I do not regret the swan shaped pool float either). Spray a little on your face when you need a pick me up or if you're trying to wake yourself up after dozing off on the plane and you'll feel re-energized and combat the aforementioned dryness of airplane air.
5. roll on perfume
Travel is not glamorous. Sometimes it gets a little gross. Long days in the car or lingering airplane funk and hours before you can shower can really put a damper on how you feel. I keep roll on perfume with me at all times for a little boost. I like light and airy scents like Kate Spade's Walk on Air. If you're applying in a confined space like a train or plane, wait until moments before you're exiting. I wait until we are in final descent or wheels downs before applying to spare the dude in 12C the agony.