Articles by Stacey Ebert

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From the time I was two years old, Walt Disney World was my family’s holiday destination. Once a year we’d pack our bags and head south to find the magical mouse and his gang of happy mates. For us, a trip to Florida was often a much-needed escape from a New York winter or a fun way to head into spring. As the kids grew, we continued to head south, but the destinations changed. There were many visits to family and even cruises out of the Fort Lauderdale area, a visit with a friend attending Tampa’s University of South Florida, a west coast extravaganza on sunny Marco Island, and a drive across the famed Seven Mile Bridge deep in the keys.

These days my parents can’t wait to head south for weeks on end every winter. Retirement is treating them well as they ditch New York for the warmth of the Florida sunshine. There are friends who constantly remind me about the nightlife in Miami, the northern fun near Jacksonville, and a former student who often shares her joy about working in Orlando’s mecca of Disney magic. The Sunshine State has always been a part of my existence and it has more to offer than just vitamin D.

Time Your Travel

If you get to choose when to travel, choose wisely. Consider the temperature in which you prefer traveling, the seasonal shift in crowds, the time when the price is best for you, and of course, factor in hurricane season. Whether you’re looking for the least amount of time you’d have to wait for your butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the best time to visit Grandma in Delray Beach, or the most amiable weather for you – do your research, pack accordingly and always purchase travel insurance.

  • In subtropical Florida, humidity is highest from June through September
  • High season in subtropical Florida is mid-December through mid-April
  • Northern Florida has higher tourism rates from late May through early September
  • Hurricane season is from June through November (if visiting then, be sure to purchase travel insurance)
  • Consider shoulder seasons for better pricing (April-May/September-November)
  • When Orlando and Walt Disney World are your destination, know that all holiday weekends and holiday seasons are the busiest and most expensive (make restaurant and show reservations ahead of your visit)

What to Pack for Florida

You know those ‘don’t leave home without them’ items that are always with you no matter what – pack those first. These are the items that don’t care where you’re going, they’re coming with you. Camping in Dry Tortugas? Grabbing ice cream in Fort Lauderdale? Visiting the panhandle? Partying in Miami? Your personal items don’t care where you’re headed… they’re coming along for the ride. Who you are, how you pay for stuff, any medical necessities, and the number to call if you need medical assistance have to make the cut. The rest, truly, is optional. Click to continue…

For many, the last weekend in May signifies a time to change over closets, bring out those flip-flops and clean off the barbecue. College graduations have finished, high school seniors see the light at the end of the tunnel, teachers are counting the days ’til school’s end and thousands plan a long weekend of reveling and relaxation either near or far from home.

Some see that weekend in May as the one to kick back, grab a treat, interact with friends and family, and enjoy. Others find a way to do exactly that and add in a portion of time for reflection, thanks, and recognition of the meaning behind the holiday. And still others spend most of the weekend in celebration of those in the Armed Forces and paying respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

All weekend long Memorial Day traditions take place in towns and cities across the United States. There are countless parades that include military personnel and members of veteran’s organizations. Three of the largest parades in the country take place in New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC. Flags are flown at half-staff and respect is paid at local cemeteries or places of worship around the nation, both publicly and in private.

“I’m not one for the parades and hubbub on Memorial Day and instead want to reflect and remember. One of the best places I spent the day was on the beaches of Normandy, France. It was like you could feel the ghosts on Omaha and Utah beaches, and it was the perfect way for me to remember and honor all those who came before and alongside those I lost. It helped keep the day in perspective, and made it somehow more comforting”. -Elana Duffy, US Army Veteran, Founder www.pathfinder.vet

Why Celebrate Memorial Day?

Far more than a three day weekend celebrating the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance for all who have died serving in the American Armed Forces. Beginning as ‘Decoration Day’ after the Civil War, the 30th of May was designated to honor the dead of the Union and Confederate forces. The holiday earned a national identity in American history shortly after WWII.

In 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of the holiday, and in 1967 the day officially became known as Memorial Day. In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Act was passed by Congress which designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day and officially moved it from the 30th of May. This way, Americans were guaranteed a 3-day weekend to reflect on those who have given service to country.

How to Observe Memorial Day

Take a few moments, spend part of the day (or take the whole weekend) to remember the focus of the holiday in whatever way is meaningful for you. Visit a memorial, wear a flower, fly a flag, hug a veteran, share your story, teach the next generation about the past, or give thanks in some way to those who give their service for the freedoms enjoyed daily.

  • Wear a red poppy from the first of May through Memorial Day
  • Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on graves
  • Participate in a national moment of remembrance at 3pm local time
  • Fly the American flag at half staff on this national day of mourning
  • Visit war memorials to pay your respect
  • Help out families of fallen soldiers
  • Come to the assistance of veterans

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Air travel can be especially daunting for many travelers. Today’s version of air travel differs greatly from that of yesteryear. Today, people travel in comfortable casual clothing instead of wearing their Sunday best. Today there are restrictions on when to arrive, what to carry, and how much ‘stuff’ we can pack; as opposed to when travelers would show up, talk to an agent, carry on their paper ticket and check whatever luggage they thought they’d need.

My husband and I look forward to those long haul flights (and we regularly travel in economy class). I know it may sound strange, but it’s true. Once we can get ourselves to the airport, we let out a long sigh and know that the journey has begun. Once in flight, we’re stuck, but in a good way. There’s no gym to go to, no dishes to do, no errands to run, no hikes to go on, and (most of the time) no way to respond to those last minute emails. You’re officially tuned out. What you can do is enjoy this time to read what you like, watch what you like, play games, rest, snack, meditate, eat, chat and unwind. Let the pilot fly the plane while you get to go along for the ride.

What you pack for these flights will go a long way towards improving the experience and creating joy in the journey, whether it’s the food you bring or the comfort items that soothe you hours into a long haul flight, give some thought to the air time on either end of your adventure, and pack specifically for it.

Packing for a Long Haul Flight

What’s a long haul flight? In my opinion, anything over 5 hours. That 23 hour marathon to Thailand with a crazy layover in Abu Dhabi certainly counts. When planning for a long haul flight, comfort is key.

The Basics

Channel your inner Santa: Make that packing list and be sure to check it twice. Essentials and necessities make the cut, the rest is optional. What do you throw on when you get home after a long day to be your most comfortable? Make that feeling your goal of in flight.

  • Comfortable, loose clothing
  • Extra layer for warmth on those often freezing flights or roll them into a pillow for sleeping comfort
  • Slip on shoes that are easily removable for those TSA line moments and to allow room for in flight swelling
  • Clean feet and clean socks: Smartwool for warmth or dryness or check out compression socks as a possibility
  • Eye mask and ear plugs for those moments of much needed silence and darkness

Paperwork

No matter where you’re going or for how long your journey, you need proof of who you are. Grab those forms of identification and make and copies of everything from your passport and credit cards, to your driver’s license and health cards. These copies should be in the bag you have with on the airplane. Don’t make the mistake of checking them in your luggage. Some travelers even store an extra copy on their smartphones. Don’t forget to call your banks ahead of time to add those travel notifications and double check that you’ll have no fees abroad.

  • Passport
  • Local ID
  • Boarding pass
  • Copy of itinerary
  • Copies of important documents
  • Extra passport photos
  • Petty cash
  • Debit card/credit card(s)

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