WKND104: Airbnb – Tips for a Great Stay

 

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Vacation rentals have been a popular means of accommodations for a long time now, but it felt out of many people’s reaches until recently. Airbnb has been the answer for travelers wishing to see the world in a more authentic way. It puts hostess’ right in touch with travelers, allowing them full control of the process, from booking to hosting. It’s the modern call to the the bed & breakfast, but on your own terms.

There are many different types of rentals out there, from loft-styled apartments to the quaint guest house out back, and everything in-between. Hostess’ can list a room in their house, their own space if their out of town, or a rental property solely used for vacationers. This style gives travelers tons of options in nearly every price point. What’s more, it provides travelers the option to stay in more residential places that are generally cutoff to tourists because of the lack of hotels. Hostess’ make money, and travelers feel more at home and less like a tourist.

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After using the service a few times as a traveler (and loving it!), I have uncovered a few things that I want to share with you all, in order to make your experience all the more rewarding!


Read Reviews on the Property and the Hosts

We all get the deal on reviews, so I’m not going to tell you how to read one. But, I am going to tell you what to read.

Every property has it’s own reviews, which are important to read to get an honest feel on the area and the space. But, also make sure to read the reviews on the hosts! At the top of every listing is a user avatar of the hosts: click on that to show you their profile and track record with other travelers. You will be able to see reviews from every property they host; this will give you insight into not just the property you want to rent, but those hosts in general.

It’s important to know you have hosts that are easy to access and communicate with, so reading multiple reviews will give you some good insight into whether or not you will have an easy experience during your stay. I am not saying this is a full-proof method, and I am sure there have been circumstances where people have had different experiences, but equipping yourself with the most information possible never hurts.


Watch Cancellation Policies

If you are used to hotel travel, beware with Airbnb cancellation policies — they are different.

Airbnb uses a 3-tier cancellation policy structure, where the host can choose which they want to abide by for their spaces: flexible, moderate, and strict. Flexible and moderate policies allow for full refunds if you cancel your reservation (5 days prior for moderate, 1 day prior for flexible). Airbnb’s strict policy only allows for a 50% refund if you cancel at least 7 days prior to check in. This can be a big problem for people if they didn’t realize what they booked ahead of time and plans change.

I try to book spaces with flexible or moderate cancellation policies because it’s ultimately less of a fiscal liability to you should you need to change your plans. Be on the lookout for each host’s policies before you book.

To learn more about Airbnb’s cancellation policies, click here!


Remember, It’s Not a Hotel

Please remember, this is not a hotel. You are staying in someone’s home/vacation property, and as much as you are reviewing your hosts, your hosts are reviewing you. Respect your surroundings and the rules your hosts have established. And if you have a problem or see something wrong, contact them through the app; shooting them a quick message and, I promise, they will thank you for it.

Also, don’t forget to be thankful to your hosts. They put a lot of time into making sure your experience is positive. From stocking the place with goodies to checking in once in a while to make sure “you’re good,” be sure to thank them after your stay and leave them positive remarks for others to see. If you don’t have a good experience, make sure to get in touch with Airbnb’s Resolution Center.


Final thoughts…

Airbnb may be the new kid on the block, but it’s making waves in the hospitality industry and offering travelers like you the opportunity to experience more!

I’d love to know if you’ve used Airbnb before, and what your experience was. I know every person has had a different experience from different hosts: did you have a standout host that you loved, or a property you’d go back to in a heartbeat? Was your experience less-than-stellar? Let me know in the comments!

AND, if you’ve never booked an Airbnb before, follow this link for a $20 credit on your first booking!

xoxo
Amanda

WKND103: Weekend Beauty Hacks

I am the first person to admit that I always think I am going to put way more effort into my beauty routine while I am away than I actually ever do. I really believe the thought of going on a trip, no matter how short or long, gets you amped up to look your best. But who really has the patience to blow out your extremely thick, curly hair, or pour on the makeup when you could be exploring the town, hiking the hills, or chillin’ on the beach? Not me.

When we go away on the weekends, I like to bring products that can multitask, stand the test of a full day out, and fit in my purse if necessary. It’s important to downsize your normal routine so you don’t have to lug EVERYTHING you own with you for 2 days away, but even more important is to bring the items that will give you the biggest value for the space. Here are my top 3 products I take away with me on every trip (all available from Birchbox, FYI!)


Dry Shampoo

I can’t begin to the express my love for dry shampoo. I’ve tried so many different kinds and it really is a lifesaving hair-saving product. Absorbing the yuck of day or two old grime while adding volume is kind of the best thing to ever hear if you’re a girl on the go. And when traveling, you want to make the most of your days, so washing your hair is just not something you want to deal with if you don’t have to. Birchbox has a great video that breaks down several different brands and exactly how to use them, which is perfect if you’re new to the game.

My personal favorite is Amika’s Perk Up Dry Shampoo. I can’t get into the science of it, because I am not that intelligent, but I know it’s formulated with obiliphica, which really makes your hair feel soft and look super refreshed, and is free of any parabens, sulfates, or phylates. Point is, it’s just good stuff making your hair feel alive again (and makes it smell super good again, too)! So when you’re traveling and you’re making the most of your day, you can start off with refreshed hair or give it a pick-me-up during the day! Best part: it’s available in a handy 1 oz. size, perfect to keep in your purse or carry-on so you’re never without it!


Leave-in Spray

Whether you’re fighting frizz, protecting strands from your flat iron, or detangling messes, an all-in-one leave-in spray is a must have both #IRL and on the weekend travel grind. Hair needs to be treated and protected so it always looks its best, but when you’re away you need something that is going to cover all of the bases; you don’t want to have to bring a detangling spray, a UV protecting spray, a conditioning leave-in, a frizz serum, and… you get the point.

You want to look for a leave-in that is going to replenish much needed moisture that has been stripped from your hair from years of abuse. Also, you want to make sure it has UV blocking and frizz-fighting agents to protect your hair from the sun and the humidity! And lastly, you want to be sure it detangles so you can use it after the shower or at the beach!

My number one go-to leave-in is Number 4 Hair Care Super Comb Prep & Protect spray! It has so many amazing ingredients that do soooooo much for your precious strands! Another option that is a little more wallet-friendly: Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle. First off, it smells AMAZING! Secondly, it’s 100% vegan, so if you’re ingredient-conscious it’s a perfect option for you! But, there are so many great options out there for every price range so make sure to check them out!


BB Cream

We are all obsessed with BB Creams. Admit it! They are powerhouses at multitasking because they conceal, even skin tone, moisturize, and are packed with antioxidants and SPF. They literally can replace your concealer, primer, moisturizer, and sunscreen on your weekend rendezvous. RealSimple.com just listed their picks for the “Best BB Creams for Every Skin Type” with my personal favorite and a few other great options on the list.

Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm is my go-to BB Cream. I’ve tried many, and I have several favs, but this one really does the trick. For me, it provides amazing coverage while feeling light on my skin. I am the worst offender of forgetting SPF, so the fact that this has SPF 45 is kind of the best! (I have such fair skin and burn super easily.) It dispenses with a pump, perfectly controlling how much you want so you’re not wasting product. I apply it using a damp beautyblender® (another multitasking gem that a highly recommend) making application is a breeze.


Final thoughts…

Multitasking products are everywhere, and I only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is out there. But, I love these products as the first steps to breaking down your beauty routine. Please, let me know what products you love to bring away with you and share your multitasking favorites! And, if you like what you’ve read, be sure to follow WKND TRVLR to stay up-to-date on all new posts!

As a reminder, everything talked about here is available from Birchbox! Subscribe to their monthly box for a chance to receive these items and other amazing products, or to purchase full size versions at Birchbox.com.


Products Discussed
Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo: Full size $24; travel size $10
Number 4 Hair Care Super Comb & Protect: Full size $30
Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle: Full size $23.50
Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm: Full size $39

 

WKND102: Hotel Deals & Steals

Deciding on where to go on your next weekend trip is the first step, but deciding on where to stay is the second, and sometimes the hardest choice to make. There are so many different accommodation options in all different price ranges available that it can be confusing weighing the pros and cons of all of the them to determine the best value for the money you’re about to spend.

Personally, I’ve experienced all types of hotels, and anyone who knows me understands my need to get the best deal possible. That can be tricky when finding rooms.

Spending a small amount on a hotel normally means less-than-stellar service and amenities, but spending tons can seem like a waste when you aren’t in your room all that much. But then, paying for a rental can seem scary, expensive, and nontraditional. Let me just say that none of the above has to be true if you don’t make it to true.


 

hotel-tonight_couponsLast minute deals will probably make anyone giddy, and HotelTonight is no exception. This mobile app gives you the opportunity to book rooms up to a week in advance of your travel dates at lower rates than most of the competition. How? Hotels would rather book rooms at a lower rate than let them go unattended. HT teams up with hotels in many areas of the world to offer users an easy way to find deals with just a few clicks.

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HT gives convenience a new definition. You literally open the app, scroll through the options, click, and book. A confirmation is sent to you and they do the rest. Even better, Geo Rates give you steeper deals if you are really choosing last minute and are currently in the area of where you are looking to book. It’s a win-win: you get a great deal and the hotel books an otherwise empty room! Whatsmore, HT has introduced a new service called Aces Concierge, where a member of the HT team is at your fingertips, via the app, and in no time they are answering questions, setting up reservations, and reviewing special requests with the hotel. It’s a stress free way to make plans when time is limited in a place you’ve never been.

HT is available on the AppStore & GooglePlay! And as a special bonus, new members get $25 OFF their first booking with code ASOTTOSANTI!


 

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Don’t feel comfortable waiting until the last minute to book a room? JetSetter helps solve that problem by allowing you to book up to a year in advance of your travel date.  That’s a plus when you like to plan out your trips more than a week to a few days ahead of time, which can be stressful for some. However, JetSetter does prove that the closer to your travel date you book, the better a deal you will get. No matter how far in advance you book, there are so many hotel options and choices for every price range.

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JetSetter is the perfect option for someone who also doesn’t want to rely on an app. It is a more mainstream booking option, allowing you to sit down and research hotels all on one site. It even has a built in link to TripAdvisor reviews and user photos, a trusted source for many travelers. Another great advantage is their Today’s Deals & Upcoming Sales sections, which give you the option of booking great deals all over the world, days to several months in advance. You will notice sales that run up to 15 days or less for properties all over, and within each sale is a real-time availability outlook.

JetSetter is available on the AppStore, as well as by visiting jetsetter.com. Follow the link for 5% OFF your first booking!


 

groupon-logoNow, Groupon may be a better answer for planning trips further in advance, but it also offers some great deals for weekend adventures if you are willing to plan them a few weeks out. There are deals on deals to be found on Groupon — you just have to be willing to dig deep and scroll. The site has getaways to be had all across the globe, some spanning weeks, others a night or two. But there are some distinct difference with Groupon’s model that make the search a little harder (but mostly worth it).
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There are two different types of deals you will come across when scrolling through the site; the differences won’t jump out at you unless you know what you are looking for. You will see many that advertise a per night price and others that advertise a flat rate.

Per night deals can be a little misleading; you click on the link thinking every night will be $149 a night (see bottom right deal above) but then you go to pick your dates and you see there are no weekend dates that come close to that rate. This is because Groupon is advertising the lowest standard rate available per night, more similar to what other travel sites promote. These deals are all based on demand. As demand climbs, so do prices, and it soon becomes tough to find a date to book because demand is higher on the weekends.

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The other types of deals you will find on Groupon simply state a price, and normally a generic header with no specific hotel (see bottom left deal above). THESE are where you will get the biggest bang for your buck. There are always multiple options, normally ranging from one night to a few days with different room levels, days of the week options, and/or times of the year.

The price stated on the initial deal is kjskjsd copythe lowest price Groupon has established with the property, normally for the smallest option (ie: one night in a standard room,) and go up from there, proportionately.  They secure deals by limiting how many of each can be bought, which helps the hotel book rooms, but not oversell at low prices. There are strict time limits on when deals must be purchased and some options will be grayed out because they have already sold out. But if you do find an option that works, there is some tricky language to watch for.

You will see stipulations on check-in days and times of the year, most likely making you pay slightly more to lock in a deal for arrivals on the weekend, or for stays during peak seasons. There are other nuances based on each individual deal, so be sure to read the fine print for each one!

If you plan to buy a getaway deal, call the hotel prior to buying the Groupon(s) to make sure they have availability for the dates you are looking to book. There are always strict purchase by and travel by dates, as well as any blackout dates to be aware of that the site posts, so be sure to look for those before buying as well!

Groupon is available on the AppStore, GooglePlay, and by visiting groupon.com.


Final thoughts…
Booking your weekend trip doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you do your homework. Finding the right sites can make all of the difference. The ones I’ve mentioned are just a few of your options out there, so be sure to look around before booking — it’s worth taking some time to make sure you’re getting the best rate out there! But don’t forget to double-check everything before you book!

With any third-party site, make sure you are 100% sure of the date you are booking for. It can be hard to change arrangements through a third-party if they have strict guidelines on cancellations and changes; they do not represent the hotels policies, so be aware of that before you book! Also, if you are like me, no matter where I book I always confirm my reservations, just to be sure I am all set. Take the two minutes to give the hotel a call a day or two before arrival to be positive all of your arrangements are perfect.

Do you have a favorite site you go to for booking travel? Have you had any horror stories you want other people to avoid? Or, do you have any suggestions on what you’d like to see me write about next? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to stay in the know with WKND TRVLR!

WKND101: Plans or No Plans?

Weekend getaways are perfect for driving to up north to the mountains or making plans to hit a big city you’ve never been to. However, it can be intimidating cramming your trip into one weekend.

Two or three days seems short, and it is. But, it doesn’t have to limit you having a great time, wherever you plan to go! The biggest question to ask yourself before you decide to embark is: are you winging it or will you have a rock-solid schedule? There are great arguments for both.

Winging it…
Having no plans gives you the option to spend your weekend away however you wish, exploring the unknown and stumbling upon great places! In my opinion, weekend trips are generally more spontaneous then a planned vacation and afford you the opportunity to be less regimented about scheduling activities. Plus, how far in advance do you really plan them? Maybe a few days to a few weeks in advance at the most (probably).

We’ve wung it plenty of times. Sometimes it goes great, other times it does not. We’ve found awesome local restaurants that can’t compare to the tourist traps most places have, and great artisan shops that don’t carry worthless souvenirs that you actually enjoy walking around in. But, we’ve also wandered into “no man’s land” plenty of times. We’ve ended up in some seedy areas, or aimlessly driving when we thought “we would have hit someplace by now.” It can make you feel like you’ve just wasted a huge chunk of time on your already short vaca.

Having a plan…
You are super organized and like having everything mapped out…no pun intended. You also want to make sure you get everything you can out of your limited time away. It can be a blessing to have a plan. It takes a lot of stress out of having to figure out where to go, when to eat, and what to do.

I am the type of person who likes regimen, especially when I’ve never been in said vacation spot before. I like knowing we have reservations so we know we won’t starve; I love not feeling stressed out about not knowing what to do next once one activity is over; I thoroughly enjoy not getting lost.

But, sometimes it can be hard to stick to a plan. Weather can get in the way and timing things appropriately can be difficult. You never know how long it will really take to walk through that museum or how long it will take to finally get the check, and that can lead to all different types of stress when things aren’t working out EXACTLY how you planned.

Final thoughts…
If going with the flow is right for you, go with it. I say always at least have some places in mind you’d like to visit; if it happens it happens, but if it doesn’t you don’t have to sweat it. And if having structure is more your speed, stick with that speed, but be flexible. You never know what will happen, and sometimes a ripple in your plan can lead to a great find you weren’t expecting.

My suggestion: make a loose plan for your trip, but don’t plan it down to the very minute. We like to go away with general goals and places in mind we’d like to see, but we don’t necessarily have to hold to those goals. It helps us keep an open mind and see the place for what it is. There is plenty you can do to plan while still making it spontaneous.

Make dinner reservations ahead of time, just in case; you can always cancel them if you find a hip spot you want to try instead. Make a list of some places you’d like to visit, both indoors and out, and see how they work into your trip as it goes along. Having some insurances in place will help you make the most of your time away without planning every second.