Since we travel full-time, we’re always looking for creative lodging options. Staying in far-flung destinations around the world—particularly for a week or more—can get expensive. A few years ago we discovered house sitting, a solution that enabled us to visit exotic (or just plain expensive) destinations affordably.

What is house sitting?

House sitting jobs typically entail watching someone’s home while they’re away, in exchange for free lodging. In our experience, most assignments involve some degree of in home pet sitting; we’ve also taken care of plants for a homeowner. We’ve found house sitting to be a valuable way to visit a new locale, while also living like a local. There’s nothing like walking Fido around the block to feel like you’re part of the neighborhood!

But other than hearing about such an opportunity via word-of-mouth through friends, how do you find available house sitting jobs, or find someone to watch your home and pets while you travel?

best house sitting websites, long term house sitting jobs

We’ve discovered a site called Nomador that connects folks like us who are interested in house sitting jobs with those seeking someone to watch their home while they’re away. One of the aspects we like about Nomador is its sense of community; rather than simply being a generic site that offers a list of houses, the company adheres to a set of standards that includes trusting others, a sense of commitment, generosity of spirit, sharing, curiosity of other cultures, open-mindedness and global awareness.

Nomador’s values mirror our own; embracing new experiences is the primary driver for our travels. The company itself started in 2014 in Sydney; house sitting in Australia is a popular lodging option. The Nomador community has expanded rapidly since then to include more than 85,000 members worldwide today.

Nomador is protective of its community, and charges a small fee to allow access to its full complement of registered house sitters and house sitting job opportunities. However, they also offer a free “Discovery Option,” which allows you to apply for up to 3 house sitting offers. This is a great way to dabble on the site to see if house sitting might be for you.

The site is also helpful for homeowners who seek the freedom to travel with the confidence that their home, pet, or garden is properly looked after. They can list their home using the free option, or by using the paid option they they can contact potential house-sitters directly. Nomador also allows potential house sitters to have their profile listed in a directory for homeowners to browse when they seek a house sitter.

House sitters wanted: finding short- or long-term house sitting jobs

The Nomador site is a breeze to use; it’s well laid out and explains the benefits of house sitting while offering clear tips to start the process. While anyone can browse the house sitting jobs on offer, you must set up an account to make enquiries. For security, the site requires an approved form of ID to protect everyone in the system, ensuring that they are who they say they are. Michael found it was very easy to set up. He uploaded a copy of his driver’s license, and in less than an hour his ID was approved and he had created his profile and was exploring house sitting opportunities.

Since many of the opportunities involve in home pet sitting, the house sitter profile includes a listing of the types of animals you are willing to watch: dogs, cats, horses, birds, rodents, fish, reptiles, farm animals, and exotic pets. We chose dogs, cats, fish, and farm animals. (Yes, we’ve watched chickens, goats and even a motherless calf in the past! Well, that’s really more Larissa’s gig.) You can also select which region of the world you are interested in, dates you are available, and whether or not you’d take care of a garden.

House sitting Melbourne, House sitting Sydney

In home pet sitting (well, technically it’s outside the house!)

As long-time travel buffs, we were like kids in a candy store when we reviewed the available listings. Want to spend two weeks in the Bordeaux region of France? Yep, you can find house sitting opportunities aplenty. How about house sitting in Melbourne, Australia? You’ll be saying “g’day mate!” in no time. Interested in the Pacific Northwest region of the US? Nomador’s got it covered. In fact, the opportunities looked like a wish list of where we wanted to visit next.

The listings we liked best included a detailed description from the homeowner of their residence; opportunities range from simple apartments to luxury house sitting. Homeowners also list the responsibilities expected of the house sitter, along with nearby amenities. The website offers a detailed search function if you know the specifics of what you’re seeking. We like selecting a geographic area, and then scanning what’s available.

Nomador provides handy icons with each listing (like little cartoon kitties or plants), so you can perform a quick scan to see what might be a good fit. Some listings are only available to subscribers, so after your initial review you may be ready to make that commitment. (Nomador offers two paid subscription options: $35 for 3 months, or $89 for one year.)

The responsibilities usually involved caring for pets, so the homeowner provides details about their critters. They usually describe the pets’ personality, which is always helpful, along with photos and a list of daily tasks that are required. This is a good time to figure out what type time of commitment you want to make. Some pets are basically house pets and don’t go out much, while one listing required taking the dogs for a two-hour romp in the park every afternoon. Whatever the requirement, make sure you are up for it. We look at the dog walking as a good time for us to get some exercise ourselves.

House sitters wanted, best house sitting websites

Once you’ve found a listing (or two or three) that’s of interest, the next step is to contact the homeowner through the Nomador website. After you make an offer that’s accepted, you then sort out the details of travel, and any specifics regarding the house sit directly with the homeowner.

People often ask us how we choose destinations when we travel. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding a house sitting job that works with our schedule in an area that intrigues us. That’s how we ended up tending that calf (plus some chickens) in Australia, and watering a prize-winning gardenia in Savannah, Georgia. We don’t house sit everywhere we go, but with the wide array of destinations where house sitters are wanted available on the Nomador website, it’s always an option we consider.

Thanks to Nomador for underwriting this post. As always, our opinions are our own.

 

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Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

If you’re looking for where to stay in Stockholm, particularly for a Stockholm Arlanda Airport hotel, consider Jumbo Stay Arlanda. It’s one of the coolest places we’ve stayed in our travels. The Jumbo Stay Arlanda is a Stockholm hostel parked at the edge of the Airport. But this isn’t just any hostel, it’s built into a retro-fitted 747 which was in service between 1976 and 2004. For airplane geeks this is the ultimate lodging.

JumboStay 747 hostel Stockholm

Jumbo Stay Arlanda: the ultimate hotel for plane geeks!

Boeing recently announced that in the not too distant future they may stop production of the 747. The iconic, humped airliner was the first of the Jumbo Jets and revolutionized air travel since PanAm first started flying them in 1970. For those who are fans of this airplane, the current crop of them will fly on for years. But with the Jumbo Stay hotel you have the opportunity to sleep on a 747, and not just in an uncomfortable coach seat while flying a red-eye over the ocean.

Where to Stay in Stockholm|Jumbo Stay Arlanda

Fly boy? Or just a plane geek?

Stockholm: Where to Stay

For travelers seeking a Stockholm Arlanda Airport hotel, the 747 is a marvelous sight. When you stand right below it you realize how enormous these flying machines really are. Guests take the elevator up to the former main passenger deck to check-in. The passenger seating area is now a long corridor with rooms on either side.

Jumbo Stay Arlanda airport hotel

You too can sleep in an engine cowling (or just walk on the wing) at the Jumbo Stay Arlanda.

More Than Just a Stockholm Hostel

Most of the rooms are simple, resembling cabins on a cruise ship with upper and lower berths, and shared bathrooms. For the full Stockholm hostel experience, a few rooms (four, to be exact) are actually contained in the former engine cowlings, resembling sleeping in a gypsy caravan. However, there are two separate “suites” for those who wish to have a private toilet and shower while staying at the Jumbo Stay Arlanda.

Jumbo Stay Arlanda cockpit suite

The Cockpit Suite, watch those controls!

The much-coveted cockpit suite is located, of course, in the former cockpit. It includes what used to be the first-class lounge. That was booked so we ended up in the “Black-Box Suite” in the rear of the plane. Yes, it’s where the infamous black box used to be located, a bit eerie, but we soon overcame that upon peeking out the window at airplanes soaring by.

Jumbo Stay Arlanda Stockholm Hostel room

The Black Box Suite

As a special treat the port wing is open for a stroll and some plane-spotting on the nearby runway. There are even a few tables to eat the breakfast that is provided. A shuttle runs regularly to the airport terminal, which is only five minutes away. We used the shuttle in the evening to have dinner at one of the airport restaurants overlooking the busy runway. They are conveniently located before security, so anyone can eat there, not just someone with a flight ticket.

Where to stay in Stockholm|Jumbo Stay Arlanda Airport

Enjoy breakfast, or just hang out, in the nose of the plane

Our Favorite Arlanda Airport Hotel

So if you’re seeking a Stockholm Arlanda Airport hotel (or if you’re just a plane geek), consider the Jumbo Stay Arlanda for a unique travel experience. It’s hard to imagine now, but at some point the groundbreaking 747 will be a vestige of another age, perhaps it already is.

How to book:

Check rates and availability at Jumbo Stay Arlanda.

Prefer a more conventional airport hotel? Check Arlanda Airport Hotels here.

Looking for something in central Stockholm? Check Stockholm Hotels here.

Note: If you’re interesting in staying at Jumbo Stay Arlanda, or somewhere else in Stockholm, please consider booking through one of our links above. We make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Just one of the ways we can keep things humming here at Changes in Longitude while offering valuable travel advice free to our readers 😊.

We paid for our stay. Opinions are our own. 

 

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

We have spent more than 5 months in Bucharest during multiple visits in the past two years and love the city. Read on for our recommendations for the best hotels in Bucharest, Romania (plus apartments) in all price ranges. If you’re planning a trip, where to stay in Bucharest will depend on how long you’re planning to visit and which Bucharest attractions you’d like to see. Keep and eye out for Field-Tested Travel Tips sprinkled throughout–these are our personal recommendations based on our travels in Bucharest.

Hotels in Bucharest Romania|City hotel Bucharest|Capitol Hotel Bucharest

Where to Stay in Bucharest: Best Neighborhoods

Already know the area where you want to stay? Use these links for quick access to reviews of Bucharest hotels in each neighborhood:

  1. Bucharest Old Town Hotels & Apartments
  2. The Cultural District (along Calea Victorei)
  3. Palace of the Parliament Area
  4. Piata Universitatii-East (Including the Jewish Quarter)
  5. Dorobanti/Primavera Neighborhoods
  6. Bucharest Airport Hotels (Baneasa/Otopeni neighborhoods)

Before you choose your Bucharest accommodation, it’s important to understand the way the city is laid out. Many hotels and apartments will describe themselves in a particular sector. The 6 sectors are shaped sort of like wedges of a pie radiating outward. Old Town is at the point  all the sectors meet in the center (see below). The sectors extend to a ring road on the outskirts of the city.

Map illustrating the geographic sectors in Bucharest, overlaid with neighborhoods. (Map designed by Bogdan Giuşcă in XaraX, used by Creative Commons; it was enhanced with landmarks/neighborhoods by me ☺️)

These sectors are great for giving you an idea of whether you’re north/south/east/west of the city center. But they’re not particularly helpful when choosing your accommodation. Bucharest is a big city; you might select a hotel in the same sector as the sights you want to see. Then upon arrival you to discover you’re staying out near the ring road several kilometers away. Oops.

Rather than use the city Sectors, we’ve used Bucharest attractions as a guide and grouped lodging around popular landmarks. This will help you determine which are the best hotels in Bucharest for those sights and activities of interest to you.

The center point from where the Sectors radiate is very near to Old Town. Most of the Bucharest attractions of interest to visitors will be north of this.

Accommodation in Bucharest: Excellent value

No matter what your budget or preference in accommodation, Bucharest has plenty of options. Bucharest accommodation runs the gamut from 5-star luxury, to cheap hotels, to apartments. Romania is a good value for travelers from Western Europe and North America. You can “upgrade” your lodging standards while here.

Even if you don’t normally opt for a luxury hotel, Bucharest is the place to consider a splurge without busting your budget. With some advance planning, you can find a major 5-star hotel in Bucharest for under $200 per night. That’s virtually unheard-of in most European capitals. If your tastes run more toward a boutique hotel, Bucharest has plenty to offer in in that category.

For more budget-minded travelers, there are an abundance of midrange and cheap hotels in Bucharest city centre. Even if your lodging preference is for a hostel, Bucharest has them, but we suggest considering a hotel or studio apartment. It’s easy to find a simple hotel with a private bath for what you might pay for a hostel in other European cities.

Bucharest apartments for travelers are plentiful, and available throughout the city. They are a great alternative if you’re planning to stay for a week or more, or if you’re looking for a family option.

A note about pricing: whether searching for an apartment or hotel, central Bucharest offers an excellent value. That said, prices can fluctuate based on availability. For the purposes of this guide we have used US dollars and grouped accommodations into four general categories:

  • $$$$:  $150 and higher
  • $$$:    $100-150
  • $$       $  60-100
  • $          under $60

All price categories are based on double occupancy and include a private bath, unless noted otherwise.

 Best Hotels in Bucharest: Old Town

Best for: Sidewalk cafes, Bars, Nightlife

Old Town is very near the geographic center of Bucharest. It’s a cluster of narrow, mostly cobblestoned streets open only to pedestrians. The neighborhood has a few beautiful old churches and the remains of a medieval estate. But the majority of the streets are lined with restaurants, bars and cafes that are wedged in side by side, with seats spilling onto the street. It’s arguably the core of Bucharest nightlife. If you love being in the center of the action, this is the spot for you.

Hotels in Bucharest Old Town are tucked in amidst all of this. Keep in mind that you might have to walk a few cobblestoned blocks to reach the entrance of your lodging.

The Mansion Boutique Hotel: $$$-$$$$ Chic & Swanky

Mansion Boutique Hotel Bucharest|Best hotels in Bucharest Romania

Repurposed from an elegant 19th century home, the Mansion Boutique Hotel is one of the newest additions to bustling Old Town. A cleverly designed atrium brightens up the interior, and all of the 19 rooms in this 100% smoke-free property are uniquely decorated. Field-Tested Travel Tip: rooms at the back, facing the atrium, are quieter. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Europa Royale Bucharest: $$$ Traditional & Central

Best hotels in Bucharest Romania| Europa Royale Hotel Bucharest

The Europa Royale is a classic European hotel, 100% smoke-free with 92 updated traditional rooms at the southern edge of Old Town (which means taxis can get you close to the front door). Outward-facing rooms on the upper floors have sweeping views over nearby Unirii Square park; request an atrium room facing the interior garden for a quieter stay. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Tania-Frankfurt Hotel: $$ Comfort & Value

Best hotels in Bucharest Romania|Tania-Frankfurt Hotel

This small (17-room) hotel is perched on a pedestrian corner right in the thick of Old Town. Rooms are comfortably furnished, with a few singles offering excellent value for solo travelers; 100% smoke-free interior. Breakfast is included in the room rate. Field-Tested Travel Tip: Check out the 3rd-floor outdoor lounge, where you can watch all the Old Town bustle from high above. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Apartments in Bucharest Old Town

CityLife Suite: $$$$ (Sleeps 6)

This Bucharest Apartment at the edge of the Old Town boasts 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms, making it an excellent option for a family or several couples traveling together. It has a central living area, along with modern kitchen and big dining table. Field-Tested Travel Tip: a large Carrefour supermarket is about 2 blocks away. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Antic Apartments: $-$$

Best hotels Bucharest Romania

These 10 newly renovated (2017) apartments occupy the 4th-6th floor of a building right in the center of Old Town. Sizes range from studios with basic kitchenette facilities to 1- & 2-bedroom apartments. They are furnished in a simple, comfortable style, with modern bathrooms. Field-Tested Travel Tip: check out Carturesti bookstore around the corner, which is in a beautifully renovated old theatre building. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Cultural District

Best for: Art Museums, Concerts, Revolution Square

Many of Bucharest’s cultural museums, concert venues and beautiful Belle Epoque buildings are located in this neighborhood. Calea Victorei, one of the city’s main north/south streets, is the common thread that unites them all. This area is slightly north of Old Town, and houses the majority of 5-star hotels in Bucharest (although there are some moderate options as well.) If you choose this area for your city hotel, Bucharest and most of its main attractions will be within walking distance. Stay in this area if you like the sophisticated ambiance of a European capital.

A centerpiece of the neighborhood is the Athanaeum, a magnificent old concert hall that is one of the prettiest buildings in Europe. Field Tested Travel Tip: attend a performance at the Athanaeum to experience this magnificent building as it was intended. With its pocket park and nearby genteel sidewalk cafes, this is the area that earned Bucharest the nickname “Little Paris.”

Field-Tested Travel Tip: Check multiple dates around your intended travel time. Hotels here offer excellent deals on non-busy dates. A recent search yielded prices as low as ~$135/night for 5 star hotels. Bucharest is truly a rarity for affordable luxury hotels in a European capital.

Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest: $$$-$$$$ Grand & Traditional

Best hotels Bucharest Romania

Cited by many as the Grande Dame of Bucharest hotels, the Athenee Palace Hilton occupies pride of place adjacent to the Athenaeum. It has been welcoming guests since 1914. Despite an exterior renovation in the 1930s to give it a more updated Art Deco look, the interior retains its Belle Epoque elegance. There are 272 rooms (some in a more modern wing), and all the amenities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel. Field-Tested Travel Tip: Try French Revolution pastry shop just up the street. They specialize in eclairs in a variety of flavors that are tres magnifique! Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Radisson Blu Bucharest: $$$-$$$$ Sleek & Contemporary

Best Hotels in Bucharest Romania|Radisson Blu Bucharest

The Radisson Bucharest is a large (487 rooms) hotel. It’s Bucharest’s “Rich Playboy Nephew” when compared to the historic Hilton across the street. The atrium lobby bar/cafe, with its cool under-floor water feature, is often abuzz with activity and looks out onto the swanky pool area. The adjacent casino is a magnet for young bucks looking to strut their stuff. Field-Tested Travel Tip™: Caffé Cittá, the restaurant just off the lobby, serves up some of the best pizza in Bucharest (our fave is the Pizza Cittá, with prosciutto and arugula). Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Grand Hotel Continental: $$$-$$$$ Regal & Understated

Everything about the Grand Hotel Continental Bucharest oozes Old World elegance. The Belle Epoque architecture, stately entrance courtyard and gilded furnishings are reminiscent of 19th-century Paris or Vienna. With only 59 rooms, guests have the feeling they are staying at the country chateau of a rich relative, rather than a hotel. An excellent option if you like luxury in a calm, understated atmosphere. Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Mercure Bucharest City Center: $$-$$$ Edgy & Subtle

Best Hotels in Bucharest Romania|Mercure City Centre Bucharest

The 114 rooms at the Mercure Bucharest City Center are decorated in a modern, edgy style with nice amenities and great rainfall showers. This 100% smoke free hotel is a great choice for someone who wants a central location, but on a quiet side street, about 1 block from the Athenaeum. Field-Tested Travel Tip: check out m60, one of our fave Bucharest cafes, just around the corner. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Hotel Capitol: $$ Traditional & Comfortable

Hotels in Bucharest Romania|City hotel Bucharest|Capitol Hotel Bucharest

The Hotel Capitol Bucharest is a pleasant 3-star hotel in a wonderful old building that is an excellent value. Located right on Calea Victorei midway between the cultural attractions and Old Town, the Capitol Hotel is a super convenient. The hotel’s 80 rooms were renovated in 2014 and are comfortably furnished. Field-Tested Travel Tip: the hotel restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch on weekdays. Each day features a different cuisine from Eastern & Central Europe, along with live music. The quality is excellent, and at €5.50, it’s one of the best values in town. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Hotel Amzei: $$ Boutique & Discreet

Housed in a former early 20th-century residence, the Amzei Hotel has the feel of a country house hotel tucked into central Bucharest. The 22 rooms are elegant without being stuffy, and the public rooms off the simple reception area are a nice spot to rest and read up on the nearby sights. The location is a pocket residential area and fairly quiet. Field-Tested Travel Tip: an excellent bakery with a simple walk-up window is just outside the hotel entrance. Be sure to try the polonez cu nuca, a pretzel-shaped walnut danish that’s the best we’ve ever tasted. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Bucharest Apartments, Cultural District 

Coming Soon!

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Parliament Area

Best for: Visiting Palace of the Parliament, Attending Conferences

Palace of the Parliament Bucharest|Best hotels Bucharest Romania

Palace of the Parliament is hard to miss. The massive structure dominates the neighborhood southeast of Old Town. Despite its name, only part of the building is used for government purposes. The complex also houses a contemporary art museum and a large exposition hall for conventions. With huge surrounding grounds, there’s not much of a conventional “neighborhood,” and lodging choices are limited. However, if you have business with the government, or are attending a conference here, this is the best area to stay.

JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel: $$$-$$$$ Stately & Palatial

Best hotels in Bucharest Romania

With 402 rooms, several restaurants, a pool, spa, casino and shopping arcade of exclusive boutiques the 100% smoke-free JW Marriott Bucharest is practically a resort! Its location directly behind the Parliament complex makes it convenient for conferences there. Field Tested Travel Tip: this hotel is a bit of a walk to Old Town & the Cultural District, so plan to use taxis (which are plentiful and cheap in Bucharest). Check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Piata Universitatii-East

Best for: Proximity to Sights, Local Neighborhoods

Best hotels Bucharest Romania

Piata Universitatii is the main traffic circle north of Old Town with a metro stop on the main north/south line. It is one of the busiest intersections in Bucharest (so busy that pedestrians must use an underground passageway). Hotels east of the Piata are also walking distance to Old Town and the Cultural District, but a bit farther away. This added distance provides some quiet neighborhoods and affordable options. Stay here if you are looking for good value and don’t mind walking a bit.

Hotel Intercontinental Bucharest: $$$$ Classic & Omnipresent

This hotel is hard to miss–at 24 stories high, it’s one of the tallest buildings in central Bucharest. Perched right at the Universitatii intersection, it offers excellent access to most major Bucharest attractions. Despite its wonky 1970s exterior, the interior is hushed and genteel, with rooms befitting this luxury brand. Field-Tested Travel Tip: check out the rooftop health club for spectacular views of the city. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

Boutique Hotel Monaco: $$ Comfy & Quiet

Best hotels Bucharest Romania|Hotel Boutique Monaco

If you are seeking a city hotel in Bucharest that’s a bit removed from the hustle and bustle, the Boutique Hotel Monaco is a good choice. The hotel is set on a leafy side street across from the Hungarian Embassy, in a renovated Belle-Epoque style building. The mansard roof and the neo-19th-century French decor in the super-comfy rooms will have you feeling like you’re in a Parisian arrondissement. Field Tested Travel Tip: surf the internet al fresco at nearby Gradina Icoanei Park–the city of Bucharest provides free WiFi in all public parks. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Flower’s B&B: $ Cozy & Affordable

Best Hotels Bucharest Romania

Flower’s is a traditional B&B in a converted early 20th-century home on a quiet street southeast of Universitatii. Rooms are folksy, clean and comfortable. Breakfast is available in the walled garden in warm weather. Field-tested travel tip: there is ample street parking adjacent to the hotel, making it a good choice for departing/returning from a road trip to the Romanian countryside. Check hotel prices and availability on Booking.com.

Apartments in Universitatii-East

Coming Soon!

Best Hotels in Bucharest: Dorobanti/Primavera

Best for: Parks, Outdoor Museums, Embassies

The neighborhoods of Dorobanti and Primavera are arguably Bucharest’s “gold coast.” Located at the northern end of central Bucharest, the leafy streets are filled with pretty homes and many embassies. Herestrul Park (the city’s largest) is nearby, as are both the Peasant and Village museums. Because of the residential atmosphere, hotels are located on the periphery; there are more options for apartments on the residential streets. Stay here if  you like a quieter location with a bit of greenery.

Sheraton Hotel Bucharest: $$$-$$$$ Classic & Modern

A classic big-city hotel, the Sheraton Hotel Bucharest is a good option if you’re seeking a full compliment of amenities and hotel services with well-known standards. Its location just off the bustling Piata Romana provides easy access to Old Town via the metro. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

Hotel Christina: $$$ Stylish & Eco-Friendly

A member of the Bucharest boutique hotel scene, Hotel Christina is tucked away on a quiet street north of Piata Romana in an area with chic apartments and private homes. The smoke-free interior boasts some unique design features with clever lighting and eco-friendly materials. Field-Tested Travel Tip: For a taste of local cuisine, try the traditional Romanian communal dinner offered in the hotel restaurant every Monday night. Check hotel rates and availability on Booking.com.

Apartments in Dorobanti/Primavera

Coming Soon!

Best Bucharest Airport Hotels (Baneasa/Otopeni)

Best for: Airport, American Embassy

Bucharest city center is fairly close to its airport. As a result, there aren’t many hotels near Bucharest airport (Henri Coanada International). However, if you have an early flight, there are a few good options. The American Embassy is located on a compound in the Baneasa neighborhood just south of the Airport. If you are doing business with the Embassy, this area might be a good choice for a hotel.

Vienna House Easy Angelo Bucharest: $$$ Contemporary & Convenient

Yes, it’s an unusual name. But that doesn’t take away from from the modern, well-fitted rooms and convenient amenities at this hotel, Bucharest Airport’s nearest lodging. The hotel has conference facilities and is popular for business meetings, so be sure to book ahead if you have an early flight. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

Best Western Plus Hotel Briston: $$ Classic & Reliable

Traditional airport hotel with comfortable rooms and good service with a smoke-free interior. Check rates and availability on Booking.com.

 

Note: If you found this information useful, please consider booking your hotel through one of the links provided above. We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep things humming here at Changes in Longitude, while providing valuable travel tips free to our readers 😊.

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Best hotels Bucharest Romania|hotel Bucharest Airport|luxury hotel Bucharest

 

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

As demand for flying has increased, seating occupancy on planes (known as the load factor) has increased to more than 80%. Travelers who end up in the middle seat, with elbows on ether side protruding into their space and a child kicking their seatback, can be forgiven if they thought it was even higher. With airplane usage rising there is little relief in sight to full flights and cramped planes. Other than springing for First Class tickets, here’s how to get the best seat on an airplane.

It helps to plan ahead and strategize before making your seat assignment. Much depends in your personal preference. Do you like the aisle or the window? (We’ve yet to meet someone who prefers the middle set.) Bulkhead? Exit row? There are plusses and minuses to each choice.

Traveling together? Split the difference

We used to think it was important to sit next to each other out of some misguided notion that that’s what couples traveling together do. But this would end up with Michael occupying the coveted aisle seat with Larissa squished in the middle. Granted, she doesn’t take up as much space as he does but it’s still uncomfortable for her.

But then we noticed couples with a tad more gray hair than us separating on board so each occupied an aisle seat. They’d get one across from each other so they could chat if they needed to, but usually they’d be buried in a book or a movie anyway. So that’s how we travel now and it works out best for both of us.

Ryanair airplane seats interior

Exit row and bulkhead tradeoffs

Both exit rows and bulkhead seats (those in the front of each section that face a wall) generally offer extra legroom but the seats are slightly narrower due to the tray tables being located in the armrest. The exit row offers more legroom but at the expense of a narrower seat that does not recline. Since Michael doesn’t recline his seat anyway, he’ll go with the extra leg room and choose the exit row when he can. Unfortunately, airlines are now wise to this and charge extra for the exit row. For a domestic flight it’s not worth it but he’ll consider it for an overnight flight.

Overnight flights require additional strategy. The bulkhead is generally where the lavatories are located, which, although convenient, are also busy, noisy and potentially smelly. Airlines often place families traveling with babies in the bulkhead so they have more room for all their infant paraphernalia. Trust us, this often does not bode well for surrounding passengers on a nine-hour overnight flight. The phrase “sleeping like a baby” can be taken two ways, in the air it often means continual crying through the night. Bulkhead seats also don’t offer an area under the seat in front of you (because there is no seat in front of you) to stow personal belongings in-flight, so you’re constantly reaching for them in the overhead bin.

How to pick the best plane seats airplane in sky

Optimal seating configurations

On long-haul flights we try to choose aircraft with a seating configuration 2-3-2 (Boeing 767, 787 Dreamliner) or 2-4-2 (A330, A340, some A380s) across if possible. (Note verify that the flight you are taking has this configuration. For example, Norwegian and United, among others, squeeze in a 3-3-3 configuration on the 787 Dreamliner so the seats are narrower.)

With two seats by themselves along the window we can choose the two seats together on either side and have our own “mini row,” allowing one of us to lean against the window to sleep while the other is along the aisle. With only two seats we’re not climbing over anyone else or have them climbing over us during the flight. This particularly comes in handy on red-eyes.

Like it? Share it . . .Pin it!Use these strategies to choose the most comfortable (or the least uncomfortable) seat on a flight

We’ve also had good success flying Emirates. They fly all big planes that in our experience have been only half-filled, giving us each our own row. We’ve noticed that the airlines headquartered in the United Arab Emirates don’t seem to have as much pressure to be financially successful, so maybe that accounts for their ability to fly with less passengers. They dispute this fact, which is still playing out in the airline business world.

DC3 War Eagles Air Museum

Seating aboard a historic DC-3.

Each airline offers different seating configurations for the same exact model airplane. Before making your seat assignment go to one of our favorite travel web sites, www.SeatGuru.Com, which provides detailed information for every seat on every plane. You input your airline and flight number and the seating chart for that exact plane configuration will pop up.

It even knows which seats don’t have under-seat storage due to in-flight entertainment system consoles being stored there. On some configurations there isn’t a window where there should be one. (That happened to me once years ago. It’s a very confining feeling.) SeatGuru tells you on which row this occurs so you don’t spend the whole flight staring at a blank wall next to you.

Choose the right seat and your days of playing elbow hockey with fellow passengers are over.

Sign up for Airbnb through our referral link and you'll get at $35 on your first stay (& so will we :)

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Michael Western North Carolina air Museum

The Venetian resort town of Bibione is a beautiful destination for a beach getaway. The gold sand beach hugs the crystal clear waters of the upper Adriatic Sea, providing a lush backdrop for a sun and surf vacation. The beach has been awarded the coveted “Blue Flag,” an award given to beaches that are managed with great care for the environment.

One of the things that impresses visitors to Bibione is just how much beach there is, stretching over six miles with a depth of almost a quarter-mile in spots, providing plenty of space for frolicking in the sand, sunbathing and recreational activities. Families love that their children can play in the abundant sand, always finding an activity with newfound friends.

During the summer the water temperature reaches 77 degrees Fahrenheit (around 25 degrees Celsius) creating a perfect swimming environment. For landlubbers there are hiking and cycling paths (20 miles worth) along the beach.

Venice is only an hour from Bibione. Bibione is conveniently located only 35 miles from one of the world’s most magical cities: Venice, just one hour by train. For those days when you want to add a little culture to your beach vacation, head over there to stroll its romantic byways and canals and perhaps take a sunset gondola ride with the sun casting its golden rays over the Grand Canal.

The Pineda ApartHotel in Bibione, Italy

An excursion just around the corner from Bibione is the Lagoon at the Valle Vecchia (Old Valley). Venice is famous for its lagoon but Bibione also offers this treat with nature. Coastal pinelands abound with more than 150 bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise and providing a tranquil idyll during your stay in Bibione.

 

One of the best options for staying in Bibione is the Pineda ApartHotel, which is located just a block and a half from the beach. When we travel we like stay in places with a kitchenette. It’s easier to prepare some of our own meals and also provides a better value while in vacation. The apartment units at the Pineda ApartHotel offer kitchenettes along with terraces to catch sea breezes. A short stroll away is the Bibione Thermae, where massages and beauty treatments turn your getaway into a spa holiday.

Pineda ApartHotel in Bibione, Italy

Overall Bibione provides the ideal combination of sun, sand, culture, nature and sports activities.

This post has been provided by the Pineda ApartHotel.

Is a Eurail Pass worth it?

If you’ve ever dreamed of wandering around Europe with no plans and a flexible schedule you might consider buying a Eurail pass. This special train ticket allows those with not many time constraints to travel over the majority of the continent. But a key question to consider is, “Is a Eurail pass worth it?”

Eurail pass Prague train station

Starting out with a Eurail pass from the Prague train station.

It depends on how you want to travel and your budget. If you’d like to wake up in Prague one morning and say, “I think I’ll go to Berlin today and maybe Copenhagen tomorrow,” the Eurail pass provides that flexibility without having to buy a ticket for the individual legs of your journey. You’ll also avoid ticket lines at European train stations (which can be long) or having to order online. (Except for trains in certain countries which we’ll discuss below.)

What is a Eurail pass?

A Eurail pass is a train ticket that lets you explore up to 28 European countries on the continent plus Ireland. Note that England, Scotland and Wales are part of a separate BritRail pass. The Eurail pass can be delivered to customers across the globe and even in Europe. (That the physical tickets they have to be physically shipped rather than something you can download or just show bar code on your smartphone is somewhat outdated.)

Dining on a European train Prague to Budapest

The meals on European trains put Amtrak to shame.

They come in many varieties: Global Pass for up to 28 countries (Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (including Northern Ireland), Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey), Select Pass (four bordering countries), Regional Pass (two bordering countries), and the self-explanatory One Country Pass. They can be used for a range of travel days (such as 15 continuous days or 10 days in a one-month period).

How much does a Eurail pass cost?

The price of a Eurail pass depends on several variables: which one you buy, how many countries you want to visit, how long you are traveling for and how many days of train travel you want.

For example, a Eurail Romania Pass which provides 3 travel days within 1 month starts at $81. A Select Pass for 10 days of unlimited rail travel within France, Germany, Italy and Spain during a 2-month period costs $684. The top Eurail pass, good for 3 months of continuous travel within all 28 countries costs $1,784. As you can see, flexibility comes at price—so it’s important to determine what type of trip you’ll be taking. If journeying to only a few destinations on a fixed itinerary you might be better off buying individual tickets and not purchasing a Eurail pass.

Florence Italy train station ticket window

You want to avoid slow-moving lines like this one at the Florence train station.

It’s important to note that for travelers aged 26 and older the Eurail pass is only available in first class, that is unfortunate since European trains are quite comfortable in second class and the option of purchasing a second class ticket would be a lower cost choice. There may also be some added fees: during our recent trip to Europe we learned that high-speed trains in Italy required a seat reservation fee of 10 Euros per person on top of our prepaid pass. This added 40 Euros to the cost of a round trip ticket for a couple, not something you expect when you’ve already purchased a pass. In France the reservation fee is even higher.

A good resource for comparison pricing and determining whether or not a Eurail pass is worth it is RailEurope (www.RailEurope.com). While this is a competitor of Eurail pass, it provides an easy to use web site. There you can price out train tickets for individual routes you might take on your European journey and compare them to pricing for the various Eurail passes. Factor in the freedom and flexibility that Eurail provides to help make your decision.

Further information about Eurail pass is available at www.Eurail.com.

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Evaluating the flexibility, service and cost of a Eurail Pass

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Any American citizen or legal resident that flies more than once a year should consider TSA Precheck and Global Entry. They are two of the Trusted Traveler programs established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow expedited security processing for low-risk travelers. Read more

Michael and I have been on the road for over three years now with no fixed address, yet people still ask us where we call home. We finally have a good answer: we live at Airbnb. We thought it would be useful to explain how Airbnb works.

We don’t work for them, nor do we live at their corporate headquarters (although considering their funky new offices in San Francisco that might be fun). We’ve used Airbnb on four continents, and in the past year alone we’ve spent about 200 nights at Airbnb properties: if Airbnb were a country, we’d qualify for citizenship.

Airbnb has changed the way we travel. We still stay in hotels, but when planning destinations, Airbnb is the first place we check for lodging.

There are several reasons why we keep going back for more:

1. Multiple Lodging Options:

No matter whether you’re looking for a luxury condo in Buenos Aires or a spare bedroom in Nashville you can find it on Airbnb. I like the variety; when staying somewhere a week or longer we prefer a house/apartment to rent, whereas for a night or two a private room in someone’s home is perfect. Think of it as “Aunt Mabel’s spare bedroom (with better furniture) meets Couch Surfing, meets VRBO.”

how airbnb worksThis Buenos Aires studio is a far cry from couch surfing

2. Cost:

A big advantage here. It stands to reason that going direct to the source would be more cost-efficient. Plus the more “homey” aspect means you’re foregoing costly things typically associated with hotels, like daily maid service. Note: Airbnb does tack a service fee on top of the quoted price, but on the whole it’s still a better value than comparable hotels.

3. Off the Tourist Track:

Staying in someone’s home puts you in a residential neighborhood, whether a city high-rise or a country farm. It’s a real pleasure to get away from motels at interstate exits or lodging in touristy locations. We loved our flat in the Cihangir neighborhood in Istanbul where all the grocery stores delivered — and we got to know the guy in the video shop.

how airbnb worksOur quiet residential neighborhood in Istanbul

4. New Friends in New Places:

The whole Airbnb experience tends to draw hosts who genuinely like to entertain and share info about their hometown. A dialogue begins with the reservation, so you already know someone local by the time you pull into town. Our host in Memphis joined us for ribs at the local barbecue joint and in Malta we received a homemade version of the island’s traditional Easter cake. We even met one host’s father: a 90-year-old D-Day veteran who literally shared “war stories” with us. We’ve stayed in touch with many of our Airbnb hosts and now have friends all over the world.

how airbnb works-D-day veteran90-year-old D-Day veteran “Beamy” Beamsderfer, the father of one of our Airbnb hosts, shared war stories with us

5. Easy to Use:

After traveling full-time for over three years I’ve used just about every vacation rental website out there, and Airbnb’s is by far the easiest. Searching for places is simple, the pricing structure is clear and booking is done by credit card once you’ve set up an account. I’ve recently noticed other websites styling their design to look virtually the same as Airbnb, yet the search functions and variety of properties Airbnb has on offer are still the best.

6. Personal profiles and reviews:

A big part of the Airbnb experience is establishing an online profile and collecting reviews — for both hosts and guests. Think of it as an online booking site and TripAdvisor all rolled into one. The system is designed so you can’t pad it with fake reviews, thus crappy lodging or disrespectful guests are easily weeded out and don’t stay on the site for long.

how airbnb worksWould you trust these people in your home? Fortunately our Airbnb profile says we’re good houseguests, so our Nashville host Jeff let us (and our visiting nephew) strum away!

Even if you’re not constantly on the road like us, adding Airbnb to your lodging repertoire will give you new options and change the way you travel. There are still times when other lodging options are a better fit, such as when we spent a week in hotels on the Las Vegas Strip for the full-blown thick-of-the-action experience, or when we needed to find a quiet writer’s retreat for three months to finish our latest book.

But on balance, it’s fairly accurate to say we live at Airbnb. It’s our (sort of) home address.

Note: We have fully paid for all of our stays.

***Get a $20 Credit on your first stay***

Thinking of trying out Airbnb? Take advantage of Airbnb’s referral program.  Sign up here: Airbnb new member. You’ll get a $20 credit on your first stay over $75.

 

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When we arrived in Dubai we were struck by how modern the transportation system was but after two months in Southeast Asia we could have used these tips for riding the Dubai Metro. Asia had been hot and sticky and we really wanted to go someplace dry. After learning that Emirates offers flights to Dubai on a daily basis we headed there on a direct flight from Bangkok.

As the plane approached Dubai we saw the skyline popping out of the desert like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. Shiny modern ziggurats soar skyward, the largest of which, the 163-story Burj Khalifa, is the tallest building in the world.

Dubai looks like something out of Flash Gordon from the air and continues with this futuristic feel on the ground. When we boarded the Dubai Metro we were a bit taken aback that there was no driver in the front car. The entire system is fully automated and driverless. After we got used to that fact, we realized the Metro is a great way to get around Dubai and offer these tips for riding the Dubai Metro

tips for riding the dubai metro

The futuristic Dubai Metro stations are easy to spot.

Find and book the best experiences in Dubai!

Here are 10 tips for riding the Dubai Metro:

1) There are two lines: Green and Red, with more on the way. The two existing lines cross each other and then run parallel so be sure to check a Metro map before starting your journey to see which one you need.

dubai metro map

dubai metro ticket machine nol2) The system is cashless. Purchase a “nol” card at a vending machine or at the ticket booth and put a designated amount on it. Then you swipe it over a card reader before entering the boarding area. Note that only Visa and MasterCard are accepted for payment. One-way fares range from AED 1.8 to 5.8. (About 50 cents to 1.60 in U.S. dollars.)

3) Don’t be alarmed that there is no driver or any other human on board running the trains. The system is completely automated which is a bit startling at first but you get used to it.

4) Because there is no driver, the view from the front car is not obscured by a driver’s cabin. The train operates mostly above-ground, so the front window offers the best views of the ever-changing skyline whizzing by. Train geeks will want to ride in the front car. But be careful because . . .

Dubai metro riding in front (640x458)

5) Each train has a car reserved for women, which may be the front car for that train so check the signs. I learned this one the hard way one day when I wondered why my fellow passengers (all female I later realized) were all staring at me. Eventually one approached and pointed to the “Women and Children Only” sign. Oops. Women are not limited to this car though and may ride in any car.

6) Don’t get confused by the Metro station names. Most stations on the Metro are named after the nearest important building, which in Dubai tend to be malls and bank headquarters that often start sounding alike. Pay attention to your stop.

dubai metro signage

7) There are separate cars for First Class but the ride is so short they are not worth paying for. The regular cars are cleaner and more comfortable than any subway we’ve ridden on before.

8) If you plan on cycling around Dubai, be aware that bicycles are not permitted on the trains.

9) Because Friday is a Day of Prayer in the United Arab Emirates, the Metro does not start service until 2 PM.

Dubai metro fish sign (300x292)10) Last but not least, do not carry fish on the Dubai Metro. That seems like an odd one but there were signs at the Metro entrance warning against carrying fish on board. That’s not something we’ve seen before.

For more information visit: Dubai Metro.

Find and book the best experiences in Dubai!
Here are the top travel guides to Dubai.

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!How to ride the metro in Dubai|metro Dubai map|Dubai metro|Dubai travel|Dubai travel tips


28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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For years I’ve dreamed of a vacation out west, but I had no idea how to choose a dude ranch.  I’ve always loved the beauty and romance of the wide open spaces. As a kid I avidly watched John Wayne movies; my secret fantasy was that I’d be the only girl ropin’ and ridin’ in the movie The Cowboys.

The reality is I grew up in the suburbs back east. Ropin’ and ridin’ weren’t everyday activities—shucks, ma’am, they weren’t activities at all. My experience with horses was limited to a few tame pony rides and a 30-minute lesson in a cramped paddock. I wanted a place where I could get some good riding experience while satisfying my “old west” craving.

how to choose a dude ranch clydesdale horse (640x534)

I didn’t know how to choose a dude ranch that fit the bill. Plenty of hotels and resorts out west call themselves “ranches,” offering horseback riding as one of the amenities. But the idea of a few horses stabled out behind the golf course and tennis courts didn’t provide that “authentic” experience I was seeking.

Fortunately I discovered the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA), a non-profit organization  dedicated to promoting dude ranch vacations while preserving western heritage. The association was formed in 1926 and has over 100 member ranches in the western US and Canada. All ranches must go through a rigorous 2-year qualification process to ensure they meet the criteria of the association, including horsemanship and hospitality.

how to choose a dude ranch-white stallion cookout (640x522)

The association’s website is a treasure trove of information to assist with planning the perfect dude ranch vacation for you. There are so many options; the site has checklists to help you narrow down your choices. Although all offer excellent riding programs for every level of rider (including ultra-beginners such as Michael and me), there are plenty of other options. Some points to consider:

  • Time of year: Most ranches are open during their mildest weather season; ranches up north are active in the summer months, southern ranches are open during the winter and spring.
  • Families vs. couples or adults-only: Many guest ranches cater to both, with extra family programs during school holiday periods.
  • Non-riding activities: If you don’t want to spend all your time in a saddle, ranches offer all sorts of alternatives, from cooking classes to skeet shooting, photography seminars, pools and even spas for tired muscles. Each ranch is different; the DRA site will help you select based on your preference.
  • Scenery and riding environment: Depending on location, ranches will offer riding on mountain trails, open meadows, southwestern desert or combinations of all three.
  • Number of guests: Some ranches cater to only 10-12 guests, while others accommodate 80-100. Choose a size that will provide you the social life (or solitude) you crave.
  • Distance from the nearest town or airport: Some guest ranches offer shuttle services, eliminating the need for a rental car. In other cases you might want the freedom to go exploring.

The DRA website has detailed descriptions of each of its member ranches, helpful maps, pricing guidelines and photos along with links to each ranch’s direct website. Once Michael and I decided to visit a ranch in the southwestern US, we spent many happy hours perusing the DRA’s website to make our selection.

We promise we’ll report soon on our ropin’ and ridin’ experience, think “Sun and Saddles.” 🙂

The photo of us on horseback at the top of this page was taken at Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia, Arizona and the remainder (including those delicious steaks) were taken at White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

How to choose a dude ranch-White Stallion ranch stables (640x469)

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RTW plane tickets are an option for anyone considering a trip around the globe. These “round the world” (RTW) tickets are usually purchased before you leave on your trip and typically provide a series of flights in one continuous direction, eventually getting you back to where you started.

There are different versions of RTW plane tickets, each having advantages and drawbacks. The key is to evaluate your own personal travel style, objectives and budget to choose an RTW plane ticket that’s right for you.

First, familiarize yourself with the different RTW plane ticket options:

Booking an RTW ticket through an airline alliance gives you electronic tickets, mileage benefits, a single point of contact and a certain degree of flexibility.

Customized RTW tickets, booked through a specialty travel agent, are essentially a series of one-way tickets based on your itinerary. They can be much cheaper than alliance RTWs, but are usually paper tickets with no change options, often involving indirect flights.

Booking plane tickets as you go means you have to do all the work, and may not always get the cheapest fares. The flip side is you have maximum flexibility. Technically this isn’t an RTW plane ticket, but you will have traveled around the world by the time you are done.

rtw plane ticket australia

Once you understand your choices, check them based on your own travel needs. Here are some points to consider:

Trip Duration

How long will you be gone? RTW plane tickets through an airline alliance are good for one year. Although this may be plenty of time for most people, if you’re planning to travel longer than that an air alliance RTW won’t work for you.

If you are customizing your own RTW itinerary, you’ll have to return within one year (since airlines won’t book more than one year in advance)—or pay change fees to have the dates extended.

Set vs. Open Travel Dates

Are your dates fixed? RTW plane tickets require you to plan out your ticket segments in advance.  For example, this can be a great option if you know that you want to spend a month each in Thailand, Australia and Germany. You select your travel dates, and plan activities in each destination around those dates.

However, if you’d like the flexibility to extend a stay somewhere or leave a bit earlier, make sure you know the terms of your ticket. An airline alliance will usually let you change dates within the itinerary, but customized RTW ticket might not allow for changes of dates without significant fees.

Direction of Journey

Will you continuously be traveling in the same direction? While every flight doesn’t have to head due east or due west, airline alliance RTWs allow for a single overall visit within any given continent or region. This means you can fly to Europe and bounce around within that continent, but once you touch down in the Middle East or Africa or any other region you cannot go back to Europe on that RTW plane ticket. Be sure you know what makes up a “region” for an airline alliance so you don’t accidently plan a flight “out of bounds.”

airplane in clouds edit

Flights vs. Overland Travel

Are you flying from point to point?  Airline alliance RTWs work on a “segment” system, where each segment is the travel from one destination to another.  The fine print will tell you going overland from point to point counts as a segment as well—yikes!

If you don’t want to waste a segment, make sure you always leave from the same airport where you arrived, or at the very least, don’t plan a lot of overland journeys between stops. This is a case where either a customized RTW or simply booking as you go may work better.

Fixed vs. Flexible Destinations

Do you want flexibility? If you decide along the way you must go Budapest or Hanoi but it’s not on your RTW ticket you’ll have to think again. Airline alliance RTWs require you to fix your destinations when you buy your ticket.  Dates can be changed, but altering destinations is not so easy—and can get expensive.

Customized RTWs are usually booked on non-refundable fares, meaning a change in itinerary would mean eating the cost of the ticket. If you’re a more spontaneous sort, booking as you go may be the best option.

For our recent RTW we wanted maximum flexibility so we booked tickets as we went.  For our analysis of RTW plane tickets for our own trip, check out our RTW update.

This is one of many decisions you’ll make when planning your trip, but remember: you’re going to travel around the world!  Pick the best RTW plane ticket option for you. . . and start packing 🙂

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Whenever you take a road trip it’s important to set up some rules of the road.  A simple road trip tip (or seven) can keep a dream drive from turning into a nightmare.  You want wide-open spaces and adventure, not wrong turns and flat tires.

Outback Driving cropped flipped (575x423)

Michael and I have taken road trips on five continents, and we’ve made our share of mistakes. But we’ve learned a few things along the way; following a few of these simple road trip tips can make sure your ride goes smoothly:

Road trip tip #1:  Delegate Responsibilities

Will you share driving duties?  Will one of you drive while the other navigates?  Who is responsible for tracking expenses or booking lodging? There is no right or wrong way, but unless you have a mutual understanding of whom does what your road trip will hit a pothole pretty quickly.

Road trip tip #2:  Map it out

Nothing ruins a trip faster than getting hopelessly lost.  Make sure you have a good old-fashioned paper copy map, and you know your route options. GPS and phone apps are great when seeking a specific destination, but they won’t give you an overall sense of the area, and those tiny screens can become tedious. In remote areas it’s also possible that mobile phone coverage will either be unavailable or limited to voice-only calling.

generic motel

Road trip tip #3:  Sleep on it 

Regardless of whether you’re staying in a hotel, an RV or a tent it’s a good idea to know where you’ll be laying your head that night. Enjoying a relaxing evening ensures you’ll be refreshed for the next day’s drive.  Putting on an extra miles looking for a place to stop when you’re tired at the end of a long day is draining. Camping by the side of a busy road or getting the last motel room (next to the dumpster) doesn’t exactly promote sweet dreams.

Road trip tip #4:  Let yourself wander

When on a road trip the journey is the destination, which means you should indulge your curiosity along the way. Be realistic about the distance you plan to cover in a day and remember:  it’s the little detours and unscheduled stops that make the trip fun.

Dudes Steakhouse WYoming (575x443)

Road trip tip #5:  Food for thought

Depending on where you’re headed, dining options on the road will vary greatly and grumbling stomachs can cause grumpy conversations.  Consider packing a picnic lunch, and keep a few nibbles on hand to stave off hunger and make sure those freewheeling spirits stay high. Be sure to have plenty of water as well.

Road trip tip #6:  Off and running

When you’re 100 miles from anywhere it is not a good time to discover you’re about to run out of gas or you don’t know how to use the jack to change your flat tire. You don’t have to be a master mechanic, but it’s common sense to know a few basics about the vehicle that is a major part of your holiday.

Road trip tip #7:  Music to your ears

There’s something fundamental that links music to a trip on the open road.  Whether it’s “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or anything in between, be sure to bring music you love. It will enhance the experience while you’re driving, and the soundtrack of your trip will trigger fond memories every time you hear it.

What are some of your favorite road trip tips?

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The turquoise Princess phone in the corner was the first clue that the Plains Historic Inn in Plains, Georgia was going to be different from any other place we’d ever stayed. The second was the note from former President Jimmy Carter welcoming guests to the inn.

The Plains Historic Inn is located right on Main Street, the quaint block-long avenue that became famous to millions of Americans in 1976 when Jimmy Carter ran for president.  The town is the anchor for the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site which is run by the National Park Service. Despite traveling all over the world, Mr. Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn still live in town, just a few blocks away.

Plains Georgia Main Street

The Inn’s seven rooms are decorated in the style of different decades of Jimmy Carter’s life; from his birth in the 1920s to his return to Plains in 1980. Rosalynn Carter helped select and find the antiques for each room while her part-time carpenter husband built out walls and refinished the wooden stairs.

We stayed in the 1950s room in all its retro glory. Besides the Princess phone there was an old-fashioned TV, the type with a 7″ black-and-white monitor nestled in a large piece of wood furniture. (For those who want to watch current shows, a modern flat-screen TV sits above it.)

plains historic inn

Each room is also decorated with magazines of the period which are fun to flip through to see the old ads. Speaking of advertising, the 1960s room feels very Mad Men, making it a perfect spot to watch the show on Sunday evenings.

Guests can soak in a claw foot tub in the 1920s room while those feeling particularly presidential should book the 1980s room; with its formal décor it appears as if it just popped out of the White House.

jimmy carter preaching plains georgia

Most of the weekend guests at the Plains Historic Inn are there to watch Mr. Carter teach Sunday School at the Marantha Baptist Church, where he teaches two or three days a month. Innkeeper Miss Jan is able to get front row seats for her guests to witness history in action.

Even without the Jimmy Carter connection, the Inn is one of the coolest places we’ve stayed anywhere. If you can visit when Mr. Carter is preaching, so much the better.

jimmy carter plains georgia marantha church rocky

The Carters were incredibly gracious to pose with us and Little Rocky afterwards.

Further information

For information on the Inn go to: Plains Historic Inn

For President Carter’s Sunday School teaching schedule go to: Marantha Baptist Church

Click here for the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

 

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With a little planning it’s easy to drive on the left side of the road. On our around-the-world journey we spent more time driving on the left side of the road than we did on the right; doing so in Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Many North Americans call it driving on the “wrong” side of the road but we’ve never embraced this terminology. That just makes it harder to get used to.  Here are a few tips we learned in the UK for driving on the left:

1)  Go left, young man

Think left. And then think left again. Some car companies put a sticker on the dashboard that says, “Left alive. Dead right.” That’s it in a nutshell. When you’re not sure where to go, just go left.

2)  Avoid a sticky situation

Most rental vehicles in the UK and Europe are manual transmission. For the first time you drive on the left, consider paying extra for an automatic transmission. If you don’t drive a manual transmission at home, this is not the time to learn. However, if you are used to a stick at home, you will find, as we did, that the adjustment to shifting with the left hand is relatively easy.

3)  Remote possibilities

Pick up your rental car in a more remote location. For our road trip in Scotland we started out in Edinburgh. However, instead of picking up our car in that crowded city, we took the train to a suburban location and picked up our car there. With fewer cars on the road it was an easier adjustment to make.

how to drive on the left

With the freedom of a car hire, me met some new friends in the English countryside.

4)  Curb your enthusiasm

Practice driving around the parking lot where you pick up the car and get used to the bulk of the car being on your left rather than the right. Also try parallel parking it against a curb a few times.

5)  Making adjustments

The adjustment to driving on the left is a bit easier to make since the driver sits on the right, opposite to where they are used to. Right away the driver is aware something is different, which makes it easier to adapt. Also, in the UK many country roads where you will go exploring are single-lane, so driving is a breeze.

6)  Do you get my drift?

If you are traveling with a companion, enlist their help to make sure you are not drifting over the center line of the road. That can happen a bit at first. Driving on the left is harder for the front seat passenger as they continually press the phantom brake pedal that they don’t have. At least Larissa does.

7)  Going around in circles

The UK and Ireland are chock full of traffic circles, something Americans are not used to. Visualize ahead of time what you will do in a circle. What’s that? Correct, go left.

Follow these tips and driving on the left will be a breeze. You will also get to see more of the countryside, wandering around at your own pace. And don’t forget, in North America we call it car rental, but it’s called a car hire in the UK.

Just remember when you return home to get back on the right. We drove on the left so much on our journey that it became second-nature. When we got into a taxi after our arrival in New York, I wondered why the driver was sitting on the “wrong” side of the car.

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Seven tips for driving on the left

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Earlier this year we attended the Travel Bloggers Unite conference where we met many people who were going to travel for a year. Most of them were lugging huge backpacks, while we had wheeled suitcases. One girl looked longingly at our bags and said “I wish I had done that instead of a backpack.”

We’re not packing geniuses, we’re just not backpackers. So when it came time to plan this trip backpacks never entered the equation. Each of us had plenty of business travel experience, where a wheeled suitcase is the luggage of choice. Our motto was “go with what you know.”

How to travel for a year Paris vacation apartment rental

This apartment was our home in Paris for two weeks. 

The same goes for our lodging options. A married couple in their 50s is not really interested in a hostel dorm room. Many hostels do offer double rooms with private baths, but we were surprised to discover that the prices for two people were often similar to a decent hotel, guesthouse, or even a small apartment. Again, we’ve chosen to go with what we know and have found lodging that is comfortable and within our budget.

For more of our luggage and lodging advice read the article we wrote, Career Breaks: They’re not just for backpackers, for Meet, Plan, GO!, the organization that helps people with career break planning (their online editor was one of the envious backpackers at the conference.) Take a look and you’ll also find many other helpful posts on the site about planning your own grand adventure.

From a kitschy throwback hotel in North Korea to a nudist B&B in Portugal, we found a few unique places to stay in the world. Here are some of our favorites:

1) Little Petra Bedouin Camp, Jordan

 

Little Petra Bedouin camp Jordan

The Little Petra Bedouin Camp is so named because of its proximity to Little Petra, a smaller cousin of the world-renowned site of Petra. Just like the name implies, it’s little, but worth visiting as it gets less than 1% of the visitors of Petra. When we visited there were only three other people there. The Bedouin camp offers accommodations in tents. However, we were a little concerned at check-in when the owner cheerfully told us, “I’ve upgraded you to a cave.” So we spent a rather cold night in the cave but it was filled with blankets and pillows and ended up being quite cozy.

Website: Little Petra Bedouin Camp

2) Shichachai Shadow Art Hotel, Beijing, China

 

Unique places to stay Shichachai Shadow Art Hotel

Keen observers will notice that while Larissa is waiting for the next performance she is engrossed in a game of Solitaire.

Hutongs are traditional neighborhoods of small alleys and courtyard homes in Beijing that are rapidly being bulldozed over for new developments. While the hutongs are becoming a shadow of their former selves, will an art based on shadows help revive them? The Shichachai Shadow Art Hotel is in an old hutong neighborhood and showcases the ancient art of shadow puppetry. Banned by Chairman Mao during the Cultural Revolution, shadow puppetry is being revived by another Mao, this one an artist.

Unique Places to stay Shichachai Hotel Beijing

The man behind the curtain is puppet artist Mao.

Mao makes his own hand painted shadow puppets as he revives the lost art. A theater was built into the hotel lobby to showcase regular performances for guests.. Staying here provides the visitor a unique opportunity to experience life in an old hutong while watching an ancient art.

Book a room at the: Shichachai Shadow Art Hotel

3) Belar Homestead, Dubbo, Australia

 

Unique places to stay Belars Australia

The Belar Homestead sits in Australia’s bush country on a 3,000 acre ranch owned by 4th-generation cattle farmer Rob Wright and his wife Deb. In fact, the house was built by Rob’s great-grandfather. The setting off a mile-long driveway is perfect for someone seeking solitude with the only neighbors being a few cows, some chickens and the occasional kangaroo. The remote location provides a spectacular night sky for stargazing. It’s so clear that the Parkes Radio Telescope, which received the video of the first Apollo moon landing, is nearby.

4) Ai Aiba, The Rock Painting Lodge, Namibia

 

Ai Aiba rock painting lodge Namibia

Namibia has become a popular destination in Africa for independent self-drive safaris. Aside from the big game viewing, there are many areas with prehistoric cave art paintings. Ai Aiba sits within a 12,000 acre reserve boasting over 150 of these paintings. On a pre-breakfast hike we spotted some ancient artwork of giraffes while looking over our shoulder at real giraffes munching on the acacia trees. It was a sublime experience.

Ai Aiba rock painting lodge Namibia

Website: Ai Aiba, The Rock Painting Lodge

5) Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

 

Yanggakdo Hotel Pyongyang North Korea

Okay this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly wasn’t Larissa’s choice, but the Yanggakdo is the place to go when visiting the monolithic country of North Korea and experience some retro-70s style. There’s even a highlight of that era, a revolving restaurant on top. The rooms were nicer than we expected, although coated somewhat with several decades worth of tar and nicotine. The only way to visit North Korea is via an authorized tour operator. We recommend Koryo Tours. Extra bonus: There’s a two-lane bowling alley in the basement that comes with your own cheerleader.

Website: Koryo Tours

6) Casa Amarela, Algarve Coast, Portugal

 

Casa Amarela Naturist resort Portugal

If you’re seeking a vacation where you can pack light, really light, the Casa Amarela may be what you’re looking for. The guest house run by Brits Jane and Stewart is clothing optional. The feeling of diving into the pool and then drying off au natural in the warm Portuguese sun is so … well, you’ll just have to experience it for yourself. And while you’re relaxing just think of all the money you saved on baggage fees.

Web site: Casa Amarela

7) Munduk Moding Plantation, Bali

 

Unique places to stay Munduk Moding Bali

If you’ve dreamed of waking up to a view of a coffee plantation on the island of Bali then this is the place. True coffee addicts can hike the plantation then retire to the lodge for a fresh cup of Kopi Luwak. Made famous as the java of choice for Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List,  it’s brewed from beans that have first been eaten and shat out by the civet cat. Despite that history, Larissa tried it. Fortunately for Michael he’s not a coffee drinker. As an added bonus you can visit the civets in cages and watch them prepare the beans for roasting.

Munduk Moding Plantation Bali

Website: Munduk Moding Plantation

What unique places to stay can you recommend?

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We’ve generally rented apartments with some hotels thrown in. A few of them have had incredible views of either city scenes or country landscapes. The picture above is the view from our flat of the Sky Tower in Auckland. This being New Zealand, naturally they allow people to bungee jump off it. Throughout the day we’d hear the screams of people taking the plunge.

Ryugyong Hotel Pyongyang North Korea

Pyongyang, North Korea: View from our room of the unfinished Ryugyong Hotel. The world’s tallest hotel, construction stopped 20 years ago when benefactors the Soviet Union collapsed.

Shanghai skyline Rocky

Little Rocky admiring the view from the balcony of our flat in Shanghai.

Singapore skyline

The Singapore skyline from our room. The low building with the orange roof is the British colonial-era post office.

Hong Kong skyline at night

The Hong Kong skyline at night. Discerning readers will notice that this is the skyline in the banner for our web site.

New Zealand Twizel view

It’s not all buildings and skylines though, this is the stunning scenery from the back of our cottage in Twizel, New Zealand.

Bali neighborhood near Kuta Beach

We’ve also stayed in local neighborhoods. These kids were our friendly neighbors for two weeks in Bali.

Munduk Moding Plantation Bali

Sometimes it’s a jungle out there, like at this coffee plantation on the north coast of Bali.

Click on the link for advice and resources on a vacation rental for your next holiday.

Around the world plane tickets, also know as RTW tickets, are tickets you purchase through one of the airline alliances that are just what it sounds, a ticket to travel around the world. The rules for each alliance are different, but generally you go in one direction around the world, can make a certain amount of stops, and have to finish within a certain time period, usually a year.

When we took off to travel around the world for a year we looked closely at purchasing RTW tickets as opposed to buying tickets as we traveled. We concluded that while the RTW websites are fun to plan travel, for our purposes we liked the flexibility of being able to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and did not buy an RTW ticket.

However, if you have a set itinerary over a finite period of time, the RTW ticket may be the way for you to go.

There are several approaches you can take when buying an around the world ticket:

1)      Buy an around the world tickets through a consolidator who buys in bulk and passes the savings on to you.

2)      Purchase an RTW ticket through one of the three major airline alliances that offer it.

3)      Buy tickets on your own as you go.

4)      Create your own RTW ticket

Naturally there are pluses and minuses to each of these choices.

1) Ticket consolidators – Companies such as Airtreks are quite popular. Their web site is also great fun for the budding RTW traveler. Use the handy world map to input the cities you want to visit and the site spits out a price range. If you give them your contact information they will work up a more detailed quote. Depending on your itinerary the prices can be comparable to an alliance round the world ticket.

With ticket consolidators you have to be careful with whom you are dealing. Do some research before selecting one. I clicked on a banner ad for a group out of New York that had a 2 for 1 promotion for tickets to Asia. They quoted me a price for Philadelphia to Beijing. I pointed out that the fare on the airline’s own web site was much cheaper for the same flight. After much clicking and clacking of the keyboard the operator came back on and, lo and behold, they could beat the airline’s price.

I asked if that was a 2 for 1 ticket like they advertised. Unfortunately, no. In order to get the 2 for 1 promotion I had to buy an unrestricted ticket that cost, you guessed it, twice the price of the regular ticket, thereby eliminating the supposed 2 for 1 savings.

2) RTW ticket – There are three airline alliances that offer Round-the-World (RTW) plane tickets. When you buy one of these tickets you are locked into the member airlines and their destinations. The last one isn’t usually as important since each airline group can pretty much get you most places that you want to go. These RTW tickets are limited by either flight segments or miles. The three groups are oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam. (Three different alliances, three different approaches to punctuation.)

While RTWs theoretically offer a better deal compared to purchasing individual tickets on your own, you are giving up a certain amount of freedom by doing so. For example, you must consistently travel either east or west around the globe with minimal backtracking and use the tickets within 12 months of the first flight.

The Star Alliance bases their RTW promotion on mileage levels. Unfortunately every trip we planned easily went over their mileage limit so we eliminated them early on. We also eliminated SkyTeam because they include some of the dodgier airlines like Aeroflot and Alitalia. In another development, SkyTeam lost one of their major partners when Continental Airlines left due to its merger with United.

If we were to buy an RTW we would have gone with oneworld. This group includes some of the biggies: American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Qantas along with ten others. If there’s someplace you want to go, oneworld will get you there. They allow up to 16 segments, priced at about $8,000 for Economy and $12,500 for Business Class. Considering the number of 10+ hour and overnight flights it takes to get around the world, the $4,500 upgrade for Business Class may be worth it for those who can swing it.

As is typical with these fares, the traveler flies in one direction but on oneworld this is not a rigid rule. For example, we planned on traveling from east to west starting in North America then proceeding to Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South America and back to North America. Those geography buffs out there (let’s face it, if you’re looking into buying one of these tickets you are one) will notice that the flight from Asia to Australia backtracks us back east a bit. Even though the overall trip was generally east to west that backtrack was allowed since we were going to a new continent.

After reviewing all the alternatives we were just about to buy two RTWs at oneworld, and not just because they have a really nifty trip planning screensaver that you can download. But we wanted to see China first, then go to Australia and return to the parts of Asia that we missed on the first go round.

We called the helpful people at the oneworld planning desk to see if this was permitted. It was not. At that point, since we had already touched Asia we couldn’t go back; unless it was for a 24 hour layover. Confused yet? While I had the ticket agent on the phone I wondered if they could also explain to me some more of life’s imponderables including the infield fly rule in baseball and the Electoral College.

The oneworld RTW allows up to 16 segments but due to technicalities in the rules you can usually get only about 14. They consider a move you make forward on the ground as one of your segments and count it against your ticket.  For example, say you fly to Beijing and then take a train to Shanghai and fly on to Bangkok. The train ride that you paid for and took on your own counts as one of your legs because it moved you along around the world. That seems a bit cheesy.

Also, you have to map out your entire itinerary when you purchase the ticket. I don’t even know what socks I’m wearing tomorrow, I doubt I know what city I want to be in next April. You can change the destinations but naturally there is a cost for doing so, thereby diminishing the value of the ticket.

3) Pay as you go – While we liked the idea of a potentially cheaper ticket on one of the RTW packages, we eventually decided that the lack of freedom was not compelling enough to buy into it. Let’s face it, for most people an RTW trip is a once (or never) in a lifetime event. Why place restrictions on your travel? What if you meet some people along the way that suggest a place to try that you hadn’t considered or invite you to visit where they live?

We wanted to maintain maximum flexibility by deciding to travel where and when and on what airline we wanted to. It may cost us more along the way, or it may not. We now have the flexibility to take advantage of last-minute fare bargains or to travel on airlines that may be cheaper but are not part of the preselected group in whatever RTW alliance we would have selected.

We also don’t have to pay for the entire price of the ticket upfront. This is a huge consideration since this trip already has plenty of upfront costs. (Did I mention all the shots we had to get?) For all the seeming benefits of the RTW we may end up traveling even cheaper by buying tickets individually, we’ll see. We will provide updates here as the trip moves forward.

After all the angst of whether or not to buy a round-the-world plane ticket we are definitely glad we didn’t. The flexibility we enjoy by buying tickets as we go outweighs any advantage of the RTW ticket. When we traveled around Southeast Asia we found $80 plane tickets. This makes more destinations available to us than if we had gone with the RTW and locked in an itinerary.

In addition, our itinerary where we went to China first, then Australia/New Zealand, and returned back to Asia would not have been permitted by the rules of an RTW ticket. They wouldn’t allow backtracking to a continent. So for us flexibility rules.

4) DIY RTW ticket – If you’re the type who really needs to have all your plane reservations made ahead of time, you can just go to a booking site like Kayak.com and select “Multi-City” itinerary and create your own RTW ticket. Besides being a lot of fun for travel geeks, you have the utmost flexibility with destinations, dates, and airlines. I spend way too much time playing around with this tool planning imagined journeys.

Conclusion about buying an RTW ticket

We ended up spending $10,000 each for our plane and train tickets for 14 months of travel. While this was more than an $8,000 RTW ticket, we flew on more than 30 flights, vs. 16 for the RTW. We also had maximum flexibility to pick destinations, carriers and dates throughout the trip. Overall, it made MUCH more sense for us to select Option 3 above, the pay as you go plan.