Tag Archive | "Hostel"

Google Earth AirBnB travel vacation safety

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Using Google Street View 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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travelbetterpodcasts.com hostel buffalo niagra

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Shuffling to Buffalo Hostel

Posted on 27 July 2015 by Leslie Lello

 

travelbetterpodcasts.com hostel buffalo niagra

 

I am still on the move as I write this, but just wanted to post about my stay at the Hostel Buffalo Niagara (also referred to as Buffalo Hostel), a “non-profit hostel is in the heart of downtown Buffalo’s Theater District”.

I am a little groggy in the video. Sorry about that.

A friendly Indian family had shared some chai with me that morning, but it wasn’t as caffeinated as my usual espresso. At least I’m keeping my media shorter these days.  🙂

And here are a few more shots of the room I stayed in:

 

travelbetterpodcasts.com buffalo niagara hostel

Private room at Buffalo-Niagara Hostel (New York State)

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Private room at Buffalo-Niagara Hostel (New York State)

 

To read more about the hostel, visit Hostel Buffalo.

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Exterior of Buffalo-Niagara Hostel (New York State)

I don’t really have much to say about the City of Buffalo because both times I have been there, it was only because I was passing through.

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TPB 0019 California and the Sierras - Ski and Snowboard

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TPB 0019 California and the Sierras – Ski and Snowboard

Posted on 05 October 2013 by Leslie Lello

TPB 0019 California and the Sierras - Ski and Snowboard

 

Today I discuss three separate areas of California where you can enjoy the slopes.

The three ski/snowboard areas I will be covering today are:

  • Big Bear/Snow Summit area near Los Angeles (also a nod to a few tinier snow hills)
  • Mammoth Mountain / June Mountain
  • Lake Tahoe – which includes 7 separate ski resorts

I’ve heard people that typically ski the Rockies refer to the snow on the California mountains as “Sierra Sludge” because it tends to get very heavy by the end of the day and there is a TON of it (usually in big piles) by the time the sun starts going down.

Coming from the East Coast, the “sludge” they are referring to is AWESOME. It took a bit of adjusting in my skiing style, but it’s wonderful compared to the East Coast hard pack.

So I hope you enjoy today’s podcast. I had audio issues on this podcast. I was so enthusiastic to start recording that I forgot to clip my mic to my shirt, so it sounds like the mic is constantly bumping into things (which is it). I apologize for this, but I liked the content and if I re-recorded it I feel like I would have just breezed over the content rather than get into the details, so I chose to post this show with the icky audio.

If you don’t want to listen because if the audio pops, you can glean what you need from the podcast notes.

Thanks!

Leslie

 

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TBP 0018 Ski Utah Powder

Posted on 28 September 2013 by Leslie Lello

Winter is on it’s way! Time to talk skiing!

SKI UTAH!

Inspired by a mega Ski Group Meet-up in New York, I decided to create a show about Utah, one of my favorite places to ski.

I got really jazzed when one of the groups was telling me about their upcoming trip to Brighton, which is one of many ski resorts located around Salt Lake City.

I have skied Utah many times. Most experiences were great but the last time resulted in an injury for the person I was with so I also became very familiar with Salt Lake City, which I also talk about on the podcast.

But most of the focus of today’s podcast is on Park City and the ski resorts that are located around Park City.

  1. Dear Valley (skiers)
  2. Park City
  3. Canyons

I talk about packing strategy, too. When you fly to Utah for the skiing, it’s good to know what NOT to bring because between equipment and bulky clothes, there’s already a ton of stuff to drag from the baggage carousel.

Finally, I also talk about some lodging strategies if you are planning to be in Park City during Sundance Film Festival, which is not only a great time to see some great flicks, but the slopes are great at that time, too.

DEALS RIGHT NOW: https://www.skiutah.com/winter/deals/showme/member/550579887.html

The ski resorts around Salt Lake City: http://www.onthesnow.com/utah/ski-resorts.html

I mentioned on the podcast a lift ticket /ski ticket deal with The Canyons. I have information on last year’s deal, and actually, several ski resorts participated. I have not seen any information on whether this deal is happening this year (2013-2014). Here is some information on last year’s deal (Look at listing number 4 on this webpage): http://www.saltlakecityonthecheap.com/free-or-cheap-ski-lift-tickets-in-utah/

Winter Activities in Park City besides skiing and snowboarding: http://www.visitparkcity.com/things-to-do/winter-activities/

 

*** Sorry no pix this week… photos are trapped on a grumpy computer other than the one I am typing on right now.  Will revise later when I have access. ***

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TBP 0017 Chicago – A Nice Place To Visit…

Posted on 21 September 2013 by Leslie Lello

Ramlbin Chicago - 11

Yes, I know I said I would never do a podcast about Chicago, and to tell you the truth, it took me a while to figure out how to I would present the city in an honest way – both celebrating the fun of traveling as a tourist while also being forthright about my learnings from living there for over a year.

I think I achieved a good balance in TBP 0017, so if you are interested in visiting Chicago, this podcast should give you not only a great overview, but a few tips that most tourist don’t know and tour books don’t tell you.

I would love to hear feedback about this podcast.  Despite all of the trepidation I experienced before the recording, I think this is one of my better ones.  🙂

PODCAST NOTES FOR TBP 0017: Traveling in Chicago: A Nice Place To Visit But I Wouldn’t Want To Live There

Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.
I refer to it in the podcast as the “red bus tour”

 

Howard Johnson’s on LaSalle
I have heard the quality is questionable. I didn’t mention this hotel in the podcast and have never stayed there, but you can’t beat the parking situation and fabulous location.

 

Museum of Science and Industry

 

Architecture Tour

 

Hosteling International Chicago
There are many hostels in Chicago, but this the one I have stayed at a few times. It’s in The Loop which is the main part of Chicago.

 

Eva’s Cafe
(Near The Second City)

 

The Third Coast (Restaurant)

 

Article on the best beaches of Chicago

 

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TBP 0016 McMenamin’s (Do Doooo Do Do Do)

Posted on 14 September 2013 by Leslie Lello

Ramblin Oregon - McMenamin's - 05
Back in the day when people still read books for pleasure and information, I found Edgefield McMenamin’s in my trusty book of hostel reviews when I was looking for a place to stay around the Portland, Oregon area.

Despite the glimmering review in my book, I had no idea how wonderful and unusual a stay at McMenamin’s would be.

Not only is there a hostel (and one of the most luxurious ones I have visited), but there is the actual hotel where travelers who do not want to share a bunk can relax in a private room.

But as I explored the landscape, I was thrilled to discover that the hostel actually had a resort ‘feel’ to it, with beautiful grounds, artwork everywhere you look, a brewery, a wine tasting room, music events, a screening room and a spa with a salt pool.

You can also play golf or go off the grounds to explore Portland or the Colombia River area.

Today’s podcast is about my discovery and my “Alice-Down-The-Rabit-Hole” experience at this festive and magical surprise location.

SIDE NOTE: If you are in the Portland, Oregon area this weekend, you should see if you can make it in to McMenamin’s “Half Way to St. Patrick’s Day Celebration”. The big party for this year is TODAY September 14th, 2013!!!

http://www.mcmenamins.com/54-edgefield-home

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travel_Better_Podcasts_Hostel_Environment_Episode_TBP_0004

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TBP 0004: Enjoying a Hostel Environment: Hosteling for Fun, New Friends, Travel and Saving Money

Posted on 23 June 2013 by Leslie Lello

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Today’s podcast is about the wonderful world of hosteling – staying in hostels as you travel around the world.

I have used hostels extensively through out the United States and in some parts of Europe because there are a number of benefits to staying in hostels.

My podcast explains these advantages, tips for first timers and some of my favorite hostels in the United States.

Happy Travels!

Leslie Lello

 

 

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

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