July 2, 2013

Wingwoman Tracy: Giving Back and Gaining a New Perspective

Published on Huffington Post on 7/2/13

Many people travel for work, vacation to visit family and friends or all of the above. Through our travels, we explore our passions and often find new ones. With each new experience, our eyes and hearts open wider than we could ever imagine, and we bring home memories that will last forever. Last month I was lucky enough to travel with fellow JetBlue crewmembers and volunteer in some of the communities in Oklahoma affected by the recent tornadoes . During my journey, I interacted with some of the most courageous people I’ve ever met, who, despite being down on their luck, restored my faith in the human spirit.

After having children I realized how special life can be. I knew that I wanted to help those who may not have the good fortunes I do, so I made a commitment to start making a difference for others. It’s no secret that I’m a big advocate for voluntourism and have traveled plenty in the past across borders to do good. In my experience, I’ve found that volunteering events tend to fall into one of two buckets: heartwarming occasions where people teach and engage with those in need or heart wrenching experiences where volunteers aid in a community’s recovery. My travels to other countries to work with wonderful organizations include Orphanage Outreach and Sandals Foundation, where I’ve taught children about hygiene and helped build a playground, would be placed into the first bucket. But while I enjoyed these experiences greatly, it was my recent trip to Oklahoma that provided some of the most meaningful moments of my life.

There are many reasons I enjoy being a flight attendant for JetBlue, from the people I work with to the cities I travel to. Still, a part of my job that I take the most pleasure in is the opportunity to volunteer for JetBlue’s community and recovery efforts. In the past I’ve had the pleasure of raising funds for a cause that is particularly close to my heart, Angel Flight Northeast, a JetBlue-sponsored organization that flies terminally ill patients and families to get the critical care they need at no cost to them. But there has still never been an experience quite like my trip to Oklahoma with the JetBlue Ready Team. My seven days working with the American Red Cross in Oklahoma was my first experience being deployed as a part of the Ready Team and it will certainly stay with me forever.

Under the airline’s Care & Emergency Response Team, the Ready Team was launched in 2009 and brought together more than 100 JetBlue crewmembers to be trained by the American Red Cross to respond to major disasters. The size of this initiative continues to grow within the company and I’m proud to say that I’m part of a 542-person team trained and ready to deploy to a disaster zone on a moment’s notice.

I was part of a group of 20 JetBlue crewmembers who touched down in Oklahoma to aid in disaster relief. We came from all over the country from New York and Salt Lake City to Long Beach. We met and worked alongside local volunteers, as well as members of the New York Fire Department who also made the trip to the Midwest. We worked together for a full week, often for 10-12 hours straight. It was an “eat, sleep and volunteer” environment. I didn’t know one person prior to arriving, but I’m always amazed at how close strangers become when they share the same goal of helping others. We marked logistics in a warehouse in Oklahoma City before loading up trucks with supplies to bring to affected communities. We brought people everything from baby food and diapers to rakes and flashlights. I’ve always known about the fantastic work that the Red Cross does, but I was blown away by how the whole operation was so well organized on the ground.

I was most astonished by the resilience of the people in Oklahoma who, despite losing everything, still remained positive. As a flight attendant I meet hundreds of people each year flying in every direction, but I’ve never met nicer people than I met in the communities of Oklahoma. Many stood beside concrete slabs where their homes once were and instead of crying for their loss, they were smiling for their survival. Being with the victims and observing their positive attitudes was a truly special experience and I hope that I was able to give them just a sliver of the hope that they gave me.

I have been lucky enough to travel around the world to pursue a passion of mine, giving back to people in need, but my trip to Oklahoma proves that you don’t need to go far to make an impact. Do what you can to make a difference — you don’t need to go far to do something that matters. Spend your weekend getting involved in your local community; help build a playground, volunteer to read to the elderly. There is plenty of good to be done everywhere. And if you’re new to volunteering don’t take on too much at once. Reach out to local town offices or nonprofit chapters in your area to learn about ways you can help. The easiest way to get your feet wet in giving is to join charitable groups that already organize volunteering events; bring friends, family and co-workers with you and make a difference, whether in your own backyard or somewhere else in the world. Every bit of help makes a huge difference.

Tell me your favorite ways and places to give back and follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) for more voluntourism tips.

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June 29, 2013

Wingwoman Tracy Featured in Book

We’re proud of inflight crewmember Tracy, AKA Wingwoman Tracy, for her inclusion in “Twenty Something Girl,” a new guide by authors Melissa Fiorenza and Laura Serino offering “1,001 quick tips and tricks to make your life easier.”

Tracy’s tips are travel-focused, naturally (see below for her content from the book).

Follow Tracy’s travels on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy)
Check out Tracy’s column on Huffington Post Travel with images from her trip
Read Tracy’s previous columns
Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy


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May 31, 2013

Wingwoman Tracy: Multi-Generational Vacationing

Whether it’s a special occasion or a spur-of-the moment family getaway, it’s important to select a destination that has something to offer everyone traveling in your party. That’s why I brought my mother and daughter with me to The Homestead for a special, fun-filled weekend. It doesn’t have to be Mother’s Day to celebrate three great generations of women.

When I travel with family members I sometimes like to escape my day-to-day routine, which for me is flying (though I do love flying and taking amazing long distance trips via air!). I welcomed a family road trip to The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. All three generations of women could catch up and tell each other stories while we enjoyed the picturesque Virginia landscapes.

I have visited The Homestead many times before, and I’m always excited to go back because it always has something new to offer. This resort and spa is located in the middle of the beautiful Allegheny Mountains, and its amenities are as spectacular as its grounds. Built in 1766, The Homestead is a National Historic Landmark that has hosted 22 American presidents. So it’s no wonder guests feel so special during their stay. Even though the resort is centuries old, its countless features keep it timeless.

When planning family trips, always be sure to get everyone’s input. I usually take the lead and organize my family’s getaways. I make sure I do my research and gather all of the information, and then provide everybody with a few different options so we can collectively come up with a vacation that works for us all. This is why my mother, daughter and I chose The Homestead: there’s something there for everyone.

To craft a great getaway that will be enjoyable for all ages, be sure to select a destination that offers a wide array of activities. For our Mother’s Day vacation, my family chose to spend our time relaxing with spa treatments and eating good meals. For the ladies of my family, this weekend was about coming together for a moment in time to enjoy the same things.

I’m always sure to make the reservations for accommodations, dining and activities so that we have an itinerary upon arrival. This way, if we decide to go off and explore the property on our own, we always have an itinerary to bring us back together. What’s special at The Homestead is the opportunity for guests to book reservations for everything from activities to dining in advance of their trips, and upon check-in, guests are handed a printed itinerary for their stay. The key to any multigenerational family vacation is to be sure that there’s a perfect balance of structure and freedom for all travelers so the whole family can make the most of their time together while still spending their trip the way they want to.

During the day we all went swimming in the Jefferson Pools, an historic crystal-clear warm spring on the resort property. To make the experience even more relaxing, I ventured to the resort’s new swimming area where I enjoyed a massage from the waterfall above that cascaded down my shoulders and back into the hot tub. We also spent time walking around The Homestead grounds and taking in the breathtaking views of the Allegheny Mountains.

The Homestead offers a long list of activities, ranging from archery, kayaking and paintballing for the more energetic visitors, to carriage rides and nightly movies for those wanting a more relaxing stay. Although I wanted to avoid creating a schedule full of hustle and bustle during this special weekend so that my mother, daughter and I could spend time enjoying each other’s company, I took advantage of some of The Homestead’s more physically demanding activities in the past and had a great time.

Whether embarking on a weekend jam-packed with activities or taking a trip more focused on R&R, I always recommend booking a few reservations and accommodations ahead of time, and leaving some time open to discover some local gems on your own. Do your homework and uncover great hotspots you think your family would enjoy and include these places in your itinerary. For instance, if you make your way to The Homestead, be sure to have a meal at Sam Snead’s Tavern in Hot Springs, a popular local eatery located right outside the resort. My mother, daughter and I enjoyed the first dinner of our getaway here. We made a point of adding this dining experience into our schedule.

We were able to celebrate a Mother’s Day tradition cherished by the women in my family: Enjoying a meal together that is not prepared by a mother. This is the one day she can truly enjoy herself and savor every moment. We enjoyed breakfast and dinner in the main dining room that provided ballroom dancing and a string band. The wait staff at The Homestead is just amazing. They are all so accommodating, bending over backward for guests. The food is incredible, especially the Allegheny Mountain trout, one of The Homestead’s most popular dishes. And the presentation of the food is as delicious as the taste.

A resort like The Homestead is ideal for a mother-daughter getaway, but it could suit the tastes of just about anyone, regardless of age or gender. Guests are able to follow as strict or loose a schedule as they desire, all within the resort property, appealing to anyone from a child to a grandparent. And although my trip was planned to enjoy Mother’s Day, The Homestead is a great place to celebrate many different occasions throughout the year. You know a resort is truly great when it has something to offer everyone.

I’m so thankful for my wonderful mother and daughter, so it’s important for me to plan something special and memorable to celebrate together. Mother’s Day should be celebrated at any time of the year, and it’s a great time to take off, relax, get pampered and enjoy the company of your loved ones without being the caretaker for once. And The Homestead is the perfect place to unwind and be taken care of at any time of the year.

Follow my travels on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) and tell me how you pampered your mom on this special day and throughout the year.

Check out Tracy’s column on Huffington Post Travel with images from her trip
Read Tracy’s previous columns
Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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May 3, 2013

Wingwoman Tracy: Avoid The College Scene While Still Rejuvenating This Spring

Spring Break means something different for everyone, but for me it means finding somewhere that’s peaceful and quiet.

If you are looking for a spring break to help relax and release your mind from your daily stresses, you’ll want to avoid the college scene. So many students travel at this time of year, and if you really want a relaxing time away, you’ll want to avoid the typical “Spring Break” spots. Often, off-the-beaten-path locations or resorts at a slightly higher price point will offer a more mature crowd. Also, quaint destinations and smaller cities with fewer hotel choices may be a better option if you are looking for a calm and serene setting.

Spring is not the time to visit hot spots, especially destinations like Cancun or Punta Cana, unless you prefer the party atmosphere. Remote destinations provide great storytelling opportunities upon your return home. I love telling people about places they haven’t heard of before and sharing my unique experiences.

Beyond researching your ideal destination, you’ll want to seek out a great travel companion, too. I always look for someone who is energetic and willing to try something new at the drop of a hat. Others may prefer a traveler who is more low-key. As long as your energy levels match, you’ll have a great time. Whether it’s a friend, spouse or co-worker, a travel partner who is easygoing and goes with the flow will make your vacation experience that much better.

Pack sunblock, a swimsuit, sunglasses and towel in your carry-on so you can make a quick escape to the beach when you arrive at your destination. And pack knowledge of your destination–especially if you are visiting a foreign country, as you’ll want to be aware of its history and present conditions, political and cultural, so you can enjoy the environment safely and fully.

If you are looking for a really “hot” Spring Break destination with a party and singles scene, these suggestions may not be right for you. But if you are more in need of a relaxing, refreshing getaway, here are a few recommendations for a fun, active spring getaway:

Delray Beach, Florida
I absolutely love the quaint feel of a beach town, especially one that offers great shopping and restaurants too, and Delray has it all. Whether shopping for new bathing suits or soaking up some sun and enjoying the white sandy beaches, there is plenty in Delray to keep you busy or quiet spots to relax and do nothing at all. On a recent trip there, I enjoyed an amazing, memorable late night meal at the Dada restaurant . It was the best late night spot I’ve ever experienced! Most times you have to settle for breakfast or greasy food, but Dada offered an eclectic menu and beautiful setting in a historic house. You can even rock on a porch swing with your significant other. There was live music and, for the price, the quality of the food couldn’t be beat.

Samaná, Dominican Republic
If you are seeking adventure, you can enjoy a horseback ride through the rainforest, explore ancient caves or go whale watching. If you want to just kick back, visit its beautiful white beaches.

Cartagena, Colombia
If you want the city life and the Caribbean all in one dose, then Cartagena is the spot for you. Located on Colombia’s northern coast, Cartagena boasts a lively urban scene in a beautiful setting. . Interested in pirate history? Cartagena was a hot spot for real-life pirates of the Caribbean, not just the Hollywood variety. It’s a great place for sightseeing with its varied architecture, including Italian, French and Spanish Colonial style buildings.

Medellín, Colombia 
Another great Colombian destination, Medellín is one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America. If you are looking for an adventure, try your hand at tejo, the national sport. Referred to as lawn bowling, tejo is a favorite local pastime that elicits laughter and smiles from players and fans alike. The Medellín MetroCable offers breathtaking views and was named a top transport system in the world by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in 2012. It’s a great, affordable way to take in a scenic journey. There are so many wonderful places to explore in Medellín, such as the Jardín Botánico Joaquín Antonio Uribe, which contain hundreds of species of plants and trees and a beautiful lake. The Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe, meaning the palace of culture, is a famous national monument that hosts concerts and art exhibitions.

Liberia, Costa Rica
If you are looking for white sand beaches and turquoise waters, look no farther than Liberia, Costa Rica. Here you’ll explore an authentic Costa Rican town where you can sip on jugo de caña, sugar cane juice, and admire the Ciudad Blanca, the White City, filled with white houses. You can visit rain forests located just outside of the city or pristine beaches. Upon adventuring outside of the town, don’t be surprised if you look up and see howler monkeys, more commonly known as congos. They actively swing from limb to limb in the treetops. One more tidbit, don’t be upset if bird droppings hit your head. Supposedly, it represents good luck!

I hope you have a wonderful spring trip, no matter where you travel! For more vacation recommendations, follow my travels on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) and share your favorite spring destinations.

Check out Tracy’s column on Huffington Post Travel
Read Tracy’s previous columns
Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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March 16, 2013

Wingwoman Tracy: Celebrating Ireland this St. Patrick’s Day

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I decided to draw some vacation inspiration from the luck of the Irish and explore Ireland for the first time. As a JetBlue flight attendant, I am fortunate to have the freedom to travel often. For this trip I wanted to tour a new destination that felt far away, but was possible to explore over a long weekend. Ireland perfectly fit the bill!

Who knew a trip to Ireland could be so easy? JetBlue’s partnership with Aer Lingus makes travel to DublinShannon and an array of other destinations across Europe fast and convenient. You can fly to Ireland or beyond through JetBlue’s gateway cities, New York, Boston or Orlando, and your checked bags will automatically transfer through to your final destination. I opted to fly through the night so I could sleep on the plane. When I arrived in Dublin, it was time to start my day and embark on my wonderful Ireland adventure.

I always imagine what a new place will be like before I arrive, and Ireland was exactly what I had envisioned and hoped for. It was so beautifully green, and of course rainy and foggy too. I packed an array of outfits but in the end I only needed a rain jacket and my Wellies. Despite — or maybe even because of — the gloomy Irish weather, which only added to the old-world charm and romanticism, I had a wonderful trip.

After arriving in Dublin, I rented a car to drive the Giant’s Causeway to Northern Ireland. The journey wound through many little coastal towns with beautiful seaside cottages. At points it was so foggy I couldn’t take pictures of the scenic villages, and I’ll have to keep them only in my memory. But the fog made the little villages feel even more remote and quaint.

Next I visited Belfast, trading small villages for a large city. While there, my favorite sightseeing outing was visiting the authentic Titanic landmark. The Titanic was built in Belfast and the museumtakes you through the building of the great ship and its unfortunate history.

After Belfast, I made a trip to Larne, a famous coastal area. From there, I passed through more picturesque seaside villages and journeyed to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Ballintoy. The bridge, an historic landmark run by the National Trust, is positioned at a high altitude and offers amazing views. While I loved the adventure of walking across the bridge, other visitors wouldn’t cross due to their fear of heights. Even if you just gaze up at the wonderful creation, it’s a must-see destination.

Later, I visited Dunluce Castle, the remnants of a medieval castle. I was completely swept up in the history and romanticism of the castle and captured the most beautiful photographs. The scenery is so majestic and dramatic it turns even an amateur shutterbug’s photos into professional-quality shots.

Then it was back down through the countryside, balancing the sea views from the first leg of the trip with beautiful green rolling hills. Many colorfully-dyed sheep populate the countryside. Their wooly bodies of pink and blue pop against the deep green background and create a gorgeous, colorful vista.

I also had a chance to visit the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, the city of Derry and the village of Bushmills and its whiskey distillery. Considering I arrived on Friday morning and departed on Monday, I truly cannot believe all the amazing places I was able to cover in such a short visit. Ireland truly is a navigable and magical place.

Visiting the building site of the Titanic, crossing the exhilarating Rope Bridge and basking in the romance of the Dunluce Castle were by far the highlights of my trip. The beauty of the landscape is awe-inspiring and, with so many historical places to see, Ireland is a trip you won’t soon forget.

Remember when you travel to Ireland to train your brain to drive on the left side of the road. I absolutely recommend renting a car, but driving on the opposite side of the road definitely throws you for a loop at first. Also, a GPS is a must! With so many roundabouts, a GPS comes in very handy. You can get one at the local car rental facility.

The trip wouldn’t have been complete without learning about those mystical creatures, the leprechauns. Also known as the “wee folk,” leprechauns are relayed as being both friendly and cranky and enjoy good-natured trickery from time to time. Supposedly, if one of these mystical little beings befriends you, you’ll have a friend for life.

As you prepare for your St. Patrick’s Day festivities, remember that no Irish celebration is complete without music, singing and dancing. Sláinte!

Check out Tracy’s slideshow with images from her trip on Huffington Post
Read Tracy’s previous columns
Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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January 18, 2013

Tracy Wingwoman: Find Your Winter Wonderland

I am more of a water skier than a snow-bunny and tend to gravitate toward sunny beaches rather than snowcapped peaks, but I always love exploring new travel destinations and adventures. Winter offers so many wonderful seasonal activities from outdoor sports to cozy fireside chats and a wide range of destination and vacation options. Whether you are an avid skier or simply looking for the après-ski lifestyle, there is a perfect winter escape out there for you.

With the snow piling up and the temperatures dropping, here are a few winter wonderlands for any type of traveler:

1. Lake Tahoe is a great winter escape. The Lake Tahoe Ritz-Carlton is the height of luxury. With individual fireplaces in each room and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over amazing mountain views, it truly feels like you are staying in a castle.  The beautiful bedrooms help you relax and make you linger in your room a little bit longer before hitting the slopes.

Lake Tahoe is a popular ski destination, but there is so much more to try, too. You can take a snowmobile tour, ice skate or cross-country ski. On a walk by the lake, I felt like I was at the center of the world surrounded by nature with snowcapped peaks in the distance and the crystal-clear water that felt more familiar to me than the Caribbean blue I love on warm weather vacations. It was so serene and isolated and completely peaceful and refreshing.

The local town of Truckee offers more than just skiing with its cute little shops and cozy restaurants. And, if you just want to lounge at the resort instead of venturing out, there are fire pits at the Lake Tahoe Ritz where you can enjoy S’mores and hot chocolates fireside.  The hotel also offers a marshmology class where you can learn the history of the S’more, and then you try your hand at sculpting and eating the perfect treat.  It’s a great activity for kids and adults alike.

2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is another breathtaking winter destination. The award-winning Amangani resort located outside the Grand Teton National Park is a short drive to Jackson, and is a magnificent place to stay. Amangani means “peaceful home.” Aman is Sanskrit for “peaceful.” and gani is the Native American Shoshone word for “home.” The resort truly lives up to its name. Peak skiing season runs from December through March and offers challenging slopes for the more adventurous skiers. If you prefer to stay off the trails, there’s a heated outdoor swimming pool with majestic, panoramic views. You can even catch the sunset from the whirlpool — my personal favorite spot.

Amangani offers complimentary transfers to the alpine Teton Village, where you will find the après-ski lifestyle and a private ski-in and ski-out lounge. The lounge offers ski lessons, a beautiful meeting place and serves up snacks and hot beverages best enjoyed after an eventful day on the slopes.

Amangani also offers horse-drawn sleigh rides. Rides are offered throughout the day from lunch to cocktail and dinner hours and throughout the evening.  After an arduous day of skiing, tuck in the kids and head out for a moonlight sleigh ride with your paramour. It’s a breathtaking experience as the moonlight’s reflection glitters in the snow.

Winter sports not your cup of tea?

If adventure on the slopes is not for you, why not pursue another winter escape that will challenge you both physically and spiritually and reboot your healthy choices in the New Year? Health resorts that focus on your mental and physical well-being are a great way to enjoy winter activities and commit to a new year, new you.

One of my favorite spots is Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. A great destination for couples, friends or solo travelers, Canyon Ranch offers a different kind of winter escape where you can take care of your outer and inner self. From cross-country skiing that lets you soak in the beautiful wintry landscape to hikes, and tai chi walks in the crisp air, Canyon Ranch will invigorate you after a dessert-filled holiday season. With delicious, nutritious food and cooking classes, health lectures, yoga options and spa services, you can cater to your whole self. Instead of reading a self-help book indoors, why not get out and live it at a destination retreat?

No matter where you end up, you can craft a perfect winter’s day, whatever that may be for you. My ideal winter vacation begins when I wake up and go to a local coffee shop for a steaming morning brew and rub elbows with the locals. Whenever I travel, I try to mix and mingle with residents to find out about the best-kept local secrets and hot spots. It’s a wonderful way to visit unique places that you cannot find in travel guides.

After my coffee, I try to squeeze in a workout, whether a class offered through the resort, an outdoor activity or just hitting the hotel treadmill. Then I treat myself to a breakfast with lots of protein and carbs to get myself energized for the exciting day ahead. I always try to take advantage of spa services from massages to facials. They are a great treat and a wonderful way to relax after an active winter’s day. Many resorts have libraries too, where you can rest and rejuvenate with a great book curled up by the fire, another one of my favorite activities.

Keep in mind that most winter resorts offer so much more than skiing. From snowmobiling to ice fishing, dog sledding, or tubing and sledding, for those who are not avid skiers there are still active, fun winter activities to explore.

I enjoy staying at winter resorts that offer individual fireplaces in each room and terraces where you can take in views of snowcapped peaks. As a flight attendant, I see a thousand or more people a day sometimes, and these winter hideaways offer a great private sanctuary to relax and renew. I have yet to meet a marble bathtub that I do not like, and after a day of skiing or snowboarding, it’s such a treat to soak in a beautiful bath.

I always take something home with me after a great trip to remind myself of the wonderful memories I made there. Whether it is a souvenir I bought at a little shop, something from nature I found during a hike or beautiful snapshots I took of my adventures, I love having something tangible from each unique trip.

So, get out in the cold this season and explore some new adventures!

Follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) and share your favorite winter escapes.

Check out Tracy’s slideshow on Huffington Post Travel

Read Tracy’s previous columns
Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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December 24, 2012

Tracy Wingwoman: What Were Your Best 2012 Travel Memories and 2013 Resolutions?

In one short week, when confetti paper and “Auld Lang Syne” fill the air at the stroke of midnight, it will once again be time to welcome a new year and make more life resolutions. Together, let’s vow to make 2013 your best travel year yet! Here are some my personal favorite memories and highlights from the last 12 months and my New Year’s travel resolutions and tips.

Bon Voyage 2012

I am always nostalgic when I remember my trips to France, and a visit this past August with my daughter ranks as one of my best 2012 travel memories. France always brings a smile to my face and relaxation to my body; I get such a sense of calm when I visit European countries. We had the most wonderful time walking around Paris, enjoying the city lights, sipping coffee at the little cafes and shopping on the fantastic Champs-Élysées.

Though we visited Paris on this last trip, I love all that France has to offer from its cities to wine country and views of the Mediterranean. Then there’s the history! Versailles is one of my all-time favorite places. France truly has anything you could ask for from a vacation, whether it’s luxury, historic sites or simply lounging by the Seine. I love the relaxing French atmosphere and am happy to spend a day just sharing with fine company a bottle of wine with some cheese and a baguette along the Seine.

New Adventures

While Paris was my favorite 2012 destination, I loved so many of my travel destinations and activities, especially the new adventures I embarked on this year. I had the pleasure of horseback riding on the beach in Turks and Caicos, hiking New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock, renting a ski house with nine girlfriends at Massanutten Resort in Virginia and zip-lining for the first time, visiting The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia where 22 presidents have stayed, and where I learned to skeet shoot and ballroom dance. My travel adventures have become memories that will remain with me for a lifetime. I would never have tried these amazing activities at home, and that’s what I love about traveling. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and into new adventures.
New Year’s Travel Resolutions

My number one New Year’s travel resolution for 2013 is to just travel, travel, travel! I want to keep my travel bug ignited and continue to get out and try new things. Challenge yourself on your excursions and try a new hobby you would normally not do at home.

I also resolve to take more travel photos. When you undertake a new experience or adventure, you want to make sure to capture the memorable moment. Travel photos are a wonderful way to treasure memories and remind yourself of your brave, fun-loving side. They are a great pick-me-up if you ever feel blue or bored; a snapshot of a time when you pushed yourself, discovered or experienced wonder at something new.

To stick to my 2013 travel resolution, I will plan some of my year’s travel ahead of time, but also remain open to new opportunities. It’s important to keep some travel spontaneity in your life! As a family, we plan one vacation together each year, and although we may return to the same destination, I always look for a new site to visit or activity to try.

Groupon and LivingSocial offer great travel deals and ideas for new activities and places to visit and stay. JetBlue Getaways is another great tool for all-in deals, activities and ideas for some beautiful destinations. Personal recommendations from friends and family remain wonderful resources to find new places and travel ideas. Even with all the great travel technology we have today, firsthand experience still serves up the best advice.

My other travel resolutions are:

  • Healthy eating and living while on the road. I must admit I have been on somewhat of a health kick lately and now realize even more how important it is to eat and live healthfully. I have a clearer mind, a better mood and overall I feel better about myself, which leads to more confidence and a general sense of well-being. I resolve to take the stairs or visit the gym at the hotel, or take a walk or run at my destination. More and more hotels are starting to provide running, walking or hiking tours and guides for the active traveler. Making time for exercise while on the road pays off in many ways—I sleep better and have more energy on my travels.
  • Lend a helping hand. With today’s technology people are more efficient than ever before, but that shouldn’t stop us from offering a helping hand in-person. I resolve to reach out on the plane or in the airport to someone who may need an extra hand. It’s a great feeling to help others and know that you made their day a little easier.
  • Volunteer where I travel. I love to volunteer and take along a family member, friend or colleague. It is a great way to make lifetime memories and help those in need. Research volunteer opportunities at your destination before you travel. Google, your company or local government agencies are wonderful resources for scouting volunteer opportunities.

My new destination for 2013? I hope to travel to Vieques, an island off San Juan, Puerto Rico. At night, the water glows with movement, and you can take a boat out and see the waves light up all around you.

So, why wait? Follow my travels on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) and share your own favorite travel memories from 2012 and your 2013 travel resolutions.

Check out Tracy’s slideshow on Huffington Post Travel

Read Tracy’s previous columns
Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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November 23, 2012

Wingwoman Tracy: Giving Thanks During The Travel Season

From family traditions to homemade treats, decorations and presents, the holiday season — though often cold outside — in many ways truly warms the heart and spirit. Unfortunately, many people check their cheers of good tidings when they arrive at the airport. Long lines, crowded planes and tired families can add up to a travel headache, and the holiday spirit is often the first to go when faced with delays and travel snafus. Although travel can be stressful, there are so many wonderful conveniences, technologies and thoughtful travelers that can make any trip, even one during the busiest travel season, smooth and easy.

During this time of thanks, it’s helpful to remember what you are thankful for while traveling, and the holiday season also reminds me of the importance of kindness and thoughtful gestures. Good customer service with a smile can instantly alleviate most stressful situations. I always try to project a pleasant and helpful attitude during my work, because as a consumer I truly appreciate it and know the huge difference it makes. A small action can have a disproportionately large impact. Helping elderly passengers struggling with bags or randomly treating someone behind you in line to coffee. These small gestures and pleasant surprises can instantly transform someone’s day and remind them of the true spirit of the season.

I try to remember to appreciate the small things too: space in the overhead bin when I get to my seat, timely information — even if it may not be the news I want to hear, I appreciate knowing how long the delay will last rather than be left guessing–early arrivals and, most importantly, safe arrivals.

Next, I am appreciative of the amenities at the airports. Airports have so much to offer now; you could truly spend a pleasant evening — have a date even! — in some of the newly updated airports across the U.S. From fine dining to concerts to wonderful shopping centers, airports offer a wide array of pleasant ways to pass the time if your trip is taking longer than you hoped. The shops in the terminals can alleviate holiday stress too. If you need a last-minute present, pick something up at an airport store, and you won’t even need to pack it. JetBlue’s own Terminal 5 in New York is a perfect hub for all of these amenities.

In addition, there are so many travel technologies that I am grateful for both during my work and leisure time. Technology not only allows us to cross the country in just a few short hours to visit loved ones and friends during the holidays; it also helps us to travel smarter.

I am thankful for travel apps that make my travel simpler and more leisurely. Different apps can help you secure the best plane seat or allow you to navigate unfamiliar cities and back roads. Technology gives anyone with a smartphone access to travel tools, tips and tricks that make traveling easier than ever before.

Some of my favorite travel apps include:

    • Seatguru: Find the best seat in the house (or on the plane in this case). Seatguru shows you the location of power outlets, emergency exits, overhead bulkheads, narrow seats, etc. It helps you find what you want or avoid what you don’t want all before you board the plane.
    • TripAdvisor: Provides great reviews customer reviews on hotels, restaurants and local attractions.
    • Weather Channel: Great tool to know exactly what to pack!
    • Google Maps: Never get lost again with these maps at your fingertips.
    • TripIt: Plug in all your travel details — flight schedule, hotel, rental car reservation — and TripIt will gather all the information and produce a travel itinerary for you. It breaks up all your info into easily digestible components and will even update your information if your flight schedule changes! It’s also a form of social networking where you can follow family members or colleagues and remain up-to-date on their travel schedule and progress.

Tech gadgets also help make the travel waiting game more enjoyable. Lightweight, compact devices may be small and easily packable, but they carry a boredom-breaking punch. Every time I pull out my Kindle to read, I am thankful for the hours of entertainment at my fingertips. Bose headphones can also be a lifesaver on long travels. Not only do they allow me to relax to my favorite music, they also provide a bit of mental space, which is especially important when traveling near an excited family or loud cellphone talker.

Then there are higher-end gadgets that bring the luxuries of home on the road with you. Personal Wi-Fi devices allow travelers to remain connected, faster and easier, while on the road. AirPort Express from Apple is a great tool if you want to bring the ease and speed of your home Internet to the airport or to your hotel.

And, your favorite show or sports game can follow you on the road too. Slingbox enables you to tune into your home cable or DVR over the Internet and watch on your smartphone, computer or iPad. You’ll never have to miss that big game again, and if you are traveling with kids, you can keep them entertained during waits and delays.

As a professional and a fellow traveler, I see some people handle travel stress with grace and those who sometimes need a helping hand and to take a deep breath. Here are a few tips and my favorite resources to help you remain calm and kind when dealing with crowds and busy airports this holiday season.

  • Your most important carry-on item: When you are making your travel checklist this holiday season, don’t forget to bring your patience to the airport. Arrive at the airport prepared with your boarding pass printed out or pulled up on your smart phone, ready to be scanned. Also have your ID or passport handy, your gadgets charged and a healthy dose of patience; all of which will help you face a crowded airport.
  • Take a breath: If your patience is running low, take a deep breath and count to 10. It’s a good rule of thumb and helps you take an extra moment to remember the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated (even during stressful holiday travel).
  • Refreshments: A small amenity bag packed with toothbrush, toothpaste and face wipes can keep you refreshed and in good spirits when faced with travel delays. A delicious snack can sustain your mood and ward off hunger and crankiness too.
  • Remember, it’s the holidays: Take a moment to enjoy the holiday travel perks too! Many companies extend small extras to help alleviate holiday stress. JetBlue offers holiday snacks and concerts to celebrate the season. Take a moment to enjoy these treats.
  • Enjoy the view: Take a look at the view while you are up in the air. You may catch a full moon or a beautiful view of the sunset or holiday lights twinkling below.

For more travel tips or to share your favorite destinations and insider knowledge, follow me on Twitter @Wingwoman_Tracy.

Check out Tracy’s slideshow on Huffington Post Travel

Read Tracy’s previous columns: Kiss Summer Goodbye With These Fall-tastic Travel Ideas, The Wind Beneath Your Wings: Giving Lift To Your Perfect Summer Trip, Snorkeling, Rum Punch and Beyond: Top Spring Break Spots and How A Kiwi Led To My Biggest Airport Snafu

Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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October 22, 2012

Wingwoman Tracy: Indulge Your Senses with a Fall Vineyard Visit!

Earlier this month, I spent a lovely weekend in Washington’s wine country, and the beauty of the harvest season reminded me why vineyard visits are one of my all-time favorite fall activities.

Each wine region offers its own unique charms, beautiful scenery and delicious varieties of wine. Though I do have favorite Virginia vineyards near my hometown, I love traveling to Napa and Sonoma in California’s wine country, and to Washington state as well. What could be better than delicious wines — California happens to produce my favorite! — the beautiful vineyard landscape and indulging so many of your senses all at once as you taste perfectly crafted wines. Your eyes take in the whites and reds swirling in your glass; your nose enjoys the delicious notes coming off the wine; and then your mouth enjoys the best part, those satisfying, delicious sips! It’s a great way to pass a cool, crisp fall day with friends or family.

I first visited California’s wine country after a weekend wedding in Tahoe. I decided to take a side trip to Napa and Sonoma before returning home. I was immediately struck by the rolling hills covered with vineyards for as far as the eye could see. Vineyards zipped past my car window as I drove: an endless sea of beautiful landscape!

I fell in love with California wines and the beautiful l countryside after that first visit. I knew I needed to go back to experience more, and next time I brought along 13 friends. We met at a friend’s house nearby and brought a potluck breakfast for a bite before we set out for the day. After our bagels and pastries, we were ready to tackle all that wine country had to offer. A limo picked us up and we piled inside — 12 of us in the back and one friend up front with the driver. We visited four wineries throughout the day. At our third stop, we shared a homemade picnic lunch of delicious snacks, salads and fruit. We returned home in the early evening, having enjoyed a day full of friendship, laughter, delicious homemade food and a variety of local wines. All in all, the outing cost us $35 per person, including the limo!

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September 26, 2012

Wingwoman Tracy: Calling All Leaf Peepers! Gear Up For Unforgettable Fall Travel

Join me as I take you on a virtual tour of the east coast from the south to the north, to check out my favorite fall foliage spots along the way!

Fall is a beautiful time to visit many points along the east coast and experience autumn’s crisp air, vibrant colors and crystal-clear blue skies. Fall foliage shows off its dazzling colors in the Carolinas and Virginia in mid-September, spreading its infectious hues north throughout September and peaking by mid-October in New England. Since New England is populated with birches and maples, whereas the south has more oak trees, the northern colors tend to be more vibrant with fiery yellows, reds and oranges. No matter where you travel this fall, you are assured gorgeous foliage.

North Carolina is one of my favorite places for great leaf peeping. The famous Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, is a wonderful place to enjoy all that the fall has to offer. The Inn, situated close to Brevard County known as “Land of the Waterfalls,” allows you to bask near beautiful waterfalls and colorful forest scenery. With an airport located in nearby Asheville, the Inn on Biltmore Estate and Brevard County are accessible and convenient weekend jaunts for many.

Next we hit Virginia as we continue our leaf-peeping adventure! Skyline Drive runs through the Shenandoah Valley and along the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 105 miles of scenic roadway offer 75 stunning panoramic views — just gorgeous throughout October. I highly recommend spending an evening or two at the Inn at Willow Grove, where luxury meets the country! Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Orange County, VA, this Inn combines my ultimate travel desires: Being close to natural beauty and immersed in history! From the Inn, you can take a short trip to visit the home of James Madison just a few miles away.

As we continue north to New England, I recommend driving on the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire for stunning foliage views. The “Kanc,” as locals refer to it, cuts through White Mountain National Forest and guarantees to deliver some of the best views for leaf peepers in the entire nation! Head over to the Monadnock Inn at the foot of Mount Monadnock for an active adventure with some amazing hiking trails.

Mount Monadnock’s beauty and wonderful trails are fresh in my memory having just hiked it this past Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second most-hiked trail in the world, just behind Mount Fuji, Japan.

Before you take on the second most popular hike, you’ll need to fuel up and rest, and the Monadnock Inn will take care of all your needs. Dine on a delicious dinner on the Inn’s porch. The little twinkling lights will instantly calm you with their beautiful ambiance. Surrounded by trees and brisk fall air, you can smell the outdoors and your delicious dinner all at once. Enjoy a deep night’s sleep with the sounds of nature outside your window and Eenergize with a hearty breakfast before you hike up to the summit of Mt. Monadnock, where on a clear day, you can see as far as Vermont and Massachusetts.

Our last stop on our fall foliage tour brings us to Maine and Acadia National Park. Acadia combines amazing pops of color and lush views with ocean vistas as an added bonus, providing varied scenes of natural wonders. You can hike and bike among the multi-hued trees and stay at one of the many inns along the ocean where you can enjoy the panoramic views.

During the fall, I prefer to vacation at bed and breakfasts and inns. They provide such a quaint, intimate setting that really helps welcome and celebrate the changing season. Less commercialized and more cozy, you feel like you are staying at a warm home rather than a large resort. It’s also lovely to strike up conversations with the owners and fellow guests, and I find that this is much easier at smaller lodgings. Parlors and porches provide a great spot to meet other couples and vacationers. Bring along that recently purchased bottle of wine from a local winery and enjoy making new friends.

Dining at B&Bs and inns also feels much cozier and more like home cooking rather than a restaurant meal. It’s like mom is delivering dinner right to your table! And, you get to enjoy the aromas as the food cooks just down the hall.

Take advantage of the owners’ expertise and inquire about off-the-beaten-path places to visit. Fall is the perfect time for local farmer’s markets, apple picking, purchasing some of that delicious apple butter or finding a gorgeous homemade quilt that will keep you warm on those cool, fall nights. Oftentimes the B&B caretakers know the perfect spots to find such seasonal favorites.

This is the time of year you want to soak up the sounds and smells of nature and the beauty of the scenery. My absolute favorite way to celebrate and immerse myself in the season is to witness a spectacular sunrise or sunset. It’s a serene part of any trip and an impressive backdrop for keepsake photos that you can share with your family for decades. Plan a hike around it and create a truly memorable experience.

Extend that memory by establishing a travel tradition — year after year, you can add another sunrise or sunset photo to your collection and see the changes in your own life reflected by the changing season and changing color of the leaves.

Follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) for more travel tips or to share your favorite fall travel traditions!

Read Tracy’s previous columns: Kiss Summer Goodbye With These Fall-tastic Travel Ideas, The Wind Beneath Your Wings: Giving Lift To Your Perfect Summer Trip, Snorkeling, Rum Punch and Beyond: Top Spring Break Spots and How A Kiwi Led To My Biggest Airport Snafu

Learn more about our Wingwoman Tracy

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