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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?

Egypt, Prep, Travel

When Planning Goes All Wrong

February 12, 2016

When Planning Goes All Wrong

I have a secret to tell you. A travel secret…

I have never backpacked on a trip. Most of the travel bloggers I know have backpacked most of the places they have been. Of course, a few are luxury travel bloggers, and they probably don’t now, but they probably have at some point backpacked on a trip. I have done weekends away in large tote bags, but I have always traveled internationally with a rolling suitcase. So this trip to Egypt has proven challenging for me.

When signing up for the tour, I am going on; the packing list stated that I should pack in a backpack or a duffel bag. I immediately thought, oh great how I am going to do that. I own a backpack, but it is more like something you pack school books in, and I have only ever used it as a carry-on. At first, I thought, I will just buy a backpack, but then I realized that I knew I would never voluntarily pack in a backpack again and didn’t want to spend the money on one. So I borrowed one from a friend. It didn’t need to be a perfect fit as they only requested this because it is easier to pack a van with soft luggage than with hard luggage with wheels. Oh and I am going on a sailboat and who wants to roll a suitcase onto a sailboat.

When Planning Goes All Wrong

The weeks wore on, and I kept looking at the backpack thinking, I don’t want to pack in that. I will never find anything. My back will hurt. So last week, I convinced myself I needed a duffel bag instead. The hunt was on, but shopping in Qatar is difficult, to say the least. And apparently the market doesn’t call for duffel bags that don’t have wheels built into them. Then I got sick at the beginning of the week and the day before a holiday, in which I had planned to go looking for a duffel bag and write-up all my posts for while I am gone. (This is why there was no Monday post this week.) The day off came and I dragged my ill self to the mall and looked for a duffel bag. In the end, after wandering around for about an hour and feeling pretty awful, I bought a cheap duffel bag at Carrefour (the French version of Wal-Mart) and decided it would do. I am packing today and we will see how that turns out, as I am still trying to wrap my head around how it will all fit. Wish me luck!

The other issue with this has been the weather. For weeks, the weather in Egypt was going to be warm during the day and cool at night. That also means for me, cold at night as it rarely goes below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Qatar and I get cold easily. I had shopped for thermal underwear for the night on the boat and a suitable sleeping bag. Now, as of yesterday, the highs are in the 90s and the lows in the 50s! Why does there have to be a 40-degree temperature swing on my trip! It’s like I am back in Texas!  So now all the planning of what clothes to bring is out the window and the day before my trip, I am having to rethink this all. The real question is how do I fit all my layers for the different weather in a duffel bag!

Do you have any packing tips for us inexperienced backpackers? Leave a comment!

Blog, Prep, Travel

2016 Travel Plans or No Plans

January 11, 2016

2016 Travel Plans

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time now, you may realize that I am not much of an advance travel planner and usually decide where to go about six weeks before I actually go. I am lucky that I can do that. I live close to a lot of travel places on my long list of places to visit. 2016 is going to be no different. I do have a few places that will be going and one still in the works. First, the planned trips and the ones very loose in the making. So later on this year, I will give you an update. Here are my 2016 travel plans!

EGYPT

The picture above was a dead giveaway, but I am going to Egpyt for my first trip of 2016! I made this decision a few days ago when I realize due to work; I can’t go anywhere in March or April that is a vacation. This is when I looked at my work calendar and found a week with no appointments and decided that was a week to go somewhere. Initially, I was going to try to go away this coming weekend, but it didn’t work out. When I was discussing where to go with my Mom, she suggested Egypt, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Egypt has always been a place I have wanted to go; I just needed to be reminded. So in February, I will fly to Cairo and then go south to see more. This trip is unlike anything I have done before, so get ready! I can’t wait to share the trip with you when I get back. I will be shooting video on this trip, so hopefully you can see more of my trip that way.

SLOVENIA

I am fortunate that I get to travel for work-related events occasionally, and this work trip is to Slovenia. I am speaking at a conference in the eastern part of Slovenia. Unfortunately, I won’t be there for too many days, but I am hoping to get to Lake Bled at least. I still haven’t decided if I am taking a train across the country or driving.

ATLANA, USA

This is another work trip, but I am very excited to go. I have never been to Atlanta or much of the rest of the south. There is so many history related things to see and also Margaret Mitchell’s house. Most of the time I will be at the conference, but they usually arrange for us to have a few tours and I will have at least one afternoon where there is downtime. I will fit in as much as I can. The only thing is this trip is at the end of July/beginning of August and am not looking forward to the heat.

Now on to the trips that are still pending. I am trying to work out dates for these and some have to be approved by work. And of course, everything is subject to change.

OMAN

Oman was on my list last year, but I just didn’t make it. But after reading this article, that I featured in a Friday Favorites post, I now really want to go. Now I have to figure out how to get there between June and September. Hopefully, this will be easy as I have two Eid holidays that I currently have no plans for and Oman is a very short flight away.

SCOTLAND

My friend Kate and I have decided to go to Scotland this year. My schedule has gotten very full already, and I am trying to work out when. Hopefully, sometime this summer. The beautiful pictures of green hills and castles are the things that are drawing me in. I should know soon when this trip can happen and we can start planning. Luckily, Kate loves Scotland and know all the places to go!

That is it so far. I know I have at least  one more trip to plan for the second Eid holiday and of course, I will be going home for Christmas in December. What about you? Are you planning any trips in 2016? Share with us in the comments!

 

India, Passport, Prep, Travel

India e-Visa

September 24, 2015

India e-Visa

Did you know that most people need a visa to go to India? It used to be that you had to get to an Indian Embassy to apply for an Indian visa, but now you can apply online for a visa on arrival if you hold a passport from one of 113 countries. This includes the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, UAE, and the Philippines. However, it does not include Qatar. Click here to get to the website. This is a great option for so many people. Getting a visa at an Indian Embassy can be done, but can be a hassle if you don’t have the time, aren’t near an embassy or just want an easier way to apply.

Before booking my trip to India, I almost hesitated to go to India because I thought you had to go to the Indian Embassy to get the visa and I had no idea where that was in Qatar. When I lived in New York, I had applied for Indian visas for my boss and the process was long and you had to go two days in a row. I have no idea where the India Embassy is located in Qatar. I only found out there was an e-visa process when I googled India visa to see where the embassy was located.  The process was very straightforward once I found it.

You need a few things before you get started. You need a passport sized photo that you can scan in, your passport, and a credit card. The application form is long and requires you to recall where you have traveled for the past 10 years! My travel for the past two years wouldn’t even fit in the space they allotted. They also wanted to know the names and places of birth for my parents. You should also have reserved your hotel or have an address to give in India. You also need to know which airport you are flying into as that will be the only place you can enter to get the visa on arrival. You should only apply 30 days in advance, as you have to arrive between the time given to you on the approval form. I applied in the afternoon and by the next morning, I had approval.

There was some slight confusion when I arrived at the Goa airport. There were no signs for people with e-visas or signs at all! Once I got to the immigration counter, I could tell he was looking for my visa and I said I had an e-visa. He told me I had to go to another room. The other room was to the left of the entrance to the immigration hall arrival area. There were about 15 other people in there, but no staff. Someone when out and asked how long it would be till someone arrived and they said five minutes. Not a long wait, but it was about 3 am at that point and we were all very tired. Slowly staff came in to get us sorted. Print out your visa approval as they will ask you for this. I also had printed out my application just in case. You had to have your photo and fingerprints taken. It took some time as the fingerprint machines were not liking the sweaty hands. They stamp your passport and you are on your way! Once I arrived at baggage claim, my bag was already there. It might be easier if you did go to the India Embassy in your country if you don’t want to wait at the airport, but it might depend on the process at the India Embassy in your country too. I was glad I had it already, but might try getting at the embassy next time to see which process is easier!

Have you gone to India? What was your visa process like?

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