Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Travels in Review

I don't think I've ever spent so much of New Year's Eve day utterly shocked that the year in over. In some ways, 2008 has felt like the longest year ever, but in other ways it's been a whirlwind. As far as my travels go, I managed to squeeze in a good amount in 08.

As usual, I kicked off the year heading to NYC for the glitz and glamour of Times Square and the Adrian Awards. I probably made at least a half dozen trips to Florida's Gulf Islands of Anna Maria, Longboat Key and Bradenton throughout the year... partly for fun, partly for work (my work is fun so it counts either way!). I celebrated my 20 year anniversary in Charleston in April (my first time there and loved it). 

Over the summer, I hit Gainesville and the University of Florida on the way to New York, Connecticut and Maine. September boasted a return to my alma mater, Syracuse University. October included a work-related focus group in Orlando and back again in November for a press check. November proved to be a busy travel month with a jaunt up to Panama City Beach for a new client presentation and then a weekend in Jersey/New York for my grandmother's 90th birthday. December rounded it out with a relaxing weekend back in Anna Maria Island for Taryn's 17th.

My goal was to travel at least once a quarter and to visit a couple new places. I accomplished both! 2009 already has travel on the books with Panama City Beach, Bradenton, New York City and Tampa for the Superbowl all scheduled for January! My resolution for 09... keep traveling while I still love it and I still can! If you missed out on any of my travel posts from 08, just browse through the archives for all the adventure. Thanks for reading and for all your comments... Happy New Year and Happy Travels!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Oh Natural Florida

The little secret gem that my agency has the privilege of marketing is Florida's Gulf Islands. I have posted about this destination before, and this, my friends, will not be my last by a long shot. In fact, I am past due to post pictures and anecdotes from my daughter's 17th birthday trip this month. However, I am bursting at the seams (not only from Christmas goodies) to tell you to order one of the 2009 Visitors Guide that yours truly and her talented cohorts produced. The book is environmentally friendly, printed on recycled FSC certified paper, and promotes the authentic, old Florida experience of Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch.

And, the cover shot is of our web marketing partner, Jennifer Barbee's, precious daughters discovering a baby sea turtle on the beach. SO adorable.

Go to and order your very own (or be green and view it online).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Cushings Go Out West

Gene asks me at least once a week if I have started planning the summer trip yet. I blogged about this trip back in July. Wow, where did the rest of the year go? Since this is the summer before Taryn's senior year in high school (when the only thing on our minds will be college planning), he wants to take her out west to see all the famous American sites before she is "gone." Our family has traveled to every state up and down the eastern seaboard, from Maine to New York to Vermont to the Carolinas and, of course, our home state of Florida. But westward we have not conquered as a family beyond one trip to Lake Tahoe nearly 10 years ago.

The most pressing issue (now that a tentative itinerary has been established) is the accommodations. Gene wants me to write letters to all the hotel chains and tell them about our trip, and ask them to give us a cross country "discount." Not a bad idea actually. So I started thinking... in my line of work, tourism organizations are beginning to step up to the online plate. For my own clients, we are strategizing and implementing online travel blogs, trip tiks, personal vacation stories, photo uploading, video journals, and social media like facebook and twitter. In today's competitive travel market, destinations, hoteliers, and travel partners must tell a more personal story to potential travelers - one people can connect with. Social marketing is a key component. Why not be my own example? 

Here's my idea - the Cushings create a "real family" story, traveling all over western America and blogging, shooting, and videoing our trip... all for a single hotel chain to use for their marketing purposes. We have great demographics - early to mid forties, married 20 years, teenage college bound daughter, one parent a police officer, one parent a small business owner, we even have a small dog who is coming along. And, we all LOVE to travel together. Brilliant, I say. Any takers out there? Marriott? Best Western? Holiday Inn? Anyone? Anyone?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beach Ball Drop

My next trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, will be in early January for work (yeah right), which means I will miss their first annual New Year's Eve Beach Ball Drop and all the festivities happening on the Beach Lovers' Beach. : (

But I wanted to pass along the link to the PC Beach New Year's website page we just launched, should any of you adventurous travelers want to be spontaneous and hit the panhandle this New Year's. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

MTVu Spring Break site launches

I am obviously not a college student anymore, but these days I hang around with hoards of them. As an advisor for Chi Omega sorority at FGCU, and having a 17 year old daughter, I found myself in just the right mindset to help create a Spring Break microsite (mini website) for Panama City Beach, Florida. The new site launched earlier this week and can be viewed at:

What I like most about the site is that it has all the current, "hip" ways to be in touch about Spring Break, including links to Facebook, My Space, Twitter and a mobile feed application, "PCB Insider." How much easier could it be to keep track of the latest events and tips for potential Spring Breakers? And, of course, with just about every site my agency develops, there is a sweepstakes for a free trip. So, friends, if you are young (at heart) and want to hit the beach this March, sign up to win. Why? Because I said so!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thankful for travel

With Thanksgiving just behind us, many people have spent time reflecting on what they are thankful for. In our family, we have a Thanksgiving day tradition of going around the table and sharing what we are thankful for before the glutinous behavior begins. It is a tradition my family began with my cousin's family about 10 years ago. In fact, aside from Uncle Gene starting a fire by burning the marshmallows atop the sweet potato pie, it tops the list of Thanksgiving day rituals (just ask my nephew Devon, who announced that on the school news this year!).

How does this tie in with travel, you ask? As a New York transplant, the holidays are a time of year I always consider traveling. Should we go up north for Christmas this year? That is usually the first question. The next question, where will Taryn and I go for her birthday this year? (2008 answer: Anna Maria Island) It also happens to be about the time I start to plan my annual trip in January to NYC for a big awards gala. During this trip, I often try to kill 2 birds by bringing my daughter and friends, or hooking up for dinner and a show with my sister and brother-in-law, or reuniting for a meal with my sorority sisters from college, or museum and gallery-hopping with my work buddies. My excuses to travel into the New Year are endless.

The topic of travel always seems to come up during conversations this time of year. I dunno, maybe it's just like when you buy a Mercedes, you suddenly see a million of them on the road. Or when you are pregnant, every woman you see is also with child. (Very important side note: neither of those two items are anywhere in my future.) This past weekend, my mother, daughter and I discussed wanting to go to the Macy's Day parade one of these years (my daughter actually wants to be IN it, not just attend it). And, when a few high school friends coordinated a get together at the old village watering hole in Fishkill, I was completely jealous that I wasn't heading north for Turkey Day! I also got all warm and fuzzy when I saw the many photos being posted on Facebook of friends traveling to see their family, all in order to be together and give thanks. 

Why is it that I am so in love with traveling? What does it do for me? And why does the itch get so strong around the holidays? Well, I recently read an article that answered it all for me (trust me, it's worth the read: "Best letter to the editor" on Budget Travel). For me, travel is about experiencing the beauty of this great planet alongside people I want to share my life's memories with. It's a microcosm of Marianne's perfect world... a small moment in time when I am the happiest, seeking authentic and sometimes spiritual experiences while connecting with my most important people. And, it goes without saying, it is also entirely related to great food and festive celebrations that may include colorful beverages. 

I am thankful to have discovered the meaningfulness of travel as it pertains to me. I hope that your year ahead is full of thanks, giving and travel!