Sunday, July 29, 2012

Take A Non-Traditional Approach To Lodging For Your Next Vacation

Trying to find a place to stay when you travel can be stressful. We found this out recently on our vacation to Washington DC. Not only did we have just a week to find lodging, but we also had a strict budget to follow.

So while I was taking the traditional route searching for hotel rooms, Rick was searching for rooms through Airbnb a website that brings travelers and private parties that have rooms, apartments, condos, or houses for rent. I had never heard of Airbnb before, but had heard of Homeaway and Couchsurfing.

While my hotel search was bringing up expensive rooms with an added parking fee of anywhere between $20 and $40 a day! Yikes! Rick came up with a few choices, an apartment right downtown, a room with private bath in the Georgetown area, and a room in a huge house in the suburb of New Carrollton. After contacting the apartment owner through email to no response, and the Georgetown listing disappearing. We took a close look at the bio of the New Carrollton house. Turned out they are a married couple whose children were all out of the house. So they had this huge house and all these bedrooms. She lived in London in the past and he is from Jamaica. They seemed well traveled so they could relate to the needs of the weary traveler.

We were able to read reviews from previous renters and see pictures. Our house had plenty of pictures, but no reviews. This was a little scary but we took a leap of faith and booked 2 rooms at $65 a piece. Plus the fee Airbnb tacked on. One room for Rick and I and one for Megan. We did not have a private bath, which ended up being absolutely no problem. Soon after booking our rooms online our host Ann Marie called to ask us questions. I found her incredibly friendly so I was put at ease. She had said this was a new thing for them and they had just listed their rooms.

When we arrived at their house the next weekend we found their house to be warm and comfortable. Our hosts were wonderful and very helpful. We work up every morning to a big breakfast to start out our day.

In the end it was a great experience! We drove to the metro stop, which was only a couple of miles away from the house, every morning. Parked and took the train into DC to see all the sights. We pretty much were gone all day and would come back later at night. The neighborhood was very quiet and safe.

Would we do it again? Absolutely! I would highly recommend this alternative to staying at the huge hotels which can be impersonal, very noisy, and uncomfortable. Just be sure to read the reviews and have a few places in mind in case one doesn't reply to your inquiry. So next time you are planning a vacation check out this alternative to the big box hotel chains! As I write this I am on Airbnb checking out places to stay in Paris!! Just to put on my wish list.......for now anyway

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Road Trip-Washington DC Part 2....Georgetown

Call me crazy, but I think my favorite part of the trip was walking the back streets of Georgetown. We arrived on Sunday immediately dropped our baggage at the BNB we were staying at in New Carrollton (after we met our most gracious hosts for the week Ann Marie and her husband Glen) and set out.

First we had to figure out the metro. This was gonna be interesting since I was the only one who new anything about riding public transportation. I did have an app on my android phone, which contained a map of the metro so this helped. The only experience I had was riding the Metra into Chicago and using the bus system there a couple times a year and briefly riding the subway in Paris last year.

We ended up figuring out the ticket machines found at every stop and purchase 3 reloadable paper cards to use in our entry and exit at every destination. Believe me I was thankful for our tour leader in Paris, Mike, because the lesson he gave us subway rookies at that time proved invaluable to me this time!

After purchasing our tickets that we used all week to get around, I had my trusty Streetwise laminated Washington DC map and away we went. Now this was a virgin experience for Rick and Megan. They were a little anxious about it and were depending on me to know what I was doing! Boy did I fool them! I knew two basic things-the last stop in the direction we were going and the stop we needed to get off at. I was not going to let them see that I was less than sure of myself.

Anyway we made it to the Foggy Bottom stop even after we needed to transfer to another train to get there. Success! We exited the stop and realized we could walk to Georgetown from there instead of taking the convenient DC Circulator bus. Our first stop in Georgetown was for lunch at the French bistro La Madeleine. Of course I would choose this place over say......Subway! Here I had a classic Croque Monsieur and split it with Rick.

I had just two things that I really wanted to do in Georgetown, go to the famous Georgetown Cupcakes and satisfy my sweet tooth, and see the townhouse JFK and Jackie lived in during the time he was a senator. My Frommers guidebook also suggested to walk the quaint back streets off Wisconsin Avenue for views of the beautiful townhouses and gardens. This had to have been my most favorite thing about the trip other than seeing the Inaugural Gowns of the First Ladies at the American History Museum.

I have to say I am a sucker for a colorful front door and Georgetown was LOADED with them. The beautiful gardens in front of these homes were magnificent and lush unlike the drought stricken gardens of home.

By this time we had had enough of walking in the sweltering heat so I had to find Georgetown Cupcake next. When we approached the street it was on from the back we notice a tell-tale line up of people waiting for something. Yes, this had to be it. I was told to expect a line out the door.

Rick and Megan thought I finally was hit with heat stroke and said I was crazy, but this was on my list of must do's and I took my place in line. I have never shied away from a long line be it in Chicago for Garretts popcorn or waiting in line for tickets to get in somewhere. Lines do not scare me! They took off and left me standing in line by myself. I knew the closer I got to the door they'd be back, because curiosity would get the better of them. Sure enough after snagging a menu from someone (they pass out menus at the door so you can decide what you want before) and waiting for about 20 minutes my fellow travelers took my side with me! Might I add that even if you decide what you want before you get in the store, be prepared to change your mind when you actually enter and see all those cupcakes on display. I decided on Lava Fudge BTW! We ate our cupcakes which were very yummy!

After that I knew Rick and Megan had had enough and even though I could have wondered around for longer it was time to head back to our home away from home for the week.

We strolled up Wisconsin Avenue looking in the shop windows when I came upon a shoe shop. Something very interesting caught my eye!! These have to be one of the most unusual pair of shoes I have ever seen for real and not in pictures. I wanted to walk right into that shop and touch them- they were so cool. Maybe only for actually keeping on your feet a few seconds but imagine the statement I'd make wearing these puppies!!

Would you wear these??

Enough of shoes already! We made our way up the avenue and since no one wanted to walk anymore, we caught up with the Circulator to catch our metro stop at Foggy Bottom and back to our College Park stop where we parked the van everyday to catch the metro for a new adventure! That was it for day one of our DC trip. Even though my family didn't think much of Georgetown, I sure did!

Still more to come........

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Using Facebook And Twitter On Vacation??

Since I have started using Facebook and Twitter well over a year ago I have used both, mostly Facebook as a means to keep in contact with long lost people in my life. Be it old high school friends, or family that I do not see everyday. In some cases my facebook friends are people I do see almost everyday! (some people you just cannot get enough of!!) you know who you are and yes I am lol-ing right now!

Many times this need to stay in constant contact has gotten me in trouble. I have this little voice in my head that says when you are on vacation you should disconnect and enjoy the time away. Then, that VERY social part of me cannot disconnect. I want my friends to be able to see pictures and read about what I am doing. It's much better in real time than trying to remember things when you get home. If they don't care then they can choose if they want to look at all 40 pictures I have posted or not!

My question is this. Is it right or wrong to be always connected on vacation? I can respect an individuals choice. If my friends who are on Facebook choose to totally disconnect on vacation, I am all for that. Usually I will ask next time I see them or send a personal message. Mostly because I am genuinely curious about what people do and where they go when they travel. Sometimes I have to live vicariously through them!!

On the other end I worry if I post too much when I am on vacation. I do not wanna be that person that posts every little detail of their every move. At least I HOPE I am not that person. I really would think that my Facebook friends are people who like me for who I am. That includes being a very social person.

Where I really get in hot water is some people just refuse to have anything to do with social media and think it is an evil force. To each his own, but I do not think it is right if those people get angry with you for posting pictures and the like in real time on Facebook and then I have to face the wrath of them when I get home and they get upset when they are the last to know or see your pictures from your trip.

Yes, there is a time and place for sharing major news with people in your life. Somethings are better left as a personal announcement. Innocent vacation pictures or posts are not one of them.

I am who I am and I love to be around people. I love keeping in contact with people and sharing things. To me that is what friendships are about.

Maybe I am completely wrong. In any case if you are my Facebook friend and a Twitter follower you can be sure since I am currently on vacation this week that I will be posting pictures and letting you know what I'm up to!!

I am curious-am I the only one that thinks this way?? Let me know!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip....Fourth Of July In Washington DC

Some people wouldn't dream of getting in their car to drive 15 hours to go on vacation.  Myself, well quite frankly I would get on a skateboard to travel to a new destination.  Well.... maybe not a skateboard, but although I do not mind flying, the rest of my household refuses to get on a plane.  In this case when we decided to head to DC for the week of our nations birthday I was excited for the road trip.

Seems to me more and more families are deciding to take the time to drive to their destinations either going by RV or just hoteling it.  The reasons are numorous. Avoiding airtravel hassels may be a big one.  At the time of our trip gas prices were pretty good (the least we paid for gas was $3.09 in Indiana).  I just love nothing better than watching the countryside roll by.  There is no better way to see things!  Lets face it, you can't round a corner in the mountains only to behold a beautiful valley with a cute town complete with a white steeple church on a plane when you are 2000 feet in the air. You can't be suprised by a bridge that crosses a river that is breathtakeinly 200 feet up in the air and you certainly cannot witness the beauty our vast country has to offer.

So we happily set off for our trip on the Saturday before the fourth at 8:00 in the morning and began our family vacation.  We made it to Somerset, Pennsylvania that first day before we stopped for the night.  We were road weary by that time. Over 12 hours on the road.  In the end Pennsylvania was our favorite state to drive through.  I had never been that way before so this was a new experience for me.  What a beautiful country we live in!

More on our trip coming up......

Monday, July 9, 2012

Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting Travelers

Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting Travelers This link will take you to a great post from Budget Travel on this inexpensive way to travel. Last week on our way to Washington DC we met several of these bright colored busses on the road. I did use the Milwaukee-Chicago service once and although I was not happy with my return trip because of the driver making a mistake and not letting me off at the stop I needed to go to, it still was a economical way to travel.