Blog, Travel

A Blogging Break

June 13, 2016

blogging break

If you hadn’t noticed, I have been quiet on here. This is especially odd since I am in Italy for a month. That is because I have been debating whether or not to continue blogging. Blogging has been my hobby for a while now and I really do enjoy it. However, with a full-time job, it has begun to become stressful and I don’t want it to be. The other part is that the reward is not always visible to me. I enjoy taking photos and sharing my stories, but sometimes get very little feedback from readers. I understand as you are busy too! However, my motivation to blog is waning. I still have tons of ideas for blog posts and have been thinking of tons of stuff for Italy, but I just don’t have the motivation to write them.

Why I am sharing this with you? Well, first I didn’t just want to disappear. Second, I do have a few loyal readers and commentors and I feel I owe you an explanation. Third, I am still not sure what I am going to do long-term when it comes to the blog. Never say never, right? So for now we will call it a break and not a break-up. Maybe I will be back in a month or maybe the blog will morph into something else. Making this decision was difficult, so whatever happens, I will keep you updated here.

For the time being, I am still keeping up with some of my social media and may link to old posts as well. You will still be able to follow my travels! I didn’t say I was going to stop traveling! Click on these links to follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook or scan my Snapcode on the right. I will be honest that Snapchat is my favorite thing at the moment, so it may be the best place to keep up.

Prep, Travel

How to Prep Your House for Your Trip

June 3, 2016

How to Prep Your House for Your TripMaking sure your house is ready for you to travel is just as important as preparing yourself for your trip. Nothing is worse than coming home to a house that is messy or finding all your plants dead! Here are some of my tips for making sure your house is safe and will be ready for your return.

1. Have Your Mail Collected or Stopped – A pile of mail is a signal that you are not home and may not be home for a while. Have a trusted neighbor or friend collect your mail. If you are going to be away longer than a few days, usually the post office will hold your mail till you return.

2. Make Arrangements for Pets and Plants/Yard – If you have pets, have someone come over or take them to a pet hotel. Depending on your pet, they may do better in their home, or they may need more attention. Leave specific instructions on feeding schedules and if they need medicine. I recently took my plants to my office so that my coworkers could care for them as getting into my apartment is hard, and my plants need to be watered about once a week. It is less stressful for the plant if you can have someone come over to water them than taking it somewhere. This is true for your outdoor plants as well. Make sure you have someone mow your lawn if applicable.

3. Get Someone to Start Your Car – If you are gone longer than two weeks, have some start your car a few times. This will help ensure that your car starts when you return. If you really trust the person, have them drive the car around the block a few times.

4. Unplug Small Appliances – To help with electric bills and for safely, unplug your toaster, coffee maker, television and other non-essential appliances. This way if you have a power surge, then your small appliances will not get fried, especially true for your computers.

5. Throw Away Perishable Food – If you can’t eat it or give the food away, throw away perishable food. Not only will your fridge not smell, but you also won’t come home to a science experiment in the fridge!

6. Do Laundry – You are going to have laundry to do when you return, so do as much as you can before you go. This will make unpacking less stressful when you return.

7. Turn Up or Down Your Thermostat – Depending on the season, you can turn the AC up or the heat down. Don’t turn the system off unless you are living in a temperate climate that doesn’t change much. This will help you save on bills, but also keep the house somewhat comfortable for your return or your pets. It also helps to leave it on so that your books and art are protected from the environment.

8. Make the House Secure – Have inside and outside lights on a timer, have someone check on the house, don’t post on the internet that you are going away if your address is public, leave a radio on, ensure doors and windows are locked, hide valuables, and tell trusted neighbors you are going away so they can report any suspicious activity.

Now you can go away and enjoy your trip knowing that your house is being taken care of and will be ready for your return!

What do you do to your house when you leave? Tell us in the comments!

 

Hotel/Accommodation, Prep, Travel

The Year of Traveling Fearlessly: Picking your Accommodation on a Solo Trip

May 27, 2016

Picking Your Accommodation on a Solo Trip Picking where to stay on your trip is probably the most daunting task when booking travel outside of deciding where to go. This is not just a solo traveler issue either, but it becomes more pronounced when you are traveling alone. There are many things you may want to consider when picking a place. Hotels are not your only option! Here are my tips for picking the type of accommodation you want and what other factors you should consider when booking.

What Kind Of Accommodation?

What is most important to you when picking the kind of place you stay in? This sometimes varies depending on your location and the time of year you are traveling.

Hotels –  Good for shorter trips when you don’t have lots of time and need to be close to the attractions or public transportation. Hotels are also great since you can ask staff for advice or the maybe even the concierge to book things for you. Also, they are good if you have mobility issues as most will have an elevator and or have ground floor rooms. Don’t think you can’t book a hotel because it will be expensive! Not all hotels are expensive.

Hostels – Hostels are good if you are watching your budget, which doesn’t always mean they are cheap and uncomfortable! Hostels are slowly changing their image and many have private rooms at a fraction of what a hotel would be. It just may mean you have a communal bathroom or a small room, but who cares you aren’t living there forever right! Hostels are also great if you want to meet people as they usually have communal areas and sometimes free tours or happy hours. Several other travel bloggers I follow on Snapchat have been staying at hostels and I have been amazed at how nice they are and they have some amazing art on the walls! The Hostel Girl reviews hostels all over the world and is a great resource if you are looking for a hostel.

Apartment or Airbnb – If you want to live like a local, then I highly recommend that you stay in an apartment or Airbnb rental. The apartment gives you a feel for what living in that city is truly like. If you stay with someone in an Airbnb then they can give you the local’s insight into the city. In many cities, Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel. The other advantage is that you may have access to a kitchen allowing you to cook for yourself and save money. If you are traveling for a longer period of time then cooking for yourself is very helpful to the budget. Also, you may have access to laundry facilities in an apartment or Airbnb.

House sitting –   Another great option if you are staying longer in a location. If you are not familiar with house sitting, basically you look after someone’s home for an extended length of time. Usually, there are chores involved, such as taking care of pets or garden. The upside is that this is usually an exchange of services and you don’t pay any money to stay at their house. You will also get to experience living like a local and have access to a kitchen.

Couchsurfing – While Couchsurfing sounds similar to Airbnb, it differs in a huge way in that you are not paying to stay at the person’s apartment or house. However, you may actually be sleeping on a couch! This is definitely not for everyone and you need to check other’s reviews for safety factors.

How Do I Chose Where I Want to Be?

Once you have decided what kind of accommodation you want to stay in, then you can research where you want to stay. Here is what I look for in a place to lay my head.

Reviews! – My first stop is TripAdvisor for hotel reviews. I know lots of people discount them since some people have claimed that negative reviews have been deleted, but not all of them are and I have found it is a good place to start. I especially like that they tell you the most popular places in town and the map view. Keep in mind that one negative review does not outweigh all the positive reviews or vice versa. One person could be incredibly picky or have unrealistic expectations of a place. Pay attention to what negative things people are talking about because it could be about things that don’t bother you. I frequently see complaints about small rooms in Europe and I know that small hotel rooms in Europe are normal and I don’t care! Some people complain about outside noise, but I know that some people like outside noise as it helps them sleep. Airbnb and Couchsurfing also have reviews.

Location, Location, Location – Next to finding out the scoop on the places on reviews, is to look at their location. Do you want to be close to the attractions or do you want to be away from them? The convenience of being near them may mean higher prices and more noise. If I am only going somewhere for a short period of time then, I tend to stay near the sights so I don’t waste time getting there and that is worth paying more to me. You also want to consider safety along with the location. Reviews may have information regarding safety, but you may have to dig deeper into blog reviews or other sites to find this out. Also, is the hotel safe itself? Are there deadbolts and key cards? If after the first night, you don’t feel safe, change accommodation. This may cost you money, but your safety is worth more!

Amenities – Is there a pool? Do you want to have spa treatments? Think about what you want in a place. Some Airbnb places will rent you the room, but may not let you have access to the kitchen, which if you were planning on cooking then you’re in trouble. Last summer, I was looking for a place in Verona, Italy that had parking available for my rental car. Each type of accommodation will have different amenities available, so check out the place’s website and don’t rely on reviews for what is offered as they may be out of date. I have also emailed hotels and gotten great responses and most of them respond in less than 24 hours.

Comfort – Just because you are on vacation and not sleeping in your own bed does not mean you shouldn’t be comfortable. My biggest thing is to look for reviews stating that the bed was uncomfortable. I hate soft beds as they make my back hurt, but again you have to look at more than one review as each person has their own preferences. The next thing I look for is noise in my hotel. The worst experience I had in a hotel was because the walls were so thin and each night I could hear the people in them and each night was a new set of people, including a crying baby. I didn’t get much sleep that week and was attending a conference, not a good combination.

Most of this you may already know, but it can be hard to remember all these things when looking for a place to stay. Hopefully, you can use these tips will help you pick an excellent space on your next trip!

Need a place to stay in Venice, Verona, Bangkok, Doha or Goa. Click on the links to see my reviews of hotels I have stayed in. What do you look for in a hotel?

Hotel/Accommodation, Qatar, Travel

Staycation at the W Doha

May 23, 2016

Staycation at the W DohaSometimes you just need to get away from your normal, but you don’t have time to get on a plane and go to another place. If I was living the US, I might have considered a weekend road trip. However, I can’t go too far in Qatar and can’t cross the border. A staycation was in order. I had wanted to do a staycation for a while, but when I saw the weekend offer at the W Doha on their Snapchat, I was sold. Currently, they have a weekend rate of 777 Qatari Riyals that can be used Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The best part is that you can check-in at noon and check-out at 6 pm the next day! It is almost two days in the hotel, and it includes breakfast.

The W Doha was already one of my favorite places in Doha for food and drinks, so I wasn’t surprised by the excellent service I received right when I walked in the door. The service started before then even because I told their social media person on Snapchat that I was coming, and she said she would try to get me an upgrade. This stay was on me other than the upgrade. They were able to get me to a higher floor, which offered a nice view of the Arabian Gulf.

Staycation at the W Doha

Most W hotels are known for their modern interiors with bold colors, and the W Doha is no exception. The lobby is black and white with bursts of purple and hot pink. The hallways to the rooms are black and purple with black lacquer chandeliers. The bold colors extend into the room, but geared towards relaxation and sleep in shades of blue and gray.

Staycation at the W Doha

Staycation at the W Doha

Once inside the room, I hardly heard anything from the outside. There is a lush, heavy carpet to dampen noise and floor to ceiling blackout curtains to block the bright Middle Eastern sunrise. The modern chair by the window made me want to sit there for hours watch boats zip back and forth.

Staycation at the W Doha

The luxury extended into the crisp, white bathroom and had one of my favorite things with the separate shower and bathtub. The W Doha also knows me well, and the bathrobe wasn’t gigantic and actually fit me. All the towels were large, and there was an abundance of them. My favorite thing about the bathroom was the Bliss Spa products including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash and mouthwash!

Staycation at the W Doha

Staycation at the W Doha

After a nap, I decided to get ready for dinner, which included a long soak in that amazing tub! It is deep enough to cover your whole body with water. The only issue for me was getting out, which was difficult due to the depth of the tub.

Staycation at the W Doha

W Doha is home to my favorite restaurant in Doha, Spice Market. Spice Market is an Asian restaurant with an ever-evolving menu. Not only is the food excellent, but the service is also spotless. I decided to order something different than my usual and got the Miso Glazed Black Cod and a side of Steamed Edamame with Yuzu Butter. The other thing I appreciate about Spice Market and all the restaurants at W Doha is that they are willing to alter the food to your needs. As you may remember from a few months back that I am trying to lose weight, and I asked the Edamame to have the butter on the side. It was still excellent, though, and the fish was spicy and had a great crispy skin.

Staycation at the W Doha

Dinner wasn’t my only meal at W Doha, of course. I had breakfast and lunch at Market by Jean-Georges. Breakfast was a buffet, and you could order as well. I was disappointed by the breakfast buffet as there wasn’t much I could eat besides oatmeal and the fruit. I didn’t want to pay extra to order from the menu. However, lunch was fresh and light! I had the express lunch as it offered the best value for your money. I ordered the Steamed Shrimp Salad, the Roasted Hammour and the Fruit Salad sans ice cream. Yes, I ate a ton of fish, but I loved it all! Both meals were just enough to keep me full without leaving me feeling heavy and sleepy after eating, which can be difficult eating at a hotel.

Staycation at the W Doha

Staycation at the W Doha

After lunch, I enjoyed working at the desk in the room. Although, my one complaint was the only universal plug was inside the in-room safe, which meant I couldn’t work in the amazing chair next to the window. There was another nap in the extremely comfortable bed. Since I didn’t have to check out till 6, I strolled around the hotel later just to get some exercise. I did have access to the gym and the pool, but I decide not to try them out as the pool isn’t large and there were kids in the pool. As for the gym, I was just lazy!

Even though I was still in Doha, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my stay at the W Doha and would happily have another staycation there in the future. Every staff person I spoke with offered excellent service, the food was outstanding, as always, and the rooms comfortable and relaxing!

Have you taken a staycation? Tell us about your best staycation experience in the comments!

This is not a sponsored post.

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