Category Archives: luxury

2015 Lexus GS 350 F Sport – The Ultimate Road Trip Ride

The Road Is Life - Jack Kerouac - Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Kerouac may have elevated the road trip to a metaphysical awakening, but no matter what kind of ‘trip’ you’re seeking the journey begins when rubber hits the road. 

Idling in the pick up line at school, I often find myself daydreaming of the days when the rubber beneath me isn’t attached to the family taxi. It matters not if you call it a ‘swagger wagon,’ the fact is the family car just isn’t that cool – or mine isn’t. 

The oldest Nugget is now out on his own, the next one in line will be driving this year. It won’t be long until I can start shopping for a car I want to drive, rather than one that has room for four kids and all their accoutrements.  To be honest, I’m already researching what comes next.

glaming roadtrip in the Lexus GS 350 F SportEarlier this month I had the chance to indulge in daydreams made real when Lexus invited us to take their GS 350 F Sport along on a road trip to go glaming in Upstate New York. I fear that Violet Beauregard (the given name of the deep blue crossover I drive) may never recover from the envy.

So what’s to love about this car? Certainly not how it looks on the outside. In fact, I’d say it looks much like any other slightly sporty sedan out there. The front grille is even reminiscent of the Toyota Camry. Not surprising considering Toyota is the parent company of Lexus.  Judging a book by it’s cover is rarely a fruitful endeavor, the same holds true with the “cover” of a car. 

The GS 350 F Sport interior has a cool, almost vintage 70s luxury muscle car feel to it. Sporty touches –chrome plating on the foot board, a sleek clock in place of the typical digital,  a cockpit-style console-  play the perfect background to a suite of tech (Lexus Enform) that compliments the power residing under the hood.

2015 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review - cockpitPut simply, this car was just fun to drive. It took the steep climb into the Appalachian mountains like it was parking lot flat. The drag on the engine felt minimal. It handled like a dream on the  winding turns down the two-lane highway into the Finger Lakes region.  With the turn of a knob I could take it from gas-conserving ECO mode into Sport mode, giving me extra control of the driving experience. The kids were overly impressed with the switch in dashboard lighting colors and the schematic readout on the heads-up display when modes changed. Hey, if it keeps them from whining about weather we’re there yet or not, it’s a luxury feature in my book.

Lexus GS 350 F Sport ModeAs much as I’d love to pick a car based solely on how much I like driving it, the sad truth is there are other factors that weigh more heavily.

Does It Get Good Gas Mileage?

29 mpg on the highway is good for a family like ours who spend most weekends on the road. It’s great for a car with 306 horse power.

Can I Get The Groceries In it?

Yes. The trunk is spacious. We fit three carry-on sized suitcases, 2 fully packed SCOUT bags, and a small cooler in it and still had room for our road-side shopping hauls.Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review

Is It Safe?

While it’s packed with the typical safety features (air bags, lane departure warning, car seat tethers) Lexus goes above and beyond here. The Pre-Collision System available on the GS includes a Driver Attention Monitor that is designed to know you’re ogling the offerings displayed in front of that cute little road-side antique shop. It can tell if you’re facing away from the road when an obstacle is detected ahead and warn you, potentially helping you avoid disaster, it can even automatically begin braking a full two seconds before impact. Then thee is the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system that employes radar technology to sense the speed of any vehicles in front of you. If your vehicle gets too close to the vehicle ahead, the throttle is automatically reduced and the brakes are applied. As soon as the road ahead clears, it brings you back up to speed.

Is It Worth The Money?

This IS a Lexus, and luxury in any car tends to come with a hefty price tag. The GS 350 F Sport starts out at around $53,500. For that though you’re also getting some cutting edge tech in the form of a fully integrate suite that includes a 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display. Though I’ll admit that I find the mouse in the console a bit distracting. Plus you do get a car that hugs you… seriously, it hugs you. There are what seems to be endless options for adjusting the driver and front passenger seats. Pump up the lumbar and side supports, and hug it out. Add these features, to the safety suite, respectable gas mileage and that price tag doesn’t seem too far out in left filed. Would I pay it? I’d have to sleep on that.

 

Disclosure: I was provided the opportunity to drive this vehicle for one week as an extended test drive. I received no compensation from the manufacture, nor incentives or directives to provide a favorable review. All opinions are 100% my own – because you deserve nothing less!  

Checking Into Wellness: New Trends in Hotel Amenities

Wellness The New Hotel Amenity -- Mokara Spa Omni Nashville
Mokara Spa – Wellness at Omni Nashville Hotel

Who doesn’t love to indulge when traveling? After all, food is the universal language, right?  Sharing a meal can erase nearly  all barriers. Sadly, it can also erase much of the hard work you’ve done in the gym.  It seems hotels are catching on to our desire to indulge while traveling without straying too far off our path to wellness.

In a recent survey commissioned by Omni Hotels, seven in ten respondents admited to having  gained weight while traveling – even,  when making extra effort to maintain healthy dietary habits while away. According to a similar survey previously commissioned, about 26 percent of respondents wished their hotel would help by partnering with nearby yoga studios or fitness centers.

Slowly, but surely, hotels are making strides to bring wellness amenities to their guests. Starwood hotels now  offer New Balance® shoes and clothing for you to use during your stay at the reasonably rate of just $5.00 a day. Known for going that extra mile, Four Seasons properties feature some truly unique,  “whole-body” wellness programs. Fore example; Four Seasons Westlake Village boasts registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, and mouthwatering eats from the  Wellness Kitchen.

Omni’s Nashville Hotel recently announced  its Mokara Wellness program. Downtown Nashville’s only full-service spa is providing complimentary personal training and group fitness classes. Guests can participate in everything from low-impact exercises and high-intensity workouts to yoga and aerobics. A rejuvenating selections of healthy food items is also available from its spa menus.

Nashville joins several other Omni hotel properties that offer an array of wellness services.  Packing a healthy outlook – and your yoga pants – can go a long way towards keeping you on a path to wellness while you explore new roads.

That said, I still want my pillow chocolate, thank-you-very-much!

Taking the Pain out of International Flights

Someone once said that getting there was half the fun. Obviously whoever said that didn’t spend much time stuck in airports or squeezed into economy seating on international flights. I, on the other hand, have. Making the most of your trip starts with taking the pain out of international flights.

 Tips for taking the pain out of international travel from CNOW

That Stale Sandwich Costs HOW Much?

Unless you can subsist on twelve pretzels and a miniaturized bottle of water, you’re going to need a little nosh before you board that long flight. Though some airports are getting better when it comes to eateries -notably a small extension of iconic Jerry Remy’s in concourse “C” at Boston’s Logan, where you can grab pub grub worthy of Bean Town and even passably good Chowdah –   most still subscribe to the old “standards” of bland, stale, and over priced fare.

If you’re looking at a long layover the better bet is often an airline club lounge.  These airport oases feature a veritable cornucopia of quality bites, comfortable seating, charging stations, and even grownup libations. On a recent flight with Aer Lingus I was invited to visit their lounge. Though it was a bit cumbersome to get to, once there the chef-prepared food, self-serve cocktail station, WiFi, and even take-away snacks were well worth the trek.

Not a member of the elite circle for the carrier you are flying with? No worries, several airlines offer one-day passes for purchase when traveling with them or on partner carriers.  With many in the $30-$50 range, they can easily pay for themselves after a refuel and a drink or two.  

Get Me OUT of Here!

One of my favorite tips for getting the best price on international flights, is to book them with a long layover. The added bonus here is you get a mini-trip out of it  – if you plan things properly.  Plus you get to escape the airport and stretch those gams, not to mention it’s great for staving off cabin fever in kids and adults alike.

Some of our best trips have been long layovers!

Turn a layover into a mini trip

I Was Promised There Would Be WiFi…

Nothing is quite as frustrating as hitting cruising altitude only to find out that the WiFi you were so stoked about is spotty, at best. Don’t physics play a role here?? I mean you’re closer to the damn satellite so shouldn’t the WiFi work?! Yeah, not always. 

As any good Scout will advise you… always be prepared.  Not just for the WiFi letdown, but for less than attractive on-board entertainment options like; $5 headsets that ONLY work on the two-pronged plane outlets, nonfunctional video screens, and… Boyhood (I’ll never get those twelve years back) 

My advice? Load up that playlist, download some flicks you WANT to watch (important not to confuse this with streaming – no WiFi = NO streaming,) grab a good old fashion page turner. Last, but not least, take along GOOD headphones. Nobody wants to hear the the fussy baby in the middle of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock soliloquies. Nobody!

I’ve become enamored of  BackBeat Fit wireless headphones by Plantronics – sent to me by Verizon Wireless for a test drive.  I’d never have expected that going wireless would make such a difference.  No more tangles (or cords stuck in the hairbrush in my purse.) The sound is on par with over-ear headphones like Beats, without messing the do or making you a target for a snatch and grab.

The Cold Shoulder

Let’s talk travel pillows. Call me picky, but there is no way I’m resting my head on the multi-user flatbread that passes for an airline pillow. That said, I’m not so keen on lugging a bulky travel pillow around the globe either.

The solution? An inflatable neck pillow. There are several on the market. Some in the classic “U” shape, others with a more ergonomic design like the Bucky Gusto.  REI carries a number of options you can test before buying.

Ugh, I’m So Bloated!

Okay, this may border on the wrong side of “TMI” but I tend to swell up like a tick during long flights. Not only can this be unsightly and uncomfortable, it can also be unhealthy.  For years I’d tried to stave off the bloat with extra hydration and moving about the cabin as often as I could. This can present issues on two fronts if you hit turbulence.  It isn’t fun to be over hydrated and stuck in your seat.

Find yourself a good – even cute – pair of compression socks and  maybe cut back on the water a bit. You may still swell a bit but you’re not going to have to grin and hold it.

Sweet Dreams, Baby

 If there is one universal truth to all air travel it is that the best fight is one you can sleep through.  As I often travel with kids in tow, this isn’t always possible. Neither is it an option if you can’t seem to nod off. Popping an Ambien at nine in the morning is often even less practical. This leaves us to turn to more homeopathic avenues – which are likely better for us anyway. 

Valerian has long been used to help ease the path to dreamland and has several application options as an essential oil. Some other options are lavender, and camomile. On the less holistic side there are a plethora of sleep aid products out there that contain active ingredients like diphenhydramine – which incidentally also helps with motion sickness and is an antihistamine that may help ease symptoms of allergies.*

I hope these few tips will have you enjoying every leg of your next adventure. Have tips of your own? I’d love to hear them!

Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse Spa
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Spa at JFK (photo credit: Virgin Atlantic Airlines)

 

 

* please be sure to check with your doctor before taking anything to help aid in sleep.

Disclosure: Technology item(s) mentioned were sent to me for review, no monetary compensation was provided. Opinions expressed are entirely my own, because honesty is always my policy. I have relationship with Verizon Wireless as part of the #VZWBuzz Social Media Team, but have not been asked to, nor required to provide a positive opinion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Bathing? Yes, It’s A Thing

Sedona Arizona Snoopy RockSometimes writing about travel does more for funny bone than the two-hundred bucks you paid to go see Lewis Black live at Constitution Hall. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Only the most humorless amongst us can stay straight faced when pitched content for a, “Luxury Survivalist Excursion.”

Some days my inbox is like an episode of Laugh In. Rowan and Martin tossing one-liners at ya… “Come to our Echo Lodge – We’ll let you bring your favorite toilet paper, or we’ll point you to the bushes with best leaves.” So, when an email with the title, “Forest Bathing now available to travelers in Sedona, Arizona.” my first thought was… Sock It To Me!

Two questions immediately followed the giggle;

1. Was bathing in the forest somehow not available before this? Like was there an ordnance?
2. Is the plumbing in this hotel undergoing renovation?

I make it a point to at least skim over every pitch I get. I know how painful writing the darn things is – respect must be paid. As I read this one  it quickly became apparent that the author was a genius in writing an email title with a great hook, and that Forest Bathing was not – as I’d believed, and perhaps secretly hoped  – a bunch of people lathering up with pine sap soap and bark loofahs.

Forest Bathing Sedona Arizona

Forest Bathing, also know as “Shinrin-Yoku,” draws on the traditions of mindfulness and is rooted in a range of transcultural practices that recognize the benefits that time in nature can have a positive and healing effect on human health and happiness. (happiness – I can get behind that)

L’Auberge de Sedona, has just introduced an expert-led Forest Bathing program, designed to help guests connect with nature on a greater level by inviting them to experience their surroundings in new ways. Located along the famed Oak Creek and Coconino National Forest, and nestled within the enchanting Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona, the property has long been a destination sought after for the naturally healing benefits of its environment. 

From healing invitations, to practicing gratitude – L’Auberge de Sedona’s creekside location provides the perfect arena for guests to take a step back and re-connect with the earth and themselves. Guests will be led by certified forest bathing experts at the resort on a gentle, guided walk along the Oak Creek, that will support well-being through sensory immersion in the naturally healing environment.

They say that laughter is the best medicine, I’m thinking a Forest Bath might be fairly medicinal as well.

Hotel Information

L’Auberge de Sedona 〉 301 Little Ln, Sedona, AZ 86336 〉 (800) 905-5745 〉 website www.lauberge.com

Amenity Information

Complimentary to guests. Private sessions available for $195 per person.

Photo Credit: L’Aburge de Sedona

Gone Glamping

Primitive.  That’s the term that is used to describe the camping experiences of my youth. Dad sparking the fire with flint. Mom cooking over the open flames. Not an outlet in site – did they not understand the urgent necessity of blow drying?  Where was glamping when I needed it?

I harbor no delusions, camping in the traditional sense is not for me. Though I do love to be out in nature, sleeping on the ground just doesn’t appeal to me all that much. Give me a quality bed, a respectable thread count and an actual bathroom and I’m a happy non-camper.

When the trend of glamping (glamorous camping) started to pop up, I knew it was for me.  A romantic “Laurence of Arabia” style tent, real furniture and a proper powder room… what’s not to love?

Firelight Camps Glamping

All that and more can be found at Firelight Camps in Ithica, New York.  Reserve one of their six safari-style tents equipped with hardwood floors, a private balcony, a king or queen size bed, and hotel-quality linens, and you’ll know we aren’t in a Coleman anymore.

Set up on the grounds of the iconic La Tourelle Hotel, this gorgeous “tent city” is within hiking distance of the Finger Lake Trail system and Buttermilk Falls State Park.  Head out on a trek to a picturesque waterfall, then come back to relax in the spa. Top it all of with a glass of the famed local vintage and indulge in gourmet s’mores.

Firelight Camps Gourmet Glamping

Charging stations, a bathhouse that includes a sauna, gorgeous linens and lovely furnishing all make for a happy Glamper!

Firelight Camps also strive to maintain lodging with a lighter carbon footprint and elevating Eco-Tourism to a luxury level.

© Allison Usavage

The Details

Address: 1150 New York 96B, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (406) 852-2476

Website: www.firelightcamps.com

Rates: Start at $170 nightly for a weekday reservation and range up to $230 nighty for weekends.

Reservations: Are open for through November 2, 2014 and will be opened up again in May 2015. (it gets a bit cold to camp after NovemBUR in upstate New York)

Notes: Though this experience is geared toward the grownup set (ah, kid-free travel) they are also a family-friendly property. Dogs are welcome as well.