How to Just Get to The Damn Hotel!

August 4, 2016 at 6:49 pm

How to Just Get To The Damn Hotel

After tackling my fear of flying by embracing Xanax I was ready to eliminate the other anxiety producing situations that have the potential to ruin my trips. When I arrive in a new location I am usually tired and frazzled. I’ve dealt with airport security, finding the right train platform or producing the proper travel documents and am ready to just crash. I’ve found one of the most stressful parts of a trip is traveling to my hotel or Airbnb the first time. I feel like it should be simple, but there are a number of factors that make it pretty difficult just to get to the damn hotel! These are my top 6 tips for finding your accommodations.

 

Reserve

I always reserve at least the first night in advance. I know the fun of finding that charming hotel you’ve always dreamed of, but it is outweighed by the security of knowing where you would lay your head that first night. When you arrive at an unfamiliar spot the odds of finding the perfect hotel right off the bat are slim anyway.

 

Print

I always print out the name and address of my hotel or address of my Airbnb location in both English and the local language. This saved us many times in rural Japan where few people spoke English. I like to have an actual print out in case my phone dies.

 

Get Data

Before I land in the new country I plan for how to get data on my phone. I immediately set up this data at the airport. This might mean renting a portable Wi-Fi or buying a SIM card.  I don’t step out of the airport without data!

 

Ease in Slowly

Most major airports are quite a distance from the city center. I have a couple of techniques for dealing with this. In the case of Japan, we decided to stay in Narita the first night.  We took a 10 minute taxi ride to the hotel and this lovely small town was one of the highlights of our trip. We were about 45 minutes by train from the center of Tokyo, but had arrived in the late evening. The idea of wandering a busy city after a long flight was just too much.

 

Plan

I spend time researching online the best way to get from the airport to the center of town. Tripadvisor can be a great resource for this. Be careful to check that commenter’s advice is current. Rome 2 Rio is another great site for slowing all of the potential transit routes. We happily used HyperDia in Japan. The point is select a simple route without multiple changes that takes you to a major downtown location.

 

My Not So Secret Weapon

My secret weapon is actually the oldest trick in the book: take a cab! I have found that this is one of the nicest luxuries I can give myself on a trip. I’m tired, disoriented and ready to relax. The idea of facing commuters, subway platform changes, hauling luggage, stairs or unfamiliar addresses feels daunting. Hopping in a taxi and handing the driver my pre-printed hotel address feels great!

 

Using these simple tips has eliminated another stress from my holidays. Do you have any tips for getting to the hotel? Please share in the comments.

 

Our 2015 Denmark, Sweden and Germany Trip Budget

July 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm

tOur 2015 Denmark, Sweden and Germany Trip Budget

In the interest of comparison, I’ve decided to take a look at our budget and expenses for our 2015 Europe trip. You can read about our 2016 Japan budget here. We knew we wanted to go back to Europe after spending two weeks in Ireland, London and Paris the year before. We weren’t sure where we would go, so we watched for airfare deals in countries we might want to visit. When a good deal on a flight to Copenhagen popped up we jumped on it. Scandinavia is well known for being pricey, but was definitely on our bucket list. We had heard wonderful things about Berlin, so we added a week in Germany. Once again, there were three adults and the trip was my treat. So here’s what we spent:

Airfare (American)                                            1954.

Hotels: Copenhagen (3 Nights)                       460.
Stockholm (3)                                                      354.
Hamburg (2)                                                        361.
Copenhagen Airport(1)                                     267.

Airbnb Berlin(5 nights)                                     459.

Eurail Passes and Reservations                     1028.

Stockholm Subway Pass                                      60.
Hamburg Subway Pass                                        62.
Berlin Subway Pass                                             137.

Tours: Hamburg Miniature Museum               38.
Berlin Fat Tire Bike                                             165.
Berlin Trabi Tour                                                 132.

Starting Cash (euro, Kroner, etc.)                   500.

Spending Money                                               2700.

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Total                                                                   $8677

 

The conclusion? This was a 14 day trip for 3 adults. We averaged $620 per day and $2892 per person. Again, certain expenses were shared, so the average doesn’t reflect what a single traveler would pay. Compared to our Japan trip(18 days, $7989 total, $444 per day,$2663 per person) we spent quite a bit more. I’d say we’re learning.

 

Our 2016 Japan Trip Budget

July 6, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Takayama Village

We decided to go to Japan on a whim when we found a Black Friday sale on Singapore Air. My daughter had been lobbying to go there for a long time, so the opportunity to fly for just $600 a piece was too great to pass up. I had heard that Japan was expensive, but also that this was a good time to go with a strong dollar and weak yen. I purchased first class Japan Rail passes so that we could reserve seats. To be honest, I was excited to experience the Japanese rail system at it’s best and we had 7 cities to visit, so the extra splurge felt justified. I reserved all of our accommodations two to three months ahead and was pretty careful to balance our needs and budget. I decided to spend about two thirds of our time in Airbnb rentals to give us a bit of extra space, the chance to do laundry plus the ability to cook meals ourselves. During the planning stages, my budgeting felt prudent, not too decadent.
When we arrived, as has happened before, I began to worry that I was spending money hand over fist. I seemed to waffle between one minute throwing caution to the wind, because we may never have the opportunity again and other times running constant numbers in my head. I think because the yen doesn’t simply convert to dollars and taking large sums of cash out at a time saves transaction fees, it was easy to feel like we were barreling through money. So, how did we actually do? When I got home I looked at our spending and jotted down some figures.

 

Airline Tickets (Singapore Air, Black Friday Sale) 1900.

Japan Rail Passes (First Class)                             1648.

Airbnb   Tokyo (4 nights)                                         621.

              Kyoto (3 nights)                                           349.

              Hiroshima (2 Nights)                                 233.

              Asakusa Tokyo (3 nights)                          361.

 

Ryokans Narita  (1 night)                                         161.

               Kanazawa (2 nights)                                  272.

               Takayama (2 nights)                                 348.

               Yudanaka (1 night)                                     149.

Sumo Tour (Viator)                                                  363.

Starting Cash                                                             500.

Spending Money                                                     2568.

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Total                                                                     $7989.

My conclusion? This was an 18 day trip for three adults, averaging $444 a day. At $2663 per person, it feels quite reasonable. Granted, it’s not realistic to average all costs because accommodations and many meals were split, but I’m still content with the final figures. I think the important lesson is to do my best to plan wisely, include some extra padding for unexpected costs and then relax and enjoy the experience.