NYC Trip Planning Checklist

Hello ladies! In one week we take our annual family trip to New York City! We’ll be sightseeing, seeing a show, and visiting some relatives out there. The whole gang is excited to go.

Since I’m planning everything now, I figured I would share my planning checklist for anyone else who is going as well.

Hope you enjoy! 

Planning an NYC Trip

When you’re planning for a trip, there’s no doubt that it can be a pretty hectic and stressful time. You have to arrange for travel and accommodations, you may create a plan for what you want to do once you’re there, and you have to get everything packed and ready to go. There’s a lot of stuff to take care of before you leave and you still have to make sure you make it out the door on time.

If you happen to be planning a trip to NYC, we’ve got you covered with a few things you won’t want to forget about. They’re sure to make your planning and your overall trip go much, much more smoothly!

Start Planning Your Trip Before You Leave

New York City is a very busy place with a lot of sights to see. There are so many shops, restaurants, and shows to see that you will likely have a packed scheduled during your stay if you’re trying to fit everything in. To make it a little easier and to ensure your trip goes well, you should really plan everything before you catch that plane or train to the Big Apple.

So, are there any New York City hotspots that you’d like to see while you’re here? Make a list of all the places you would like to visit. You might want to do the touristy things like check out the Statue of Liberty or go to the top of the Empire State Building. You may want to dine at some of the city’s finest restaurants or shop at some of the best stores. A great NYC resource (and one of my favorite sites) is Gothamist.

No matter what you’re planning to do during your stay, it would be worthwhile to plan everything in advance. You can create your own itinerary and block off time for certain adventures each day to make sure you can fit everything in. (And if you can’t, it’s all the more reason to come back for another stay, right?) Also, if you hope to visit any popular restaurants, you will want to make a reservation before you arrive just to be sure you can get a table when you want one. And if you’re dying to see that Broadway show, secure your tickets prior to the trip!

Get a CityPass to See Popular Destinations

There are quite a few popular tourist destinations in New York and if you’re planning to visit any, you might want to look into getting a CityPass. For NYC, the CityPass has two options for visitors. You can get a pass that will allow you to visit six destinations, three of which will be chosen for you and the other three will be your own choice. This pass allows you to visit the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You will then have a choice between the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Guggenheim Museum, the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

The other CityPass option allows you to see three destinations of your choice from the ones listed above. It provides an affordable option for you to see some of the city’s most popular destinations.

Arrange for Luggage Storage

Do you really want to drag your suitcase, backpack, or any other luggage around the busy and crowded streets of New York City? Of course not! Instead of having the added stress of carrying your luggage around and worrying about it all day long, there’s a much easier option you should go for.

Be sure to check out my friends over at City CoPilot, they provide safe and affordable luggage storage for people traveling to NYC. So, let’s say you’ve arrived in the city, but there are still hours before your check-in time at your hotel or AirBnB. You don’t have to worry about taking your luggage with you everywhere while you kill time. You can drop off your belongings at one of their luggage storage facilities all over NYC. They have locations in the Lower East Side, Times Square, and Brooklyn!

You can feel secure knowing your personal items are safe in one of our facilities. Plus, you don’t have to worry about taking your luggage into stores or restaurants where they might get in the way or could be misplaced. Everything will be safe and sound in one of our locations for you to come back and collect later on.

Know How You’ll Get Around the City

While many things are within walking distance of where you’ll be staying, odds are that you will have to catch a a taxi or take the subway at some point. It’s a good idea to know how you’ll be getting around before you get there so you can set some money aside in your travel budget for transportation. You can choose to take a taxi cab, ride on the subway, or even order an Uber or Lyft. If you’re planning to use Uber or Lyft, you’ll want to make sure you have downloaded and familiarized yourself with the apps beforehand! On my last trip to NYC I hadn’t downloaded or used either app on my iPhone and had to spend 30 minutes setting it up so we could finally get a ride. Ugh!

You may also want to download a NYC transit apps to help you locate trains, find schedules, and more. It’s sure to make getting around the city much easier!

Let Your Bank Know You’ll be Traveling

There’s nothing worse than traveling somewhere, going to use your debit or credit card, and having it get declined by your bank due to suspicious activity. To avoid this happening, before you arrive in New York City, let your bank know that you will be traveling. Tell them which days you’ll be out of town and where you will be so they don’t flag legitimate usage as fraudulent.

Personal story… On a trip to California I hadn’t told my bank that we were traveling and they froze our card after we used it once! It was a real headache to figure out.

Pack Smart

And of course, you will need to get all of your belongings packed before you head out to catch your transportation to New York. In order to pack the right items for your trip, there are a couple of things to consider. What will the weather be like during your stay? Check the weather for the time that you’ll be in the city and pack the appropriate clothes for the weather.

You’ll also want to consider what you will be doing while you’re here. Do you have any fancier events to attend? Make sure you pack a dressy outfit that would be appropriate to wear. Also, if you’re planning to do a lot of walking, you’ll want to make sure you pack your most comfortable shoes so you can focus on just enjoying your trip and avoid any unnecessary foot pain.

And you just might want to leave a little extra room in your suitcase for all the shopping you’ll likely do during your stay!

How to Use Cold Emails to Find a Powerful Mentor

emails

Search “why mentors are important” and you’ll find page after page of results detailing how mentors can help entrepreneurs avoid mistakes, learn the ins and outs of their respective industries, and make invaluable connections as they build their businesses. Cue the frantic onslaught of would-be entrepreneurs hurling emails at any high-level executive whom they hope might give them advice.  Continue reading →

Carpet Cleaning: What You Need To Know

Sponsored post

As someone who takes care of the housework for a big family, I can tell you that carpet cleaning may be the toughest to effectively do alone. Yes, I can wash the dishes, do the laundry, and even cut the grass (when the husband isn’t around). However, when it comes to cleaning the carpet, my stress levels go up. Why? It’s because it’s more than a chore. Taking out the giant carpet shampooer, buying expensive carpet shampoo/chemicals, setting everything up… It makes me tired just thinking about it! That’s why I’ve decided never to do it myself again and I have a special recommendation for all those out there who never want to be stressed out cleaning their carpets themselves again — Green Choice Carpet of New Jersey.

Green Choice Carpet of New Jersey is unique when it comes to carpet cleaning. How? Just check out their website and you’ll see. Everything is state of the art, from the tools they use to clean your carpet (which are professional-grade) to the way that they book your appointment. What’s more is that they have been in business for around 20 years (family owned). It’s this experience and dedication to their craft that has kept them at number one in the carpet cleaning world.

Unlike other carpet cleaning companies, Green Choice Carpet of New Jersey focuses on both cleaning and repair. As we have some pretty old oriental rugs that have been in the family for ages, their repair service can certainly come in handy.

What’s even more impressive is the fact that their prices are practically unbeatable. They are able to do this by creating an efficient workflow (not wasting any time while cleaning or repairing your carpet) and cutting out the middleman by not outsourcing their work. They note on their website that a portion of their staff are family members.

When it comes to carpet cleaning, a service that is very detail-oriented, you want to go with an organization that has proven themselves time after time. I implore you to check out some of their reviews online. You may be blown away by how impressed people are. Just listen to what one reviewer had to say…

“The first surprise with these folks was the fact they were not only on time, but were ready to get to cleaning right away. I didn’t think they could get my carpets cleaned the way they did & I gotta admit I was utterly shocked at the fact my carpets were cleaner then they were prior to family coming over.”

Beyond all of their experience and dedication to their customers, they have made the entire process of booking and tracking your order status easy with their website. Have a question? They are always available to answer it. And as the name implies, their carpet cleaning products are G-R-E-E-N, which makes my life, as a mother, much less stressful.

What’s more to say about Green Choice Carpet of New Jersey? If you’re thinking of getting your carpets cleaned, I highly recommend them! Be sure to check them out soon though because at the time of posting this they are giving 15% off when you book online.

Top 5 Newborn Must-Haves

lotions & potions collection

The baby product market gets bigger – and more overwhelming for new parents – every day. There’s so much to think about when deciding what to buy for a new baby: purpose, safety, longevity, spatial constraints, aesthetic, and the list goes on. With new products launching almost daily, we decided it was time to compile a list of some of our favorites, spanning gear and bath to furniture.

  1. giggle’s new Lotions & Potions collection: giggle has just debuted a new line of baby skincare and cleaning products. The entire line is free of parabens, Phthalates, dyes and artificial fragrances, and it is made in the USA – a new must-have for us. Everything is earth-friendly, and hypoallergenic, and the bath products are tear-free. The light all-natural Sweet Rice Milk Scent is super delicious – not too fragrant and the kind of new baby smell you want to keep inhaling. The best part? In addition to being gentle for baby, it’s gentle for mom as well, and the magical All Purpose Wonder Balm is a perfect fix for dry hands which new moms know all too well.
  1. Micuna’s Smart Fresh Bassinet boasts breathable mesh sides to allow for fresh air flow and easy sight lines to baby. And, it’s on wheels, making it easy for caretakers to move this from room to room. http://www.giggle.com/micuna-smart-fresh-bassinet/MS21550.html
  1. Nuna LEAF and LEAF Wind attachment: The LEAF Curv brings soothing baby seats to a new level, staying in motion for 2+ minutes with a single gentle push. Need longer soothing and have your hands full? The LEAF Wind attaches right to the LEAF seat base, and keeps baby in gentle motion through one of six speed settings. No batteries necessary makes this even better.
  1. BABYBJORN’s Baby Carrier One Air: This soft and breathable carrier makes babywearing a little cooler for mom and baby alike. Usable from birth, this carrier does not require an additional infant insert, and offers caretakers four carrying positions that are ergonomic for baby.
  1. CYBEX Platinum Priam: This is truly the latest and greatest in gear, suitable from newborn to around age 4, and customizable for every lifestyle. Three different wheel options appeal to city dwellers and weekend warriors alike, and two different seat options create additional versatility. As an added bonus, the deep color palette will keep foot mess to a minimum for older tots.

Considering any of these products? Have you used these brands before? Let me know your thoughts!

Our Kitchen Remodeling Experience

Kitchen Remodel

When my husband and I start a project in our home, it always turns out to be bigger than we thought. And that’s exactly what happened with our kitchen remodel.

What we thought would be just new kitchen cabinets actually turned into a full remodel/renovation (new cabinets, countertops, faucets, etc). So it went from a three day project to a two week project.

As frustrating as it was at some times, it was also a big learning experience for us. Even though John (my husband) is a big handy man and usually takes over these kinds of projects, he decided to leave it to the professionals this time and hire the fine folks over at kitchenbuilders.net. They were absulutely delightful throughout the entire remodeling process. In fact, when we decided to switch from just having them install kitchen cabinets and countertops, to a full remodel, they were completely okay with it. I’m sure they were also happy that it ended up being more money, haha.

I’m writing this post today to outline the top three things I learned remodeling our kitchen (and what you should know too).

Enjoy!

1. Cheaper isn’t always better.

When we first asked around, looking for kitchen cabinets, we were told by friends and family to order them online and have a contractor come to install them. Usually when you order them online you can find them for dirt cheap (probably because they’re made overseas). We decided against this because we have had a lot of issues ordering overseas for big home improvement projects.

After finding KitchenBuilders.net, they let us know they had a giant selection of kitchen cabinets to choose from. We were pretty blown away. You’ll even see on their site that they have a section for “cheap” kitchen cabinets. While we didn’t end up going with the cheaper version (we wanted to match the style with our current kitchen color/feel) they offered pretty nice financing options.

2. Look for kitchen inspiration online.

John and I thought we could design the kitchen from scratch. We designed our bedroom and living room with the help of Restoration Hardware but a kitchen is much different. For a kitchen design you have to consider how all of the big appliances are going to look with your color scheme, cabinet style, etc. We were absolutely stumped before we even got started.

What we did instead was “borrow” some designs we liked from different places on line. Below are some amazing resources for finding kitchen design inspiration…

At this point in the process we were only looking for cabinets. This is when I started to think, “oh, we should redo the countertops and the floors”. This eventually led us to remodeling the entire kitchen. So I warn you. If you start looking at all the beautiful kitchens, you might get sucked in and want to do even more than you currently want to.

3. Understand which style is best for your home.

This was a very hard step for me. Our home is a colonial but it’s also remodeled to the point where you could consider it contemporary. However, there are a few rooms in our home that could be considered a mixture of both. Because we were so indecisive, we worked with the contractor to conjoin the two styles and create our own unique kitchen style.

The End

Yes, the whole thing was a lot more than we originally wanted to do but it ended up turning out great. I’m very happy with the new kitchen. It gives us tons of storage, it’s updated, and it makes it easier for the kids to reach certain things.

The Secret to Celebrities’ Glowing Skin: Chemical Peels

If you’ve ever found yourself marveling at the flawless skin pretty much all celebrities seem to have, then you’re far from alone. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t covet Kim Kardashian’s smooth, unblemished skin or Blake Lively’s seemingly flawless complexion. You’d find it even more difficult to find someone that doesn’t wonder how on earth they do it.  Continue reading →

Is Earning an EMBA More Beneficial than an MBA?

EMBA versus MBA

After completing a bachelor’s degree, many students go into the workforce with plans of returning to school. Their goal is to achieve some real world experience and then apply to an MBA program. An MBA, or Master’s of Business Administration, is an advanced level degree focused on preparing a professional for executive level leadership. Obtaining this degree results in better job security, higher income and more opportunity for salary growth. But some individuals are unsure if an EMBA might be a better fit for them. Similar to an MBA but specifically designed for working professionals, an Executive Master’s of Business Administration may be better suited for those who plan to continue working fulltime while pursuing their education. To help determine if an EMBA is the fit for you, here are five benefits you’ll unlikely find in an MBA program. I’ve also included a very helpful infographic on the difference between an Executive MBA vs. an MBA (via Stevens Institute of Technology). Continue reading →

How to Choose the Right Yoga Studio for You (in Summit, NJ)

Before I had kids, yoga used to be my life.  I used to wake up at the crack of dawn and go to my favorite yoga studio in Summit, NJ almost every day. As time went on, I had to make certain sacrifices in my life that required me to give up my daily yoga routine.

Now that the kids are grown up and our business is doing well, I have decided to start getting back into my old routines, this includes yoga. It took some time but I finally found a studio, class, and instructor that I love – Exhale in Summit, NJ.

I want to share my process for finding the right yoga studio, class, and instructor for you. Enjoy!

1. Try a few different places.

It took me a little while to find a place I felt comfortable with and comfort is the name of the game when it comes to yoga. You want to have a good “gut feeling” when you walk in.

Is the yoga studio welcoming? Do they treat their clients well?

I was looking for a yoga studio that had all of this and more. What I really wanted was to find a studio that had a community. A studio with a community can deepen your meditative experience.

2. Pick an instructor you have a connection with.

The best thing you can do before making your final decision is pick up a class “package“. These usually come in 5, 10, and 20 classes. Not only are they a great way to feel out different places before committing, they allow you to meet the instructors over a period of time.

Choosing an instructor is a deeply personal decision. You should go with someone you trust, one that challenges you to push yourself as a Yogi.

The instructor should make you feel comfortable as a student and give off a warm aura.

Look for an instructor that pays attention to the details during class and offers to help even when a their class is over. This is how you know you’ve found a winner.

3. Start with an easy class.

The first mistake I made was jumping right back into the higher level class, even though I hadn’t practiced yoga in five years. Boy, was that a mistake!

Even if you are an experienced yogi, you will be working under a new teacher. This teacher may practice yoga on another level than what you are used to so it’s important to take one of their lower level classes first.

Conclusion

Choosing a new yoga studio isn’t easy but by putting in a little extra time and effort you can find one that you love.

Learn How to Get Rid of Chapped Lips in Five Minutes

Getting Rid of Chapped Lips Picture

We all want soft and luscious looking lips – they make us look more attractive and they are also a sign that one is in good health. Unfortunately, lips tend to dry and chap easily because they don’t have any oil glands at all. If you suffer dry lips often don’t despair; there are simple things that you can do to ensure that your lips always look gorgeous. Today we are going to learn exactly how to get rid of chapped lips fast (based on an article I found on the Yon-Ka blog).

The secret is to get rid of all dry and dead skin and then keep your lips moisturized at all times. You can get your lips back into great shape using the simple following steps:

  1. The first step is to wet and wash your lips. To do this you need a small face towel. Dampen it with warm water and then run it across your lips. Water that is too hot will dry them out even further. Rinse the towel out and then put a little gentle cleanser on it. Rub it across the lips once more. You will notice that little bits of dead skin are starting to come lose.
  2. The next step is to get rid of all dead skin. Your lips cannot look good if you don’t remove them. This is best done with a soft toothbrush. You can keep one aside specifically for your lips. Run it under warm water and then rub your lips with it sideways. Make sure that you don’t do it too hard otherwise you will break the skin and make the damage worse. You may need to do it several times to remove all dead skin.
  3. Some people prefer to exfoliate using a scrub. If you choose to do this you must use a very gentle exfoliant. You can buy one or you can make one at home – simple ingredients like sugar and honey are excellent. Just combine and then rub gently on your lips using a small towel until all the dead skin comes off. Rinse, apply again, rub gently and rinse.
  4. The last step is moisturizing. Everyone has a special lip balm that they love. Ensure that yours contains moisturizer. Apply liberally.

Lastly, it is important to mention that lips suffer more in winter when it is very cold and in summer when temperatures are extreme. You should exfoliate more during these periods. If you use these steps and you don’t see any improvement you should probably buy a lip balm that contains more moisturizer.

The World of Online Ordering for Restaurants

online-food-ordering

This post by my best friend, Cynthia Roberts. She is going to be getting into blogging in the coming weeks. Please let her know what you think of this post in the comment section!

My husband and I own a chain of three Mexican restaurants in Southern California. We have wanted to incorporate online ordering into our operations for a while, so when I got too big to safely navigate around the takeout order desk last fall (we had twins) and my ankles swelled to the size of cinder block brinks, I announced that I was taking maternity leave. But my maternity leave was not going to be a luxurious and pampered one of foot rubs and shoulder massages (as if anyone has ever had one of those).

I explored the world of online ordering.

For most restaurants, take-out is a good chunk of the business. For fast food, or quick-serve as they prefer to be called, take-out is huge, sometimes more than 50%. We’re more of a casual dining operation, with a wait staff. Still, last year our three locations did 16.2% in take-out on total sales of $2.8M. That’s more than $450,000 in take-out, not uncommon for our type of restaurant. The overwhelming majority of those orders, over 90%, came either from phone calls, or people coming into the lobby, placing their order, and then cooling their heels until the order was ready.

Online ordering offers a way for people to get on the internet, go through your menu, and place the order. They can even pay online. It’s convenient, and the order is right all the time (because when someone is placing a phone order and three other restaurant employees are asking me questions and glasses are breaking in the background, I have been known to get an order wrong).

It’s the best of both worlds. The customer goes home and eats the meal they want, and we do what makes us money – The customer is not sitting in the restaurant occupying real estate and keeping the restaurant staff busy, which costs us money. Added to that, when someone is leisurely placing an order on their desktop or laptop (they can also do if from their tablet an even their Smartphone) and not having to talk with me or one of the other people who handles orders at our restaurants, orders tend to get bigger, as much as 20% to 30%.

Pretty nifty.

There are two main types of online ordering. The first, which is what I planned to research while I was on leave, is a service specific to your restaurant. It is part of your website, and the better ones can even be made to look like your website. The customer accesses it from a button on your home page, and anyplace else you want to place it. Orders are instantaneously transmitted to you to put into the kitchen.

The second type of online ordering are services referred to as portals. Portals are megasites, listing hundreds or thousands of restaurants. A consumer on the portal enters their geographical preference, maybe the price range and type of food they are looking for, and the portal pulls up a list of restaurants meeting that criteria. Then the customer chooses and orders from the portal and the information is transmitted to you.

Portals typically list restaurants for free, but the charges can be as high as 15% to 20% of the bill, as opposed to individual services that charge much less (5% or less). You may get more exposure through the portals, but you are up against a lot more competition. Our restaurants are listed on a few portals. Since we didn’t pay unless the service was used, what did we have to lose?

Then I did some more research, and I ran across a study about online ordering done by Cornell University. Turns it that “nearly half of the consumers [47%] on multiple-restaurant sites [or portals] said they clicked over to the restaurant’s own website to order their food.” This made me kick myself (no easy feat considering how big I was with twins and about a week away from my due date). Almost half the people who ordered from us by the portal would visit our website. We could have gotten their business for far less money if we had offered online ordering. I know of two or three customers who order takeout through the portals at least once a week. We’re giving the portals a lot of money that we could keep if we offered online ordering through our website.

So now that I’m convinced that we need to offer online ordering, the question is, What do I look for in an online ordering service? There are a lot of them out there. Here is what I found:

Branded Online Ordering Site. Portals make us all look alike. We’ve put a lot of money and effort into cultivating a brand and we want to keep doing that. I wanted a site that would allow us to.

Ease of Use. Think of this in terms of how many ‘clicks’ it takes to complete an order. The fewer the better. Stay away from clunky looking systems that don’t offer customers an attractive and easy way to order.

Payments Directly to You. When a customer places an order using your site, you want the money deposited directly into your bank account. This is not the case with portals and is also not a guarantee with all individual online ordering systems. Make sure it works that way on the system you chose. I read an article about a portal that was holding $20,000 of some restaurant’s money. I don’t think so.

Mobile Site. People ordering from Smartphones make up a larger and larger chunk of the total online business. I needed to find a service that was mobile-order friendly.

Easy to Update. Even the good portals are difficult to update. At least once a week we get an order from a portal where the item has an old price, or we don’t offer it anymore. We needed an individual site that was easy to update, and could be done anytime.

Control of Customer Data. When you get an order from a portal, you know very little about the customer. In fact, it is the portal’s customer, not yours. I found individual sites out there that collect customer data and allow you to download it into an Excel database where you can slice it and dice it. The best ones allow you to do email and other marketing promotions. They can remember a customer’s birthday and send out an offer, and track redemption rates, too.

Linked with Facebook. With over a billion people on Facebook, and lots on Twitter and Instagram, the idea of an online ordering service that easily links to social media is a must. They are out there, too.

I’m five weeks back in the restaurant now. My two little ladies are still small enough that I can keep them in playpens and nurse them when they’re hungry. I even found a source for online ordering that meets all the requirements I’ve outlined here. It’s a company called NetWaiter: Online Food Ordering System For Restaurants. They’ve been a wealth of good advice, including how I should do a gradual rollout of online ordering through the three restaurants, one at a time. We’re getting ready to roll out the second this week.

NetWaiter even gave me something I didn’t include in the list of things I gave you. That is a strategy. I was telling my sales rep that as soon as we went live with NetWaiter I was planning on canceling all the portal entries we have.

“Don’t do that,” he said. “Instead, come up with a program to convert those portal customers over to your online ordering website. Let the portal do the heavy lifting for you, and then turn those customers into customers on your website.” The first thing I did was to remove all the links on our website referring folks to our portal sites. That was just plain dumb. Then I started offering portal customers incentives – discount offers and such – to order from our website. NetWaiter is so easy that once is all I need to convert a customer to a lifelong association.

Besides, online ordering also takes me off the phone and gives me time for what’s really important—playing with the baby girls and their big brother.