Tag Archives | Travel

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.

Continue Reading 0
Dominican Republic Travel Tips

Best Dominican Republic Travel Tips

Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is second only to Cuba in the Caribbean.  The Dominican Republic offers picturesque nature coupled with a warm and beautiful culture.  National parks and scientific reserves make up more than a quarter of the landscape where visitors can completely unplug. Still, not far are the city centers where visitors catch a future Major League Baseball player or learn to dance the merengue among the locals.

For an unforgettable trip, follow these top Dominican Republic travel tips:

Go for a Swim

Whether it’s in the Atlantic Ocean to the North or in the Caribbean Sea to the South, the Dominican Republic boasts some of the best swiming spots in the world.  Hailed as a haven for both divers and snorkelers, stunning reefs are often easily accessible from shore!  Don’t be surprised when nurse sharks and stingrays swim at your side, or when, in February and March, you may be lucky enough to catch humpback whales during their migrations.  Be sure to load up on plenty of sun screen and check out one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic.

Speak Spanish

Spanish is by far the universal language of the island.  Even if your Spanish skills are fairly elementary, an effort to speak to locals in their native tongue will truly go a long way.  This simple act will usually encourage Dominicans to show their kind and hospitable nature to visitors.  Often, Dominicans will also jump at the chance to practice their English, and conversations can turn into an entertaining mix between the two languages (also known as Spanglish).  Even in the most rural areas, an attempt at speaking Spanish will often get you what you need, giving Dominicans a chance to show how they got their reputation for being incredibly accommodating.

Catch a Baseball Game

Baseball is sometimes touted as the Dominican Republic’s second religion.  Boasting the second-most current Major League Baseball players, the Dominican Republic is home to winter leagues that run from October to January each year.   While the winter leagues are primarily used to develop future Major League pros, many will participate to improve their skills during the MLB offseason.  Taking in a local game gives a glimpse into this diverse culture, where fans occasionally bring their own musical instruments and team flags to the ballpark, creating an incredible spectacle.

Learn to Dance Merengue

Dominican Republic Travel Tips

The Merengue is a beautiful and very quick dance performed to music with a tempo of between 110 to 160 beats per minute.  Folklore has it that the dance originated when enslaved laborers working in sugar beet fields were chained together at their ankles and had to walk in a manner that required them to drag one leg.  There is a wide variety of ways to learn merengue, from one-day courses to 8-week intensive programs, that will leave travelers with a wonderful skill to show off to their friends back home.

From the sands of pristine beaches to the dirt of the infield, the Dominican Republic offers a wonderful destination in the Caribbean for both adventurous and luxury travelers alike.

Continue Reading 0
Northern Lights by Cruise

Why You Should See the Northern Lights by Cruise

The Northern Lights are possibly one of the most sought-after attractions. The phenomenon is also called Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere after the Roman Goddess Aurora. They make bucket lists all over the world, attracting youth and adults alike. They take place via a collision between charged particles from the sun and molecules that live way up in the atmosphere. When the two meet, it causes them to glow beautiful shades of greens and blues inspiring some of the most stunning photographs.

The good news is that you can see them from a number of destinations, including Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Alaska, just to name a few. Because they take place in an Aural Zone, there is typically a better time of year to visit no matter which place you choose to see them.

In general, the best seasons in which to catch the Northern Lights are winter and spring. This is because summer is often too bright to see them clearly and autumn can bring more clouds. For that reason, the best trips are scheduled between December and April. Whenever you go, what you may not know is that seeing the Northern Lights by cruise can be the best method of travel.

Northern Lights by Cruise

Cruises, especially to see the Northern Lights, are great for a number of reasons. The first is that they appeal to all ages. Whether you are traveling with children, or are over 50 and looking for easy travel, cruises are relaxing and enjoyable for everyone. Another reason is the isolation. The Northern Lights can be fleeting, and are subject to light pollution. Taking a cruise takes you outside the hustle and bustle of the roads and cities, giving you a clear glimpse of the magical attraction with less light pollution.

Where taking a quick trip to a Northern Lights destination would give you a brief chance to see them, taking a 15-day cruise from Southampton to Alta gives you several chances to bask in them. Actually, this kind of trip won’t be short of any impressive sights, as you’ll pass through the Arctic Circle and see Norway from a new perspective.

If you have always wanted to see the Northern Lights, it’s not too late. You can relax and take your time with a cruise to the majestic display. Plus, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you’ll have the chance to try dog-sledding or snowmobiling! Adventure is calling!

Continue Reading 0
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mallorca by the Mile: Why You Should Drive the Island

Every place you travel has something special to offer. No matter where you go, each destination has something that makes it unique, whether it’s the food, the people, the culture, or something else entirely. Some places are even lucky enough to have more than one thing that attracts visitors to them, like Mallorca. The small Spanish island is one of those places that seems to have it all. Despite its small size, Mallorca boasts a wide range of attractions, from adventure to leisure, and all with stunning Mediterranean beaches.

It’s easily accessible from Spain, as well as many other European locations, and ferries make other nearby destinations like Ibiza just a short trip away. The island is divided roughly into three geographic regions: the Serra de Tramuntana, the Serra de Llevant and the central plain. Here, even the prices range enough to fit any budget. The coastal towns, of course, are more expensive, but every KM into the central region will bring more budget-friendly options.

While most major locations are reachable by bus or train, renting a car and driving yourself is also a great option. Outside of high season, reservations aren’t necessary, though on-the-spot rentals can be more expensive than booking in advance. This way, you can visit all the must-see sites in Mallorca, like the Serra de Tramuntana (also known as the Spanish Grand Canyon), the Castell de Bellver, or the Coves de Campanet, all on your own time.

Then, when you tire of hiking, cave-diving, or shopping, you’ll find plenty of places to relax in Puerto de Soller or take in the views at Punta de N’Amer, where the you can visit the natural park and museum free of charge. Whatever you’re looking for on your next vacation, Mallorca is sure to have it – all within close proximity. In fact, according to Book Mallorca, it takes less than 12 hours to drive the entire island – which is exactly why you should book your car and hit the road ASAP.

Mallorca Attractions

Continue Reading 0
Vacation Planning for Fun

5 Ways to Make Your Vacation an Experience to Remember

A vacation should be an experience you remember for all the right reasons. However, this is not always the case and many individuals and families have a less than ideal time away. With some planning and consideration of the following factors, you will increase the likelihood of having a vacation you will look back on fondly for many years to come.

Certain times of the year are better than others to go on vacation to a particular location. The weather often dictates what activities you can take part in. As well as the weather, certain times of the year are more popular with visitors than others. When there are festivals, holidays and other special occasions, these are the times that most people will want to take a break.

For example, companies like Leisure Time Tours provide Sukkot travel programs for Jewish people who want to celebrate the festival in a different location. In other situations, some visitors may want a quieter vacation and want to avoid the busier times of the year at a certain place.

Using Vacation Planning to Make it Fun

Here are 5 Ways to Make Your Vacation an Experience to Remember:

Online Research

It’s never been as easy as it is now to research almost every vacation destination. Most people are only too willing to share their experiences with other people, give advice and prevent people from making common mistakes while they are away from home.

The internet, in particular, is a mine of information. Travel related websites, blogs, discussion forums and social media pages contain thousands of pages of content about popular vacation destinations. This means there is no excuse not to be properly prepared for your next trip.

Be Prepared

Once you have carried out the appropriate research, it’s time to take action. The more prepared you are for a vacation, the more enjoyable it will be and the less likely it will be that any problems will occur. Using the internet is also helpful in the step, because you can get most of what you need for your travels through online discount stores that offer low prices or rebates on brands that specialize in travel gear and outdoor apparel. Make sure you have access to the local currency, and pack the appropriate clothing. If there are any dangers you need to avoid such as diseases like malaria, make sure you get the proper medication before leaving home.

Local Knowledge

When you travel to an unfamiliar destination, obtaining local knowledge is extremely important. Local inhabitants will tell you what to avoid and many locals usually have a deep knowledge of their city, town or village. To obtain this knowledge, find out where these people hang out online and talk to local people and tourist representatives when you reach the place you will be staying in.

Go Off the Beaten Track

It’s tempting to visit the main tourist traps when you visit a new location. However, the most interesting and exciting places to visit are often located off the beaten track. When you get local knowledge, you can find these tourist gems and have a much more fulfilling vacation. Before you decide to go off the beaten track, make sure it will be a safe place for you and others to spend your time.

The difference between an enjoyable vacation and a forgettable one depends on how well you prepare for your trip away. The five factors above should always be taken into account each time you go on vacation to make sure you can enjoy yourself while you’re away.

Continue Reading 0