BerndtCanada Travels

Travel frugally...Travel smart...Travel often!!!

This travel information site is geared for travelers who wish to travel frequently; exploring, learning, and appreciating the geography, culture and history of the places being visited. We believe a balance of independent wandering and guided local wisdom ensures the richest experiences. We hope you will find this website useful in imagining and planning your travels.

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Learn about some of our Travel Destinations

by clicking on any picture or label found below:

Scotland & Ireland

Mexico

Austro-Hungary

Mediterranean

Hawaii

Spain & Portugal

Baltic Cruise

Costa Rica & Panama

Caribbean Collection
 

Florida


 

 

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Accommodations

 

In our travel philosophy of “living like locals” (oh, and being frugal, too) we tend to avoid staying in hotels. Hotels have a good purpose for short stays, especially when awaiting early morning flights, or transitioning from one location to another. Generally we prefer alternative lodgings. We have stayed in private beach cottages, suites in historical heritage homes, stylish apartments in the center of major cities, converted barns, convents, YMCAs, hostels, miners’ cabins and artists’ studios. Finding these options is increasingly easy with the online lodging and travel aggregator sites:

Booking.com is a travel fare aggregator website and travel metasearch engine for lodging reservations.

Agoda has access to 2 million properties. It is an affiliate of Booking.com.

Tripadvisor Holiday Rentals has thousands of properties in 200 countries. They offer payment protection.

Home Away  is a vacation rental marketplace with more than 2,000,000 vacation rentals in 190 countries listed on its website. It operates through 50 websites in 23 languages.

Hotels.com  has 85 websites in 34 languages, and lists over 325,000 hotels in approximately 19,000 locations. Its inventory includes hotels and B&Bs, and some condos and other types of commercial lodging.

 

There are some concerns about the customer service of the large third-party providers when something goes wrong with a reservation. That is why we prefer the ones that have a direct interface with the property so we can confirm our arrival details. We also ensure that our reservation goes smoothly by contacting the reception desks directly, to confirm bookings made through third-party providers.

Our favorite stays have been the private rentals of small regional lodgings that allow us to meet local people, to prepare meals using local ingredients, and to learn the quirks of unique appliances and plumbing. Besides being a more authentic and intimate experience, this type of accommodation is also generally more spacious and less expensive than staying in a hotel. The ability to have breakfast onsite, to prepare a picnic lunch and to relax in the evening over a home-made meal not only saves money, but also time (and sometimes, alas, the digestive system).

         The booking.com display of two of our recent apartment rentals in Glasgow and Vienna
 

 Holiday Rentals may also be known by various names such as Ferienwohnung, Gîtes, Baches,  or Self-Catered/Self-Contained Apartments. They come with kitchens or kitchenettes, private bathrooms, indoor and/or outdoor seating areas, and increasingly, with WiFi, satellite TV, nespresso machines, washers/dryers, and other luxuries. Sometimes we were met by the owners; other times we got lock-box information to let ourselves in. Email, cell phone and WhatsApp messenger contacts were maintained.

AirBnB is an online marketplace accessible via its website and mobile apps. Members use its services to arrange or offer lodging, homestays or travel experiences.

Owner Direct Vacation Rentals  is smaller but has listings in the most popular tourist destinations.

We have heard from people having both positive and negative experiences with these 2 sites. One issue is that many jurisdictions are restricting private short-term rentals so it is important to be aware that laws and regulations allow these rentals. There have also been complaints about owners cancelling bookings on late notice.

Although less private and independent, another good option is a Pension, Chambre d’Hôte, a bed and breakfast (B&B), or a guesthouse. The advantage of these is that they are often the hosts’ own homes so cleanliness and security is assured. The host knows the area well and can provide information on what to see and where to go. During breakfast, chatting with other guests provides tips and insights. In Europe and Australia, hostels can also be a surprisingly good choice. These are not just shared dorms for hard-partying, back-packing youth; hostels also cater to families with private suites, meal services and travel advisors on site. Travel guidebooks often make recommendations about these hostels and small and family-run guesthouses. We have been delighted by the  proprietors who have provided exceptional services, such as picking us up and dropping us off at the train station, driving us on a tour of the city, providing transit passes, exchanging currency, providing wine from their own vineyards, bringing us fresh baking, and getting us hard-to-get tickets.

 

Which Hostel Booking Website is Best? Finding the Cheapest Rates and the Best Availability

Hostel World

There are many ways to find such accommodations with ease. It is possible to find them by googling one of the key words above plus the desired location. There used to be many separate lodging-based booking sites in individual countries but most have now been absorbed by the mega-sites. There are some locations where small firms and local realtors still book and manage properties. There are some sites that offer unique properties like canal boats, caravans, or campsites.

We highly recommend always reading the travelers’ reviews and ratings and viewing their candid photos posted on the main travel advice sites. Drill down in the reviews. The sites often display only the positive comments, and the full reviews are posted elsewhere. Sometimes the comments are spurious, but usually very helpful.

There are some additional considerations when trying save money when booking accommodations. The booking sites take a commission, often up to 30%. Many lodgings match or better the online booking site, and often throw in upgrades if you book directly. Once you’ve identified the place of interest, contact the lodging directly by finding the website, or looking for email or phone contact information. Other money saving measures are to: stay for a few days; stay over a Sunday; check for family deals; use accommodation rewards programs or credit card rewards program; and take advantage of e-newsletter deals.

 

18 killer tips on how to find cheap accommodation

Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay

20 Tricks You Can Use to Score a Cheap Hotel Room

 

Living among everyday people, watching local children play in plazas, asking the grandmas how to cook an unknown food, and experiencing the hospitality of our hosts have enriched our travel experiences and provided our fondest memories. An added bonus was that the money we saved by avoiding “big box” tourist accommodations allowed us to take our next trip even sooner!

       

    Watching families in the Gracia district of Barcelona                         Enjoying the view in Cinque Terre        

 

 

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