The Need to Know – Accommodation

You’ve received your passport and have considered how you are going to get to where you are going. Now you ask yourself “Where am I staying?”. Unless you have family or friends with a comfy room and warm bed for you, the default answer tends to be “a hotel”.  Nothing wrong with hotels, actually I quite like them, however they are not the only choice.  There is something for just about everyone and every budget. I have listed these alphabetically.

Apartment/Condo Rentals: The comforts of home while you are away is a great way to relax and often save money. Since they come with the amenities of home (stocked kitchen, furnishings, and perhaps even WiFi) apartment rentals (also called Vacation Rentals) are becoming a popular way to stay around the world. Safe and secure sites like AirBnb and Wimdu have thousands upon thousands of listing and safe and secure setups so you know what you are getting. These apartments are owned by individuals who rent them out to travelers via the rental service. Rates per night fall into a large range, depending on location and size.

Camping: Often people go camping as a holiday or vacation in and of itself. However, it is also one way to stay somewhere that is popular, especially if you are on a road trip. Many countries allow for camping for a small fee at national and provincial parks. Often you have to book these spots in advance and they do offer amenities like showers and toilets nearby. Other places (and it is more common than you would think) allow you to pitch your tent for free, however you will more than likely be without a shower and have to use nature when it calls. Canada has numerous areas like this. You just have to provide your own tents and sleeping gear.

Motels: Motels often get bad raps. They are associated with the lower end of the accommodation scale, only one up from hostels. Think dark, dank rooms with old stained wallpaper that is peeling from the corners to bathrooms with stains and unreliable plumbing. Throw in a lumpy mattress and you have motel hell.  Truth is that motels these days are not so bad. They are cleaner, more modern (in some cases) and easily located on major roads and highways. Some even come with minor kitchen supplies like a refrigerator, sink, microwave and coffee maker.  Throw in a pool and you are all set. The great thing about motels is that you do not necessarily need an advance reservation. Prices will vary and do note that in some popular tourist areas the price may be inflated. When I stayed in Penticton, BC motel the cost was equal to a moderate hotel. 

Home Exchanges: Did you see the 2006  movie “The Holiday”?  In the film Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz swap homes via a home exchange service as the backdrop and then the story ensues. Using a home exchange service allows you the comforts of home and possibly a great neighbourhood to stay in and get to know an area like a local. There are numerous sites out there so do your homework and find out all the details. A popular one is Home Exchange.

Hospitality Stays: These are organizations made up of members (you must sign up to take advantage of them) that offer travelers a place to stay for free either in a spare bed, couch or the floor. It is a fabulous way to save money and get to know the locals in the area you are visiting. Now many think that this is unsafe as you do not know who you are staying with or who will be staying with you if you host. That is why membership is mandatory and completing your profile is recommended. Members leave references for other members that remain on your profile. These give an indication of what type of experience was had by both and the type of host and guest they are. Often these hospitality exchange also have active memberships in larger area where social events are organized such as hikes, city tours, potlucks, beaches days etc. I myself am a member of the largest of these organizations, Couchsurfing. Others include The Hospitality Club, Be Welcome and Global Freeloaders. A slight variation on the hospitality stays is Staydu, where you can stay with someone for free or in exchange for help or just plain money.

Hostels: As I mentioned under motels, hostels have received a bad rap. Many view them as the seedy places that rough and dirty backpackers stay and party. I am here to tell you that is not true. While it is possible to still find less than clean hostels or have a bad experience with a drunken dorm mate that does not mean they are all bad or that that is even the norm. Hostels these days are usually clean, safe yet modest. I have stayed in a number of hostels and will stay in them in the future. Even though most hostels rooms are dormitory style most of them also offer private rooms. You will find you have a locker to store your stuff and clean sheets are provided. Showers and toilets are usually in its own room in your dorm. Many hostels also provide kitchens, laundry service and provide tours and information. Since most hostels are part of a larger network you can find them in most every city and town around the world. The two largest networks are Hostelling International and Hostel World. The other bonus that comes with hostels it the incredible opportunities to make new friends!

Hotels and Resorts: Ah, the most familiar lodging available to travelers. This what comes to mind when most think of accommodations when away from home. Often conveniently located with room selections for everyone. Hotels come in varying styles and price points. It can be a headache to try to choose. That is why you need to know what you want from a hotel. Family friendly? Business oriented? Relaxing? Or simply a place to lay your head in comfort? Answering those questions along with your budget and location needs will help narrow down your search. Additionally, booking sites and online travel agencies can make the choice easier. If you are going on a package vacation there is usually a choice of resorts to choose from as well. and Expedia are two ways to make hotels choices around the world. Reservations are usually required and a major credit card is needed upon check-in. Price points will vary. Hotels are usually moderate to expensive. Though, sometimes a good deal can be found. Also be careful if rooms rates are offered per person or per room. It’s all in the details.

House-sitting: Care to do a bit of work in exchange for staying in someone’s home? Perhaps house-sitting is for you. With sites like House Carers and Mind My House you can learn how it’s done and what is expected. Many places will ask you to watch their pets and gardens and collect the mail. In return you get to stay in their home and get to know the area. – Sounds like a win – win situation to me.

So there you have it. Some great options for lodging. We are all different so it’s natural that we have different choices in how we travel and where we stay. I hope this has helped some of you!

Clipart credit here.

Disclaimer: The information provided on “Eeva’s Wanderings” is meant only as tips and suggestions. I, the author, am not responsible for any harm, injury, lost of life or property or any other misfortune that may occur should anyone act on or re-use the information or their interpretation of the information provided. I will try to provide up-to-date information but I am not responsible for any information that is out of date or incorrect. All opinions are my own and in no way are meant to mislead, defame, harm, humiliate or injure anyone.

Hawaii on the cheap

Ah, Hawaii – a beautiful American archipelago in the South Pacific. Blue splashing waters, lush green mountains, intoxicating fragrant flora, and a money-sucking, wallet draining headache. WHAT??!?! Uh Eeva – you describe paradise and then ruin it by introducing the reality of the cost of paradise?! What up with that?

Well it’s true – Hawaii can be an expensive place to visit. The hotels don’t all offer all inclusive options. There are tour groups around that will charge you for all sorts of things (some worth it, some not). And since much of the food has to be shipped, often refrigerated, via container ships the food is not always cheap and ice cream NEVER is. Then there is the designer shops all along the main street by Waikiki Beach (Coach, Ed Hardy, Guess, Prada, etc). Yep, you can spend a crap load of money in Hawaii…or not.

This is what I did to save money on activities. Granted I didn’t do a lot – I did spend time just lazing around, which suited me fine. Though, the few things I did I did not spend too much money.

1. USE THE BUS! Oahu has a good transit system. It may take a bit longer at times to get from one place to the other but you’re holidays so what’s the rush?! Besides, you’ll probably enjoy the air conditioned ride. The cost is $2.50 (exact change) per ride and you’re given a transfer that is good for 2 hours. That being said, I did notice that many of my transfers were actually good for up to 4 hours. That saved me some bus fare. You can also purchase at 4 day unlimited visitor pass for $25. Any ABC store sells them. And the bus driver’s know where everything is – a great resource.

USS Arizona Memorial

2. FREE ENTRANCES USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL at PEARL HARBOUR. By law the entrance to the Arizona Memorial is free. There is 75 minute guided tour (a film & boat trip to the Memorial). Tours are first come first serve from 8am – 3pm and be prepared to wait. Tickets are handed out at the information desk. I waited 45 min which was a good amount of time. I went to the snack shop and bought an egg salad sandwich which I ate while looking out at Pearl Harbor. I then looked around at the commemorative plaques that listed the names of all the soldiers and civilians lost during the bombing. After, I proceeded to one of the free interpretive exhibits to learn more about the Pacific aspect of WWII.  It was then time to proceed to the theatre for tour. The tour was very somber and just confirmed in my mind that nobody wins when there is war.

Memorial to the fallen

If you want to see the other memorials there is a fee involved. As well, you are not allowed to bring bags or purses to the park – either leave them in your car or at the baggage storage area for $3. Cameras and water bottles are permitted. 

Inside Ali’ Iolani Hale Building

ALI’ IOLANI HALE BUILDING & KING KAMEHAMEHA V JUDICIARY HISTORY CENTER: This is a beautiful building that was redesigned from a palace to the legislature and Supreme Court by King Kamehameha V after he had the ‘Iolani Palace built (across the street). It is a beautiful building that I fell in love with. Entrance is free and it also houses The Judiciary History Center (which is also free and you can arrange for a tour or see it on your own, as I did). I did learn about original Hawaii law and the changes that came about as settlers came to the island and eventually becoming a part of the USA. The  building is open from 9am – 4pm.  I came across this building as I stopped to take picture of the statue of King Kamehameha that sits in front of it.

Free Hula Show

WATCH A HULA SHOW:  As I walked along the “main strip” in Waikiki at night I came across a  Hula Show. There were men singing while playing the ukulele accompanied by women hula dancing. This was set on the grassy area in front of Waikiki Beach. The lights of the hotels and shops illuminated them and the crowd was mesmerized. 

ENJOY THE BEACH (from morning ’til night): This one is a no-brainer. Waikiki Beach is looonnnggg. So regardless of where you hotel is, if you’re staying in Waikiki there is beach for you to enjoy. A morning stroll while listening to the waves crash; making a sandcastle; soaking up the sun or taking in some bright, beautiful sunsets, the beach has much to offer. All the beaches in Oahu are public so you can go wherever you want. If you have your surfboard then you’re set for catching some waves (though in the winter months the waves are better on the north shore of Oahu). The beaches also have areas where you can rent surfboards, go on outrigger boats and other water activities. I don’t know what the fees are as I didn’t do any of that so you will want to factor that into your budget if that’s on your list of fun stuff to do.

view from Diamond Head

3. CHEAP STUFF HIKE UP DIAMOND HEAD: Diamond Head State Monument is a hike that will leave you breathless, mainly for the stunning views. The cost is $1 per person (walking in) or $5 per car. The park is open 6am – 6pm with the last allowed trek up to the top at 4:30pm. As it can get very hot during this trek bring a bottle of water and a hat. Be generous with your sunscreen as well. The trail itself is mostly switchbacks that are worn and uneven in some places but not difficult if you’re of reasonable health. I did not find it difficult at all. There are some stairs and they were a bit tiring but not to difficult. I just rested when I was tired. Allow yourself 1.5 – 2 hours for the whole hike (to the top, viewing time and coming back). Be advised that if you are taking transit (as I did) you will walk up a hill and through a tunnel to get to the park entrance and then start the hike. The park does have washrooms and some areas to buy some snack foods (shave ice in my case).

Amazing fresh fruit

VISIT LOCAL FRUIT STANDS:  Through Couch Surfing I met a fellow “surfer” who invited me along a round island tour with her and some new friends. It was a quick stop at many places, however, one of the best was at a fruit stand that served some of the freshest and yummiest fruit I’ve ever had – papaya, pineapple, coconut and apple bananas – and for a reasonable price.

HAPPY HOUR AT RESTAURANTS: It would seem that Waikiki is a perfect place for Happy Hour at many a restaurant and bar. And why not – you’re on vacation. Quite a few restaurants and bars/pubs offered a Happy Hour that included food and drinks. Of course, many were on a limited menu  and at odd times (e.g. 2pm – 5pm and you must sit at the bar). Nothing that didn’t work for me. Some would have them later 4pm – 6pm and then again from 10pm – 11pm. Every place was different but a great way to enjoy some food and maybe a beer or two at a discount. Don’t forget to tip.

Now this, by any means, is NOT an extensive list. I had a fairly mellow holiday with more lounging than running about. But I still was able to save some money. Use the Internet to find out some great deals, ask the locals and even take advantage of coupon sites like Groupon.I have also heard that car rentals are reasonably priced. You can find ways to make your dollar stretch even when you’re vacationing in a more expensive destination.

Happy Travels!!


Last Tuesday night (May 24) after work I headed down to the Ivanhoe Pub on Main St in Vancouver, a dive bar that was the location this weeks regular Couchsurfing meeting, a ritual that participate in almost every week. But this week was going to be different. Not because I was going to meet some great new friends from around the world. Nor because I was going to see some of my regular CS buddies that I always have fun with. No, this was going to be different because we were all collectively gathered to see if it would be the night that our beloved hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, would advance to the Stanley Cup finals. We were not alone. Bars, pubs, living rooms and even a public screening had Canuck fans gathering to cheer on our team over at Roger’s Arena.

The Canucks were in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks. Since hockey playoff games on based on best of seven and with Vancouver leading the series it would not have been the end of the world if they did lose. Another game a few days later would be scheduled to continue the battle. Though what made this night an auspicious one is that it was seventeen years ago on May 24, 1994 that the Canucks were pitted against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They played with heart, talent and skill to beat out the Leafs, thus advancing to the Stanley Cup finals. Although they played hard in the finals it wasn’t meant to be and they lost to the New York Rangers. Since then the Canucks have been working hard to fin Lord Stanley’s Cup. Years past, especially the last couple years, they have come close, making it to the playoffs but never succeeding as far as they did in 1994. This year is different. And I know, in my heart of hearts, that the team from the city I call home will bring that cup back to Canada – where it belongs. The Vancouver Canucks have really become an amazing team this year. Despite being riddled with injured players they still managed to not only be the number one team in the Western Conference but in the ENTIRE league. Impressive. The Sedin twins, Kevin Bieska, Ryan Kessler, Alex Burrows, Roberto Luongo to name just a few of the players have made us proud. I’m sad that Manny Malhotra is out due to an injury but know he is supporting his teammates and hope he is back in good form next season.

The tension at the Ivanhoe was high. I had missed the regular periods as I was working but made it in time to watch the 1st overtime period while sharing a chair with Erin as all seats were taken, carefully hoping that I wouldn’t knock her beer out of her hand if the deciding goal was made. A painful and tense OT period still kept the game tied. FRUSTRATION! Just score dammit!! Alas, we had to wait with bated breath for the final goal during the second OT period. So many close scores. And so many great saves by Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo (my fav player). Finally Bieksa spots the puck that nobody saw and placed it in the Sharks net. “We’re going to the cup, baby!” is what he cried out when he scored. It was a second after the goal was shot and netted that everyone realized that they just WON! Smiles, hoots, hollers and screams drowned out all other sounds at the bar. Erin and I started screaming. I hugged Jenn, then Darren and the German CSer that I just meet. The streets filled with car honks and Josh informed me that a bunch of us were going to the street party on Granville St. Our group of  8 – 10 led a screaming and hooting parade along the Georgia Viaduct that was punctuated with cars honking and excited fans leaning out the windows waving their  Canuck flags. The crowd on Granville street was a sea of blue jerseys and flags, everyone giving out high 5’s to every passerby. The police kept a watch on the exuberant (and often drunk) fans. I felt sorry for them – having to work on such a great night. Soon I was separated from my group and wandered around trying to text, hoot and high 5 all at the same time. With the blessings of modern technology I was able to find my friends via text and joined them at a local pub for a round of celebratory beers and then headed out dancing. Hockey fever was definitely in the air! It was a great night! I can’t wait for when we win the Stanley Cup. That win will not only be special for Canuck fans but for all Canadian hockey fans as the precious Stanley Cup will be back home!! GO CANUCKS GO!!!!

The Printed Word for Inspiration

Although I like to see shows and pictures of far off places it is usually the stories behind the pictures that I enjoy even more. I often read travel literature and the occasional how-to travel guide with great pleasure. Now there are a plethora of books out there that cover pretty much every type of “travel” you can think of. And you can probably find it at Amazon or Chapters with relative ease. It’s all out there for you to indulge in.

In regards to travel literature, my personal favourite “sub-genre” is women travelling, particularly, women travelling solo. I find it reassuring and motivating that there are hundreds of other women who, like myself, long to see the world on their own. There is something empowering to be able to do it by yourself. And really, from what I’ve read, you rarely end up alone.

Below I have listed a few of my favourite books – either travel literature or how-to guides. I hope some of you find them as interesting as I have.

My all time favourite travel book (to date) is The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner. In 2006 these three 20-somethings quit their jobs and travelled together around the world for a year. Although the book is not about solo travel their story is very an interesting one. The writers not only included what they saw and where they went, they opened up their hearts to show how they felt and grew as women. I highly recommend it. They also have a travel website filled with plenty of information. Check it out at Lost Girls World.

Seal Press put out Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo (Editors: Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick, Christina Henry de Tessan), a compilation of 23 short stories from around the globe. Some are funny, some heartfelt and yet others filled with adventure. This was actually the first book that I read about women travelling solo. Here is a link to an interview with the editor Ingrid Emerick on the website Expat Women.

Thinking about going around the world (a.k.a RTW trip)? If you’re like me and have this as a lifelong goal then get yourself a copy of Rough Guides First Time Around The World (3rd edtion, 2010) by Doug Lansky. This book has information to cover pretty much anything to do with extended travel. Even if you are not planning on circumnavigating the globe but want to travel to certain areas of the globe, this book is a great option. Actually any Rough Guides travel book is helpful in my opinion. Take a visit to the Rough Guides website for updated info or to download their iPhone app. Just a note – I’m about halfway through this one and I have learned plenty!

Well those three are my top picks but there are a few others that are also worth mentioning:

Adventures of a Continental Drifter by Elliott Hester – This book was certainly enjoyable. Tales of Elliott’s adventures in 2002 when he quit his job & started travelling from place to place. He also has a syndicated travel column and another book called Plane Insanity (he was a former flight attendant).

Practical Nomad- How to Travel Around the World by Edward Hasbrouck (4th edtion, 2007) – Although I haven’t completely finished this book it is filled with good information. A bit more detailed than the Rough Guides’ book but also a bit harder to get into.  I will get through it though.

I know I’ve posted quite a few books but I do want to make mention of two other books – mainly because they have gotten away from – literally. Both of these books I have, unfortunately, left on the bus and nobody has turned them in. People, please if you find a book on public transit HAND IT IN TO THE DRIVER!! They send it the Lost and Found so they can be reunited with their absent-minded owners. Thanks 🙂
I do intend to re-purchase these books and finish them. Not because I found them to be superbly written but because the premise was interesting and I wanted to hear the end of their tales.

On the Couch by Fleur Britten – This UK journalist decided to travel across Asia and stay only in the homes of strangers by using the CouchSurfing online network. Since I am a member of CouchSurfing I wanted to read about her tales. Although I found her writing style to be rather bland I will eventually finish this book to hear the stories and what her final thoughts are about this alternative form of accommodation.

Grounded: A Down To Earth Journey Around The World by Seth Stevenson – My sister gave me this book for christmas and I started reading it this month. Seth and his girlfriend embark on an RTW trip without taking a single airplane flight. They use train, bus, and boat and see the world from a closer vantage point. I was bummed I lost the book because I barely even got into it.

Well those are my extensive reads for the time being. If you get a chance to read any of them I do hope you find them as intersting as I have.