Meet La Carmina!!
I've been working in the travel field for years now (as a writer, blogger and TV host), so pretty much all of my trips are for work projects. For example, in 2013, I went to Japan twice to be in TV shows, and traveled to multiple countries in partnership with tourism boards, hotels or transportation sponsors. In essence, all my travel costs are covered through these collaborations. However, I'm very selective about the projects I take on -- I make sure that they are never too advertorial, and that I'm free to report on the topics that interest my audience (such as experimental fashion and nightlife, as opposed to tourist sites, in Bangkok).
I've dreamed of visiting Dubai for ages, and finally had the chance last year. I'm fascinated by the Burj al Arab, the 7-star hotel shaped like a sail, and wanted to see it up close - but it's not possible to simply walk in. So my two filmmakers and I made reservations at the Skyview Bar on the 27th floor, requiring a $70 minimum spend per person. It was well worth it, for the experience of drinking cocktails in the world's ritziest hotel.
3) There’s nothing like a bargain – name your favorite great steal of a deal?
Mistake fares -- when airlines accidentally list their ticket prices for far lower than normal -- can result in amazing deals. I booked my dad a round-trip Vancouver to Hong Kong flight for $640. A month later, the airline's fares went down to $370 for a few hours, due to a glitch!
Be sure to consider all factors, not just the dollar cost, when making a decision. I personally feel it's worth paying a bit extra for comfort and convenience, and that this results in a happier and more productive travel experience. Be aware that you might wind up with extra costs if you skimp; for example, if you stay in a cheaper hotel that is far away, you could end up wasting 2 hours each day on getting to locations, and end up paying more for transportation and food. One of my favorite tips is to look at short-term apartment rental sites, like Go With Oh, Roomorama and Airbnb. Often, you can rent entire apartments in great locations for the price of a hostel. Also, think out of the box. In San Francisco, my friend and I stayed at the Zen Center -- comfortable guest rooms in the heart of Haight, and with breakfast and Buddhist meditation included!
I'm nutty about pre-trip preparation. I print out pages of maps, addresses, phone numbers and transit info. I also download an offline city map to my iPhone. (Vanessa's Note: This is music to my ears!) While it's important to be flexible, I think you get the most out of a short experience with some research, reservations, and tentative planning. For example, I try to explore several nearby sights on the same day, and save the far-off locations for the days when I have a car. Also, if I've taken a long flight somewhere, I try to see nearby cities or countries: like Israel and Jordan, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Budapest and Belgrade.
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