resorting tips

  • Resorting: a how to guide *part three

    (originally published on February 25, 2013)

    I am so excited to share this last post in the Resorting series with you! Beyond all the normal stuff people bring on vacation, I have a few items I bring to the Caribbean that you may not have considered.


    Flexoline -- As I said before, nothing dries in the tropics, but you at least have a shot if you use this little item. Perfect for hanging up your swimsuits, no clips are needed. Just hang items over the top or weave your straps into the braided rubber strands. 


    SealLine Eco-See Dry Bag (5 liters) -- If you are going on a boat, you need this. I learned the hard way and almost ruined my camera and everything I brought with me on my first catamaran trip in Jamaica. As I was about to climb up the ladder, a rogue wave smacked me in the face almost knocking me over. Now I put everything in there, even my coverup. It all stays nice and dry.


    Dryer sheets for drawers -- It's damp there so sometimes things smell a little musty. Bring some dryer sheets to place in the drawers before you unpack your clothes. Also makes the room smell nice.


    Prescription Snorkel Mask -- If you are blind as a bat without your glasses like I am, this is totally worth the investment. And it's not really all that expensive. I ordered mine through Snorkel-Mart. Bonus tip: if the snorkels usually make you gag or you have fatigue in your jaw when you are done, order a smaller mouthpiece. I got mine at SnorkelingOnline for $6.


    Downy Wrinkle Releaser -- There is nothing worse than having to iron while you are on vacation. As soon as I unpack, I spray down everything with wrinkle releaser and hang it up. No ironing needed -- especially if you combine it with the iron and roll method I shared in the last post. Also bring some extra hangers with you. There are never enough.


    Baggu zipper bags -- I have a ton of these and find them really useful when packing  ... earphones, gum, lip balm, hair clips ... everything is easier to find and not flying loose all over my tote.


    Turkish Fouta towels -- Towels are like currency at resorts and sometimes you just want a little extra. These are lightweight and easily packed in a suitcase. Stylish, too, of course!


    Tide to Go pens -- Funny how food seems to be attracted to my clothes. And sometimes one of those fruity cocktails spills on to my swimsuit during the day. This is the miracle worker. 


    Glittery, Colorful bobby pins -- Hair in the tropics. No matter what you do, it will be unruly. I've given up on actually styling it and have come to rely on these simple yet stylish bobby pins to tame those crazy strands. And bring extra conditioner. You'll need it.


    Floating camera wristband -- Cameras don't float. Fact. Don't lose your precious vacation photos. Strap it on!


    Double stick tape -- Ladies, you know what I am talking about here! Warm weather clothes can be risky. Tape those gaps and loose garments down.

    Next Monday, I'll debut the vacation video I've been working on. It's pretty fun!

  • Resorting: a how to guide *part two

    (originally published on February 18, 2013)

    In my last Resorting post, I shared with you my closely guarded fashion tips and sources. This week, what are some of the things you should do in advance?


    Crowdsource! -- Read the reviews on TripAdvisor, the information on Facebook, the comments on Twitter, and everything posted on the resort message board (Here's the one for our resort in Jamaica). Beyond just answering the question: "should I stay here?," these resources are chock full of good tips, great ideas, cautionary tales, and general fun. I never would have found the Daiquiri Shack across the street from our resort in the Bahamas, or the One Love Bus bar crawl we booked for my birthday this year, or that adults-only infinity pool on the other side of the resort in Puerto Rico, if I had not scoured these resources. 

    Search for photos taken by normal people who were there. -- Not only will it give you a better sense of what is there, it gives you a sense of what people wear and what the general vibe is. Professional photos make everything look awesome and don't give you a real view of what you should expect. Beyond a Google image search, I've checked Pinterest Boards, Flickr, and Picasa. TripAdvisor has some photos but more often than not they are from people who take photos of things that aren't perfect. I ignore them.


    Create a packing list. -- I've been keeping extensive packing lists from year to year and only recently just added the whole thing into a database. It will help you feel totally prepared and not at all anxious that you'll forget something.


    Take photos of your outfits. -- Seriously, I don't know if it's the rum, vacation brain, or early-onset dementia, but I forget everything the minute I step into that tropical climate. After putting all that effort into creating an outfit for each evening, it would be a shame to forget what you decided. Take photos on your iPhone so you can easily reference them. I do the same for my swimsuit/coverup combos.


    Bonus tip for my OCD-inclined kindred brethren -- Pack your accessories for each outfit in a separate bag that you label with washi tape. I then put all of them in a large chevron pouch that goes into my carry-on. If I double up on accessories, I even write a note on the outside "+ gold chevron bangles."

    Iron and Roll -- I iron everything and roll it tightly before putting it into the suitcase. Most of the clothes stay in pretty decent shape that way. You won't spend your precious vacation time ironing or looking frumpy, for that matter.


    Cross pack. -- Half the Mr.'s belongings and half of mine go into each suitcase. If one bag is lost, at least we'll each have clothes to wear. And bring a carryon with enough to get you through a few days -- swimsuits, coverups, dresses, and gold or silver sandals. I learned this one the hard way back in my teens when I had to wear the same clothes for three days straight! It sucks.


    Pick an emergency exit word. -- Resorts are filled with people. Most of them are lovely wonderful people, but not all of them. The Mr. is very friendly and chatty -- especially when he has some rum in him. In order to avoid being saddled with the wrong people for the rest of the stay, we've started using code words which essentially mean, "Abort! Abort!" Be sure to pick something you can work into a conversation but won't get confused with other words that might be used regularly. Like "pomegranate." (That's not our word, by the way. I'm sworn to secrecy.)

    Only two more Mondays until our trip! Next week I'll share a well-researched list of things to bring with you!

  • Resorting: a how to guide *part one

    (originally published on February 11, 2013)

    At the risk of giving away all my trade secrets and revealing just how particular I can be in preparing for travel, I've decided to write a little guide to "resorting" in warm places. Whether you have saved for years for your dream vacation, are headed somewhere for a short extended weekend, or have the good fortune to be able to do this every year, or even multiple times a year, this is for you.


    I've not always been a savvy resorter. I've had the painful experience of arriving at a Club Med completely unprepared for the color-themed attire required each evening. I've been to a resort where I completely missed the fabulous adults-only infinity pool only to find out about it after I returned home. Or the hot tub hiding in the tropical foliage on the far side of the complex. Or felt completely underdressed and underprepared for pretty much everything except floating around in the pool.

    Like most things in life, I learned from experience and by obsessively observing others. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some insider tips, some of my favorite sources for your resort needs, and a little sneak peak sprinkled throughout into what I'll be bringing on my next resort trip in March.

    First up: what do I wear?


    I used to wear shorts and a tshirt over my one and only black swimsuit. With my one and only pair of flip flops. And then we took a trip to Cancun. That Club Med I mentioned, to be exact. Where everything is communicated in at least three different languages and most of the people there are from Europe. And very, very chic.

    The week we visited, there was rain off and on so we spent just as much time in the lounge with our fellow resorters as we did at the pool. And that's where I noticed The Caftan. It was stylish, yet modest. It was so much lovelier than my half damp grey tshirt. And it totally changed my approach to vacation. Resorting is about enjoying yourself while wearing things you might not normally wear at your local pool.



    You will spend your entire day in a swimsuit and coverup. Leave most of your shorts and daytime casual outfits at home. (I'll pack only one or two just in case we travel offsite. Even so, I wore a swimsuit and coverup to Rick's last time, just in case I wanted to take a dip in the ocean.)


    So here's the deal, I do not believe in spending $300 on a beach cover up. That is just dumb. It gets wet. It gets sandy. It gets strawberry daiquiri on it. I've found some great ones in places you'd never expect to look (JC Penney!), but my favorite source is Echo Design. I always hit the sales at the end of the summer and probably own thirty plus now.


    And swimsuits are really, really hard to find if you are anything other than tall and skinny. You also need a lot of them because nothing ever dries in the Caribbean. My favorite swimsuits come from Hapari. They really do fit everyone and provide enough coverage and support that some of us need! I also usually get a sturdier classic tankini set from Lands End for "sports" -- snorkeling and for the slide on the catamaran. Our first year in Jamaica, I brought four swimsuits, but noticed several of the ladies had many more on rotation. I now bring a different suit for each day.


    Do not forget a beach bag! I usually bring two or three to accessorize  my outfits. Above is my favorite from last year.


    Sandals and flip flops: Honestly, there is no better choice than Old Navy. They come in great colors (including sparkly ones) and cost less then $5. I also have these fantastic Jack Rogers jellys that I am bringing with me this year. 



    Generally, you are expected to dress for dinner. Not crazy fancy but, seriously, leave the shorts and printed tshirts behind, guys. I bring pretty basic dresses that I Caribbean-ize with lots of fun accessories and shoes. I also bring a lot of white linen pants that I pair with tunics and colorful shirts. Boden and Fresh Produce have great tunics, dresses, and colorful basics. And J. Jill has THE best white linen pants. I have five pairs.


    It is truly all about the accessories! You don't really want to bring expensive things with you so its the perfect time to hit up Etsy and stores like So Good for items that will be perfect for the bright colors of the Caribbean. 


    The clutch: Ladies, nothing is more important than bringing a few clutches with you. If you carry a camera and iPhone with you, you will need one! I keep my eyes open all year round, especially on sites like Gilt, where I found the super cool bag above. Etsy is also a great place for unique and fairly inexpensive clutches. 

    Still to come in the Resorting series: I'll be spilling it all ... what to do before you leave so you can really enjoy yourself while on vacation. And some of the things I bring with me that you may never have thought of! To cap it all off, a video I've been working on from last year's Jamaica trip. You'll be booking a trip by the time this is all done!


  • Fear of Flying: The Adventure Continues

    (originally published on January 16, 2013)


    Photo: Ho-Yeol Ryu

    About a year ago, I shared with you my extreme fear of flying. Since then, I've been on 15 planes. FIF-TEEN. Big planes and little planes. Uneventful flights and wretched landings. 50 mile an hour wind gusts on take off and one daredevil of a pilot who seemed to think our plane was a fighter jet. And each one took me closer to real progress towards fear management. I even fell asleep on three flights. Like snoring asleep.

    I read that, statistically, at least 50% of you also have the same fear I do. I've been there. Sweating, shaking, and in tears. So let me share some real, practical tips that have helped me this year.


    (Boarding one of the 15 planes ...)

    It's all about science. Knowledge is power. And it is the number one tool for fighting that panic that creeps in as you line up to board. I learned how the plane flies. I learned what each noise is, how the plane flaps work, why the engine has to be at full throttle when you taxi down the runway. I learned that every plane is built to withstand hurricane-force winds, not just weather planes.

    I learned it functions best when it is in the air, where it is in it's element. Instead of dreading that wheels up moment, I've started to feel relief when we leave the ground (HUGE change). I've even looked out the window the entire time and watched it happen. Learning the science around flight has helped me to train my brain to expect each step of the way. And as a result, my fight or flight instinct isn't triggered. 

    A little something about landings -- landing is simply a controlled glide. In steps. You descend and then you level, descend, level, descend, level. This knowledge has gotten me through most landings. (I say "most." One was super bad and only praying to the Universe and clawing my husband got me through that one. And swearing. Loudly.)

    Action: Learn everything you can about how the plane works. Download and use the Flying Without Fear and SOAR apps. The JetBlue blog also has good information. 

    Your biology is working against you.  Sight-deprived, hearing becomes your primary sense. And it becomes acutely tuned into every unidentifiable noise. Your brain is wired to quickly assess whether every noise is a threat or not. So while learning what you can about the normal noises on a plane can help you manage most of this, blocking out noise is equally as important.

    You know that feeling of falling you get right after take off? Well apparently, if you were in the cockpit and could see out the front, you would not feel that. Understanding that made a huge difference to me. Every time we'd get to that point in the flight, I'd remind myself that there was a biological explanation. And it wasn't mechanical failure.

    Action: First, learn the noises. Your brain will quickly go through it's inventory of known causes and will not set off your fight or flight response. Wear over-the-ear headphones that allow just enough noise in so that you hear basically nothing but white noise. I have some earphones from Urban Outfitters (in an ocean color of course ... at least I can be cute while I'm freaking out.) And plug into the music on takeoff if you can. Helps to disguise the scary noises.

    Don't ignore underlying psychological aspects. I'm working on some control issues and being in a plane is the ultimate vulnerability exercise there is. Making peace with the fact that I can do nothing but manage my emotions and thoughts has been tough but it has been the key. Talking through your issues with a professional is the best thing you can do. 

    Other tips:

    • Manage your stress before you get on the plane. I'm very spongy and pick up other people's emotions quickly. Remember that half the people waiting with you are freaked out. Stay away from those who are tapping their leg or talking loudly or otherwise acting anxious. And wear your headphones. The Flying Without Fear app has an exercise to help you with the pre-boarding issues.
    • Pay attention during the safety instructions. Seriously. One particularly annoying gentleman sitting next to me on our tiny plane to Palm Springs was joking about who actually listens to it. I looked him in the eye and said, I do and you should too, because I will climb over you if I need to.
    • Close your eyes. I have not quite managed turns. Something about that movement just freaks me out every time. I've learned to close my eyes and pretend we're level. In Boston, because of noise ordinances, planes take off and then immediately bank a sharp left. I've gotten used to it and I try to expect something similar when flying out of unfamiliar airports. 
    • Be selective with your inflight entertainment. I've learned that my brain cannot handle scary or adventurous movies during a flight. It doesn't seem to know the difference between that and real danger. I usually watch the kids movie or something funny. Will & GraceFrasier, or Conan works wonders. I also listen to music. The Downton Abbey soundtrack is perfect --just enough going on there to keep my brain fully occupied and not veering off into oh-my-God-can-the-plane-flip? type panics.
    • Have your safety net ready at all times. I have come to completely rely on my Flying Without Fear app and have it loaded on my iPhone and iPad. I use the 30 minute relaxation exercise a lot. The bird noises help block out plane noise -- and that hammock you are directed to imagine is a real one in the garden section of our favorite resort in Jamaica. It also helps to gauge time passage. And the fear attack button on the app comes in handy for those turns I haven't yet mastered. "This is all perfectly normal ..."
    • Eat. Sorry, emotional eating is allowed on the plane. And those JetBlue snack boxes are tasty.
    • Play this fun game. Guess whether the pilot was in the Air Force or Navy based on how they land the plane. Air Force pilots tend to take longer to put the wheels on the ground and come to a stop. Naval ones are much quicker with shorter stops. I prefer a naval pilot. Put that baby down and pull the brakes hard. Because, honestly, I would like to get off of this plane. Now.
  • Pteromerhanophobia

    (originally published on January 20, 2012)

    Some of you may be surprised to hear that I have been plagued with a horrific fear of flying for some time now. I wasn't always afraid and actually enjoyed air travel for most of my life. Then I developed this awful panic that would hit me in waves while I was waiting to board, as the plane was taking off, during any sort of turn or movement, after any little bounce of turbulence, and during all landings, which is pretty much the whole flight, right? 

    I've tried lots of things to help me. Praying to the universe. Yoga breathing. Closing my eyes. Lifting my feet straight out during takeoff (that actually helps! Thank you, W!). Counting seats to exits. Memorizing the emergency brochure. Telling the flight attendant that the man sitting by the escape hatch wasn't paying attention during her demonstration and asking if he could please be replaced. I've never tried pharmaceuticals and never drink during a flight. I've reasoned that I want to have my wits about me in case I need to count those seats to the exit if we need to get out quickly if something goes wrong. (On the positive side, I've never been so fearful that I haven't gotten on the plane. My interest in going wherever we were going has always been much stronger than the fear.)

    If you've never experienced it, I can only describe it as akin to the response one might have if a lion jumped in front of you and lunged at you with its jaws open and as you turn to run there is a giant T Rex dinosaur behind you. Pure adrenaline shoots through you and every little hair stands on end. You are hyper-aware of everything. It is AWFUL.

    As you may have seen in my previous post, I recently flew to Puerto Rico. And on the way down, I did not have ONE panic moment. Not even when we took off from Logan with intense wind gusts that blew us back and forth the whole way down the runway and bounced us all over the place as we took off. Not ONE. And here is why:


    1. I downloaded 2 apps on my iPhone and iPad -- SOAR and the Flying without Fear app produced by Virgin Atlantic. The first one helped me to understand the mechanics of what was happening -- did you know that the plane takes off at an 18 degree angle and then dips to a 14 degree angle? So helpful to know that is normal! The second app helped me relax. The Mr. thinks the man's voice on it is super creepy. I found it comforting. There is even a "fear attack" button that you can push if panic sets in.
    2. I was tired and actually FELL ASLEEP. I haven't slept on a plane since our honeymoon when I fell asleep before the plane even pushed back.
    3. It was dark and I couldn't see where the ground was. 
    4. I've been in therapy since July. Oh, didn't I tell you? I debated for a long time whether to put this out there or not as it seems there is a stigma attached to therapy. I know this because when I tell people I either get the puppy dog eyes, hand on my arm "you poor thing" look or "I am really UNCOMFORTABLE talking about this!" look. Turns out having that one hour of my week when someone has to listen to me talk about whatever I want to talk about also helps flying phobia issues. So if you have anything in your life you want to work on, I highly suggest getting yourself a good shrink.

    With that said, I'm not sure I'm totally cured. I had short-lived panic moments on the flight home. It was bumpy! But I was able to watch two movies all the way through. Usually I get so jumpy that I can't focus on anything. I think I'm definitely on the right track. Next flight is in March so we'll see if it was a fluke or if I am really on my way to feeling "totally and completely calm," as my Virgin Atlantic friend would say.