After more than twenty years of value-focused travel, I'm finally saying a fond farewell to hostels - for the most part. Here's why.
Even before I had my final hostel stay, I knew it would be my last.
The previous couple of hostels I stayed at brought roller coasters of emotion. One, set in a gorgeous historic location, was clean and friendly but offered bare-bones dorms with whisper-thin mattresses, a single stingy pillow, and squeaky wooden bunk beds. My bunk was positioned in the centre of the room, without a single wall at my disposal for leaning or privacy. The muggy, warm room and back-aching bed made sleep impossible and I cringed every time I moved, fearful my squeaky bed was keeping everyone awake. It was a rough night – and a rough morning as I tried to be as quiet as a mouse, packing up my computer to escape to a nearby cafe for a bleary and bright conference call. While I was waiting for my call to connect, I found clarity in my exhaustion. For the first time ever, I sacrificed my two remaining nights of prepaid bunk accommodations in favour of relocating to a private bed and breakfast room.
I spent an extra $300 I wasn’t expecting but when I finally got to my snug room and sunk into the plush, squeak-free mattress, I nearly wept with relief – and guilt. Who was I, giving up an otherwise great-on-paper hostel just because my bedding wasn’t as sumptuous as I would like?
I've been obsessed with cozy airport sleeping pods for years. I finally got my chance to try one when I stayed at YOTEL Paris. Here's what I wish I had known in before my trip.
For as long as I can remember, I've had one very specific, very peculiar thing on my travel bucket list: To sleep in airport sleeping pods. I bet you've heard about them before. They're teeny-tiny hotel rooms designed to offer airport based travellers a place to sleep - if only for an hour or two. Some are so tiny they really do resemble a pod, or perhaps a bunk bed-turned-bunker. They're not unlike the berths you find on overnight trains, albeit with solid walls, a door you can lock, and an external ladder that leads you to your perch. Other airport sleeping pods are a bit more generous. They're like micro-rooms, offering ensuite washrooms and a few feet of floor space. In every case, they're adorably, maddeningly tiny and cute and I'm just obsessed with the concept. They're cozy, in every sense of the word.
Maybe it has something to do with all those bargain basement overnight flights I've taken throughout the years which have been me walking around terminals like a little zombie. I've just always wanted to stay in a pod and, on a recent trip to France, I finally got my opportunity. After flying overnight into Paris, I had a suitably long layover before I had to board my plane to Bordeaux. My moment had come!
Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport is home to a branch of YOTEL, a UK based hotel chain that has airport sleeping pods around the world, as well as micro-hotels in cities like New York. After so many years of anticipation, I finally had my moment - and I learned a whole lot during the process. This post is a little bit of a review of the Paris YOTEL, but more generally it's about what I wish I had known before booking any airport accommodations. I hope it helps you have sweet dreams!
There's an easy way to make your hotel room feel more organized and homey. Here's why your ironing board is a travel hero.
Have you seen the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”? There’s a great scene in which the lovelorn Peter gets some unusual advice. Family members tell him to iron his shirts—even his t-shirts!—in order to feel better. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it takes more than sharp creases to turn Peter’s vacation around.
Though their advice didn’t help Peter, it has worked for me—albeit under less dramatic circumstances.
Whenever I’m feeling a bit rundown on the road, I know that some serious laundering and even the occasional ironing session will help put a spring in my step. Since those occasions are few and far between, I usually ignore hotel room ironing boards. However, a recent podcast had me rethinking ironing boards in general—and how handy they can be for travellers.
Here are five great reasons to set up your hotel ironing board on each and every trip, even if you’re not trying to rebound from a broken love affair!
Here's how to cancel your non-refundable hotel reservation if you're affected by COVID-19 or another crisis.
So you rolled the dice and took a chance on a non-refundable hotel reservation. We see these kinds of tempting promotions all the time. They're usually $5 to $25 cheaper than their counterparts, the "book now, pay later" deal. Sometimes the price difference isn't enough to tempt you but other times the savings really add up so you throw caution to the wind and click "pay now!" After all, it's just not feasible that you'd *ever* miss your trip, right?
No one expects to be caught up in a global pandemic like COVID-19. Or to get stuck a thousand miles away by a hurricane or blizzard. Who anticipates that their surgical appointment will suddenly be moved up? And hey, it's not like anyone expected the groom to runaway with the bridesmaid a week before the wedding, did they? Yet here you are. Hotel booked and paid for. And you're not going to be there. Gotta kiss that money goodbye, right? Your coronavirus hotel booking is a disaster, is it not? Maybe not.
This is my totally-not-guaranteed-but-not-exactly-hopeless-either guide to finding a financial solution when you've booked a non-refundable hotel reservation you need to bail on.
In search of the ultimate travel coziness in Italy, we fell in love with Orvieto - oh, and Orvieto wine too!
Is there anything cozier than stumbling into a delightfully snug wine bar with a full roaring fire at the end of a long travel day? Perhaps the only thing better is when said wine bar also doubles as a spectacular restaurant - and is owned by one of the kindest families you've ever met. This very scenario was our introduction to Orvieto wine, food, and family - and it set a new bar for hospitality, not just for all other Italian towns but indeed everywhere we travel.
Here's what made Orvieto such a wonderfully cozy destination for us, including our beloved wine bar and our new favourite hotel, lovingly decorated by local artists.
Wondering where to stay in Zurich? These are our favourite hotels in Zurich Old Town and there's something for everyone.
Lounging around in bed when you could be out exploring Zurich's streets and lane ways? Say it ain't so! Never fear - I walked A LOT while I was in Zurich. This restful moment was just a brief interlude of downtime. I just couldn't resist trying out my super cozy bed for just a few moments! And I was so lucky that I was staying in the heart of the old town so I could easily pop back home for a rest. As a sleep enthusiast, I know that there are a lot of options on where to stay in Zurich and for my money, the best choice is one of the hotels in Zurich Old Town. Here are my favourite places to stay, some great alternative options with different styles and price points, and a few things that I love about Zurich's old town.
A review of Briars Resort and Spa at Jacksons Point, Ontario - my favourite of all the Lake Simcoe Resorts.
It sometimes takes a lot to bust out of a Canadian winter rut but a weekend at the Briars Resort and Spa on Lake Simcoe, in Jacksons Point, Ontario (just an hour north of Toronto) was just the thing to make winter exciting again! The beauty of all the Lake Simcoe resorts is something I had long heard about but never had the chance to explore - but I knew just the people to take along on my adventure. Arriving on a Friday night with three of my best blogging friends in tow, I was excited to dive into the first offering of their “Blah Busters” package – local wine and a delicious selection of cheeses. It was the perfect way to kick off a girls’ weekend and get into the outdoors spirit.
Staying in a hostel when you're in your 30s, 40s, or even beyond can feel a bit, well, strange. But it can also be wonderful! (And wonderfully frugal too...)
As a solo backpacker in my early 20s, hostels were invaluable to my budget travel strategy. Before online booking sites, this was back in the dark ages, so I accepted the hostel reviews in guidebooks like Let’s Go as the gospel truth. They never once steered me wrong, and despite having a minuscule budget, I always had a clean, safe, friendly place to stay.
Fast forward 10 years, and I was suddenly part of a couple. I had slowly drifted away from the hostel world in favour of shorter road trips. We embraced emerging travel tools, like hotel bidding sites, and we often found gorgeous rooms whose prices rivalled the cost of two hostel dorm beds. In Honolulu, for instance, we successfully blind bid on a 4-star hotel and were thrilled to pay just $90 a night – not too shabby when dorm beds would cost us about $30 each!
But even with the private balconies and plush beds, I missed the hostel community. I missed meeting new friends and the endless resources designed for budget-minded travellers. I missed the funky properties and craved more personality in my accommodations. But I’d been deterred by hostel horror stories of wild roommates and hoards of school groups. And, frankly, no one wants to be the weird old person, boring everyone with tales from your glory days! I tried to reconnect with the hostel world, but I needed the right place and hostel.
I got that opportunity in Sydney, Australia. I was eager to soak up the beauty and energy of downtown, but I knew harbourfront hotels cost a small fortune. Make that a large fortune – some were advertised for over $1000! If there was ever a time to see if hostels could work for a couple in their 30s, this was it! Thankfully, I found everything I was looking for - along with some essential lessons on hosteling for “grown-ups.”
Wondering where to stay in Budapest? Read our Hotel Moments Budapest review to see why it makes great travel memories.
If you wondering where to stay in Budapest, we have a great suggestion and it comes from the heart. Hotel Moments Budapest is an ideal mix of everything we look for in a hotel - unique, memorable, comfortable, well thought out, and well positioned to explore. There are abundant architectural features from centuries past which remind you with every turn that you're in one of the world's most beautiful cities - but the hotel doesn't skimp on modern touches that make even the fussiest of travelers feel at home. If that isn't enough, it's also just steps away from the incomparable Hungarian State Opera House. In short, it's the perfect hotel to make the most of a first time visit to Budapest.
Read our Hotel Moments Budapest review to see what our experience was really like...
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