Gifting Outside the Box

Let’s start with the facts. No guy wants another tie. And no woman wants a gift card.

What do you get for the boomer who has more than they need or want? Most of my friends are packing up their possessions and selling them on eBay, giving them away on Freecycle or donating them to local charities.

But ‘tis the traditional gift-giving season. In addition to Hanukah and Christmas, I’m still attending milestone birthday parties. Since I hate to shop and am a terrible wrapper, I usually choose experiential gifts to mark these occasions. I’ll take a friend to dinner or give them concert tickets. There are so many great new bands out there playing in small, local venues; it’s an easy way to make a 50-year old feel twenty again.

Or, if you know someone who’s longed for a bit of Indiana Jones-like adventure, how about the chance to play amateur archeologist? It’s a unique gift for person in your life who wants nothing.

Looking for a unique gift for a guy? Consider an Adventures in Preservation trip.

Photo: The Fairfield Foundation.

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Where Have You Been All My Life, Disney Springs?

What to see at Disney Springs include a hot air balloon for tethered rides.What to See at Disney Springs

I had no idea what to expect when I climbed the stairs to the pedestrian walkway leading to the entrance to Disney Springs.

And I’m glad I didn’t. Continue reading

Help! I Need Travel Ideas for the New Year

The Open Suitcase needs travel ideas for the new year. Where’d you go in 2016? What did you love? Or hate? Leave your suggestions for places to visit, foods to eat, and things to do, or not do, in the comments section for a chance to win some travel inspiration.

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The calendar flips in a few days and I need travel ideas for the new year. It’s how I survive winter.

I’m inviting you to play a round of show and tell. Continue reading

Visiting Grand Rapids: Beer, Art, Beer, Repeat

Tell people you’re visiting Grand Rapids and you’re likely to get a confused look. This city of 200,000, located in Western Michigan, is still an under the radar travel destination, but it won’t be for long. It’s easy to navigate, features a premier art destination, and has a lively craft beer scene. It’s easy to sample during a quick weekend getaway, but, once you get a taste, you’ll want to return for a second helping.

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The dominant sculpture in the garden is American Horse by Nina Akamu. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase LLC

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Nun for a Weekend: Quebec City’s Le Monastere des Augustines

Looking for a hotel in Quebec City for a weekend getaway? Traditional options abound but if you want a unique experience, consider a stay at Le Monastere des Augustines, a renovated historical monastery with a wellness mission. I embraced its quiet elegance, artfully designed to soothe the mind and ignite the soul.

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The renovation of Le Monastere thoughtfully combined the old with the new. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase LLC

Fear of the Unknown

I didn’t know what to expect when I checked into a monastery for a weekend getaway in Quebec City. Would a gaggle of nuns circle me in the lobby and start singing, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Cathy?” as in the Sound of Music. Or, worse, would I be stripped naked and escorted to my room in a shameful walk of atonement like Cersei in Game of Thrones? Continue reading