Traveling while vegan, or ‘how to lose weight on vacation without trying’
Pilot labor dispute casts cloud over holiday travel | Why hotel rates keep soaring | Exploring Chicago like a local
View from Chicago's Riverwalk at night -- Barb DeLollis
Happy almost Friday, Travel Essential readers,
Last week we were all about air travel and what the airlines’ latest earnings reports mean for you.
This week, we’re getting more personal, sharing stories from the road about things like how – for the first time in her life – Jeri managed to lose weight (without trying) during three weeks of very food-focused travel. We’ll also share Barbara’s discoveries – good and bad – while trekking across Chicago last week.
Being data geeks, we’ll also take a look at earnings reports from the lodging sector and what they mean to you. But, yeah, you’ve probably already guessed it: Higher rates, especially for leisure travel.
Here's more on that and the other news we’re watching this week:
Move over Italy! 2023’s top destinations may surprise you: A few weeks ago, we mentioned that travelers are trying different destinations for the December holidays. And now American Express Travel says the trend’s continuing in 2023. AmEx’s just-out 2023 Top Trending Destinations includes places like Lisbon, Copenhagen, Fiji, Turkiye and Woodstock, Vt., American Express Travel President Audrey Hendley told our friend Jamie Biesiada at Travel Weekly. The timing’s good, since new hotels and experiences are opening in these destinations, including Hyatt’s first hotel in Portugal. The company opened the 204-room Hyatt Regency Lisbon this week in the city’s Belém district on the banks of the Tagus River, a great location for sightseeing.
Holiday pilot strikes (yes, plural) on the horizon? Just when you thought air travel couldn’t get any worse than this past summer, pilots at both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are threatening strikes. Yes, it’s posturing during contract negotiations. And mandatory cooling off periods would likely prevent an actual strike before the holidays. Still, Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research says "there is the risk of some pilots taking advantage of the situation. For example, a pilot with a sniffle may call in sick. Or pilots could work to the letter of the contract rather than the spirit." Given the airline labor shortages that have led to long hours and lots of frustration over the past year, we can only assume airlines are taking the pilots’ demands very seriously. Regardless, if you’re planning holiday travel, check out the tips we shared for surviving summer travel. They still apply for the upcoming festive season, which promises to be just as crazy.
Viva cabotage! Mexico’s controversial President Andrés Manuel López Obrador last week said he’s considering a rare move – letting carriers from outside Mexico fly inside the country. This could be good news for Mexicans and Mexico lovers, by potentially luring more flights into and around Mexico from low-cost American carriers. But it’s still a big “if.” Typically, nations forbid international airlines to operate domestic service to protect their home-country airlines. But according to Simple Flying, there are a handful of so-called cabotage rights in passenger aviation, including the European Union (with some limitations) and Chile. This is worth watching!
Hotel giants report strong rebound. Marriott and Hyatt released their third-quarter earnings today, joining their competitors in reporting hefty surges in revenue on post-pandemic travel demand. And like the airlines, hotel CEOs are optimistic their pricing power will remain strong, despite the uncertain economy. So, like airfares, don’t expect those rising hotel rates to come down anytime soon. Hyatt, for instance, says rates were up an average of 13.6% in the third quarter. And last week Hilton raised its profit forecast for the year, saying it's running at the highest profit margins in its history. Also this week, alternative lodging company Airbnb reported its best quarter ever, with 100 million bookings for lodging and experiences – an increase of 25% year over year.
Lisbon's medieval fortification Belém Tower once helped guard the river approach to the city -- Barb DeLollis
Traveling while vegan: Our just-discovered secret for losing weight while traveling
By Jeri Clausing
I’ve been fortunate to never have any food allergies or other dietary issues. So it wasn’t until I decided to try to improve my health – and the environment -- by following a plant-based diet that I realized just how real the struggle is for people with food restrictions to eat while traveling.
A month into my new diet – just far enough along to have shaken off cravings for cheeseburgers and ice cream – I traveled to Philadelphia for a wedding, then boarded the Ocean Victory for a two-week, all-inclusive cruise from San Diego to Costa Rica.
While losing weight wasn’t my goal, I discovered when I got home that for the first time ever I had actually lost weight on vacation.
To be honest I wasn’t surprised. I got plenty of eat, but there just simply weren’t enough options to tempt me to cheat or overindulge, particularly when it came to desert. On the ship, there were always plant-based dishes with every meal, albeit just a few. And, of course, that didn’t mean a picky eater like me would particularly like them. It’s simply too hard for companies to offer expanded menus across all diets. I also realized just how many foods that could be vegan fall off the list with the simple addition of say, feta cheese sprinkles on beets.
Travel companies are trying, though. Alaska Airlines, for instance this summer – in response to guest demand – added new vegan and gluten-free options in all of its cabins. But that’s still the exception rather than the norm.
At my home airport in Albuquerque, for instance, where the best restaurant serves (what else?) cheese- and meat-heavy New Mexican food, I literally found no grab-and-go food options that met vegan standards. And on my flight home from Costa Rica, I was upgraded to first class on Delta upon boarding, too late to order a special meal. I thought I got lucky with the “superfood” breakfast choice, only to find it was soaked in some kind of dairy. And everything else was loaded with meat and cheese.
All I can say is thank god for the big bags of pistachios available in most airport kiosks, and the multitude of extra calories I got from all the fine wines on board Ocean Victory. Otherwise, my pants would literally be falling off!
TE Takeaway: Go vegan or go sober, but don’t try both (at least not all at once.) Oh, and be sure to pack a lot of nuts, just in case!
Sofi Restaurant is Chicago's best hidden gem restaurant -- Barb DeLollis
Destination Chicago: Soaking up the views Chicago’s Riverwalk and discovering terrific Italian food
By Barbara DeLollis
CHICAGO -- I was in the Windy City last week visiting my eldest son Alessandro, who just graduated college and lives here as (gulp!) an adult. So in between helping him to turn his bachelor pad into a home and getting my own work done, I played tourist.
My new favorite spot is the 1.23-mile Chicago Riverwalk that connects the lakefront to downtown. My kid says it’s a local tradition. At lunch time, he and others will leave their riverfront offices on nice days to eat their lunch on riverside steps. By night, the Riverwalk's packed with all kinds of people soaking up the views and fresh air or just do some people watching.
It’s easy to reach the Riverwalk from anywhere in the city. We walked there from the South Loop via Lake Street on Sunday night, just before the sunset gave the skyline an extra layer of drama – perfect for photo opps, which truly just kept getting better with each step.
By the time we reached the Riverwalk, it had gotten dark, making the views from the path that much more spectacular. From the path, we got a stunning view of illuminated skyscrapers sparkling against the night sky, with several aglow in hot pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The gorgeous, neo-Gothic Chicago Tribune building from the early 1920s – now a luxury condo tower – looked especially glorious with pink lighting.
When the city first established its Riverwalk in 2009, it was short. But expansions added mini-public parks with seating and picnic tables, as well as restaurants and bars with outdoor seating that overlooks the river. We worked up an appetite during our walk but passed on grabbing a meal at one of the Riverwalk’s many casual spots. Instead, we continued exploring the city by foot and walked back to the South Loop to enjoy more architectural wonders.
When we reached the Printer’s Row district, we stumbled upon a terrific restaurant with charming outdoor sidewalk seating that reminded me of Italy. It turned out to be a Northern Italian eatery called Sofi Restaurant, which I highly recommend. Milan-born chef/owner Mauraizio Michi presents a mix of classic dishes and homemade pasta made daily. I had one of the best burratas I’ve ever eaten, and we each had savory pappardelle dishes. I ended my meal – and a perfect evening – with a complimentary taste of the restaurant’s killer homemade limoncello, courtesy of our excellent waiter from Italy who happened to share my kid’s name! ($100 for two, including tip and one glass of a super nice Super Tuscan.)
If you visit the Chicago Riverwalk in good weather, be prepared to stroll vs. walking like a New Yorker. Locals and tourists alike stop every so often to gawk at the water and magnificent Chicago architecture or just chat with friends.
And on the dining front, I recommend skipping the other restaurant we tried – the tapas “concept” restaurant on the second floor of the Blackstone Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection ($150 for two, including tip and two cocktails). The food was fine enough, but the lack of atmosphere, value and authenticity left my son and I with a bad taste in our mouths.
The Chicago Riverwalk -- Barb DeLollis
A global work revolution is underway during a time of significant uncertainty around the world - from health, safety, security, natural disaster, mental health and beyond. We are using AI technology to empower safe and intelligent remote work and leisure travel. Cashless insurance as a service, embedded API integrations, GPS tracking for transient work teams, ancillary travel support features, engaging community support within an intuitive and simplified customer journey.
We make your travel as safe and smart as staying home. Remote work is here to stay and sadly, so is global uncertainty - we are uniquely designed for the future of work and look forward to visiting with you.