Retail Madness

The National Retail Federation forecasts a 3.7 percent increase in holiday sales this year with U.S. spending at more than $630 billion or approximately $800 per person.  This is significantly higher than the 10 year average of 2.5 percent.  Additionally, close to 136 million Americans planned to shop on Thanksgiving weekend.  This year, I got an early start to my holiday shopping so that I could avoid the crowds.   I figured I could accomplish more in a shorter period of time without the mass crowds of shoppers.  Much to my dismay, the retail madness had already started.  There was no parking, plus huge crowds and lines made the experience intolerable. Unfortunately, I was too late to avoid it all.
I grew up in a different era.  Holidays were about spending quality time with family and life was simple.  The holiday season started with watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on television and making a turkey figure using a paper bag stuffed with newspapers for the body, a toilet paper roll for the neck, and balled up newspapers for the head.  Construction paper was cleverly utilized for feathers, wings, and other important turkey parts.  After that, we had a nice family dinner.  There was no television turned on to watch football and there was definitely No Shopping!
I am no opponent of capitalism and I certainly understand the retail industry’s desire to maximize the holiday season.  I also understand the excitement of consumers to get great deals on gifts and household purchases for themselves and their families.  It is important to realize there is a hidden cost to retail madness.  Close, personal family contact and unity can become eroded and replaced by the desire to accumulate material objects.  I am not sure if this is a cost that America can afford.  
I personally support the retailers who refuse to open on Thanksgiving Day – so their employees can have time off with family and friends.  Let’s think about the real meaning of the holidays…the spirit of love and kindness and generosity.  

Top 5 Tips for More Enjoyable Travel

Travel much?  I do, but with new TSA regulations, grumpy staff, delays and crappy snacks, travel has become less and less enjoyable. With each trip, I have accumulated tips to make travel less and less of a struggle. I do this by controlling all that I possibly can.
Here are my top five tips:
Do not check a bag if at all possible.  A few years ago, my husband challenged me to travel to Europe with only a carry on. Remembering my last experience to Europe when the airline lost my luggage and I froze in France while trying to find clothing, I accepted the challenge. Not worrying about baggage claim and lost luggage made international travel easier and more enjoyable.  It is easier than you would think – just pack color-coordinating separates that you can mix and match and bring two pairs of shoes.
Have your toiletries ready to go. I have a toiletry bag packed with my essentials so I can be ready on a moment’s notice.  I even have a quart sized Ziplock bag with all my liquids since I don’t check my bags.
Hydrate. I never rely on the in-flight service to provide me with the adequate hydration for a flight.  I used to buy water but now I bring a filtration bottle.  I can use it while I travel and it is much better for the environment.  I fill the bottle with tap water and drink through a filter which provides me with clean fresh water no matter where I am. The filter is so effective, it can even remove the bacteria from toilet water!  I don’t recommend that but it is certainly good to know, just in case…
Pack snacks. I make sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks so I am not stuck eating terrible airplane food that leaves me feeling bloated and heavy.
Get ready to run!  I always travel in an outfit that is comfortable yet stylish and shoes I can run in if necessary. I have had many occasions in which a short connection to get to my next flight made it necessary for me to sprint.  One time, I even broke my foot on the way to a connecting flight.  I made it to my destination, but unfortunately my first stop was the Emergency Room.  

With these travel tips, you are sure to arrive at your destination as unscathed as possible- unless they cancel your flight.