Top Ten Barbados (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Barbados)

Top ten things to do and see in Barbados

Barbados is home to beautiful beaches and friendly people.  Here’s our top ten Barbados.

1. Lounge on Crane Beach.  Every beach in Barbados is deemed public property, even resort beaches.  So feel free to lounge on the beach of another hotel if you bring your own chairs and towels.  The Crane beach is protected by a reef offshore, which allows for better swimming than other East coast beaches on the island. The beach also has a big cliff and rocks on either side, making it feel more protected and secluded.

2. Sip on Rum Punch.  One sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak.  Or so the saying goes for the recipe of the signature drink of Barbados.  However, it seems every place you go likes to put their own spin on the classic so be sure to try rum punch from a variety of places to pick your favorite.

3. Tour Harrison’s Cave.  Families will find a trip to Harrison’s Cave popular with their younger members who enjoy the awe of the caves along with the tram ride to tour it.  

4. Dine on a Flying Fish Cutter with Macaroni Pie. Debatably the most popular dishes in Barbados, it is not difficult to find a flying fish cutter (known as a sandwich stateside) and macaroni pie at nearly every restaurant on the island.  It’s a quick, easy, and affordable meal that any traveler can enjoy.

5. Visit Hunte’s Gardens.  Anthony Hunte built an outstanding collection of plant species in the Bajan rainforest.  With music drifting through the air and greenery surrounding you, you will never guess you are in Barbados.

6. Bask in the Sun at Bottom Bay or Foul Bay.  Bottom Bay and Foul Bay are both secluded beaches on the East coast of Barbados.  Typically uncrowded and calm, the bays offer a perfect spot for picnics, relaxation, and plenty of trees for a reprieve from the sun.  Many locals maintain that Bottom Bay is the best beach in Barbados, but be cautious of currents and strong waves if you want to take a swim at either.

7. Lunch at Sandy Lane. The scenic resort where Tiger Woods married Elin is difficult to get a room at (and will cost you a pretty penny if you can).  However, the hotel has a restaurant overlooking its bright beach where any peon can dine with reservations. Sit back, relax and experience life as the other half lives.

8.  Sail on Cool Runnings. Swim with the sea turtles and snorkel over a shipwreck on a catamaran adventure.  The cruise has two snorkeling stops and serves drinks and lunch or dinner depending on your cruise time.  Alternatively, if you like to party, you make want to opt for the pirate ship excursion (which makes the same stops) instead.

9. Oistin’s Market.  Popular with locals and tourists alike, Oisten’s Fish Market offers lots of vendors who will cook your selection of fish right in front of you.  The Fish Fry is a particularly popular thing to do on Friday nights, with live music and tables set up to watch the sunset.

10. Visit the Bathsheba Coast.  The northeast section of the coast of Barbados offers dramatic scenery with large boulders in the ocean and striking views from cliffs.  The so called Soup Bowl is a popular spot for professional surfers, who are likely the only people prepared to withstand the rough waves famous in the area.

 

6 Reasons You Should Visit Vieques on Your Puerto Rico Trip

Vieques Top Ten

If you’re looking for relaxation and seclusion, then Vieques could be the perfect place for you.  An island off the East coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques can be accessed via plane or ferry from mainland Puerto Rico.  The island is quieter and less touristy than San Juan, but still has plenty to see and do.  Here are 6 reasons you should visit Vieques on your Puerto Rico trip:

1. Playa Esperanza – Offers some of the best snorkeling on the island with direct access from the beach – no tour or boat required.

2. The Malecon in Esperanza – Esperanza is the main city most tourists stay in on Vieques. The boardwalk along the beach has restaurants and shops along it.

3. Secluded beaches – Vieques offers a number of beaches along the coastline that are seldom frequented by others.  If you want to find your own beach to spend the day, you can certainly do so in Vieques.

4. Mosquito Bay – Arguably the best place to see the Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico, Mosquito Bay offers visitors to chance to see the supernatural phenomenon for themselves.  Check out our guide to Puerto Rico’s Bio Bays here.

5. Playa Negra – a natural black sand beach created from volcanic activity on the island.

6. Boat tours – get out and see the island from the water and enjoy the bright blue ocean.  There are many boat tours to choose from or you can rent your own catamaran for a reasonable price and take it sailing yourself.

 

 

 

7 Memorable Places In The First British Capital Of India -Kolkata

‘KOLKATA’; the name of the city leaves a spell of the sweet magic that this place holds. The sweetness of the Rosogollas and the Mishti Doi leaves you fascinated, while the beauty of the city that unites tradition with modernization, lures every traveller. Life in the other metro cities of India is comparatively fast moving and more commercialised than this metro city. Being the ‘First British Capital of India’, Kolkata has a long tale to tell to each of its visitors. A superficial visit to this city would rather not invoke the quest of a traveller, so let’s take a thematic approach to have an insight of this beautiful metropolis:

1.  The Traditional Kolkata

photo 1

Durga Pooja – Photo by Biswajit Da, CC BY 2.0

In the scenes of old Bollywood movies, you can see people commuted through man pulled rickshaws. You could experience this ride in Kolkata even today! The ride in the busy city on a hand-drawn rickshaw adds to the traditional beauty of this city. Your trip to the traditional Kolkata does not conclude if you miss to visit the 200 year old Kalighat Temple. The famous Kali Temple, with a tradition of goat sacrifice, is considered to be of utmost religious importance. Open for its visitors from 8 am till 9 pm, this temple is situated on the banks of river Hoogly.

 

2.  The Colonial Kolkata

photo2

Interesting Architecture –  Photo by McKay Savage, CC BY 2.0

The colonial aspect of this city is well recognizable through its General Post Office, the country clubs for Golf and not to miss, the Kolkata Race Course. Built in 1820, this is one of the biggest race course in India. The splendour of the horse races commencing between the months of July till September and then again from November till March magnifies the beauty of the lush green surroundings of the vicinity which also witnesses the game of Polo during the off seasons.

 

3.  The Engineered Kolkata

Serving the city with the first underground metro railway station in India, Kolkata has marked a place of significance in the history of India. Also to add to the list of most marvellous works of engineering, the Howrah Bridge also known as the Rabindra Setu enhances the value of the city. Occupying a team of engineers for 7 years, this bridge was constructed during the British regime and proudly holds traffic of around 60,000 vehicles and numerous pedestrians each day.

 

4.  The Conserved Kolkata

photo 4

Indian Museum – Photo by Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0

Being the largest repository in India for the age-old treasure, Kolkata is a host to the geographical, zoological and archaeological resources which are well preserved in the Indian Museum in this city. Also termed as ‘Jaadu Ghar’, this place is a store of around 100,000 species of ancient times. Except for Mondays, this plethora of artefacts is open for visitors from 10 am till 5 pm.

 

5.  The Multi-Cultural Kolkata

photo 5

Bandel Church – Photo by Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0

While being profoundly known for its Hindu deities, Kolkata is also a home to multi-cultural belief. Be it the Bandel Church that is a Portuguese remembrance, famous for fulfilling wishes by the grace of Mother Mary or the Belur Math which is open for offerings for the people of different religions, Kolkata has a place for multiple cultures and religions. A visit to both these places evokes the spiritual aspect of every visitor.

 

6.  The Aesthetic Kolkata

 

cap

Victoria Memorial – Photo by KenWalker, CC BY-SA 4.0

Who can ignore the aesthetic aspect of this city, which is proud of displaying its vibrant idols of goddess Durga at the most famous Durga Puja festival of Kolkata? The Birla Art Museum is another showcase of the modern-day art of this city and homes several exhibitions of paintings and sculptors. Even the Victoria Memorial hall is a host to the aesthetic Kolkata and holds a gamut of preserves of paintings, books, sketches, miniatures, etc. of the past.

 

7.  The Appetent Kolkata

photo 7

Sandesh Sweet Of Kolkata – Photo by Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0

No one visiting Kolkata can keep away from the famous Bengali Sweets. The mouth-watering sweet delicacies like the Rosogulla and the Sandesh are the must have desserts in this city.

Having a lot to offer to each of its visitor, the tourist spots in Kolkata are one of the most famous travel destinations in India. So visit it to explore it!

 

Author Bio:

Rohit Agarwal is a beholder of natural beauty and writes travel blogs at http://www.transindiatravels.com/. In his hunt for places of natural treasure, he was fortunate to explore Kolkata. Here, he shares his experiences of this city with fellow travellers.

Top Ten Iceland (Reykjavik): Top Ten Things to Do and See in Iceland.

Top Ten Iceland (Reykjavik): Top Ten Things to Do and See in Iceland.

Iceland Top Ten

1. Take a Walking Tour of Reykjavic.  A great way to start out you trip to any new city is with a walking tour.  It’s a great way to get acquainted with the city and your guide will likely make suggestions of unique things to see or restaurants to try.  Blogger Audur, who runs the popular blog I Heart Reykjavik recently started giving tours.  There are also various tip based tours available.

2. Search for the Elusive Northern Lights.  There are numerous tours available to try and find the Northern Lights in Iceland but none can promise you will actually see the lights.  The most popular tours involve a tour bus taking viewers outside the city to get away from light pollution and standing in a field, hoping to catch a glimpse.  You may want to consider choosing a tour that combines viewing the lights with another activity, such as a glacier walk or a boat tour, that way if you don’t see the lights you still did something else worthwhile.  Alternatively, you could rent a room in the countryside and try to view the lights from the comfort of your room.

3. Check out the Golden Circle.  One of the most popular day tours from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a loop around some of Iceland’s famous sights including geysers, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingveiller National Park.  Most tours also include a few more stops and last about half a day.  They are all pretty much identical, though one company offers a noon start time instead of the 9:00 a.m. start that most companies offer, which reduced the crowds at each attraction for us.

4. Watch some Whales. Iceland is one of the best places in Europe to whale watch.  Catch a tour and view some of the giants in their natural habitat.

5. Dine at Grillmarkaðinn (Grill Market).  One of the best restaurants I’ve dined at across the globe.  Everything we had was incredibly fresh and full of flavor.  A meal here isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the splurge for a special meal out. You won’t regret it.

6. Catch the View from Hallsgrimska.  Ride to the top of the iconic Hallsgrimska church for great views of the city.

7. Snack on the Famous Icelandic Hot Dogs.  The unofficial national food and the most popular restaurant in the country, is a hot dog stand.  The surprisingly delicious dog is made mostly from lamb and is a unique twist from the American version.  Getting a hot dog with everything is a must when you are in Reykjavik.

8. Tour the Countryside. Iceland’s greatest treasure is its natural scenery.  From glaciers to volcanoes, if you love the outdoors Iceland is your place.  A tour to the South Coast, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, or any other part of the country is definitely worth looking into for your trip.

9. Visit the Iceland Phallological Museum.  Reykjavik is home to the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts.  If you want a unique experience, this one is for you.

10. Experience an Icelandic Geothermal Pool.  Going to the pool is a huge part of Icelandic culture and something you should experience if you want an authentic experience.  The pools are most famous for their shower requirements (where all pool attendees must shower naked before putting on their swimsuits), but don’t let that scare you off.

Your Guide to Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bay

Our Kayak Tour in Laguna Grande

Our Kayak Tour in Laguna Grande

 

Undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Puerto Rico, the Bioluminescent Bays draw many tourists out on dark nights to witness a unique effect first-hand.  Only a handful of places in the world are home to bodies of water with tiny dinoflagellates which produce a glowing effect when moved. I recently toured one of the Bio Bays on my trip to Puerto Rico. While the experience is something I would absolutely recommend, there are a few things to know before you go.

The Bays:

Of Puerto Rico’s three bays, two are frequently accessed from San Juan.  The first is Laguna Grande in Fajardo on the east side of the island.  The second is Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques off the east coast of the country.  Mosquito Bay is often regarded as the better spot to witness the effect since it has less light pollution and a larger concentration of dinoflagellates, making it appear brighter than Laguna Grande.  However, a trip to Vieques will require a night’s stay and a flight or ferry ride making it a more time consuming and costly option.  Vieques is still worth looking into if you have the time, since the island has famous beaches and many other sights in addition to the bio bay.

Ways to See the Bays:

By Kayak – Kayaking is definitely the most popular way to see the bay and was the tour I chose.  The tours begin in the open bay before kayaking through a narrow waterway to get to Laguna Grande.  The path to get to the Lagoon is lined with mangrove trees making the journey essentially pitch black.  The guides have dim lights on their kayaks so you can follow them, but otherwise you are quite literally left in the dark.  I have a fear of both the dark and the ocean and while I was expecting the tour to be dark it was much darker than my expectations.  Embarrassingly enough, my friend and I had to be tethered to the guide’s kayak after we kept getting stuck in mangrove trees since we couldn’t see.  You don’t have to be an expert kayaker for the tour but I would be cautious if you are a beginner or have reservations about your kayaking ability or the dark.

By Electric Boat – If you’re unable to kayak (or too terrified, like me), you can still go out on the bay by way of electric boat.  The boats are very low riding, so you can still touch and play with the water and are able to see the effect just like you would on a kayak.  You can also devote all your attention to the bio bay instead of having to focus on keeping up with your tour guide and not getting in fellow kayaker’s ways.

By Foot – If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, Para La Naturaleza offers walking tours to Laguna Grande. A guide will take you to experience the Bio Bay from a boardwalk over the Lagoon where you can play with the water to create the glowing effect.  The walking tour is also a steal at $22 ($12 for students), half the price of the other tours.

Things to Know:

Leave the cameras behind. Unless you have an amazing camera and get your settings exactly right you will not be able to get a picture of the effect of the Bio Bay.  I brought my iPhone naively hoping I could get something on film and instead worried the whole time about getting it wet with nothing to show for my attempts.  Plus the kayak company sent us a free picture after the tour to commemorate the journey.

If it is supposed to rain on your tour date don’t reschedule.  It began to rain on our tour and it was by far the coolest way to experience the effect of the bio bay.  Since the dinoflagellates only glow when moved, you typically only view them by the movement of the boat or your oars.  The rain hitting the water made the dinoflagellates appear everywhere. Cheesy as it sounds, it was like being in the stars. Incredible.

If you’re kayaking wear water shoes and swim bottoms.  In order to get into the kayak you wade into the bay just below your hips. Make sure your cover up is fast drying or water resistant fabric or you’ll be sitting in wet shorts for the rest of the evening.

 

Top Ten San Francisco (Top Ten Things to Do and See in San Francisco, California)

top ten san fran

1. Walk or Ride Across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Arguably the most recognized symbol of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a popular attraction for tourists.  Experience the bridge in all its glory by walking or biking across.  At 1.7 miles the bridge isn’t an easy trek, so if you want to make it all the way across you may elect to take a bike.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous ride across the bridge into Tiburon, grab a bite to eat at Sam’s Anchor Cafe and catch a great view of San Francisco across the bay. Then take the ferry back into San Francisco (bikes are welcome abroad the ferries).

2.  Climb to the top of Telegraph Hill/Ride to the Top of Coit Tower.  Poised on the top of Telegraph hill, Coit Tower offers unparalleled views of San Francisco.  You can enjoy the view even from the base of the tower, so you may decide it’s not worth paying to go up to the top.  Either way make sure you peek inside the tower to see the murals, which are free to view.

3. Complete the Unofficial Food Tour of San Francisco.  San Francisco is known for its food and has many signature bites.  I couldn’t choose just one, but here are some of my favorites.  Boudin – famous for their sourdough bread which they make into really fun designs (crabs, bears, etc.) if you get there early enough in the day to get one. They sell out pretty much every day, so pick some up early to eat later or dine on the famous clam chowder in a bread bowl at their cafe.  Ghiradelli – if you like ice cream or chocolate, this is your place. Here you can find a huge assortment of sundaes and chocolate, which make a great souvenir to take home to friends.  Buena Vista – this cafe and bar is renowned for claims to be the first place to serve Irish coffees and is conveniently located just around the corner from Ghiradelli.

4. Explore Golden Gate Park.  Larger than NYC’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park has tons to offer.  Enjoy the free summer concert series on Sunday nights, walk throughout the highly acclaimed Japanese Tea Garden, or observe the resident herd of buffalo.

5. Observe the Bay Bridge Lights.  In 2013 an art installation was created on the side of the bridge to commemorate its 75th birthday.  LED lights were placed on the side of the bridge which move in a pattern designed to never repeat itself.  Grab a snack and head down to the waterfront one evening to relax and watch the memorizing light show before it is potentially removed in March of 2015 (there is currently an effort to extend the project).

6. See San Francisco from the Water.  Whether it’s a ferry to Alcatraz, Tiburon, or Sausalito or a sunset dinner cruise, seeing the city from a boat on the bay offers great scenery.

7. Ride on a Cable Car.  There are 3 different lines in San Francisco that operate the historic cable cars.  The Powell-Hyde line will take you from Ghiradelli Square with a stop right by Lombard Street.  If you’re just in it for the ride, try the California Line, which will let you skip the massive lines from Fisherman’s Wharf.  All tickets are one way, so if you need a ride back you can elect to take a streetcar which is much cheaper.

8. Get a Drink at the Top of the Mark.  Formerly the 11 room penthouse of the Mark Hopkins hotel, Top of the Mark is now a rooftop bar and restaurant at the highest point of downtown San Francisco. Grab a drink or champagne brunch and enjoy stellar views.

9. Brunch on Authentic Dim Sum.  While it may not be your typical idea of brunch, dim sum is a widely popular meal in Chinatown.  For the best experience, pick a place where the dim sum is cart or tray-passed.  Servers will come around to your table and offer you small plates of various kinds of dim sum.  If it looks delicious, you can snag a plate or if it’s too intense you can just say no and wait for the next option.  Don’t be intimated by the lack of English menu items, it’s hard to go wrong with dim sum and a nod or a shake of the head are universal signals.

10. Visit Lombard Street.  Nicknamed “The crookedest street in the world”, Lombard Street is a sight you have to see to believe its absurdity.  If you are really brave (and patient) try your luck at driving down it.

Hotels vs. Hostels: Where to Stay

Last week we wrote about hotels vs. vacation rentals, but what if you are considering a hostel instead? Are there any benefits over staying in a hotel? There are a few differences that can help you decide whether it is a better choice to book a hostel or a hotel.

What is a hostel? When you book a hotel, you book a room. When you choose to stay in a hostel, you book a bed.  You are literally reserving the spot in which you will stay instead of the room.  This typically means that there will be other people in your room that reserved thLs of  staying in a hostel?

  1. Cost. The number one selling point of hostels is the price. I have stayed in multiple hostels for under $15 a night, which is significantly cheaper than many hotels.  There is often the misconception that hostels are dirty and much trashier than hotels.  This is not necessarily true.  Hostels are rated like hotels on sites such as hostelworld.com.  I have stayed in 4 and 5 start hostels that are as nice as some of the best hotels.  Since hostels are aimed toward the budget conscious traveler, they often include things such as guest kitchens where you can cook and discounted tours or attractions, especially for students.
  2. Social scene. If you stay in a hotel, you are isolated in your room.  Hostels are social settings and you are bound to meet other travelers that are sharing your room.  Additionally, almost every hostel has a common room or some type of lounge to encourage social interaction between residents; many even have bars attached.  I have met some amazing people in hostels who are usually like minded travelers ready to share stories.
  3. Hostel Staff.  The majority of the staff members I have talked with in hostels are younger people who love to travel.  They almost always have great advice, both on the local area and other destinations.  Particularly perfect for people who want to experience local culture, their suggestions are usually more off the beaten path than a concierge who often names the top tourist spots.
  4. Location.  Since hostels typically house a fewer number of residents than hotels, their location options are greater.  There are many hostels situated in restored historical buildings, big houses, old prisons, campsites, castles, etc.  

What are the cons of hostels?

  1. Bad roommates.  There have been a couple times when I have had to share a room with a particularly stinky guest, someone who snores, etc.  I will say these times are outweighed by the times I have met awesome people, but keep in mind you have no say in who is in your room, it is just the luck of the draw.  One night my friends and I returned to our hostel and found a guy that had crawled into my friend’s bed instead of his own. Awkward.  These usually make for good war stories though.
  2. Amenities.  It is common for a hostel not to provide towels for guests without an additional fee. Likewise, they may give you sheets when you check in to make your own bed.  If you are looking for added amenities and special treatment, hostels are probably not your best choice.
  3. Privacy.  Hostels are created to form a community.  The atmosphere is often much more relaxed and less formal than a hotel.  With this in mind, guests may stay up late talking loudly, you will be sharing a community bathroom, and you better get used to changing clothes in front of strangers.

Hostels can be an excellent option especially if you are looking for location character and travel buddies.  Just be cautious to do your research first. Below are some pictures from hostels I have stayed in, both costing a little more than $20 USD a night.

Hostel courtyard in Marrakech, Morocco

Budapest hostel bunk bed sheets.

 

Top Ten Venice (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Venice, Italy)

Top Ten Venice (Top Ten Things to Do and See in Venice, Italy)

Venice Top Ten

1. Take a Ride on Vaporetto Route #1.  A great way to get acquainted with Venice when you arrive is to hop on the number 1 vaporetto (vaparettos are basically the city buses of Venice) and ride around the city.  Find fare information and schedules here.

2. Wander Around the City.  Venice is often regarded as one of the safest cities in Europe. It’s small size and relatively aged population make walking around the city aimlessly a perfectly acceptable and safe thing to do.  The city is full of hidden shops and eateries perfect for stumbling into. Spend some time walking around and enjoying the unique city on foot.

3.  Climb (Ride) to the Top of the San Giorgio Maggiore Campanile.  Across the water from Saint Mark’s Square, you can go to the top of the bell tower of the San Giorgio Maggiore church and catch great views of the classic sights of Venice.  The view is a bargain at €3. Check the hours and get more info here.

4. Ride around Venice at Night.  This would be number one on the list if Venice wasn’t such a sight to see during the day as well.  The city is magical at night, with all the houses lit up.  I highly recommend you see Venice from the Grand Canal at night, just hop back on your trusty friend Vaporetto Number 1, you won’t regret it.

5. Sip on Spritzs. An aperitif that originated in Venice, a spritz is typically a a mix of Aperol or Campari, white wine, and sparkling water.  The Aperol version is the lighter of the two, with Campari being the more bitter alternative.

6. Day Trip to the Surrounding Islands. Venice has a selection of other island cities easily within reach to Venice tourists.  Murano, Borano, and Torcello are likely the most popular, and there are a wide selection of organized tours to see them.  However, you can easily get to these islands via Vaporetto for a fraction of the cost.  Murano is famous for its hand-blown glass, Burano is well known for lace and its brightly painted houses, and Torcello is a relatively unpopulated island known for its cathedral and peaceful reprieve from tourist filled Venice.

7. Take a Traghetto.  Since you can’t j-walk across a canal, the unique Venetian experience of traghettos was created.  A traghetto is a gonola-like boat that transports people from one side of the canal to the other.  The ride will set you back €2, but that beats walking until you find the next bridge.  Plus if you play your cards right, you can take a picture with a gondolier in the background and convince all your Instagram friends (and yourself) that you took a gondola without dropping the cash for a real one.

8. Dine in Piazza San Marco.  St. Mark’s square is bustling with tourists non-stop throughout the day.  Grab a cup of gelato or sit down for some cicheti (Italy’s version of tapas) at one of the restaurants around the square to observe some tourists in the wild.  The best time to do this is in the evening; you can watch the square clear out as tourists head back to their hotels for dinner and experience the square when it’s more peaceful.

9. Have a Beach Day at the Venetian Lido.  Across the lagoon from the main part of Venice, lies the Lido.  An oasis from the non-stop crowds, the Lido offers a more relaxed feel with great views of Venice.  The lido also has a beach perfect for a relaxing day.  Take a vaporetto over, grab a bike, and spend the day lounging around the island and visiting the many restaurants and shops.

10.  Enjoy lots and lots of Wine.  Wine, an Italian staple, is prevalent throughout the city.  There are also vineyards that are within easy reach of Venice, perfect for day trips.  You can travel to the vineyards on your own, opt for an organized tours of the wineries, or you can enjoy the Italian version of a pub crawl and hop from wine bar to wine bar in the city.  Grab a glass and get started!

Explore more things to do in Venice here or start planning your trip itinerary here. 

Hotels vs. Rentals: Where Should You Stay

From couchsurfing.com to airbnb.com, room and house rentals have become the latest trend among seasoned travelers and are now gaining traction as a viable alternative to hotels. If you’ve never used a service like this, there are some things you should know before you take refuge in someone’s humble abode. Below are six things you should consider and whether hotels or rentals dominate that category.

1. Convenience: Hotel
Having someone at a Front Desk at all times is invaluable. If there are problems with your rental (which there tend to be, just as there are with hotel rooms) you chance whether or not the owner will answer his email or phone call before your stay is up. Plus, should you need anything additional like towels or soap, the front desk has that covered.

2. Location : Tie
Hotels and rental properties can be found in just about any part of a city, so neither has any leverage over the other. If you want to stay away from the constant movement of hotel guests, using a rental that is away from the hotel-infested areas is probably your best bet and often provides for a little more privacy than a hotel.

3. Last-Minute Availability: House Rental
Last year, I decided I wanted to go to Dallas for OU/Texas (one of the largest events in the city each year) in the 11th hour. Hotels are sold out months in advance. Even when hotels in a city are completed booked, there are often available rental properties since a lot of people still don’t think to check for them and property owners often don’t decide to list their rentals far in advance.  We found an awesome apartment with a rooftop pool in the heart of downtown days before the game, not to mention it was 40% cheaper than a comparable hotel in the same area.

4. Cleanliness and Comfort: Hotel
Many rentals rely on maids that must be arranged each time they are needed to get into the rental. If there is any difficulty getting into the unit, the maids will simply move on. This was the case with my last experience. The maid never came and I had to spend two days in the previous renter’s filth. Seasoned owners are more likely to have the system down and ensure cleanliness for guests, but it’s never a guarantee you’ll even be able to get in touch with them.

5. Amenities: Hotel
Hotels typically have more standardized amenities.  Since each unit of a rental is fitted to the individual owner’s needs, cable, blow dryers, coffee makers and so on vary extensively by unit. The only thing that each unit seems to have had in my experience is Wi-Fi – no shock there.  Some rentals may have more unique amenities than hotels though, my friend stayed in an apartment in Chicago with a driving range on the roof free for all tenant’s use.

6. Price: House Rental
This is often the big selling point for rentals. The owner sets the price and the smart ones will keep a busy schedule by setting their prices a little lower than competitors.  Rentals can also be much more cost efficient for groups since renting a 2 bedroom apartment is commonly less expensive than renting two separate hotel rooms.  If you spend the time, you can typically find a good unit for cheaper than the hotel across the street.

So what’s important to you? For me, I value cleanliness and convenience, so hotels are my preferred choice. But to each their own!

If you choose to book a hotel, make sure you check out how to choose the perfect hotel room, and the best sites to book your hotel on. 

Best Free Travel Apps for iPhone

We pay a lot for our iPhone’s so why should we pay for expensive travel apps? These five apps can help you be more prepared for your trip and save you money.  Get your iPhone handy and download away!

1. uPackingListFree Figure out what you need beforehand 

There’s no way you can forget anything with this app- it covers all your grounds.  Download this before you leave and you won’t be spending money on pricey necessities while you’re trying to enjoy your trip.

2. Hearplanet – Learn about where you are

Sometimes finding time for a tour that also fits your budget can be hard, so use HearPlanet on any of your major landmarks and learn everything you need to know.

3. Tripit – Organize your trip

Between flights and other travel plans things can get muddled up quickly.  Tripit centralizes  and makes the travel experience that much smoother by doing things such as sending flight confirmations and syncing up with your calendar.  A must have!

4. Road Trip LiteCalculate gas, MPG, and more. 

When driving it can get pricey and frustrating.  RoadTrip is awesome tool to calculate how much you’re paying for gas and the mileage.  We learned that our car got us 39 MPG on a 1000 mile trip to Los Angeles.

5. Yelp – Find the best locations 

Finally, you’ve got to find the best foods and fun and Yelp knows it all.  Whether you want it to use your location or find what you like by search, reading reviews and looking at photos will help pick the best places during your trip.