I know it’s been total radio silence on our end for more than a month, and we have our reasons, promise. We both got new jobs—Bryce completely switched fields, and I’m collecting day jobs like they’re limited edition Beanie Babies, so it’s been pretty busy on the home front.
So, in this post, I wanted to assure you that we’re here, we’re fine, and we’re still going to blog, though we may not be posting as regularly as we used to be.
The other heads-up I wanted to give you, dear readers, is that our posts for the next couple of months will concentrate less on getaway recaps and photos, and more on tips and reviews; this is because we’re traveling a little less this year than last year. We’re also thinking about opening up the floor to some guest bloggers, so if you’re interested in blogging for us, feel free to hit us up.
We do have several posts in the work, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading.
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Happy 2014, everyone! We hope you had a wonderful New Year’s with your loved ones and we look forward to making 2014 a wonderful year! It also seems that you guys loved the cats in our last post of 2013, so the kitty love has been duly noted.
Today I wanted to talk about something you’re probably experiencing as you come off the high of holiday travel: the post-travel blues. As silly as they may seem in the face of many larger problems, post-travel blues are a real thing. (Seriously, I just Googled “post-travel blues,” thinking I was the first clever person to come up with the term, and discovered a Wikipedia article and WikiHow instructions.) Post-travel blues, in my experience, are a combination of many feelings, as detailed in my very scientific breakdown:
It’s all too easy to let yourself fall into a funk and wallow, wishing you could relive the memories or turn back the clock and escape to wherever it was you just came from. Here’s how I’m dealing with my own post-travel blues.
Don’t assume that you can just hit the ground running and be a super productive person when you get back from your travels. I’ve fallen too many times into the vicious cycle of thinking I can do more than I can, failing to do so, and then beating myself up about it. Take baby steps, get things done a little bit at a time, and cut yourself a break.
2. Get enough sleep and take naps.
Chances are you’re suffering from jet lag and/or sleep debt. One of your top priorities when you get back from your travels is to normalize your sleep schedule, and that may involve getting more sleep than you usually do. Go to sleep a little earlier and try to get more than eight hours per night for a few days—you might need nine to ten for a while. And don’t be afraid to take naps throughout the day! Gradually scale back on the naps and the sleeping until you’re back on track.
3. Don’t put off the unpacking or the chores.
When you first get back, you may not be in shape to be 100% productive (see #1) but you definitely want to enable your future self to become productive later. So as much as you may hate to do it (I know I hate it), unpack right when you get back and stow all your luggage away. Declutter and do all the basic little chores that make your home fit to live in again. Do some quick housekeeping—responding to emails, scheduling things, etc. This way, when you’ve gotten enough sleep and your energy is back up, you’re not set back by the unpacking and the chores; you’re able to jump on the more important things.
4. Distract yourself with hobbies and entertainment.
It’s really, really easy to dwell on your sadness, and when you have the post-travel blues, every little thing can remind you of the good times you just had. Although it’s not a recommendable coping mechanism in excess, it doesn’t hurt to indulge in some distractions. Read a fun book. Catch up on your favorite TV shows. Knock a few movies out of your Netflix queue. Spend some time on your hobbies—photography or knitting or cooking or whatever it is the cool kids are doing these days.
5. Designate some time to reflect on your experiences and memories.
This may sound weird, but it helps me: allot a certain amount of time every day to reflect on your travels. Outside of that scheduled time, don’t let yourself wallow. What I’ve been doing is spending an hour or so before bed writing out my experiences and how they made me feel. It sounds kooky, but it works, and knowing that I have a designated time for reflection keeps me from spending the rest of my day dwelling on my nostalgia.
You may have just said goodbye to beloved friends and relatives wherever you traveled, but it really helps to spend time with your loved ones closer to home. Social interaction is oddly healing, even for the most introverted/hermit-like people (present!) Whether you talk about your travels or not is up to you, but the important part is that you connect with other people.
7. Keep in touch.
Hello, we don’t live in the Stone Age. In most cases, you can still keep in touch with the people you left when you came back home. These days we have the luxury of super-fast communication: texting, emailing, calling, and video-chatting. If you like to be old-school, you can write letters or send postcards. (I’m personally a huge fan of sending letters and packages—getting stuff in the mail never gets old.)
8. Look ahead to future plans.
Nothing gets you over the past like looking to the future. Start making plans for your next project, special occasion, or trip. We at Getaway Brigade have found ourselves greeting 2014 with a load of airline miles and friends all over the West Coast, so we’re putting together a bag with the essentials so that we’re ready to make another spontaneous getaway whenever we feel like it.
How are you coping with the post-travel blues? Any tips that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments!
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I like to have pictures in all the blog posts I write, so you, my dear readers, don’t have to contend with an endless wall of text. In this case, there are no photos to illustrate the story I have to tell. So I’ve taken the liberty of illustrating my tale with pictures of cats. The featured photo was taken by Lou Rocco.
For you TL;DR folks or people who just want quick tips about booking vacation homes, and/or booking for a group, scroll down to the bottom.
This is the story of how booking a vacation house broke my spirit.
Usually my and Bryce’s basic rule of travel planning is to avoid tourist meccas at high season. Prices are high, pickings are slim, and every attraction is crowded up the wazoo. Who wants to pay extra money to be extra miserable? We may be crazy, but we’re not masochists.
Well, in one of those fortunate-yet-unfortunate life twists, we found ourselves having to break our golden rule. My best friend got engaged, yay! The wedding was in Florida at the height of the Christmas-to-New-Year season, boo!
Since not a single member of the bridal party lived in Florida, and we all needed to find accommodations, I had the bright idea that all the bridesmaids should find a place together and split the cost. My friend Laura suggested looking up a house on Airbnb, and I thought that was a wonderful idea.
The first step I took to destroying my sanity was volunteering to take charge of the Airbnb hunt. Yes, I could have left Laura to it. But I am a control freak and possibly crazy person, and at the time searching for a house in our budget sounded like a fun challenge—the type of thing they might make into an HGTV show. I have the worst ideas for HGTV shows, apparently.
Now, in the world of graphic design, there’s a really popular maxim that goes something like this:
How would you like your design?* 1. Fast 2. Cheap 3. Good *You can only pick two.
I think accommodation-booking follows the exact same rule. Hotels or vacation homes can be cheap, nice, and/or available last-minute, but you’re damned lucky if the place you book is two of those things, and you’ve probably sold your soul if you get a place that’s all three.
It’s not my style to book things last-minute, so usually we have the luxury of finding places that are nice and still reasonably priced. I like to have accommodations booked months in advance—half a year ahead, if possible. But here was the first problem: four to five months out, no one had their flights booked. I couldn’t go ahead and book a house without knowing the dates that people were going to be in town.
So I couldn’t start looking until October, when there were two months to go before the wedding.
“That’s perfectly fine!” the optimistic voice in my head chirped. “You’re really good at finding deals! It’s not like every vacation home in the state of Florida has been booked up! There are two months to go! You can do this!”
Oh, optimistic voice in my head. You are so naive.
I dove into the Airbnb search with zeal. There weren’t a ton of places to choose from in a reasonable price range, but there were a few really good ones and that’s all that mattered. At this point, I was really picky about the places I looked for. They had to have good reviews, they had to have verified photos, and they had to have a well-written description.
I presented my findings to the group, we all voted on the place we wanted, I messaged the owners, then happily went to bed.
I woke up and found an apologetic reply in my inbox. “Sorry, someone booked the house last night,” the owner wrote.
A tragic Greek chorus of “Sorry” piled up in my inbox. Some owners unhelpfully pointed out that they’d been booked all through December for a while, but there were openings in late January. Fear and panic started to nibble at me with each rejection. I thought my challenge was going to be finding a place that was nice enough and/or cheap enough—I didn’t know my problem would be that there was nothing available.
Here we were, with two months until the wedding, with a half-dozen people depending on me to find us shelter in Florida, and I couldn’t even deliver. In a first-world-problems kind of way, it was soul-crushing.
Guilt piled on to failure: it was too late for anyone to find a hotel deal on their own—the prices were rising by the day. By smugly promising to find everyone a good deal, I’d prevented them from having any other options. We’d all have to Couchsurf or fork over hundreds of dollars for shabby little rooms in the few hotels that still had vacancies left.
I started cursing all the families who had the gall to flock to Florida in the winter and take their kids to all the theme parks and book up all the affordable places. Thanks a lot, moms and dads and grandparents and little children who dare to have fun over winter break. Thanks a lot, Disney World and SeaWorld and Universal Studios and Legoland and Wet n’ Wild and Gatorland and Fun Spot and Magical Midway and JEEZ, Florida, do you have a freaking theme park addiction or something?
Then, out of the blue, possible salvation! One owner said his house wasn’t available, but he did have some sort of timeshare condo in a nearby resort. Would I be interested? He gave me the rates.
Then, two other owners responded. Their houses were available, and here was the total price, and did I want to book now?
The thing was, none of the options were a really good deal; in fact, with the cost split the rates were roughly twice as much as we’d all been initially willing to pay. Still, it was better than nothing. I presented the places to the group, along with the numbers.
The responses were grim. While these rates were still better than the hypothetical cost of a hotel, they were getting to the point where no one could really afford it. And while we waffled about it, our options got booked up—so they weren’t options any more, even if we’d wanted them.
After being depressed about it for a while, and making not-very-funny jokes to Bryce that we were going to be homeless in Florida, I abandoned Airbnb and tried another site, Home Away.
Once again I went through the drill of searching, filtering, and looking at listings. This time, I wasn’t fussy about the place being nice or terribly affordable. All I wanted was “available.” I tested the waters and sent a few messages out.
Once again: “Sorry, we’re all booked through December.”
At that point, I went berserk. I was going to find us a place to stay if it was the last thing I did. I stayed up til 3 or 4 in the morning, spamming the nuts of out Home Away. It was the Night Sharon Went Crazy.
The messages I was sending at the beginning of the night were pretty chipper:
“Hello [Name]! I’d like to confirm that this condo/townhome/villa/house is still available from XX/XX to XX/XX. The listing says that the price for X nights is $XXX; is this correct? Please let me know!”
As my eyes got worn out and my hopes wore thin, the messages got noticeably more desperate. By two in the morning I was sending messages like this:
“Hello [Name], I’m trying to book a place to stay for a group of very well-mannered bridesmaids, and we haven’t been able to find anything. The wedding is in December. Is this listing still available from XX/XX to XX/XX? Please get back to me as soon as possible!”
According to my inbox, I sent out at least 52 of these messages.
Of the 52 places I inquired after, 3 were available.
Of the three, only one was really affordable. And the owner of the one available, affordable house informed me that there was another party interested in booking within the same time frame. Unless I put down a deposit, there was no guarantee that I’d get the house.
To hell with worrying if the place was nice. Of the three options—available, cheap, or nice—you can only pick two. And I couldn’t afford to give up “available” or “cheap.”
As politely as I could given the circumstances (e.g. I refrained from type-roaring “EVERYONE GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, NOW!”) I frantically messaged the other bridesmaids and asked them to send me their share of the deposit ASAP. I emailed the owner of The One House and begged, begged, begged him not to let the other people book it, that I was collecting the money for the deposit at that very moment.
Around the same time that I was hustling to collect the money and trying to convince the owner that I really was going to book the place, the bride texted me—I’d given her the address of The One House and she reported that it wasn’t in the best neighborhood.
Available, cheap, or nice: you can only pick two.
I put down the deposit, scribbled my signature on the rental form, and submitted it.
I collected the rest of the rent money from everyone and mailed the check. I got the confirmation that the house was mine for those days in December. After weeks of stressing and losing sleep, I finally breathed a sigh of relief.
(If you’re curious about the cost of a hotel vs. a shared house, here are the general numbers I was working with. A mid-range hotel room in a decent, safe hotel at this time went for about $150 to $250 a night, per person or couple. Even if you split a hotel room among three people, that’s $50-$80 per night per person. A nice house in the same area at the same time, split between 7-8 people, would be $15-$25 per night per person, which is obviously way more affordable. I’m not disclosing hard numbers here because the process involved the budgets of other people, but if you have questions you can always ask in the comments.)
1. Start early, especially if you’re booking in a highly touristy area and/or during a high demand season. As you can see, two months out is too late to guarantee getting anything. You need to be ready to book , at my estimation, at least 4 months in advance if you want to have options, and you need to book between 6 and 12 months in advance if you are really picky.
2. Listings marked as “available” on any site are not an indication of actual availability. Although home rental sites have calendar functions with which owners can mark when their properties are unavailable, many owners don’t bother. So do not get lulled into a false sense of security when you perform a search and see hundreds of results—if you’re a few weeks or months out (see #1), chances are most of those places are already booked, even when the site says they’re available.
3. I noticed on Airbnb and Home Away that virtually all property owners have tiered pricing based on season, and they’re not automatically shown. Holiday seasons are, across the board, the most expensive time of the year. During the holiday season, a house can be twice as expensive as its off-season price. However, these higher prices are not reflected when you search (which drives me crazy). What that means is you might get a house as a search result that’s listed at, say, $100 a night, only to discover that it’s actually $240 a night for the dates you’re interested in. Always check the actual price for the dates you’re interested in, and don’t just go by the rate listed in the search results.
4. A lot of homes have a minimum stay. What that means is that you can only book the home if you stay for a minimum of X nights. I saw this more on Home Away than Airbnb, and it severely limited my options; a lot of homes had a 6 or 7 night minimum and I was booking for a period shorter than that. If you’re flexible, consider opening your booking up to a longer stay, or look at your other options.
5. There may be hidden costs in a property’s features. This wasn’t really an issue for me, since I was just looking for a place where we could eat and sleep. But if a home comes with a private pool, hot tub, grill, etc. chances are there may be additional heating and cleaning fees. If you plan on swimming, make sure you’re aware that there will be a pool heating and cleaning cost; if you don’t plan on using the pool, make sure you make that clear to the owner so you don’t get dinged by surprise maintenance fees.
Lessons I learned about booking for a group
1. Budget for a security deposit, and make sure everyone is prepared for it. I tried to do a good job of keeping things within budget for the group, and being transparent about the money; but I totally didn’t plan for a security deposit, which is pretty standard with home rentals. I felt terrible when, upon finally finding a house, I had to force everyone to plunk over additional money that they hadn’t planned on parting with.
2. Collect the money ahead of time. Properties were getting snapped up between the time it took for me to tell the other bridesmaids about them and for them to respond. It got really hairy with me sending frequent, desperate emails to hold a property open while I gathered up the money. In hindsight, it would have been a lot easier to decide on a budget, collect everyone’s share, and put down a deposit as soon as I found an available place. You can always worry about returning or making up the difference after you’ve locked the property in.
3. Know everyone’s needs and budgets. This is the one thing I think I did an okay job with. Before I started looking for places, I asked everyone what their sleeping arrangements would be, what budgets they were comfortable with, etc. I lucked out with a pretty chill group, but you may also need to inquire after other needs and ask people what their preferences and comfort levels are (if they’d rather pay more for a safer neighborhood than get a less expensive place in a shadier area, for example).
4. If people don’t have concrete dates, ask for a safe estimation. Remember how I didn’t start looking until two months in advance because people didn’t have their flights booked earlier? And by then it was already too late? I realize in hindsight that instead of waiting for people to buy their tickets and then give me the dates they’d be in town, I should have asked them all for their estimate of what day they planned to arrive and what day they planned to leave. Having to make changes to a reservation is better than waiting and then not being able to make a reservation at all.
Have any questions about the experience? Got any booking horror stories to share? Let us know in the comments!
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It’s the last day of our weeklong gift guide extravaganza! Every day this week, we posted a new guide of travel-related gift ideas for the special people in your life. Today, instead of posting a gift guide for a specific type of person, we’re showing you some travel items to splurge on.
Obviously what counts as a “splurge” varies from person to person. The items featured today run from “sort of pricey if you’re on a budget” to “you’d better really like this person if you’re giving them this” to “please tell me how you have this much money to spend on someone else.”
Intrigued? Me too! Let’s do this!
I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t appreciate some really nice luggage. It’s one of those things that just makes the travel experience a little sweeter. And as someone who hauls around an ordinary canvas roller, I admit to eagerly ogling strangers’ suitcases in airports and dreaming of having my own envy-inducing suitcase.
I myself am a sucker for hard-shell cases and fell in love with the pictured suitcases by Hideo Wakamatsu when I saw them on Fab. I can’t decide if it looks better in red, or white with red trim. Mmmm.
If the pictured suitcases aren’t your thing, or you feel like dropping more than $300+, I suggest you look at the stuff on Globe Trotter—now that is some gorgeous stuff.
Maybe the object of your affection already has a nice suitcase and needs something for weekend getaways. Or maybe they’d rather have a versatile carry-on that doesn’t take much space. In any case, a nice carry-on bag isn’t a bad idea. I love the clean, unisex look of Everlane’s Weekenders, which should be sturdy enough to stand up to any adventure.
Everyone could use a good tote bag. (Guys included!) They’re a not-so-sneaky way to max out your “personal bag” limit on the airplane and they double as beach or picnic bags on getaways. Plus, in the case of overnight stays or extremely minimalist packing, one tote bag can be all you need.
Once again, Everlane nails it with their totes; in addition to the one pictured (it’s the gray one on the left) in reverse denim, they offer their totes in multiple colors. If you’re looking for a bigger splurge or something with more personality, I loveKate Spade’s nautical-looking tote with the words “Get out of town”—how perfect is that?
4. Spacepak Set
For some people, this is a splurge; for others, this may be a side gift to include with a suitcase. In any case, a Spacepak set is a super-useful packing accessory that will help take the headache out of packing. Spacepaks are individual compartments for your clothes, so you can keep them organized, and they stack easily in your suitcase so packing is less “Tetris” and more “that toddler game where you put blocks through a hole.”
Remember how I said earlier that this guide ran from reasonable splurging to “please tell me how you have this much money to spend on someone else”? Well, here it is: the splurge to end all splurges, the gift that will make you the best gift-giver in the world.
A round-the-world plane ticket.
In its most basic form, a round-the-world ticket is like a season pass for an airplane alliance—so instead of just getting you from point A to point B, a RTW plane ticket enables you to take multiple (sometimes unlimited) flights to and from anywhere in the world for a year (or sometimes longer!) It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Welcome to Day 6 of our weeklong gift guide extravaganza! Every day this week, we’re publishing a new post of travel-related gift ideas for the special people in your life. Today we’re showing you some gift ideas for the paranoid and/or travelphobic.
If you’re wondering what I mean by “paranoid or travelphobic,” I’m talking about those people who either A) freak out over every little thing when they travel or B) refuse to travel because traveling is scary and there are so many problems that they’d rather avoid, so they just stay home.
I’m sure you know people like that. People who say things like:
“Getting through airport security is impossible! It’s not worth the trouble.”
Or “I can’t handle trying to find my way in a city I’m not familiar with!”
Or “If I scrape my knee in a foreign country I’ll get some weird alien infection and die!”
(Okay that last one might have been an exaggeration.)
Your mission, travel lovers of the world, is to enable your paranoid loved ones to travel more. This holiday season, I want you to use your present to them as a passive-aggressive weapon against lame excuses to avoid traveling. (I give the best life advice.)
1. Maps and guide books.
I’m not going to get into the travel blogger wars of guide books vs. websites. I am going to say, though, that your average paranoid/travelphobic person will be more enabled with a physical guidebook they can hold, flip through, and carry around; the chances that they’ll willingly spend a few hours clicking through Wikitravel are pretty slim.
2. Travel first-aid kit.
The holidays are not the time to attempt to convince your beloved travelphobe that Band-aids exist in other countries and that other healthcare systems will still take care of you. Best to just give them peace of mind with a kit to cover their bases. For the mildly paranoid, a small first aid kit with the basics will put them at ease. For your super-imaginative paranoid friends, go big and get them the World Travel Adventure Medical Kit, which comes with the usual (bandages, medicine, whatnot) but also has a medical guide and a “visual communication tool” for communicating to doctors in other languages.
4. Easily identifiable luggage tags.
This is actually something I worry about—whenever I have to check my luggage, or stow my carry-on away in the overhead compartment, I worry that some absent-minded traveler will mistake my suitcase for theirs and take my stuff. Going the other way, I also worry that I myself will have an attack of absent-mindedness and take someone else’s suitcase. This fear became very real for me when, for one trip, I bought a bright red polka-dotted suitcase solely for the purpose of being able to easily identify it and then found myself at the gate sitting across from someone with the exact same bright red polka-dotted suitcase. It was the stuff of recurring nightmares.
My modus operandi to fix this particular problem is always to make my luggage as obnoxious as possible. I’ve tied giant bright-colored bows onto suitcases and hung large keychains from them, but sometimes they come back from the netherworld of baggage handling with bows and keychains gone. One thing that never disappears though, is the luggage tags. So if you or your loved ones worry about luggage mix-ups, get brightly colored, easily identifiable luggage tags. If you are seriously afraid of lost luggage, get a GPS-enabled luggage tracker.
5. Movies set in foreign countries.
You can ply your loved ones with all the guidebooks and travel accessories in the world, but sometimes it’s all for naught if they haven’t gotten the travel bug. So be sneaky and give them some innocuous-looking DVDs that’ll give them the urge to see the world for themselves. For example, just a few minutes into “To Rome With Love,” I got a serious urge to drop everything and see Rome. Similar travel-bug-giving movies are “Stone of Destiny” (Scotland), “Midnight in Paris” (Paris, obviously), and “Roman Holiday” (Rome again).