Cathy Bennett Kopf, Optimism TravelingMom

Cathy Bennett Kopf, Optimism TravelingMom

Cathy Bennett Kopf pays her bills working as a municipal finance officer and feeds her soul with travel, documenting the good, the bad, and the ugly on her blog, The Open Suitcase. When things go wrong on the road, she retains her sunny disposition knowing that the best travel memories come from unexpected detours. She has nudged her 3 children out of the nest but travels with them regularly, despite the complex logistical maneuvers required to coordinate their schedules. Cathy is a lifelong resident and passionate promoter of New York’s scenic Hudson River Valley, a region hailed by National Geographic as one of its Top 20 Destinations in the World. In addition to her blog, Cathy’s work appears on Yahoo, Budget Travel, and Mode.


View from Above: U.S. Hot Air Balloon Festivals and Things to Know Before You Go

In springtime, a young man’s fancy turns to love. In summer? A not so young woman can’t get balloons off her mind. Big, colorful, fire-powered hot air balloons. One of my major bucket list to-dos is to ride in a hot air balloon and summer is the season for flying high. A number of US cities host hot air balloon festivals during June, July and August. Here’s a roundup of some of the popular festivals and things to know before attending. Hot Air Balloons: A Love Story If you’re like me, you fell in love with the idea of...

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Kickstart Healthy Habits with a Wellness Getaway: What to Expect

Going on a wellness getaway to kickstart healthy habits? Wondering what to expect? Optimism TravelingMom takes the plunge at Spa Eastman in Quebec Canada, and provides tips so you can relax and enjoy the experience. Tip #1, for example, is to bring a hat. You’ll need it for the outdoor hot tub when the temperature’s way below zero! “Let’s start with a short run to get our hearts pumping!” My heart was pumping already. Double time. Why? It was -22 degrees and hypothermia was a real concern. Run? I was wearing long underwear, jeans, a fleece, a ski jacket,...

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Where to Stay When Exploring Harry Potter’s Edinburgh: The Balmoral Hotel

Step into the lobby of Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel and your little Muggle will squeal. This luxury hotel is the perfect home base for exploring Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, says Optimism TravelingMom Cathy Bennett Kopf. Why? It’s located close to the city’s major tourist attractions, has well appointed rooms and special treats for the grownups, including scotch tastings. And shirtless photos of Sean Connery in the bathroom. What more could you want? Where to Stay When Exploring Harry Potter’s Edinburgh: The Balmoral Hotel Imagine stepping from a train compartment through a billow of steam onto the platform. A kilted...

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Need a Lifestyle Reset? Is a Weekend Wellness Retreat the Solution?

New Year’s resolutions not working? The key to a healthy lifestyle reset may be to set aside time to focus on yourself at a weekend wellness retreat. If you’re not sure what’s available or think a getaway like this is too expensive to consider, Optimism TravelingMom Cathy Bennett Kopf gets the facts from wellness expert Anne Dimon during a break in the action at the New York Times Travel Show. Is a Weekend Wellness Retreat Enough? In January, I resolve to go to the gym, cut sugar from my diet and sleep more. By February, I’ve gained 3 pounds...

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Hotel Review: The Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids, MI

When traveling to one of America’s great small cities, Optimism TravelingMom Cathy Bennett Kopf prefers to book a room in an iconic hotel. She thinks it’s the perfect way to gain insight into a city’s history and character. Her lodging choice on a recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan?  The Pantlind wing of the Amway Grand Plaza. Read on to learn why. Hotel Review: The Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids, MI What can a hotel have in common with a former President? The same birthday! The Amway Grand Plaza, currently operated as one of Hilton’s Curio Collection hotels, is...

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Helping Hand or In the Way? Questioning the Voluntourism Experience.

In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and surrounding Louisiana parishes. Over 1800 people lost their lives and countless others lost their homes. Waves of volunteers poured into the region immediately following the storm and in the years since to assist with rebuilding efforts. The question raised by a voluntourism experience is who does it benefit – the tourist or the host? A Night on Bourbon Street “Come on, Cher!” Before I could object, I was pulled by the arm into the bar and marched up onto the stage. A harness was lowered over my head. It had...

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Thank You, JetBlue: A Flight Cancellation Story with a Happy Ending

Have you had to cancel a flight unexpectedly due to a medical emergency? If you’re a budget traveler (aren’t we all?) and you book the lowest possible fare, it generally comes with a big warning that it is non-refundable. But don’t assume the worst if your plans take an unforeseen detour. When the Unexpected Happens My husband recently had a complicated gall bladder removal. He was recovering nicely, had returned to work, and was looking forward to a quick getaway to Key West before holiday season erupts. We planned to meet my sister and daughter for a fun weekend...

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Where in the World is Beer City USA?

Setting goals and working to achieve them is something responsible adults do. But what if your goal is sampling 4 breweries during the course of a football game? Optimism TravelingMom set out to accomplish this objective during a visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Some would consider this setting a very low bar, but she felt it was the only proper way to explore a Midwest destination known as Beer City USA. Welcome to Beer City USA Grand Rapids, Michigan, self-promotes as Beer City USA. Why? There are more than 40 breweries located in and around this Midwest city, each with...

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How to Find the Ultimate Family Friendly Summer Beach House

Finding the perfect family friendly summer beach house isn’t impossible, says Optimism TravelingMom Cathy Bennett Kopf. She shares her tips for getting what you want, where you want it. And you can have fun in the process too. There should be an upside to serving as your family’s Chief Vacation Officer, right? You know what arrived in my email in-box this morning? An alert from Twiddy and Co. Realtors announcing that the summer rental calendar for North Carolina’s Outer Banks was up and running. But it’s October. Some of us haven’t even bought a pumpkin yet. Do I need...

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Need a Fall Getaway? Take a Wanderful Walk in Quebec City

Heading to Quebec City? The best way to explore this charming Canadian city is on foot, according to Optimism TravelingMom Cathy Bennett Kopf. She cured a case of the blues by sampling the sights and shares 9 of her not to miss things to do in a casual, self-guided walking tour of Quebec City. Walking Tour of Quebec City: A Cure for the Blues I wish I could learn to love the fall. I want to snuggle into a black and red plaid jacket, stroll through a blanket of crimson leaves, while sipping a pumpkin spice latte, with a...

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