Holiday Travel Survival Tips

The holiday travel season is upon us, and as always, the nation’s roads and airports are expected to be busier than usual. According to the Orbitz.com® 2016 Holiday Travel Survey, 72 percent of Americans are planning to travel at least once between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Whether you’re driving or flying, here is some sage advice from expert travelers on how to stay happy and healthy on the road this holiday season.

Be strategic when you fly or drive

Earlier is better when it comes to booking holiday flights and hotels, while there is still availability and reasonable prices. Use websites such as Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, WhichBudget.com, LastMinute.com, FareCompare.com, Priceline.com and Yapta.com to search and compare the best airfares and times.

Book as early as possible in the morning, so if a flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight. If you’re traveling out of country, make sure you understand the country’s passport requirements and have paperwork in order ahead of time.

Avoid the busiest business commuter times: Monday mornings, Friday evenings and Sundays. Instead, fly on the least crowded days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Also avoid flying or driving on peak holiday travel days. During the peak season, the day before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are usually the busiest days to travel.

One way to avoid peak travel times is to fly on the day of a holiday. Most people want to get where they are going and arrive before the festivities begin, which is why Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are both better times to fly. Another bonus: By arriving on the day of, you may avoid some of the stress and rush leading up to the holiday event.

If you have to travel on a high-traffic day, drive or fly early in the morning for fewer delays—afternoon flights tend to incur more delays and cancellations. Or, consider the red eye and fly overnight, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Another tip: avoid connecting flights if possible. The lower fare you may receive isn’t worth the extra work and stress. If you can afford, book a flight with zero connections. If not, book them with plenty of time between flights as  weather, air traffic, crew connections and other factors affect airline schedules.

Pack light and ship gifts ahead.

If possible, pack with a carry-on roller bag only — it will save you the hefty baggage fee and get you on the plane and out of the airport faster. If you’re going to have to check luggage, pay your baggage fee ahead of time online, it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also weigh your baggage ahead of time and make sure it is under 50 pounds to avoid having to pay an additional fee.

Pack a carry-on bag with your favorite snacks, so if you get hungry, you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s snack schedule. Bring wet naps and hand sanitizer, as airplanes and airports are full of germs. If you wear contacts, bring a spare pair, along with your glasses. Also pack some books and magazines and a portable music player—they help make the time pass quicker.

Once your flight is booked, head to the post office and mail gifts to your destination ahead of time. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, but you’ll save on extra baggage fees and negotiating that giant dinosaur through security check. Want an easier option? Shop online for gifts and have them delivered to your destination. Gift-wrapping is available through many websites.

Print your boarding pass ahead of time.

The night before or day of the flight, print out your boarding pass online ahead of time. Make sure you’re seat assignment is indicated on the airline’s check-in page.

Get to the airport early.

Get to the airport as early as possible—at least two hours ahead of your boarding time (not flight time), if not more. If you don’t plan on printing out your boarding pass ahead of time, take advantage of the boarding pass kiosks at most check in gates. They will save you time online standing on line, and most gate employees are happy to help you get your pass. Have a credit card on hand with a name that matches your name on the reservation.

Know what to expect at the gate.

To get through the gate as efficiently as possible, have your driver’s license and boarding pass in hand, remove metal jewelry, loose change, shoes, belt, jacket, cell phone and PDA and place them in the plastic bins, and open and remove your laptop. Remember to remain patient and polite—you don’t want to upset a TSA agent. Also, bottled water is not allowed through security, so wait to get to the gate to buy water, coffee and other snacks.

If you’re driving …

Nothing can add stress to a road trip like an unexpected mechanical problem. If you do plan on driving long-distance this holiday, make sure your vehicle is in safe working order. Have the car battery, fluid levels, lights, windshield wipers, brakes and belts and hoses checked by a certified mechanic. Regardless of age, have the tires balanced and alignment checked. Also have the oil changed and fluids topped off, including coolant, antifreeze, radiator, transmission and wiper fluid, and replace the air filter.

Also pack smart for winter driving. A roadside emergency kit should include a spare set of keys, hidden in a magnetic spare key hider somewhere on the vehicle. It should also include a blanket, flashlight with fresh batteries, and tire gauge to check tire pressure throughout the trip. Keep extra food and water in case of an emergency in the trunk, and check your spare tire and jack.

If you aren’t already a member, sign up for AAA or other roadside assistance policy. Consider buying a GPS system (if your car isn’t equipped with one). They not only make finding your destination a lot easier, a good GPS can help you find restaurants and points of interest along the way.

You can’t control the weather.

Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, Mother Nature reminds us how all-powerful she is. If you and your loved ones are stuck, try and make the most of it. Most major airports have several (pricey) restaurants and snack bars, so relax, have a good meal and enjoy the “captive” family time. But don’t stray too far from the gate: Flight times and even gate changes can happen in an instant, so keep your eyes and ears open.

Eat well and stay rested

One of the keys to reducing stress and staying healthy on the road is to take good care of yourself. The holidays are a minefield of sugary junk foods and alcohol, so try and balance it out with lots of fruits, vegetables and water.

Be prepared and pack healthy snacks to bring on your drive or flight. Bananas, apples and healthy snack bars are good travel options. Also drink plenty of water and get enough sleep—two key factors in keeping your immune system strong and staying healthy. Turn off your phone and computer close to bed time, and start “powering down” from your long days.

2016 New York City Holiday Events Calendar

New York City is the number one destination to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Orbitz.com’s 2016 travel survey. For those of us living in the New York Tri-State area, we are lucky to be just a short car ride away from one of the most festive and exciting cities in the world. To help you plan your upcoming activities, here’s our 2016 New York City holiday events calendar.

90th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Considered the official kickoff to the holiday season, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is watched by more than 3.5 million people on the streets of Manhattan and by more than 50 million people nationwide on TV.

This year’s parade will feature appearances and performances from Tony Bennett, Sarah McLachlan, De La Soul and the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street.

Guests from Broadway will include Christopher Jackson from Hamilton, the casts of Holiday Inn, the Broadway revival of Cats, NBC’s forthcoming Hairspray Live! and, the Radio City Rockettes, who begin performances of The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall on November 11.

A new balloon, named Bouncing Dog, will make her debut this year. Look for this 40-foot tall dog as she makes her way down the parade route.

Also, a new Macy’s Parade Emoji Keyboard is available now for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The 2016 parade starts at 9:00 am sharp at West 77th Street and Central Park West, then proceeding to Central Park South to 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), and ends at 12:00 noon at 34th Street in front of Macy’s Herald Square.

Recommended areas for watching the parade include the first leg along Central Park West, Time Warner Center, and along Sixth Avenue between Central Park South and 38th Street. Note the section from 38th Street to Herald Square and Macy’s department store is the telecast area and closed to the public.

When: Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Where: 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street/Herald Square, Manhattan

Info: www.macys.com/parade

Holiday windows in NYC

One of the most cherished Manhattan holiday traditions is also a free one—enjoying the window displays of some of New York City’s finest and most iconic department stores, such as Macy’s, Barneys and others.

Here are some stores and addresses to put on your holiday look list:

  • Barneys New York, 660 Madison Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets
  • Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Streets
  • Bloomingdale’s, 59th Street and Lexington Avenue
  • Cartier, 653 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street
  • Henri Bendel, 712 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street
  • Lord & Taylor, 424 Fifth Avenue at 39th Street
  • Macys, 34th Street and Sixth Avenue
  • Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets
  • Tiffany & Co., 727 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets
  • Van Cleef & Arpels, 744 5th Ave, between 7th and 8th Avenue

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

Another iconic Manhattan holiday moment is the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting! The 2016 tree will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 30 with live music performances from 7:00 – 9:00pm. The Tree will remain lit and can be viewed until 9pm on January 7, 2017.

The giant tree is traditionally a Norway spruce, and is lit with 30,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights on five miles of wire. And to top it off: a Swarovski crystal star.

When: Tree lighting is Nov. 30. The tree stays lit and can be viewed until 9:00 pm on Jan. 7, 2015.

Where: Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th & West 51st Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan.

Info: www.rockefellercenter.com

The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

Since 1933, people of all ages have been enjoying the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show. This New York City holiday tradition  features 140 performers, spectacular sets and costumes, the world famous Rockettes, a living Nativity, and an appearance by Santa Claus!

From a unique take on “The Nutcracker” to the original “Here Comes Santa Claus,” the show features ice skaters, dancing teddy bears, dozens of Santa Clauses, and thanks to state-of-the-art technology, a 3D ride with Santa through the skies of New York City.

The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, presented by Chase, will run from November 11, 2016 – January 2, 2017. Tickets for the 2016 Christmas Spectacular are on sale now at www.rockettes.com/christmas and the Radio City box office.

When: November 11 through January 2

Where: 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York City

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show

One of the lesser known, but equally festive and family-friendly New York City holiday events is the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show. Enter the Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory—a stunning Victorian-style glasshouse and a landmark itself—and watch the Garden-gauge trains loop a quarter-mile of track past 150 New York landmarks, including the original Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Trans World Airline Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport, and several bridges that remind that Manhattan is, indeed, an island.

This year’s exhibition features 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, making room for dozens of new trains, bridges, and tracks; a captivating short film of the show’s behind-the-scenes magic; and a stunning multisensory finale of light and sound.

When: November 19 – January 16

Where: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458

Info: www.nybg.org

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™

Another timeless New York City holiday classic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is the holiday ballet of all ballets. From the moment the lights go down, you will be transported to a magical place inhabited by marching toy soldiers, a growing one-ton Christmas tree, adorable children, mischievous mice, crystalline waltzing snowflakes, the Land of Sweets and some of the most glorious dancing on earth. As in years past, 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and about 100 students from the School of American Ballet team up to make The Nutcracker a magical performance for all ages.

When: November 25 – December 31

Where: West 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, New York City

Info: nycballet.com

Commuter Train Safety Tips for Passengers

The New Jersey Transit train crash last month at Hoboken station was a chilling reminder of what can happen on our daily commutes. If you were on a train involved in an accident, would you know what to do and how to get to safety? Here’s a review of commuter train safety tips for passengers, especially in an emergency situation, courtesy of the MTA Metro-North Railroad.  Many of them are common sense, but they bear repeating.

General safety reminders

Step back from platform edges, and concentrate when stepping on or off the train. Be sure to step over the gap between the train and platform. Use the stair handrails, especially after rain or snow, when steps and platforms can become wet and slippery. When standing on a moving train, hold on to bars or handholds. Also, always use the overpass/underpass/designated walkway to get from your station parking lot to the platform, and vice versa.

Another thing to keep in mind: if you see something, say something! Reporting anything out of the ordinary to a police officer or train crew member could save many lives.

In case of emergency

Evacuations don’t happen often on trains, and are usually related to a passenger’s medical condition. Should an emergency situation occur, the most important thing is to remain calm, think clearly, and follow the instructions of the train crew.

Know the signage

  1. Familiarize yourself with safety signage. Whenever riding on a train, take time to read emergency signs and locate emergency doors and windows in the train car, so you will know how to locate and operate emergency exits.
  2. Don’t leave the train on your own. In many cases, leaving the train car is most dangerous thing you can do in an emergency. Tracks may still be electrified; other trains may still be in motion around you.
    If you can’t stay in the car you are on, walk calmly to another car that is unaffected by the emergency. Listen for instructions or help from the train crew.
  3. Report the emergency to a train crew member. If there is an emergency, or you see something out of the ordinary, report it immediately to a train crew member.
    The sooner the crew knows about an emergency, the sooner they can act to bring the situation under control. On newer cars, two-way intercom systems are located near the doors.
  4. Follow safety instructions from the crew. If an emergency occurs, it is important that you follow the instructions of the train crew, as well as the instructions of rescue, fire, or police on the scene.
    Stay calm and remain seated and wait for the train crew to inform you about the emergency either in person or through the train’s public address system. In most instances, all you need to do to be safe is to move to another car on the same train. If an evacuation is necessary, crew members will help you exit quickly and safely.

If evacuation is necessary

In most train evacuation situations, emergencies can be managed without taking customers off of a train. If a full train evacuation is necessary, crew members will provide specific instructions.

If possible, a “rescue train” will pull alongside the disabled train, and an evacuation board is placed at the exit doors to serve as a walkway between the two trains. On very rare occasions, you may be evacuated to track level with evacuation ladders that are stored on every car. If you are in a wheelchair, you might be evacuated by stretcher, with your wheelchair removed separately and returned to you as soon as possible.

If you are directed to evacuate to the track level, it is very important to follow the train crew’s directions carefully, watch your step and stay away from the third rail or any downed wires that may be on the ground.

Leaving through emergency exits

All Metro-North train cars have emergency door opening panels and emergency exit windows. Again, before an emergency takes place, look for the emergency information posted on each car and become familiar with the location and operation of emergency exits on the various train cars you ride in.

In an emergency, use the exit doors to exit the train car. They can be opened by following the instructions on the Emergency Exit panel located in the vestibule area of the car. The panel is clearly labeled with an instructional sticker on how to open it.

Once the panel is open, slide the red lever to open the doors. On some cars, the narrow windows in the vestibule doors can be kicked out. If you cannot exit through the doors, you may have to use the emergency exit windows. Each emergency exit window is clearly marked by an instructional sticker on or above the window, and the sticker will glow in the dark.

Emergency Brake Systems

In extreme cases, you may consider pulling the emergency brake. Use the emergency brake only when the forward motion of the train presents an imminent danger to passengers. Don’t activate it unless necessary, especially in a tunnel. Once the emergency brake is pulled, the brakes have to be reset before the train can move again, which reduces the options for dealing with the emergency.

Source: MTA On-board Train Emergency and Evacuation Instructions.

Fall 2016 New England Events

Ah, fall is in the air—the temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing, and pumpkin spice items are aplenty.  Whether you want to get out of the house, the office, or the city, here are some fun and festive events going on all over New England, courtesy of visitnewengland.com.

Twilight on the Connecticut River Cruises – Essex, CT
When: Now through October 14
Where: Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, One Railroad Avenue Essex, CT
Fridays through October 14, enjoy sunset cruises on the Connecticut River from the riverboat, Becky Thatcher, plus the spectacular natural phenomenon of hundreds of thousands of tree swallows swarming in choreographed flock over Goose Island.
Telephone: 860-767-0103

Taste of Haymarket – Boston, MA
When: October 14
Where: Tour departs from the corner of Congress and Hanover Streets Boston, MA
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes walking tour of this historic market as it opens for the day. Learn about its history and how it has changed over time.
Registration required, please call 617-994-5920 or buy online.
8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Admission: $35
Telephone: 617-994-5920

Frightful Friday Ghost Stories and Tour at Gore Mansion
 2016 – Waltham, MA
When: October 14-28
Where: Gore Place, 52 Gore Street Waltham, MA
Get in the Halloween spirit with an evening of spooky tales and haunted activities at the 1806 Gore mansion. See the mansion at night. Tour lasts one hour.
Dates: October 14, 21 & 28, 7:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.
Admission: $15; children ages 5-12, $10

Nashua ArtWalk Weekend 2016 – Nashua, NH
When: October 15-16
Where: Various locations Nashua, NH
Take a leisurely stroll along the ArtWalk Route featuring participating artists, restaurants and performers. Browse the art, catch live music, enjoy craft demonstrations, tour the Abbot-Spalding House Museum, and more.
11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Telephone: 603-883-8093

Newport Historical Society Tour of the Month: Photographing Stones and Souls in the Common Burying Ground – Newport, RI
When: October 15
Where: Tours meet at The Brick Market, 127 Thames Street Newport, RI
Calling all photographers: The material, craftsmanship and aging of the stones resting in Newport’s Common Burying Ground provides a wealth of images waiting to be photographed. For photographers of all skill levels; proper footwear recommended. Walking tours last approximately 75 minutes and depart weather permitting. Reservations recommended for all tours.
Time: 11:00 a.m. Admission: $15 per person
Telephone: 401-841-8770

Vortex – Rhode Island Horror Film Festival – Providence, Newport, and others
When: October 17-22
Where: Various locations Providence, Newport, and others
Love scary movies? This festival will showcase a wide array of Sci-Fi and Fantasy cinema, the annual H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour, a Date-Night of Horror with costume competition; two making films forums, and more. Most films intended for mature audiences; children under 14 not admitted without an adult unless otherwise noted. Parental discretion is advised.
See website for schedule and times.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” – Boston, MA
When: October 18-23
Where: Shubert Theatre, Citi Performing Arts Center, 270 Tremont Street Boston, MA
Charting the rise and fall of the social climbing Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) and his bizarre quest to off all who stand between him and the coveted D’Ysquith Earldom, this Edwardian caper is based on the classic Ealing studios hit Kind Hearts and Coronets, which starred Alec Guinness in the multi-character role.
Time: Curtain times vary; see event website for times and admissions.

Harvest on the Harbor 2016 – Portland, ME
When: October 20-23
Where: Ocean Gateway Pier, Portland Company Complex, Merrill Auditorium Portland
The three-day event will feature seminars, tastings, and exquisite dinners crafted by renowned chefs from Maine and afar. Learn from food experts, sip fine wines, beer and spirits. Maine chefs compete for the title of Maine’s Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant, and much more. Consult event website for times.
Telephone: 207-772-4994

Fall Orchid Sale – Waltham, MA
When: October 21-23
Where: Lyman Estate Greenhouses, 185 Lyman Street Waltham, MA
Celebrate orchid-blooming season with hundreds of orchid plants for sale, including many hard-to-find varieties. Visit the greenhouses and enjoy gorgeous floral colors, shapes, and scents: Staff available to offer expert advice. 9:30 a.m.  – 4:00 p.m.
Telephone: 617-994-5913

Fall Harvest Celebration 2016 at Patriot Place – Foxborough, MA
When: October 22
Where: Patriot Place,2 Patriot Place Foxborough, MA
Enjoy fall activities for all ages, including bog harvesting with Ocean Spray, pumpkin and spray painting, hayrides, live music, appearances by Pat Patriot and the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, sidewalk sales, and more. 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Pumpkin Train with Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. – Portland, ME
When: October 22-30
Where: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum, 58 Fore Street, Portland
Ride aboard the Pumpkin Train for family fun! All visitors treated to complimentary hot cider and cookies as they travel along Portland’s waterfront. Children can explore the museum and paint a miniature pumpkin to bring home as a souvenir of the day.
Dates: October 22-23 and October 29-30. Trains run on the hour from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Museum is open 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission: Adults, $10; seniors, $9; children at 3 to 12, $6.
Telephone: 207-828-0814

The Essex Fall Craft Show 2016 – Essex, VT
When: October 28-30
Where: Champlain Valley Exposition, 105 Pearl Street Essex, VT
See and purchase fine woodworking, baskets, candles, pottery, photography, paintings, birdhouses, stained glass, calligraphy, gourmet specialties, and more.
Time: Friday, noon – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday, 9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.; Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission: $8; free parking.

Washington Green Cemetery Tour 2016 – Washington, CT
When: October 28
Where: Gunn Museum, 5 Wykeham Road Washington, CT
Tour groups follow a magical path of 1,000 luminarias spanning a quarter-mile through the shadowy cemetery and hear the lively and dramatic stories of Washington’s past residents. The cemetery is dark and everyone is encouraged to bring a flashlight. Event is free, donations are appreciated. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Rain date is October 30.

Mysterium, the Eternal Masquerade – Providence, RI
When: October 28
Where: Providence Public Library, 225 Washington Street Providence, RI
Through the puppetry of TEN31 Productions, the story is presented with a mesmerizing combination of living art installations, theatrical and dance performances. Event will culminate with desserts and dancing. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m.; performance is 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and dancing followed until midnight.
Admission: $100, includes food all night, open bar and performance.

The Haunting at Witch Hill – Topsfield, MA
When: October 30
Where: Peirce Farm at Witch Hill, 116 Boston Street Topsfield, MA
Travel back to Victorian times at the gentleman farm of railroad tycoon T.W. Peirce, where you’ll hear eerie ghost stories in the manor house, enjoy game and music in the barn, and savor a complimentary signature cocktail. Cash bar. Victorian attire encouraged. Event is a fundraiser for Essex Heritage. 6:30 p.m. Admission: $50 per person before October 1 and $65 thereafter.

Historic Craft Classes at Old Sturbridge Village – Sturbridge, MA
When: November 5-6
Where: Country Bank Museum Education Center at Old Sturbridge Village, 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road Sturbridge, MA
At these adult workshops, learn a historical craft, from blacksmithing to textiles, coopering, and more. All class registrations close three days before the event. See website for times and admission or call 508-347-0290.

What Flyers Can Do to Improve Air Travel

American Airline’s new controversial TV commercial saluting “the world’s greatest fliers” has created some backlash, seemingly putting the onus of customer satisfaction on the passengers, not the airline.

While the message may have been questionable, it is true that individuals can do things to make the overall flying experience easier and more enjoyable for themselves and others. Here are some tips from expert travelers.

Be smart about booking.

Take advantage of travel websites such as Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, WhichBudget.com, LastMinute.com, FareCompare.com, Priceline.com and Yapta.com to search and compare the best airfares and times.

Book as early as possible in the morning. Afternoon flights tend to incur more delays and cancellations, so if a flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight. Or, consider the red-eye and fly overnight, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Avoid flying during busiest business commuter times: Monday mornings, Friday evenings and Sundays. Instead, fly on the least crowded days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Also avoid flying on peak holiday travel days. During the peak season, the day before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are usually the busiest days to travel.

One way to avoid peak travel times is to fly on the day of a holiday. Most people want to get where they are going and arrive before the festivities begin, which is why Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are both better times to fly. Another bonus: By arriving on the day of, you may avoid some of the stress and rush leading up to the holiday event.

Another tip: Avoid connecting flights if possible. The lower fare you receive may not be worth the extra time and stress. If you can afford it, book a flight with zero connections. If not, book them with plenty of time between flights as weather, air traffic, crew connections and other factors affect airline schedules.

Pack light and ship gifts ahead.

If possible, pack with a carry-on roller bag only — it will save you the hefty baggage fee and get you on the plane and out of the airport faster. If you’re going to have to check luggage, pay your baggage fee ahead of time online, it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also weigh your baggage ahead of time and make sure it is under 50 pounds to avoid having to pay an additional fee.

Pack a carry-on bag with your favorite snacks, so if you get hungry, you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s snack schedule. Remember, you can’t bring water through the security check, so buy a bottle once you get to your flight’s gate. Bring wet naps and hand sanitizer, as airplanes and airports are full of germs. If you wear contacts, bring a spare pair, along with your glasses. Also pack some books and magazines and a portable music player — they help make the time pass quicker.

When packing, roll, don’t fold. This travel-tested packing technique has been used by flight attendants for decades. Rolling—not folding—the clothes in your luggage allows you to pack more in less space, and helps avoid wrinkles, too.

Don’t pack them in the carry-on bag as soon as you roll them. Once all the clothes are rolled, stand the carry-on up and pack heavier items such as shoes and books first at the wheel-end of the case so they don’t move around and crush the other items. One flight attendant claims she can pack clothes for 10 days by rolling instead of folding them. Another advocates the use of vacuum space saver bags.

If you need to bring gifts or materials for work, head to the post office and mail them to your destination ahead of time. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, but you’ll save on extra baggage fees and negotiating clumsy packages through security. An easier option is to shop online for gifts and have them delivered to your destination. Gift wrapping is available through many websites.

Before heading to the airport

Print your boarding pass ahead of time. The night before or day of the flight, print out your online boarding pass. Make sure your seat assignment is indicated on the airline’s check-in page.

Know what to expect at security. Prepare for the security check beforehand. While getting dressed, limit your jewelry, wear slip-on shoes and socks, and if possible, avoid wearing a belt or jacket. Liquids, gels and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Some exceptions are prescription and over-the-counter medicines, baby formula, breast milk, juice and other essential liquids. All liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag.

When you get to security, have your boarding pass and ID ready. At the X-ray machine, remove your shoes, belt, coat, jewelry, phone, PDA and loose change and place them in a plastic bin to be scanned. Laptops must be removed from their bag and also placed on the conveyor belt to be scanned.  Finally, keep your boarding pass and ID handy until you’re through security. Once you’re at the gate, you will only need your boarding pass to board the plane.

Get to the airport as early as possible — at least two hours ahead of your boarding time (not flight time), if not more. If you don’t plan on printing out your boarding pass ahead of time, take advantage of the boarding pass kiosks at most check-in gates. They will save you time online, and most gate employees are happy to help you get your pass. Have a credit card on hand with a name that matches the name on the reservation.

If you travel a lot, you may want to look into the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck trusted traveler security screening option. PreCheck members are eligible for expedited security screenings at participating airports. More than 336,000 passengers have gone through the PreCheck lane already. PreCheck is currently available at New York’s Kennedy, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Los Angeles airports for members of American Airline’s AAdvantage program, and at Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City airports for Delta SkyMiles members. The TSA announced that US Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines will begin PreCheck operations later this year. PreCheck is also available to members of the Customs and Border Protection agency’s Global Entry program.

When traveling abroad with your smartphone, let your service provider know so you are activated for international use. To avoid high pay-per-use rates, use the data portion/Internet access only when you need to check e-mail. Use free Wi-Fi whenever possible, but never to access bank accounts or personal financial information. Don’t connect to networks titled “free public Wi-Fi.” They are often unsecured networks created by hackers. Also, be aware of the roaming rates, especially in European countries.

Finally, be on time, and be nice. This might seem obvious, but it’s true — when you’re well prepared for your trip and on time, your trip will go a lot easier and be much less stressful. Be kind to the ticketing agents, flight attendants and other airline personnel. It’s their job to make your trip as pleasurable as possible. With few exceptions, they’re working as quickly as possible, so cut them some slack if things get hectic. Remember they have to deal with people and deadlines all day long. Please and thank you goes a long way in the airport and on the plane.

Preparing Your Speech on the Road

When you travel for work, do you make presentations to colleagues or clients? Do you interview or train people? Whatever the reason, communicating well is critically important to career success. Here are tips on how to prepare and hone your communication skills, even when you’re on the road.

Take advantage of travel time. The upside of air travel is downtime. This is a great opportunity to think about your speech and what you want to communicate. Use time waiting for your plane and/or flying to think it through and write down notes.

Who is your audience and what’s the best way to communicate with them? Is it a casual Q&A format or a more scripted talk? Write an outline of the key points you should get across, and start rehearsing them in your head. Since most people have a smartphone on them, consider recording your thoughts into the phone, then writing them down more clearly later when you’re alone at the hotel.

Keep it simple. The K.I.S.S. principle, “Keep it simple, stupid,” is a simple but wise adage. When you cram too much information into a talk, your speech will suffer and leave your audience confused, if not resentful that you’re wasting their time. Instead, keep it succinct and focus on two or three main points you want the audience to understand and retain. For example: Here is the challenge, this is what we propose and here’s why it will work.

Rehearsing pays off.  One area where many presenters fail is not rehearsing their speech enough. Know how much time you have, write out your presentation and practice it until you know it by heart. If you’re traveling with a colleague, ask him or her to stand in as your audience. Otherwise, stand in front of a mirror in the hotel room and go through the speech as if you’re presenting.

Some people think that too much rehearsal removes the spontaneity from their speech. The opposite is true when you know what you want to say without cue cards, you’ll be more confident, your talk will flow better and your personality will shine through. Don’t forget to leave time at the end for a question and answer session.

Whether you’re practicing alone or with people, stay aware of your body language. Make and keep good eye contact throughout your speech. If you’re nervous, look for a few key people with positive energy who support you. Smile when appropriate and use hand gestures to put an exclamation point on important points. Stand up straight and don’t be afraid to walk around and engage the audience. Your confidence will breed respect from them. Think of it more as a warm conversation than a speech.

Speak clearly and loudly. Another common trap of presenters is speaking too fast and/or not loudly enough. Don’t be monotone and bore your audience to death—let your voice reflect the words and emotion you are conveying.

When rehearsing, record yourself on your phone and listen back. Are you easy to understand or are you speaking too quickly? It may feel uncomfortable to hear your voice at first, but this is priceless feedback that will help you hone your speech and public speaking ability.

Open strong with “The Rule of Three.” Great orators know the importance of opening a speech strong and drawing the audience in quickly. For example, instead of using the standard, “Today, I’m going to talk to you about childhood obesity,” use the “Rule of Three” instead. “Children. (Long pause.) Obesity. (Long pause.) Epidemic. (Long pause.) This approach creates dramatic impact and will demand the listener’s attention from the start. Then continue strong.

Water and a paperclip. If you find yourself nervous, keep a small object in your pocket such as a paperclip that you can hold and focus on. It will give your nervous energy somewhere to go. Whether it’s a favorite crystal or small toy your child gave you it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it helps you calm down and stay focused. Also, keep a bottle of water close by in case you get a “frog in your throat.” A strategic sip will also allow you a moment to collect your thoughts.

New Efforts to Improve Airport Safety

Airport security and travel safety is a concern for many frequent flyers. Here are some of the latest security-related news items from the TSA and FAA.

TSA announces new tech to speed up security lines

In late July, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it plans to implement new technology that should speed up airport security screening lines by up to 30 percent.

The automated screening system was developed in partnership with American Airlines, which is contributing $5 million to the project, and will be introduced by the end of 2016 at four of the country’s largest airports: Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles International and Miami International.

The automated system consists of screening belts that deploy bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins used in regular screening lanes, saving travelers time, reports Travel Weekly. Bags that require extra scrutiny are diverted automatically so that bins behind can continue through the system. Another benefit: Radio frequency tags are attached to each bin, increasing the accountability of items as they go through the belt.

Two such belts are already in use in partnership with Delta— who reportedly invested $1 million in the project—at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and the TSA says they have enhanced security, in addition to reducing traveler wait times by about 30 percent.

Another TSA initiative called computed tomography (CT) would enable passengers to leave liquids, gels, aerosols and laptops in their carry-on bags. This technology is currently being used by the TSA at some airports to screen checked bags, including Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Source: Postbulletin.com

FAA bill to improve security and airport experience

In the wake of attacks here and around the world, the Senate recently approved a bipartisan aviation bill by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase airport security, as well as improve the overall customer experience for travelers at airports.

One of the most important aspects of the bill calls for increasing security personnel and K-9s outside of security perimeters to help ensure that unsecure areas of the airport where people are vulnerable are better protected. The bill would also improve the vetting process of all airport workers and employees with access to secure areas, and requires security assessments of all overseas airports serving the U.S.

Frequent flyers will also be happy to read that the bill requires airlines to refund paid baggage fees within 24 hours when items are lost or unreasonably delayed.

Additional efforts will be made to improve air travel for people with disabilities and ensure that children 13 years of age and younger are seated next to an adult or older child traveling with them.

The bill will also make it easier for trusted travelers to join the TSA paid PreCheck program offered to trusted travelers who are allowed to go through faster security screening lanes at airports. The TSA also plans to market PreCheck better so more people can find out about it.

The bill funds FAA programs for another 14 months and is now waiting for President Obama’s signature.

Source

Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2016

Connecticut is known as “The Land of Steady Habits,” and one of those habits is going out to eat! But with all of the great restaurants in the “Constitution State,” which ones are considered the best? To find out, we turn again to Connecticutmag.com’s Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2016: Readers’ Choice Awards.

To arrive at this year’s winners, Connecticutmag.com reached out to their readers; the people out there frequenting their favorites and trying new places. Without further ado, here are 2016’s best restaurants and runner-ups in Connecticut.

Best Overall Restaurant

Winner: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven
Runner-Up: Sal e Pepe, Newtown

Best New Restaurant

Winner:  Roots Down, Woodstock
Runner-Up: Frank’s Gourmet Grille, Mystic

Best American Restaurant

Winner: The Spinning Wheel, Redding
Runner-Up: Match, South Norwalk

Best French Restaurant

Winner: Union League Café, New Haven
Runner-Up: Ondine, Danbury

Best Italian Restaurant

Winner: Sal e Pepe, Newtown
Runner-Up: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven

Best Asian Restaurant

Winner: Toro, Newtown
Runners-Up: Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield; Kawa Ni, Westport

Best Mexican Restaurant

Winner: Puerto Vallarta, Middletown
Runner-Up: Cuckoo’s Nest, Old Saybrook

Best Latin American Restaurant

Winner: Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk
Runner-Up: Mezon Tapas Bar, Danbury

Best Indian Restaurant

Winner: Thali, New Haven
Runner-Up: Coromandel, Darien

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Winner: The Pita Spot, Mystic
Runner-Up: Mamoun’s, New Haven

Best Seafood Restaurant

Winner: Westbrook Lobster, Clinton
Runner-Up: Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Westbrook

Best Sushi Restaurant

Winner: Kotobuki, Stamford
Runner-Up: Toro, Newtown

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Winner: Bloodroot, Bridgeport
Runner-Up: Claire’s Corner Copia, New Haven

Best Pub Grub Restaurant

Winner: Little Pub, Ridgefield
Runner-Up: Chip’s Pub, Clinton

Best Road Food Restaurant

Winner: Super Duper Weenie, Fairfield
Runner-Up: Denmo’s, Southbury

Best Food Truck Restaurant

Winner: The Brunch Box, Stamford
Runner-Up: The Caseus Cheese Truck, New Haven

Best Bistro Restaurant

Winner: Bistro Mediterranean & Tapas Bar, Westbrook
Runner-Up: Bar Bouchée, Madison

Best Steak Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: Washington Prime, Norwalk

Best Prime Rib Restaurant

Winner: The White Horse Pub, Washington
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Gourmet Burgers Restaurant

Winner: Plan B Burger Bar, Glastonbury
Runner-Up: The White Horse Pub, Washington

Best Barbecue Restaurant

Winner: Chester’s Barbecue, Groton
Runner-Up: The Bayou Smokehouse, Groton

Best Romantic Restaurant

Winner: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Family Dining Restaurant

Winner: Roberto’s Ristorante, Monroe
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Breakfast Restaurant

Winner: Chip’s Family Restaurant, Orange
Runner-Up: Cristy’s Madison, Madison

Best Brunch Restaurant

Winner: The White Horse Pub, Washington
Runner-Up:  Roots Down, Woodstock

Best Lunch Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up:  Sal e Pepe, Newtown

Best Deli

Winner: Rein’s Deli, Vernon
Runner-Up: Butcher’s Best Country Market, Newtown

Best Appetizers Restaurant

Winner: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Desserts Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up:  Sal e Pepe, Newtown

Best Outdoor Dining Restaurant

Winner: The White Horse Pub, Washington
Runner-Up: S & P Oyster Club, Mystic

Best Service Restaurant

Winner: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven
Runner-Up: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield

Best Cocktails Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield

Best Wine Selection Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield

Best Hotel Dining Restaurant

Winner: Harbour House, Mystic
Runner-Up: Artisan, Southport

Best Value Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: The White Horse Pub, Washington

Best Hidden Gem Restaurant

Winner:  Roots Down, Woodstock
Runner-Up: The Sitting Duck Tavern, Stratford

Traveling Safer in the Age of Terrorism

As anyone who watches and reads the news is well aware of, we live in uncertain and dangerous times. Since 9/11, terrorist attacks at home have changed Americans’ sense of safety, and to some degree, how we go about our day-to-day lives—especially when traveling.

While a terrorist attack can happen anywhere, anytime, both abroad and here at home, there are things you can do minimize some risk, control some fear, and be better prepared if something does happen.

Here are some travel safety tips courtesy of the Travel Responsibly, Informed and Protected website, USTIA.org, and blogger, WendyPerrin.com.

First, keep things in perspective

In Wendy Perrin’s online article, “7 Keys to Traveling Without Fear Despite Terrorist Attacks,” she reminds us to “grasp how minuscule the statistical probability is” of getting caught in a terrorist attack abroad.

She goes on to state that the risk of being killed in a car crash (one in 19,000), drowning in your bathtub (one in 800,000), or being struck by lightning (one in 5.5 million) far exceeds your risk of dying from a terrorist act (one in 20 million).

So the key is to keep things in perspective and understand that, psychologically, people are more afraid of terrorist attacks than risks we’ve lived with for a long time, such as heart disease, which kills about 610,000 people annually, according to the CDC.

Whether you’re traveling to a major U.S. city or overseas, understand the difference between the probability of an incident occurring in a country and the probability of an incident occurring to you while you are visiting that city or country.

While the following precautions may seem “above and beyond” standard safety procedures, we live in a world where being aware and prepared could save your life.

Before you take off …

If possible, schedule non-stop flights and pack carry-on only. The less time you spend in an airport, the better.

Wherever you go, have a plan in mind in case of gunfire, bomb or other possible terrorist act. Know where exit doors and stairs are at all times, and know people you can call if you need help.

At the airport, after checking in for your flight, go immediately to the secured areas of the airport, through security and to the gate area.

Scan your surroundings and watch for suspicious activity. Look for unaccompanied suitcases, packages and other suspicious items, and report them to the nearest airport authorities, police or military service members immediately.  If you see something, say something. If you feel something is off and don’t feel safe, leave immediately.

Don’t reveal too much about yourself. Many people are in a good mood before a trip, and it’s easy to let your guard down with a stranger.  Don’t tell anyone too many details about yourself or travel plans. Also be aware of who is around you and possibly listening when talking to those you know and trust.

Once you land …

When you arrive at your destination, get your baggage and leave the airport as quickly as possible.

Select your own taxi; don’t let someone hail it for you. Never get into a vehicle that is not clearly marked as a taxi. When you get in, take a moment to study the driver’s face and compare it with the photo on the license displayed in the car.

At the hotel …

Again, notice stairways and exits.

Carry a cell phone programmed with emergency numbers, including the police, your hotel, and medical emergencies.

Also carry a mini flashlight in case you’re caught in the dark.

If someone knocks at your hotel room door, don’t open it if you don’t know who it is. If a package is delivered that you were not expecting, refuse it.

Rental car and driving …

When picking up a rental car, make sure it is in good working order. When driving and traffic slows, lock your doors and close the windows of the car.

If not renting a car, avoid public transportation and use a taxi and driver instead.

If traveling overseas …

Enroll in the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), so the embassy can send you security updates and help you in an emergency.

Stay at a hotel that has CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera, so you can monitor the news. Also make sure the hotel has reliable Internet access, so you can check local English-language news websites.

Carry your hotel’s business card—the one written in the local language—so you can show it to non-English speaking locals (such as a taxi driver) and get back to your hotel in an emergency.

Don’t photograph government buildings, military installations, airports, train stations, policemen, guards, or anyone who doesn’t want his/her photo taken.

Stay away from border areas and avoid bad neighborhoods and public gatherings and demonstrations.

If an attack does occur

Lie flat on the floor and behind any solid object that might protect you from gunfire. Stay put until the danger passes. If you have to move, move on your stomach. When it’s safe to get up, leave the area right away.

Best Summer Travel Apps

By 2019, worldwide digital travel sales will top $762 billion, according to eMarketer. With so much travel planning done electronically, here’s a list of the best free travel apps for this summer and beyond.

Bravolol Phrasebook

Traveling somewhere and don’t know the language? Sci-Fi is now reality with the Bravolol Phrasebook. This app contains over 800 commonly-used phrases in 13 languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic and Vietnamese.

The parrot works together with you to practice your speaking and listening skills. You can also ask the parrot to speak on your behalf by playing the authentic pronunciation of the phrase. Storing and searching phrases and other features make it easier to travel and communicate with international friends, or in any situation.

Free for iOS and Android

BringFido

Travel with your pet? The BringFido app lets users know whether a hotel allows pets, particularly dogs, to stay. Search filters also help users see which hotels charge an additional pet fee. It’s also great resource for finding pet-friendly parks, trails, beaches, and even restaurants.

Free for iOS

Clarice

This handy travel app provides travelers with curated tips on the best shopping places, eateries, sightseeing tours and more. Even the shopping suggestions are categorized based on what kind of trip you are on, such as family, romance, business or pleasure.

Clarice also gives you mapped routes, self-guided tours and even themed ones. Note: the app is only available in Europe and 12 cities in the U.S.

Free for iOS and Android

GasBuddy

If you’re heading out on the highway this summer, GasBuddy is a must-have on your smartphone. With a community of more than 56 million users, GasBuddy users share locations of the cheapest price available at gas stations in your area. Find the cheapest gas by keying in the postal/zip code or city. You can also try to win $100 in gas every day.

Free for iOS and Android

Hopper

Named the best travel app of 2015 by Apple, Hopper spots trends in airfare prices and predicts the best time for you to buy at the lowest fares. Once you plug in your departure and destination info., Hopper pulls up a color-coded, multi-month calendar that presents the best time to fly at the cheapest cost. It also tells you when to expect prices to rise or fall, and sends alerts when the price drops.

Free for iOS and Android

LiveTrekker

Love to explore a city by foot or bike? Create a diary with LiveTrekker. Create audio and text notes and post photos and videos to log your route. See places you want to revisit? Just snap a pic, and the GPS-enabled app will help you return to it later. Share your route or download other users’ treks and learn travel tips from their explorations.

Free for iOS and Android

Sources: Techtimes.com: “Best Summer Travel Apps”
Fortune.com: “5 Great Travel Apps to Help Plan Your Summer Vacation”