Travel

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

September 24, 2018
How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

Both last year and this year, I spent significant time traveling and staying in places for up to a month. Making a hotel room feel less like a hotel room has been a priority for me because as fun as living in a hotel sounds it has its downsides. Many times the rooms are small and not visually appealing so here are my tips for making a hotel room feel like home.

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1. Unpack

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

Anytime I am going to be in a hotel for five days or more; I unpack my suitcase. If you do nothing else to make a hotel feel more like home, this is the one I would do. Unpacking your suitcase helps you feel normal and makes your things more accessible. Plus your bag doesn’t become a nightmare and is easier to repack. Also, put the suitcase away!

2. Find a Home for Your Things

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

While you are unpacking, find a home for all your things. I travel with a bunch of technology, so I find a place to put all the cords and chargers. Since I get sick often, I also travel with emergency medicine, so I try to find a drawer for that as well. In some hotel rooms, this is easy as there are plenty of drawers, but not always. Packing cubes are helpful for this as you can put things like medicine and cords in individual ones and then place all the cubes in one drawer.

3. Bring Printed Photos of Loved Ones

We all have photos of friends and family on our phones, but rarely do we print them out. On this trip, I brought printed pictures as I like to place them around the room. This definitely helps make it feel more like home. They aren’t framed and do end up looking a bit sad near the end of the trip, but they can be reprinted easily.

4. Make it Personal

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

Many hotel rooms are bland, dull colors, and that can be a bit depressing. So I like to personalize the space with some “decorations.” As you can see, I have put what looks like a blanket on my hotel bed, but it is actually a sarong I brought to wear as a swimsuit cover-up! I usually carry two to three scarves with me so I can change this out if I want to wear this one.

The room I am in has a bunk bed as well as the double bed, and it is a bit of an eyesore to me, so I decided to use my beach towel to hide the ladder a bit. Of course, I still use the beach towel, but it is a nice way not to be looking at a ladder. On the table, I have my cellphone stand I brought from home. The great thing is that it comes apart and stores flat, perfect for travel.

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

5. Buy a Plant

I realize this one may not be possible depending on your length of stay, but if you are staying for a bit longer, then you can buy a plant. Having something living in your room is a nice way to feel a bit more like home. I plan to give it to someone when I leave as a present. I also bought a succulent so it would be easier to care for.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Rearrange the Furniture

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

If you can move the furniture, then move it to suit your needs. In this current place, the bed was too far over, and I felt like I was sleeping in the kitchen. I moved a bedside table from one side and pushed the bed further over. It was only about two feet, but I no longer feel like I am sleeping in the kitchen and I gain some floor space as I also pushed the dining table/desk over. All of this will be easy to move bad when I leave.

7. Have Housekeeping Come Once a Week

In my current hotel, I am paying less to clean it myself. Having housekeeping come every day is not conducive to feeling like home unless you have a housekeeper come every day at home! I find it hard to get out of my room every day for them to clean it, especially if I am working. Last year I was always coming back to soon, and they would still be cleaning, so many days I put up the do not disturb sign.

8. Choose the Right Room

How to Make a Hotel Room Feel Like Home

I have discovered that if you are looking for an extended stay, many hotels will let you see the room before you decide to take it. By seeing the room in advance, you will know if it will work for your needs. Last year, the hotel described the room and sent me a link to pictures, so I had a good idea of what to expect. One of my biggest requirements is good wifi and a place to work at. I chose the room I am in now because the owner said the wifi was better in this building.

9. Bring Your Own Kitchen Stuff

Staying in one place means cooking, at least for me. In the US, I cook using measuring cups and spoons. In Europe, they seem to weigh things out, but I really don’t want to have to buy a food scale. So I purchased collapsable measuring cups and spoons to cook with. They are also made of silicone so they weigh nothing! I know some people bring coffee presses or their favorite mugs as well.

10. Have a Taste of Home

When I moved to Qatar, I brought a jar of my favorite peanut butter with me. I was so unsure about what food would be available! Obviously, I am not carrying a jar of peanut butter on my long-term trips, but it is nice to have a taste of home. Maybe you have a favorite candy or tea you can’t live without. For this trip, I brought some protein bars and decaf tea. The bars didn’t last too long, but I have plenty of tea for nights I want something warm without caffeine.

Do you travel long-term? What do you do to make a hotel feel more like home?

Travel

The Amazing Beaches of Ios

September 17, 2018
Ios Beaches

Many people come to Greece to enjoy the fantastic beaches, and the beaches on Ios are not to be missed! Unlike Naxos beaches, many of the beaches in Ios are remote and so are only accessible by boat or hiking. However, they are worth visiting. Here are a few of my favorite Ios beaches.

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Gialos

Ios Beaches

Gialos beach is the closest beach to the port of Ios. It isn’t a huge beach but has plenty of space not to feel crowded. The beach is an organized beach, and many places will let you use an umbrella and chairs for free if you make a buy something. There are a few small hotels and pensions to stay at on Gialos beach.

You can walk to the beach from the port in less than five minutes, and if you are in the Chora (village), you can take the bus to the port and walk from there. The water is shallow making it suitable for kids. The only thing to be aware of is that the ferries often arrive in the summer and will cause small waves.

Mylopotas

Ios Beaches

Reachable by bus from the port and village, Mylopotas is one of the most popular beaches on Ios. It can get crowded in the summer. The beach is organized with many options for umbrellas and chairs. You can also go paddleboarding, windsurfing, wakeboard and many other watersports offered by Meltemi Water Sports.

The sand at Mylopotas beach is soft golden sand. There are rocks in the water, but the water is deep enough that you can swim over them. The beach is large, so you can choose which section of the beach you want to be on.

The choice of accommodation at Mylopotas is large. It ranges from hostels to luxury hotels and apartments. Be aware that the hostel at the further end of the beach has a club outside and is very popular at night. If that isn’t your scene, then you should stay closer to the beginning of the beach.

Valmas

Ios Beaches

If you are up for a hike to get to a secluded beach, then I recommend going to Valmas beach. To hike to Valmas beach, you head to the port and walk up to the large church that sits on the hill above the harbor. The path starts before the metal gate to the church on the left. There are several paths once you get past the church and we got on the wrong track a few times, but sometimes the wrong path offered terrific views!

Valmas beach is not organized and is small. Go early in the day to get a good spot and possibly some shade. Make sure you bring water and food. The water is deep once you get past the rocks. There is a small cave to swim to as well. If you plan to swim to it, you might need flippers as the waves can be strong here.

Manganari

Ios Beaches

One of the most beautiful beaches in Ios is Manganari beach. It is remote but is reachable by bus. The online bus schedule doesn’t indicate the schedule, but once you arrive on Ios, there should be a schedule posted at the bus stops. Also, there is a private bus that will take you as well that leaves from the port and the village.

There are a few restaurants and hotels here. If you decide to stay at Manganari, you should rent a car as the bus service isn’t frequent. The beach is a large beach with soft golden sand and it less crowded than Mylopotas because of its location. Only some of the beach is organized so you might want to bring a towel to lay on just in case all the sunbeds are taken. The beach is protected from the winds and offers calm water for swimming.

Image via Flickr by Kostas Limitsios

Koumbara

Ios Beaches

This small organized beach is a short bus ride away from the port. While it is small, it offers shallow water for swimming. There are also caves nearby to explore via a short swim. Koumbara is a great spot to watch the stunning Ios sunset from.

There are a few restaurants and places to stay at Koumbara and is a great quiet alternative to Mylopotas beach. If you are feeling like a walk, you can walk to Koumbara from the port. Follow the road past Gialos beach up the hill and eventually, you will reach it.

Loretzena

Ios Beaches

To reach Loretzena beach, you will need a car as the Ios bus does not go here. The advantage is that is less popular. Given its location, it is not organized, and you will need to bring everything you will need with you.

The cove is small and surrounded by rocks. However, the sand is soft, and there is a rock free spot in the middle of the beach to swim from. Loretzena is an excellent place for snorkeling. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset as well.

Psathi

Psathi beach is located on the eastern side of Ios. While it is remote, the bus does go here in summer. There are only a handful of beach umbrellas here. The restaurant in Psathi is not on the beach so you may also want to bring your own snacks and drinks.

The sand is golden and very soft. The surrounding landscape is beautiful, and you may never want to leave! If you seek tranquility and peace, there a small hotel here with five rooms. There is a small uninhabited island off the north part of the beach that you can swim to if the water is calm.

Agia Theodoti

Ios Beaches

Agia Theodoti is another remote beach in Ios. Agia Theodoti is located on the eastern side of the Ios. You will need a car to get here as the bus does not go here. There are a few hotels and restaurants but not on the beach. The beach is not organized so come prepared. There are some trees to see shade under though.

This Ios beach is large and not crowded. The sand is soft, and the water is excellent for swimming. I loved exploring the area behind the beach as well. There are rocks on the northern side if you want to get an amazing view of the whole beach.

Kolitsani

Ios Beaches

Kolitsani is a small beach that is not too far from the Ios port. However, it is hard to get to. I arrived here on a boat, but there is a footpath to hike down to it. It is not organized, and sometimes there are nudists on this beach!

The water is very clear here and great for swimming. Because of its location, it is less popular and not so crowded. Boats come here occasionally but will not come close to the beach as it is too shallow for them. It is a great beach to escape the crowds of Ios.

Are you ready to go to Ios to check out the beaches now? Check out rates for hotels on Ios here. You will need to eat as well, so check out my recommendations for restaurants in Ios.

Europe, Greece, Travel

Exploring Naxos Old Town

September 10, 2018
Naxos Old Town

 

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Exploring the winding streets of the Naxos Old Town is a wonderful way to spend a day in Naxos especially after spending the day at the beach. It is the classic white village of Greece, and many locals still live in the Old Town making for an authentic Greek experience.

When you first enter the Old Town, you are entering the Bourgos area. The Bourgos area is where the Old Market is located. The Old Market is the place to shop and eat in the Chora, the village. You will find a variety of shops and restaurants here.

As you go further into the Chora, you will enter the Kastro area. The Kastro is the area that is still occupied by much of the 13th century Venetian Castle. As you get closer to one of the three entrances, look for signs on the ground or walls that say Kastro.

Things to do in Naxos Old Town

Besides getting lost and finding hidden gems, there are lots to explore inside the Old Town of Naxos.

Naxos Old Town

Shop till You Drop 

Shopping is easy to do in Naxos Old Town and there is something for everyone. There are the typical tourist shops with souvenirs such as magnets and t-shirts and then there are clothing stores, jewelry stores, craft stores and more.

Naxos Old Town

Some of my favorite shops include:

– Papyrus Jewelry and Used Books have a huge selection of used books in many languages and some beautiful jewelry as well. I have never found a used bookstore on a Greek Island before.

Pocket Gallery has some stunning crafts and sells bags made from old sails and they can tell you what boat they came from.

– Morfes Ceramic Workshop makes beautiful and functional pieces. Ask them to show you the magic salt and pepper shaker!

Argilos is the best place to get quality Turkish and Greek towels which are essential when visiting Greek beaches as most hotels will not let you take their towels to the beach. The Greek towels are made in Crete of bamboo.

Jubilee is the place to go if you want really unique gifts such as handmade candles and stone lamps. They also had some Greek made notebooks.

Explore the History of Naxos 

Naxos Old Town is full of history and you can easily see most of the historic sites in this area in a day.

– Of course, the Kastro should be your first stop. If you want to avoid all the climbing, you can take the elevator. Finding the elevator can be tricky, so here is a link to the Google Map. There is a small fee to take it but in the heat of the summer, you would pay anything not to climb the stairs. I recommend catching the sunset from the Kastro!

Naxos Old Town

– The Archeological Museum of Naxos is located in the Kastro area. It is housed in a 17th-century Venetian building and has 5 floors of artifacts.

– Right the edge of the Old Town is the Mitropolis Museum. This museum is the ancient site of Naxos town. It is an open air museum but you must go down some stairs to get to it as it is below street level.

– The Folk Museum Collection is another treasure to discover in the alleys of Naxos Old Town. The collection is of modern pieces from 1975 to the present and represents the folk art of Naxos.

Eat All the Food

As mentioned earlier, some of the best restaurants can be found in Naxos Old Town. Most of these places serve Greek food at reasonable prices. However, you cannot get the atmosphere of eating at a table in the alley with people passing you by other than in the Old Town.

Metaxi Mas is a beautiful restaurant spread between two buildings with tables in the alleyways. The food is traditional Greek food and everything I have eaten here has been excellent. If you have a large party, make a reservation and you might want to eat earlier than the traditional Greek dinner here as I went at 9 the other night and much of what I wanted was already finished.

– Located right next to Metaxi Mas is Apostolis. The charm of this restaurant will make you want to sit down and the flavors will make you want to eat there every day!

Naxos Old Town

– Living up to its name of Labyrinth Wine Restaurant you may get a little lost trying to find this wonderful garden restaurant but it is worth it. This restaurant is only open for dinner and takes only cash.

All three restaurants appear in the video clip!

Have I convinced you to explore the Naxos Old Town yet? Find a place to stay in Naxos by clicking here.

Travel

Volunteering on Vacation

September 3, 2018

Volunteering on vacation

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Volunteering on vacation has become more popular in recent years. There are even vacations where you pay to volunteer! However, you don’t need to pay to volunteer while on vacation. You can find your volunteer opportunities on your own.

Picking a Charity

Depending on your vacation destination your volunteer options may be limited, or they may be ample. There are two things to consider when choosing a charity to volunteer with. One is to find a charity in which you have a personal interest in the cause. For me, I have decided to volunteer with the Naxos Animal Welfare Society to help with the cats. I love animals and it made since help something I love.

volunteering on vacation

The other factor is to consider which charities are actually in need of volunteers. Some may only be able to have volunteers at certain times of the year or volunteers that have their own transportation. When I lived in the Turks and Caicos and volunteered at the museum, we needed volunteers to help run the museum shop when the cruise ship was in port. They had to be available during those times because much of the other times the museum was closed.

Research in Advance

Do some research about what charities are accepting volunteers at your destination. Contact them before you arrive to ensure they need your help. I was lucky that the Naxos Animal Welfare Society needed help and had someone who could drive me to the shelter to help. Have a backup charity if the first charity you pick isn’t accepting volunteers.

Scheduling

volunteering on vacation

 

You will need to commit specific time to the charity. Many charities operate on a volunteer basis and do not have any staff. This makes it difficult, sometimes, to coordinate temporary volunteers. Arrange a schedule with them and stick to it! If you’re plans change, let them know as soon as possible.

This is still your vacation so be sure to not over commit yourself as well. If you are only going to be at a place for a week, you may want to only volunteer for a half day. If you are there longer you can commit to a day or two.

Bring Supplies

Is your vacation too short to volunteer on? See what supplies the charity needs and bring them with you or purchase them when you arrive. The donations are just as important as the time. In some places, things are not as widely available so bringing them with you is helpful. Recently, the library on Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos burned down so people were bringing books to donate as there is no bookstore on the island.

As long as your volunteering or donation is well thought out, it will be greatly appreciated.  Have you volunteered on vacation? What was your experience?

Naxos Animal Welfare Society

volunteering on vacation

As I mentioned before, I am volunteering with the Naxos Animal Welfare Society. They are in need of so many things. Most of the cats and dogs they take in have medical issues. We are currently caring for many sick and injured cats and dogs. Just in the week I have been with them, I have been to the vet four times with different cats. They work hard to find fosters and forever homes and they sent animals to Germany just last week. As you can imagine this all costs lots of money. If you can find it in your heart, please consider donating to them or volunteering some time if you come to Naxos. They operate on volunteers and donations entirely. Here is a link to their donation page.