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Month: October 2016

10 Things To Do Before Taking A Trip

10 Things To Do Before Taking A Trip

So you’re going on a big trip huh?? Ooo, lucky you! While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, there’s some things you need to do before embarking on your journey. This is a list of my usual routine, some things are necessary and others are just niceties that ease your mind, and allow you to get the most enjoyment out of your vacation. I hope these are helpful, tick them off as you go and have a fantastic time!

 

10 things before taking a trip plane

Call to confirm

Boy have I learned this one the hard way…..Booking through an external travel site can sometimes be cheaper and easier, but they are renown for not letting customers know about cancellations and changes quick enough to adjust, and have left many a person stranded for hours or even days. So if you book through a travel site call them before you leave AND call the airline and make sure the itineraries are identical and there is no unforeseen changes.  It’s also a good idea to do this before you leave to come home too. Knowledge is everything.

 

Clean your house/apartment

This is not necessary of course, but it’s also so nice and welcoming to come home to a clean house. This is especially true if you are going back to work shortly after arriving home.  You will be tired and it’s the last thing you will want to deal with. I always throw away all perishables out of the fridge and plug in an air freshener and take out all trash.

 

Winterize your living space.10 things before taking a trip winterizing

I always tend to travel in winter (because I’m always going to the Middle East and winter is the best time to go), which means that my cabin in the mountains needs to be winterized before I leave. This entails shutting off the water, draining all the pipes, and leaving the furnace on the lowest setting in case of  a snow blizzard. I have come home before to a busted pipe and a flooded house, so it’s best to prepare beforehand. Get all of your personal hygiene done first, switch everything off, drain the pipes and leave.

 

Pay bills

Depending on how long you are planning to be away and where, it’s always a good idea to pay your bills first. It doesn’t really matter too much if it’s something like phone or internet, they usually give you a wide grace period, but credit cards are a different story. They expect a payment or they will start piling on fees. Most countries have reliable internet so you can pay bills online, but to be sure, pay what you can before you leave.

 

Call the bank

Ahhh some banks just love cutting off your credit card and the slightest inkling of fraud, don’t they? This is only a minor inconvenience at home, but if you’re overseas, it can be really frightening. Call them and put a travel alert on your account. Tell them where you will be and from which dates and they will put a note on your file.  I was told recently this isn’t really necessary now with the introduction of chip cards, but i would still cal anyone. Having full access to your money is the difference between eating and paying for a hotel, or not.

 

Turn off appliances

It’s always a good idea to do this. Not only do they constantly draw on your electricity, they are a potential fire hazard, and if there is any power surges you wont have any destroyed appliances. Some people also disconnect their fridge, or cut off power to the house altogether. It’s up to you what you feel is necessary and how long you will be away for.

10 things before taking a trip mail

Tell the mailman

My post office only seems to want to keep packages for 2 weeks and then sends them back. It’s not a huge deal if your just getting mail, but i sign up for monthly package subscriptions, so i have reoccurring things being sent to my house every month. I always tell my postman to hold everything. I wouldn’t even know how to get things that have bee sent back, you might even get charged extra shipping.

 

Wash clothes and pack

There’s a real science in packing a suitcase and we always forget things we really need. The best thing to do is lay your open suitcase out days before your trip and conceptualize what you need to pack and what you don’t. Wash all your clothes and pack them first, then finish with your toiletries, put them in bags and pack them before you leave. Always leave extra room for souvenirs and things you will buy on your trip. I always put 2 washing pods or some powder in a zip lock bag. You never know what the washing facilities are like, especially when going overseas.

 

Fill your prescriptions

Obtaining medicine in other countries is really hit and miss, especially when there is a language barrier. Not only could it mean going in for a foreign doctors appointment, a lot of medicine, especially in developing countries could be made anywhere and contain anything. Some things you can buy over the counter and others your can’t. It’s best to bring everything you need. I’ve also heard a few stories of people getting sick overseas and desperately needing antibiotics. If you think this is going to be a problem for you then speak to your doctor about it, and also any immunizations you may need.

 

Be prepared for Anything

Make copies of your passport and keep them in a separate place, make sure that at least 2-3 nights of hotels are booked and paid for, you have transport from and to the airport, you have timetables for any internal train and bus travel and you have maps and people to contact at home and abroad. If it’s an unsafe area, register at your embassy and let them know of your whereabouts,

10 things before taking a trip passport

 

Be safe, prepare for anything, take everything you need with you, make sure your home and vehicle is secure, and don’t forget to have a great time!

If I have missed anything, leave a comment below. thanks! 🙂

 

Traveling To Meet Someone: 8 Tips For A Perfect Holiday Romance

Traveling To Meet Someone: 8 Tips For A Perfect Holiday Romance

Holiday Romance…. I’m sure most of you have done this or contemplated this at least once in your life. Meeting someone exotic from another country, or just someone in another state can be a wonderful and exciting experience, but if you are not prepared for all the possible scenarios, it can lead to a very disappointing and stressful situation.  Let’s face it, romance always makes life more fun. Having your eye on someone can make mundane work and school so much more enjoyable and exciting. It’s a basic human instinct that we all have, but what separates us from the animals, is our ability to plan and prepare for all possible outcomes. If you have decided to go and meet somebody for the first time, follow these basic steps to ensure your vacation is fun, safe, carefree and enjoyable.

hit the path Romance

 

Who Pays?: If you are going over there to meet someone, many relationship experts agree that the other party should be paying for your ticket and expenses. I don’t agree with this at all, especially when going overseas. This automatically puts a dollar amount on you and people have expectations and agendas no matter how nice. You don’t want to be owing anyone or guilted into doing anything you don’t want to do. Play it safe and be independent and responsible for yourself and your own finances.

 

Get some face time before you leave: With the advent of the internet, long distance relations happen more than ever, but who really knows who’s on the other side of your phone or computer. People can manifest themselves into anything, lie about everything and behave like anyone.  It’s not uncommon for people to go to the expense of traveling and meet a completely different person who has been untruthful about everything.  The good thing about technology is we now have programs like skype  and FaceTime that allow you to at least have a real first-hand interaction with someone to validate their claims. Now this won’t prove everything (such as if they are already married or lying about their career or living arrangement), but it does at least allow you to see their face and interact personally. Take advantage of it.

 

Always book accommodation and travel from and to the airport! I can’t stress that enough and believe it or not, people get left at the airport ALL the time. it’s happened to me twice. The first time it was a medical emergency and he asked a friend to come and pick me up who showed up 2 hours late! The second guy decided he would rather go out with his friends that night and then tried to come over the next morning with flowers, jewelry and his tail between his legs. Yea…No thanks!

You need to book at least 2 nights at a hotel even if it’s just a cheap hostel, especially if you are arriving at night or during peak season. You have to have a back up plan and a way to get to and from the airport so you don’t stand there for hours like a fool wondering if someone is going to come and get you. Put the power in your own hands and don’t rely on anyone because at the end of the day, the only one who really cares about you is you. I wish I could be more positive about it but but people can be cruel and thoughtless.

 

Do what you want to do regardless: Remember this is YOUR vacation, you paid for it and you have the right to enjoy it. Who knows if you’ll ever have the opportunity to come back. A lot of locals don’t want to go and do the whole tourist thing, and some even live around local attractions and never visit. Don’t let your host stop you from doing and seeing everything. If they don’t want to accompany you, leave them for the day and go do what you want to do. If they are a worthwhile person they will understand.

 

Keep your eyes open: Remember that during the honeymoon period, especially when traveling, everything seems so wonderful and fun and holiday romance cultural differenceseveryone is on their best behavior. Remember that this is not how the person normally is and you must distance yourself from the fantasy and observe closely. See if you can spot any inconsistencies, lies, poor behavior, look at how they treat others and deal with stressful situations. I always intentionally start a minor disagreement, and see how they handle the argument and if they can get their point across and defend themselves without name calling or overly-aggressive behavior. It might seem like game playing, but I want a real first-hand account of their conflict resolution skills.

 

 

 

Be aware of cultural differences: As mentioned in my previous post about traveling alone, every region has it’s own customs and traditions when it comes to gender roles within a society. Before you leave, read up extensively on the culture and inter-personal relationships between the sexes and be informed. While you are there observe how men and women interact in the streets and if you have the opportunity to meet your love’s family, see how their parents and siblings interact. Family connections are tight in most areas of the world and chances are if you get involved with this person, you will be expected to act accordingly. Make sure you are prepared and educated so there are no surprises later on.

 

Don’t have any expectations: Traveling to meet someone puts a lot of pressure on everyone involved.  You are going over to somebody’s area or country, and you have to find out as much about them as possible in a very short amount of time.  This is also why I suggest making your own plans and accommodation. You now have 2 options instead of just one and this takes an enormous amount of pressure off. Now you know that if things don’t work out, you can still go off and have your own vacation and you are free to enjoy your life and maybe even meet someone else….life goes on.

Join sites like Couchsurfing. You don’t have to accept the offer to stay at someones house but it’s an excellent way to meet friendly locals if you need a breather or just someone to hang out with. A lot of people have had great experiences and been invited to local weddings and even camping trips and festivals. Check it out and do what you are comfortable with.

 

What to do Next: So if things go well for you (and i really hope that they do), what happens next? Most people aren’t satisfied with a long term relationship and there will be a point in time when one party is going to have to move. Before you even go I suggest looking into the legalities and requirements. Unless you can find employment over there it is going to almost always require marriage. Are you prepared to marry this person? are they the one? Can you even live in this country or city? There are so many questions you need to answer before considering. This is something that will change your life forever and it should not be taken lightly.

Also remember that some people are just after a green card. Please make sure that this person is in love with you and not pushing the immigration issue. If you can help it don’t tell anyone what citizenship’s you have or anything personal about finances. You need to make sure that this person wants you (if you are unsure look at these tips here) and keep yourself safe from frauds and users.

 

Put yourself and your own safety and enjoyment first, do the things that you want to do, don’t have any expectations of the other person and your vacation will be a fun and memorable one. Relax and enjoy it either way 🙂

 

holiday romance hit the path

 

Hotel Vs. RV Rental – The Road Trip Accommodation Showdown

Hotel Vs. RV Rental – The Road Trip Accommodation Showdown

RV Vs Hotel - Hit the Path

To RV or not to RV….As an avid outdoors woman and traveler, it’s always been a dream of mine to hire an RV and take a road trip off the beaten path. Unfortunately it hasn’t been an option so far, but I really envy those who own or rent one and create their own vacations. RV ownership is very expensive and it’s more of a lifestyle choice then anything else, so I will just be including the rental options in this comparison. The cheapest option by far is to sleep in a tent, but for most people comfort is a major priority. Let’s examine the average weekly cost and some pros and cons of RV rental, and see which is a better option for your needs. This isn’t an attempt to turn you off, but to inform you of all the options available.

 

Average Cost of Renting An RV for One Week (off-peak times in mid-October):

Standard RV: $875

Mileage charge for 1,400 miles: $490

Taxes: $129

Fuel Costs (100 gallons @ 3.00 a gallon): $300

Provisioning rental (kitchen stuff, bedding): $225

Campground Fees ($10 to $50 a night): $300 (Plus national park entrance fees)

Total Average Weekly Cost: $2,319. (or $331 a day)

 

Average Cost Of Hiring A Car + Hotel For The Week (for the same time period):

Standard Rental Car: $278

Fuel cost: $132

Hotel costs ($70 a night): $490

Total Average Weekly Cost: $900. (or $128 a day)

 

 

RV Pros.

  • It’s comfortable and you have your own space. This is probably the number 1 reason many people choose to rent an RV. It’s your own space and you know where you will be sleeping every night and it’s reasonably clean, which can’t be said for some hotels.
  • It’s a good option for children and pets Having areas for kids to stretch out and nap in is great, as is having a toilet on board.  It’s also a good for pets and some companies allow animals. It’s far less stressful then moving around to a different hotel every night
  • Stay in areas with no hotels close by I remember my last trip to Yellowstone and staying in a hotel that was 90 minutes away from the park. Although the scenery was beautiful, it was a pain driving in and out every day. You can also pull over and nap in rest areas.
  • great for national parks It really is the best way to see the national parks. Speed is not a concern when touring around so you can travel at your own leisure, stop when you want and sleep at the designated camping grounds.
  • can sleep 5-7+ people It really is a great option for families to disconnect and spend time together exploring the country.
  • Have your own kitchen This is a HUGE advantage over hotels, especially in remote areas. It’s so great to be able to cook yourself a hot meal and save money on eating out three times a day.
  • Privacy An RV is your own private home and living space on wheels. You don’t have to deal with loud people in the room next door, and if you don’t like your neighbors you can pick up and move.
  • On your own time Hotels have a set check out time, but not RV’s. You can wake up whenever you like, have breakfast and take your time getting ready for the day.
  • Good for events and high tourist areas/times It would be such an awesome thing to drive an RV up to Sturgis and party all week. RV’s are great for attending events and you can go wherever the party is.
  • Good option for visiting family and friends and not invading their house Its a great option for visiting family and not wanting to inconvenience them by staying in their house. Park and live in their yard National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Style!

Yellowstone RV Vs Hotel - Hit the Path

RV Cons

  • It’s expensive Yea…look above. It is not a budget friendly ground travel alternative. You could stay in a top-notch hotel each night for the price of the RV rental and gas.
  • Mileage is not unlimited And it’s expensive. You are charged per mile and usually in an estimated package
  • Slow, bulky and cumbersome Ask any long-haul trucker and you will soon find out just how exhausting driving a large vehicle really is.
  • Camping and hook up fees getting higher RV parks or campsites are not that cheap anymore. You may be lucky to find one for $10 in undesirable areas, but typically a campsite with hookups/utilities from what I’ve seen, runs $20-something on up (I’ve seen well over $50+) per night.
  • have to pay extra for pots, pans and bedding If you are from overseas, interstate, or just don’t want to bring all of your own conveniences, expect to pay an extra $225 per family to rent there from the RV company
  • Winter travel is not advised Some companies do allow it on the understanding that you will winterize the vehicle when not in use. This involves draining water to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting and using LP gas to heat it. Not only will it be cold, driving an RV in bad weather is not advisable.line-up RV Vs Hotel - Hit the Path
  • Depending on size may be difficult to get into restaurants and fueling stations Most places are designed for cars and depending on the size of your rig, pre-planning has to be done to ensure you have room to fuel up or park.
  • Getting into RV parks can be a nightmare My weekend cabin in the mountains is near an RV park. On public holidays there is a line all the way down the street to get in and vehicles don’t move for hours.
  • Showering can be a problem If you and your family enjoy long hot showers forget about RV’ing, or learn to adapt accordingly.
  • Mobility is limited. You can’t just nip off to the shops real quick if you run out of bread and milk. You have to pack up and take the whole fam-damily. This is why RV owners often tow a small car behind their rig.

 

List of popular American RV Rental companies:   cruise-america

Cruise America: https://www.cruiseamerica.com/

El Monte RV: https://www.elmonterv.com/

Road Bear: http://www.roadbearrv.com/

 

 

 

The Ultimate Travel Guide For Single Women – 10 tips

The Ultimate Travel Guide For Single Women – 10 tips

I get this question a lot from other single lady travelers, and even some men, who can’t seem to comprehend why I am not married and why I choose to vacation alone. Most of the tips here are common sense, but even I have been guilty of getting caught up in the holiday excitement, and making stupid mistakes that could have ended in a really bad situation (but luckily didn’t).

As a woman who is 5’10 (177) and in good physical shape, rarely do I ever feel threatened by men, and most are quite intimidated by my stature, but I really really sympathize with smaller petite women, and how scary it can actually be having people around who are a foot or more taller and more than double the body weight. It only takes one person with the wrong intentions in mind to turn a situation into a nightmare, and in this day and age it’s really hard to know who to trust. The best advice? Keep your eyes open and trust no one.

 

sarah sorge single woman travel
Don’t be afraid to explore the city alone

Be open minded and educated

First thing to remember is not to get caught up in the news, politics and hate propaganda towards countries that are not that friendly to the west or women in general. This is NOT the opinion or stance of the majority of people who actually live there, (if this was really the case, they wouldn’t allow Iranians to immigrate to America!). The fact is that 99% people  around the world are extremely nice, kind, caring and hard working, and will virtually fall over themselves to help you if you ask for it (and even when you don’t). That doesn’t mean u should trust readily, but know that not everyone is out to get you, and if something happens, you can rely on local people to help.  if you are not comfortable asking a man, then ask a woman. If you are lost taxi drivers are the best people to ask, and sometimes they will even offer to take you if they are going that way anyway.

 

 

 

Sexual and Inappropriate gestures

Be very careful about your interactions and gestures with locals in other countries.  Before traveling to a country I highly recommend reading up on  culture, male/female social interactions and what is considered “rude behavior“. Something that is perfectly acceptable to us might be considered a sexual or rude gesture to someone else. For example, just making eye contact with a man in some cultures is considered a sign of sexual interest, and making a thumbs up or showing the bottom of your feet in Thailand is very rude.  Know this ahead of time to avoid offending people unintentionally.

 

Clothing and respecting cultural norms

sarah sorge single woman travel
I try to respect all cultures

In most countries you are free to wear whatever clothes you want to wear, but if you want to avoid getting the wrong kind of attention, it’s always better to err on the side of conservative. The funny thing is that more often then not, it’s the women who will stare you down and make rude comments, not the men.  It’s always a good idea to pack a lot of long skirts, pants and shirts, and if you are traveling to a country with a Muslim influence, bring a scarf to wrap over your head and shoulders.  Now far be it from me to condone hijab wearing. I hate doing it, i don’t like anything on my face or head and I certainly don’t like the symbolism behind it, but I do it out of respect for other people, especially when visiting religious and cultural sites. Remember you are guest in their country and you need to act accordingly.

 

Personal Safety

I know, the boring safety talk, but it will just take a minute. Keep your valuables on your person, don’t wear expensive jewelry or have it on display. You don’t really know who you will meet, and even in the states, some of the historic and touristy areas and smack in the middle of ghettos…Yes…I’m looking at you Graceland.

Keep a low profile, try to meet up with friends or acquaintances when you are traveling and go exploring with them. make a note of where your embassy is, keep important phone numbers handy and call/e-mail home often and let people know where you are and what your plan is for the day. The 5 minutes it takes to do that could be your lifeline. Also keep a photocopy of your passport and important documents.

 

Public Transportation

Take advantage of segregation. In some places, like all over the Middle East and some parts of Asia, there is separate seating for men and women, and oftentimes separate train carriages.  Now I know what you fellow westerners are thinking..Boo! How archaic and sexist! Yea, let me tell you something. If they had Separate female carriages on the Sydney train system when I was in college, I would have taken full advantage of it! It’s the difference between sitting peacefully with other women, or watching an intoxicated man shit in his pants, and then walk up and down the isle singing ‘I like the night life’. Ask me how I know about this, and it’s by far an isolated incident. Yes, women get drunk and crazy too, but you are far more likely to have a safer and more pleasant journey by staying in a group of other women. 

Some countries like India, Thailand, UAE, Iran, Mexico, Russia and the UK have women for women taxi services with lady drivers.  All of these segregation services are designed to prevent rape and violence towards women, offer employment and increase public awareness and safety. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and for the record, I’ve never had any problems with male drivers either, except being ripped off, but that happens everywhere.

luxury hotel

Pay for a better hotel room

This is one of the few occasions where i actually spring for a top hotel. It pains me to do it, but after flying all the way overseas, and navigating around
a foreign city alone, I am in no mood to stay in some crap hole motel or hostel in a seedy area. There are several reasons for this. The cheap hotels are often in areas that are considered poor and are FAR from safe. Not only are the rooms inferior, but often things like doors and locks are not maintained and can easily be broken or picked. Other countries have different rules and legalities and you really don’t know who you are dealing with.  You might catch the eye of a man hanging out in front of the hotel, he might be friends with the owner of that hotel, and he could be given access to your room. Not only that but your personal belongings are in there. Always use the room safe if available.

If you stay with a high class hotel chain (like Radisson Blu, or one of the Sheraton group properties), you can guarantee that these hotels follow the same strict standards everywhere and your safety is a top priority. Rooms are amazing, there are employees everywhere to help and security/concierge at the front door. No ones getting up there or through there without your permission. It really is worth paying the extra $50.0o or so for. A lot of them also have free airport shuttles, which is great if you are landing late at night.

A list of female friendly and approved hotels

 

Don’t let anyone stay overnight

I’m not judging you and I’ve done it myself, but it really is stupid, having people in your room is risky business. Remember you have all of your personal belongings and luggage in your room.  if you invite someone back, hang out and fall asleep, there is a real possibility that you could wake up with absolutely nothing! Robberies happen every day in every country, and you only have to go to the bathroom or fall asleep for a few minutes and your passport and money could be gone. Don’t let anyone stay over in your room unless you know them really well.  it’s also illegal in some countries unless you are married, so also check the customs and legalities before you go.

*The state department doesn’t like to advertise this, but AT LEAST 20 thousand plus passports are stolen every year.*

 

dancing in a nightclub

Keep your home guard up

If you wouldn’t do something at home don’t do it on vacation. If you wouldn’t go somewhere with a guy or be alone with him in your own country, DON’T do it overseas. Yes it’s your vacation and everyone is having fun and partying, but you need to keep your guard up and protect yourself, especially if you are drinking alcohol. The same rules apply, watch that nobody touches your drink, if you want to go out to bars/clubs, try and find a group of girls your age range or older to sit with, most people will gladly allow that and look out for you.

Always organize your own transport to and from where you are going. In my younger days I have made the mistake of getting into strangers cars which seemed perfectly OK at the time, but on later reflection, was very dangerous and stupid.

If you want to read some far-out crazy stories from a woman who makes international sex and dating her lifestyle, check it out, and read the comments too, its a good laugh.

 

Bring condoms and medication

Some countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East do not readily sell condoms and birth control due to moral and religious reasons. They think that sex should only happen between married people and shun those who practice sex out of marriage. Instead of acknowledging that it happens and providing disease and pregnancy prevention, your on your own. It’s always a good idea to bring condoms in your suitcase, and if you can get hold of Plan B, bring that too for emergencies. Also bring enough of your prescriptions with you. Even if you can get hold of medicine, in some countries you never know whats in it or where it’s manufactured.

 

Get the most out of your experience

sarah sorge single woman travel
Tired but happy to see Dubai alone

Traveling alone can be very rewarding and offers a different vibe then traveling with others. It gives you time to reflect and time to really do what you want to do. A lot of people say they never knew they had the strength or the confidence until they took the plunge and set off on their own adventure. As westerners, we really have a bad reputation in some places for being close minded and uneducated about other cultures. I really commend you for wanting to step out of your community, travel and see the world. It’s one of the best education tools we have available and it will change your life. It can be very scary, but that’s part of the fun. As a woman you will be treated with respect by most people, as long as you give respect for your host country. Don’t accept anything from anyone no matter how small, you don’t know what strings might be attached to it. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations, be friendly and kind towards people and act with humility and intelligence.

Follow these basic tips, do your research and plan ahead. See and do as much as you can, and don’t let traveling single stop you from seeing the world and living your dreams. You will have a great time and i hope the best for you!

 

The Ultimate Guide To Booking A Hotel – 10 Essential Tips

The Ultimate Guide To Booking A Hotel – 10 Essential Tips

I have been reading a lot about this recently, and wondering if I’m doing the right thing when booking hotels on my road trips. It can be extremely overwhelming, and deciding what is right for you depends on where you are and who you are with. Here we will look at some factors and recommendations to consider when booking a hotel, so you get the best room, in the best location for the best price possible.

hotel booking site collage

Don’t Believe booking sites! 

Yes my friends, they’re the George Costanza of the travel industry…They lie lie lie!

Don’t ever believe the “one room left!“, “all booked up” lines they spin you.  If in doubt, go look at some other booking sites and then call the hotel directly.  There have been a few cases where hotel rooms have sat empty for weeks because booking sites have decided to play games with availability. It’s not right for anyone involved and don’t buy it.

 

How to Start Looking

First of all, clear your cookies before every search! If you don’t, the booking sites increase the prices based on your previous search history.

There is also a general consensus among professional travelers that the device you use to search with will effect the overall price.  For example if you use a Mac, they will assume you have more money to pay and quote you higher prices, and if you use an old PC with windows explorer, you get cheaper prices. (more on sneaky booking providers here). It sounds crazy, but with booking sites, who knows what they are capable of! (More about dynamic pricing practices here).

If you are going overseas and you have a credit card that doesn’t charge for international conversion rates, then book through a local site or through the hotel directly. Tourists always get charged more than locals especially if you are coming from a western country. I just attempted this with Radissson blu in the UAE. The local Dirham price was $40.00 a night cheaper than dollar AND Euro!

 

Hotel radisson blu abu dhabi
Enjoying some luxury @ Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi

Booking sites Vs. Hotel Sites.

Booking sites are great, but also don’t forget to look at the actual hotel website directly. I’ve found Some of the best deals going direct, and you are more likely to get an upgrade and better service.  Booking sites charge a fee or percentage that would otherwise be going to the hotel directly.  On some occasions I have received dirty looks and a bad attitude from the hotel staff when I have told them that i booked though a booking site. It happens sometimes so don’t stress yourself over it.

Even if you do book through a booking site, its a good idea to call the hotel and confirm.  I can’t even remember how many times I have shown up at a hotel and they have not been notified by the booking agency, and I have to spend 30 minutes on the phone to get them to send my confirmation though. Yawn…..

 

 

When to book

The cheapest time to book is Tuesday afternoons at 3pm, 6 weeks before your trip. I might be that organized for flights but I’m NEVER that organized for hotels.  This all depends on where you are going of course, obviously international travel does require more planning, but my general rule is book the 2 first nights and always book weekends a few days ahead of time.  It’s also a good idea to check if there are any events or conventions before hand and always look at the location of your hotel on a map before booking. You might find a cheaper room out of your preferred area, but you might be paying the rest in transport costs.

 

What to book

If you decide to book a cheaper hotel, be aware that they are sometimes in seedy areas, so you need to watch out for safety at all times. Keep your passport and money tucked into your clothing and not in a bag that can be snatched. Look at all factors in your decision making process and write a list of all the things your are looking for. For example, your desired price range, necessary amenities, location, safety, cleanliness, noise and proximity to major roads and highways. Also look for whats available in walking distance, particularly in urban areas.

singapore

Food Access

One thing I always forget to look at is dining options. Some hotels offer a free breakfast, which is great, but it’s dinner I worry about mostly.  Some big hotels have restaurants inside, but these are crazy expensive.  If you are not out wining and dining at every meal, then make a point of knowing where the nearest supermarket is and buy food you can prepare in room.  This is also great for buying water and soda in bulk, and milk/creamer for coffee and tea. Those hotel mini bar prices are outrageous!

 

Be Aware of Extra fees!

A cheap hotel rate might look appealing, but do read the fine print! Places like Vegas add a tourism percentage surcharge, as does Dubai.  These rates are often separate and not quoted in the original price. Also be on the look out for parking fees (yes, I’m looking at you Airport hotels!), large group penalties, booking site fees, country and state taxes and credit card fees and WiFi. Have a look at what the hotel offers for free before booking (e.g wifi and breakfast etc), and make a note of the total final cost before pulling the trigger.

 

Weekend price jump

Hotel radisson blu abu dhabiWeekends and holidays are by far the most expensive time to book. Some hotels even charge DOUBLE the normal weekday rate! There are some things you can do to not fall in this trap and that includes booking as soon as possible and locking in your rate. Consider staying in the city center and financial districts in cities.  These hotels rely mostly on week day business travel and are often quiet on weekends. If you have a vehicle, stay outside of town and along freeways and away from popular attractions.  The American freeway system is littered with hotels of all prices and they need to fill rooms too.

 

How to fight cancellation fees.

I’ve got this down to a fine art now, and it’s not always my fault. Sometimes booking sites default to their cheapest available rates rather then for tonight.  This is the bad part about reserving a room through a booking site.  Most of the time your phone call gets shuffled off to a call center in the developing world and you find yourself pleading with someone who can barely speak English. The easiest thing to do is try and stick to your booked hotel, but just get the dates changed.  They will still try and fight you but at least you have the excuse of “I’m not canceling I’m just rescheduling” and it usually works.  If that doesn’t work, or you are trying to cancel completely then ask to speak to a manager.  They have more authority and can actually do something to help, and if that fails then call the hotel personally.  Tell them why you have to cancel, tell them you have no choice and try to work out a deal.

 

Coupons and Deals

I always always recommend signing up for emails at all travel, hotel, rental car, car parking and airline websites.  I created an anonymous email account just for this purpose, I check it every week and keep what i need and trash the rest, this literally saves me hundreds every year. If you are a frequent traveler it’s always a good idea to sign up for a membership program like AAA or Starwood preferred guest etc.  Sometimes it costs money to join, but if used frequently, will save you a lot in the end. In some situations, it’s perfectly acceptable to haggle.  If you are staying for a longer period of time, or booking a deluxe suite, contact the hotel manager personally and ask if there are any applicable discounts.  I did this recently, I contacted a chain hotel and asked them for their long booking rates and then if it could be discounted by a further 15 %. It worked! give it a try.

 

So here it is, my 10 favorite hotel booking tips.  They work for me and I hope they work for you. Be safe, be healthy, be wealthy and be wise 🙂

 

hotel luxury lobby

 

How To Do Road Trips With Kids

How To Do Road Trips With Kids

Hmm Road Trips with kids! Most people would describe this experience as hell on wheels, but with proper planning, it doesn’t have to be.  The most important thing is keeping stress levels down so your vacation can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

I don’t have children, so in order to give you the absolute best advice, I recruited 300 of my amazing friends, and asked them what they do when taking road trips with their children, plus I added a few gems of wisdom from my own childhood.

So here you are, some tips on taking a road trip with your kids, from amazing parents in Australia, USA, South Africa and Europe.

 

how to do road trips with kids

 

The Red Neck Au Pair Program

I grew up with a single mother on welfare and there was never any money for vacations. I started babysitting at 12 to pay for my school lunches.  One of the benefits of this, is that some of the families I babysat for DID go on vacation, and they were more then happy to take me along to help with the kids. This was perfect for me. I got a small amount of pocket money, I loved being around and helping with the children, and I really loved going on vacations and eating at restaurants, which was a huge luxury. The parents got to relax and have ‘date nights’ and enjoy their time off. It was a win-win for everyone, and some of my fondest childhood memories. If you have access to this situation you should definitely look into it.

 

Plan Before You Leave

It really does make the difference between an enjoyable trip, and one that’s filled with stress and uncertainty. When traveling with children, your vacation does have to be planned more than when you travel alone or with adults. Kids like to stay in a routine and are generally not as flexible. They also need more breaks and scheduled meals. Pack for all scenarios. This should include a change of clothes and hygiene needs, blankets, water, food and toys/games, all within easy reach. Remember safety is most important, so check your child’s car seats and seat belts before embarking.

 

 

Rest Stops

Road trips with kids

The general consensus amongst my friends is that the younger the child, the more stops you need to make.  They get restless and bored easy, and they don’t quite understand whats happening, so it’s important to get them out and refreshed often.  Stopping by a playground is a great idea to get them excited and burn off energy so they will be more relaxed on the next leg of the Journey.  It’s also fun to stop at scenic look outs and local attractions and make them aware of where they are and their surroundings.

 

 

 

Entertainment

Back when I was young we never had tablets or car DVD players and I don’t know what to make of it all to be honest. We used to always make fun of
my friends parents who were old fashioned and didn’t keep up with the times, and now that person is me! lolliesI really value interacting with my loved ones, and enjoying personal relationships on vacations. I refuse to turn the radio on in the car, I don’t like the TV on in the hotel room, and I’m too cheap to pay for WiFi, so what’s left? Talking and games! Yea! Eye spy is fun, waving at trucks is fun, counting cars is fun, but yea, I understand parents wanting to go postal after 3 hours of that. Portable electronics are a good idea when you want some peace and quiet for a couple of hours and some time off to concentrate on the road. Everyone has their limits. If fights break out, try to distract them with games or a treat, and if they doesn’t work, stop the car, get out and walk them.

Depending on your child’s age, they might also enjoy taking part in the navigation and planning. Give them a map and keep them up to date of where you are and when your next stop will be. This will help cure boredom and restlessness and keep the trip moving forward. Giving them media (such as a cheap camera. a journal or a travel pack with paper and color pencils is also a great way to allow your child to be creative and record their experiences.

 

 

Food

As most of you know, I am a huge supporter of eating healthy, but on vacations and road trips, I relax a little bit.  This is a time to enjoy life, and there is nothing better than indulging in a few of your favorite treats. Pack a mix of healthy and not so healthy snacks, and keep plenty of water handy. A great idea from my friends in South Africa, is to pack each child their own cooler full of meals, snacks and drinks.  This offers something personalized and exciting, and prevents conflict. Where to stop and eat also depends on your location.  Lunch picnics are fun for rural areas, and a restaurant meal for the whole family is a great idea for dinner.  Enjoy your holidays….Having a balance is important, and there is plenty of time for regimes and diets in your everyday life.  Relax and have fun.

picnic

 

 

Bribes, Negotiations and Rewardstreating your kids on a road trip

Some parents are divided on this issue, as they feel teaches and rewards children’s poor behavior and endorses bad life skills, but in the right context, it’s an extremely powerful tool. If someone said to me “Ok Sarah, I want you to sit there and be a good girl for 4 hours, then I’ll take you to the cheesecake factory, and you can have an Ultimate Margarita, Pasta Da Vinci and Peanut Butter Cups cheesecake, you better believe that I’d be a good good girl! Now, I don’t what that says about me, but humans love cheap thrills. We love good food and good times and will behave accordingly in order to feed our pleasure centers. Give your children something to look forward to and reward good behavior.

Work with what your child really loves and desires, act accordingly and within your child’s age and maturity level, don’t promise something you can’t deliver and make the travel experience fun and exciting.

 

Remember that taking a vacation should be fun and all about quality time with your family and friends. Remember safety first, keep these travel tips in mind and you should have an amazing trip for kids of all ages!

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