12 Things to Remember for Paris

I wrote these tips for a friend who was starting her Paris trip right after mine. I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our trip and Paris is now one of my favorite cities. And here are a few tips and things to remember if you embark on a trip of your own.

  1. The metro is really easy to use. Everything is clearly marked, it is everywhere and goes to just about every part of the city. I think it is as easy to use as Chicago’s. You can buy 10 tickets for 10% off. (Doug and I used about 4-6 per day depending on what we wanted to see).
  2. Eat as many croissants as you can. (they are ah-mazing)
  3. Go to a cheese shop (fromaugerie) and make sure to also get some of their salted butter. It is one of the best things I have ever tasted. I swear that when Kate Moss said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” she had never had french butter.ParisTip2
  4. Check out a local market if you can (there is one in the city almost every day of the week). Doug and I grabbed bread, wine, cheese, meat and went by the Seine and had a picnic.
  5. Bring some portable wine glasses and a bottle opener. Always be ready to crack some vino!
  6. ParisTip1Tourists are terrible. And everywhere. So, be prepared the eiffel tower will feel a lot like times square (especially during the day). It’s still great to see but also be careful of pickpockets and people walking up to you. Doug and I saw someone getting robbed and then the police started chasing them. Craziness. We went during the day and then at night. At night (which the sun doesn’t set till almost 10:30) it is really lovely. Grab a park bench, vino (again) and wait until midnight (or on the hour after the sun goes down). The tower will light up for about 5 minutes. It is also really pretty to watch from a bridge over the seine (right behind the eiffel tower).
  7. ParisTip4Art. If you want to buy some art, some of the cheapest and best place is along the seine by the musee dorsay. There are also places in the Montmarte area but tend to be more expensive.
  8. If you want to go to a museum, buy the tickets in advance. The Louvre had an over 2 hour wait the day we went.
  9. Take time to forget about everything else and just enjoy.
  10. The people are incredibly nice. I think this rudeness stereotype is a thing of the past. They are kind, gracious and willing to help.
  11. Yelp is really helpful to find great places to eat. Some reviews are in English but we often went for the highest stars with the majority of reviews in French and found some pretty fantastic local spots that way.
  12. ParisTip3Google Maps (load maps in your phone over wifi at your hotel before you head out and you can navigate yourself to the city). They will also help tell you what metro lines and transfers you may need to make. We ended up turning on a data plan so that we could get maps out and about because our Belgium leg of the trip was more difficult to navigate than France.

ParisTip5“I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.”
Amy Thomas, Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light


The Newbie Guide to Airbnb

A few things to learn from our experience here: it needs to be the right place to be worth it. Don’t get me wrong, every place we stayed was nice but we felt most comfortable in locations that were clearly vacation properties or made to be guesthouses. While staying in Boston, we stayed in someone’s home that felt a little too much like we were staying in a stranger’s home. When I woke up in the morning and saw a picture of her family member on the nightstand, it just felt like I was trespassing, I struggled to feel comfortable in her home. She was very welcoming and hospitable, it was just a learning curve for us with AirBnB.

AirBNB Newbie Checklist:

1. Set up clear expectations on arrival times and how to access the property. (make a plan B for if you need a late or early arrival, especially if the host does not live near the property).
2. Provide a description of your party when booking (if you have a child, if they need childproofing, how many are traveling, etc). Make the post personable.
3. Ask some questions. (Do they live there? If you plan on preparing any meals, is the kitchen stocked with any basics?)
4. Learn about the local area. (Ask the host if there is public transportation near by. Ask for take-out or local restaurant suggestions. Ask about the exterior of the property if it is in a hard to find location).
5. Treat the property as if it were your own and remember the basics you learned in kindergarten: Be respectful, be kind and clean up after yourself.

Our Newbie Experiences: (we recommend every place we visited with 5 stars!)

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Burlington, VT (our favorite of the bunch)
I think we had an outstanding first experience in Vermont at the Carriage House in Burlington. Mary Ann left a chilled bottle of wine on the table to welcome us. Provided access to the property through a keyless code entry (that she sent ahead of our arrival). She stocked the pantry with spices and some Vermont products (coffee, cream, jam, peanut butter, soaps) and made sure we had laundry detergent. She checked in on us, but it never felt overbearing. The suite was beautifully designed and was clearly a guest house (with no personal belongings). It felt like renting a furnished condo with a fantastic welcome.

Wells Beach, ME
Our second experience was a vacation rental property steps from the beach. It wasn’t fancy, but it was good for what we needed. The kitchen was furnished but they didn’t provide any welcoming basics like Mary Ann in Vermont. They had a lobster pot which was perfect, but we did learn that we need to ask before we go to see if we need to bring a condo kit (spices, cooking stuff, cleaners, etc). There wasn’t a view but we knew that going in to it.

Boston, MA
Our third property of the trip was in Boston. When we drove into an industrial looking area I was a little nervous. Casey’s place was on the third level and I wish we would have talked a little more, there was a dangerous stair case and it stressed me out with Maggie, but Doug figured out a solution and we kept a close eye on her. Like I said earlier, it was a very cool space, but Casey clearly lived there and we couldn’t get over how it felt like we were living in a stranger’s house.

So our personal guidelines for AirBnB:
1. Vacation Rentals – Yes
2. Guesthouses – Yes
3. Personal homes – not for us.

So will we use AirBnB again? Absolutely. You can’t beat the unique vacation experiences. However, our suggestion is to overly communicate with the hosts to have clear expectations and enjoy to the fullest.

#series: 5 tips for the business traveler

5 Tips for the Business Traveler: Always remember your parking spot - take a picture on your phone of the wayfinding - the latest pic will lead you back to your car. -

5 Travel Tips Travel Tips 55 Travel Tips5 Travel Tips

I have some go-to things I do for business travel. I have a system for packing that maybe crazy but I am a speedster through security. I have every pocket organized so I know where I stashed my favorite pen or the gum when my ears start popping at 5000 feet. But these are things everyone does (well at least I hope I am not the only crazy out there). Here are the tips I try to follow as I travel about the country…

1. Remember where you parked.
Seriously – you don’t want to be wandering the parking deck at midnight pressing the panic button (been there). I now have a system – I take a picture of the location I parked with my phone and then grab my phone as I head out to the parking deck, look up the last dated photo and it leads me to my car (without having to reach for the panic button) every time.

2. Stop and Enjoy.
I purposely fill my travel days with non-stop work. Some of this is due to necessity and some of it is so I won’t miss my family. But even when I am traveling solo, it is important to realize that I am blessed. Not everyone has the opportunity to travel and see the world.  So take a moment – write an email while overlooking the Bellagio Fountain, walk down to the beach in the morning before work while in Santa Monica or grab coffee in bustling downtown Cincinnati at Coffee Emporium with the locals. 

3. Wifi is your bff on flights
I think I am most productive on my flights from DTW to LAX. I work furiously until the battery dies. I feel like I get almost 2 work days out of 5 hours. I am ninja focused and the wifi is so slow, I can’t do anything but email. (pinterest is just painful to load at 10k feet). Spring for the wifi – it’s worth the peace of mind.

4. Yelp and eat like a local
If you are not fortunate enough to have a local guide (client or co-worker), hit up yelp to find the best new restaurants, hidden happy hours or killer views. Sit at the bar, make friends and feel like a local. I make my selection based on a place that has over 50 reviews with a rating of 4 or higher. When you find the negative reviews are things like: they only have microbrews on tap… or the food is too snobby – well I know I have found my place.

5. Remember the family and always bring something home. 
It is easy to forget when I am tired of traveling that my husband would have loved to have seen this restaurant or liked this shop. While I can’t bring along Doug and Mags on every trip, I can bring something back to let them know that I thought of them. I always try to find something unique to the city – no lame postcards allowed. This picture is courtesty of Bottega Louie – a place I ate at and then brought back some of these wonderful cookies to Doug.

And yep, I am typing this at 4 in the morning LA time because I am on another business trip and the time change gets me everytime! Happy Travels.