Relief: Four airport perks coming soon

There’s nothing fun about going to the airport, and the regulatory climate isn’t likely to change that anytime soon. Security will still be a nightmare, and you won’t be able to bring your own water with you (at least not for a while). Fortunately, there are companies out there looking for ways to make your airport experience better.

So, what can you expect to see in your local airport in the near future? Here are four amenities to whet your appetite for something to counteract the airport security gauntlet:

1. Catch some comfy shut-eye: sleeping on a plane sucks. There’s just no way to get comfortable. And, if you slip your leg alongside the seat in front of you, you do run the risk that it will get slammed by the beverage cart. Well, you’ll be able to use your layovers to rest, soon. Napping nooks, already available at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, are expected to come to San Francisco in the near future. Seven airports are in the early stages.2. Light up a cigar: okay, this one is particularly meaningful to me. A few airports still have smoking areas (I just lit up in Denver last month), but they tend to be unfortunate spaces, not designed to appeal. This is where a company like Graycliff can make a difference. The Bahamas-based cigar and hospitality company has an idea for well-ventilated lounges, featuring cigar rollers (and nothing beats a stick fresh off the bench, at least, not for me). With Graycliff involved, you can expect a stylish, upscale experience. The first is already open at the airports in Nashville and Nassau.

3. Better shopping and eating: the challenge of finding a bite or buying a tie during weird hours could become a thing of the past. From the chance to dine at a Food Network Kitchen to broader shopping options, airports are scoping out ways to enhance the experience of being trapped within their walls. If all the doomsday predictions by the airline industry about the implications of the three-hour delay rule are true, you might need to buy several changes of clothes and meals … because they believe this rule means you will never get home again.

4. Get picked up more easily: no, this has nothing to do with wearing something hot or having that extra cocktail. Rather, airports are opening their minds to parking where your ride can wait for you. You call; they drive around to get you. But, it’s not always that easy. Nature calls, and there’s always a shortage of space. So, look for larger parking lots with bathrooms flight information boards and maybe even dining options? Newark’s already headed down this road, with plans in the works for JFK airport, Cincinnati, Fort Myers and St. George (in Utah).

For more on this topic, head on over to USA Today where airport expert Harriet Baskas explores more upcoming airport amenities.

[photo by msspider66 via Flickr]

Drew Estate: A Destination for cigar smokers

If you like to light up a stick more than occasionally, it’s time for you to consider a “cigar safari.” This unique experience, offered by Drew Estate, which manufactures both traditional and infused cigars, is available up to 16 times a year at its factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Spend four days and three nights soaking in the pool, sipping cocktails in the on-site lounge and sampling the entire Drew Estate line, from Acid to T52.

Many cigar manufacturers are offering tours for their end-consumers these days. Camacho, Rocky Patel and Pepin Garcia’s My Father are among the companies that have taken this giant marketing leap forward. With Drew Estate, however, there is a touch of a resort feel. The guestrooms, limited number, feel more like a hotel than the barracks style available at some of the factories, and the guest-to-bathroom ratio isn’t bad.

Upstairs is the sort of cigar lounge that makes smokers salivate, with plenty of couches, flat screen televisions, a bar and even a poker table (games are held regularly with guests). The lounge opens onto a balcony (soon to be furnished) that offers stunning views of the Nicaragua countryside. Back on the ground, you can have a drink prepared and sit by the pool – or slip into it to cool off for a while.


Only a short walk away is the factory, where you’ll become acquainted with the process by which the stuff on which you puff is made. The Drew Estate team will introduce you to the various infused and traditional lines it offers, and you’ll get the chance to see the company’s unique manufacturing process in action, from tobacco just being brought in the door through rolling, packaging and, yes, smoking. The guys on site are quite knowledgeable and will be able to answer all your questions thoroughly … except one.

Drew Estate stays mum on its infusing process and is quite committed to keeping the secret sauce secret. Somebody always asks, and the answer is always the same: NO. You also won’t be taken on a tour of that part of the facility. Fortunately, there’s plenty to experience already, so you’ll hardly miss the chance to eye some trade secrets.

On your visit to Drew Estate, be prepared to smoke. The point of the trips is to acquaint cigar smokers with the brand, sot eh company is always putting it at the center of the experience. Cigars, along with meals and beverages, are included in the nominal fee of $450 (you’re responsible for your own airfare).

Pack your cutter and your lighter (but not if you use a torch), and get ready to relax with a cigar in your hand for four days. Unlike most cigar trips, you can book this one on your own, rather than have it arranged through a smoke shop. Keep in mind that there is only a limited number of trips every year, and they do fill up quickly.

Six steps to a Broadway night you’ll always remember

There are so many choices available, it can be almost impossible to construct a perfect dinner-and-a-show night. Whether you live in Manhattan or are in town for the first time, it’s too easy to make a wrong turn, pick an unsatisfying restaurant or wind up chasing from one venue to the next. A single wrong turn can send you into a scramble, putting what should be the evening of your life at risk.

Plan ahead, even a little, and your theater getaway can be nothing short of amazing. There’s no reason it should go wrong, especially when you can think through the perfect night and put a few pieces in place before you step out the door. Keep in mind, a great evening, with no worries, may cost you a little more money, but predictability has value, so you shouldn’t expect it to be free.

1. Buy your tickets in advance
This seems obvious, but it’s not unusual to see a long line at the TKTS kiosk in Times Square or people shoving into the theater looking for discounted standing room only tickets. I did SRO once; my wife almost killed me. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, since I made the decision, but I wasn’t too happy either. If you order in advance, you’ll probably score better seats, and you won’t have any headache. In addition to convenience, you’re also buying some of your time back (no need to wait in line).


2. Consider something other than “Big Broadway”
New World Stages on W. 50th St. and Eight Ave. is like the theater equivalent of a major cinema. There are several stages, each of which home to a different production. The ticket prices are absolutely reasonable, and the productions are fantastic. I’ve seen several plays there and have never had anything other than a great experience. Unlike some of the really small stuff, you’ll still be in the Times Square area, so you’ll be near where you expected.

3. Start with a snack
Instead of showing up absurdly early for dinner or rushing through a meal to get to the theater in time, grab a drink and some appetizers before the show. The ideal spot varies with the show you’re planning to see and how much walking you don’t mind doing. I’ve always enjoyed raw bar offering at Thalia. It’s a great spot and understands the quirks of serving theater-goers.

4. Show up early
Don’t be so early that you’re standing on an empty sidewalk, but do give yourself 30 minutes or so before the show starts. If the extra time you’ll be in your seat will bore you to tears, bring a book. This is much better than having to shove your way through the crowd and risk not being able to hit the bathroom before the curtain goes up.

5. Nearby dinner afterward
Getting a taxi when a show lets out is like trying to get a stripper to buy you a drink. Don’t bother. Instead, have a later dinner (reservations should be easy). If you’re having trouble choosing a place, forget the coupons in the playbill. Before you go out, hit OpenTable and make reservations. You’ll probably find a kickass restaurant that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise. When in doubt, hit The Palm (W. 50th St. and Eighth Ave.); it’s convenient and the menu is fantastic.

6. Enjoy a last drink
Don’t finish the evening from your table at the restaurant. Rather, find a relaxing bar with comfortable chairs. If you’re a cigar smoker, you might want to try the Carnegie Club (on W. 56th St. between Sixth Ave. and Seventh Ave.). If you like your bars smoke-free, head up to the bar at the Hudson Hotel (W. 58th St. and Ninth Ave.).