Where To Sleep Tonight?

There are a myriad of possibilities when it comes to accommodations, many unthought-of, cheap, and even free. Some offer culture and a unique insight to a destination, some the option to self-cater (with kitchen facilities) while keeping your costs down, some even the chance to meet new friends and like-minded people, share travel tips and stories, even party together. On the higher end experience unique luxury and others, the ultimate refuge in seclusion.

CouchSurfing www.couchsurfing.org.

I never thought I would CouchSurf but I have and not only did I enjoy it but it has got me out of a jam and saved me money. CouchSurfing puts you in touch with people in your desired destination offering up a “couch” to sleep on. Sometimes it’s on the floor, on a couch, in your own room or even in a hotel! And it’s all for free or as couch etiquette goes, a small gift, a dinner or whatever you can afford is customary in return.

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  • Read the profiles and references thoroughly. Go with your intuition.

Air BnB www.airbnb.com

I have yet to use Air BnB but I did try, once, in Collingwood, Ontario over Labour Day weekend when I was going to a wedding and couldn’t find anything for less than a 3-night minimum. It’s a website where you or anyone can offer up your extra bedroom or apartment/house for a cost. Essentially you make money or you are able to find accommodations in the neighbourhood you want, are able to use the kitchen and it costs less than a hotel.

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  • Check whether you’ll be alone or whether the owner will be sleeping in the next room.

Colleges & Universities – What happens to dorms when students leave for the holidays? You can stay there! Book affordable accommodations in incredible locations since many colleges and universities occupy prime, centrally located, real estate. Most have access to a “kitchen” of sorts and some rooms have private washrooms. Last summer I believe University of Toronto’s gorgeous, downtown campus was offering rooms for $85.00 CAD/night.

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  • Check if there is a curfew. Often there isn’t, sometimes there is.

Hostels – Hostels are no longer what they were and many are now mini boutique-like hotels. Accommodations vary from dormitory rooms with bunk beds but also offer private rooms with and without ensuite bathrooms. Most are in excellent locations and often include free breakfast, free WIFI, as well as laundry service at a minimal cost, organized activities and even active bars and nightclubs. Some of the best times I’ve had were in hostels. Two of my favourites, in the same city, were in Buenos Aires.

Terrazas Estoril, Buenos Aires

Terrazas Estoril, Buenos Aires

The Terrazas Estoril with multi-layer terraces on the rooftop overlooking the city and Milhouse, with two nearby locations with bars so popular that other travellers came to party there. Note: Milhouse has recently also opened in Cusco, Peru and looks incredible!

TIPS

  • Check Hostelz.com, an aggregate for Hostelworld.com, Hostelbookers.com and Hostelling International. One-stop shopping. Compare sites as one may offer the same hostel for less. I also check the hostel sites individually.
  • Read traveller’s reviews of the hostel and go directly to the hostel’s own website. Does the ambiance fit your mood? Is WIFI included? Do they cater to families if travelling with children? Some do!

Overnight Trains & Buses – Travelling overnight is a great option to save time and money. It can be a blast, a time to get some reading or work done. Catch up on your sleep, make new friends and often you’ll depart when it’s still light out and enjoy a few hours of daylight before you arrive, still enjoying the beauty of the destination. Don’t knock it until you try it – in some countries it’s even luxurious with lie-flat beds, individual movie screens, meals and alcohol included. Eurail passes are incredible for train travel in Europe and direct overnight trains departing after 7pm and arriving after 4am only count for one day of travel!

TIPS

  • Check out the various categories and their inclusions. Is it really worth saving $10 with greater value in one category over another?
  • In some countries you may want to read recent traveller’s reviews on the safety of your chosen method of travel.

 

Hotels – I use www.tripadvisor.com to read up on reviews and often will sort by popularity and then cross reference with the exact location I want to be in and the rating/price to give me a list of the top few I’m considering.

To book? I look at the hotel’s website, websites like Hotels.com, websites like Expedia/Travelocity.com.

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Resorts – All-inclusive versus non all-inclusive? Many resort include some activities, others do not. Resorts can also be a great way to meet other people or to travel as a group together. I have always loved the Sandals and Beaches chain as they include golf and scuba diving!

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  • Are you really going to eat and drink your money’s worth? If not, stay at a nice hotel instead or consider some of the above- mentioned options.

Destination/Themed Resorts – A scuba diver? Head to a scuba hostel/hotel/resort where the focus is less on the activities and nightlife and more on the diving. I loved Scuba Junkie in Mabul, Borneo for Sipidan diving.

Dive boat at Scuba Junkie, Mabul, Borneo

Dive boat at Scuba Junkie, Mabul, Borneo

Love your spas? Go to a resort known for its spa, spa cuisine and serenity. A favourite of mine, Mii Amo Spa at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona.

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  • Make sure the resort is actually what they say there are. That the specialty you’re looking for is really what they focus on and excel at. And that it is not just a sales pitch. If they are what they say you should be able to find reviews on a forum that specializes in the activity.

Luxury – A favourite by most. We just stayed at Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Not only did we get to go on safari but also Kichwa Tembo offers both a more basic level of accommodation and their Bateleur Camp (tented luxury); meals included in one and meals and drinks in the other.

Bateleur Camp Tent (exterior)

Bateleur Camp Tent (exterior)

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  • Can’t afford the Four Seasons in North America or Europe? Try the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Thailand for half of what you’d normally pay. An infinity pool built overlooking a rice paddy and your own outdoor living space? Amazing!
Infinity Pool at Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Thailand

Infinity Pool at Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Thailand

Cruises – Unpack once and visit several destinations. Many love cruising and many don’t. I’m kind of here nor there on this matter. I have taken two cruises and I didn’t sign up for the cruise excursions, doing my own thing once on land.

My preference would be:

  • Smaller ships and luxurious such as Silversea Cruises
  • Unique destinations and ports of call
  • More than one day in the ports of call
  • Quaint cruises such as Viking River Cruises on river barges, granting access to small towns and villages across Europe. Try out Canal Barge Cruises in France as well!

 

Viking River Cruises

Viking River Cruises

Unique – One of my most favourite experiences was in Thailand staying on the Manhora Song, a converted rice barge, two nights/three days of cruising in luxury on the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok to Ayutthaya and back. Only four luxurious cabins, excellent food, and sightseeing/on shore visits. Recently renamed the Anantara Song.

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  • Manage your expectations and remember that unique may not include some of the “luxuries” we’re accustomed to at home.
Anantara Song

Anantara Song

 

Airline Vacation Websites – This option is often underused. I remember booking Las Vegas packages for clients from Toronto and I could find the same American Airlines/Air Canada or Westjet flight, plus the desired hotel on the American Airlines/Air Canada/Westjet Vacations site for a fraction of purchasing them separately.

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  • Make sure that you’re getting the exact flight you want and not one with a connection, or two.

 

When it comes to travelling, anyone can afford to do so with the many possibilities in accommodations.

LIFE IS SHORT SO LIVE IT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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