There are few sights as awe-inspiring and confounding as thousands of baskets being lifted hundreds of feet into the air by fire and colossal, brightly colored balloons. This vision is so enthralling that millions of spectators flock to hot air balloon festivals across the United States each year to marvel at this man made wonder.
For those that are up for rising before the sun, otherworldly “glow shows” can be enjoyed, which consist of pilots filling their balloons with the heat and light of massive burners before dawn. And, if you’re brave enough to say yes to the full magic of a hot air balloon, many festivals provide opportunities to go for a ride. If you’re ready to go on a journey that will awaken a giddy sense of fascination, check out one or more of these top-notch hot air balloon festivals.
1. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta: Albuquerque, New Mexico – Early October
A vibrant tapestry of balloons highlights the astonishing natural beauty of New Mexico’s high-desert landscape during the internationally renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. As one of the largest balloon celebrations in the world, this gathering features over 500 balloons, laser shows, live music, endless activities for children, and of course, millions of visitors.
Because there’s so much to do at this ten-day event, it’s recommended that you make a full vacation out of it and attend the festival over the span of a few days. Be sure to mix in other sightseeing excursions in and around Albuquerque, such as Petroglyph National Monument or La Luz Trail, as fall is believed by many to be the most visually stunning season in New Mexico.
*Note: I was not paid for this post, but did receive the product for free. I only decided to post about it after successfully testing it out on two camping trips in mosquito-infested areas 🙂
Pregnant women hear “no” a lot. No soft cheese. No coffee. No mimosas. No kitty litter (can I get a hallelujah!) But, the “no” that is given for most insect repellents often leaves that glowing pregnant skin littered with itchy bites. Ladies growing babies don’t deserve that hassle, which is why it’s important to find a repellent that works, but also, won’t cause your baby to grow an eleventh toe.
In addition, this spray is DEET-free, EPA registered, non-flammable and made with a water-resistant formula that includes Picaridin, a natural chemical, bio identical to pepper. And beyond pregnant women, Stay Away® can be used on children 2 years and older.
Good news: You can try it out for $0. Go here to order your free sample.
Here are a few other tips for keeping the itchies, and more serious funk (like Zika) from infiltrating your baby-growing sanctuary.
Reapply insect repellent as directed.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. If you’re in a hot environment, choose a breathable fabric like linen to help prevent overheating.
Use screens on windows and doors.
Use air conditioning, if available.
Prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water by emptying standing water from all outdoor containers.
Hopping on a plane, saying yes to a road trip, or setting off on a cruise with a baby in tow can cause even the calmest of parents to spin out. But, a combination of preparation and flexibility can cause your trip to be filled with enjoyment and relaxation, instead of irritation and meltdowns.
To set yourself up for success when traveling with your baby, try out the following tips.
Book A Non-Stop Flight That Suits Baby’s Sleep Schedule.
When possible, select a non-stop flight that is in the air when baby usually sleeps. Few things are as stressful as having a fussy baby on a plane, so being en route when they usually nap, or are down for the night, will infuse ample relief during transit.
What better way to start this new chapter of your life than with a crisp white slate, set in a whimsical winter woodland?
Winter weddings offer many advantages (like better rates!) but one of the brightest aspects of a wedding during this chilly time of year is the cheery, loving, and fresh-start vibes reverberating through the season. Oh, and there are few things as romantic as cozying up by the fire with celebratory champagne and your sweetheart, while snow gently coats the land. The following destinations offer the best in winter wedding venues.
1. Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe – Incline Village, NV
Whether you want the backdrop of the deep blue waters of Lake Tahoe, an intimate mountain lodge, or the grandeur of the Lakeside Ballroom the Hyatt can deliver a wedding even more spectacular than all your Pinterest wedding boards combined. As you near the big day, the Hyatt will help calm your nerves with sunsets that make you forget to breathe, a spa full of magic-hand masseuses that melt your stress, and nearby tree-lined slopes that offer endless exploration.
The Rockies are synonymous with stoke-worthy skiing but with so many resort options it can be tricky to pin down the spot that will be just right for your needs.
The following resorts offer a bevy of amenities; whatever kind of traveler you are, you’re certain to be pleased.
Jackson Hole Mountain Ski Resort
Known for its extreme terrain and a few runs that require avalanche safety equipment, Jackson Hole is best left to the experts. A favorite for those who go hard is the heli-ski tour – what’s more extreme than dropping from a helicopter onto an epically steep slope?
If you prefer to leave the intense snow sliding to others, the overwhelming beauty of this rustic wonderland makes it a prime locale for sitting fireside with a hot cup of something tasty, while you take in the majesty of the American West.
Sleep: Spring Creek Ranch. Located on a wildlife sanctuary and towering 1,000 feet over the town of Jackson, these luxury accommodations will allow your ears to enjoy a symphony of howling coyotes and elks practicing their mating call, while your eyes feast on unbeatable views of the Teton Mountain Range.
Plus, the limitless blue skies and Wilderness Adventure Spa, which offers unique goodies like High Altitude Facials and Soul Readings, ensure your mind, body, and spirit leave refreshed.
Eat: Mangy Moose. This cavernous steakhouse offers location-appropriate hearty options, like elk burgers, prime rib, and brisket. The “Moose” also hosts live music and is a fave après ski bar for locals.
Explore: Tour the National Elf Refuge by horse-drawn sleigh. Sit back, cozy up, and get your camera ready as a horse pulls your sleigh through snowy terrain dotted with thousands of elk. These rides are generally available from mid-December through early April and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the Wyoming wilderness.
If you’re a mom, it might not surprise you that there are women out there literally stepping off a building to support their children.
Sheila Bierwert is one of these women. This year will be Sheila’s seventh time participating in the Over the Edge event at Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort, which raises money for The Special Olympics Hawaii. The fundraiser consists of participants (who were able to raise $1,000 or more for The Special Olympics Hawaii) rappelling over the edge of the 40-story resort.
I asked Sheila what the most intimidating aspect of the rappelling was, and her answer was appropriate for so many risks in life: the hardest part is taking the first step. Luckily, the rooftop Over the Edge staff is well versed in how to supportively coax rappellers off the edge of a building.
Sheila is willing to take this first step over and over again to show support for her son Trevor, who has special needs, and the other Special Olympics athletes who she says face challenges on a daily basis.
Her family has become so involved and inspired by this event (they’ve raised $40,000 so far!) that her daughter Emma will be taking that epic step with Sheila on October 28th.
And, while some thrive on the adrenaline something like rappelling shoots through the body, Sheila is not one of them- she says she doesn’t even enjoy going to amusement parks. But, love for a child will do that to you: it will pour a dissolvent over your fears.
If you’re interesting in supporting this fundraiser, click here!
Mammoth Mountain is an 11,053-foot-high active volcano that has an annual average of 400 inches of snow and 3,500 acres of skiable terrain. Originally a mining town, Mammoth is now a mecca for alpine skiers and lovers of the Sierra Nevada mountainscapes. A past host of the X Games and U.S. Freeski and Snowboard Grand Prix, and a favorite training locale for the U.S. Snowboarding Team, Mammoth is regarded as a premier destination for not only the young and extreme, but also those that enjoy a gentle day of exploring.
Gullies, groomers, bowls, bumps, jumps, and more can all be found at Mammoth, making it a mountain that caters to every skill level. With 162 trails and 28 lifts, there’s enough terrain for every skier and boarder to think the mountain was created with their exact abilities in mind.
*Article I was interviewed for, whose advice I desperately need right now.
What’s that? You didn’t want to come home? You might have a touch of the post-vacation blues.
“It’s like an anxiety disorder,” explains Erika Martinez, a Miami psychologist who specializes in wellness issues. Symptoms, she says, include excessive worry, restlessness, irritability, headaches and poor attention or concentration.
Have you experienced these symptoms? As hundreds of thousands of Americans come home from their annual trips to the beaches and mountains, chances are many of them will. In a recent Wyndham Vacation Rentals study, 45 percent of respondents said the prospect of going home added to the stress of their vacation.
San Francisco has figured out how to achieve the tricky alchemy of sophistication mixed with flair and fun, making it an ideal vacation destination for a family with a varied platter of interests. From epic bay views to grassy sprawls, fine art galleries to interactive museums, and white table cloths and candles to picnic benches surrounded by the smells of hamburgers, San Francisco has something for everyone.
But, with such an expansive city to explore it can give even the savviest traveling family anxiety when deciding where to start. Union Square is a favorite home base for many families as it’s drenched in amble opportunities for shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation. Also, Union Square is within walking distance to Chinatown, the iconic cable cars, and so much more.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
The Westin St. Francis – A family friendly hotel that provides gifts for the kids at check-in and offers family rooms and complimentary cribs. This historic hotel is also a great option if your family enjoys a sprinkle of luxury. And, depending on your style preference of said luxury, The Westin has you covered, offering both classic and modern rooms.
While the spirit of many ski towns dissolves with the snow, the Tahoe area pulsates with energy all year. When the skiers and boarders skip town, usually after enjoying the snow from November to July, a fresh crop of thrill seekers and wanderlusts emerge to enjoy the hiking, biking, diving, fishing, swimming, and sightseeing in the visually rich environment.
With an overflowing platter of recreational options, this area is ideal for families yearning for adventure, but with a variety of comfort zones.
When planning your summer vacation to Tahoe, pick and choose from the following to craft an epic journey into this astounding pocket of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
1. Bike Riding: If you’re looking for a scenic, safe, and leisurely family bike ride, rent your wheels at Parallel Mountain Sports in the Village at Squaw Valley (or bring your own!) and have them direct you to the path that snakes along the Truckee River all the way to the crisp waters of Lake Tahoe.
When the downtown district of Ojai, California fills with shoppers, art enthusiasts, spa goers, and Los Angelenos looking to get out of the city for a few days, the hiking trails scattered in and around Ojai allow explorers to escape jockeying for a parking spot, swiping their credit card, and caring whether their vintage jeans are garnering envy.
If you’re such an explorer, head to Ojai to fill your schedule with swimming holes, wild flowers, water falls, nature-carved rock sculptures, an occasional skinny-dipper sighting, and so much more. You could spend a lifetime traversing these trails and not see it all. Here are the seven hikes that need to be on your radar next time you and your hiking boots tromp into town.
*Reader’s Digest family travel article, by Lisa Marie Conklin, I contributed three tips to.
Sing a soothing song
Even if you can’t carry a tune, your kids can be lulled into quiet time or sleep with a song. “A week before you leave on your trip, choose a soothing song to sing to your child every night at bedtime that they associate with calming down,” suggests Bailey Gaddis, author of Feng Shui Mommy. This go-to methods helps mom and kid settle down after a weary day of traveling. If you have a fidgeter, Gaddis suggests telling your child to close their eyes, watch your face or have them focus on a calming object so they don’t get distracted.
Sightseeing can become boring for kids which usually leads to meltdowns. Gaddis gives her son a scavenger hunt to keep him engaged. “I make a list beforehand of common plants, animals, structures, or objects we’re likely to come across as we sight see. I then read him the list on the way to get him excited about the activity,” says Gaddis. If the kids run through the list before you’re done sightseeing, just add more on the fly.
Gaddis spends a few minutes every morning meditating on how she would like the trip to play out and attaches those positive emotions to positive outcomes. “This will send you into your trip exuding a positive attitude that will be absorbed by your children,” says Gaddis. While traveling, Gaddis meditates with her son each morning. They close their eyes and visualize how they want the day to go. They share what they visualized, including the emotions, challenges, strengths and family bonding. “My son tells me what flavors of ice cream we’ll eat at the end of day!” To further appreciate the travel experience the pair often meditates during the day. “We also have meditation moments throughout the day, where we take a moment to really take in how beautiful a flower is, how interesting a piece of tree bark is, what our hand feels like in a cool creek or ocean, and anything else that helps up slow down and be present in our vacation,” says Gaddis. “I’ve noticed that this also helps prevent us from feeling like our vacation flew by—in a good way!”
A metropolitan tapestry woven with public parks, exotic curio shops full of kid-friendly treasures, and an eatery with dumplings on almost every corner (and what kid doesn’t love dumplings?) San Francisco is a natural choice when selecting your next big city family vacation.
But, the question of where to stay is often the stumper when trying to find well-situated and family focused lodging in the city.
Using my family as a metaphorical guinea pig, I’ve discovered five of the top San Francisco hotels that will set your family up to have the ultimate vacation in one of the world’s most cultured concrete jungles.
Tucked between a fine art gallery and Morton’s Steakhouse, this hidden gem hotel is freshly renovated and less than a block from Union Square where your family can roam in the grass, inspect public art installations, or sign up for Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine (a walking tour).
Because all rooms are situated off the street, and look out onto a small courtyard-esque corridor, you can enjoy the convenience of being in the heart of downtown, without hearing the constant beat of that heart: traffic. But, even if quiet wasn’t readily available you’d still settle into serenity as this hotel features the most comfortable beds I’ve ever sunk into, and a nightly wine and cheese reception that does wonders for that fore-mentioned serenity.
A short walk to Chinatown and a hop, skip, and a stroller push to just about any culinary option your child’s particular taste buds might desire, this hotel will pour a large helping of simplicity on your trip.
After traveling multiple hours on ground or air, with restless children in tow, many parents want a one-stop shop for fun, food and accommodations, happy if they never have to look at their crumb filled vehicle the entirety of the trip.
Squaw Valley has answered this prayer, crafting a village that offers nosh for all palates, ski runs for every level of courage, hotel rooms with a mix of luxury and minimal breakables (I’m looking at you mischievous tots) and live music that makes even the tiniest of feet burst into dance.
If family vacations full of equal parts thrill, relaxation and simplicity are your jam, use the following guide to relish the goodness of Squaw Valley.
Find Your Peace at Wanderlust Yoga Studio: This studio has multiple classes geared to prepping your body (and mind, and spirit) for a stellar day of skiing, and for restoring your muscles after that last run. The variety of offerings sprinkled throughout the schedule allow flexibility for you and your fellow child-sitter to each catch a class.
Entertain Your Kids at the Children’s Program: Because most children loathe being taught sports (or anything) by their parents, let a trained instructor ignite your child’s passion and skill for skiing or snowboarding. This program accommodates children three to thirteen years of age and ups the fun ante by utilizing kid-specific tools and games during instruction. And because we parents are nosy, the instructors provide a post-lesson report card detailing your little skier’s skill and cognitive-based progress.
Most vacations to extreme sports destinations, while pregnant, are annoying – you can’t do much but eat, sleep and be bummed that you’re not participating in the adventure seeking. But not at June Lake – while famous for its family-friendly downhill skiing, this cozy mountain town offers plenty of ways for “with child” ladies to have an envy-worthy snow sojourn.
Just thirty minutes away from the chic resort of Mammoth, June offers a slower pace and amble amounts of relaxed rustic vibes. This isn’t a town where you need to feel pressure to have the cutest winter gear, “put on your face” to go out, or be fearful of your bank account being drained during your stay.
June Lake is just the place for you – you hardworking “baby maker” you – to recharge for the remainder of your epic journey into motherhood.
Are you due this summer and looking for one last dip into relaxation before the real fun begins? I’ve had a few readers ask me for summer #babymoon ideas and I thought of one of my fave spots, Lake Tahoe, and some fun (#pregnant lady approved) activities.
Here’s your mini guide to the ultimate Lake Tahoe baby moon:
While packing a baby in my womb I like to strap a seat belt on about as much as I like to drink two gallons of water and go for a jog. So, this resort is ideal as it allows you to walk to pretty much all of the following spots and offers rooms so comfortable you’d be happy to skip the activities and enjoy your final days of pregnancy resting and binging on television and room service.
Eat: Stillwater Pool Bar & Grill
This spot is my personal fave as it allows you to enjoy a meal while still wearing your damp bathing suit. A juicy cheese burger at this pool side eatery is just what the midwife ordered – and you already have a round belly so who cares about a bit of poolside bloat.
Explore Lake Tahoe without having to move your legs! This sunset cruise usually includes a captain overflowing with strange yet interesting history of the area and crew members that are rich with wit and jokes that are actually funny.
A spa trip is obligatory if you’re preggers, and you can tell your partner I said so. Ask about the Citrine Dream treatment, Basil, Cilantro and Avocado treatment, and couples packages – and don’t skip the pomegranate mocktail.
There are many voices flowing through New York City’s music venues, but few as alluring as Svetlana Shmulyian – a woman who channels the essence of Ella Fitzgerald, while mixing in an aural flavor that’s all her own.
Svetlana is the leader of the swing band The Delancey Five, and a regular at many of the jazz clubs and speakeasies that together form a web of old school musical magic. But, as intriguing as Svetlana’s pipes are, I’m equally enthralled by the fact that she’s churning out all this goodness while also being the mother to three young girls (go team mompreneurs!)
Below is your key into the mind of one of the most badass ladies gracing the most interesting stages in New York.
Bailey Gaddis: Any advice for NYC tourists wanting to make the most of their time being immersed in the city’s music offerings.
Svetlana Shmulyian: It all depends on what you want to see! NYC has a “scene” for everything – whether you are into avant-garde jazz, or swing dancing, or salsa, reggae, or indie rock – there are multiple spaces to listen to this specific kind of music and mix with other lovers of it.
There are highbrow spots and underground spots for every kind of music, each offering a unique experience – and an “only in New York” thing to do is to experience these different spots in the same night! So, search online for a specific kind of music you are interested in, on a specific date, and go to a high-brow show at 8pm (for example, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola for jazz and swing), grab a small plate or a snack after (like a falafel or noodles in Greenwich Village), and then “club-hop” through a few hidden speakeasy spots, like Mezzrow, Back Room, or Smalls for an after hours jam session.
BG: Being a mom, how do you find time to explore the live music in NYC? Do your daughters enjoy jazz and swing music?
SS: I mainly explore the live music scene when I perform – and then stay later to check out after-hours shows of friends, or other acts I am interested in. On the nights I do not work, I prefer to stay home with my daughters, unless there is a very special show going on.
On the other hand, attending shows is part of a continuous education and improvement for anyone – and a feeding of the soul, so I try to do it as much as I can. That said, keeping a work-life balance is a challenge for any working mom, being a musician mom is no exception – we all do the best we can!
My daughters like jazz and swing – my older one is exploring other genres in her school orchestra, band and chorus. My little one always asks me to put my record on in the car and knows all my songs by heart!
BG: What inspired you to put together flashmobs? What is that process like?
SS: The idea to create a flashmob came from dancers themselves, and one of the swing DJs that often work with my band (DJ Douglas McMilan). The idea stems from our love for swing music and swing dancing, and is meant to celebrate a great community of swing dancers, and our beautiful town of New York. Because of these factors, we wanted to pick a dramatic spot against which the dancers and the band can be best seen, listened to, and danced to – Times Square!
The infectious vibe of our first event gained momentum for the gathering, and the following summer’s event went viral with several thousand people RSVP-ing, and hundreds of people actually attending. Our flashmob this summer, around SeaGlass Carousel, was profiled on WPIX 11 with live music and dancing at 8am (clearly way too early, but still very cool!). And our last flashmob was, once again, conducted in Times Square on Halloween night, and was listed in Time Out New York as the top free event to do on Halloween. Our next Times Square flashmob will once again take place in Times Square – all the information will be listed on the band’s Facebook page, and the website, where folks can find videos and photos of the last year’s events!
BG: What are you currently working on?
SS: I am currently working up songs for my next album, which will be a Volume Two of Night at the Speakeasy (our first album produced by Guy Eckstine, featuring Wycliffe Gordon). The vibe will remain ‘swing’ and ‘music that makes you smile,’ as the first album did. But, I will continue to develop my voice through the new original songs, some of which may go outside of the swing idiom, while definitely still retaining a vintage feel, and a feeling of ‘social music’ (a term coined first by Miles Davis and today championed by Jon Batiste).
‘Social music’ is music for your mind (sophisticated music played by first rate musicians), your feet (music you can dance and move to!), and your heart (music that will make you feel warm and welcome to the world of art, imagination and music).
I also enjoyed having special guests on the first album and will continue this tradition in the second album. I wrote several songs, some with my songwriting collaborator, Ryan Smith, and received permission to record original songs written, and arranged by, friends and collaborators – Wycliffe Gordon, Jay Rattman, Ruby Choy, and others.
I am also working on the birthday show that will include some of this new material for the performance at Joe’s Pub (date pending for early March).
In honor of the chilly weather flowing across the United States, check out Svetlana’s rendition of Baby It’s Cold Outside.
I’m addicted to the spirit of Christmas – so much so that I would happily pull up roots and move to Santa’s Village if the big guy extended an invite.
This ever-present craving for all things jolly, cheery and evergreen-y pulled me to downtown San Francisco two weeks before The Big Day. I wanted a chance for my young son, husband and I to get away for a mini and merry trip before we were absorbed into the loving chaos of our extended family.
While most Christmas themed areas leave me wanting more (more mistletoe, more lights, more hot chocolate, more classic holiday tunes, more wreaths, more red, more green, and more cheer) I left my holiday getaway to SF full of joy, wonder and peppermint flavored spirits.
Have a hankering for your own holiday themed sojourn? Here are events and activities in downtown San Francisco to help you create the ultimate Christmas family vacation.
Boston’s vibrant hub of Kenmore Square is an area rich with history that serves as a favorite hangout for Boston University students, and sits on the doorstep of Fenway Park.
I recently had the opportunity to explore this area on a solo trip to Boston. This solitude allowed the city to be my companion and show me the nuances that make it so special: vine covered facades of Georgia and Federal style buildings, the creatively decorated plots of Fenway Victory Gardens, and the changing leaves that were like bright flames of Fall.
Because exploring a city can easily make one feel hurried and drained, the following guide will help to ensure you absorb the historic adventure the area around Boston’s Kenmore Square has to offer, while tapping into comfort and creativity along the way:
I splurged on a room at the iconic Hotel Commonwealth because I wanted all aspects of my trip to be drenched in Boston vibes. While many hotels feel separate from the heart of the city, because of the often-generic ambiance of the rooms, I felt that I was actually staying inside the heart as I perched in the window seat of my room overlooking Commonwealth Avenue. This cozy space above the chilly and bustling street allowed me to take in the big picture of Kenmore Square at all hours of the day.
The rest of the hotel was filled with adornments that reminded me I was in Boston: large paintings depicting classic events like the Boston Marathon, seats from Fenway Park, and other Boston Red Sox memorabilia.
I was hit with old school charm when I first walked into this large brasserie-style restaurant. The waiters were friendly and eager to discuss the elaborate cocktail menu that read like an ode to the alchemy of mixology. I didn’t understand half of what I was reading, but trusted my waitress to guide me down a yummy path.
The drinkable art, called a Southside Royale, that arrived woke up every one of my taste buds – and they had a raging party. Best. Drink. Ever. I did not have just one.
The food that quickly followed was equally unique and delicious: A Turkey and Bacon Cobb salad that had uncommon Cobb salad accompaniments like roasted squash and cranberries that elevated the dish in all the right ways.
For easy, hearty and mega-tasty breakfasts I would wander over to this New York- style bagel shop that stuff their fresh-baked-goods with generous helpings of classic breakfast ingredients, and serve up coffee strong enough to get me through a full day of city strolling.
This elegant, yet unpretentious, establishment offered similar creative and OMG-delicious cocktails to the ones found at Eastern Standard, and seafood selections so good the noise of the patrons was drowned out by my happy tummy howling “Oh yeah!”
While making my way to a museum I stumbled on these 7.5 acres that house over 500 gardens tended by Boston community members. Each garden featured eclectic décor, vegetables, flowers and more. Curious geese roamed the gardens alongside members who were busy caring for their colorful fares. One woman I talked with has been gardening there for over 50 years in rain, snow and sun.
I had two hours to explore this palace of masterpieces, but I should have allotted two days. This museum is home to almost 500,000 works of art: paintings by masters like Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, jewelry from ancient Egypt, Buddhist sculptures, thought-provoking pieces by contemporary artists and so much more you could spend years visiting this museum and see something new on each trip.
If you want a dose of female empowerment do not miss these stops: the library tells the story of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, during a time when women weren’t even allowed to vote, and the awe-inspiring adjacent church shows what a purpose-full vision and dogged passion can produce.
The library also features the Mapparium, a three-story, stained-glass globe you can walk inside, offering a surreal and poignant experience.
To take in this landmark city in all its glory I recommend visiting in October when the vivid colors and crisp air of Fall are present, but the layers of snow have yet to appear.
And don’t forget to take an obligatory selfie in front of Fenway Park!
I nestled into a JetBlue Mint seat the morning after the 2016 election results rolled in. I was tired, and in need of nourishment. I was ushered to my space by a flight attendant who smelled like a fresh-linen candle and quickly handed me a “refreshmint” (hehe, good one JetBlue) cocktail.
My first twenty-ish minutes in a plane are usually laced with anxiety, but not this time. As I settled into my cushy airplane nest (a Mint “seat” is much more than a seat) I felt safe, cared for and free of my usual need to wring my hands and breath deeply (in a kind of creepy way) until we reach cruising altitude.
The alchemy of the following Mint elements is what made my experience so… well, minty.
I walked onto this flight with a bone deep yearning to bury myself in blankets and check out, and was hoping I wouldn’t be met with the standard itchy, thin and strange-smelling airplane blanket. My nest came with a comforter-esque blanket and full-sized pillow. “Oh yeah,” was on repeat in my mind and body as I laid my seat flat (!), sunk my head into the pillow and cocooned myself into the blanket that easily covered my entire body.
And the partition between myself, and the kind lady seated next to me, saved her from being exposed to my drooling-sleep-face.
As I slid my seat out of the supine position, my candle-scented flight attendant re-appeared to ask what food I wanted from the small plate menu created by the NYC restaurant Saxon + Parole. The menu read like an ode to edible art, each item unique and begging me to have a try.
After an embarrassing amount of time hemming and hawing (and salivating) over the menu I ordered the Tuscan kale salad, goat cheese tortellini soup and pan-seared halibut with roasted cauliflower.
Then I ate, and it was everything.
Most wines served on airplanes make me feel hung-over before I reach the bottom of the plastic cup. But JetBlue’s wine-service, curated by wine expert Jon Bonne, only offers the good stuff, like really good stuff; the stuff that makes your taste buds happy, body warm and fuzzy and mind strangely more creative and capable. And the bubbly is just as lovely. (Yes, I tried both. And had them put Bailey’s in my cappuccino.)
The blue glow of the large screen situated in my nest knew how to tickle my fancy. Unlimited access to programs I could watch without conferring with another adult and my three-year-old? Yes, please. Although I usually sink my airplane time into work, I let my laptop stay in its case and binged on movies with ratings naughtier than a G, as I took tiny bites of Blue Marble Ice Cream.
My persona can usually be summed up by the words “stale, tired and cranky” halfway through a long flight. So, I wanted to bear hug the flight attendant when she handed me a Hayward “designed for her” kit right as I was entering the “stale” realm. The denim clutch (that is so chic I now use as a clutch) was filled with an orange towelette, lip balm, breath mints, screen cloth, earplugs and a non-itchy eye mask.
Oh, and then there was the farewell gift box of chocolaty, buttery, uber-yummy treats from Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery that served as my dinner when I arrived at Hotel Commonwealth. The apple was nice too.
The Lack of Arrogance
I adore the “Mint Experience” term versus “business class” or (bleh) “first class.” The lack of snootiness in the terminology employed by JetBlue conveys the message that they offer a special experience I can choose to treat myself to, not an area of the plane I deserve to be in because I’m somehow “better than” the folks sitting in the more affordable seats (the seats I’m usually sitting in.)
As a mom, my alone time usually equals being squished in my car during traffic, but no more. This mama is skipping those daily fancy coffees in favor of saving up for a Mint experience on my next solo flight, because I deserve it, and so do you.