My 1st Airbnb Experience

I’m admittedly a little behind the curve on the whole Airbnb thing. As a travel blogger, I’m a little surprised myself that I’ve never rented via the popular site. What can I say? I tend to lean toward hotels (ideally luxury ones at that) for their services, safety and amenities. After rave reviews from my friends, who have used Airbnb rentals everywhere from Hawaii to Paris, I decided to give it a shot.

It was about 6 months ago that I started planning a trip to Italy. My husband and I would be doing the classic first timer’s Italy itinerary of Rome, Florence and Venice. The clincher? Our toddler was coming along for the ride. I know what you’re thinking. Who would want to bring their baby to such a romantic destination? Where we go, she goes, and I wasn’t about to skip a trip to Europe just because we have a baby! I knew that having a little one in tow meant naps, lots of dirty laundry and nightly bath time. The convenience of a private apartment with a kitchen and extra space was tempting, so to Airbnb’s website I went.

Since we had hotels in Rome and Venice locked in with points and hotel loyalty programs, we opted to rent a one bedroom apartment in Florence. While researching, I was really impressed with the search criteria options and being able to filter results for everything from family friendly facilities to amenities like internet and a pool.airbnb viewI was able to find a centrally located apartment from a super host, and it even included a crib. After reading the reviews, we decided to pull the trigger. Upon arriving in Florence, our hosts were gracious enough to meet us at the train station. The apartment was clean, spacious and perfect for our family of three. As every traveler knows, it’s nice to have a kitchen to eat a few meals in, and a laundry room to wash clothes. The location could not have been better – it was located on a quiet street within walking distance of restaurant, shops and Florence’s famous Doumo. The Mercato Centrale around the corner was super convenient and a go-to lunch spot. We were more than pleased with our choice of accommodations and I can gladly say my 1st Airbnb experience was wonderful!

If you’re ever in Florence, check out our new friend Alessio’s apartment. You won’t be disappointed!airbnb

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Hotel Review: Intercontinental New York Barclay

Intercontinental Barclay

I always love being back in New York, so when the opportunity came for a quick weekend trip to see old friends, I jumped at the chance.

Manhattan has so many amazing hotels.For this trip I was looking for a good central Manhattan location that could easily get me to my favorite neighborhoods. With Intercontinental points to burn in my account from my new IHG credit card, I quickly found the Intercontinental Barclay. There were quite a few Intercontinental properties in Manhattan, but I chose the Barclay because of its Midtown location. Located less than 5 blocks from Grand Central, it was a convenient home base to get around the city.

Grand Central
The hotel is withing walking distance to Grand Central

The hotel has an old New York vibe, with a grand lobby and gilded ceilings. As an IHG card holder, I gained Elite Spire status, which meant a room upgrade and complimentary wifi. My room was comfortable, updated and very large by Manhattan standards. I loved the black and white floors, which are classic New York. I even had them in my very first NYC apartment. The bathroom was spacious, clean and modern. Simple amenities like a Keurig machine and nice toiletries were a nice bonus and really make a difference in my book.

From check-in to check-out, the service was great, with helpful staff that even remembered my name. Overall the hotel was comfortable, clean and safe. Have I stayed at nicer Intercontinentals? Yes. (Hello Willard Intercontinental!) But this hotel is definitely nice, and a great Midtown option. For the location, interior and price, this hotel is definitely worth a visit. IHG Barclay bathroombathroomIHG barclayIntercontinental Barclay

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Why We Should Love our National Parks

Muir woodsDid you know that 2017 marks the 100 year anniversary of the US national Parks? There are 59 official parks across the country, which means that there is likely one that’s close to you! Whatever your activity of choice is – hiking, camping or just sightseeing – there’s a National Park for it. We’re so lucky to have these amazing, preserved pieces of nature at our fingertips to help inspire new adventures. If you’ve been itching to visit your closest park, the US National Park Service is offering complimentary admission to all parks on April 15. Mark your calendars!

As a new Coloradan, as we’re called, I recently visited Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive in early fall made for breathtaking views, especially of the Aspen trees, and we actually crossed the Continental Divide! The park’s nearest town, Estes Park, has quickly solidified itself as one of my favorite little towns in Colorado.

During a recent trip to San Francisco, I was also lucky enough to make it to Muir Woods. It’s less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of of the Bay Area, but feels a world away. Added bonus, it’s also not too far from wine country, if you want to make a day out of it. 

Did you know that one of our parks is a rainforest? El Yunque in Puerto Rico is the only rainforest on US soil, and it’s definitely unlike any other National Park you’ve seen. While in Puerto Rico for my wedding in 2012, a short drive from San Juan transported us to a rainforest complete with waterfalls, beautiful plant life and tropical birds. 

I’ve come to learn how necessary the right equipment is for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. I recently discovered Cotopaxi, and it’s become one of my go to outdoor brands not only because of their products, but because of their support of well being worldwide. They donate a portion of every sale to various charities that assist with global health initiatives, and these backpacks help provide the most aid. So great, right? They are supporting the 100th anniversary of our parks with the hashtag #ParkPride. Share your park photos!

Cotopaxi National ParksI would love to take a road trip to Yellowstone or explore the Everglades during my next trip to South Florida. What National Parks are your favorite, and which ones are you hoping to visit one day?

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2016: My Year in Travel

Like most travel bloggers, I am always looking forward to my next trip. The year ahead means an open calendar of new cities to see and more passport stamps to collect. The last few years I have been so lucky to be able to travel to beautiful, amazing places, and 2016 was no different. With the past year came an exciting cross country move, along with the adventure that is traveling with a baby. From South America to mountain towns in my new home state of Colorado, here are my 2016 highlights.

CHILE: I’ve been to Chile many times since I have family there, but this trip marked an important milestone – my daughter’s first international trip. Traveling with a baby is never easy, but thankfully the ride went off without a hitch! I also ventured to Pucon for the first time, a town in the southern Lake District that is an adventure lover’s dream destination. A visit to the Santa Rita winery in the popular Maipo Valley rounded out the trip. flying with a babypucon chile santa rita chile santa rita winery

SAN FRANCISCO: Believe it or not, I’d never been to San Francisco. When friends moved to the Bay Area, it was the perfect excuse to plan a trip! Although the fog ruined a chance at any clear photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, I still loved my first San Fran experience.  Muir woods

VAIL: Since transplanting to Colorado in early 2016, I was eager to explore my new state. I was spoiled to stay not once, but twice, at the town’s lux Four Seasons during the year. The mix of small town charm and alpine architecture has earned Vail the title of #1 mountain town in my book.
Vail Four Seasons

LAS VEGAS: I always love a quick trip to Vegas. This year’s visits were a little different…because our baby came too! We made the most of the pools, great restaurants and of course, gambling. I also stayed at one of my favorite Vegas properties, the Venetian, which is always a wonderful experience.   Venetian pool

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Baby on Board

Air travel is stressful. There are crowds to deal with at the airport, cramped quarters on the plane and rude passengers. Try adding a baby to the mix! But it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. We took my daughter on her first flight at 2 months old. I was on maternity leave and felt like a hermit…why not go to Florida to see family, right? Since then she’s flown on over 20 flights. (We’re really taking advantage of the “kids under 2 fly for free” rule)! Some have been as easy as pie and some have been nightmares, but I always make sure I’m prepared and take it in stride. Here is what I’ve learned so far. baby on board
CHOOSE YOUR SEAT WISELY 
One of the worst things in the world is being stuck in a middle seat with a lap child. I learned this the hard way. As bad as that was, I’ve also been lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me, which you better believe I took full advantage of! When my child was younger and unable to sit on her own, I always inquired if there were open seats on the flight. A few friendly employees have rearranged my seating assignment and allowed me to place a carrier in an empty seat. You would not believe how nice it is to not have to hold a baby for 3 hours straight! If your flight has slim pickings, it may be worth it to upgrade to a premium seat or business class for added space. When in doubt, head to the back of the plane, where there’s most likely to be open seats.

COME PREPARED My pre-baby packing checklist looked much different than it does today, and certainly did not include diapers and formula. Don’t leave home without an adequate supply of snacks, diapers and clothes. Now that my little one is a toddler, I have learned that the iPad is my best friend on a long flight, so I make sure it’s loaded with Sesame Street episodes. I also take the Baby Bjorn as a carrier option.

flying with a baby

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FAMILY BOARDING Most airlines allow passengers traveling with small children early boarding, usually after first class boards. This allows you to not only check your stroller at the gate without a line of anxious people breathing down your neck, but also the chance to get situated in your seat and unload your necessities with ease. Family boarding is especially important on Southwest, where being the last group to board almost guarantees a middle seat.

PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF Have you ever changed a baby in an airplane bathroom? Trust me, it’s not fun. My pre-boarding ritual includes a diaper change and a fresh bottle. Making sure your baby is changed and fed will hopefully prevent an emergency trip to the lavatory. And since changes in pressure can affect children’s ears, a bottle or pacifier can help ease the transition as you ascend.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP My husband and I often fly together, but I’ve also flown alone with child in tow. As you can guess, it’s MUCH easier to have that extra set of hands. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’ve asked TSA agents to assist with pushing my bag through the conveyor belt and opening my stroller. It’s worth asking for help if it makes getting through security a little easier.

EXPLORE AIRPORT FACILITIES Thankfully many airports are becoming more family friendly, with designated play areas and women’s lounges. A recent long layover in Dallas went smoothly thanks to their Junior Flyers play area. SFO and O’Hare have great playgrounds, the latter designed by the Children’s Museum of Chicago. Beyond the obvious amenities, we love the AA Admirals Club lounges for the play areas we’ve come across in the Miami and LAX locations. Check online to learn more about your airport’s facilities.

bbay DFW kids club

Flying alone with my little one has shown me that there are nice people out there. Without fail, people have offered help every time, whether it’s to carry my bag or grab something from the overhead bin for me.  A flight attendant once said she’d hold my baby if I needed to use the restroom. And during an uncharacteristically fussy period, a nice woman seated behind me told me to hand over my little one. She was a pediatrician and must have noticed that I needed a break! Yes, you may get a few eye rolls when you’re heading down the aisle, but I’ve never encountered a rude fellow flyer. Try not to worry to much, flying with kids isn’t as hard as it seems.

 

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My Favorite Travel Beauty Kits

Unlike my husband who travels light and is fine using the complimentary soap provided by the hotels, I have to have my luxuries when I’m staying away from home. It’s not always easy packing the necessities, and no one wants to lug around their full size shampoo and body wash. Thankfully a few of my favorite brands offer convenient travel sets for girls on the go. Here are the products I make sure to include in my luggage.Molton Brown

Molton Brown Jetsetter KitMolton Brown is an iconic English brand that has the most luxurious scents (I’m obsessed with Japanese Orange!). I take this toiletry kit with me when I want to feel pampered on the road. The glam pink bag doubles as a makeup bag too!

Malin + Goetz Essential Kit: One of my favorite Miami hotels, the Mondrian, stocks their bathrooms with this brand. The Essentials Kit full of 1 ounce necessities is usually in my bag during overnight flights for the face wash and moisturizers. Bonus points because they are paraben free and contain no dyes or perfumes.

Bliss Sinkside Six Pack: I first discovered Bliss after staying at a W hotel, and I’ve been in love ever since. This travel kit includes their best products – Lemon + Sage Body Butter, Soapy Suds, face wash, shampoo and conditioner. The best part is that they’re small enough to fit in a carry on bag for quick weekend getaways.

Coola Mineral Suncare Travel SetCoola Suncare is my must have for  beach vacations. I love that they offer organic and mineral based products, plus their travel sets are TSA friendly. I usually pick up their sunscreen at Sephora before taking off to a tropical destination.coola suncare

 

 

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My Beach Packing List

florida beach

Summer has arrived! Like a lot of Americans, my summer agenda usually includes a trip to Florida. So I headed south to the beaches of Florida to visit family, eat good seafood and, of course, relax on the beach. While a bathing suit and shades are staples, my packing list has definitely expanded now that there’s a baby in tow for my trips! Here’s what’s in my bag.

Sunglasses: Classic aviators like Oliver Peoples’ “Benedict” sunglasses are always in style, and polarized versions keep my light eyes safe in the sun.

Weekender Tote: My Fold-Over Weekender bag from Thirty-One Gifts is large enough to hold all my stuff, is super durable, plus comes in a cute pattern to boot!

Beach Towel: I found a stylish striped version from Serena & Lily that includes fun tassel accents. Perfect for long afternoons lounging on the sand!

Babyganics Outdoor Essentials Duo: One of my favorite baby brands, Babyganics, sells a mineral based sunscreen that’s safer for little ones. It protects against the strong Florida sun and comes in convenient travel sizes.

packing list

 

:GIVEAWAY:

One reader will have a chance to win their very own tote, courtesy of Thirty-One. It comes in 5 patterns and can even be personalized! Just comment below with what you always pack in your beach tote and you’re entered to win. Good luck!

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Alessandra Ambrosio’s Jetsetting Style

alessandra ambrosio

When the opportunity arose to meet Victoria’s Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio at a recent store event, I couldn’t pass up the chance. She was visiting Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio to launch Victoria’s Secret Sport’s new incredible front-close sport bra. (The bra is awesome, by the way. Ladies, go try it out!). Obviously I’m jealous that she’s so effortlessly stunning, but I’m also envious that part of her job involves traveling the world. I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions about her globetrotting lifestyle, favorite destinations and travel essentials.

You just returned from vacation in Hawaii. What did you do there? Just relaxed and enjoyed the beaches and water. We all went surfing.

Where did you stay? The Four Seasons Maui. It was perfect!

What’s your favorite destination? Brazil, where I’m from. I get to see my friends and family.

What are your travel necessities? Headphones and my iPad. I fill it with movies. I also use the mineral water facial spray from Evian.

What’s your dream destination? Tibet.

Any essential plane reading material? I always bring a book and lots of magazines.

What’s your best travel tip? Make sure to sleep on the plane! It helps ease jet lag.

 

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What to Pack for a Summer Beach Vacation

beach necessitiesI’m heading to the beach in a few short weeks (South Carolina, to be exact), and like any good travel blogger, I’m already thinking about what I need to pack. I know I’ll be bringing along lots of sundresses, flat sandals and all the necessities needed for beach time. Check out my list of what I always make sure to include in my beach bag.

1. C.Wonder Rugby Stripe Tote: This straw bucket tote is sophisticated and functional.

2. Coach Bridget Sunglasses: Colorful sunglasses are a must for any beach vacation, and you can’t go wrong with pink frames!

3. Woven Fedora: Anyone will look beach chic in a summery fedora, and Modcloth offers lots of fun, stylish options.

4. Clinique Broad Spectrum Sunscreen: This light, non-greasy formula is one of my favorite sunscreens.

5. Dolce Vita Anica Sandals: Flat sandals are comfy and stylish, and I love the trendy details on Dolce Vita pairs.

6. Shiseido Stick Foundation: This product packs full coverage foundation and SPF37 into one little stick.

7. FRESH sugar lip balm: Sun protection, a hint of color and it smells good! It’s the perfect lip balm to protect your pout from the summer sun.

 

Confused about what to pack? There’s a great packing checklist on one of my favorite blogs, Glitter Guide.

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Taking in Some Tennis in Cincinnati

Years ago when I was a young PR girl in New York City, the agency I worked for at the time represented the US Tennis Association. I was lucky enough to attend the US Open, and really was impressed. Today, the US Open Series is a course of tournaments that determine which players advance to the US Open. One stop on the tournament is pretty close to home in Cincinnati, and it’s always a fun event. We decided to take a road trip to Cincinnati to visit some friends and take in some tennis at the Western & Southern Open.

US Open series Cincinnati Open

We arrived early in the morning and were able to quickly get in. We had pre-purchased our tickets, and they were pretty cheap – under $20 a person! A ticket gave you access to all the practice rounds and matches, so you could visit each venue and match as you pleased. My husband pulled up the schedule online, so we knew where and when certain players were playing. We were able to see big names like Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic and Martina Hingis. I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest tennis fan, but it was cool to see the famous players up close and personal. I was excited when we got a front row seat to Serena Williams’ practice round, but sadly she was a no-show. We realized this after waiting about 30 minutes in the scorching heat for her to arrive. Oh well.

Cincinnati Open Maria Sharapova Cincinnati Open

When lunch time rolled around, I was impressed with the vast, more upscale options. There were outposts from Tony’s of Cincinnati, Taste of Belgium and the Montgomery Inn, plus local favorites like Graeter’s, Skyline and LaRosa’s pizza. I especially enjoyed the Svedka vodka lounge, and there was also a fancy Moet champagne bar.

moet lounge moet lounge

The event was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I definitely plan to attend again next year. Check out photos from the event that have been posted on social media channels here. The event goes on for a few more weeks. Learn more and snag your tickets on the Western & Southern Open’s website.

 

 

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How to Survive a Long Flight

airplane interiorWe all know that long flights can be daunting. I’ve done quite a few overnight flights to South American and Europe where the the total airtime has been well over eight hours. So how do you arrive fresh and relaxed when you land? Here are a few tips I’ve collected over the years.

1. Score an Aisle or Window Seat: No one wants the middle, right? I find it easiest to sleep when I can lean against the window, but the extra leg room that an aisle seat brings is pretty nice too.

2. Pack the Necessities: I always make sure I bring my memory foam neck pillow, eye mask, sleeping pills and a shawl to keep warm.

3. Spring for the Upgrade: If money allows, pay for a business or first class seat. It’s worth it on those long international flights. Hello, fully reclining seats!

4. Prepare for Boarding: My pre-board routine consists of visiting the airport bathroom to wash my face, put up my hair and take out my contacts. It’s pretty similar to what you’d do when getting ready for bed. A little prep and I’m ready to settle in for the long haul.

5. Bring your Entertainment: Your plane may offer its own in-seat entertainment center, but you always want to come prepared with downloaded books, music and movies on your iPad or Kindle.

6. Stretch it Out: We all know that sitting for extended amounts of time is not good. Stand up to stretch your arms and legs, and walk the aisle to get the blood flowing if the seat belt sign is off.

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My US Airways Flight: A Tale of Endless Delays

I’m writing this post as I sit on the runway of Charlotte’s airport, waiting for my US Airways flight to Barcelona to depart. Our original departure time was scheduled for 6:20pm. A departure delay and a gate change later, it’s currently 9:25pm with no signs of takeoff in sight. (This is in addition to the previous flight from Cleveland to Charlotte that was pushed back by an hour and a half). The rumors and reasons given for the delays ranged from a late incoming flight to re-fueling to weather delays. The latest updates revolve around “fuel issues” with the plane, which have been happening for the last hour.

The extra hours I had to kill raised some questions in my mind. When passengers pay a fare for a service with a previously agreed upon schedule, how responsible is the airline for sticking to those time frames? Because of all the delays, we are currently slotted to arrive at our final destination, Barcelona, three hours after planned. Losing hours of time that we had planned to use exploring Barcelona is a little frustrating, especially when you’re only spending two days in the city. If time is money, what accountability does the airline have when they waste your time? When you’re paying over $1,500 a ticket for a service and the service is not provided as well as expected, what rights do you have as a paying customer? Sure, I can choose not to fly them again, but does not giving my business really affect them?
One of the deciding factors when purchasing the flight was that fact that the airline had recently merged with my airline of choice, American. I can’t help but wonder if venturing outside of the One World Alliance would have been worth it to save the time and frustration. In hindsight, maybe I should have also given the airline’s horrible on-time stats more weight. Something to think about next time I’m shopping for flights. Will my negative experience thus far on US Airways ruin my summer Eurotrip? No. But it’s certainly made the trip get off to a negative start. Needless to say, I’m nervous to see how our return flight back to the states will pan out!

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Ten Unique Travel Accessories Under $10

1. Packing Checklist: This list will make sure you don’t forget any of the necessities.

2. Travel Laundry BagGreat for separating dirty clothes from the rest of your suitcase.

3. Bottle Protector: Keep your wine and liquor safe on the return flight home.

4. Squeeze Pods:  Disposable pods of necessities like lotion, hand sanitizer and shaving cream are super convenient.

5. Mini Sewing Kit: For when you need that safety pin or extra button.

6. Credit Card ProtectorThis handy card sleeve protects you from identity theft.

7. Travel First Aid Kit: Medicine and band-aids are always useful.

8. Laundry Soap Sheets: Mix these small sheets with water for instant detergent.

 9. Travel Scale: Perfect for making sure your bags don’t exceed airline weight limits.

10. IdentiGrip Luggage Tag: This padded tag conceals your contact info and makes your bag easily identifiable.

 

 

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Jetsetter Style

Up, up and away

My good friend Tiffany runs the popular fashion blog Haute Turntable. There she waxes poetic about the latest styles, her favorite music, her travels and her overall fabulous life in New York. I recently sat down for a quick Q &A with her to get insight on the best travel tips, accessories and destinations.

Favorite Destination: Mykonos or Napa Valley

Favorite Airport: O’Hare (I like the layout)

Favorite Airline: Virgin

Favorite Hotel: My favorite thus far has to be the Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City. It is so cute and quaint, yet has a modern feel!

Travel Necessities: Hand sanitizer, ballet flats, yoga pants, a good hoodie and an iPhone charger.

Carry On Bag: My ride or die bag is my red suede Burberry carry all.

Essential Plane Reading Material: Lately it has been People Style Watch, Vogue, or Rachel Zoe “Living in Style”

5 things you bring on a plane: Chapstick, Gum, Bose Headphones, Neck Pillow, Hand Lotion

What do you always seem to forget? Cash. I always have to get cash out when I touchdown at the airport.

Favorite travel app(s): I would say the Virgin app to check into your flight and check statuses.

Most embarrassing travel moment: I ALWAYS sit in the wrong rows and seats. I once got into it with a woman for like 5 minutes adamant that I wasn’t in her seat, but I definitely was.

What’s your dream destination? Bali or Australia & New Zealand

Best travel tip: Be a smart packer. I used to over pack and it made my life hell. Now that I travel so much for work, I have learned to pack versatile items that can be mixed and matched.

You can find Tiffany at hauteturntable.com or on Twitter and Facebook. Visit her online and say hello!

London calling
London calling
NYC
At home in NYC
napa
Relaxing in Napa
Travel essentials
Travel essentials
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A New Type of Airport Lounge

 

lounge

When traveling through Cleveland recently, I was tipped off to a new feature at the airport. Cleveland Hopkins Airport is the newest location of an Airspace Lounge, a new type of lounge made for all travelers.

These lounges are quite different from the airline lounges you’re used to. For one, they are open to any flyer, regardless of the airline they’re flying. For only $20, flyers receive unlimited coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice and espresso. Each guest also gets a credit to use towards any of the food or drinks on the menu. The interior is sleek and modern, with lots of windows that allow for cool views of the runway. One of my favorite features has to be the WiFi and power outlets, which we all know can be hard to come by at a lot of airports! This place is something I know I would have used on a recent 6 hour layover in Miami.

This location opened last year, and there are also outposts in Baltimore, San Francisco and New York’s JFK. I didn’t use the lounge since I was pressed for time, but I’ll definitely be checking it out next time I’m in Cleveland. Have you visited an Airspace lounge? What do you think of this new concept? Let me know your thoughts!

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