Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How To Be The Smartest Vagabond In The Room of Your Choice

All Travel Planning Should be DIY

It's January 22, 2014. And, like every other January 22 since I was a tyke, the weather sucks, making one and all wish and pray for better climes. Probably to me detriment, I have never been a "Let's go to the Caribbean in January" kind of traveler. We did travel to the Caymans once, many moons ago, on a trip with another couple, who planned the entire adventure. I learned several things about myself and my travel preferences that have informed my travel since. 1) Pick your travel companions carefully. Making small talk and/or plans with someone that you have little in common with can be a tedious chore, 2) The only thing keeping the Caymans from becoming a third world country like many of its neighbors is the fact that it is a British Territory. At least the British bring a civility to the populace that is very unfriendly , particularly to Americans, 3) Don't order ice tea in the Caymans. It is not very tasty and it cost a fortune, 4) Don't go to the Caymans in summer. It is on the equator and, trust me, you will pay and, finally, 5) Do not, I repeat, do not ever let anyone other than you and yours plan your travel. Let's just say that the guy that put this trip together takes a different approach to travel accommodations. A "waterfront" condo, with a couple of window units, that you needed binoculars to actually see the ocean and a rusted out Volkswagen "Thing" to traverse the island with was part of this deluxe package for travelers who just really don't care.

Fast forward to the modern world of travel planning we have at our fingertips in the new millennium, and you can boldly go where no vagabond has gone before, stay at all the right places and come home with some cash left in your pocket or at least have some room left on your AMEX Card.

Do Your Homework
The difference here is that this homework is fun. You can dream your dreams and then, through extreme diligence, make your dreams come true. I mean its not like you're learning the Table of Elements or conjugating verbs, right?

I have said it before, but it bears repeating. Today's traveler has opportunities and choices that simply were not available to any but the most seasoned and moneyed traveler even a scant ten years ago. Like everything else in this new technological world of laptops, tablets and smart phones, the internet has changed everything. And it is getting better all the time. Even the smallest repurposed hay barn in rural Estonia has a web site that will allow you to kick the tires and make reservations on your own terms.  In addition, there are so many travel review web sites, blogs and virtual travel magazines, that you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about the place and never leave your chair. And the travel business is now mobile. That's right - travel sites, hotels, even small intimates have made the jump to New Millennium hipness with their very own apps, so that every thirty something vagabond can have their hand picked cool little hotel right at their fingertips.

From millions of travel related web sites, most of which have corresponding mobile apps for the in the know crowd, check out some very strong sites that will help in your travel planning.

If It Feels Nice, Don't Think Twice
Honest reviewers can make a difference. A good rule of thumb - If the first five reviews are very, very bad, move on. Actual travelers rarely take the time to review unless they mean what they say.

Trip Advisor - This is the big dog of travel reviewing with first person reviews by guests.

Virtual Tourist - Another biggie with a plethora of choices for everything from stuff to do to hotels and restaurants.

Oyster - The boutique hotels page of this great travel site that concentrates on smaller hotels is an excellent resource.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith - This is a great site for the vagabond with some extra cash who wants to take travel to the next level.

Chic Retreats - Only discerning nomads need apply. Great site for people who refuse to settle. Prices from very affordable to ridiculous.

Hip Hotels - From the same people who brought us the Hip Hotels book series, featuring the best of the best in the small hotel world - from concrete wigwams in Arizona to lake front villas in Northern Italy, these guys get it.

Become Inspired
Reading about the exploits of other travelers can open your head and your heart. From the ridiculous too the sublime, people everywhere just got to be free.

Full Course Travel - They sold everything and took off for parts unknown. This blog will give you some insight into what you think travel really means on your own terms.

International Living - The perfect insider information site for wannabe ex-patriots. Where to go, what to do and how to live abroad.

Travel Deep - A deeply personal journal blog that will make you think about where to go and what to do next.

Inspiring Travelers - Tips and trips from a couple of thirty somethings. Great reading.

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Right
And that goes triple for finding that cool little piece of heaven you fall asleep at night dreaming about. These sites are the best of the best. In addition to professional and "regular folk" reviews, they feature some of the best little hotels on the planet. All true vagabonds love little hotels, right?

I-Escape - With pictures, reviews and relevant information, this site will lead you to some of the great small hotels the world over. I have stayed in many featured hotels, and have never been disappointed.

Epoque Hotels - Where would you like to go today. Epoque will make sure you lay your head on a stylish pillow when you arrive.

Tablet Hotels - The hotel site for vagabonds who want only the best. Somewhat pricey, but deals can be had.

AIRBnB - The frugal vagabond's savior. This great site proves you can have your cake and eat it too, literally. The AIRBnB place we bunked at in Oregon left us hot scones at our door for breakfast. The place had it all - great interiors, great location, great bed and all the perks - for the ridiculous sum of $75 per night - Bright Airy Studio In The Trees. As they say in Alabama - it don't git no better!

Boutique Homes - A hotel site near and dear. It's focus on design makes it unique. Featuring homes and small hotels in every setting imaginable, many by world famous architects, this site is for vagabonds for whom design matters.

So, its January, but, spring is just around the corner, so get busy. Remember, just as the early bird gets the worm, vigilant vagabonds get the best seats in the house for a lot less money!

Happy Hunting


Travel Quote of The Week - “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” - Oscar Wilde.

Video Artist of The Week - From Bridge Over Troubled Water to Graceland, this versatile artist has given us a lifetime of great music - Paul Simon.


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