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Google Earth AirBnB travel vacation safety

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Using Google Earth Find the Perfect Vacation Rental, Hotel, or Hostel

Posted on 13 July 2017 by Leslie Lello

Have you ventured into using AirBnB (or other vacation rental by owner) for travel or are you still unsure about whether it is safe and reliable?

One of the things holding people back is that sometimes the images are not professional and therefore they wonder if they are getting the full story about where the rental is located.

This can happen with all sorts of lodging operations. Even chain hotels use special lenses to make the rooms look bigger and strategically frame the exterior to flatter the hotel.

This happened to me about a year ago when I went on Bookings.com and rented a room for a stay in Hamilton Ontario.

Not only was the person not there when I arrived (after 7 hours of driving) but there were also bars on all the windows. It was not a great neighborhood. I took off quickly and eventually got my money back (with struggle… bookings.com was not great about this) but the important thing is that I learned a lot from the experience.

I was reminded of this 2 months ago when a friend asked me about staying in vacation rentals in New York. She wanted to save money and asked about a particular AirBnB in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the river from Manhattan.

I told her that I only know New York, but that she could check out the neighborhood using Google Earth to get clues as to where she would be staying.

I told her to ask these questions when looking at the vacation rental’s neighborhood with Google Earth:

  • What the parking would be like?
  • How comfortable would she be coming back from New York City with her two kids and walking through this neighborhood?
  • Is there a place to grab breakfast or dinner or a snack?
  • What is the quality of businesses around? Are they Starbucks or are the money lenders?
  • Are the streets clean?
  • Is there greenery?
  • Do the building exteriors look new?

Is there a line where the neighborhood seems to go from good to bad? (In many urban areas, sometimes one block will make all the difference. However, sometimes the best deals are right on that line.)

Watch this video to see an example of using Google Earth to asses the neighborhood of a vacation rental, hotel, motel or hostel you are considering for your next vacation:

 

Side note, so far I have found AirBnB hosts to be exceptional clear and honest in their descriptions of the interior space and exterior neighborhood. This is just an added precaution.

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TorontoPlanetTravelerEcoHostelByLeslieLello_01

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Toronto’s Planet Traveler Eco-Hostel

Posted on 22 September 2015 by Leslie Lello

When I read that the Planet Traveler Hostel  in Toronto was not only an new Eco-Hostel but also in the center of Kensington Market, one of the coolest areas of Toronto, I thought that the price-tag was going to be outrageous, as it sometimes is for shared rooms in major cities.

I was delighted to find out that not only the price was on par or less than several of the major cities I have hosteled in, but also offered me some very comfortable accommodations that came with a very friendly and social atmosphere.

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First floor of Planet Traveler Hostel

The smartly designed rooms are small, but visitors are automatically provided with a key to a tiny locker that not only fits all those shiny electronics that we all like to bring with us, but also includes two electrical outlets so that you can charge your gear while you are resting without worrying about someone grabbing it.

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Multiple doors with Swipes for Keycard to get into the room – very secure.

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Didn’t need this while I was there. Room was nice and dark

Not that I felt that was ever an issue.

When I first arrived at the hostel the room was a mess (sanitary and clean, but clothes everywhere), which made it feel very small. Once the two women that had made the clutter had left, I got to know my other bunkmates very well and we removed all of the remaining clutter the messy roommates had left behind.

From then on, our room was tidy and pleasant.

There was a steady stream of friendly travelers in the room throughout my stay. I felt my belongings were safe in the room, but sometimes outlets are at a minimum in hostels so I am grateful for the lockers with outlets at this location and that they had the foresight to include such helpful innovation.

Speaking of helpful innovation, all guests are REQUIRED to take a tour.

The reason?

The owners of the Planet Traveler hostel want people to know about the ecologically friendly technology that went into the place, like the geothermal heating from the alley next door and the copper wrapped pipes that keep the water piping hot whenever needed.

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Part of the eco tour at Planet Traveler Hostel

Breakfast, consisting of fruit, toast, spreads and coffee, is served until 1pm in the afternoon incase visitors have a late night. I like that this hostel appreciates that people are on vacation and sometimes don’t want to get up at dawn in order to catch breakfast.

While I was there, I also attended a free barbecue on the hostel’s roof, and there were a few other social activities like trivia night and a pub crawl that I would have attended if my schedule allowed.

And about that gorgeous roof…

The roof is where they keep the solar panels that power everything in the hostel – year round.

The roof also has a gorgeous view of the city, and I spent a couple of my nights in Toronto just sitting out on the roof, gazing at the beautiful summer sunset or watching the lights on the CN Tower.

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Toronto’s Skyline from Planet Traveler Hostel’s roof.

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Planet Traveler Hostel Sunset From Roof

It would be freezing up there in winter, but it was delightful during the summer and had better wi-fi than in the main lobby.

And if you are looking for groceries or a reasonably priced meal, Kensington Market (which is really a neighborhood) is a half a block away and offers an overwhelming variety of food choices, and also some very eclectic clothing and shopping opportunities.

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Planet Traveler Hostel Neighborhood is Kensington Market

More Kensington…

kensington Market in Toronto near Planet Traveler Hostel by Leslie Lello

Eclectic art in Kensington Market

Kensington Market in Toronto near Planet Traveler Hostel by Leslie Lello

Green Grocers all around in Kensington Market

Planet Traveler Hostel Neighborhood is Kensington Market

Great Mexican Food at Nine Lives in Kensington Market

One important thing to know when you are booking is that there are only three parking spaces reserved for the entire hostel, so let them know you want one (cost $9 per day).

If you don’t get one, you can always go to a municipal lot for about the same price. You just have to walk a few blocks to your car.

This is the indoor municipal lot I stayed in for about 4 days (cost was about $35)

Carpark 68, 20 St. Andrews Street (Kensington Garage)

Planet Traveler Hostel Municipal Parking In Kensington Market

Planet Traveler Hostel Municipal Parking In Kensington Market

Remember, if you don’t have wi-fi in this country then you have to figure out directions beforehand or find open wi-fi.

Handwritten Directions to my car in Kensington Muni Parking

Handwritten Directions to my car in Kensington Muni Parking

I try to find local small businesses in the area for this, but if I’m not sure, my go-to open wi-fi place in Canada is Tim Horton’s, which also has good coffee and snacks that are reasonably priced.

Trusty Tim Horton's for Coffee and Wi-Fi

Trusty Tim Horton’s for Coffee and Wi-Fi

(But if you are in Kensington Market, do your best to support the local businesses. They have had to fight to keep this area cool and unusual and to keep big box stores out, so help them to do that by spending money in the local establishments.)

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How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

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TBP 0022 How to Plan A Staycation That is Awesome!

Posted on 26 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

 

How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

How to Plan a Staycation: My staycation to the paterson museum

VACATION IS A STATE OF MIND.

This has always been my philosophy.

It’s just that it is so easy to stay stressed when in a home environment that most people find it hard to reach that state.

And it is also easy to blow off local adventures because there’s no excessive driving or flying. Because most staycations are only one day with flexible commitments (no car or hotel reservation), one can get to Saturday morning having expected to visit a local park that is an hour away and instead choose to stay in and sleep or do chores because it seems more pressing.

But as we get into one of the most busy seasons of the year, it can become difficult to carve out some travel time.

Mini-Vacations, Local Vacations and Staycations are the way to go when you don’t have a lot of time or resources.

Today’s podcast (TBP 0022)  is about how to plan a staycation that is awesome!

PS: The information on the show I mention can be found here.

 

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TBP 0021 Salem Salem Massachusetts – Trip in Review

Posted on 19 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

This is a follow up to last week’s podcast, to round out the bits about Salem Massachusetts that I was not sure about.

Most important additions to TBP 0020 (last week’s podcast):

  • Parking (the main garage in the mall) is $20. Be aware of that so that you don’t get sticker shock.
  • There is a walking tour provided in most of the tourist guidebooks. The tour follows a red line that is literally painted on the ground. Very helpful!
  • If you’d rather take the Salem Trolley, one of the locals said it was awesome and a really good deal for your money. I haven’t done it but probably will on my next trip!

Happy Travel!

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hostels now pet travel friendly in europe

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Pet Travel Made Easier with Hosteling International

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Leslie Lello

hostels now pet travel friendly in europe

When I created TBP 0004 “Enjoying a Hostel Environment” I mentioned that one should leave the dog home if planning to stay in a hostel. I didn’t think that any hostels existed that were open to pet travel because the logistic of a dorm room are not conducive to such amenities.

It can get too crowded with just a bunch of humans and their huge luggage, but can you imagine adding three barking chihuahuas and a giant St. Bernard to the mix?

That would be utter insanity!

But apparently hostels in Europe have figured out a work-around for the dog issue.

After I posted that podcast, I received an email from Hosteling International with a link to their blog post about a few of the hostels that DO allow dogs.

I was thrilled to read the article because even though I enjoy solo travel, it can get a bit lonely.

The dog obviously keeps me company, and many of the dog-related places that I visit (like dog parks) offer a great way for humans like me to socialize on the road, but there is nothing like finishing a day of sightseeing in a common room or in the kitchen and sharing my experiences while listening to others who also have advice and could guide my next day of touring.

I hope that the American hostels will follow suit and consider opening their doors to pet travel, too.  I love staying at hostels and have really missed the camaraderie and the social way to learn about the the destination.

 

 

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Welcome and thanks for visiting!

My name is Leslie and I am the owner, publisher and media creator of Travel Better Podcasts.

A few years ago I started traveling... (Click Here For More)


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