Friday, February 19, 2010

Best Hotels

So after digusting you with the worst, I feel it's only polite to share with you the best.

Trip Advisor's 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards
Ah. That's better. Much better.


Some highlights...

I've never been to Jamaica, but this place makes me want to visit! 
The Caves

Portugal anyone?
Britania Hotel

The Amalfi Coast is definitely on my travel wish list....
Pellegrino Pensione

And Prague.  I've heard great things.  Four of the ten hotels in the "luxury" category are in Prague.  Now I really want to go. 
Golden Well

Even though it didn't make the list and definitely should have, the boutique hotel Casa Isabel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico continues to receive amazing reviews.  We stayed here on our honeymoon and were completely amazed.  
Casa Isabel 
This vacation marks the beginning of my travel mania...and maybe the beginning of food snobbery...

  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Worst Hotels

For me, the thought of staying in a disgusting hotel ruins the vacation. This is exactly why I plan and research hotels soooo much. I don't need the most luxurious accommodations- just clean and not gross. Good service is nice, too. Luckily, there's Trip Advisor (and Rick Steves) to help with the process.

Trip Advisor's 2010 Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels
Ewwwwww.

(For the United States, #3 and #4 are in Virginia Beach!)

Some highlights....

Foreboding but funny review titles
  • Cradle of Filth!
  • UUUGGGHHH!!!
  • WORST HOTEL I HAVE EVER STAYED I MEAN EVEEEER!!!
  • hell

A few lines from reviews
  • "Everything has a foul odor, including you once you check out."
  • "My husband and I now use the title 'The Cat Pee Hotel' to refer to this place."
  • "Avoid like the plague."
  • "I remember sleeping on the sheets in my sleeping bag."
  • "If hell has a hotel, this is it. I'm not surprised to hear it's on the dirtiest hotel list on Trip Advisor."

And these... you just have to read them. I can't even begin to summarize...UNBELIVEABLE!

Never again
"My boyfriend and i needed a quick place to stay for the night and i remembered seeing the Tropicana hotel online-the pictures seemed like a nice, clean, organized establishment. WRONG. well, we called to make a reservation & the guy at the front desk said that the computer system was down he would call us back in a few minutes confirming our reservation. We went and got dinner for about an hour and still no contact. I called back again & he said the systems were still down, however it would be back up shortly. We arrived an hour later to find the systems still down. The manager took our credit information which we were ok with & were understanding with the situation. We were then asked to sign a paper stating that we would not smoke in the hotel and so forth. HAHA. Since the computer system was down-they gave us a master key to the room instead of the usual key card. By this time, we were getting a little antsy. As we proceeded to our room, they realized they gave us the wrong key, so we can to come back down the hall to get another and proceeded to the elevator. The elevator looked like a service elevator. My own boyfriend preferred the stairs before getting on it but we took it anyway. As soon as we got off all you could smell was smoke which was funny because we both had to sign no smoking papers. It was like walking into an enclosed bar with absolutely no ventilation. We got to the door & put the key in to unlock it-i am not lying with the lock itself almost feel out the door handle....that's real comforting. I did not feel safe at all. As soon as we got into the room, we noticed mildew all over the walls, toilet, tub, vents...EVERYWHERE imaginable. Cigarette burns were all over the carpet...we had to leave. The staff was nice enough to give us a refund and they were at least helpful through the whole ordeal but that hotel either needs to be bulldozed down or needs MAJOR renovations. Even after leaving the hotel, we reeked of smoke. If you have kids and or are worried about secondhand smoke-stay as far as you can from this establishment. We ended up going to the Holiday Inn-it was a bit more pricey-but worth the expense."



Peeping Tom
"A member of the staff is a peeping tom! When we checked in, the Manager offered us a free upgrade to the 'Honeymoon Suite'. It was a set up. The 'Honeymoon Suite' had a vacant room next door that was 'under construction'. I was undressed to get into my swimsuit and heard breathing. I felt someone staring at me. I looked under the big gap under the adjoining room door. I saw eyes looking back at me! I freaked out and my husband (we were newlyweds) looked under the door and the guy was still there. We called the front desk and they send Maintenance up. Maintenance said there was no one next door because it was vacant. He knocked on the door to prove his point and, low and behold, the Manager answers! Needless to say that the Maintenance man was dumbfounded, my husband almost beat the Manager's butt and I felt violated. I had to fight to get my money back. Then I struggled to find another place, but everywhere had two night minimums. I hysterically described what happened to the 2 desk clerks at the Howard Johnson's next door. They ended up letting me rent for 1 night and told me that isn't the 1st time they've heard that the Manager at the Tropicana is a pervert!"


 



 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Confessions of a Travel Planner

Confession time.  Some of you know this already and the travel style quiz only confirmed it, but I'm ready to admit it to everyone out there.   
I am a little obsessive when it comes to travel planning.  Really? ME???  (Can you sense the overwhelming sarcasm?)
 
Ah. It's true.  I research every little thing.  I wasn't always like this and haven't been obsessive on every single trip we take.  I recall a visit to London last year...


We were meeting Eddie and it was his second time to lovely London.  So, I didn't do much to prepare.  I figured Eddie was the pro and I put him in charge.  I decided this time I would leave the planning to someone else and just show up.  (Like hubby does EVERY trip.)  I actually took the "wing it" attitude a little too far and forgot to bring specific directions from the airport to the hotel.  I had looked at the route on the map but didn't document it.  I knew what street the hotel was on, but I didn't even have the number.  Eddie didn't have a phone so I couldn't call him.  I hadn't written down the phone number of the hotel either.  We wandered around a few blocks at Victoria Station a couple of times until I finally bought a map.  A massive crisis was avoided and we found the hotel, eventually. 


Now, mostly because of that experience, I may be a little too obsessive.   I research and write down EVERYTHING!  I consult my Rick Steve's book (THE travel bible, in my opinion) a-million-and-one times for every detail regarding whatever we're doing.  My past travel partners can attest. (I apologize now for past and future control-freak behaviors...) It may sound neurotic but it makes navigating a new city much less stressful.  And, I feel being as informed as possible creates the best experience.  No regrets.  (I think it's just the control-freak speaking.)  I can admit "winging it" does have its moments.  We have discovered many neat pubs, bars, cafes, and shops by just wandering.

So, if you travel with me,  be prepared.  I've got almost every detail covered.  I may let you pick the restaurant for dinner, but it's got to be from the guide book of course...
      

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's Your Travel Style?

Remember that travel style quiz...

Curious about our results?
Here they are....






Key:
My answers
Michael's answers
Our answers



1. The most essential item in your suitcase is:


A.... A 12-page itinerary
B.... A currency converter
C.... An engrossing novel
D.... A picture of your kitty, which you plan to stare at longingly
E.... A first-aid kit



2. Imagine staring up at the Eiffel Tower. The thought bubble over your head would read:

A.... "After this, Notre-Dame, then Sacre-Coeur, then lunch on the Left Bank..."
B.... "Twelve euros - to go up that? Rip-off!"
C.... "You know what would go great with this view? A glass of bordeaux."
D.... "I like the one in Vegas better."
E.... "I could so scale this."
*** (I was in between A and C, but the in the end, the wino wins!)



3. Your idea of a perfect meal when traveling is:

A.... At a guidebook-recommended restaurant located within walking distance of ancient ruins
B.... Dining a la carte (meaning, beans and rice from a roadside cart)
C.... Room service
D.... Cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke
E.... Whatever the locals eat: frog's legs, tripe, yak meat, duck feet... 
***(We both thought E too, but aren't into strange and unusual local food like the examples listed)



4. Your ultimate vacation is:

A.... A tour of South America, moving at the brisk clip of two days per city
B.... Backpacking across Europe, staying at inexpensive inns and hostels
C.... At a luxe, shoes-optional resort in the Maldives
D.... A Caribbean cruise, with your entire family
E.... Surfing the North Shore until noon, hiking Oahu's volcanoes till dusk, dancing on the sand until 4 a.m.



5. For you, the whole point of traveling is to:

A.... Soak up every single little thing about a new place
B.... Have a reasonable amount of fun without going into debt
C.... Relax!
D.... Take pretty pictures to show the folks back home
E.... Feel alive, by climbing, biking, riding and/or diving
***(This one was difficult.  I liked all the choices.)


Surprise, surprise! 
I'm a Rigid Planner
Michael's evenly split between Penny-Pincher and Power Lounger.

What's Your Travel Style?

Yesterday, I posted a travel style quiz from Everyday with Rachael Ray (March 2009).  Go here to take it. 

And now, your travel style!





Mostly A's....Rigid Planner

For you, travel is an opportunity to broaden your horizons. Every hour is accounted for, crammed with culture, sightseeing and educational opportunities. But this whirlwind approach can be exhausting, especially for those sharing a hotel room with you.




Mostly B's...Penny-Pincher

Whether by choice or necessity, you have no problem skipping pricey inns and fancy restaurants for campsites and DIY meals from supermarkets. While this approach sets you apart from the average tourist, it can also be a buzzkill for those who enjoy the finer things in life. Like beds.




Mostly C's...Power Lounger

Your idea of a vacation involves plenty of R&R. Who wants to race from one historical site to the next? This low-key vibes makes you an easy travel partner - going with the flow is what you do best - if your travel companion doesn't expect too much from you.




Mostly D's...Homebody

You're either a discerning traveler who has a weakness for creature comforts, or you're apprehensive about the unknown. Either way, sampling new foods and partaking in unfamiliar customs - or having to use a primitive toilet (heck, no!) - make you pine for home.




Mostly E's...Adventure Hound

Whether ostrich-racing, eating fillet o' rattlesnake or partying with the entire Spanish soccer team, you're up for anything - anything! This go-go-go vibe primes you for spur-of-the-moment thrills and surprises.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What's Your Travel Style?

I found this quiz in Everyday with Rachael Ray (March 2009).  Both Michael and I took it.  Check back to tomorrow to find out our responses and to discover your travel style....


1.  The most essential item in your suitcase is:

A.... A 12-page itinerary
B.... A currency converter
C.... An engrossing novel
D.... A picture of your kitty, which you plan to stare at longingly
E.... A first-aid kit

2.  Imagine staring up at the Eiffel Tower.  The thought bubble over your head would read:

A.... "After this, Notre-Dame, then Sacre-Coeur, then lunch on the Left Bank..."
B.... "Twelve euros - to go up that? Rip-off!"
C.... "You know what would go great with this view?  A glass of bordeaux."
D.... "I like the one in Vegas better."
E.... "I could so scale this."

3.  Your idea of a perfect meal when traveling is:

A.... At a guidebook-recommended restaurant located within walking distance of ancient ruins
B.... Dining a la carte (meaning, beans and rice from a roadside cart)
C.... Room service
D.... Cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke
E.... Whatever the locals eat: frog's legs, tripe, yak meat, duck feet...

4.  Your ultimate vacation is:

A.... A tour of South America, moving at the brisk clip of two days per city
B.... Backpacking across Europe, staying at inexpensive inns and hostels
C.... At a luxe, shoes-optional resort in the Maldives
D.... A Caribbean cruise, with your entire family
E.... Surfing the North Shore until noon, hiking Oahu's volcanoes till dusk, dancing on the sand until 4 a.m.

5.  For you, the whole point of traveling is to:

A.... Soak up every single little thing about a new place
B.... Have a reasonable amount of fun without going into debt
C.... Relax!
D.... Take pretty pictures to show the folks back home
E.... Feel alive, by climbing, biking, riding and/or diving