Category: Lodging

When Airbnb Is Better Than A Hotel (And The Other Way Around)

Hotel Palacio Santa Ines Granada spain

There are three types of travelers who pay for accommodation: those who primarily use hotels or hostels, those who stick to Airbnb, and the very few who alternate between the two. It’s easy to get comfortable with a particular travel workflow but if you’re diehard in either the Airbnb or hotel camp, you might be missing the advantages both have in different situations.

Here’s when to use Airbnb or a hotel, depending on you travel plans.

Misconceptions About Hotels And Airbnb

Let’s lay down some ground work. First, by hotels, I mean traditional accommodation which includes a variety of services such as cleaning or meals. Airbnb lets you rent a room or an entire home from someone else, generally on a short term basis.

There’s a blurring line happening here, where Airbnb renters are becoming more professional, offering additional services – and hotels are getting into the Airbnb game as well. On the flip side, hotels are now offering more of the perks of Airbnb, such as free wifi. Consequently, Airbnb has gotten more expensive while hotel prices have lowered to compete.

hotel valladolid

Many people who aren’t familiar with Airbnb often confuse it with Couchsurfing, where you crash at someone’s place for free. Although you can rent out a single room in a home or apartment using Airbnb, you’re always paying for it. Travelers who rely primarily on Airbnb, tend to always assume hotels are more expensive which is hardly the case these days.

Last Minute Bookings: Hotel

Much like flights, booking at the very last minute can leave you with exceptionally high or low price options. You might be in luck if someone isn’t able to rent out their place but generally speaking, hotels are often a cheaper alternative in these cases – for the simple reason there’s more of them. Consequently, competition between various hotels and hotel booking engines, encouraging price competition whereas on Airbnb, there’s only Airbnb. (True, there are other home rental options but Airbnb has the most market share.)

Large Groups Or Families: Airbnb

In terms of price per person, Airbnb typically works out much better. Of course it depends on the renter but usually, for large enough homes, the total cost of the stay doesn’t increase much with more guests. In other words, if a home is listed as accommodating up to 6 people, usually then the rate for 2 people versus 6 isn’t much different. Hotels on the other hand are designed for 2-4 people – larger rooms aren’t often available in bulk, so they’re more expensive in general.

hotel swimming pool

Services: Airbnb

Many Airbnbs will offer free wifi, a kitchen, laundry machine, refrigerator, microwave, plus the attentiveness of a single owner, rather than an anonymous clerk at a customer service desk. (Except hotels also may bundle common services such as airport pickup into the price, saving you the cost of a ride.) Having all of those services can save you money over a longer stay since you can get groceries and cook, for example, but for very short trips, you might end up paying for things you never use.

Length Of The Stay: Depends

Longer stays of more than a few days tend to always be cheaper using Airbnb. Hotels charge by the night, mostly a flat rate per day that doesn’t take into account the total time you’ll be staying. Airbnbs on the other hand tend to be more expensive on a daily basis, but discounted in week long or monthly increments. For longer stays you can also contact the owner directly, circumventing Airbnb (as well as its protections) to save even further.

Late Night Arrivals, Comfort, Events: It Depends

One area where Airbnb can get a bit annoying is when you’re arriving late at night. Some owners have automated key lock boxes for guests but where it’s not an option, you’ve got to coordinate through Airbnb’s messaging system. In theory, not too difficult but if your flight’s delayed or you don’t have mobile service upon arrival, it can make communicating hard. Hotels are generally staffed 24 hours so for late night arrivals they make for easier check-ins. In cities where there’s no Uber taxi drivers will have a better idea of where the hotels are; finding an Airbnb in the middle of the night could mean a few extra turns to get lost or scammed.

granada at night

Hotels, for better or worse, are consistent in their quality, not to mention security as well. You can look up a Yelp or TripAdvisor review and have a pretty good idea of what you’ll end up with. Alternatively, cleanliness can vary more widely with Airbnbs. Some owners have lots of reviews you can rely on but even in those cases, I’ve stayed at places where the owner had an off day. They either didn’t arrange the cleaning staff in time for my arrival, forgot, or seemed hungover. An Airbnb can often get away with one bad review among many good – besides most people don’t leave as bad of reviews on Airbnb. (Owners certainly reach out to prevent it.) Hotels have a public image to maintain, full-time staff, and more prepared for a high volume of guests one after the other.

When it comes to conferences or other special events, hotels can be advantageous if you book well in advance before rooms are scarce. Select hotels usually have conference rates and discounts, tending to be closer to the event themselves (potentially saving you on daily transportation costs). Most convention centers or stadiums aren’t in residential areas, meaning few Airbnbs nearby. The Airbnbs that are close go (significantly) up in price, while those further away end up costing you in Uber fees. All of this assumes you’re in town for a short trip.

Always Check Both For Comfort

You want to avoid the habit of only checking for hotels or Airbnb when looking at a particular destination. All of the above are generalities that can’t take into account very specific circumstances, how lucky you are, and the type of trip it is. For some people, a kitchen and a laundry machine give convenience, for others, it’s a burden they’d rather leave at home.

Hotels are generally a straightforward deal, might get you reward points, but there’s less wiggle room for negotiation. You can always call directly, use corporate discounts, or look at private rooms in fancier hostels as well. With Airbnb, a reverse image search helps uncover deals, this device can uncover hidden cameras, and you can turn your phone into a hotel room surveillance device wherever you stay.

What do you prefer? Hotel, Airbnb, or neither? Let me know in the comments below!

Review Of Andando Tours: Galapagos Luxury Worth The Cost?

The Galapagos Islands are not an easy place to describe because of all the places I’ve been to, I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. When Andando Tours invited me to try one of their tours, scheduling conflicts nearly had me declining what turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. No, I was no paid to write this and it’s not an advertisement. There are other ways to visit the Galapagos on a budget but this particular $4500 Andando trip, onboard the Mary Anne sailboat, ends up being a value if you can afford the upfront cost. Watch the video above or read on to find out why.

Comparing The Competition

No matter how you get to the Galapagos, there are costs upfront: tickets – and visa if you need one – to Ecuador (flights to the Galapagos can only leave from their mainland) and the Galapagos permit required of all visitors. Round trip flights from Ecuador to Galapagos plus the permit will be at least $500 total. Once you’re in the Galapagos, you’ll have to take a small dinghy to the only major settlement, Puerto Ayora. Without opting for a cruise, add in hotel (minimum $60 daily) and meal prices as well.

andando tours mary anne

The Galapagos are an archipelago of 21 islands spread over several hundred kilometers in the Pacific. Not all of them are easy to get to but there are 4-5 points which can be done as day trips from Puerto Ayora. Those would be primarily hiking trips, with a guide, leaving around sunrise and returning at dusk.

I’m laying all of this out to because the most frugal ways to visit the Galapagos limit what you can see with day trips to select spots on nearby islands, for roughly $1500 for 8 days if you’re very careful with spending. Other Galapagos cruises tend to stick to those primary islands as well, running about $2500-$3000 for short 3-5 day trips, or closer to $4000 for trips of a week.

What You Get With Andando

Given that the cost of the Andando Tour onboard the Mary Anne is just above those prices ($4500), these are the three area you’re really paying for broken down:

  1. The Boat
  2. The Experience
  3. Time

andando tours review

Let’s start with the boat. The Mary Anne is a former German racing sailboat, the only sailboat operating in the Galapagos. There are 14 tourists on the boat and roughly that many crew. The vessel is spacious, comfortable, and doesn’t feel like a floating hotel. The rooms are spartan, beds and small bathroom pretty much, but the rest of the boat is where you’ll be spending a most of your time. There’s a short boat tour in my video here.

2. The Experience

Again, I’m referring you to the video but the 8-day trip is broken down daily by your guide. In my case, our guide Fernando Ortiz whose credentials are impressive to say the least, split the days into several activities. Andando it seems gets priority in scheduling island visits (they’re limited to avoid over-tourism) and hiking activities are generally arranged to avoid the hottest parts of the day when the equatorial sun is especially strong.

nazca booby

You’ll hike, snorkel, kayak, see unique wildlife close up since they have no natural fear of people, across 2-3 activities a day. Between each activity you return to the boat for a meal or snacks, giving those who want to stay behind an chance to do so. Which basically was just this blogger and this one staying behind once or twice to shoot videos for their travel blogs.

The efficiency in which all of this is coordinated, the boat transfers, the rooms being clean whenever you’re not in them, the timing of the meals, when to snorkel with seal lions at their most playful, all of it was very, very impressive. I kept looking (and expecting) cracks in the presentation. You know, crew that looked miserable when they thought nobody was around, dinghies being late, a guide who bull-shot the occasional answer to a question – and encountered none of that. There was a warmth and personality of the crew, guide, and Captain Mario whose authenticity could not be faked, even for our benefit.

3. Time

Many of the outlying islands of the Galapagos archipelago cannot be done as day trips from Puerto Ayora because of the distances involved. Andando offers several itineraries, and the eastern route I was on covers many of them. Because of the biodiversity of the Galapagos, you often find multiple ecosystems within a very small area. The spots you’re taken to are planned for the best time and the efficiency of the route, day planning, and crew ensure in 8 days you see a lot.

andando tours blogger

Cruise Options

To compare everything, I planned out an individual trip for myself to see what it might look like. There are two major constraints I found. The first, is reaching the outer islands. Missing those mean you would miss albatross returning to land, for example. Additionally, trying to recreate this route using Puerto Ayora as a base would make each activity of the Andando trip (2-3 daily) a trip of an entire day. Not to mention most of the sites are limited to certain cruises, so individually they wouldn’t be as accessible (i.e. you would need to opt for one of the higher-end tours from any company to reach those destinations).

Ultimately, if an Andando Tour is way out of your budget, then there are alternative ways to visit the Galapagos Islands. But if their prices are just a bit higher or around what you were planning to spend, I can certainly recommend their tours. Galapagos is a special place and suggest you treat this as a once in a lifetime type of trip – if you have the opportunity and the means, it’s not a place you want to skimp on.

How Good Is This Portable USB Humidifier?

People who travel frequently often look for the portable versions of most things. (Myself included.) So, although you might not need a portable humidifier, you might want one for your home, and look for a travel-sized version. The USB-powered MZTDYTL is just such a device and I picked one up to review. You can see my full review terribly named MZTDYTL, which is designed for home, hotel, or car, in the video above.

Save Money On Utah’s Mountains By Visiting In Summer

alta mountains

Right now it’s a frosty few degrees below freezing, with light snow in Alta, Utah, an idyllic place to ski, but such popularity on this very expensive real estate comes at a price. Starting at over $500 a night during the cold months on average, come summer, hotel prices drop to well under a hundred dollars in what’s some of the best hiking territory in the Rocky Mountains.

Road Trip It

The first time I visited Alta was by happenstance during a road trip I took when Ford gave me a car. Wandering up into the mountains after visiting the “Up” house (long story) before the next day’s drive, I came across Alta Lodge. Inside was mostly empty in the cozy ski lodge posing as a summer hotel. The regular rate for a four-person suite was $99 a night which they gladly reduced even further with a bit of gentle negotiation.

alta lodge utah

The hiking is incredible and these views you’ll have pretty much all to yourself, are genuinely special.

alta utah lodge

Salt Lake From Above

Those of you visiting nearby Salt Lake City on a road trip adventure of your own should considering adding Alta as one of your stops.

alta utah skiing

Off-season prices are less than a quarter of ski season with some of the most accessible hikes of all levels in this part of the United States.

alta utah

Aside from an excuse to post these pictures, I write this because Alta is so simple that without the skiing, it’s not a destination you’ll find much about during the greener months.

best photos alta utah

For many people who love the outdoors though, Alta is a unique spot neglected by large groups of people – much like Iceland in winter.

What To Expect At Your First Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

creation las vegas star trek convention

You might be a Star Trek fan who’s finally decided to attend a convention (or be the friend roped into it all) that’s got no idea what goes on at the annual 5-day Creation Entertainment event in Las Vegas. To help prepare you, here’s everything you need to know about the Creation Star Trek convention held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino every summer.

Why Las Vegas?

There are plenty of Star Trek conventions around the world but the Las Vegas event held at the Rio All-Suite hotel is North America’s largest. (Creation’s convention competes with several in Germany every year for the world’s largest attendance.) Over 15,000 people are expected at the 2018 convention.

What Do You Do All Day?

There are events all day and night planned for the August 1-5th convention but most first-timers have no idea what that means. The easiest way to put it into perspective is to think of the Las Vegas Star Trek convention like Comic-Con, but focused on Star Trek. There are 30-60 minute panels throughout the day which consist of talks plus Q&A sessions with Star Trek actors, directors, writers, and artists like Oscar winner Michael Westmore. (I highly recommend his book Makeup Man for the Michael Jackson stories alone.)

makeup man bookMakeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek

buy from amazon

Additionally, Creation invites scientists and other engineers to hold discussions on space exploration. Several engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be giving talks on current and fictional Star Trek technologies that may become reality in the near future. (Sorry, transporter technology seems the longest shot.)

klingon armor discovery

People tend to float in and out of the talks, making their way through the vendor room where there’s all kinds of nerdom represented. Need a Starfleet uniform or a Darth Vader mug? The vendors will have it. There are also a lot of independent artists and creators selling handmade crafts as well, in my opinion the most interesting items sold at the convention.

In the evenings you can opt for additional events like a 45-piece orchestral performing Star Trek: Live, or swing by the Masquerade Bar where by Thursday night the entire hotel has been taken over by Star Trek fans.

Do You Need To Dress Up?

No – but a lot of people do. Uniform t-shirts are common but then there are real cosplayers, peaking on Saturday when an annual costume contest is held. Here are pictures of the best cosplay from 2017 and 2014 to give you an idea but what you wear is up to you.

star trek cosplay

Why Do People Go To Star Trek Conventions?

For a variety of reasons but basically to have fun with other people who are really passionate about Star Trek and science fiction in general. In 2017 I asked a bunch of people why they go to Star Trek conventions, here’s what they said:

People who make it to their first Las Vegas Star Trek convention often return year after year. You see the same people and it has almost become an annual pilgrimage for many, much like Comic-Con is for other fans. If you’re in the Las Vegas area August 1-5, 2018 and interested in attending, you can purchase individual day tickets here (I would recommend Saturday if you’re choosing just one) or get all 5 days at a discounted rate.

Once you’ve got your tickets, you can check out this insider’s guide on saving money, meeting celebrities, and making the most of the Creation Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Qa’plah!

What To See And Do In Asuncion, Paraguay

asuncion paraguay

Asuncion is the capital city of a country I’ve described as affectionately weird – one of the reasons you should travel to Paraguay. Oddities aside, there are plenty of tangible experiences in Asuncion that make it an interesting trip, even if it’s a short one from the few nearby cities with direct flights.

Here’s how to explore Asuncion and embrace its culture, history, and yes, weirdness.

On The Edge

Asuncion is a city with pockets of activity and areas of isolation with such large contrast, you can feel like you’re in a big, bustling city or ghost town, all within a few blocks. To begin, for accommodation, I recommend avoiding the hotels but rather checking out the many Airbnbs just around the city center. They’re nearly all gated, with pools, and large living space for well under $50 a night.

Buses and transportation are crowded but easy enough to manage with some guidance from your Airbnb owner. The first place you’ll want to go is Lido Bar for lunch. Lido Bar serves a variety of Paraguayan staples to Asuncion’s middle class before or between the workday. To best avoid the crowds, arrive at 1pm and then order caldo de pescado (fish soup) and an empanada to go with it. Don’t expect much English to be spoken by staff but if you use Pimsleur 2-4 weeks before your trip, you’ll have no problem asking for the daily specials in Spanish.

lido bar

Right around the corner is Cafe Consulado; a calm, borderline-hipster cafe where you can hang out, recharge, then plan your next move.

The Other Side Of Quiet

For some reason that wasn’t apparent to me, the government in Asuncion has created the Bohemian neighborhood of Loma San Jeronimo. It’s lined with colorful buildings with small shops, eateries, bars, and snack stalls. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are closed and as nice as the area is, it’s bizarrely quiet. Fun for photos, Loma San Jeronimo is worth a visit – just don’t trust Google Maps (offline or not) to get you there. Google will send you somewhere nearby but a part of town don’t you definitely don’t want to be in.

loma san jeronimo

Museo del Barro

Museums can be boring, especially after you’ve been to more than a few during your travels. Museo del Barro (also practically empty) though is a detailed look at Paraguay’s indigenous heritage, bloody history, and the contemporary society born of it. You can check the hours as well as updated entry fees on their website.

Runners, walkers, and nature lovers from here it’s a long walk or quick bus ride to Parque de la Salud. The park is an oasis of Asuncion: clean, green, and quiet. There are joggers, walking families, and the enclosed park is well secured so you can explore without worry. Personally, Parque de la Salud was one of my favorite places in Asuncion.

mercado 4 asuncion

On the way back to the bustle of Asuncion’s hidden city life, Mercado 4 is the world famous for its knockoff electronics. I saw fake iPhones so close to the original, unless you’re a tech enthusiast, they’re very difficult to distinguish. Mercado 4 is a fun stroll though Paraguay’s booming counterfeiting economy; highlighting just how off the international grid Asuncion is.

Outside there’s plenty of barbecue with friendly locals who don’t mind a side of conversation with their pork. Now all of a sudden you’re feeling small town again in Asuncion, an a la carte travel experience.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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