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Lodging Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Lodging

How To Travel

new york city

There are a lot of ways to travel smarter but if you want the most straightforward advice on how to get started, this is your guide.

First of all, traveling is not that hard. At least not the basics in general, assuming you’ve got some disposable income, a bit of time, and of course the inclination to go somewhere.

Where To Go

Traveling can mean a lot of things but often the first thing to come to mind is some far off exotic place. Those can be great choices but you’ve probably never gone to the tourist sites in your own town. What about the next town over? Maybe you want to start a travel blog or YouTube channel, you don’t need to go very far to do either.

Since you can’t see the entire world in a lifetime, these places are good choices to start from. If you love street food, definitely go to these cities. Adventure sports? Las Vegas. Want to see how much it costs to fly from where you are to anywhere? Kayak Explore will show you.

Honestly though, most of us have a place we’ve always really wanted to see. Don’t let people talk you out of it. Get suggestions on things to do nearby (more ideas can’t hurt) but if there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, that’s where you should probably be headed. You might love or hate a place and that can change over time so aside from actual dangerous places, all you’re hearing are people’s opinions about a given point in time.

travel memes

And if someone’s never been to a place don’t listen to their advice about a place. It’s probably negative and definitely uninformed.

How To Go

Some places you have to fly. For others, taking a train is more environmentally friendly but also easier on your body than taking an airplane. Remember to add 4 hours at least to any total flight time – that covers getting to an airport on time, checking in, plus going through security. A 30 minute flight is really more like 4 or more hours of travel time.

Obsessing over flight prices isn’t likely to save you much nor is booking on a Wednesday. Check out multi-city flights. Travel savings are much more obtainable through choosing the right accommodation, where you eat, and by simple packing habits like buying a reusable water bottle.

What To Take

Recently I saw this tweet which is mostly true unless you’re a French horn musician. What you use at home is what you’ll use on the road. You shouldn’t pack more than you can use in two weeks and most specialized travel gear isn’t versatile enough to justify the costs (remember what I said about saving above?)

arthurs seat edinburgh

Learn these important phrases of the local language using this powerful tool. Gum or mints are essential. One other thing, it’s usually worth paying a bit more to get durable gear. Cheap fabrics don’t withstand traveling well so it’s better to get one good thing than 3 cheap things over the same period of time. Plus good products usually come with good warranties because the brands can stand behind their products.

Stay Connected

Currency is a helpful app that works offline. WiFox gives you passwords to all the airports in the world, important since getting to your accommodation from the airport is when you’re most vulnerable. Find some good travel blogs, they give good firsthand insights that can help with planning, navigating scams, and learning the local customs.

scottish highlands

Download Google Maps offline to help you get around. Put the phone down and look up when you don’t need it.

faucetsafe app

Go with the flow, try a food you’ve never had, and always eat where the locals do. Long lines of tourists don’t always indicate the best places to eat and TripAdvisor can only get you so far. Ask a local. Try it, you’ll get good advice like this.

Remember The Important Things

There’s certainly more, but this should help get you started. Traveling can be tiring, confusing, or a bit lonely sometimes. Keep in mind that if you can travel for recreation, you’re one of the lucky ones on Earth. Not everyone can travel and for most of human history it was impossible to move like we do now.

Understanding other cultures doesn’t require much footwork far or near – meeting new people can give you an important insight. Getting out of cities and into nature can give you perspective. The one thing to bring on any journey is an open mind, without that, you can visit every country in the world and still have not seen much of anything at all.

Everything You Need To Know About Attending CES In Las Vegas

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) takes place in Las Vegas every January so this post written in July may seem a awkwardly early, but for those of you thinking of attending, this is the time of year to begin planning. Over 110,000 people go to CES annually and while getting to the convention is relatively simple, there are a few things I’ll be doing differently the next time.

You can watch all of my CES tips in the video above or read on.

What Is CES?

CES is the world’s biggest consumer electronics show where companies come to show off some of their upcoming, conceptual, and unique tech. From underwater drones to autonomous flying cars, CES has morphed from what’s coming next year to the edge of what might be possible in the near future. The futurology present at CES is impressive enough to make it worthwhile for many travelers to visit, even if you’re not a complete tech head.

ces vr bmw

Getting Tickets

Registration starts in the middle of summer the year before CES. For browsing the massive show floors, an entry level registration will be more than enough for a full 3-days at the show. Tickets run around $300 for the public with media, blogger, and other influencers passes available as well if you meet certain criteria. Show tickets are plentiful, highly unlikely to sell out, but hotels on the other hand are a different story.

Where To Stay

The earlier you book accommodation, the better, since even Vegas’ hotel capacity is somewhat stretched during CES. Most of the Airbnb options aren’t close to the Strip or convention halls, but healthy competition between casinos means you can usually get a good deal if you start searching before September. Outside of the actual show days, “Old Vegas” has a number of discounted room rates for CES attendees. After CES begins however, it’s more efficient and cost effective to stay at a hotel with direct access to the Las Vegas Monorail.

Traffic to CES is a mess of metal and knowing this, ride share companies seem to surge their prices accordingly. The Monorail means you can get in and out quickly, at a flat rate.

Strategize The Floor Space

You can’t see everything at CES, nowhere near it. Interested in cars? There’s a massive hall for all of them, plus outdoor demos, which can eat up a full day. Before you get the idea to move faster, at CES it’s advisable to pick a few things you want to see and go in-depth. Aside from the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), CES is spread over 10 other convention halls, casinos, and showrooms.

Sands Expo has some of the smaller, independent inventors and startups. Plan to set aside at least an afternoon to get there using one of the free shuttles from LVCC, the main hub of activity to center your CES strategy around.

Keep With The Basics

Some sound advice applicable to a lot of these type of big events like comic cons: arrive early in the morning, bring your own water, snacks, plus a few external batteries – outlets aren’t the easiest to come by. Overall, CES is an entertaining experience, particularly if you’re looking for travel gear to get your hands on during a trip to Las Vegas with or without the usual sites.

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

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.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More


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