Author Archive | Annelise Schoups

Riad in Morocco

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB: When and Why to Choose Where to Stay

There are a lot of decisions to make when preparing for a trip. (Yes, we’re talking about planning AGAIN.) One of which, and perhaps most important, is where to stay. Usually you want something easily accessible from the airport or metro and centrally located. You almost always want something affordable, unless, of course, you’re celebrating something major or that’s just how you roll. But these are the things I think most about when I’m getting ready to hit the road.

No two destinations are alike, and neither is it necessary for your accommodations to be the same. I have stayed in a hostel, a private guest room, and an AirBnB all on a single trip, each for different reasons, and it’s important to consider all the options before deciding where to stay. Sometimes things like size, location, or price will automatically exclude one or the other from your search. If you’re on a shoestring, for example, hotels will likely be the least budget-friendly option. (Though I do recommend treating yourself once in awhile.)

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB

I almost always start with hostels. They’re affordable, they usually offer ideas and discounts on sightseeing, and they leave you less secluded in a new place. You get to meet people and cook your own food (most of the time) and they’re usually strategically located. They cater more-specifically to the backpacker types and they do a damn good job. (Side note: Justin has been known to couchsurf but I’ve never had the chance and need to try it.)

hotel vs. airbnb

When we were backpacking through Portugal, for example, Justin and I stayed at the Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo, where Nick, the owner, gave us super useful information on where to stay along the rest of our journey. He even arranged a private guest room for us in the next town when the rest of the hostels were booked – something we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own because of how shockingly bad our Portuguese is.

Guest houses, or pensions, are usually more common where hostels are fewer. You can find them in smaller towns, where there is a train station or a port, but perhaps not much else. Sometimes they are just a room in a private residence (that was the case in Portugal) but sometimes they are a small boarding house.

I’ve stayed in two others, once in Mozambique, when we arrived in Metangula late at night via the ferry and once in Miranda del Ebro, Spain, when I missed a train connection. All were found not by Google, but through local recommendations upon arrival. In these cases, there was neither continental breakfast nor any English spoken. I simply needed somewhere to sleep for the night and they served their purpose.

When I’m abroad, I look to hotels on rare occasion. Like when it’s the only option, or when I’ve been on the road for a while and I could use a good, long bath and a solid night’s sleep. I usually find them too expensive for what little they offer beyond a hostel. It’s unlikely that I’d be able to prepare any of my own meals or meet other travelers, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Traveling can wear on the body after a while, and it can be worth the extra cost to restore a little.

AirBnB also comes in handy for restoring the spirit. In many ways, it is the best of both worlds between a hostel and a hotel. You often get a little extra space and a little more quiet, with amenities like a kitchen and the company of others if you so desire. Though, I’ve never rented an AirBnb when traveling solo, I wouldn’t recommend against it. Frankly, I’ve never had a bad experience. In most cases, I default to AirBnB when I’m going to stay somewhere longer than a few days.

Lobster in an Airbnb

Justin and I rented one when he arrived in Lisbon, so we could have a few days to ourselves to figure out our plans. We stayed in another for a week in Tofinho, Mozambique, when we were nearing the end of our trip and really wanted to relax near the beach. The owner was remarkably accommodating, as I couldn’t make the reservation from my mobile, so we had to shift a night on the schedule. Plus, the casita was amazing.

I rented another while traveling with my friend Ashley in Barcelona, Spain. We were staying a week and wanted somewhere we could cook and do laundry and still be in the mix. We found Fran, who lived right on Las Ramblas and rented two rooms. He was a spectacular host, always giving recommendations when we asked and even made us a full Spanish meal one night. We even wound up going out one night with the other renters and remain Facebook friends to this day.

Spanish meal at an AirBnB

These kinds of experiences are not something you would likely find in hotel, but they are the kind of experiences that make travel more enjoyable, because it’s not just the places, but the people who make a destination. So, wherever you go, keep an open mind about where to stay and why.  When it comes to weighing benefits of a hostel vs. a hotel vs. AirBnB make sure that your accommodations are as unique as the location.

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Annelise backpacking in the U.K.

Beauty Products on the Go: How to Stay Fly While Traveling

As a woman, travel, and packing for travel, always seem to take a little extra planning than it does for my male counterparts. Even on camping trips, I have to remember things like bras or extra underwear (which I have admittedly forgotten at least once). When you start taking beauty products and toiletries into account, the matter becomes even more obvious. If I’ll be gone for an extended period (pun intended) of time, I need to account for feminine products and pills as well.

But then there are things I often bring even on short trips, like makeup and hair care essentials. By some standards, I’m actually somewhat of a minimalist in this area. I don’t usually wear thaaaaat much makeup day-to-day and I wear even less when I’m traveling – mostly because I sweat easily. It’s also worth noting that I don’t always feel the need to take much because I know that I can get products almost anywhere I go. Though this assumption holds less true when I travel to more remote places, like Morocco or Zambia.

Beauty Products Intended for Travel

Still, because I fit it all into a backpack, I aim to travel light. I focus only on what I absolutely need and things I really like. For example, I prefer beauty products I use to be fragrance-free. Otherwise I overwhelm myself after using only two or three strongly-scented products. I don’t go anywhere without Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap and I use it for literally everything: face wash, body wash, quick laundry, dishes, and sometimes shampoo if I’m running low. Justin has even used it as toothpaste in a pinch. (Literally everything.)

It’s a good example of the types of beauty products I choose because it’s natural, cleansing, and not overly potent–a little goes a long way. When I traveled Europe for a few months two years ago, I took only Dr. Bronner’s, toothpaste, and deodorant, plus shampoo, conditioner, and baby powder for my hair. Mind you, my hair is not unruly by any stretch of the imagination. It gets a little frizzy when I let it dry naturally and a little fluffy when I blow dry it, but I’ve learned some tricks to tame it when I don’t bring heat tools (and I almost never do).

fly girl travel products

I’ve recently become a fan of Fly Girl beauty products for the same reasons I love Dr. B’s. They come sans parabens, sulfates, sodium chloride, or gluten and are compact enough to fit in a small tote. They don’t smell overwhelmingly like chemicals or fragrance trying to mask them. Of the things I’ve tried, the intense calming balm has been my absolute fave, but I could totally see myself taking the dry shampoo, conditioner, or hairspray on my next trip as well.

At the end of the day, the moral here is that even though we women sometimes have to put in a little extra effort when it comes to travel accessories, we can also get exactly what we want from them. We don’t necessarily have to give up looking good or feeling good for the sake of shedding pack weight. So go ‘head with your fly self.

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in the village

Plugging In After Checking Out: Top Three Travel Chargers for any Trip

When you stop and think about it, travel balances a number of very fine lines. It straddles comfort and growth, expectations and reality, disconnecting and tuning in. Sometimes we take trips solely to put some distance between ourselves and our everyday lives, often needing a break from our jobs and the routines that keep us plugged into electronics. In the last couple of years, even taking a virtual vacation from social media has become key to maintaining sanity.

Though, when traveling, many of us rely on the very devices we seek to escape to keep in touch with friends and family at home, to meet up with new friends we’ve made on the road, and to share our enlightening experiences with everyone who might enjoy them vicariously. Depending on where you travel, staying connected through your devices can either prove very easy or especially challenging. Some countries have vast infrastructure and free wifi to support your social escapades, while others barely have the cell service, much less the power, to keep you connected.

No matter the circumstances, there are a few handy devices that can help you prepare for whatever kind of electronic network you’re met with. Because, without a charge even readily available wifi is useless, we’re highlighting three travel chargers to keep you plugged in wherever you are.

An International Power Adapter

First things first, a charger of the more traditional variety, but, like, on steroids. This guy will be your best friend whenever your road map is a little unclear. Universal adapters work in almost every country, and while they are bulkier than other varieties, you’ll be happy to have just one to keep track of rather than having to pack two to five for each place on your list.

phone charging

A Quick Car Charger

Regardless of where you find yourselves, most cars come stock with a standard AC outlet. If you’re on a long road trip or simply shuttling from the airport to your hostel, having something like this handy will give you enough charge to get you where you’re going. Chargers like the ZUS are especially helpful because it comes with two USB ports and fast-charging capabilities, providing enough juice to power two tablets at once.

 

A Portable Power Bank

AKA the battery life-saver. Seriously, don’t go anywhere without one. The Lumsing, for example, is fairly compact, though admittedly a little heavy, and comes with dual charging ports. You can get up to four full smart phone charges before it needs recharged itself, making it perfect for long bus rides, airport delay, or just your run of the mill rolling blackout.

Wherever you take your technology, we want to hear about it! Tell us in the comments how you stay connected even when you’re well off the beaten path!

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Romantic Sunset

Five Oddly Romantic Getaways in the U.S.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty far from a hopeless romantic. I’m more of what you might consider a closet romantic. As in, I don’t dream of over-the-top proposals but I can certainly still appreciate a strong showing of adoration. I just appreciate it a little more quietly than some (I won’t name names).

Chocolate Heart

Image courtesy of lenguavempace

So, as a closet romantic, Valentine’s Day doesn’t do much for me. I find it to be a bit too forced, a little too well-rehearsed, and I much prefer unexpected displays of affection or small surprises. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate in any shape, form, or pile and I mean no disrespect if you disagree, it’s just my love language. Though ultimately, like chocolate, I love love however anyone chooses to express it.

To better support that notion and the spirit of the holiday, I put together a little list of offbeat romantic getaways that may – if you’re anything like me – make your celebration a little more memorable. Because your love is unique, here are a few equally extraordinary ways to celebrate it!

Five Oddly Romantic Getaways in the U.S.

Treehouse Point, Washington
Just half an hour outside of Seattle, Treehouse Point is a cozy resort composed of six tree houses available for rent. The elevated cabins, the first of which was modeled using lines from the Parthenon, have been built into the old-growth forest famous in the Pacific Northwest. If your inner child still dreams of more mature tree houses, this is the place for you.

Hicksville, California
Don’t let the name fool you – this place is far from trashy. The Trailer Palace, as it’s affectionately called, lives in Joshua Tree, California, a desert oasis perfect for long, quiet, star-gazing sessions. Complete with more than 10 kitschy trailers, an archery range, a saltwater pool and mini-golf, Hicksville has the perfect combination of isolation and entertainment.

Joshua Tree National Park

Image Courtesy of Bootsnall

Tipi Village Retreat, Oregon
Maybe four walls are a few too many for you. In that case you may want to try your love-luck on a tipi at the Tipi Village Retreat near Eugene, Oregon. Set in a secluded woodland, the tipis come comfortably decorated with stone floors and wool blankets while breakfast options include an assortment of organic eggs, smoked salmon, or fresh fruit and granola. This place is a feast for the eyes and the tummy!

Glacier Under Canvas, Montana
You may have noticed a National Park theme. (It is the service’s 100-year anniversary, after all!) Glacier Under Canvas is exactly as magical as it sounds: you sleep just outside (seven miles) Glacier National Park in luxurious safari-style canvas tents. The great outdoor activities nearby are as endless (and some are offered through the resort) as the breath-taking scenes you’ll encounter on this getaway.

Glacier National Park

Image Courtesy of New World Encyclopedia

Dunton Hot Springs Hotel, Colorado
If you prefer your wood log-cabin stacked and ground-level, Dunton Hot Springs Hotel is yet another ideal destination. A restored ghost town, the hand-built cabins of the resort string together a luxury lifestyle and remote relaxation. You’ll find wifi among a waterfall (but no cell service) and a hot spring surrounded by snow. Bonus: all meals – and a chapel – are included in the price of your stay.

We hope you’ll enjoy these dreamy destinations as much as we do, and we wish you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day nonetheless!

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Rota Vicentina, Portugal

Hike Portugal on The Rota Vicentina

It goes without saying that the European continent has a lot to offer a traveler. Portugal, in particular, though one of the smaller countries, has a vast array of tourist attractions. Sometimes lovingly labeled as the California of Europe, the west coast similarities can be striking. Lisbon, for example, is built on hills and touts a big red bridge, much like the famous Golden Gate of San Francisco. Meanwhile the surrounding beaches, and the people who flock to them, are as colorful as they are beautiful.

Portuguese Coast along the Rota Vicentina

Portuguese Coast while hiking along the Rota Vicentina

Hike Portugal

Since one could argue that all cities are alike in some ways, touring rural locales, like by hiking the Rota Vicentina, is an ideal way to explore the country’s true beauty. A relatively new trail, the Rota Vicentina snakes its way along the southwestern coast of Portugal, where you’ll find preserved wildlife and a number of endemic species. It begins about two hours south of Lisbon, near Sines, and, depending on your level of persistence, continues almost all the way to the end of the world, or Cape Sagres as it’s also known.

Included within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, it is 350 kilometers, or approximately 217 miles, in total and there are two routes by which you can trek the two-year-old trail. One path, The Fishermen’s Trail, winds its way along the coast, while The Historical Way carves its own path inland. Should indecision strike, you can take comfort in knowing that the paths cross and merge on occasion. This way you can pick and choose as you go, much like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but with more sand.

A farm on the Rota Vicentina in Portugal

A farm on the Rota Vicentina hike in Portugal

In addition to the natural wonders that sprout along the way, the beauty of this hike lies in its structure. Unlike other week-long treks, the Rota Vicentina trails are split between small villages sprinkled throughout the region. At most, you hike around 25 kilometers (15 miles) per day but even that isn’t entirely necessary. If you can stomach the weight of camping gear, there are also designated camping parks where you can rest your soles – and souls –  along the way.

The towns, which give you a quaint look into the mosaic of Portuguese life, also make the trek more appealing by breaking it up. Because you can find accommodation and nourishment at the mapped locations, you’re not forced to carry as much food, water, or gear as you would on other hikes of this length. The website has helpful recommendations for planners, though it can be pricey, and the trail itself is littered with friendly folks who are otherwise happy to lend a hand.

A town along the Rota Vicentina

Whichever way you decide to go, you will be widely rewarded with breathtaking views, ever-changing landscapes, and long-lasting memories. Ultimately, if you enjoy long, romantic walks on the beach, this trail was made for you. Only a handful of things could make the trip more enjoyable, if not easier.

Hints for Hiking portugal on the Rota Vicentina

A Backpack
In theory, you could go without one, but carts and covered wagons are a lot harder to get across the sand. The upside is that your backpack doesn’t have to be anything heavy duty, just something to get you through the day. Somewhere you can stash your sweatshirt after the morning chill burns off or store small essentials like chapstick and sunscreen.

Water
Ideally you wouldn’t tackle any trek without one. Most trekkers recommend going in spring, but your rebellious spirit leads you here in the heat of summer, you’ll need to hydrate. To be safe, you want two to three liters per person on average, and it’s best to plan ahead since there aren’t any refill stations between the villages. Besides, ocean water can be salty.

Gummies
Seriously. Gummies are great for hiking because they provide quick energy your body can burn, meaning the excess sugar won’t lead to a weight gain at the end of the day. After lunch, when your legs are heavy and you’re feeling sluggish, a few sweets will give your body the push it needs to get going again and power through. Chocolate is also a great option here, as long as you note that it gets messy when it melts.

Hike Portugal A Camera
Even if it’s only your phone, because it’s too beautiful not to show off. If or when you finally return home, pictures will help elevate your reputation as an awesome traveler. The combination of cliffs and sand, farms and lighthouses, land and sea will leave even you wondering if you’ve ever seen anything like it. Bring a camera if only to go back and check.

A Headlamp
A headlamp isn’t as necessary as it is complementary. On some of the longer days, it’s best to get started early. As in before dawn early. A headlamp frees your hands for climbing and catching yourself while still being able to spot the toads that serve as the soundtrack for your stroll. While I know that dark and early doesn’t appeal to everyone, a majestic beach sunrise in front of an island fortress definitely does.

Dawn on the Rota Vicentina

Sunrise on the fortress hiking along the Rota Vicentina

A Towel
You might think towels are bulky, but travel towels come quite compact and the beaches are as frequent as they are irresistible. Since some of them are nude, your towel can take up whatever space you saved for your swimsuit. Don’t worry about keeping your secret safe, the locals will get rowdy if anyone stops for a photo opp. So, go ahead, do as the Romans did.

A Knife
For lunch, après-lunch, and maybe even supper. Some of the best local hiking eats include meats and cheeses. Cured meat enthusiasts in particular will find themselves in chorizo heaven on this hike. With a new selection to choose from every day in town, you’ll always have something to open and your picnic will look indescribably more appealing if you bring a small knife to slice and dice.

BodyGlide
“What’s that,” you ask? Oh, just your saving grace. Bodyglide is essentially a personal lubricant, but not the kind that may come to mind. It comes in the shape of a deodorant stick, and, when applied to the body, can reduce friction and chaffing in areas that tend to rub. Even if you sport a thigh gap, I highly recommend it for your feet, chest, or any place your pack may wear. It beats a blister any day.

Ahoy Hostel Porto Covo

Outside Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo

A Book
Mostly for entertainment. While most hostels have wifi, some of the places you’ll stay will not be all that modern, especially if you camp. A book is always good company on the beach, and if you bring a writing utensil it doubles as a place to take notes. You can jot down the places you loved and the people you met, or write yourself a reminder to review Ahoy Hostel and thank Nick for all his help.

Vinho Verde
Okay, so maybe don’t bring the Vinho Verde in your backpack, but definitely get it at one of your stops. Although the literal translations would call it a green wine, it’s not a thing of Dr. Seuss stories. Instead it’s white, slightly effervescent, inexpensive, and it pairs well with your well-deserved dessert. Sort of like a sparkly Moscato that’s as sweet and refreshing as your adventure.

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