My Spa Day At The Worst Airport In The World

LaGuardia Airport hasn’t always gotten the best rep. It’s known for being outdated, impossible to get to and its lack of food (or any amenity for that matter) options. There’s a reason it topped Condé Nast Travelers reader's choice awards 2014 list for the worst airport in the country. So, when someone invited me to enjoy a spa day at the less-than-stellar transport hub I was skeptical.
 
How would I feel relaxed and pampered in a place that could be described as its “own circle of hell?” Would my spa treatments include an involuntary shower courtesy of the leaky roof? Would my blowout be done in the shoe shine chair? I had to find out.

Checking in at Laguardia Airport.

Checking in at Laguardia Airport.


The day started out just as it would for most trips to the spa, in an Uber, except the driver was confused as to why I was requesting to go to the airport with literally no luggage in hand. Once at the Delta’s terminal C, it started to sink that this was no ordinary spa experience as I had to go through security. (Side note: if you have to go through security at your spa, you might want to reconsider another option).
 
I handed over my license and non-boarding pass boarding pass to the officer. “Are you picking someone up at the gate,” asked the TSA agent. “No, I’m here for a spa day,” I replied. I’m pretty sure I’m on some crazy watch list now, but nonetheless I was let through.
 
To kick-off the afternoon of relaxation, I was greeted by servers with sparkling rose and tapas at Wibar. For a restaurant in the middle of terminal, the drinks and food were surprisingly delicious (they have 101 premium wines by the glass by the way). No one wants to chow down on a McDonald’s burger before getting a massage, so the light dishes of baby local beets and gazpacho andalouse were a perfect healthy set up. And just how you’d get fruit infused water at the day spa, so too was I offered fresh pressed watermelon water. Yum!

Who knew this was an airport meal?

Who knew this was an airport meal?


Before lunch I was treated to a tour of Terminal C Food Hall where retail partner OTG has curated a market-like experience instead of your typical grab-n-go situation. I actually found myself enjoying browsing through the variety of unique beauty products and tasting things like vegan beef jerky and chips made from cricket powder. I’m already going to the spa at the airport, why not be adventurous and eat some bugs?

My quick shopping trip was followed by spa-inspired lunch prepared by Cotto's executive chef, where I indulged dishes like tuna carpaccio and olive oil poached halibut (yes, I’m still at LaGuardia). Finally, it was on to the actual pampering treatments at Warren Tricomi Salon (yes, like the famous one in the city) and XpresSpa where I opted for my go-to services: a massage and blow-out.  

Yup, this is happening in an airport.

Yup, this is happening in an airport.


I explained my back problems to the therapist and rather than just giving me the standard chair massage, he actually took me to a back room with a legit massage table to work out the kinks. The only thing that differed between this experience and one at a top-rated spa in the city is the fact that the there was an echo of flight numbers and gate changes being called instead of some Enya track playing.

The blowout was equally delightful in the pop up salon that I found out also does trims, deep conditioning treatments, and scalp massages.

By the end of the three-hour experience, I was amazingly relaxed and refreshed. So much so, it made going through baggage claim and getting on the Grand Central Parkway only mildly irritating instead of downright excruciating.

Moral of the story? Say "yes" to new experiences. You never know how things might turn out.

Julianne Hough’s Secret To Staying Healthy On The Road: “I’ll Do Squats On The Plane”

Actress, singer, dancer: Julianne Hough is one of those triple threats that makes your head spin. When she’s not acting in her latest flick or dancing up a storm on tour with her brother Derek Hough, the 28-year-old is planning a wedding with fiancé Brooks Laich. Not surprisingly, this means she’s on the road a lot. But, she still maintains one of the most enviable bodies in Hollywood. I had to find out her secret.

Q: Obviously, you travel a lot. How do you stay healthy while traveling?

JH: It’s sort of become my lifestyle now. It’s what I eat, it’s how I live. My fiancé always says “the next time you say you don’t have time, change the word time to priority.” Once I started doing that, I knew I need to make the time for health and fitness and I need to make it a priority. Now, I will take an earlier flight so when land so I have time to work out and get a good night’s rest.

Q: You’re hitting the road again with your brother this spring. What’s your wellness regimen while on tour?

JH: Before we even go out, we see the cities that we are performing in and then we try to see what kind of workouts are in the location. We’ll do the same for food. After show food is usually so disgusting, so I’ll ask the caterers make me double of whatever healthy foods they are making for lunch and then I will just save it and heat it up later. Otherwise, we are ordering pizza every night. Super glamorous, right?

 

Q: Do you work out or is dancing your go-to on the road?

JH:: We find places around town to mix it up and do different things. But, it’s funny, I don’t get super skinny on the tour. In rehearsal and the first couple of weeks, I drop a lot of weight and I get like shredded and then my body gets sort of used to the tour. I burn a lot, but I also eat a lot. So, I just get really muscular and then I get home and then I sort of have a little break and then I lose a little bit of the muscle.

Q: Do you allow yourself to indulge at all?

JH: A thousand percent. My fiancé makes fun of me because I eat so much. On vacation, he has multiple pictures of me just like with food in my mouth. I think the first trip we ever went on together – I was like it’s the last day, I am going to do a buffet. I had everything – there are pictures of it. He is like how does your little body fit all of that?

Q: Is there a particular culture you turn to for healthy living advice?

JH: I really follow more of a Mediterranean diet I don’t really cook with butter. I cook with olive oil or with coconut. I love my pastas and pizzas, but I love my fishes and my chickens and my vegetables and fresh stuff too.

Q: Do you use any devices to help keep you on track?

JH: I love my Fitbit Alta HR because it tracks everything from my sleep to my heart rate. First thing when I wake up, I’ll track my sleep patterns. Then it registers my workouts and steps, so I know how much activity I got in. My favorite part is the fact that it buzzes – it’s like get up and move! I am in the car and going to different places, so it will remind me I need to walk. If I’m at the airport, I will walk around and just get my steps in before I sit down on the plane. Or, I will get on the plane and do a couple of laps and just walk down the aisles, stuff like that. Sometimes I will stand in the front if nobody is up there and talk to the flight attendants and just pace or do my squats. When I am at the airport, I am shuffling and doing squats and lifting my arms. I only have a certain amount of time to do something and I want burn as much fat as possible; the Fitbit tracks it all. All of those little things add up.

 

Q: Where is strangest place you have ever worked out or danced?

JH: We danced on a plane once! On our first tour, they played “Happy” because that was in our show and we did the dance down the aisle. Also, we would be in outdoor amphitheaters so we would be working out on the steps and going around the grass and running around. My sister and I did a beach yoga, but we called it drunk yoga because it was like a girls’ trip and we had a few tequilas and margaritas before. It was a lot harder, I will tell you that!

Q: Do you ever eat airplane food?

JH: I eat it every time! I know that if I don’t eat when I’m hungry, then my body goes all weird. I did this when I was shooting Footloose and I was on this really weird diet where my body got messed because I was not eating enough. Ever since then, if I am hungry, I have to eat because I can’t mess up my body like that again. So, on a plane I will have a few bites to at least suppress that so I am not pigging out on Mentos.

Q: You pig out on Mentos?

JH: The cinnamon Mentos and the fruity Mentos, that is like my jam. I love those! But I eat the whole thing on a plane, it’s so bad. I know, so weird and so random.

Bermuda's Secret To A Stress-Free Life

Taking a walk along Horseshoe Bay.

Taking a walk along Horseshoe Bay.

“Everything will happen eventually.” That’s what my driver, Larry, told me when I touched down in Bermuda a little over a week ago frantic that I still had a ton of work on my plate. His words seemed unreasonable in the moment as I was trying to make everything happen immediately despite being on vacation. And that got me thinking: how much of our lives is filled with wanting everything to happen NOW?

I am certainly guilty of that behavior. Living in a city and working in a fast-paced business breeds this idea of getting as much done as possible on the fastest timeline. How many times have you refreshed your phone waiting for an email response to a message you sent five minutes earlier? How many times have you checked your recent date’s Instagram to see what he or she is up to since they haven’t texted in 24 hours? All of these things don’t make us more efficient or fulfilled. If you’re anything like me, they leave you feeling exhausted.

So, when my lovely tour guide in Bermuda casually said those four words, it didn’t resonate at first. I had an interview and an article to write and a deadline…the list could have gone on. I got all of my “stuff” done in my way and by that evening I just wanted to go to bed. You realize that’s nuts considering I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world right? That’s why I started to replay those words over and over in my head: “Everything will happen eventually.”

Checked off a bucket list item of riding a horse to the beach.

Checked off a bucket list item of riding a horse to the beach.

I promised myself for the rest of the trip I wouldn’t do any work and focus on just going with the flow. Everyone in Bermuda was ok with it, so why couldn’t I? As I relaxed and stopped focusing on everything that had to get done, time seemed to do something funny: slow down. While I often find myself saying “there’s not enough hours in the day,” on this tiny 20-square-mile island the days seemed longer and a good night’s sleep took on a new meaning. What would happen if we all slowed down a bit and adopted this Bermudian advice?

I understand we live in a world with actual deadlines and appointments, but what about all of the other “stuff” that can happen eventually? Do you really need to spend your Saturday running errands, or can it wait? Do you need to plan a work dinner multiple nights a week, or can you spread them out a bit more?

I challenge you over the next month to focus on clearing your plate. Keep your must-have deadlines and to-do lists to a minimum, and stop worrying about immediate responses. Instead, start to try and enjoy all of your newfound time and headspace because all of that other “stuff” will happen eventually.

‘Project Runway’ Judge Nina Garcia’s Healthy Travel Advice: ‘Learn From The French’

Nina Garcia is one of those enviable women where you have to ask, “How does she do it all?” The 51-year-old is the Fashion Director at Elle and Marie Claire magazines, and has been a judge on Project Runway since its premiere season. Here career and personal passion for travel have brought her all over the world (she just traveled to both Peru and Paris) and the fashionista seems to do it all with ease. Luckily, she opened up to me recently about her secret to staying healthy (and sane) with seemingly no free time. Hint: her dog has something to do with it.

Q: You travel so much, how do you stay healthy on the go?

A: That is a great question that I think many people struggle to find the answer to. Here’s what I’ve found works for me: walk as much as possible and don’t give yourself a chance to fall into the slump of jet leg. The best cure for tired travelers is to hop on a treadmill and get that blood pumping. Otherwise it’s a downhill battle.

Q: What’s the hardest part about traveling and staying fit?

A: That’s an easy one. All the eating. Who doesn’t want to eat all of the amazing fare when they are traveling? Certainly, I do. Since I usually cook at home with the family, it is disruptive to my diet and my overall health. But I try to make up for it by doing some extra walking around the city.

Q: How has being on the road so much changed your health routine?

A: It’s changed it quite a bit. I’ve learned that it’s okay to get on the health wagon and occasionally fall off from time to time when you find yourself in a new place with amazing food and little time for a formal workout (it’s hard to justify not taking a bite or two). But I’ve learned that we can use technology as a tool to help us keep track of our overall health. When I was in Peru, for example, I wore my Huawei Fit [a light weight fitness smartwatch] while I climbed Machu Picchu. I never would have guessed that I was capable of taking that many steps.

Q: Have you learned any wellness advice from other cultures?

A: Yes, the French. Everything in moderation.

Q: Where are some of your favorite places in the world and what’s still on your bucket list?

A: It’s too hard, even to name a few - I really love exploring and seeing new places. Last year was filled with some incredible trips. I went to Alaska, Macchu Piccu and Cuba. Every place was breathtaking. I’d love to visit Africa. Going on a safari sounds like a dream. Patagonia is on my list, too

Q: What about when you are home, how do you maintain a healthy regimen?

A: I got Titan, a golden retriever, in March 2016 and he has been a huge part of my life. Titan has actually made my whole family healthier because we all get out and walk him together. Any pet owner knows that it’s all about routine, and dogs absolutely must get their exercise. It has also been great for my sons to feel a sense of responsibility for him as well. It keeps us all on track.

The 5 Most Peaceful Destinations to Decompress in 2017

Between the presidential election, Zika epidemic and losses of both Prince and David Bowie, I think we could all agree that 2016 has been somewhat of a stressful year. To help get everyone off to a fresh start in 2017, CheapAir compiled a list of the five best travel destinations for unplugging, decompressing and relearning relaxation. Check them out!

Tulum, Mexico
This destination truly commits to blissed out minimalism. With most of Tulum’s “eco-resorts” on a strict low tech mandate – no television, no Wi-Fi, no air conditioning – you might think there’s not much to do. But that’s precisely the point. The scenery is stunning, the dining rustic, the drinks are cheap and the vibe is relaxed to the max. Europeans have been flocking to Tulum for decades, but millennial Americans are making Tulum a must-visit spot for the stressed-out young professional. Leave your iPhone at home and stay for a while.

Boulder, Colorado
Boulder’s religion is the great outdoors and nirvana can be found pretty much everywhere. You’ve got state-of-the-art cycling, hiking, and rock climbing to tempt you – it’s the kind of town that people move to precisely because of its laid-back vibes. Visitors find locals so serene, it’s inevitable that they too, will unwind.

Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage makes our list of stress-relieving destinations for the stunning Alaskan wilderness (it’s a brilliant place to center yourself) and to remind yourself just how small and inconsequential your stressors really are. When you’ve got Kodiak bears wandering by your front door and harsh winters to gird yourself for, you’ll find your mind is taken up with much more practical matters than how many likes your latest Facebook post got. As an odd bonus, Alaska has the most yoga studios per capita.

Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura is famous for its whale and dolphin watching, and what could be more peaceful than watching adorable dolphins frolicking in the ocean blue? Kaikoura is a bit off the beaten path from some of the more major tourist cities in the land of the kiwis. Whether you take a stunning hike on the breathtaking Kaikoura Peninsula pathway or simply visit the beaches where you can lounge about for weeks, there’s nothing but relaxation on the menu.

Missoula, Montana
Missoula rounds out this top 5 for its absolute dedication to wellness. Missoula residents pride themselves on a particularly robust level of physical activity, and you start to understand why when you visit its stunning outdoors. There is fabulous hiking and biking all around Missoula, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t try one of the most meditative and peaceful activities known around these parts – fly fishing. There are a number of outfitters that can hook you up with rental equipment and set you off on your own private fishing adventure.

A Healthy Cooking Lesson From The Kentucky Derby Chef (Yes It's Possible)

Growing up in a Jewish household my background in cooking was centered on noodle kugel, latkes and attempting to learn my mother’s recipe for the perfect matzah ball soup. As I grew older and my palate grew wiser, I tried recipes ranging from Italian and Thai to a good ol’ American hamburger and healthy salads. Things like fried chicken and grits simply weren’t in my vocabulary and I was pretty much a virgin when it came to Southern delicacies.

So, when I got the chance recently to get a cooking lesson from the ultimate down Southern chef, I jumped at the opportunity to expand my cooking repertoire. But, I had a challenge for him: make the dishes healthy!

"It's totally possible to eat healthy Southern food," Chef David Danielson, the executive chef at Churchill Downs since 2011, told me. "There's this big misconception that all of our dishes are heavy, but we actually use a lot of fresh veggies and make big family-style salads." He proceeded to spend an afternoon showing me how to whip up some of the dishes set to be served at next year’s Kentucky Derby that would also be great everyday nutritious dishes like roasted and pickled asparagus salad (see recipe below). But first, as a New Yorker I needed to know what were the most important things when it comes to creating a solid Southern meal any time of the year.

Here’s what Chef Danielson had to say.

1. Get yourself a cast iron pan

Every good cook needs a cast iron pan. They are sturdy and can take the heat, are perfect for going from stove top to oven, are not stick if properly seasoned, are versatile because you can fry in them, sauté, as well as bake in them, and they will last forever if you take care of them.

2. Shop at farmers’ markets

The fruits and vegetable you buy at farmers markets are the freshest and tastiest available, they are allowed to ripen in the fields then picked and brought directly to you. Shopping at farmers’ market allows you to taste and prepare foods in season and discover new produce you don’t normally see in your grocery store. Farmers are always bringing an interesting variety of product to the market. Know where your food is coming from, support local farm families and connect with your community.

3. Learn out to pickle

Learn to pickle so you can enjoy fruits and vegetables all year long. You can pickle just about everything from garden vegetable to summer fruit. It’s easier than you think. Fruits can be used for meat glazes or in salad dressings and pickled vegetable can brighten up any fall or winter dish. They also make great accompaniments to cheese and charcuterie platters.


Now time for that recipe!

  •  4 Bunch standard asparagus
  •  4 tablespoon olive oil
  •  ½ cup cider vinegar
  •  1 teaspoon mustard seed
  •  ½ teaspoon black peppercorn
  •  3 tablespoon sugar
  •  2 bay leaf
  •  3 ounce thinly slices country ham
  •  1 hard boules egg

Directions
-Trim bottom inch of asparagus, separate asparagus by half , placing first half in flat bottom baking pan.
- In a small saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, bay leaf and black pepper bring to a low simmer until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat, pour pickling liquid over asparagus in pan place in refrigerator let sit minimum of 4 hours.
-Pre heat oven on broil high setting.
-Spread out remaining asparagus in a single layer on a cookie pan drizzle with olive oils and season with salt and pepper, place pan in oven under broiler for approx. 4-6 minutes unlit asparagus starts to get blistered and some brown color. Remove from oven let come to room temperature.
-To assemble salad place small bundles of asparagus on a platter alternating between pickled and roasted, top with some slices country ham and dices egg, drizzle with some pickling liquid.