The winter months of December through February — and sometimes through March — are notorious for flight delays due to bad weather. People risk delays during the holidays because they have long periods of mandated time-off and want to spend it with their families. But no one wants to request time off in February only to spend half of the vacation managing flight delays and bad weather.
But while February isn’t the best travel month for every destination, airlines offer some pretty sweet deals on flights during the year’s shortest month. With some trips discounted as much as 79%, travelers should take airlines up on their offers. We analyzed a year’s worth of Hipmunk flight and hotel pricing data, and the following February destinations are worth the bargain.New York, NY
Whether covered in snow or sunshine, New York is New York — a magical amusement park for both kids and adults. There will never be a shortage of indoor and outdoor winter activities. With flights and a three-night hotel stay averaging $962 in February, the Big Apple offers a steal. Take a horse carriage ride through Central Park as you admire the snow-covered terrain and monuments that make the city so enchanting. Ice skating is available through March at parks including the Wollman Rink in Central Park and Rockefeller Center. If it gets too nippy, be entertained at a Broadway show as you stay warm.Philadelphia, PA
With 67 National Historic Landmarks, Philly ranks third in the country for most landmarks, including the famous cracked Liberty Bell and the house of poet Edgar Allen Poe. But the city is also a modern metropolis with a striking skyline, impressive street art murals, and rich pop culture. Run up the long steps to the main entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and recreate the famous opening of the cult classic film “Rocky.” Philly has one of the oldest outdoor markets in the U.S. — Italian Market — and also boasts Terminal Market, a great indoor destination. Both sell everything needed to make delicious meals. An average flight and three-night hotel stay in February averaged $819, a savings of up to $80 compared with spring months.San Francisco, CA
Much like San Francisco’s weather stays constant, so do flight and hotel prices, averaging more than a $1,000 most of the year for a flight and a three-night hotel stay. But in late spring, the average was $953, making it the ideal time to head west. SF offers a multitude of varied activities sure to entertain all personalities. Pier 39 alone offers shopping, restaurants, Aquarium of the Bay, and a two-story carousel. But the most endearing attraction is simply observing the quirky sea lions lounge by the pier. In 2015 Walkscore.com gave San Francisco a score of 83.9, making it the second most walkable city in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Walk or ride the cable cars to get around.Dublin, Ireland
Flying to Europe from the U.S. in the summer will typically cost around $1,000 or more. But flights to certain European destinations are quite affordable in the coming months. Dublin is small and easy to walk around, ensuring travelers can see and do most of what the city has to offer in a single weekend. Admire the beautiful architecture of the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Walk east for nine minutes to reach St. Stephen’s Green and appreciate the park’s original Victorian layout. Trinity College Dublin, one of Dublin’s most prestigious universities, is only a six minute walk north of the park. The college’s Long Room is eye candy for book nerds.Paris, France
Visiting Paris in the springtime is recommended, but it’s so much more affordable in February and March, with some flights ranging between $500 and $600 dollars. Much like New York, there is always plenty to see and do in Paris. Must do outdoor activities include riding to the top of the Eiffel Tower, admiring Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting at least one historical Parisian cemetery. Keep out of the elements at one of Paris’ many museums, the Louvre Museum being one of the most famous for housing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Louvre Pyramid. For modern art lovers, visit the Pompidou Center or the Jeu de Paume.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 2nd.
If you find that your sleep quality decreases while traveling, you’re not alone. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that most adults prefer the comfort and calm of their own bedrooms over a hotel room—even a luxurious one. And don’t even get people started on the perils of trying to catch some shut-eye on a cheap flight.
Short of bringing their bed with them wherever they go, what’s a weary traveler to do? Whether you’re trying to catch some ZZZs on an airplane, in a hotel, or in a train or car, here’s how to get better sleep while on the road.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep next to two other people in the backseat of a moving vehicle, you’ll know that this can be easier said than done. But sleep will come faster if you do what you can to make yourself comfortable. Try to wear loose-fitting clothing, take off your shoes, and cuddle up under breathable fabrics for the best chance at decent sleep. If you’re in a plane, train, or car, an inflatable or travel-sized pillow will also help.
Studies routinely show that people sleep best in spaces that are quiet, unlit, and cooled to less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While you may not be able to control the temperature wherever you’re trying to sleep (except in a car or hotel room), you can keep things quiet by packing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones or (at hotels) asking for a room that’s located away from the elevator, stairwell, vending machines, and pool (Also don’t forget to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door). Limit your exposure to light by closing a hotel room’s curtains or packing an eye mask for flights.
Consistency is key to getting good sleep, so do what you can to mimic your own bedroom environment wherever you are. Bring along your favorite pair of pajamas, a picture of your family or pet, and any other small items that will help you feel at home. Also be sure to stick to your normal bedtime routines, such as drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, listening to music, or practicing breathing exercises before closing your eyes.
Caffeine, alcohol, and exposure to “blue light” (aka the glow emitted from electronic devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones) can all make it harder to catch some shut-eye. Try not to drink coffee in the afternoon or evening; don’t drink alcohol within a few hours of heading to bed; and turn off all electronics at least an hour before hitting the sheets. Avoiding these stimulants will help your body wind down so you can fall asleep faster.
Reading reviews of hotels online prior to booking will help alert you to whether a hotel is known for having raucous guests or promoting quality slumber. Some hotels have even started investing in amenities to help guests get better sleep.
For example, the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, Va. offers guests a “Dream Menu,” or a collection of services and products designed to help guests get better sleep (think hot water bottles, Snore-no-More pillows, and a Bed Wedge that elevates your upper torso). At the Fairmont San Francisco, guests can take advantage of a sleep kit complete with sleep machine, earplugs, eye mask, and slippers. Crowne Plaza hotels offer a “Sleep Advantage” program that lets guests elect to stay in quiet zones sans room attendant, housekeeping, or engineering activities from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. And Hampton hotels offer a “Clean and Fresh Bed” designed to provide guests with optimum comfort in the form of streamlined covers, four pillows per bed, and high-thread-count sheets.
Most importantly? Even if you find yourself tossing and turning, don’t lose hope. Fretting over lost sleep will only make you anxious, so try not to stress too much if you wanted to snooze through an entire eight-hour flight and only managed to catch an hour or two of ZZZs. A little bit of sleep is better than none. And if all else fails, never forget the power of a cat nap.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 15th.
Canada is an amazing winter destination due to its pristine beauty and wealth of outdoor winter activities. There is something for everyone here! Of course buying all your gear or forgotten items while on winter vacation is considerably more expensive than bringing them from home. So, if you are heading to Canada this winter, here is what you need for some of the most popular activities:
Getting to see winter animals in their native environment is a humbling, peaceful activity -- and a great opportunity for photographers. Edmonton, Alberta is home of the Elk Island National Park and offers some of the best winter Elk viewing in all of Canada. Don't forget:
Banff, Alberta is home to the Banff National Park and an amazing destination for adventurous winter activities such as dogsledding. To avoid expensive gear rental fees, be sure to bring:
Canada has no shortage of skiing destinations for people of all skill levels, however Whistler, British Columbia is consistently ranked as (one of) the top ski destination in Canada. It not only is fun for kids and adults, but also has plenty of non-skiing activities as well, including snow tubing and snowcat tours. For those who plan to go skiing, do not forgot to bring:
For seasonal festivals, shows and events, there is nowhere better to be than Quebec. Food festivals. Holiday shows. Performances and events a plenty. There is something new to do every day here during winter. However the pinnacle of all Canada's winter festivals is the Quebec winter carnival, Le Carnaval de Québec. It is one of the world's largest winter festivals and includes parades, parties, ice sculptures, sleigh races, shows, amusement rides and more.
What to bring to Le Carnaval de Québec?
Why your appetite? The carnival also includes the "Bain de Neige" or snow bath. The unique challenge is something unique that you won't soon forget!
When it comes to general outdoor activities and family fun, Mississauga, Ontario is a great choice. There is plenty of great ways to pass the days outside. Some of their most popular activities include tobogganing, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. Of course there are also lots of great festivals, events and even indoor activities as well. Just don't forget:
One final note: do not bring any cotton clothing. Cotton (including blue jeans) absorbs moisture and when combined with the cold, snowy Canadian winter, can easily cause hypothermia.
Tipping is a hot topic in the United States these days, as rising minimum wages call into question the standard practice of making servers reliant on tips. For travelers abroad, tipping is an equally sticky issue. Figuring out what to tip when can all too quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a stressful one. Knowing what to tip, on the other hand, can empower travelers to navigate a foreign culture with ease.
Because tipping rules vary by country, region, and place of business, it’s important to research your destination’s customs prior to any trip. Start by consulting this guide, which outlines tipping customs in 20 countries around the world, for restaurants, hotels, and beyond!
Restaurants: While tipping at restaurants and bars isn’t considered a necessity, many tourists often tip around 10%.
Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but consider rounding up to the nearest whole peso so the driver doesn’t have to sort out change. If they help you with your bags, add on a bit more as a token of appreciation.
Hospitality: Tip tour guides up to 20% and always give bag handlers a small bill or two.
Restaurants: Australian servers are paid decent wages and generally don’t expect tips. Recognize exceptional service by rounding up the bill. In upscale establishments only, tip 10%.
Taxis: While tipping isn’t expected, it’s common courtesy to round up to the nearest whole number.
Hospitality: For the most part, tips aren’t expected within the hospitality industry.
Restaurants: Canada’s tipping protocols are similar to those in the United States (although most Canadian servers are paid minimum wage before tips). Most restaurants expect a minimum 15% tip.
Taxis: It’s customary to tip cab drivers 10% upon arriving at your destination.
Hospitality: Tip concierges for exceptional service only, leave behind a few dollars (or more) for housekeeping, and give bag handlers $1-2 for each bag they carry.
Restaurants: Most places in the Caribbean islands follow the same tipping standards as the United States, so in general plan to tip 15% or more. One possible exception: If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort, check to see if the service charge is included.
Taxis: Plan to tip around $1-2 for in-town fares. Tack on a bit extra for late-night or long-distance rides.
Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge in the bill. If this isn’t the case, be sure to tip bag handlers ($1-2 per bag) and housekeepers ($2 per day). Many resorts discourage tipping, so use your own discretion.
Restaurants: China has a fairly strict no-tipping culture (though some finer establishments may include a 10-15% service charge), so there’s no need to tip at restaurants. If you want to offer a tip for exceptional service, do so out of sight of the server’s employer.
Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but it is appreciated (especially in larger cities). Because there’s no customary rate, use your own discretion when deciding how much to tip.
Hospitality: Tipping is usually not expected, although this is changing in more westernized establishments. A good bet is to tip tour guides, housekeepers, and bag handlers a few dollars per day (or bag).
Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most Costa Rican restaurants. If you want to recognize exceptional service, add another 10% on top.
Taxis: Tips aren’t required, but it’s a friendly gesture to tip a few dollars or round up the fare to the nearest whole number.
Hospitality: Tip tour guides 10-15%, and give a few dollars to bag handlers and housekeeping.
Restaurants: While tipping wasn’t always standard in the Czech Republic, the custom has been catching on. There’s no need to tip if the bill includes a service charge (though feel free to add on another 10% for great service). If no service charge is included in the bill, tip 10-15%.
Taxis: Round up the fare to the nearest whole number.
Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-3 per bag, housekeepers $3-5 per day, and concierges $20 if they go above and beyond.
Restaurants: The government requires a 10% service charge on all bills at restaurants, bars, and hotels. While it’s not necessary to tip more than that, you’re free to hand over a few extra dirhams to the server.
Taxis: Cab drivers don’t expect tips, but it’s polite to round up to the nearest 5-dirham note.
Hospitality: Because service charges are included in the bill, there’s little need to tip hotel staff unless you want to recognize great service.
Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most establishments, but plan to tack on another 5-10%.
Taxis: Pay cab drivers 10-15% beyond the stated fare.
Hospitality: Give housekeepers $1-2 per day throughout your stay, tip $1 per bag for bag handlers, and give the concierge $10-20 at the beginning of your stay to ensure great service.
Restaurants: French law requires that service be included in the price, but most locals round up their bills with small change (or up to 10% of the bill).
Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers about 10%.
Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-2 per bag and housekeepers around $2-3 per day. Exceptional service from the concierge should warrant 10 or more Euros.
Restaurants: Germany’s tipping customs work much like France’s: Service is included in the price, but it’s customary to round up the bill to an even figure (this usually amounts to 5-10% of the total bill).
Taxis: Round up to the nearest Euro or tack on an extra few Euros if you’re feeling generous.
Hospitality: While tips aren’t required, it’s courteous to leave behind a few Euros for housekeepers and to pay baggage handlers around 2 Euros per item. Slip the concierge 10 or more Euros for great service.
Restaurants: Tip 10% for the waiter, even at upscale restaurants (where a 10% service charge is included in the bill).
Taxis: Tips aren’t expected for short trips. If you hire a driver for a long trip or multiple days, tip around 150-300 rupees per day.
Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around 20 rupees per bag and offer tour guides several hundred rupees.
Restaurants: Tips aren’t expected, but feel free to round up the bill or tip 10% for exceptional service.
Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but they are appreciated. Use your own discretion.
Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tipping really isn’t expected in Italy, but who doesn’t like being appreciated for good service?
Restaurants: It’s unlikely that a server will accept your tip, so it’s probably most polite not to offer one.
Taxis: Tips are not at all expected. A simple “thank you” will suffice.
Hospitality: Tour guides don’t expect tips but are likely to accept them. Hotel staff may refuse a tip if offered; you’re more likely to transfer cash if you put it in an envelope and leave it behind for staff, rather than foisting cash into their hands.
Restaurants: When service is included in the bill, there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, plan to leave 10-15%.
Taxis: While tips aren’t expected, it’s courteous to round up the fare.
Hospitality: Many hotel staff rely on tips as part of their take-home pay, so be generous. Bag handlers, housekeepers, the concierge, and anyone else who performs a service during your stay warrants a tip. The amount is up to your own discretion.
Restaurants: Like Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have much of a tipping culture. Service and sales tax are almost always included in the bill. Tip only for exceptional service or when the menu states that service is not included.
Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but acknowledge great service by rounding up the fair or leaving behind a few small bills.
Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tips aren’t expected, but they’re a nice way to express appreciation for a job well done.
Restaurants: Locals generally leave small change or round up to the nearest euro, so go ahead and follow suit. If you receive great service or are dining at an upscale establishment, leave a 5-10% tip.
Taxis: Small change, rounding up to the nearest Euro, or a couple of extra Euros are all acceptable tips.
Hospitality: Pay the bag handler up to five Euros, the person who delivers room service 1-2 Euros, and housekeepers a few Euros for the stay.
Restaurants: In nearly all establishments, it’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip for the waiter.
Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers around 10%.
Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around $1 per bag. Tip other hotel staff at your own discretion.
Restaurants: Expectations here vary widely: Some sources advocate for not leaving a tip, others suggest leaving 10-15%, and still others suggest leaving $1 per diner. Keep it simple by sticking with 10% or $1 per person, whichever is more generous.
Taxis: Tips aren’t encouraged, but a tip of 20 or 30 Baht is courteous.
Hospitality: It’s standard to tip bag handlers 20 Baht. While there’s no standard tip for housekeepers, it’s respectful to leave behind a tip (the size of which is up to you).
Restaurants: If a service charge isn’t included in the bill, tip 10% (or higher for exceptional service).
Taxis: Tip 10-15% for black cabs and licensed minicabs, or just round up to the nearest Euro. Tip extra for help with loading or unloading baggage.
Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge, but it’s still customary to offer small tips to bag handlers and housekeepers.
No matter where you are in the world, remember that servers, cab drivers, and hotel staff are performing a tough (and often thankless) job. Be both appreciative and thoughtful—try to tip in cash and in the local currency so your server can put the money to good use. And practice discretion when handing out tips, particularly in regions where tipping may be frowned upon. Respecting local customs will go a long way toward make any excursion a positive experience.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Himpunk on September 9th.
Once you have secured your travel plans, possibly through a respectable agent such as a travel agent in Raleigh, there is still more planning to do. There are common checklists that individuals have utilized over the years, however with the changing times there are some items and situations that may not be properly accounted for. Below are a few items and protocols that are essential for the new-age traveler.
There are common travel documents that you should carry with you for travel period, but especially if you are traveling internationally. The most common documents include:
TIn the case that you lose these documents or any of your traveling material, you should carry at least two copies and store them in a safe location. A few other items that you should store copies of would be:
With the various outbreaks that are occurring across the world, it is important that you are properly vaccinated against any possible illnesses. Be sure to check with your doctor before travel to not only make sure that your shots are up to date, but that you have all the right vaccinations against any sickness that you may encounter while on your trip; certain areas are more susceptible to specific illnesses.
Though this may seem more like a travel amenity, having a proper money stash can be critical in high crime areas. There are a number of different money stash options that you can choose from, such as fanny packs, money belts and neck wallets. Whichever you choose, make sure that you keep it on your person at all times and hidden away when you are at your resting location. You also should not carry all of your money on you at one time; it is suggested that you have several different money stashes amongst your belongings, so that in the case that you lose some, you will not be left high and dry.
It is also important that you become familiar with the currencies that you will be encountering on your trip. If possible, convert a good amount of your money before arriving to your destination. This can help you to avoid high conversion rates and spending excessive amounts of money unnecessarily.
As times have changed, so have policies and common procedures. Therefore, it is critical that you are aware of the way that you should conduct yourself in the specific regions that you visit. If you do not have a set itinerary, look up and map out a few safe destinations that you plan to visit. If you are traveling internationally, be sure to note where your home embassy is located in the area you are visiting. Taking time to learn these tidbits before your travel can save you possible headache or harm on your journey.
By keeping these things and other common aspects of your traveler's checklist in mind, you can be sure to have a safe and enjoyable trip. For other details and resources, check with your travel agent in Raleigh or other local agents.
The most comforting factor in the world today is that everything is in your hands, literally! That palm-sized device clasped in your hand seems as if it has been sent from heaven to be your guiding angel. The icing on the cake is the applications or APPS (as they are called now) that once installed in your device can offer you a hassle-free getaway from significant day-to-day problems. These apps have made big things look small, for instance if you are in an over populated country like India where railways is preferred more than airways then booking a ticket doesn’t remain a piece of cake; however, a travel app here can act like a life-saver by helping you find the right train, giving you details about its availability and then finally enabling you to book a ticket without having to stand in endless queues. Now that’s the magic of what we call a travel app.
The year 2015 looks quiet promising in this regard; with the launch of as many as hundred travel applications and many more in the pipeline, 2015 will be the year that will keep all the travel related setbacks to a minimum. Here is why you should consider these travel apps as your ultimate travel guide in 2015.
Planning a short trip or a long vacation to a place you have no clue about? Well, let the travel app feature help you here. There is sizeable number of travel apps ranging from Trip Advisor to Instagram that helps you book the right flight at the right price and the right hotel within your budget. AND that’s not all; you can read reviews and recommendation from the travellers who have already been to this destination by using an app like Localeur. These apps like Foodspotting also help you find some of the best bars, cafés, eateries and places to hangout that too only at the click of a button.
Once your travel destination is decided and your leaves are sanctioned, you can use your travel app to prepare a suitable itinerary for you. Just feed in your necessary details as in the date of travelling, budget and other preferences and Voila! Let the travel app like WorldMate bring to you the best experiences of the trip for you. The organized itinerary will help you manage each day of trip well without you having to waste time on what to do next.
There are travel apps like WeatherPro and Marine:Europe that prepare intuitive weather reports and keep you updated with any threatening weather change, water condition and tide predictions. This app will you help avoid any unpleasant experience.
Travel apps can also help you pack the right things for the right place. If you are crummy packer, who doesn’t know what all you will be needing on your vacation, then application like PackingPro can be your friend in need. All you have to do is to feed essential information such as what is your destination and for how long, this travel app can help you pack perfect with dividing the categories into, clothes, gadgets and other relevant items. Now isn’t this app an apple of your eye!
And never shall again you will be lost in an unknown land, promises some of the travel apps like AlpineQuest GPS Hiking, New York Subway and Waze. These apps offer route planner, maps and GPS tracker that will help you get the right and quickest way to reach a destination. There are apps like Hailo that are nothing but a life-saver, with you filling with all the information of the location; you can ask a cab to ‘pick you up’. So, you know, you are never alone and unsafe in an unknown city.
In 2015, your travel app will do the math for you. Application like XE Currency helps you with conversion of currency that too by following few simple steps. This app uses the live currency rate and is absolutely accurate. On the other side, travel app like Tripulator is stylish applications that tell how much you need to tip in any of restaurants across the globe.
Looking for local transport to commute in the city you are vacationing in? No problem, travel app like HopStop can guide you around in return of few taps on your phone. Covering information on local transport options and routes of about 68 countries, HopStop is your stop-by-stop guide
One often experiences the barrier of language when travelling to another country but with travel app like Lost in Translation things become quite subtle and easy. This amazing app comes equipped with 36 languages and instant voice recognition, also a unique feature that easily forward translation through emails and texts. Promising accurate translations, this travel app looks promising in making your abroad trips simple and fun altogether.
How all of us hate those unnecessary roaming charges while on a holiday. Well, travel app Onavu save your holiday to get ruined. Once installed, this app compresses the data that is required to perform any task (email and posting on social network sites) automatically while you are on roaming. So, now you can enjoy your holiday and post check-in status and share photos as many times in a day you want without having to think about the bill!
We were little indecisive as in adding this last type of travel app to this list but then realized its importance as it is a crucial app for those planning to vacation in sunny climes. Travel app like Sunscreen actually takes care of your beauty and health. The app allows you to calculate the UVI ratings and it alerts you when you need another slathering of sunscreen. One has to fill information as that of skin type and SPF of the lotion and rest you can leave upto this app.
So, you see a single travel app can work miracles to your holiday. Right from fixing your itinerary to making flight, bus and train bookings, from warning you about bad weather to taking care of your skin, these travel apps are really on the go in 2015. So, browse and select the travel application that suits you the best and enjoy hassle-free travelling all year!
Instagram is a handy tool for travelers wishing to document their journey. Long gone are the days of buying disposable cameras or dropping off film at the developer. However the ease of this app can often be taken for granted. After all let's be honest: We've all seen some crappy IG photos.
When you do decide to share something on Instagram, make sure it is truly worthy of being shared. This infographic from dealchecker.co.uk demonstrates how you can capture the peripheral wonders of the cultures you are engrossed within to make the perfect holiday photo album, and churn your followers’ complexions green with envy. Taking the constant accessibility and features Instagram has to offer into consideration, these tips have been compiled into a foolproof list to make the most of the instrument in your pocket.
Graphic produced by dealchecker.co.uk
The minute someone announces that they'll be moving abroad or taking an extended trip, people who want to "visit you" appear out of the woodwork! Friends and family and even nearly-perfect strangers all want to share in the excitement, intrigue, romance of travel and exploration! I've heard cries of "I'm soooooooo coming!" from my sister, mother, countless friends and even my hair dresser!
While I'm excited to go and travel solo, I'm also excited to have visitors! I've hosted numerous people, at sea, on land, et cetera; I've had enough experience with playing the host to have formed solid, reasonable expectations for a guest. Here are my tips for being a proper guest:
Do your own research before you arrive. There is nothing more frustrating for a host than a guest who doesn't know what they want to do, and sloughs off every expectation for "having a good time" on their host. Keep in mind: Your host lives in the city you are visiting. He/she will know of some great things to do there, but he/she will not know what it is you are truly interested in. You may think that saying "I'll do whatever" means you're being flexible and trying to work with your hosts schedule, but it's actually quite stressful for the host. Spend a few minutes on TripAdvisor researching things to do in the place you're visiting and let your host know ahead of time so the proper arrangements can be made.
Keep in mind that your host lives where you're visiting. While you may be on vacation and are feeling care free and out for non-stop fun, your host is probably not on vacation. (That's why he/she is still at home.) Sure the host may be able to get a day or two off from work to tour you around the region, but at the end of that time the host will have to return to work. Be respectful of your host's time.
I once hosted a guyfriend's girlfriend for the weekend. It. Was. Awful. I asked only that they text me to let me know when she would be dropped off each night, so I could let her into the house (I wasn't comfortable giving her a key). They would text me at half ten pm and not show up for four more hours. Really, really frustrating.
I'm not going to be working while I'm in Rome, but I will have personal projects going on -– reading, writing, learning the language, so don't expect that I can or will want to devote every waking hour to doting on you. I'm not a babysitter. I like my independence. You should, too.
You may have just scored a free place to stay, but you are not staying in a hotel and there is no maid!! Clean up after yourself. Make your bed. If you're sleeping on a couch in a public room, fold up your blankets and sheets and pack away your suitcase during the day. Remember: You're in someone else's home.
Most hosts will provide breakfast for you, and sometimes feed you every single meal. (Personally, my lifestyle is not such that I can offer that to a guest, but I've had the good fortune of experiencing it before.) If your host offers to feed you, please let him/her know in advance if you have any food allergies or special dietary needs.
A couple of friends came to stay in my house for a few nights – I asked if there were any allergies or preferences for food before they arrived and the answer came back, "No." However on arrival (at 11:00 at night, I might add) I found out that one of the guests had a milk allergy and was just expecting a piece of toast in the morning. I don't usually keep bread in my house and had nothing to feed her in the morning, despite my efforts.
I am not independently wealthy. Sure, I have a good job, but I live relatively modestly. Don't expect me -- or any host -- to spend hard-earned resources on your vacation. Yes, I want to go and play with you and I can pay for my own tickets and meals, but I'm not going to pay for yours. This is especially true for the time I'll be abroad. My resources will be limited. You'll be expected to pay for your share of what you do.
I live in a duplex house and know the girls who live next door to me fairly well. They somehow ended up hosting a guest for several weeks. Every few days I'd hear horror stories about how awfully this guest was behaving. The guest, an RN (that's a nurse, if you didn't know) with a great job in the area, had her lease run out on her without the option to renew (the house was being sold). She knew it was happening but failed to actually go out and find a new place to live. Instead, she invited herself to stay with my neighbors because it was free. My poor, unsuspecting neighbors!! While the nurse was there, she also (without permission) ate their food. She ran up their utilities. She used their laundry soap. She used their shampoo and toiletries. She monopolized their living room, leaving her clothing and belongings strewn everywhere. She invited her boyfriend over to make out in the living room until the wee hours of the morning, and played movies very loudly. Then she took all the money she saved on rent, utilities, food and toiletries and went to Thailand for several months. To this day, she doesn't think she's done anything wrong.
I'm not sure why there is such a sense of entitlement among so many people these days, and so little willingness to work for what one does have. Mooches are not welcome.
Now that that's all out of the way, we'll get along grandly, so let the good times roll!! (And no, sorry readers, this is not an invitation to perfect strangers or quasi-acquaintances to come and stay with me.)
Having the opportunity, freedom and desire to travel has created endless opportunities for me to visit countries outside of my own, explore different cultures and meet a variety of diverse and interesting characters. I've lost count of the lessons I've learned along the way, but here are my most memorable:
There's no greater education than the one taught outside the classroom
The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it.
A great collection of breathtaking landscapes dotted with wonderful beaches, a cup of sweet Latin vibe melted in the most sensual language, dramatic pueblos reminding of long gone periods, beautiful cities designed by famous artists seems to be the perfect recipe for romance and Spain is the consequence of their combination which gives it the status of one of the most romantic countries alongside France and Italy.
Seville is the capital of Andalucía, the city of Carmen, the birthplace of Don Juan and the recollect of many artists ― Rossini (The Barber of Seville), Verdi (La fotza del destino), Beethoven (Fidelio), Mozart (Don Giovani and The Marriage of Figaro).
If you want to taste the authentic Spanish culture beautifully mixed with Muslim and Jewish art, the outstanding history and the famous tapas you should definitely visit Spain's fourth largest city, Seville. Laid in the valley of Guadalquivir River, this charming city seems to be a piece of heaven with its magical narrow streets and dozens of orange trees blossoming in an eternal spring.
There are many romantic sights in Seville, some of them famous and some hidden in this Spanish paradise, but the air you breathe here, the delightful design of every single minor construction, the bouncy spirit combined with the streets ‘serenity and the brightness of each day are maybe the most beautiful things Seville has to offer.
Seville Cathedral or Cathedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the tomb of Christopher Columbus (research still continues), no wonder this beautiful imposing structure is the city's landmark and undeniably a must see while visiting Seville. The cathedral will offer you, besides its imposing beauty, a valuable history lesson, a lovely blend of architectural styles and a piece of Seville’s uniqueness. Can you believe that someone involved in planning the construction actually said: "We shall have a church of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad!"?
And so was born the Seville Cathedral, a masterpiece designed to show the world the city's welfare and the Sevillanos' passion.
A fusion of fascinating styles- Mundejar, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, the Alcazar is a delightful attraction of Seville, maybe the most romantic one considering its unfamiliar and timeless allure, its presence in history, the wonderful gardens and its part in the passionate and destructive love story between Pedro I and his mistress, Dona Maria de Padilla.
Plaza de Espana is an amazing 50,000 square meters semi-circular construction inside Maria Luisa Park, boasting a ground level porch and first-floor consisting in balconies from where visitors can admire the marvelous view. In the center of the square there is a great fountain surrounded by a canal -- perfect for boating.
There are many things you can do or admire in Plaza de Espana but the most enchanted one is probably the chance you have to see the entire Spain concentrated in 48 tiled alcoves along this beautiful square.
Being the point of intersection of several histories, religions and cultures, the city lies somewhere in time between two worlds, keeping the flavor of the oldest one inside, and blowing it out little by little through its cobblestone alleys while the new one still fights for its place.
Spain is known for its autonomous communities and this is not just about the battle between Madrid and Barcelona, it's about the passion that you can notice in people's voices when they talk about the region they belong. Seville's locals are maybe the most enthusiastic persons I've ever met when it comes to their town, leading this pride to the extreme. This might seem unusual to some but the paradox is that once you have lived for a while in Seville and you have learned enough about this beautiful paradise, you will begin to act and think like them.
I've always thought that Seville must be a flamboyant city, even before taking my first trip to Andalucía but I have never imagined that it could be so beautiful and charismatic. Maybe I hadn't read enough about it or maybe it's indeed an underrated destination, but I was irremediably captivated by the way Seville has perfectly identified with the image I've always had about Spain as a country and about everything Spanish- ruffled colored dresses, brunette ladies wearing red lipstick and flowers in their hair, sunny days, guitar music, good will and Latin flame in its purest form.
A city like Seville doesn't fit in an article, no matter how complex the item would be, it might not be entirely revealed in a thousand articles and photos but I still enjoy sharing my lovely memories about it and I will probably continue writing about more interesting things that I've seen and learned during my stay in the beautiful city of Seville.