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8 Commuter Bikes To Get You Back To The Office in (Eco) Style

As the world enters a new reality and many of us are returning to our offices, it’s a good moment to reinvent your commute. Whether you are on a hybrid schedule or at a desk every day, a bicycle can bring an element of joy (along with its health and environmental pluses) to getting back out into the world again.

Here we have gathered some of our favorite commuter bikes in a variety of styles and functions—folding bikes, cruisers, hybrids, gravel bikes and even some e-bikes, for those riders who would like a little help on any hills. While many of the bicycles gathered here are top-of-the-line models that will give you years of smooth rides, we have also included a few budget-friendly alternatives.

 

Best all-around e-bike: Cannondale Adventure Neo ($2700)

 

The history of e-bikes, or electric bicycles, is almost as long as the history of bicycles themselves. In the 1870s and 1880s, inventors were devising ways of connecting batteries to bicycles. Issues around batteries—above all their weight—meant that many designs remained on paper, but advances in technology especially pedal assist designs, have led to a boom for e-bikes. One source estimates that there will be 40 million e-bikes on roads around the world by 2023.

For commuters e-bikes offer some assistance when necessary. On flat stretches you can rely on pedal power while on hills or anywhere else you want a little extra help, just add a little juice. The Cannondale Adventure Neo seamlessly incorporates its battery into its lightweight step-through aluminum frame. The Bosch battery has a life of up to 65 miles and can provide 20 mph of assist. It’s ideal for both errands in the city and weekend rides.

 

 

Best budget e-bike: Propella’s Single-Speed Drivetrain ($1099)

 

E-bikes as a rule are serious investments and even the least expensive will be more expensive than conventional bicycles. Propella’s Single-Speed Drivetrain isn’t as sleek as the Cannondale Adventure Neo, and its battery’s range is more limited (between 20 and 38 miles) but it is relatively light at 35 pounds and is also easier on the wallet. It can be an ideal starter or occasional e-bike, and if you find yourself converted to the e-bike life you can splurge on a fancier model down the road.

 

 

Best gravel bike: Surly Midnight Special ($2225)

 

From the name, you might think a gravel bike is designed to be ridden on gravel paths. Thanks to their hybrid designs that combine elements of road bikes and mountain bikes, they are actually suited to all terrains. If your commute includes shortcuts through unpaved areas or along potholed roads, the wider tires and lower gearing offer stability.

Surly Bikes’ Midnight Special has an elegant old-school design while not sacrificing anything when it comes to functionality or quality. The high-volume tires allow for tire pressure to be adjusted according to the surface—let some air out for those off-road adventures and top them off when you’ll be traveling on well-paved roads. This solid and dependable bike also has flat-mount disc brakes and front and rear through axles.

 

 

Best cruiser-style bike: Marin Bikes Larkspur 2 ($1199)

 

Cruiser-style bikes let their riders sit tall in their seats, all the better to scan the road for vehicles while also being more visible to drivers. Cruiser bikes are generally built for comfort and not speed with wide handlebars and comfortable seats. If your commute is over well-paved roads, a cruiser is a good option.

Marin Bikes first made its name making mountain bikes, but their Larkspur 2 is designed with urban adventurers, and commuters, in mind. The step-through steel frame makes mounting and dismounting easy, even if you decide to add a basket or baby seat. Disc brakes and wide tires are some mountain-bike details that give the Larkspur 2 the ability to handle various terrains.

 

 

Best hybrid bike: Cannondale Quick / CX4 ($700)

 

 

Hybrid bikes, as the name implies, combine features from both mountain and road bikes. Most have flat handlebars, as is typical of mountain bikes, allowing for an upright ride that most commuters prefer. On the other hand, they have the lighter frames and thinner tires associated with road bikes. The result is an ideal commuter vehicle—it has the ability to handle a variety of terrains and a lightness that means pedaling to the office doesn’t feel like a serious workout.

The Cannondale Quick is a good option on paved roads, while the Quick CX 4 is more of an all-terrain option with suspension forks to absorb any bumps. The aluminum frame is light—the bike weighs 28 pounds—and the 24 gears assure a ride calibrated to every incline and terrain.

 

 

Best single speed bike: Ribble Urban 725s ($688)

 

Single-speed bikes are an ideal option especially if you live in a city with good-enough roads and without any hills. If you don’t have to face inclines and you will typically be riding along at a leisurely pace, skip the extra weight of derailleurs and gears. By foregoing all those extra parts, single speeds are also easier to maintain—there are fewer parts to get clogged with dirt and grease. Another advantage of these pared down bicycles is they are generally cheaper, so you can get a first-class model for the same price you might pay for an average road bike.

The Ribble Urban 725s is a marriage of simplicity and quality. There aren’t many components—a large part of the appeal of single-speed bikes—but those it does have are all top of the line. The solid steel frame is well-suited to the stresses of urban commuting. The bicycle can also be easily switched to a fixed gear one, if you want a taste of fixie life.

 

 

Best folding bike: Tern Bicycles BYB S11 ($2499)

 

Much like e-bikes, folding bikes have a much longer history than many people realize. In the late 19thcentury a number of inventors filed for patents for foldable bikes (though in reality many of them were less foldable than easily disassembled). In the 1960s there was another spike of interest with bicycle manufacturers in Europe and North America producing many foldable bikes and then later, in the early 1980s, models from Brompton and Dahon became popular.

The folding bike has some obvious advantages for the urban commuter—it doesn’t take up space in small apartments and rather than leave it on the street outside your office, it’s easy to break them down and bring them inside. Among the best folding bikes is Tern Bicycles’ BYB S11. It’s 30 percent smaller than other folding bikes, has 11 gears (Shimano), and Kinetix Pro X wheels.

 

 

Best budget folding bike: Zizzo Folding Bike Urbano ($430)

 

If Tern’s BYB S11 is more than you want to spend on a folding bike, there are some lower-cost options. Among our favorites is Zizzo’s Folding Bike Urbano. It has eight gears (Shimano) and weighs in at a light 24 pounds thanks to its LX aluminum frame. Depsite its modest price, it’s a bike capable of handling most terrains and folds up to a size small enough that it’s easy to throw into your trunk for a weekend away, as well as sliding into a corner of your office during the workweek.

 

 

 

What is a “Michelin Green Star” and Which Restaurants in the US Have One?

Since GLR launched in 2010, we have pledged to dedicate a certain amount of our coverage to the eco-friendly lifestyle niche—from hotels, to restaurants, to products you can buy on Amazon.  In particular, we love to cover businesses in the hospitality arena whose products and services are enhanced—not compromised—by their environmental stewardship. In fine dining, for example, the attenion to sustainability by sourcing produce, meats and other ingredients from local farmers and fine food purveyers, actually leads to fresher, tastier and more wholesome dishes. When these restaurants and chefs are already among the best in the world, the results are both delicious and good for the planet.

It is no wonder then that the world’s best known independent restaurant guide, The Micheline Guide, has launched a new “Green Star” award to highlight restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices. According to The Michelin Guide a Michelin Green Star is awarded (annually) to restaurants that “offer dining experiences that combine culinary excellence with outstanding eco-friendly commitments and are a source of inspiration both for keen foodies and the hospitality industry as a whole.”

 

What Kind of Things Do Michelin Green Star Restaurants Do?

According to Michelin, all Green Star recipients are different in unique ways but they all make a quantifiable difference and act as role models.

This includes, working directly with growers, farmers, fishermen and foragers; including those that use “regenerative methods such as no-dig vegetable gardens and successional cover crop growing.”

Many of these suppliers go beyond environmental considerations to also address “issues related to ethics and wellbeing, as well as contributing to local, national or global charitable and educational projects.”

 

Does the Michelin Guide Have Any Specific Criteria?

In terms of specific criteria, Michelin does not give a lot of information on what the inspectors are looking for, noting, “there is no specific formula for awarding a Michelin Green Star, as every restaurant and its surrounding region has a unique set of conditions.”

While the guide does give some insight into common “green” practices that these restaurants follow to produce delicious food with a small carbon footprint there is also the issue of the restaurant itself and its carbon footprint. The guide is somewhat vague on these practices.

Having covered this area quite a bit over the past 12 years, however, we can make an educated guess as to what sort of sustainability practices these restaurants incorporate.

Examples might include:  Menus printed on recycled paper; tables made from reclaimed wood; reusing and recycling flatware; composting vegetable waste; incorporating solar power; reusing LED, halogen or fluorescent bulbs (or using low energy light bulbs); reducing water usage with low flow spray valves; rain water reclamation systems.

 

Who Are the Leaders in Green Fine Dining?

To date The Michelin Guide has awared 359 restaurants around the world with Green Stars. So which countries are leading the green, fine dining movement? Not surprisingly, France has the most green stars with 87, followed by Germany with 67, Italy with 30, UK and Spain with 27 each and Japan with 23. Perhaps a bit surprising, the US—despite having 1366 restaurants with at least 1 Michelin star—has only 11 Green Stars, leaving us with plenty of room for improvement in the green, fine dining space.

 

Here Are The 11 US Recipients of a Michelin Green Star

Blue Hill at Stone Barns—Tarrytown, NY

Photo: Yelp

 

The Inn at Little Washington—Washington, DC

Photo: Inn at Little Washington

 

Osteria Mozza—Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Osteria Mozza

 

Chi Spacca—Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Quince—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Quince

 

Bar Crenn—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Atelier Crenn—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Atelier Crenn

 

The French Laundry—Yountville, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

SingleThread—Healdsburg, CA

Photo: SingleThread

 

Chez Pannise—Berkley, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Harbour House—Elk (Mendicino), CA

Photo: Yelp

6 New England Beach Resorts to Stay at This Summer

While booking a summer rental has its merits, there is something about beach resorts—convenience, amenities and hospitality to name a few perks—that can make it much easier than hassling with the research and paperwork normally associated with summer rentals. Here are 6 resorts in New England that are sure to satiate your summer travel cravings, without any hassles. 

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Venice Beach—With Kids?

Fifi+Hop’s Corey Cook takes us to energetic Venice Beach which, despite it’s edginess, can be a great place to take kids. You just need to know where to go.

Some may look at the title of this post – Venice Beach with Kids – with speculation, but Venice was actually my girls’ self-proclaimed favorite part of our L.A. family vacation. They loved it. This post is all about things to do in Venice with kids, and why it should be on every family’s L.A. must-see list.

Venice Beach with Kids

 

Venice, CA, bohemian in spirit, has always been the funkier side of town, filled with eclectic shops and people, restaurants, street entertainers, and, in general, an off-beat vibe all its own. It’s never really had a reputation as a family-oriented kind of hood. Yet it’s this colorfulness of Venice which is exactly why I wanted to take my kids – all the action and eye-candy, I knew, would entertain them for hours.

 

We decided to allot 1 day in Venice, out of our 5 days. How did we go about planning our 1 day in Venice itinerary? I knew just who I wanted to show us around – my blogging friend Hilary from the blog HilaryStyle. She is the eyes and ears of L.A. and would be the perfect person to show my kids everything that makes Venice, Venice.

 

Venice Beach with Kids, HilaryStyle and mePin this image on Pinterest

 

Hilary and Me!

Hilary was on board for our visit, and then some. We covered it all, and by the end of the day my girls were reeling from all the fun they had. Here’s all the fun things to do in Venice Beach with kids. (Tip: we went first thing in the morning around 9:30, which was a perfect time to start our day, as there were hardly any crowds and it was very manageable with the kids).

WALK ALONG THE VENICE BOARDWALK (AKA OCEAN FRONT WALK)
Venice Beach with kids, walk along the Venice Boardwalk

 

The famous Venice Boardwalk spans about 1 ½ miles, with beautiful, white sand and the Pacific Ocean on one side, and funky storefronts and eateries on the other. Whatever bric-a-brac shops you can think of, the Ocean Front Walk has: souvenirs, sunglasses, surf and skate shops, t-shirts, tattoos, etc. My girls got their L.A. souvenirs here, in the form of sweatshirts, and have been wearing them ever since. Both say Venice Beach in different patterns, and they think they are the coolest girls in town when they wear them!

We walked for a while along the path, and Hilary pointed out all the other interesting things to see that make Venice the happening place it is. We saw people biking, rollerblading, playing paddle tennis, which are some of the activities you can do while you’re there (though we did not). And then there is of course Muscle Beach, an iconic part of the boardwalk where all the body builders work out. This is where Gold’s Gym got its start, begun by 70’s and 80’s superstar body builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Later in our walk the girls got henna tattoos, which was a big hit – there are tattoo shops, fortune tellers and other off-beat things like that scattered all over the boardwalk. As well as restaurants – we ate at Wee Chippy at the recommendation of Hilary as having the best fries anywhere, and I have to say, she was right! In general, the Venice Boardwalk has an energy that appeals to any age, and is just plain FUN.

 

WATCH THE SKATEBOARDERS AT VENICE SKATE PARK
Venice Beach with kids, Venice Skate Park

Venice Skate Park is truly an amazing skate park, and definitely worth a visit. If you’re like us then you will love watching all the skate boarders do their tricks. The boarders span all ages, and you can see older men as much as younger kids skate about. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and it can take up as much or little time as you want it to.

CHECK OUT ALL THE STREET ART AND WALL MURALS
Looking at the Venice Beach street art with kidsPin this image on Pinterest

 

Venice Beach wall mural

Venice is known for its abundance of street art, and seeing as Hilary is the street art expert, she showed us mural after mural, art piece after art piece, all throughout Venice. I’ll get to some of these places below, but we saw street art in many of the side streets off of the boardwalk, on our way over to the canals, and along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There are wall murals everywhere, some I would have probably walked right by had it not been for them being pointed out – so make sure to keep your eyes open and on the look-out. They are colorful and whimsical and great fun for the kids to pose in front of for vaca pics.

 

Venice Art Walls with kidsPin this image on Pinterest

One of the highlights of our day in Venice was making some street art/ graffiti of our own! Hilary brought cans of paint with her, which the kids sprayed out on the beach. There is a designated area called the Venice Art Walls where the public can spray paint themselves, and the kids went to town – a great, unique activity that they will always remember!

 

WATCH THE STREET PERFORMERS
Watching the street performers and dancers on Venice Beach

We’re from New York, and whenever there are street performers doing their thing (always) in the subway, on the streets, Union Square, Times Square, wherever, we like to check them out. The girls love watching their shows. Venice is no stranger to street performers so we of course had to see them too. They are a big part of the chemistry that makes up Venice, with a contagious energy that you can’t help but feel a part of. Until they want you to join the show! We watched one group do their break dance, gymnastic stunts, etc. until they started to head our way to get the kids to participate. We immediately high-tailed it, but up until then it was a lot of fun for the kids, with a huge crowd getting into it.

 

WALK ALONG THE VENICE CANALS
Walking along the Venice Canals in Venice Beach, CA

It is no coincidence that the “Venice of America” has the same name as its Italian counterpart. Venice was founded by millionaire developer Abbot Kinney and modeled after his favorite European city, Venice. In the early 1900’s the canals that we see today used to be wetlands, and the perfect spot to build canals. Today (especially after a major renovation project completed in the 90’s), they are one of L.A.’s most unique neighborhoods and so much fun to walk around. I really enjoy walking along the canals and over the bridges, and so did my kids.

 

Giant Unicorn float in the Venice Beach canals in Venice Beach, CAPin this image on Pinterest

 

With the renovation came many newly built, modern homes, and looking at the houses is just as much a part of the appeal. So many of the city’s beautiful homes are located in the Venice Canals. We particularly liked looking at all the different boats home owners had, from canoes to kayaks to unicorn rafts!

STROLL ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD

Checking out the wall murals in Abbot Kinney in VenicePin this image on Pinterest

 

Having fun at Avatar Nation in Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach           

 

Perhaps the chicest part of L.A., Abbot Kinney Blvd. is filled with Boho fashion stores, home design shops, fabulous restaurants and an overall trendy vibe. You can’t go to Venice without hitting Abbot Kinney. What’s in it for the kids? Good question – it’s mostly for adults. But for the adults who are visiting with their kids and don’t want to miss out, there are some gems to take the kids. We went to Salt n Straw ice cream, which has amazing, unique flavors and which the kids loved. We found plenty of street art to take pics of them with, and we found fun stores to take them in too – one of them being Avatar Nation. The kids played ping pong in the back, it’s full of bright colors, and they loved it. It was a welcome respite for us adults too to take a break and let the kids play.

Nearly Nantucket

The secret that used to be Nantucket has long been out. Each summer, the island receives an increasing influx of tourists in the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day who come to experience this unique place. Outside that time period, though, Nantucket is a much different world. In fact, a long weekend in mid-May may be the perfect time to experience the real Nantucket.

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Take Your Exercise Regimen Out Into the World

While working out in the comfort of your home or at the local gym or fitness studio is great, there’s nothing quite like taking your workouts outdoors. Getting that all-important dose of vitamin D, breathing in plenty of fresh air and meeting other people are all benefits that taking your workout outdoors can provide. To ensure that you get the full benefit from your workouts, it’s important to venture outdoors a little more often for exercise.

 

Whether you take your yoga class onto your deck, do your bodyweight routine at the local park, or simply go for a hike, there is no shortage of ways to stay fit and healthy outdoors. You can try a brand new activity or simply progress even further with whatever exercise you are doing now. Taking your workout outside will not only help you enjoy all of the benefits of the outdoors but can also add a new, exciting dimension to your current workout.

 

Let’s take a closer look at four simple ways that you can take your exercise routine out into the world.

 

Get On Your Bicycle

 

Moutain biking has become increasingly popular amongst all generations. Electric bikes have also become very popular in recent years, offering a great solution for older cyclists and those living in hilly areas.

 

Cycling in general has proven itself to be a fantastic activity that will help people of all ages to burn calories, stay in shape and make friends in the process. There are countless cycling groups and clubs that you can join to meet other fitness enthusiasts who are braving the elements.  Riding a bike is also a low-impact activity making it a great solution for anyone recovering from injury or returning to exercise after an extended break.

 

Lace-Up Your Running Shoes

 

There’s nothing quite like lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement with enthusiasm. Turn up the volume on your favourite playlist or simply get together with your mates and get some mileage in. Running doesn’t require any equipment other than some good footwear to get started. If you’re not ready for running just yet, try alternating running and walking until you get a little fitter.

 

Head For The Hills

 

Whether you live near the mountains by the coast or in the bush, there are countless options for walking all over the country. From scenic coastal walks to epic multi-day hikes, whatever your style, you can be sure that it will be catered to. Hiking is a wonderful way to take your workout outdoors and spend some quality time with your friends and family. Hiking can also be an effective active-recovery activity if you have been training particularly hard.

 

Outdoor Fitness Classes

 

From yoga to boxercise, bootcamps and Zumba, there is a never-ending list of outdoor fitness classes that you can sign up for. Many providers will have a first class free offer so you can try the class first and see if you like it. Get some friends together and sweat together at an outdoor fitness class that will be challenging and enjoyable.

 

Enjoy The Benefits Of Taking Your Exercise Routine Outdoors

 

If you have been working out exclusively indoors until now, it’s time to shake things up a bit. Getting out into the great outdoors, trying new things and spending time with your loved ones will encourage you to stick with your new outdoor exercise regime. Not only will you stay in shape but getting fit outside will ensure that you get a healthy dose of vitamin D, have less stress, breathe in cleaner air and have more energy. Take your next workout outdoors and enjoy all of the benefits of spending time outside for yourself!

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

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Raw Bar Hopping – 8 Great Oyster Bars in NYC

In the book The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky writes “before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters.”  Though that sentiment along with New York’s oyster population has diminished over the past two centuries with the city’s drastic growth, oysters are currently making a strong comeback in Mahattan via the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Continue reading

English Escapes

Heading to London this summer? You may want to consider booking a few days at a countryside B & B or at one of the United Kingdom’s many luxury hotels located outside of London.

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Where To Stay, Play, and Eat Gourmet In Charleston: America’s Top City

Move over, New York. Step aside, Chicago. Not you, Los Angeles. In the opinion of Travel + Leisure magazine, the top city in America for 6 years running does not have a major sports team, a thriving economy, or even a handful of famous people that call it home. But somehow, Charleston, SC, the city of approximately 135,000 people on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina has earned the top spot in the U.S. for the 6th year in a row and 8th year in row respectively by popular travel magazines Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It was also named the #1 city in the WORLD back in 2016 by Travel+Leisure. So what makes this famous Civil War port town so great? I recently took a trip to Charleston to see what all the hype was about.

History

Founded in 1670 as Charles Town, in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston is known for its rich history (the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumptner), well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people. It is also a popular tourist destination, receiving a large number of accolades over the past decade. In addition to “Best City in the US” it was also named “America’s Most Friendly City” by both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler and “Most Polite and Hospitable City in America” by Southern Living.

The southern charm, mysterious history, and world-class dining generally top the list of those who boast about this city. But like any trendy locale that receives critical acclaim from travel magazines and lifestyle aficionados, you need to spend a few days there—minimum—before deciding for yourself. And there really is no better time to do it than mid to late fall, when those balmy southern temperatures are beckoning to northerners bidding adieu to their Indian summer. With that said, here are a few recommendations from my own jaunt of where to stay and dine, visit and unwind in Charleston.

Hotels

Belmond Charleston Place exudes southern charm. From the bronze fountain out front to the lobby with its Georgian open-arm staircase, Italian marble floors and glistening chandelier, the hotel is glitzy yet elegant with authentic southern class. If location matters, and it usually should when visiting a city for the first time, then Belmond won’t disappoint. It is in the middle of everything you want to see, including shops, restaurants, bars and cultural sites. Belmond is also home to Charleston Grill—considered one of the best restaurants in Charleston—as well as The Thoroughbred Club, a uniquely small and classy sports bar that is both unexpected and much appreciated (bless its heart).

Belmond Charleston Place
 

Vendue, which T+L ranks the #1 hotel in Charleston and #9 in the country, was renovated and “reborn” in 2014 to create Charleston’s first and only hotel dedicated to the arts. In addition to a rotating art exhibition, daily art tours with a specially appointed Art Docent, and a working art studio, the hotel is equipped with over 300 pieces of original art for guests to enjoy. Even the stylish boutique guestrooms accent antique furnishings with bright bursts of contemporary art.

Vendue
 

Continue your aesthetic experience at The Drawing Room, Vendue’s popular upscale eatery. Executive Chef Forrest Parker employs his own inspired vision to create seasonal and locally-sourced dishes that are as eye catching as they are delicious. And if you’re flying down from the Northeast, you can even extend your al fresco season just a tad longer at/on The Rooftop, where the views alone will make your trip worthwhile. Oh, and Vendue’s pièce de résistance? Milk and cookies are out for the taking each and every evening. Yes ma’am.

 

See Also: 

The Miami Beach EDITION—Five Things I Loved and Two I Did Not

The Carneros Resort in Napa Typifies What Younger Travelers Want in a 5-Star Hotel

 

Across the bridge

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor & Marina is the new kid on the block. Across the harbor in Mt. Pleasant, The Beach Club opened its doors in 2016 and has received rave reviews, both from the travel press and quasi travel press (i.e. Trip Advisor). Pairing good ole hospitality and luxury amenities, The Beach Club is part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection and is located just over the bridge and minutes away from Charleston’s historic district. Each guestroom features elegant décor and stunning views of Charleston’s waterfront. While relaxing in your room and enjoying the view might be your first order of business (it was for me), there is no shortage of options at the Beach Club to keep you busy.

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor & Marina
 

From the 30,000-square-foot Tropical Pool and Deck, to the Tranquility Pool with Whirlpool, to Private Poolside Cabanas, the pool scene is on par with even the grandest big city hotspots. Those not in the mood for lounging can indulge in a bit of seaside competition on the private bocce court or some lighthearted fun on a life-sized chessboard. Once you’re ready to explore, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary trolley service and bikes to see the city. Alternatively, the Water Taxi, while a small fee, is the best ride into downtown Charleston. At night, head back to the hotel to enjoy a sumptuous seafood dinner at the Fish House, one of Charleston Living Magazine’s “Top 25 Restaurants in Charleston.”

 

Thanks in part to its sheer size, The Beach Club is also able to offer custom experiences that few hotels in Charleston can match. Its staff has teamed up with Suzanne Pollak, Dean of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits, to offer guests an insider’s view of America’s favorite city. Through cooking classes, hosting how to’s, wedding planning, cocktail party etiquette and even an exclusive intimate hands-on southern entertaining lesson, Pollak will teach y’all the true meaning of southern hospitality.


Charleston Hotels:
Belmond Charleston Place ($325-$750)
Vendue ($179-$419)
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor & Marina ($167-$567)


 

Dining

At FIG you’ll find elevated takes on Southern classics with seasonal ingredients served in an upscale-bistro setting. The restaurant prioritizes (if not exclusively uses) only locally grown & harvested goods to prepare an array of innovative menu items. Indulge in their smaller yet decadent plates, like sautéed mushrooms, fish tartar with whipped avocado, or their famous chicken liver pâté, or go big (but don’t go home just yet) with the ricotta gnocchi topped with lamb Bolognese or Suckling Pig. The options abound and the “Food Is Good” at FIG.

FIG
 

It’s not often you see a restaurant whose two locations are in Charleston and Nantucket but that’s the case at 167 Raw. And if you’re dealing with super fresh seafood it’s understandable why they chose these two locations. Take a seat on one of the bar stools for a feast of Atlantic coast seafood, from fresh oysters to yellowfin tuna tacos to voluminous lobster rolls, dense with claw meat and light on mayo—bringing some Nantucket magic to the Lowcountry. Of course scoring a seat at this tiny, subway-tiled bar is half the battle, so don’t go at peak hours and expect a short wait. Reservations are unfortunately not an option, so employ some nice southern manners and be patient.

Raw 167
 

 

When you walk in and are immediately welcomed by none other than the owner and proprietor, Ken Hall, you know there is something a little different—in a good way— about Halls Chophouse. This family steakhouse restaurant located in the Upper King District of Charleston has quite a following. Great hospitality, great American cuisine and a dining experience that is second to none in Charleston make Halls a true must visit if you’re willing to splurge a bit. Favorites? The New York strip steak was as good as any I have had in NYC, while the ribeye was out of this world, with all the flavor you expect yet a perfect texture and almost filet-like meatiness.

Halls Chop House
 
For more casual eats and drinks…

Red’s Ice House and Fleet Landing have you covered. Red’s, across the harbor in Mt. Pleasant, is perfect if you’re looking for a friendly spot to enjoy a cold beer & fresh local seafood in a laid back setting. Located on historic Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, the original Red’s is the perfect spot for taking in Lowcountry wildlife and scenic Charleston sunsets. The food is not the draw here—rather cold beers and people watching is—but step out onto the deck overlooking Shem Creek and you’ll understand why it’s such a popular spot. Fleet Landing, is also all about the scenery, but the food sure isn’t shabby either (try the crabcakes). Offering unobstructed views of the harbor from a 1940s retired naval building, Fleet combines a commitment to quality food and sustainable practices with a delightful nod to the area’s maritime heritage.


Charleston Restaurants:
Red’s Ice House ($$)
Fleet Landing ($$)
FIG ($$$)  
Raw 167 ($$$)
Hall’s Chop House ($$$$) 


Oaring and Touring

One of the best ways to relax and explore the Lowcountry is from the seat of a kayak. Paddling through the calm saltwater creeks nestled behind the aforementioned Folly Beach, you will discover the natural wonders and wildlife that call this area home. You can also  get up close and personal with wading birds, oyster beds, barrier islands, wild dolphins and more.

Coastal Expeditions, whose slogan is, “You Haven’t Seen Charleston, Till You’ve Seen It From The Water” (some truth there) is one of the top outfitters in the area. Their three hour outings are the most popular, taking you into the saltwater estuaries to see dolphins, pelicans, ospreys and maybe even a sea turtle or manatee.

Coastal Expeditions
 

For a more practical jaunt around the city, there is always just good ole walking. And if you like history—and Charleston has plenty of it—there is no better way to get around the city than on foot. After all, downtown Charleston—also known as “the peninsula”—is only about 4 to 5 square miles. But in this area you can find at least 100 buildings from before 1776 and 1,000 from before 1861—state buildings, churches, mansions, and townhouses—almost all of which come with historic plaques explaining exactly what their function was roughly 200 years ago.

Charleston Strolls
 

While the resources on your iPhone should be enough to steer you in the right direction, there is nothing wrong with leaving your walkabout to the professionals. Charleston Strolls—recommended by both the NY Times and Southern Living—will take you on a historic walking tour of Charleston (where carriages and motorcoaches are not allowed) that highlights both Charleston’s rich history and colorful past.

Beaches

You can’t enjoy the complete Charleston experience if you don’t pay a visit to one of its beautiful beaches while in town. While there are 3 public beaches within a few minutes drive from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is by far the most revered. Though the water will be a bit cool for swimming by November (though peak temps are actually reached in September), the beaches in Charleston are some of the prettiest in the country and there is never a bad time to visit. Water lovers can also enjoy kayaking, paddle-boarding, boating and fishing, while thrill seekers will enjoy the 72 suspended obstacles at Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Park.

Folly Beach Pier (Photo: Shutterstock/Dave Allen Photography)
 

Perhaps known a little more for its golf courses, Kiawah Island is also a beach haven—rated the second “Most Romantic Beach in America” by National Geographic Traveler. Kiawah Island is unique among the barrier islands because—unlike Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach—commercial development is virtually non-existent here. This island was meticulously planned to be environmentally sound and very relaxing. A semi-tropical climate hosts alligators (often seen basking in the sun on the banks of Kiawah’s many lagoons), sea turtles, bobcats and some very friendly dolphins. Along with over 40 miles of bike trails, there are five world-class golf courses, several tennis courts, and 10 miles of the most beautiful beach on the Atlantic coast. Kiawah is a gated community with restricted public access, but absolutely a site to look into if you’re making the trip.

Kiawah Island Real Estate
 
Golf

Kiawah’s beaches are world-renowned and so are its golf courses. Named the #1 golf resort in the world by Travel + Leisure, Kiawah Island Resort is home to nine elite courses. Among the nine is the Ocean Course—home to the 1991 Ryder Cup matches (known as the “War by the Shore”), the 2012 PGA Championship (won by Rory McElroy) and will be host to the 2021 PGA Championship.

Where should I stay on Kiawah you ask? Because so many people have second homes on Kiawah that lay vacant much of the year, there are plenty of options to choose from on Airbnb at very reasonable prices—especially considering what you get. If you really want to splurge though, you can’t go wrong with the world renowned The Sanctuary. The exquisitely designed oceanfront hotel, just 21 miles from downtown Charleston, captures the spirit, history and charm of the beautiful south while still offering 255 spacious rooms and suites. Their king rooms are among the largest on the East Coast with the smallest measuring 520 square feet.

Ocean Course – Kiawah Island Golf Resort
 
Holidays

Maybe it’s the way the historic homes are grandly decorated for Christmas, or the unique view of Palmetto trees adorned in twinkling holiday lights. Pick your own reasons, but it’s hard to deny that Charleston is a near perfect blend of intimate historical ambiance and the luxuries and activities of a metropolitan city.

Photo: Shutterstock/Tymonko Galyna
 

Some seasonal favorites among locals and visitors include The Nutcracker, performed by the Charleston Ballet, the Holiday Walking Tour—a must for out-of-towners looking to see the city—and the Annual Progressive Dinner at Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion, one of the city’s grandest venues. Also held at Circa 1886, in it’s 15th year, is the Dickens Dinner. A night at Circa 1886 is always an indulgence, but on the night of the Dickens Dinner (Thursday, December 8th) guests will enjoy a live retelling of the classic Charles Dickens’ Christmas Story along with their meal. The annual dinner—while notably festive—is just as much about the food, with a lavish four-course holiday menu influenced by the tale itself.

Well, what are you waiting for? Temperatures are dropping, wanderlust is rising and Charleston is ready and waiting to charm you.

—Chelsey Pieretti contributed to this article.

6 Sneaky Cool Features of the New Rivian R1

The Gear Tunnel

I would not be surprised if most Rivian owners name the gear tunnel as their favorite feature. It’s simple yet brilliant utility. Exactly like it sounds, the gear tunnel is an 11.6 cubic foot storage area that runs right through the middle of the truck, between the cab and bed, accessible through small doors on both sides of the truck’s exterior. You can also access the Gear Tunnel through an opening between the rear seats.

 

 

The uses for the gear tunnel are endless. As the name suggests, it is obviously great for storing gear—fishing rods, skis, golf clubs, camping gear…whatever your jam is. The tunnel’s doors also double as seats or as a foot stool to reach the truck’s roof. And since the engineers at Rivian don’t like any wasted space, the doors also have small cubbies for additional storage. But Rivian did not stop there. Realizing that this space has so many applications, they thoughtfully outfitted a few custom products—designed specifically for this space—that slide in and out of tunnel.  The coolest one by far is the…

 

Portable “Camp Kitchen”

 

 

While an expensive option, there is no denying how cool this custom feature is. The camp kitchen includes a countertop, a two-burner electric stove, a 4-gallon water tank for the sink, and a 30-piece dish-ware set that includes plates, utensils, carving knifes, and more. All of this folds up like a transformer into a unit that slides into the gear tunnel like a glove so you’ll never hear it bouncing around. Of course, if you are not planning on camping anytime soon, then simply take it out and leave it in your garage until it’s needed and use the storage space for something else.

 

 

Onboard air compressor

 

 

The obvious use for an air compressor would seem to be if you got a flat tire or had a slow leak and needed some quick air in a tire in order to make it to a mechanic. And having an onboard air compressor is certainly a comforting accessory should this scenario present itself. But the Rivian was built for rugged terrain and sometimes—whether it be driving on a beach or over rocks on a mountain road—deflating your tires can be prudent.  The integrated compressor—seamlessly built into the side of the bed—comes with a kit that includes a 20-foot hose that extends to all four wheels, for inflating your tires after airing down for rough terrain. It also includes a quick-connect nozzle and adapters to fill up myriad other gear including your bike tires, an air mattresses, raft, or even just a basketball. Just set the pressure and hit a button, and voila, you have air whenever you need it.

 

Portable Blue-tooth Speaker

 

 

The built-in (but portable) Bluetooth speaker weighs only 5 pounds and docks seamlessly within the truck’s center console for easy storage when not in use. It charges when docked or can be plugged into an external USB Type-C port when docking isn’t an option.

 

The flashlight with its own integrated door pocket

 

 

Powered by a single cell from Rivian’s battery pack, the flashlight fits—James Bond-style—right into a cylindrical opening on the side of the door (when the door is open). Assuming you always pop it back into place, it will always be fully charged. To access the flashlight you simply press inward on the end of the device (almost like pressing a button) and it pops out. Taking up virtually no space, who wouldn’t want this?

 

LED lights built into sideview mirrors

 

 

The Rivian is the ideal vehicle to go camping with. The folks at Rivian know this and added a lot of simple features that do not add any bulk to its overall form factor. The LEDs built into the side-view mirrors—which can light up a campsite or tailgate—is a perfect example. While they are not as bright as the headlights, they add additional lighting to your camp site or beach BBQ. Don’t like them? Don’t use them. They blend in seamlessly.

 

 

Healthy Travel Means Business

In today’s high tech world—where even email threads seem archaic in comparison to a Google hangout—the continued merits of business travel are up for debate. Ask the salespeople and the dealmakers, and they’ll laugh in the face of the modern digital landscape. In their world, nothing beats an in-person meeting when a deal is on the line and you’re looking to close. But does that triumph outweigh the mental and physical strain of balancing on-the-go with on-the-job? Continue reading

MOST POPULAR

7 Great Hotels In San Francisco

While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

Continue reading

Nomad Hotel Library Bar

Best Library Bars

Ah, the library bar. An urban oasis steeped in history (quite literally). Vintage, deep-seated armchairs, mahogany shelves and leather bound books ease the soul, while a single malt scotch calms the nerves after a long day of work. Ron Burgundy’s kind of place. My kind of place. Continue reading

OPINION & VARIETY

How To Take Better Travel Photos: An Interview With Family Photographer Justine Knight

Fifi+Hop’s Corey Cook talks to the talented family and portrait photographer Justine Knight about the secrets to taking better travel pics.

I am very pleased to have on the blog today the talented photographer Justine Knight! Justine is a family and portrait photographer in Westchester, New York. She and her family travel quite a bit, often times to far flung places, so I thought she would be the perfect person to provide some insight into some useful tips on travel photos. I know we all, myself included, could use some advice on how to best capture those precious family vacation moments in photos!

 

Family photographer Justine KnightPin this image on Pinterest

 

Below is my interview with Justine where I’ve asked her some questions on how to take great photos while traveling. I love Justine’s work, and think you will too (just look at her photos!), and am so glad she can share her knowledge with us all. Justine loves to photograph families the way she photographs her own family – relaxed and being their own (sometimes crazy) selves. From timeless portraits to kids rolling around in the grass with a dog, she loves to photograph it all!

WHERE ARE SOME PLACES YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE TRAVELED? WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME FAVORITE VACATIONS?

We LOVE to travel!! I am Australian and my husband is South African so we spend a few weeks each year travelling to either country. We also love exploring the US.

Over the last few years, we have been to Australia, South Africa, the UK, France, Turks & Caicos, St Martins, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington DC.

The more we travel, the longer our list of places that we want to go to next is!!

Our next trip over the summer is to Utah for a family biking and camping trip in Canyonland.

Mountains and wildlife in South Africa.
WHICH CAMERA DO YOU TRAVEL WITH MOST OF THE TIME AND WHY?

I always carry too much camera gear and recently I have realized that I don’t need to carry it all! On a trip to South Africa earlier this year, I principally used my film camera and my iphone. I love shooting film for my family as it looks beautiful and ensures that I don’t take too many photos as I have to pay for every photo to be developed!

I also always carry my iphone. The quality is amazing and is so effortless to take great photos without carrying lots of gear around. It also makes sharing images with family and friends so quick and easy.

Playing in the water in Turks and Caicos
MOST PEOPLE USE THEIR PHONES TO TAKE PHOTOS WHILE TRAVELING BECAUSE THEY’RE EASY AND COMPACT – DO YOU HAVE ANY PHONE CAMERA TIPS?
  1. As with all cameras, looking at the light within the environment you are photographing can make a huge difference to your images. Take a minute to look around you and look at the direction of the light. Sometimes moving slightly left or right of your subject can really improve the way you utilize light on your subject.
  2. Take some steps back and use more of the environment around your subject to tell the story. This is so important when on vacation – as much as I love a nice portrait, capturing your family within these different surroundings really adds visual interest.
  3. Tapping on the screen to set the exposure on your subject makes a huge difference to your photos.
  4.  Use some of the really fun app editing tools – I love using VSCO to edit my photos on my iPhone.
Wading in the ocean on the beach.
MANY OF US TRAVEL TO THE BEACH, WHICH CAN BE A VERY DIFFICULT PLACE TO TAKE PHOTOS DUE TO THE SUN REFLECTION OFF THE SAND AND WATER. ANY TRICKS?

The most perfect times at the beach are sunrise and sunset in terms of light but this is not always practical when you have kids. Most days we are not at the beach at these times so you need to embrace more tricky lighting conditions.

Use the reflections to your advantage! If your subject has the sun behind them, use the sand or water as a giant reflector to reflect the light back on your subject.

Try not to have your subject facing the sun when you are taking their photo. Eyes will be squinty and shadows can be harsh. Engage your subject in an activity so they are not staring into the sun.

Beach walk in Maine.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PLACE/ LANDSCAPE TO TAKE PHOTOS WITH OR WITHOUT THE KIDS, AND WHY?

I love the beach. It’s my happy place as I love the open space and the water.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE TO FAMILIES WHO WANT TO CAPTURE THOSE PERFECT FAMILY VACATION PHOTOS?

Perfection is overated!

Enjoy your time with your family BUT the most important thing for creating memories for your family is to get those photos off your hard drive and iphone and PRINT them! Make prints, make a photo book! You will be amazed at how much you and your family will enjoy looking at these images over the years if they are printed.

Someone once told me that a photo does not exist unless you can hold it in your hand!

My favorite company to make vacation photo albums is with Blurb. The quality is amazing and the software easy to use.

Other photo album companies include Artifact Uprising, Shutterfly and Chatbooks.

Car driving by in Cuba.
Thank you for joining us Justine, such helpful tips! I particularly like the last piece of advice about the albums because I think that is something most of us are guilty of – we take a ton of photos, but then, what about the albums? It’s so easy to procrastinate. Which is why I look forward to having Justine on the blog again with a dedicated post about making family vacation albums. So look out for that post, coming soon!

You can see more of Justine’s work on her website at www.justinesknight.com and/or on Instagram at @jsknight.

Q&A with Maria Zec, General Manager of The Peninsula Chicago

Pursuitist presents its Q&A with Maria Zec, Regional Vice President, and General Manager, at The Peninsula Chicago. Named one of the top luxury hotels in Chicago, renown luxury travel expert Christopher Parr interviews Maria Zec as the celebrated Peninsula property celebrates 20 years of luxurious travel, spa, and dining experiences on Michigan Avenue.

Maria Zec’s legendary hotel experience throughout the United States makes her a particularly valuable leader to manage operations in New York and Chicago, having worked at a number of luxury hotels in both cities and understanding the markets, communities and hospitality industries well. She also possesses considerable knowledge and expertise of five-star culture and what it represents to the hotel’s customers.

Zec joined The Peninsula Chicago in March 2002, shortly after the opening of the 339-room property, located at 108 East Superior Street at North Michigan Avenue. Under her leadership, The Peninsula Chicago achieved the Forbes (formerly Mobil) Five Star and AAA Five Diamond awards within her first year as General Manager for the property. The hotel has continued to receive these coveted awards since 2002, with recognition from Conde Nast Traveler to Travel+Leisure.

Christopher Parr, Q. By the numbers, what does 20 years look like at Peninsula Chicago?

Maria Zec, A. In 20 years, we have hosted 2.4 million hotel guests, which is an average of nearly 120,000 per year, 10,000 per month. We have served more than 8.3 million guests in our restaurants in 20 years, which averages to 35,000 per month, 1,100 per day. 20% of our staff have been here for 20 years. Very few people work for the same company for 20 years. In fact, our entire laundry department, have all been with us for 20 years.

Q. As the Peninsula Chicago turns 20, what does that milestone signify to the Peninsula Hotel brand?

A. Bringing Peninsula Hotels’ renowned hospitality to the Midwest, provided the company with the opportunity to build awareness for the brand in a region that would likely have no knowledge or familiarity with Peninsula Hotels. Over the past two decades, guests and residents are now very much aware of The Peninsula Hotels’ brand either via The Peninsula Chicago’s reputation or their personal experiences at the hotel. This exposure to a midwestern audience has broadened the brand’s reach with more customers.

Q. Compared to the other luxury hotels in Chicago, how has the Peninsula Chicago remained distinctively different and unique?

A. We describe our service approach as ‘Midwestern Hospitality combined with Far Eastern Graciousness.’ This is represented in the reserved, discreet, refined type of service style one would experience in Asia, blended with the genuine, warm, caring, and friendly nature you find in Midwesterners.

Our service style is also anticipatory. We engage guests during the reservation process to understand more about what brings them to the city and through this brief conversation, we can anticipate the types of services and amenities the guest will likely need, and we mobilize from here.

 

Pursuitist Q&A with Maria Zec, General Manager of The Peninsula ChicagoPIN IT

 

Our goal is to create beautiful, lasting memories for our guests. This starts with our compassionate employees who are genuine and considerate, taking great pride in their work to go above and beyond for our guests and their co-workers at every opportunity.

Q. Luxury hospitality means a lot different things to a lot of different people, but what does it mean to Peninsula Chicago?

A. We strive to provide an attentive, personalized service experience in line with each guest’s individual expectations. In some cases, visitors don’t require or want much interaction. In other cases, they seek our advice and assistance throughout their time with us. We are thoughtful in our approach to ensure we understand the personalized needs of each guest and then tailor our services around them. We aim to create a memorable and meaningful experience and want all our guests to feel welcome and at home at The Peninsula Chicago.

Q. The property has received many awards and accolades over its celebrated 20 years, what honor has meant the most to you?

A. We’ve been honored to have received numerous awards over the years, every one of which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our incredible team members. Many of these accolades have been awarded by various travel-related organizations which demonstrate how The Peninsula Chicago is viewed by our industry colleagues. But for us, our main focus is always on the feedback provided by our guests.

Q. In looking back at 20 years, how has Peninsula Chicago transformed luxury travel on Michigan Avenue?

A. Our goal is to constantly remain the leader within the industry and not a follower. To do this successfully one has to evolve and adapt to the changing expectations from travelers. We’ve never been ones to rest on our laurels; we’re always thinking about what we can do next. An example of this was conceiving and building Z Bar. It was a few years in the making, but this new venture has kept us relevant and allowed us to expose The Peninsula brand to the next generation of luxury travelers.

Q. And how is The Peninsula Chicago going to transform and evolve for the next 20 years?

A. It is important we evolve with the changing times—ensuring we develop our products and services based on the future of customers’ desires and passions (while still providing for our current customers), providing the very best in terms of accommodations, cuisine, wellness, and cultural experiences.

Herbal Remedies

One of the greatest elements of summer is the garden–may it be on a rooftop or balcony, in a backyard or wherever else the sun shines. There’s nothing like grabbing a ripe tomato from your garden and putting it directly into a salad. But summer’s spoils are not just relegated to the dinner table. Continue reading

Interview with Travel Flights Analyst Adam Kwan of TomFlies.com

TomFlies.com is an NYC-based, new-concept travel agency that aims to provide several essential aspects of travel that may have been overlooked throughout the years. Not selling exaggerated experiences, but rather leading their clients to genuine discovery is a key goal at the new age travel agency. We asked their Lead Flights Analyst, Adam Kwan some questions about the future of travel and how TomFlies.com plans to be a part of it. Here is what he had to say.

 

Q.It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

 

A.What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

 

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively.

 

Right now, travelling in a pandemic-stricken world, people are more nervous than ever. Their confidence has been shaken and many people are unsure what will await them when they exit their plane. Making sure that people are confident that their travel will go off without a hitch has always been one of our main goals, so we view travel consultants as more beneficial than ever. There is a deluge of information out there with each country having different regulations. The last thing someone wants to do is spend their hard-earned money on a trip, only to find out they cannot board the plane or leave quarantine during their stay. That’s where we step in, making sure that our clients are making completely informed decisions with confidence.

 

Shutterstock

 

Q. Loyalty and rewards programs play a much larger role for airlines and hotels than meets the eye. Can you discuss how and why these programs are so vital for the travel industry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

A. We see two main benefits to loyalty programs. The first is obvious—reducing customer churn and encouraging purchases with your company over your competitors; i.e. customer loyalty. The second benefit is liquidity through corporate partnerships.

 

Reducing customer churn (the rate at which customers stop buying your product over time) is important for every industry, but even more so in leisure travel where each individual customer may only purchase something once a year or less. It is tantamount that a travel company remains prominently in view of their clientele. Regular newsletters, deals, and targeted ads help with this, but a loyalty program will take this a step further. Loyalty programs create a sense of investment in your clients and strongly encourage them to return to you for their travel needs. There have been many detailed studies done on the psychological effects of loyalty programs, but the benefits are essentially the following:

 

  • Goal Anticipation – Creating something for your client to work for. By giving them a concrete goal and a way for them to track their progress towards that goal, people will be strongly motivated to complete that goal; i.e. purchase more. Not only that, but customers will invest more to complete the goal the closer they are to achieving it.
  • Positive Reinforcement – Encouraging customers to stick with you by giving them rewards is an obvious example of positive reinforcement. But just as important is the converse. Not only are you encouraging people to purchase through your company, but you also create a sense of “lost value” when they book with your competitors. Studies have shown that people generally tend toward being risk-averse when faced with a value-loss proposition.
  • Creating a sense of exclusivity – Simply put, people like being in exclusive groups and feeling unique and appreciated. Top-tiers of loyalty programs offer this prestige. If you make JetBlue Mosaic, you’re going to feel pretty good being the first one on the plane.

 

 

The second main benefit is more simply explained. Airlines and hotels will create liquidity by selling their points to corporate partners. When Chase or American Express offer their cardholders point exchanges or deals with specific travel partners, that likely means the bank has purchased points in bulk from the travel provider. This accounts for a surprisingly significant portion of the liquidity for several travel companies and is important in supporting daily operations and business development.

 

Both of these benefits are eminently important during the pandemic. When your clients are ready to travel again, you want to make sure they come back to you. And while traditional sales dry up, you want the extra liquidity from corporate points sales to keep things running.

 

Q. Should consumers be thinking any differently about their loyalty/rewards memberships during this period? Are there any tips or strategies you have for people who travel frequently and accrue a lot of points?  

 

A. There are a few tips and tricks we have for maximizing the value of your points, however more so in general rather than specifically during the pandemic.

 

First is to absolutely do your research. There’s no way of knowing if you’re getting a good value for your points unless you know the baseline value of them. For example, TrueBlue points are worth 1.1 cents each on average. I would only book flights with points where you meet or exceed that exchange rate. During COVID, we’d suggest to make sure that there is no expiration on your points and benefits, at least until you’re ready to travel again. If there is, ask the airline or hotel if they can extend the expiration for you.

 

Second is to shop around. Just because you have points with American Airlines doesn’t mean you can’t buy a British Airways ticket with them. Airlines have partners which often allow you to book the same exact flight through them. For example, Alaska Airlines offers many of the same flights operated by its partner American Airlines, however the flights usually cost fewer Alaska Airlines miles than AAdvantage Points. You can simply transfer your points from AA to Alaska and use them there for more value per point.

 

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

 

Q. What have been the most frequently asked questions by your clients during the pandemic and how are you advising them? 

 

A. Far and away the most asked question is whether a traveler will have to quarantine when they arrive at a destination or if they will have to take a COVID test before travelling. We’re keeping track of the ever-changing regulations for each of our most popular destinations so we can make sure all of our clients are fully informed.

 

Q. What destinations, US and international, do you expect to see the most interest in once virus fears subside and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels—or close? 

 

A. Hard to tell, but it’s between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in our opinion. We’re already seeing a large uptick of interest in the Caribbean, especially for all-inclusive resort destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana. The amount of interest can only go up from here. We think that the private and comprehensive experience offered by all-inclusive resorts does add a sense of security for their guests. Knowing that everything you need is in an environment you’ve seen being sanitized goes a long way towards making people feel safe during a pandemic. They can have it all without having to go out into unfamiliar surroundings that may not be clean.

 

Positano at sunset/Shutterstock

 

We also think people are just itching to head back to the Mediterranean, we know we are. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece et al have always been some of our most requested destinations, and people miss those places more than ever now that travel is restricted.

 

Q.What is the single biggest reason to use a travel advisor?

 

A.Simply that the cost to benefit ratio is great. With our agency’s negotiated rates and worldwide reach, we can offer prices competitive with OTAs while also offering the added benefit of travel planning expertise and dedicated e-concierge services and support before, during, and after travel. Essentially, people will be able to pay roughly the same amount of money for their travel as if they booked it themselves, without actually having to do anything themselves.

 

Q.In just a few words, what is your philosophy at TomFlies.com?

 

A.“Always wander!”

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

The Many Reasons to Eat Local

Have you ever wondered why it might be good to eat foods according to the season?  You probably notice how there are certain fruits and vegetables available in the fall (apples, pears, squash) versus what is seen in the spring/summer (melons, papaya, asparagus). Continue reading