Ah, Spring Break. That annual week of respite from school, from work, from responsibilities. (Hey, we can dream, right?) The point is, Spring Break is for everyone– not just coeds.

But since the holiday is so widely marketed to college students, we wondered whether traditional party locations really dominated the Spring Break vacation market and how the rise in popularity of vacation rentals such as Airbnb affected hotel bookings.

To find out, Hipmunk analyzed the most-booked Spring Break destinations for airfare and hotels, which we defined for our purposes as beginning Friday, March 18, 2016, the week preceding Easter (although the dates can vary widely). To break it down further, we also looked the most popular destinations for Airbnb vacation rentals and compared that to the same week the year before to see how those numbers had changed.

Here's what we found:

Most popular spring break flight destinations in the USA

Perhaps unsurprisingly, major US destinations, popular year-round, dominated the list, with Orlando, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles claiming the top spots for most-booked flights. Yet simply looking at destinations where one must take a plane doesn't fully reveal the most popular Spring Break destinations, as many travelers choose to vacation in locations that are a drivable distance from where they reside.

To broaden our scope, we also looked at which destinations were garnering the most accommodation bookings for Spring Break 2016.

Most popular spring break destinations

Again, major US cities topped the rankings. But by only looking at flights and accommodations, we are still neglecting to highlight locations where vacationers are more inclined to look for rentals than hotels. To discover these destinations we looked first at the locations with the highest net number of Airbnb vacation rental bookings and then compared that number to the total number of overall accommodation bookings in that city for Spring Break to reveal what percentage of those bookings were Airbnbs.

Most popular spring break rental destinations

Again, cities such as Miami and Las Vegas return a large total number of Airbnb bookings for Spring Break, but smaller resort towns like Sarasota, FL and Palm Springs, CA, boast a much larger percentage of Airbnbs for their total bookings. Perhaps the one anomaly is Cancun, Mexico, where Airbnbs have claimed 40 percent of Hipmunk bookings for Spring Break 2016.

It seems that when it comes to Spring Break, Florida is the vacation rental king, claiming five of the 10 top spots!

Digging deeper, Airbnbs are continuing to increase in terms of their share of the accommodation market, as more and more travelers see vacation rentals as a viable alternative to hotels.

In 2015, Airbnbs made up 4.4 percent of all Hipmunk's Spring Break bookings; as of publication date, that number has risen to 9.5 percent.

Indeed, several of the cities that cracked the top 10 Airbnb destinations weren't on the list last year at all:

Most popular spring break destinations in 2015

L>ooking year-over-year, every city that made both this and last year's lists increased their proportion of Airbnb bookings, excepting for New York, which saw a decrease of three percent.

Of the cities that made this year's list (but not 2015's), Cancun saw its proportion of Airbnb rentals increase explosively, from just 9 percent in 2015; Sarasota's proportion was only 19 percent in 2015; Honolulu came in at 2 percent last year; Destin was 30 percent in 2015; and Palm Springs came in at 28 percent in 2015.

In the end, it seems that the Sunshine State is also the 2016 Spring Break Capital, claiming multiple spots in every Top 10 category: flights, hotels, and vacation rentals.

And if these destinations seem just a bit too tame or you want to escape the states, be sure to check out our Spring Break College Cheat Sheet or just shoot an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with all your burning Spring Break travel questions.

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed its 2016 data for bookings that occurred starting the week of March 18, 2016 (Spring Break) for flight, hotel, and Airbnb bookings, in addition to data for the same week in 2015.

  This post was original published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 25th.

Published in Travel Tips

Throughout history, hotels have continually pushed the bounds of what constitutes an exceptional night’s stay. Modern travelers’ desires for unique, authentic, and Instagram-worthy adventures have driven hotels to market themselves as destinations for unusual trips and immersive experiences. Perhaps no trend better encapsulates this movement than the rise of the ice hotel.

The original ice hotel—appropriately named ICEHOTEL and included on this list—was created in Sweden in 1989. Simultaneously an art exhibition and a guesthouse, the hotel is built out of natural ice and snow harvested from a nearby river. Newer iterations on the concept include igloo villages, art museums made entirely of ice, and a wide range of amenities. Here are four variations you won’t want to miss (just remember to pack the parka).

1. Hotel de Glace, Quebec

The only hotel in North America made completely of ice, Hotel de Glace is open in the winter of each year—and then it melts away. As with the other entries on this list, each room in the hotel is carved from ice, meaning temperatures need to remain below freezing lest the rooms melt while guests are sleeping. But don’t worry about staying warm: The hotel provides beds and thermal sleeping bags rated for freezing conditions, as well as several outdoor hot tubs. Guests enjoy lounging on chairs made from ice, sipping on winter-themed cocktails from the hotel bar, and scoping out the ice carvings and mountain views.

2. ICEHOTEL, Sweden

Located just over a hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle and near Sweden’s Torne River, the original ICEHOTEL welcomes adventurous guests from all over the world. Hotel guides lead guests across icy terrain atop horses, dog sleds, skimobiles, and even MINI Coopers. Food and drink is often served from plates and cups made of ice, and the hotel bar is to die for. The guestrooms are as varied as the hotel’s visitors—some are custom-designed while others include both ice and snow. In the winter, guests can enjoy an unobstructed view of the northern lights.

3. Eskimska Vas, Slovenia

While Slovenia makes for an amazing summer getaway, it’s worth coming back for the opening of the country’s Eskimo Village in December. Guests access the village by riding cable cars up the mountain, then hiking in on snowshoes (so it’s probably best to pack light). Anyone who isn’t exhausted from the trek can enjoy daily outdoor activities like snowbiking, snowtubing, and sledding. Tired visitors unwind at the village’s bar or Igloo restaurant, then hit the (snowy) sack in an individual igloo equipped with sheepskin to keep folks warm.

4. Hotel de Glace, Quebec

Easily accessible from the buzzing hub of Helsinki airport, the Snowhotel promises a quiet respite from Finland’s larger cities and the hum of modern life. Boasting “tranquil silence” and “beautifully illuminated ice art,” the hotel is designed to simultaneously delight and soothe the senses. At night, guests bundle up in thermal sleeping bags atop beds carved entirely from ice. Overnight stays include room wake-up with hot berry juice, buffet breakfast in a the warm “log restaurant,” and guided tours of the surrounding Snow Village, which features an Ice Restaurant, Ice Cocktail Bar, chapel, slide, and a network of corridors decked out in snow and ice art.

Tips for Staying in An Ice Hotel

    DO
  • Learn how to properly use a sleeping bag. If you’ve never slept in a thermal bag before, consult hotel staff to learn how a few small tweaks can keep you warm for the night.
  • Participate in physical activities during the day. This will keep your circulation pumping (and physical tiredness will make it easier to sleep at night). It’s also a great opportunity to try something new. Snowbiking, anyone?
  • Hit the restroom before going to bed. Most rooms in ice hotels do not come equipped with private bathrooms; instead, communal restroom facilities are located around the hotel. No one wants to crawl out of their warm sleeping bag to walk the freezing halls at 3 in the morning!
  • Have a backup plan. Some folks can’t get enough of ice hotels; others decide they’re fans of slightly less adventurous overnights. If it’s your first time, consider booking one night at a time to gauge your affinity for wintry nights. Many ice hotels also offer more traditional (i.e. warm) lodgings nearby, so inquire about your options while booking.
    DON'T
  • Expect a normal hotel stay. Ice hotels are different (that’s the whole point). You’re unlikely to find standard hotel-room amenities such as TV, minibars, or any furniture beyond the bed. You will be in a room made of ice, and that’s pretty much it. Try to embrace the tranquility this affords.
  • Wear cotton clothing. Because cotton traps moisture, breaking a sweat will result in serious chills not long after. Stick to breathable fabrics like wool. Also be sure to follow any other hotel guidelines for apparel.
  • Drink a lot of alcohol. While ice bars may be tempting, consuming too much alcohol before bed promotes heat loss and can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

  This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 12th.

Published in Travel Tips

The only people who think Nashville is a boring city are the ones who have never visited. As it turns out, the city can be a lot of fun even if you don't like country music. Just like the city has a habit of exceeding your expectations, so too do many of the hotels in Nashville. The next time you're passing through Music City, rest your head at one of these cool Nashville hotels.

Hutton Hotel

Lobby of the Hutton Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee

Leading the pack as Nashville's most eco-friendly hotel, the Hutton Hotel is about as green as it gets. Located downtown, the hotel has flooring and furnishings made from reclaimed wood or bamboo, water recycling, biodegradable cleaning supplies, water-free urinals, and much more. In addition to this, one key feature puts the Hutton ahead of all the other green competition: a fleet of eco-friendly hybrid courtesy vehicles.

Union Station Hotel, Autograph Collection

Lobby of the Union Station Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee

There is something about trains and train travel that is just downright cool. Toy trains are appealing to kids, and train rides always retain their charm, no matter how old you get. The Union Station Hotel, Autograph Collection decided to capitalize on this affection for all things train-related by converting an old train station and National Historic Landmark into a stylish modern hotel that still exudes all the charm of a hundred-year-old railway station. Staying here is like taking a trip back in time to the days when train travel was sophisticated and people dressed to impress.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee

More commonly known as the Opryland Hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is different than any other hotel in Nashville. Opryland impresses everyone, even if you're not a fan of country music. The hotel's centerpiece is a five-acre atrium with a glass roof filled with trees and plants, brick-lined paths for walking, and even a river with boat rides. Scattered throughout the atrium are dozens of stores, restaurants, bars, and lounges. Don't miss the colorful light and water shows after nightfall. And while you are there, don't forget to catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry!

The Hermitage Hotel

The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee

Originally opening its doors in 1910, The Hermitage Hotel is one of Nashville's oldest hotels, as well as the only boutique hotel in the city that is both five star and AAA five diamond rated. In 2003 the hotel underwent a massive and expensive renovation. Now calling this place lavish is an understatement. The men's room at the Hermitage Hotel was named the best bathroom in America by MSNBC.

The hotel's spacious and luxurious rooms have made this spot a favorite of the many country music stars who pass through town. They can often be spotted enjoying an evening drink at the Oak Bar, one of the hotel's top-notch dining and drinking establishments. However, it's the hotel's Capital Grille that really gets all the attention from guests at the Hermitage. This restaurant serves world-class food that is completely sustainable and all locally sourced.

What other cool or unique Nashville hotels have you found?

See More!   Nashville's Coolest Offbeat Sights and Activities

  flickr   //   tensafefrogs   kenlund   ronjones

Published in United States

Find it hard to leave your favorite furry friend behind when you travel? Have no fear; thankfully, Houston has a vast selection of pet-friendly hotels in locations all around the city. Regardless of your budget or which amenities you crave, Houston has something for you. So, the next time you find yourself planning a trip to Space City, make sure to check out these amazing pet-friendly Houston hotels.

Hotel ZaZa Houston

Summed up in one word, Hotel ZaZa is simply amazing! Located in the museum district, the hotel is near tons of things to see and do only a few minutes away. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will even be able to leave your hotel once you see how nice the rooms are here. There are seven different options, each distinctly themed and exquisitely furnished. However, they also have a $150 pet fee.

Hotel ICON Autograph Collection

Few Houston hotels can compare to the elegance and sheer style of Hotel Icon. The building dates back to 1911 and was originally a bank. Traces of this history can still be seen in the lobby arches and giant stone pillars. However, the entire building has been extensively remodeled and furnished in nothing but the best modern amenities. Stylish rooms, an impressive wine vault, a private dining room, and a friendly staff make this one of Houston's premiere hotels. Their pet fee is only $20.

La Quinta

With several locations around town -- all of which allow pets -- La Quinta is the budget choice for a pet-friendly Houston hotel. Every location also has free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, a pool, and zero pet fees. However, my personal favorite is the La Quinta Inn and Suites Houston Galleria because of the location and the fact that they also have a fitness center.

Royal Sonesta Hotel

If you're in the mood for an elegant, modern pet-friendly hotel, look no further than the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Strategically located in west Houston near the Galleria, the hotel is surrounded by plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. The hotel itself features jaw-dropping architecture, impeccable rooms, and a top-notch staff willing to cater to your every whim.

Hotel Derek Houston Galleria

Last but not least is the Hotel Derek -- and no, I did not include it on this list specifically because we share the same name. But that was the reason I decided to stay there for two nights last year when I was passing through Houston. And what I found definitely impressed me.

The entire hotel features a contemporary yet colorful design. For example, the furniture in my room was purple, orange, and grey. Colors that ordinarily might clash have been perfectly blended by a master designer. The same colorful sense of style is evident throughout the hotel, from the lobby to the restaurant to the pool.

As far as animals are concerned, Hotel Derek has a $100 pet fee with 10% of that being donated to the local SPCA.

See More       Pet-Friendly Hotels   USA Travel Guides

  flickr // ynakanishi

Published in United States

No other metropolis on earth compares to Dubai. Located in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is home to the world's tallest building and several breathtaking manmade islands that have turned the city into a household name around the world. Their iconic innovations and architecture combined with white sands and year-round sun draw an increasing number of foreign tourists every year.

To keep up with these hordes of cash-wielding foreigners, hotels in Dubai have taken excess to the extreme. The next time you find yourself in Dubai for a day or two, check out some of these over-the-top monuments of excessi--Dubai's most amazing luxury hotels:

The Palace Downtown Dubai

The Dubai Palace Hotel in the United Arab Emirates

To be treated like modern-day royalty, one need not look further than The Palace. The Arabian theme and architecture whisk guests back in time, until they look up and see that directly across the lake lies the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Rooms and suites come in a variety of luxurious themes and each has a balcony; however it's the 500-square-metre two-story Imperial Suite penthouse that takes the crown here. With four master bedrooms, two living rooms, two study rooms, two dining rooms and 360-degree view of the city, there is no better place to stay in downtown Dubai.

Armani Hotel Dubai

The Dubai Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates, the world's tallest building and hotel

When simply seeing and visiting the world's the building is not enough and you need to stay overnight in it, then the Armani Hotel is your only option. Literally. As the exclusive hotel inside Burj Khalifa, the Armani rooms all have a view of Dubai unlike any other: it lacks the city's most iconic structure. And while the hotel may be on the small side (it only occupies six floors of the Burj, 34th-39th) everything else about it from the service to the design is grandiose.

Of course its the 390-square-metre penthouse suite where the party really takes place. In addition to the 360 degree views of the city, the desert and the sea beyond, it comes complete with multiple dining rooms facing each of those three directions (allowing guests to enjoy whichever scenic background view they prefer) as well as its own private gym and fully stocked bar and pantry.

Jumeirah Emirates Towers

The Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai

Two of the Dubai skyline's most stunning masterpieces are the beautiful Jumeirah Emirates Towers. All 400 hotel rooms feature a sleek and elegant modern Arabian style complemented by breathtaking views of the city. Of course the towers are much more than just a hotel. They also are home to a wide variety of shopping, dining and nightlife options, ensuring that all the guests needs can be met on site. Of course, should guests want to leave the Towers to get a little sun and water in their life, it's good to know that complimentary passes to a private Towers beach and the Wild Wadi Waterpark are provided to each guest.

However, anyone booking the 312-square-metre, two-storey Royal Suite won't want to leave this palacial enclave with floor to ceiling windows in every room.

Have you stayed at any over-the-top luxury hotels in Dubai?

See More       Luxury Travel Guides

  flickr // o_0 misc9 benginahmad

Published in United Arab Emirates

Montreal is an amazing city and arguably the best in all of Canada (take that Toronto!) but it's also one of those cities that takes time to reveal herself to you. Unfortunately when passing through Montreal briefly for vacation or on a road trip, this type of deep understanding is not always possible.

To truly begin to grasp the magnificence of Montreal you must see her underbelly, live it like a local and experience it all. Here's are a few quick suggestions on how to experience Montreal like a local:

Eat Like A Local

Fairmount Bagel in Montreal, the best bagel in Canada

Montreal is known for its bagels and one of the oldest and most authentic local establishments to enjoy them is Fairmount Bagel. Dating back to 1919, Fairmount is known throughout Canada as the best bagels in the country. Just one bite and you will understand why. Order your personal favorite "all dressed" and then watch the workers hand make and bake more bagels while you wait for it to be served.

Poutine is Canadian comfort food

Poutine is a classic Canadian comfort food and there is no shortage of places to find this dish in Montreal. There is also no shortage of top five and top ten lists of the best poutine joints in Montreal scattered around the web. It's a longstanding debate that will never be settled, however my personal favorite is La Banquise. They don't just serve poutine they serve over thirty different varieties of poutine! My recommendation for all you meat lovers out there is the Three Meats (La Trois Viandes, with ground beef, pepperoni and bacon).

Explore Like A Local

Montreal, Canada is a big bicycle city. At least during the summer.

Montreal is a big bicycle city and a beautiful city to just wander around and randomly explore. But rather than doing this on foot why not rent a bicycle for the day and explore the city on two wheels. Montreal On Wheels rents bicycles and also organizes various tours, if free exploring isn't your cup of tea. They are all great people and have a very local and active community of bicycle enthusiasts supporting them. Always a good way to meet locals.

Montreal is also home to dozens of museums and anyone in the mood for museums should look into getting a Montreal museum pass. It allows for free entry into 35 of Montreal's best museums and is a great way to pack as much learning and culture as possible into a short trip.

Montreal Underground City

Don't forget Montreal's Underground City, built to serve as a warm weather lifeline during those cold Quebec winters. It is composed of over 20 miles of pedestrian tunnels connecting metro stations and apartment complexes to everything from stories, restaurants, movie theatres, banks, offices and more.

Sleep Like A Local

Okay, sleeping like a local might be the trickiest part...namely because visitors don't have a home there, obviously. But to find a temporary home for your Montreal trip then consider checking Airbnb or save time (and a few dollars) by browsing all the cheap Montreal hotels in one place on Hipmunk.

See More       Canada Travel Guides

What other local tips would you suggest for visitors to Montreal?

  flickr // chrisgold earlysound beautyisintheeye2 xiaozhuli

Published in Canada

Every Country Has Hotels And Hostels...

What Does Japan Do Different?

The best way to learn about a country is through firsthand experience with some of the things which make that location unique, whether food, festivals, transportation options, or even lodging. Japan, being a country that is simultaneously rich in history but also at the forefront of modern technology and innovation, certainly offers up a seemingly countless supply of unique facets that make visiting the country a must.

Just because Japan is constantly looking towards the future does not mean they have forgotten about the past. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of the things I love most about the country is how they have smoothly and perfectly blended the old with the new, seemingly with such ease. In the big cities it is quite common to see ancient temples and historic structures preserved amongst the modern highrises and transportation systems.

Speaking of history, what better place to start than with one well-known type of lodging that is exclusively associated with Japan -- the ryokan.

 

Ryokan in Takayama

Traditional Ryokan

These are probably the most iconic of all the Japanese structures. If you have ever seen a classic Samurai movie you will immediately recognize these structures, known for their paper walls and sliding doors. While the cost and demand of space has made them less common in many of the big metropolises, they are still a big hit in the countryside, especially in regions near hot springs. You can usually count on them to have spectacular views of the surrounding landscape as well.

Half the fun is in the lodging and room itself, but the other half is in the food. Do not pass up any of the meals offered at your ryokan. The food is always amazing and presented ever so elegantly!

In my opinion one of the best cities to stay in a ryokan is Takayama, long known for its skilled carpentry. Not only is the area gorgeous but also filled with traditional streets and shops that are a joy to stroll through, even if you are not planning on purchasing anything.

Ryokan in Takayama

 

Love Hotels

Another [in]famous type of lodging in Japan is the love hotels, sometimes referred to as fashion hotels, which can now also be found in other Asian countries. For those of you who have never heard of these, this will blow your mind. These hotels will be located only in areas with lots of late night clubs and offer luxurious intimate rooms available in "rest periods" of one to three hours or, for an increased price and provided it is after 10pm, the entire night.

The rooms all have widly different themes but are all done up exquisitely to make you forget where you are and give the happy couple a few hours in paradise. Think of it like a brief stay in a luxurious Vegas suite. However you tend not to spend much time absorbing your surroundings, except in the final few minutes before leaving.

A love hotel room in Tokyo

They are very discreet as well. Rather than booking a room like at a normal hotel, at the love hotels there is a screen with pictures of each of the themed rooms. If the room is available then its picture is illuminated; If not it will be dark.

No worries about having to make eye contact with a judgmental hotel clerk either -- the front desk is more like a movie theater ticket box. You pay through a small slit in a heavily-fogged glass window.

Believe it or not, these places are incredibly packed, at least when I was there back in 2008 and 2009. Especially on Fridays and Saturdays, if it is past midnight good luck finding an open room at one of the nice love hotels.

 

Capsule Hotels

For those on a budget

Many parts of the big cities offer what is referred to as capsule sleeping, and it is exactly as it sounds. The hotels are full of double-stacked pods and offer a very unique form of no-thrills lodging. You literally rent out a six-foot rectangular cube, crawl in and pull down the drape.

These are mostly geared towards over-worked or inebriated Capsule Hotelbusinessmen who missed the last train home, although a 2010 news article reports that due to the ongoing recession some capsule hotels are reporting that up to 30% of their guests are unemployed or underemployed and were renting capsules by the month. I know that sounds exciting, but don't count on renting one just yet; they are very uncomfortable and I did notice that some have a tendency to discriminate against gaijin, immediately saying they are fully booked or some similar excuse. Even towards the end when I went back with my Japanese girlfriend, she tried to get me in for a night but still without any luck.

Staying For A Longer Visit?

Furnished Apartments Are The Way To Go

While this may not be that different from any other country, I spent the bulk of my time in Japan in a flat I rented in Tokyo. There were many upsides to having a fully furnished apartment but probably the biggest was being in amongst the locals, right in the heart of the action. It is not like staying at the Hilton, which you can count on being full of traveling businessmen and tourists -- precisely the types of people I try to avoid during my adventures.

My flat in Ebisu, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

With very distinct and diverse districts and wards in Tokyo, it took a considerable amount of research for me to determine where I wanted to call home during my leave of absence from the cubicle life. I chose Shibuya, a ward that is home to several noteable districts including Harajuku, the fashion capital of the world, Yoyogi, famous for Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine, and Ebisu, proudly referred to as the area Tokyo locals love to live. And at the center of it all was the aptly named Shibuya district, a shopping hotspot during the day and party mecca come nightfall. That is why I was really there ;)

I had expected to interact with my neighbors more, but it turned out they all worked and were quite reserved, as is the Japanese way. Regardless, having the flat to bring new friends from the bar back to and otherwise slip into the same life as the local Tokyo residents, that made all the difference in the world. That and the fact the flat came pre-wired with super highspeed wifi, which was convienent even though I hardly made use of it. Oh and can't forget about the maid, which came by once a week.

To top it all off, my key was waiting inside of my mailbox, which was located on the main facade of the building next to the front door and accessible via a code I had been given prior via email. (No need to deal with any bothersome staff.) And when I checked out a couple months later? Simply returned my key to the mailbox.

My flat in Tokyo

Shame I don't have better pics. Browsing my remaining photos it was surprisingly hard to find pictures of it and not people...but back then I was just partying and living for the moment, not thinking about being a travel blogger.

  Have you experienced these or any other different/unique forms of lodging during your travels? Tell us about it!

Published in Japan

Normally Hong Kong is not perceived as a cheap holiday destination. However, it can be. Budget travellers from around the world come to Hong Kong to get a new stamp in their passport, explore the city and surrounding it hills, get a Chinese visa or to change flights because Hong Kong airport offers cheap flights to most destinations around the world. It is a busy Asian financial centre, developed by British and then passed over to Chinese. Both cultures, as well as others, have left clearly visible marks in the architecture and culture of this place.

With $100 Hong Kong Dollars going for less than $15 USD, there's a way to get a cheap room, even in this Asian capital of business -- Hong Kong.

Rooms available in Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong

Where To Find Cheap Accommodations In Hong Kong

There is one destination every budget traveller should consider as the first point of call - Chungking Mansions in Kowloon. It is also recommended by Lonely Planet, for the diversity, availability and prices. This building, consisting of 5 blocks (A, B, C, D and E), is 17 stories tall with hundreds of very small hostels. Ideal place to look for a deal.

Location

Chunking Mansions is located at 36-44 Nathan Road. Nearby MTR stations: Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui, are a perfect places to start the search for a good deal on cheap hotel or hostel. Many owners will approach you to offer accomodation.

How to get a room for 100 Hong Kong Dollars or less?   Many people feel uncomfortable when approached by shady characters offering a cheap place to stay. However, you can use this to your advantage. Here's the few steps you have to follow to arrive at the right price, i.e. HK$100 or less:

  1. Wait until you're approached. You will be, there's so many rooms on offer and there's always some available. With such a high supply, owners actively look for customers.
  2. Ask for the good price. They will tell you they have a very good room (will specify few "exclusive" features) for 250-300 HKD.
  3. Say it's too expensive. When they ask what price you're looking for say 70-100 HKD (it's not gonna be easy to find anything cheaper than this).
  4. Walk away. After step 3, they will lower their price to around HK$120-150. You need to walk away, saying that someone else will give you room for your price.
  5. If they follow and agree to your price go to step 6. If they don't start again from step 1.
  6. Go with them and check the room. They will find a last minute excuse to get extra HK$20-50, for example the cheap rooms are not available and there is a much better room at discounted rate. Just refuse and go back to step 1. Normally they will say it's ok and they won't charge extra ("only for you my friend").
  7. Always pay when you get a key and never at the end of your stay. They have a tendency to forget the price you bargained to their advantage.

If you want to stay longer you can get a really good deal, but it will take longer to find. I've heard of a guy who stayed in one hostel for a month and had contract in which he paid HK$30 a day.

On the other hand, some owners are reluctant to offer few nights stay at a really low price, just in case they get lucky with customers. After few failures start to say you're only staying for one night and then extend it the following day or find another deal.

If you travel with someone you should not pay more than HK$150 in total. Remember that they charge per person and the more of you travel, the better the price per person will be. Whatever argument they use to convince you otherwise.

My experience in Hong Kong

I have been in HK twice for few days and never paid more than HK$100 by always following these 7 steps. The standard of rooms vary from one hostel to another and the space in the rooms is limited, but I did not need anything more than a sleep and internet connection, which was always available.

  Original article, as well as other useful travel tips, can be found on my blog at etramping.com.

Published in Hong Kong

We decided at the last minute that we needed to take a family vacation but we were running short on time and money, so what was I to do? I had read a blog post a few months ago about yurts. This got me interested, what's a yurt?? I was asked by my friends when I first mentioned it to them. Basically a yurt is a round, heavy duty, permanent tent. It has heavy gauge vinyl for the sides and wooden supports for strength. Our short camping adventure took us to Torreya State Park, near Bristol, Florida in the United States. This was the only yurt (at least that I could find in a state park) in the entire state. We made our reservations the day before we were set to arrive, so I was excited to see that there was availability with short notice.

What's in it (or not in it)?

  • Ours was equipped with both a queen and bunk beds. There were no linens on the bed, just a vinyl covered mattress. I think this is fairly universal, so bring those with you. We brought a sleeping bag for the wife and myself, as well as Jr, so we were covered there.
  • There was also a table, 2 rocking chairs, 2 others chairs and a chest of drawers. Guess if you were staying for a while this would be good, but we were only in it for a couple days.
  • Here's where the wife was sold on the idea.... Air Conditioning! We were in Florida, so 80 degree nights is not out of the ordinary. Needless to say, we were comfortable! Also, hanging from the middle of the yurt was a fan with light... Much better than the battery powered lantern we usually take with us. Also, there was wired power within the yurt so we didn't need the extension cord that we brought.
  • On three of the side of the yurt, there were screen roll down windows. We kept ours up most of the time for lighting purposes.
  • We did not have running water (or restroom) inside of the yurt. The policy for pets was that they weren't allowed in the yurt, and there was also no smoking or stoves allowed in the yurt. All things that weren't a big deal to us, but I'm sure could be a little cumbersome if you wanted to bring the family pooch along for the camping trip.

What's the downside to yurt camping?

There is one down side to the yurt. All future "camping" trips will be compared to it, and I have a feeling they won't fare well. The yurt camping concept is nothing short of ingenious. You are only a step away from the wilderness, yet you have a roof that will withstand the heaviest rain, and AC for those hot summer days. You really do have the best of all worlds.

So, whether you are new to camping, or just new to yurts (like I was), if you get the chance to try a yurt, DO IT! It is surprising how much it was like a tent, but with all the comforts of home. We will definitely take advantage of one next time they are available at the campground that we are looking to stay at. They are usually a little more than a regular campsite (ours was $40/night) and sites were around $15-$20.

Published in Miscellany Articles

I get asked very often how I've been able to afford to travel so often to so many places (so far a tally of 25 countries outside the UK). After a few long haul trips (not more than one per year, and not every year) I think many people have assumed I'm always flying long haul and therefore paying for long haul airfares. In actual fact most of my travel is within Europe, and despite recent financial troubles in the Eurozone, I still manage to do it fairly cheaply.


So what is the key to keeping costs down? One word: FLEXIBILITY.


By leaving your options open, casting your net a little wider and thinking creatively, it is possible to travel for a lot less:


    1. Be flexible with airports - I live very close to Glasgow International airport. Many of the Mediterranean destinations served by Glasgow International are also offered by budget airlines at Glasgow Prestwick, often for a lot less if you are book at the right time. Likewise, Edinburgh and Manchester airports are also easily accessible with rail (and a subsequent bus, soon to be tram connection for Edinburgh), and while slightly more inconvenient than a Glasgow airport, they offer many more connections. Most Scottish people wouldn't think to go to Manchester (and likewise many in the North of England wouldn't think to come up to Scotland), but taking it into account when booking a flight can make things A LOT cheaper - for example just now I'm trying to book a flight to Berlin. Even with the train fare (which is cheap if booked in advance, especially with a railcard) the flight with Easyjet is over half as cheap as the same destination flying from Glasgow. Do you know your "local" airports?

      Visiting Krakow in December 2011 with fellow IAESTE Scotland members 

      - one of the many Eurpean trips we have made on a budget.

      1. Be flexible with airlines - When I flew to Brazil, I had to first fly to Munich to meet Macio. Usually flying to Munich I go for the EDI-MUC Easyjet connection, taking only hand baggage. On this occasion I was taking hold baggage, and it actually worked out to be about the same price to fly with KLM than it was with Easyjet. When I took into account the train and bus fare to Edinburgh, it was actually cheaper (and more convenient) to fly with KLM from Glasgow than fly with a budget carrier. You can research what airlines fly to a destination simply by looking up the local or destination airport on wikipedia. Know your carriers and what they charge!
      2. Be flexible with dates - Fairly straightforward. Flights in the middle of the week tend to be cheaper, as well as away from major holidays and events. Avoiding high season is also a good idea: in Scotland we have different school holidays than England, so many people go away at the start of July, before English schools have broken up as prices are usually cheaper. Likewise I took a trip to Malta one Easter, which landed the first week of the tourist season. Not only were flights and accommodation cheap, the islands were really quiet, there were a lot of Easter related things happening which were interesting to see, and the climate at that time was not to great a shock after infrequent snow showers at home in the weeks before. Unless you are constrained by dates, be open to flying out at any time.
      3. Be flexible with baggage - This one is pretty simple: do you really need to take hold baggage? If not, the rule of thumb is that it is typically cheaper to fly with a budget airline and not add hold baggage. Be familiar with their cabin baggage regulations before you fly so you don't get caught out at the airport. Learn how to pack effectively, roll your clothes and maximise your wardrobe by making sure everything matches. If you are staying for more than one week, remember it will be much cheaper to find a laundromat (or friend's washing machine) than it will be to pay for baggage. Ask yourself the question: do I need to take this?

    My faithful blue backpack goes with me whenever I go onto the 

    continent - I have never had problems with airlines regarding 

    the size and it will carry everything I need for a week.

    1. Be flexible with accommodation - If you are going to be spending most of your day exploring a locale and getting to know the people really well then do you really need a 3-star (or more) hotel, with pool, entertainment and catering? Not only does that all cost money, it is likely to be a distraction from the place you have paid good money to see. Alternatives such as hostels, CouchSurfing or staying with friends, not only cost less (or are free!), but offer greater opportunities to see the countries in an authentic way and meet new people. All you need is somewhere to sleep!
    2. Be flexible with transportation - Thinking of hiring a car? Think again! Car hire can be expensive from the word go. Figure in fuel, parking and tolls it can quickly add up. I once took a road trip with a friend, going from Dresden to the Benelux, with my friend having a job interview in the Netherlands, with transportation costs being reimbursed as a result, making it a very cheap road trip. On the other hand a few days road trip from Munich to Verona via Salzburg, Liechtenstein and the Bodensee this January was only out of our own pocket but the added costs, long hours of driving and really bad weather just added to our stress. Instead consider other alternatives such as an Inter-rail pass, coach and budget airlines for long distance travel, and local rail, bus and tram networks for short distances (and be familiar with what ticketing options are available). Germany in particular has a good system of group rail tickets, where people will actively come and ask you where you are traveling in the hopes of sharing the costs of a group ticket with you. Similar arrangements can also be made onlineLook into different transportation methods and weigh up the pros and cons of each.

      My first trip to Munich in 2010 - group train tickets are the

      way forward when traveling with (or without friends).

    3. Be flexible with your spending prior to going away - In other words start saving money! This is an important one. While a lot of my friends at uni were going out  partying every week, indulging in retail therapy or spending money on other things that weren't necessary purchases, I channelled most of my disposable income into travel. I also had a bit more disposable income as I lived with my parents (which has its advantages and disadvantages). Unlike a night out or the latest fashion, travel can and does stand out on a CV, and it's effects last longer than the next morning's hangover or the latest trend. Certainly there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself on a night out or buying something you liked the look of, but if you want to travel (or do anything else for that matter) you need to ask yourself what you want most, and remember you can only spend money once. Never underestimate the effectiveness of prioritising your spending!

    So there are some pointed for bringing your initial costs down. Hopefully by following some of these simple guidelines you will be able to free up some funds for spending on cultural activities or even being able to afford to go away. I hope that this post will be helpful in planning your next trip. Remember that a smart traveller is a successful traveller!

    Published in Travel Tips
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