2018 + Legit New Beginnings

Trip Styler New Beginnings 2018

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It's weird when you're a travel writer who is supposed to be sojourning, and yet, you're not. When I see other people's escapades skiing in the Alps or sunning in Sayulita, it makes me what to get on a plane ASAP. Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

In my last post, I mentioned how the end of 2017 was a touch turbulent, and so far, the New Year has served up a different kind of crazy in the lives of moi + my crew. Amid writing projects for Expedia penning a travel-meets-beauty collab with Estée Lauder; Air Transat, musing over Italy's beach clubs and traveling with little ones for their 2018 glossy; and Luxury Retreats Magazine interviewing Big Island and Maui locals, major life "stuff" was taking my attention away from my next trip. 

Early in January our beloved and well-traveled dog, Mr. Nacho King fluttered up to dog heaven. This was really tough on each member of the TS crew given he was our long-time fur-child and the kids' brother. Then, in mid-January we sold our too-small-for-a-family-of-four condo in Whistler that we once used as a retreat from our city life before we started buying Pampers in bulk. At the end of January we moved into a new home in Vancouver. Finally, after six months of waiting, we got in to see a paediatric breathing specialist to better understand and monitor the kids' respiratory challenges {more about this, here}, which I'm feeling really positive about.

And so, 2018 is quickly becoming a year of legit new beginnings. At this moment, it feels like I'm looking out of an airplane window at a new light on the horizon, and with it: new experiences, space for change, and another season of travel.

Next up: A girls spa weekend and a beach break in Punta Mita, Mexico.  

Ahhh and Olé.

PS - What's Next for TS
In 2018 my goal for TS is to get back to regular dispatches here and on TS Instagram. My intention is simply regularity because with two toddlers I've become a big fan of small but achievable objectives. Also, for the past few years I've focused so much on long-form, fact-perfect and well-penned posts, that if something wasn't 110% polished I wouldn't post at all, which made writing overwhelming and delivery infrequent. But, if travel has taught me one thing, it's that one must embrace the new and maintain an elastic-like flexibility to thrive even when things are constantly in flux.

Why Trip Styler Has Been (Mostly) Grounded This Fall

Grounded.jpg

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In everyday life, if someone says "you're grounded" it's typically meant as a compliment inferring that you know who you are, or you have a keen sense of what's important. Yet, in the world of travel, being grounded implies there's a challenge given that wayfaring requires you to wander {versus stay put}. 

Right now, I feel like I'm hovering between these two extremes. Let me explain. 

I heart traveling and really miss the thrill and escape of galavanting around the globe as often as I used to, but sometimes life at home can keep you grounded like an airplane that needs service. And that's not a bad thing. So, aside from a quick getaway to Palm Springs for a girlfriend's milestone birthday, the Trip Styler crew has stayed put for the past few months. Like, seriously put. 

There are a number of reasons our feet have stayed on solid ground this fall. The most major: We learned both Little Stylers have reactive airways, which is medical-speak for they have developed breathing challenges. Thanks to our excellent access to hospital and doctor care in Canada, we're learning how to understand and manage their respiratory issues.

As we learn more about the ailment, which we *hope and pray* is temporary, the idea and reality of foreign family travel has become tricky at the moment because if they need treatment, they need it fast. If only Canada had a balmy, palm tree-dotted escape... 

Despite the kids being on two types of puffers, at present, every day on the homefront is an "adventure" in that we're always monitoring their breathing. The good news is both littles are doing REALLY well and responding favorably to their meds, which has decreased our trips to Children's Hospital. However, there are still scary moments when we go into hospital watch-mode as their breathing gets laboured. Who knew that I'd borrow a page from my packing preparedness posts to craft a hospital packing list {now pasted on our bedroom closet door for sudden visits...}.

In addition to staying temporarily grounded to treat and better understand the kids' breathing, we're moving. Soon. We think. This is another reason we haven't booked any trips since late-summer; we've been on stand-by as we prepare to move from our city perch to a bigger space.  While there have been a number of delays with the build, we hope to *actually* pack our bags and boxes in a few weeks. Fingers crossed we'll be warming our toes in front of our new fireplace at Christmastime.     

All of this reminds me that life is like an airplane ride. Sometimes there's a turbulence. Sometimes you have to hurry up and wait. Sometimes your itinerary gets re-routed. And sometimes your plane needs maintenance. Then, eventually, things get sorted, and when you look down from your window at 35,000ft, you do so with a whole new perspective. That's our hope for the New Year. 

xoxo, 
The Trip Stylers  

birds eye view

[Photos by @tripstyler]

A Hotspot of Hope: The NEW New York

The New New York

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{Editor's Note: Scroll to see 50+ photos below.}

To me, traveling to New York is like seeing your coolest and oldest friend. Your time together is always filled with all the feels, and in NYC's newest hood—one of the city's current hotspots—the feels run really deep. 

NYC Hotspot
Enter my recent trip to the Big Apple. I caught a ride to Manhattan on Cathay Pacific's chic and nonstop flight {Vancouverites and New Yorkers: This is the BEST way to fly between the two hubs given the carrier's international-level service on the route}. During this visit, rather than my usual repertoire of hopping between it shops and stops throughout New York's endless neighborhoods, I focused on one NYC grid: The completely revitalized Lower Manhattan, coined the new New York. 

The New New York
Rebuilt after the 9/11 attacks and stronger than ever, Lower Manhattan has become an ode to all the things that make New York a sought-after place to live and visit. In the new New York, there's grit and glam, fortitude and fearlessness, history and ingenuity, energy and esteem. Counting still-standing relics telling visual tales of the city's oldest 'hood, memorials that give a clear voice to past events, eateries so delicious you'd hop on a plane just for one dish, and addresses so stunning they double as art, there's an overwhelming sense of hope oozing from every new building, sidewalk, and storefront.    

Beyond the must-eats, -stays, and -dos popping up all over the revitalized locale, you'll find you're not just visiting a place, but participating in the day-by-day restoration of the human spirit. Here are the addresses that took my breath away in New York's hotspot...of hope.

<Scroll down for details about what to do, where to eat, and my gorgeous stay below>

---> DO <---
Oculus & WestField World Trade Center
You've probably seen its gorgeous wingspan gracing every instagrammers' feed, but there's more to the Santiago Calatrava-designed Oculus than meets the eye. Commissioned as a memorial to 9/11, this monument to life's glass skylight opens up every September 11th. In a powerful display of light overcoming darkness at 10:28am the sun shines most intensely into the dove-like building—timed to the moment when the second building of the World Trade Center fell. I was there for about four hours, but I could have stayed for the day. The structure is that stunning {and the dove's wings ignite a creative fire in your soul—at least they did for me!}

The Oculus is built over one of the city's major transportation hubs and retail escapes that includes NYC staples such as Eataly and Kiehl's, and transplants like San Fran-based Blue Bottle Coffee, Stockholm-based COS, and London-based Reiss, in addition to other TS faves like Aesop and Claudalie.      

One World Observatory
Perched at the top of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, is a place of perspective: One World Observatory. I don't always flock to bird's-eye-view tourist magnets, but this attraction is in a category of its own. It gave me goosebumps, it made me cry, and it made me smile all in one visit. In short: You have to go to see the bedrock upon which the engineering marvel is built, hear the stories of those who rebuilt the iconic structure, witness the panoramic views, and climb from floor 1 to 102 in 47 ear-popping seconds. And, I won't spoil it, but there's one part of the journey that literally takes your breath away...

National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Grand in scale but contemplative in nature, the National September 11 Memorial spans eight of the 16-acre World Trade Center plot. Including a forest, pools, and a subterranean museum telling the stories of those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks, this place of tribute is a powerful ode to past events, present awareness, and future change. 

Don't just walk past this memorial. Linger. Sit in the forest and reflect. Read the names of those who never got to tell the tale of that day on the bronze plates circling the one-acre pools. Listen to waterfalls—intended create a sanctuary in the midst of the city's bustle—cascading into the bodies of water. Visit the subterranean museum, a place to learn, feel, reflect, understand, and pay respect to the fallen.       

---> EAT <---
Le District
If I could give a petit bisou to one food address in NYC it would be the French food emporium: Le District {and not just because of the Rosé crèam glacée}. Sandwiched between the Hudson River and the World Trade Center in the chic shopping and dining address, Brookfield Place, the French market feels like you're hovering in an epicurean eden somewhere between New York and Paris.

Think of it like a walkabout of the 11th arrondissement with all the accoutrements you'd expect from the culinary district: Fromagerie, boucherie, poissonerie, boulangerie, patisserie, chocolaterie, bar au vin, brasserie(s)—except here, all the fixings are huddled together in a 30,000-square-foot market. 

Whether you pop in for an éclair {made with imported butter from France, bien sur}, a glass of bold Bordeaux, or a croque-madame at Beaubourg, one of three sit-down eateries, don't plan anything after your visit, because you could sit, browse, nosh, and sip the day away in this chic concrete- and tile-clad francophile land of milk, honey, and every other provision under the French sun. 

CUT by Wolfgang Puck
You'd think celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck would have a dozen of his namesake eateries sprinkled all over Manhattan, but the longtime culinary VIP is choosy. While Puck has been sizzling fixture in the fine dining space since the '80s, he did not choose to enter the upscale Manhattan market until 2016 when the stars aligned to open his steakhouse, CUT, in Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown. Here, join the Financial District's powerbrokers in the sultry, velvet-draped, and wood-ensconced space to nosh on the city's most highfalutin steaks {read: Grilled over hard wood and charcoal, and finished under a 1,200-degree broiler} and chichi comfort food like creamed spinach with a fried organic egg.

---> STAY <---
Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown
As part of a neighborhood that is being reshaped by vision and soul, the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown is a quiet yet confident addition to Lower Manhattan's skyline. Polished yet understated, it's the kind of address a celeb could slip into unnoticed {ahem, and they do}. Occupying the first 24 floors of one of the city's most sough-after towers, the newly-opened luxury hotel has all the fixtures you'd expect from a posh hotel—picture-perfect rooms with marble bathrooms and soaking tubs, a 23-meter pool {so huge it has its own lifeguard}, a spa stocked with rare Swiss brands and lavish treatments such as a Chardonnay skin rejuvenation ritual, a celebrity-chef-helmed restaurant—and then some. And if you ever exit the chic urban retreat, you're steps from culture, cuisine, art, and shops that will make the Big Apple even more delectable than it already is. 

Other Dispatches in this Series
3 Days in NYC {What I Packed}
Cathay Pacific's Iconic YVR to JFK Nonstop Route
Cathay Pacific's GORGEOUS New Lounge at YVR
Next Up :: NYC

[Lead photo taken by @NomnomYVR, all other photos taken by @TripStyler (unless otherwise stated) while exploring NYC in partnership with Cathay Pacific Airways and NYC & Co.]

Hotels Vs Vacation Homes --> The Clear Winner

hotels vs vacation homes with little kids

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When I had kids I was told my longstanding relationship with hotels was over. So long lavender-scented cold towels, byeeee crisp sheets, see ya infinity pool, arrivederci lobby bar of my dreams; it was nice knowing you. Based on the advice of many parents I know, vacation homes seemed to be the only option in the "with kids" version of my life. “When you have a family, it’s just easier with a kitchen, you’ll see,” they told me.

Except, when it's just the four of us, it's not. At all. {At this point.}

Now that I've experienced both lodging types with littles, I don’t “see.” Seriously, though, why do I “need” a kitchen on vacation? So I can grocery shop? So I can cook? So I can wash dishes? So I can clean countertops? Just, NO.

While I do like the immersive local experience and neighborhoody-ness vacation homes offer, I’m not sold on them unless I’m going to stay awhile {as in, longer than a month}. Mostly because of the kitchen-factor. Even if I don’t use it, it’s there, reminding me of home...and cooking and food prep and clean-up. Isn't the point of a holiday to escape the everyday and chillax?

So, hotels. I heart them—especially with young kids in tow. Here’s why:

Because, Catered
If I’m going to pack up my life and hop on a plane, I want a hint of catered. I don’t need five stars or white-glove service, but I still enjoy a pampered experience, a fizzy welcome bev, and someone to offer me canapés at the pool. E-s-p-e-c-i-a-l-l-y if I’m traveling with kids. For this reason I choose hotels in all their plushy, non-kitcheny glory. And if I want a snack, I can always stock my mini-bar with a few of my favorite bites.
---> Hotels that inspired this: Four Seasons Resort Lanai and the Fairmont Orchid

Because, Firsts
Traveling gives us the opportunity to taste new foods and try new experiences. But here’s the ruse: Any time I’ve stayed in a vacation rental, I feel lured by the kitchen {and a pang of money-saving guilt for not cooking}, which takes away from time spent connecting with the culture at a variety of local shops and cafés. What I like about the simple, bed-and-bath nature of hotel rooms {or adjoining hotels rooms, because toddlers!} is you're forced outward in search of that elusive “first” that brings so much joy and wonder to wandering.
--> Hotel that inspired this: Terme Manzi Hotel + Spa in Ischia, Italy

Because, Vibe
If I was Beyoncé I’m sure I’d have a “vibe engineer” on my payroll to create the mood in the vacation homes I visit around the globe. However, I’m not Queen B, nor do I require my hideaway to be kitted out with a sense-of-place playlist, fancy-pantsy furniture, or personalized cooking. Due to the nature of hotels as people-centric gathering places created to meet our human need to roam, sleep, eat, and play, good hotels offer a built-in entourage, design, and staff to curate a feel that reflects the local culture and cuisine.
--> Hotel that inspired this: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The Exception
Unique farm-to-table stays such as Puakea Ranch where there's a garden to pick fruits and veggies for your meal, animals around every corner, a rumpus room with vintage toys, and the environs is so gorgeous you decide you'll return every year {for the rest of your life}.

One day, I'll appreciate vacation rentals again. Like, when the little stylers are out of diapers. But, for now, in my two-toddler reality, unless I'm going on a long trip, hotels win. Big time.

This article hints at an original piece I penned for The Kitchn.

[Photos by @tripstyler]

Cathay Pacific's Iconic YVR to JFK Nonstop Route

Cathay Pacific YVR to NYC Flight

[trip style = luxury + urban]

When I started Trip Styler, I vowed to visit New York annually to stay up on the city that never sleeps. In an effort to be intentional about this goal, I wrote it down on a paper napkin while perched at a bar in the Big Apple. Because all great ideas start on bar napkins. {Now if only I were sipping a Manhattan...}

Pssst: Scroll down to see 18 photos.

The Easy Commute
Part of what made {and continues to make} this dream a reality is Cathay Pacific's daily, nonstop service between Vancouver and New York. This flight is so well executed, it's a commuter flight for some travelers. I knew a man who spent his weekends in Vancouver and his weekdays working at a major magazine in NYC. And I get it. I've flown to NYC from Vancouver and Seattle in economy and business class on many airlines, and nothing compares to Cathay Pacific's service.

A Chic Approach
Since around 1996, this route has reached a near-iconic status with coast-to-coast jetsetters because of its chic approach. Let me explain: Even though flights between Canada and the US are technically international, most of them leave out the standard of service of international flights: creative cuisine, complimentary drinks, long haul-designed seats, etc. because "the extras" add too much to the highly-competitive, price-sensitive fares. 

The International Factor
This is where Cathay's Vancouver-New York route soars above other airlines' barely-there, cost-cutting service. Because Vancouver is a stopover between Hong Kong and New York, passengers step onto a long-range, wide-body Boeing 777-300ER with four classes, transcontinental service, touch-screen entertainment and flight times that make a "New York minute" last an extra day {the flight arrives in New York at 7am and departs at 10pm, meaning there's more time to take a bite out of the Big Apple}. And the price tag, hovering between CAD$600 and $650 for Economy Class advance bookings, is similar to other airlines' nonstop fares, yet with Cathay you get all the frills—and the feels.

Economy Class
Even when I'm in Economy, I consider the five-hour flight the start of my vacation. The cheapest seats offer generous service, full meals, alcoholic bevs, high-res seatback entertainment with USB charging, cradle-designed seats with a multiposition headrest and 6" recline, as well as fresh orchids in the lavatories. Basically, you still feel pampered in Economy, which is a lost art in aviation. It's also worth mentioning how polite Cathay's flight attendants are towards passengers in all classes.

Business Class
If you can spring for business class via points or dollars, do it... For the lie-flat beds extending almost seven feet. For the personal pods each with direct aisle access. For the beautiful menu. For the lounge. Oh the lounge.

Lounge Life
Cathay takes Vancouver VERY seriously—YVR was the airline's first foray into North America—and the airport has the lounge to prove it. The Hong Kong-based carrier's recently renovated lounge is by FAR the nicest address at Vancouver International Airport. {I wish it was my woodsy-chic home brimming with bubbly and signatures like Cathay's Noodle Bar and stunning bathrooms (with showers) stocked with Aesop amenities.}

I LOVE New York so much it has become a constant destination in my Trip Styling schedule. Due to the Cathay daily and direct flight, it's not only easy to reach, but getting there is effortlessly chic.

Quick Facts:
Inbound: CX888 departs Vancouver {YVR} at 10:50pm and arrives in New York {JFK} at 7am
Outbound: CX889 departs New York at 9:55pm and arrives in Vancouver at 12:45am
Flight time: 5-5.5hrs
Classes: Economy Class, Premium Economy, Business Class, First Class
Starting fare: CAD$600 {Trip Styler Tip: Search for a seat sale to reduce this price} 

Click the images below to enlarge and then hover for details.

Other Dispatches in this Series
Next Up :: NYC
3 Days in NYC {What I Packed}
Cathay Pacific's GORGEOUS New Lounge at YVR
6 Hong Kong Hints {that will make you want to book a ticket ASAP}
Flying Well :: Cathay Pacific's Revolutionary A350
Style Inspiration :: The Pier Business + First Class Lounges in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Vancouver to Hong Kong

[Photos by @tripstyler (except where noted) taken while a guest of the airline. As mentioned, I've paid for this flight more times than I can count and I have a very strict editorial policy favoring trips I LOVE.]