Category Archives: Haute Destinations

Spring Break Week: Planning the Perfect Trip

About this time every year people begin to go a little stir-crazy.  If you’ve been finding yourself Googling “caribbean cruise” and “weekend spa” on your lunch breaks lately, then this week of vacation window shopping is for you!  Use it to book a much-needed getaway or just to escape for a few minutes at your desk.

To kick things off we have Colleen McIntyre with her tips on planning the perfect trip.  Colleen, who has been flying since before she could walk, blends her passions for exploration and creativity in her funky-fun travel blog, Flee Fly Flown.

Plan the Perfect Vacation
Ahhhh, vacation! You’re sitting on a beach, drink in hand, nose in a book and soaking in the sun. It’s bliss thanks to your (or your travel agent’s) fabulous planning. But let’s hit pause and rewind for a second. Chances are, if you had the task of coordinating everything, the process wasn’t 100% smooth sailing.

tropical vacation picture

When planning a trip, there’s a lot to consider. How do you decide where to go? How do you get there? What do you pack? Do you have all the travel gear needed for your trip? Where do you read travel gear reviews if you need a new sleeping bag? When should you go? How much is it going to cost? Yikes! The list goes on. There’s two ways to approach your vacation planning: Hands Free or D.I.Y.

Hands Free:
Call a travel agent. They’re experts at what they do, so why wouldn’t you call one? Plus, if something goes wrong, you have someone to fix the messed up the reservations or deal with things when the hotel doesn’t recognize the website you used to book.

I’m not saying to leave everything up to the agent. Do your online research if you like and take what you’ve found back to them. Leave the booking up to the agent and let them shoulder the responsibility of making your vacation perfect so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy. Want to go hands free? I recommend Passageways Travel who has experts for every continent.

Colleen McIntyre Flee Fly Flown

DIY:
Since most of you won’t take my advice and call an agent, here’s some tips and tools to help your d.i.y. planning run a little more smoothly.

Travel deals are a dime a dozen so do a search and pick the one that works best for you. Just make sure you read the fine print. Now getting back to planning tips, here’s a few things to think about:

  • Where do you want to go?
  • How many people are going?
  • How are you getting there?
  • What’s the best time of year to go?
  • Based on price or weather?
  • Tropical destination? When’s the rainy or hurricane season?
  • Is everyone coming from the same place?
  • How many hotel rooms will you need?
  • How many nights will you be staying?
  • What does everyone want to do when you’re there?

Next, make a list of all the trip components and fill them in as you book them. Share it with your party and be sure to take it with you when you leave for the trip:
Destination & Dates
Travelers: Include full names as they appear on their state issued I.D. or Passport and cell phone numbers
Flights: Include confirmation numbers, flight numbers, airline info and arrival & departure times
Accommodation(s): Include hotel name(s), contact information, confirmation numbers and if you’re staying with friends, their address & phone number
Activities: Confirmation numbers, time & dates of tours, meeting point for tour pick-up
Restaurant Recommendations: Talked to friends who’ve visited the same place and check out travel user ratings & reviews sites.
Car Rental: Rental company name and confirmation number

And in case that’s not enough, here’s a teeny, tiny list of resources I tend to start with when researching a trip:
Tourism sites of the city or country you’re visiting
Wikitravel.org
PassagewaysTravel.com
Matador.com
WhereIveBeen.com

Relax, It’s a Vacation!
Coordinating a trip isn’t a simple task. I’ve covered the basics, but there’s a lot more to consider. Here are a few final thoughts on planning the perfect vacation:
Leave room to breath –You’ll need a vacation from your vacation if it’s too action packed.
Make planning a team effort
Be patient – Weather delays or mechanical difficulties are inevitable.
Lose the attitude – In a bind, you’ll get a lot further with gate agents, flight attendants and hotel managers if you’re polite.
Go with the flow – Plan some activities and tours in advance, since it can be cheaper. But leave a little room to get advice from the locals upon arrival.

And most importantly, once you leave for the trip, be in the moment. The world will not stop if you’re not at the office. Enjoy your time with family and/or friends and STOP checking your email every hour from your phone. You’ll be a lot more refreshed and ready to work when you get home.

Hawaiian sunset

Happy planning and bon voyage!
-Colleen

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Haute Destination: New Orleans

They don’t call New Orleans the Big Easy for nothing.  On my first trip to one of America’s best culinary destinations, I quickly found that it couldn’t be easier to eat your way through this city. For anyone that’s a fan of bold, spicy foods, interesting cocktails and top-caliber restaurants, New Orleans is a trip to put on your list.  Here’s a quick look:
New Orleans Cafe du Monde beignets

New Orleans French Quarter is where all the magic (and maybe a little voodoo) happens.  The only way  to start your day there is with Cafe du Monde‘s fluffy, sugar coated beignets and a tall cafe au lait.

New Orleans Acme Oyster House and Seafood Gumbo

Seafood is everywhere, but no place does oysters like Acme Oyster House.  Their savory seafood gumbo and hush puppies were equally tasty.

Mother's Restaurant New Orleans and Po'Boy Sandwich

Our friend Val, a New Orleans native, insisted that we hit up Mother’s Restaurant in the business district.  While the ambiance is nothing fancy, one bite of Mother’s overflowing shrimp po’boy with a healthy dose of Louisiana hot sauce and you understand why this place is a legend.  In the corner, Bill sips a mint julep at Oak Alley Plantation.

We also sampled delicious BBQ shrimp and buttery grits at Marigny Brasserie, duck spring rolls and pecan pie at Mr B’s Bistro and of course the classic hurricane at Pat O’Briens.

After coming home (and hitting the gym!) I pulled out my jambalaya recipe to get one last taste of New Orleans.  This jambalaya is an easy and nearly one-pot dish for anyone craving some Creole flavors at home.

New Orleans Style Jambalaya
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2  onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp butter
1 C white rice
2 1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks  (cajun seasoned work great)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled
3 andouille or smoked sausages, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
thyme
1/2 tsp cajun spice, pepper
salt, cayenne pepper to taste

In a stockpot or Dutch oven, saute onions, green pepper, celery and butter until vegetables are softened. In a separate saute pan, begin cooking chicken and sausage. As vegetables soften, add tomatoes, rice, broth and garlic.  Season with spices, adding cayenne to taste. Simmer on medium low while meat cooks.

When meats are almost cooked, add shrimp and cook through. Incorporate meats into the stockpot and stir well.  Taste and add extra seasoning needed. Simmer until rice is cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

jambalaya

PS:  In the Milwaukee area?  We’re hosting a HAP Launch Party at The Home Market and you’re invited!  Check out the link for details and if you’re coming or have questions, feel free to post a comment on our Contact page! Hope to see you there!

katie

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