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Best Travel Blog

Orlando for Nearly Free – find out how

Before kids, I used to get lots of free airplane tickets for getting bumped. I traveled off season, which was cheaper. Now that I have kids, paying for travel for four is tough, especially since my husband doesn’t like getting bumped (“I want to get home NOW!”) and we travel during school breaks. Given how expensive travel is, especially to the Orlando parks, I’m excited to welcome Summer Hull to Jersey Kids today. She is launching an ebook called Frequent Flyer Toolkits, including one called Orlando for Nearly Free. She has been running MommyPoints.com, a popular blog that helps travelers navigate the frequent flyer type point programs to make travel more affordable.

Tell me a bit about you and your travel-for-free background.orlando-for-nearly-free

I first dabbled in the miles-and-points hobby as a cash-strapped grad student at New York University. I racked up frequent flyer miles flying back and forth to visit friends and family in Houston. Then, after graduation, while my friends could only muster up the money for a drive to the shore, I was able to use miles and points to take my boyfriend at the time to Hawaii. After that, I was hooked. I didn’t have as much travel occur naturally after grad school, so I had to find ways to earn miles outside of flying.

I kept learning more about how to earn and leverage loyalty currency and eventually my husband got sick of hearing me talk about it all the time! He encouraged me to start a blog and that’s how MommyPoints.com was born in 2011. Since that time I’ve shared tons of tips and strategies that can help just about anyone earn miles they can redeem for a nearly free flight (you still pay tax on award flights) and hotel stay.

What kind of freebies do you talk about in your ebook in terms of traveling for free?

The books teach you how to use frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and bank points. The fact is, using loyalty currency can drastically reduce your costs on all sorts of travel-related expenses. Frequent flyer miles can be redeemed for nearly free flights. All you’ll pay for, in the case of a ticket to Orlando, is the tax (which is $5.60 per flight segment per person). Continue reading Orlando for Nearly Free – find out how

Review: Queens – A Culinary Passport

I admit I’ve only been to Queens once, on a trip to the New York Hall of Science. Before going, I asked for restaurant advice from my friend Alison Lowenstein, author of City Kid New York. She steered us to Tortilleria Nixtamel, a cozy spot not far away, where we had delicious tacos, tamales, agua fresca and some other items. We later hit the Lemon Ice King of Corona, which a Jersey Kids Treat of the Day, for a cold dessert.

Queens, a Culinary Passport by Andrea Lynn

Queens, a Culinary Passport by Andrea Lynn

While these were excellent dining spots, when I go in the future, I will consult my new book, Queens a Culinary Passport: Exploring Ethnic Cuisine in New York City’s Most Diverse Borough by food writer Andrea Lynn.

In the book which was just released this week, Andrea shares detailed info on more than 40 restaurants and food stands – including cuisines like Pakistani, Greek, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian, Korean, Thai, Mexican, Uzbekistanian, Kosher deli, Slovak Chech…you get the idea. And by the way, Tortilleria Nixtamel and Lemon Ice King of Corona are both included.

But this is not just a book of restaurants, though restaurants are featured in detail. In it, you’ll find interviews with the restaurant owners and historical background about some of the food items featured there. There’s also interviews with other foodies like Serious Eats editor Max Falkowitz, on Queens memories and favorite food spots, and Famous Fat Dave, NYC Food Tour guide.

You’ll find food stores like the U.S. Supermarket, an Asian emporium, and Titan Foods, the largest Greek specialty store in the country.

You’ll find a lot of recipes. First one I’m trying is the Greek Frappe, something I enjoyed during my Mediterranean excursions without good replication at home. Some recipes are inspired by the dishes that featured restaurants serve (not all restaurants want to share their secret sauce), and some are adapted. I appreciate that Andrea spells that out.

And you’ll find self-guided walking tours for each neighborhood (the book is divided by neighborhood) with specific food spots to hit.

The book is lovely, designed with a mosaic motif reminiscent of the MTA subway stops. And there are lots of color photos and maps to illustrate it.

Even if you’re not going to Queens any time soon, it’s a fascinating book to read, to get a diverse cultural and food history. And if you venture to Queens at all, you must buy it.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

Last time I was near the World Trade Center, the fences were still up and you needed tickets to get into the memorial area. That is no longer the case, as of May. This September 11 is the first anniversary of the memorial. You can just walk into the plaza now and visit. I’ll give more information on the bottom – you can see pictures from my visit as you scroll down.

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There was something very sacred about the woman’s work cleaning and polishing the metal holding the names.

 

pool south

You can see a short video of what the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial pool looks like here. Continue reading Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

9/11 Museum Review – Should You Take Kids?

This summer I went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I went without my kids because I wanted to see if it was appropriate for them, and also wanted the time to go through there without the pressure of “I want to leave!” “I’m hungry!” “Are you almost done?”

pool museum

You can see the museum in the background – it’s the lower building just above the treeline on the left/center.

I’ll get into details about tickets, timing etc. at the bottom, along with age issues. I’ll also save my grand overarching thoughts about the museum for the end, so if you’re just looking for that, scroll to the bottom area. First I’d like to lead you through the museum. Continue reading 9/11 Museum Review – Should You Take Kids?

The Great Falls in Paterson

Have you been to the Great Falls in Paterson? If not, it’s worth going. We took a trip over there this summer and it was gorgeous!

Paterson Falls

This place has a lot of history, going back to Alexander Hamilton’s time, when he envisioned Paterson as the country’s first planned industrial city. He wanted to use hydropower from the Passaic River’s Great Falls. Hamilton and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (a real mouthful), started this in Paterson in 1792. Since then, Paterson’s industry became known for fabrics (silk spinning, cotton, textile machinery, jute, weaving, dyeing, etc.). When I posted a picture of the Falls on my personal Facebook page some time back, one of my friends said her first job was working in textiles in Paterson, and she’s not even old! You can read more of the history of the Great Falls here. Continue reading The Great Falls in Paterson

Review: Jeff Koons Retrospective at the Whitney – Should you Bring Kids?

I had one thought when walking up to the Whitney Museum, to see the Jeff Koons’ retrospective. Thank God we were getting in via the corporate sponsor ticket line. That regular line snaked out the building and around the corner, and it was LONG. We only had to wait behind four people who were either members or also worked for corporate sponsors. The lesson here: if you aren’t either category, expect a long line.

The vacuum cleaner room

The vacuum cleaner room

I learned a bit about Jeff Koons during my modern art history college classes, but after going through this four story retrospective, I realized just how little I actually knew. Get the free audio guide (you can listen to parts of it here) or take a tour. The signage is good too, but it’s nice having a little extra information. The retrospective covers 1978 to present, with 150 objects on display.

The inflatables room, with mirrors

The inflatables room, with mirrors

The exhibit is broken up into sections based on his genre of work/time period. They were all quite different and diverse, and the way they organized it provides an excellent way to see his progression of art and what concepts he worked with at that time. The first section (The New) was the vacuum cleaner one – first picture on top. He was exploring the interaction between the viewer and the object, using only new vacuum cleaners that had the added anthropomorphic ability to express life/death, male/female (phallic bag/womb of suckage) etc. Not such an interesting gallery for us, I’ll say. Continue reading Review: Jeff Koons Retrospective at the Whitney – Should you Bring Kids?

Kiva – make a microloan, get $50 more to lend

I’ve been a big fan of Kiva and have made microloans through it. Have you heard of Kiva? They coordinate loans of around a few thousand dollars to help individuals and those running very small businesses fund their business in one of 78 developing countries around the world. Your small loan of $25 or so is mixed with loans from other people, so that an entrepreneur in another country can do something like buy chickens to resell at market or buy auto parts for a small repair business. The repayment rates are extremely high – 98% – and you choose who you loan to. While the money is paid back, you funnel it into another loan after, so you don’t actually get repaid yourself. Kiva is a nonprofit.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva, $25 at a time for a few years.

Kiva has a promotion right now for new lenders who make their first $25 Kiva loan during August through their Go Far campaign page. Do so and you’ll get two $25 promo codes by September 3, which you can use or share with others.

Please lend, and let me know who you helped fund!

Review: Breathometer review – and discount code

One of the great things about being pregnant, at least for the nonpregnant partner, is always having a designated driver! I haven’t been pregnant in awhile, so when we go out we have to decide ahead of time who is driving. If you do plan on driving and are still having some alcohol, you need to pay attention to how much you’re drinking, what you’ve eaten and how you feel. However the more you drink, the less likely you are to be able to accurately measure your level of intoxication. Enter the Breathometer. (Read through the review for the Breathometer discount code)

I always assumed that breathalzyers were not something consumers could buy. But of course that’s changing, and there’s now a small breathalyzer that connects to smart phones and iPads, letting you know quickly what your BAC (blood alcohol content) is. And it’s fun to use.

 I tried out the Breathometer, which was sent to me for a paid review. And it was some serious work to try out various scenarios, varying my alcohol intake (and my husband’s) to see how the machine worked. And you’re welcome for that. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

When I told my friend Leah I was testing out the Breathometer, she said “wasn’t that on Shark Tank?” Yes it was! It was such a popular pitch that all 5 “sharks” got in on the deal and the product took off. Continue reading Review: Breathometer review – and discount code

Review: Fuerza Bruta Wayra NYC – Good for Kids?

My husband saw a Fuera Bruta show a few years back and has been telling me I’d love it. It’s a hard show to explain. It’s like a combination of performance art and Cirque du Soleil type acrobatics in the air (though not as technically difficult) but in a club atmosphere. The show goes on above you, to the side of you, behind you…you get the point.

When you enter the theater, the red lights are glowing like in a club, and you just stand there. You do not sit at all during the show, and the staff will move you around depending on what scene is coming up. They’ll use hand motions to move you. Just hang on to those in your party and back up or move to the side – whatever they tell you. It’s not the best place to go if you’re truly claustrophobic.

fuerza2

In case you’re wondering (I was), Fuerza Bruta Wayra means “brute force wind” and the show was founded in Argentina. The name does help explain why many of the show elements did include wind! The show has live music (mostly drumming) and singing, but no words other than the words of the main song, which basically sounds like a backdrop. There’s no storyline either. It’s like a series of vignettes. Of course you can interpret themes like man’s struggle against the movement of time, or various emotions, or entrapment or whatever you want. I’m not sure what’s behind it, but you can just stand there and enjoy it without reading too much into it.  Continue reading Review: Fuerza Bruta Wayra NYC – Good for Kids?

Review: If/Then on Broadway – Appropriate for Kids?

I will admit that the main draw to me getting If/Then on Broadway tickets was to see/hear Idina Menzel perform. And the concept of the show interested me too – a look at one woman’s life depending on which choices she made. Like in the movie Sliding Doors.

if then logo

The gist is that 38 year old Elizabeth moves back to New York City from Phoenix (my hometown – they had a few jokes at the city’s expense). She’s out of a relationship and looking for work. The show goes back and forth between two different scenarios: she takes a job as an urban planner or she takes a job as a professor. She hooks up with a stranger/soldier she meets in the park and gets married and has kids. Or she hooks up with her former best friend, has an abortion, loses him and lives a spinster life for a few years. Continue reading Review: If/Then on Broadway – Appropriate for Kids?