Five New Years Resolutions Strategies

Like so many of my friends and family I have created a list of New Year’s Resolutions. I look back and see how close I came to some of the resolutions that I laid out for myself from last year, and start again. Some of my resolutions seem to be the same from year to year. I never really got to them other than to write them down. Others, I started but never finished. So this year, in addition to writing resolutions – I am implementing strategies to make sure that they do not just become wishes that are not achieved at the end of the year. The strategies I am going to implement include:

1. Set Realistic and Compelling Goals. I have made goals for myself in the past that are so beyond the scope of what would be actually achievable that there would be no possible way to actually achieve them. When you set a goal that you are really interested in achieving you will do all that you can to make it happen. What I find extremely important in this is trying to figure out WHY I want to achieve said goal. Understanding the reasoning behind it help set that emotional drive to get it done.

2. Break It Down. There is an old saying that asks, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” That same can be true for achieving any large goal or resolution. No, you will not likely lose 20 pounds in one week. But rather by making small incremental changes over time. Simple things like choosing not to have three cookies but only one or parking a bit further in the parking lot forcing you to walk a bit more. Break your big goal down into smaller do-able action items.

3. Review Regularly.I have written four days on my calendar (about quarterly) to review how things are going. Am I moving toward my goals? Are they still important to me? Have I hit the break it down mile-stones? I have already put these dates in my calendar so I can check in with myself. I have set reminders to myself. Time seems to move very quickly and if you are not careful to review – the resolutions could get beyond what is achievable. (Although to be honest some of my resolutions – things like crossing something off my bucket list can be done in one day).

4. Adjust Accordingly. Based on how you are doing toward the big goal. Adjust adjust adjust. Can you lose more weight? Can you spend more time doing something fun? After the review – you may need to adjust up or down. You may be surprised at how much you really can achieve.

5.Celebrate Success. This is where I falter the most. I am not really good at celebrating the little things. But when you do, you encourage yourself to achieve more. You buoy yourself to continue to achieve more and stay the course on achieving your goals.  Get someone else in your corner to help you achieve – then you can celebrate together! It doesn’t have to be a party or anything that costs a lot (and I can’t usually afford that anyway). Plan a trip to the mall to see if a different size of clothes fit. Buy a new workout outfit (further motivation). Count your money (if saving is part of your resolutions).

Good luck on achieving all you dream of! What are your resolutions? How do you plan to achieve them? How are your resolutions different from what is on your bucket list?

Financially Planning For Travel Tips

I start with a fresh calendar at the beginning of the year. I get a pencil out and start planning where we will go and when. To be honest I sort of have to do this for a couple reasons: 1. I share custody of my kids with my ex which means that I only get them part time and I can not just travel on a whim, but rather have to “approve” weeks with my ex. 2. My kids are getting older which means that they also have personal commitments (like my son playing football and needing to be at camps in the summer or that pesky thing called school). 3. If I don’t plan, I don’t go or don’t have the money to go when I want to. While time is certainly one of the bigger issues – financial is usually of the bigger pieces for me. I recently learned of a few tips to help with the saving piece. I will try a couple this year.

1. Save Cash In An Envelope. Just like you might put a poster of your destination on your fridge, place an envelope near that photo – and put $20 cash each week into the envelope so you will have “spending cash” on your trip. (I also suggest my kids do the same – so they can buy their own souvenirs).

2. Month In = More Money For Week Out. Plan to encourage your family to have a month completely in the house. No, I don’t mean being a shut-in. I mean eat EVERY meal in (or brown bag it), save up a whole season of a TV show instead of seeking external entertainment (or plan on doing family research on your chosen destination – so the kids can get excited about what they might see there). The money you save on going out for one month may help pay for the money you will need to eat out EVERY meal.

3. Plan Ahead. One thing someone offered as a suggestion to me several years back, is to use a re-loadable VISA card. That way the money is out of your bank account – but accessible to you when you go on your trip. If you are dividing up the cost (saving into a vacation fund monthly) at the beginning of the month put your vacation funds into the pre-paid Visa. The old adage holds true – big things become achievable when you don’t get overwhelmed with the big picture but rather, concentrate on the little things (save small amounts of money each month is more do-able than a giant chunk at one time).

4. Find bloggers, Convention and Visitors Bureaus or other local people in the “know” to see if there might be FREE events in the area when you will be there. There are a multitude of free concerts, festivals, community celebrations and events that give flavor to any destination. (I also blog at MileHighMamas.com – and write about DEALS – so I have some items there for Denver and surrounding community events).

5.USE Coupons and Promo Codes. Several travel related companies post coupons or promotional codes online. They range from a discounted rate to stay a certain number of nights (at a hotel) to get one free.Companies post these to get your business (it works even better if you share these codes on your social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).

6. ASK for deals. The least they can say is No. But quite often if you ask for a deal that seems reasonable – they will give it to you. I recently told a friend to call the hotel she wished to stay at and ask them if they would give her a discount (knowing that late October/Early November is not a high demand time for Colorado Mountain towns – as hiking and summer activities are done because it gets cold already but not cold enough for the ski areas to already be open). They offered her the discount she wanted AND gave her an upgrade into a condo style room – so she could cook in (saving more money)!

7. Couch Surf. Yes, that same thing that you may have done in college (or in your younger years). Stay with friends. The cost of a super vacation can be cut if you stay just a few days with friends or family. It does not have to be the WHOLE trip (my dad – and Ben Franklin – used to say, “Guests and fish stink after three days.”).

Hopefully these tips will help you with the perfect vacation this year.

Souvenirs From Business Trips

I travel quite a bit in my business. I am constantly challenged with the questions of do I get a souvenir for myself? For my kids? If so, what? I also am constantly on a budget – so getting some big elaborate thing is really out of the question. And I have two kids – so when I get one something I have to get something for the other one as well.

Several years back, my daughter was really into snow globes. So I purchased her a small snow globe. She loved it! So I started buying her the same thing. They are usually just around $5 to $7 so nothing that will break the bank. However, I found out the hard way that some security areas at airports will not allow you through their gates with one. Despite them being small. They are liquid (and apparently against TSA regulations (one agent who made me throw it away also said that the glass could be broken and used for a weapon). So I usually have to buy them at the airport. Which makes shopping pretty easy for me for her. Although the more that I have purchased, the more I realize that they are sort of similar. For example, I went to Orlando and purchased one that had a palm tree inside and there was a tag on the outside that said “Florida” but when I went to San Diego. There was the same palm tree just the outside of it said “San Diego.” Since my shopping options are limited to whatever is at the airport store…all I can say is good thing she likes palm trees.

Florida Snow Globe

Florida Snow Globe

My son on the other hand, has grown a lot in the past few years that I have been traveling. At first, I would get him a small stuffed animal. He was happy with that until he hit about 11 years old. Then I realized that it was sort of a waste of money. He would toss it up on his desk in his room (which is essentially a pile of junk) and never really look at it again. So I started buying him TShirts (he’s a sports fan – so the local team seemed the way to go). But then he would grow out of them and the price was certainly inequitable to what my daughter was getting (and she noticed and voiced it quite loudly). So when a friend suggested Christmas ornaments I did that. He seemed less than happy when I brought him an ornament in October from Mexico. (I was certainly not bringing back tequila to a 15 year old!)

As for me? I sometimes get myself something too. I started collecting either a Christmas ornament (which are sometimes difficult to find) or I recently found Alex and Ani bracelets that have charms of the cities (although they are certainly not everywhere – and sometimes difficult to find – I had to SHIP the San Francisco one – despite being in a store in San Francisco).

Alex and Ani

What is your favorite souvenir? How much did it cost? Do you bring things for your kids when you travel for work? Does TSA let you through with your treasures?

Napa Wine Country Short Tour

I can’t say that I am a true connoisseur (and obviously I’ve not been drinking any today because I can still spell connoisseur). I like wine. I like trying it. I can say that my “pallet” has gotten better. But what I really do like about wine is that it really is individual. No matter how many people I ask what wine do you like? What would you recommend? Most of them don’t really answer – but rather start asking questions. People after my own heart! So while I’m not a true oenophile (do I get points for spelling in this post?) I am getting better about discerning what I like (and unfortunately yes, that does include more expensive wines).

When the opportunity presented itself for me to make a quick trip to Napa. I immediately said yes. I flew into the Oakland airport. The airfare was inexpensive and Oakland airport is easier to navigate than SFO (San Francisco). Also car rental from Oakland is not assessed the special “airport fee” that they charge at SFO. And it’s only about a 40 minute drive from Oakland Airport vs. one hour from San Francisco. I opted for Alamo (I booked it through Southwest Airlines – which was actually LESS expensive than as a member of Enterprise). The car rental was just over $100 for the full three days that I would have the car. Although, once I arrived at the Westin Versa Napa, I parked the car – and didn’t really see it again until I was ready to leave two days later.

The Westin Versa Napa. It is one of the only national chain hotels that I could see in the area. It is fairly new build (being open just over 4 years). The lobby is small but welcoming and has a really cool design made with wine bottles as the backdrop for the front desk. The rooms are amazing. It felt bigger than my apartment. There was a full kitchen, living room, the bathroom was amazing (bathrooms are of the one ways I judge how good a hotel is), the beds were beyond comfortable – it’s no wonder they call it a heavenly bed, and I had a great balcony that overlooked a courtyard and into the hills. Although, I didn’t spend much time on the deck as it was early December which meant is was cold and rainy. The decor was beautiful if understated. It literally looks like it had been there for a long time. The hotel only goes three stories – so as to not overwhelm the great rolling hills views.

(photo courtesy of Westin)

Westin Napa

The first night we were there we ate at LaToque the Michelin Starred restaurant. The food was nothing short of AMAZING! I realized when I sat down that some people may not know what do when there are several forks set out (work our way from the outside in was what I was always taught) – but in wine country, it is less about forks than it is about the wine glasses. There were four glasses set out. I learned that you use your glasses from right to left (or just follow the pours). The first wine was a champagne (bubbles!), then white, then red, then deeper red. The meal was paired with B Cellars wine. And each course was specifically thought out that the wine would pair (but not overpower) with the food. I also learned that to get a Michelin Star there is not a specific set of things that make a restaurant a one star or a four star – but rather the overall experience from the atmosphere, to the service to the food. The creativity of the food was awesome. I can’t say that I’ve had vanilla curd with fish before or thought much about tapioca with beef. But, wow! I now understand why there are so many food shows on the Travel Channel. Chef Ken Frank came out of the kitchen to meet us and talk with us briefly about the food. (I also noted there is a six person table in the kitchen – that would be fun to watch some time).

Downtown Napa is a lovely little town – with a true small town feel. Despite the rain – and the earthquake from earlier this year, the merchants were friendly, helpful and welcoming. Each store was unique boutiques and no chains (so that I could tell). Walking the town was easy with wide sidewalks that go across the river and make it an easy walk from the Westin.

The next day we had a tour of B Cellars. (Last night we learned that the “b” stands for Brix – the sugar content in wine). The winery was comfortable and relaxed. In the tasting room we were greeted with a comfortable seating area (the hospitality room), food from the chef (who is apparently on staff – and does nibbles all day long. You MUST try the flatbread. It is AWESOME). They moved to the estate just this last August. They spared no expense with making it feel comfortable but certainly a top level experience. They have small and large meeting rooms there – so  you can have a lovely dinner or a giant party. As far as the wine goes, I loved the blend #23 and #24 but they were a little out of my price range. I will have to wait for another reason to come back and get them again! 20141215_112324[1]

I have realized with over 500 wine makers in the valley (despite it being small) not everyone has heard of every winery. There are individuals and tastes that mean that no matter what,  you can find a wine that you will fall in love with. And the Napa Valley? It is part of the reason I see myself moving to the Bay area one day – so I can go to Napa more often!

Celebrate 12 Days Of Fitness With Me

So, I am always a bit busier during the holidays. I already have a fairly full schedule. So finding time to work out can, at times, be super difficult. So my friend told me about this really cool way to do 12 Days Of Fitness feel free to follow along.

On the first day of Christmas (I) gave to me: One Minute Plank

On the second day of Christmas (I) gave to me: Two minutes jumping rope

On the third day of Christmas (I) gave to me: Three Burpees

On the fourth day of Christmas (I) gave to me: Four(ty) Sit Ups

On the fifth day of Christmas (I) gave to me: Five Minute Walk

On the sixth day of Christmas (I) gave to me Six Mountain Climbers

On the seventh day of Christmas (I) gave to me Seven Squats

On the eighth day of Christmas (I) gave to me Eight Glasses of Water

On the ninth day of Christmas (I) gave to me Nine Push Ups

On the tenth day of Christmas (I) gave to me Ten Long Lung strides

On the eleventh day of Christmas (I) gave to me Eleven Bicep Curls

On the twelvth day of Christmas (I) gave to me Twelve tricep dips

I have been told that the 12 Days Of Christmas Starts on Dec 14. So you have time to get started.