travelbetterpodcasts.com Sugarbush 2015 - 01

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How I Did Sugarbush This Year: Staying Local vs. Staying in Barre VT

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Leslie Lello

travelbetterpodcasts.com Sugarbush 2015 - 01For the last couple years, I have made sure to get up to Sugarbush, which I feel has some of the best snow and varied terrain in Vermont.

My first time at the mountain was 2014 and it was great… 8 inches of fluffy snow every morning in March! It was awesome!

But there a few things that surprised me at this new-t0-me mountain.

First, leaving in the afternoon from New York after finishing work left me on the dark and windy back roads of Vermont at night, which I do not care for.

Second, I could not find reasonably priced lodging. My choice was to spend over $100 (pricy as a solo traveler) or stay at a hostel.

I chose the hostel, which was fine, but I didn’t get very good sleep any of the nights because of the noise in the shared room and my hostel mates who stumbled in drunk every night from the loud bar downstairs.

The hostel is only 5 minutes from Sugarbush, but I decided this year that I would have to come up with a different plan.

And that’s exactly what I did!

I decided to look for lodging in cities that are on the (few) major highways in Vermont.

This lead me to Barre, Vermont, which is about an hour from Sugarbush.

OMG! AN HOUR?

I can already hear you groan…

“AN HOUR?! THAT SUCKS? WHO WANTS TO GET UP EARLY TO DRIVE AN HOUR TO THE MOUNTAIN?”

Well, let’s break it down and you’ll understand what I think the advantages are:

1. Drive Time to Lodging in Vermont: Sugarbush vs. Barre

Google Maps says it is a 5.5 hour drive from New York City to Sugarbush Resort. Leaving late in the afternoon leaves you at Sugarbush at 9pm, the earliest. But the 5.5 hour drive time estimate is based on daytime hours. Even if there is no traffic, you will be driving slower (hopefully because safety matters to you) at night on the winding, unlit roads of Vermont at night.  For me, driving cautiously added another hour to the trip. It was March and the potholes were cavernous on Rt. 100 and other minor VT roads that year, so I drove slow to protect my car.

At the same, Google says the drive time to Barre, Vermont from New York City is only 5 hours. Again, this is daytime driving, so you have to add a bit of time on to that if you slow down at night, but you will be on well-lit superhighways most of the way, so there is much better visibility.

The first year, I made it to Sugarbush around 11pm. The second year I made it to Barre by 10pm. I left at approximately the same time.

2. Generic Quality Inn in Barre VT offers a Better Choice than the Hotels Near Sugarbush

I arrived at the Quality Inn in Barre around 10pm (getting a little bit of a late start), but my room was right next to my car, which was greatly appreciated on the frigid Vermont night. I brought my gear into the room, washed my face, and was in bed by 11pm.

Oh, and I got a full buffet breakfast in the morning which means I got on the road faster (which means I got on the mountain faster). I can just grab some coffee and a couple of hard boiled eggs and go.

Or I can just bring breakfast from home and leave it in the refrigerator in the room until I am ready to eat it.

When I get back to Barre from the mountain, I can swim in the pool or the hot tub.

This level of accommodations would have cost a bundle (probably at least 2-3 times the price I paid) in the Sugarbush Resort area.

Or you can go the budget route and skip the comfort.

Juxtapose my Quality Inn experience to the year before when stayed at the hostel near Sugarbush. After taking two trips to lug my bags to my dorm room (up a flight of stairs) and making sure I took off my shoes each time (no shoes upstairs in the dorms) and making sure there was not food in my bags (no food in the dorms), and then sorting out my belongings so that I could jump into my ski gear as easy as possible so as to not disturb the other hostelers (who did not have the same courtesy), I was finally able to carry all of my toiletries to the bathroom so that I may wash my face and go to bed around 1am (because I also arrived around 11pm and took 20 minutes to check in to the hostel).

I went to bed at 1am but didn’t fall asleep until 3am, if you can call being drowsy with my eyes closed sleeping. 3am is when all the snoring drunks in my room stumbled up from the bar downstairs after the loud band stopped playing and last call.

Of course I had to wake up early to go for breakfast at a cafe 8 miles down the road, because there was no kitchen in this hostel and the only offering the hostel had was an outrageously expensive full service meal (which takes too long, anyway).

One morning I just ate the frozen trail mix I left in my car in order to get on the mountain at a respectable time.

No hot tub or pool to relax in after a long ski day. A line for the co-ed shower. Bleh.

(Editing Note: Haha, but you don’t have to, ya know, shower with the other gender. You just share the facilities with the other gender.)

3. The Drive from Barre to Sugarbush is Usually Not That Bad

50 minutes from Barre to Sugarbush may seem like a lot, but it is daytime driving with minimal traffic. A super-fast ride on 89A to the well maintained Rt. 100.

I know what you are thinking.

“What if there is a storm?”

I can see that would make the drive much less pleasant and in some cases impossible. It is certainly something to consider.

There were a few storms last year in Vermont when not even the locals were skiing because even they could not make it to the mountain (In one case, I was staying on the mountain, so I basically had the whole mountain to myself because I didn’t have to drive.)

So, if there is a storm the Barre option might not work. Or might be rather treacherous and time consuming.

Most likely, though, you might just have to wait for them to clear the roads, which Vermont will likely do very quickly and early because these are major roads you would be taking.

In my comparison, I left Barre at 8am and arrived at Sugarbush at 9am, stopping for a coffee along the way.

The year before I left from the hostel at 8:30am (reasons: wait for the bathroom and I was tired from lack of sleep and no coffee yet so moving a bit slower and, again, had to reorganize my dorm stuff to make sure I wasn’t leaving valuables), but had to go for breakfast down the road, so by the time I got to the mountain it was 9:30am.

So Barre Vermont wins again!

Here’s some bonus awesomeness about the drive from Sugarbush to Barre. You will go past Montpelier and stop for groceries at Hunger Mountain Co-Op, if you’re into healthy food and clean eating.

Conclusion

Milage-wise, it might seem like staying in Barre when planning to ski or ride at Sugarbush is like crossing the Canadian boarder in Alberta when you need to get to Toronto, but I strongly advise you to consider this not-so-obvious option as a value-added choice.

If your intention is to have a great day skiing and be well rested, well fed and comfortable, Barre Vermont is a good choice, especially if you are a solo traveler.

PS: I stayed at the Quality Inn in Barre, but there are a number of similar chain motels where the quality is moderate and predictable and will support you and your needs during your ski/ride vacation at Sugarbush.

 

 

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Travel Better Podcasts Nominated for 2013 Podcast Awards!

Posted on 19 December 2013 by Leslie Lello

A few days ago I got an email from New Media Expo.

“We want to recognize your efforts in producing an exceptional podcast that’s been nominated by your fans for the 2013 Podcast Awards.”

Thank you for listening and for the nomination!

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holidays in New York CIty 2013

TBP 0025 Holiday Season in New York City 2013

Posted on 16 November 2013 by Leslie Lello

holidays in New York CIty 2013

The Holiday Season In New York City! Even when I was living in Los Angeles, I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and looking forward to visiting the decorated windows on 5th Avenue when I came home for the holidays.

Here is my overview and advice about celebrating New York during the holidays. There are TONS of holiday related things to do… just be sure to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and dress warmly!

For more advice and details, check out this week’s podcast TBP 0025!

PODCAST NOTES FOR TBP 0025 “Holiday Season in New York City 2013”

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – The kickoff of the holiday season in New York City!
It’s on NOVEMBER 28, 2013, Starting at 9am.

The parade Begins on 77th and Central Park West. The route is south on Central Park West until 57th Street, then continue south on 6th ave to Herald Square. I never knew this but the route is 2.5 miles. Seems shorter than that to me.

To view the parade (and get a good spot) get there early, wear VERY WARM clothes and comfortable shoes, and try to get near a public restroom or a coffee shop so that you can use the bathroom. Bring snacks and beverages (but not too many beverages). 😉

Here are more tips for attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
http://gonyc.about.com/od/tipsforvisitingnyc/tp/thanksgiving-parade-tips.htm
http://gonyc.about.com/od/thanksgiving/tp/2011-Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade.htm

If you can’t deal with the crowds, go to the Balloon Inflation in Central Park(79th and Columbus) on November 27th.
http://gonyc.about.com/od/thanksgiving/p/Macys-Thanksgiving-Parade-Balloon-Inflation.htm


Windows on 5th Avenue:

http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/tp/holiday_windows.htm
http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/tp/christmaswindow.htm
http://gonyc.about.com/od/christmassights/l/bl_xmaswindows.htm (This is the link for the map of the Window Display Walking Tour)

Rockefeller Center – tree and ice skating – go late at night!
The Christmas Tree lighting will be on December 4, 2013 – ceremony 7-9pm
http://www.rockefellercenter.com/events/2013/11/01/2013-rockefeller-center-christmas-tree-lighting/

Ice Skating alternative – Wollman’s Rink in Central Park at 63rd street. They’re calling it Trump Rink now. You can pre-book to avoid lines or getting shut out.
http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/iceskating/5
http://www.wollmanskatingrink.com/

FAO Schwartz
Not on the windows walking tour, but always fun to visit at xmas, whether you are an adult or a kid.
http://www.fao.com/home/index.jsp

Bryant Park is a park behind the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue has ice skating, shopping (more than 125 outdoor shops) and the restaurant Celsius during the holiday season.
http://bryantpark.org/things-to-do/wintervillage.html

The Party and Ball Drop in Times Square finishes the season. Expect insanely crowded public transportation. Bring games and other things to do. Just like the parade – think bathroom breaks, dress warmth, food, water, comfortable shoes.
FYI, the ball is made out of Waterford Crystal (which is why it sparkles so nicely).
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/nye-schedule/index.aspx#.UoZJsY0Z0tI
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/index.aspx#.UoZJs40Z0tI
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/index.aspx#.UoZKm40Z0tI
http://www.wikihow.com/Attend-the-New-Year%27s-Celebrations-in-Times-Square

This is the best page to read if you are deciding to go to Time Square on New Year’s Eve: http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/nye-faq/index.aspx#9

If you don’t want to hang out in Time Square on NYE, but want to get a close up look at the ball, you can go to the Time Square Visitor’s Center.

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travel better podcatss episode 24 travel and coffeehouses Leslie Lello photography.leslielello.com

TBP 0024 COFFEEHOUSES ARE THE SAVIORS OF THE TRAVELER

Posted on 09 November 2013 by Leslie Lello

travel better podcatss episode 24 travel and coffeehouses Leslie Lello photography.leslielello.com

Coffeehouses transformed how travelers experience their trip.

Bathrooms are just one of the benefits of coffeehouses becoming popular with the growth of Starbucks in the 90’s.

This is especially true in New York City, where you could spend hours in the 80’s searching for a bathroom. I vividly remember doing the pee-pee dance at the New York Public Library waiting on a HUGE line for the public bathroom because it took so long to fine one we could use and they were so scarce back then.

This podcast is about how travelers can leverage the use of coffeehouses to enhance their travel experience.

Benefits of Coffeehouses for Travelers (there are more than this, but here are a few):

  • Bathrooms
  • Temperature relief from outdoor heat or cold
  • Place to wait for train or bus or traffic to pass
  • Place to relax after/during stressful travel
  • Caffeine
  • Wi-Fi
  • Meet friends
  • Research route, hotels, restaurants
  • Get local advice from Baristas and other patrons

SOME COOL COFFEEHOUSES IN THE CITIES I HAVE LIVED IN:

Los Angeles: Aroma Cafe in Studio City
New York City: Too many… OMG go on YELP
New Jersey – Cool Beans in Oradell
New Jersey- Fine Grind in LittleFalls
Chicago: Eva’s Cafe in Old Town, near the Sedgwick stop which is the El Brown Line you use to get to Second City

My favorite chains are:
Caribou Coffee
Paneras
Corner Bakery

My favorite coffee kiosk is Dutch Brothers, but it can only be found in the Western US and Rockies. Here is the link to the locations.

I mentioned Aeropress again (here’s a link to the first time I mentioned it). Totally recommend!
Aerobie AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker

 

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TBP 0023 TSA Security Checkpoints – Know Your Options…

Posted on 02 November 2013 by Leslie Lello

plane_silhouet_black_white_line_art_coloring_book_colouring-999px

In today’s Travel Better Podcast (#0023) I will be discussing the options you have for going through the TSA Security Checkpoints at airports.

Most people think that you MUST go through the scanner at the TSA Security Checkpoints, but there are other choices that you can make that might appeal to you more and might even be faster for you and your family.

This is especially important during the holidays, which is the busiest travel time of the year, and can often create massive waits at the airport to go through TSA Security Checkpoints.

Listen to today’s podcast to find out what you can do to make the experience faster, or at least more enjoyable, so that you can “travel better”.

TBP 0023: Podcast Notes:

I commented on this post a few months back and this is what inspired the podcast idea for today.

Story from CNN about Precheck Security

RELEVANT TSA SECURITY CHECKPOINT LINKS REGARDING PRECHECK SECURITY

http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck
http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/tsa-precheck-application-process
http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/tsa-precheck-participating-airports
http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/tsa-precheck-how-it-works

HELPFUL STUFF TO BUY:

SCOTTEVEST Trenchcoat and other travel clothes
Homeopathic Time Zone Remedy: Here is the blog post I wrote a few months ago.

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How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

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TBP 0022 How to Plan A Staycation That is Awesome!

Posted on 26 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

 

How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

VACATION IS A STATE OF MIND.

This has always been my philosophy.

It’s just that it is so easy to stay stressed when in a home environment that most people find it hard to reach that state.

And it is also easy to blow off local adventures because there’s no excessive driving or flying. Because most staycations are only one day with flexible commitments (no car or hotel reservation), one can get to Saturday morning having expected to visit a local park that is an hour away and instead choose to stay in and sleep or do chores because it seems more pressing.

But as we get into one of the most busy seasons of the year, it can become difficult to carve out some travel time.

Mini-Vacations, Local Vacations and Staycations are the way to go when you don’t have a lot of time or resources.

Today’s podcast (TBP 0022)  is about how to plan a staycation that is awesome!

PS: The information on the show I mention can be found here.

 

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TBP 0021 Salem Salem Massachusetts – Trip in Review

Posted on 19 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

This is a follow up to last week’s podcast, to round out the bits about Salem Massachusetts that I was not sure about.

Most important additions to TBP 0020 (last week’s podcast):

  • Parking (the main garage in the mall) is $20. Be aware of that so that you don’t get sticker shock.
  • There is a walking tour provided in most of the tourist guidebooks. The tour follows a red line that is literally painted on the ground. Very helpful!
  • If you’d rather take the Salem Trolley, one of the locals said it was awesome and a really good deal for your money. I haven’t done it but probably will on my next trip!

Happy Travel!

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Salem Massachusetts Visitors Center United States Government Shutdown on Tourism

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Travel Better (or Worse) With The United States Government Shut Down

Posted on 15 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

Salem Massachusetts Visitors Center United States Government Shutdown on Tourism

I’d say travel is worse with the government shutdown, but here are some ideas to consider.

I was in Salem this past weekend and while one would think that that would have nothing to do with the federal government, the visitor’s center was not open.

Thank goodness for the volunteers standing outside of the visitor’s center, or we might have had to figure things out on our own, which is very doable in most tourist attractions.

But it’s unfortunate that all this has to happen.

Like I have mentioned in other posts, this is Salem’s busiest time, so they weren’t going to let a shutdown effect business. And it was very busy there, so I don’t think it’s making a lot of people hesitate to take excursions. It just might take a little bit more planning before heading out the door.

The upside to all of this? I’m sure there are locations that have really slowed down (like Washington DC), so if you like having cities all to yourself and can deal with the way the shutdown might make things a slight bit more inconvenient (or closed), then this might be the perfect time for you to take a trip.

Here’s a post from Hosteling International about the topic. It’s very good and some of the places that are on their list surprised me. Why would Disney World have anything to do with a government shut down? Probably for the same reason Salem does, but I doubt that Space Mountain is closed or that Mickey has locked himself in his cottage.

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TBP 20 Salem Massachusetts Halloween October Samhain

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TBP 0020 Salem Massachusetts – It’s October and I’ve Gone A-Witching

Posted on 12 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

TBP 20 Salem Massachusetts Halloween October Samhain
October and Autumn always makes me think about Salem, Massachusetts.

Salem is very special to me.  It is a place where I find what I am looking for.

There is definitely a special energy there. It’s a different vibe than Sedona and probably has more to do to the people that are drawn there then the energy of the land, which is where Sedona’s special energy is based.

History of Salem, Massachusetts:

Salem is well known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.  Several witches were cruelly hanged during the hysterical witch hunts in the Americas. Today, Salem has a large witch population – those that practice the Wiccan religion. I think like minded people like to gather here because of like minded people, and that it is a way of honoring those that were sent to trial and to their death unfairly.

Visiting Salem, Massachusetts:

It’s awesome to go to Salem in October. It is a festive town all year round but especially in October.

If you’re looking for a haunted house or the typical Halloween spooky/scary stuff, I guess you can go to Salem to find it, but that’s kind of cheesy to me and a bit of a waste of time and energy because you can find spooky/scary anywhere in October.

The difference with Salem is that it is the real deal.  Why not honor the celebration of Samhain and respect the religious culture of this town?  It is a different way to experience and understand Halloween, and it is a great trip to make for those who simply like the travel and tourism side of it.

Samhain Vs. Halloween:

Samhain is the Wiccan new year, and is considered the time when the veil between the living and the dead is lifted so that better communication can occur with those on the other side.

It is a great time to honor loved ones that have crossed over, very similar to Day of the Dead in Mexico. I do this honoring of my ancestors on my own with a silent supper. But going to Salem is a great way to enjoy the celebration of the holiday and honor ancestors because they have a public Silent Supper which, though I have not attended it in the past, I bet is quite a powerful experience (and a great meal!)

This year (2013), Silent Supper/Dumb Supper in Salem is October 27th, 2013. Again, I’ve never participated in this one, but it will probably be awesome and a beautiful way to honor loved ones: http://www.festivalofthedead.com/dumbsupper.html

Side note:  The honoring of the dead is about love, not fear. It bums me out that they make it all spooky scary, but that sells tickets and is what most people associate with this time of year. Wiccans honor the earth, which is about abundance and love, not fear.

A lot of the links I have listed below imply the spooky/scary elements that are associated with Halloween. While I understand why that is done, I feel that it misses the opportunity to show people that this could be a completely new, unusual and more fulfilling way of experiencing this time of year.

FYI: The Witches Ball is on October 25th and this is one of the biggest events of the season.

Finally, Salem is a good place to go year round. Sure, Halloween/Samhain is probably the high point of the year, but don’t forget that the main focus of the people that live in this town are the seasonal changes of the earth, which are celebrated year round and give Salem a different and wonderful flavor all its own no matter what part of the year you chose to visit.

http://hauntedhappenings.org/

http://www.salemweb.com/hh/

http://salemhalloweencity.com/

http://www.festivalofthedead.com/

http://www.festivalofthedead.com/witchesball/  October 25, 2013

http://salem.org/calendar_main/festival_calendars

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60954-c4113/Salem:Massachusetts:Halloween.html

Wiki about Samhain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain

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With Friends at Mt. Baker in Washington.

With Friends at Mt. Baker (Washington)

Posted on 09 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

With Friends at Mt. Baker in Washington.

With Friends at Mt. Baker in Washington.

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My name is Leslie and I am the owner, publisher and media creator of Travel Better Podcasts.

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