The world of vacation rentals

Flipkey vacation rentals
My mom and I arrive to Cinque Terre hours after we were supposed to, thanks to the Italian train strikes taking place on the day we hike it from photogenic Venice to Milan to La Spezia to Vernazza (whew).

Exhausted, moderately grumpy and ready to take in the beauty of the Ligurian region, we exit the train station and begin our search for our Flipkey vacation rental and the woman who owns it.

We wander past the rock archway leading to the beach and down the car-free lane lined with tiny shops and restaurants, craning our necks to find our host.

Reviews Travel

Watching Your Back: Being Streetwise in Los Angeles

Watch a movie set in LA and you’ll see that it’s an action packed place to be. There’s all sorts going on and it attracts people from all over to jump on flights to Los Angeles for a taste of the action, or at least to see if it’s all true. Land in Los Angeles and there may be all kinds of fun sights and events going on around you. Sometimes you can get so caught up in the glamour that you don’t realize the sneakier elements up to dastardly tricks.

Here’s a little guide to being streetwise so you can enjoy that fun side of Los Angeles and avoid any nasty incidents:


A cigarette and a view: the coupling of smoking and travel

I sit, tuckered out from a long day of travel. Situated on the former Olympic Steps in Sarajevo, surrounded by green mountains dotted with homes which used to be in the middle of a war zone, I take it all in.

Sarajevo Olympic Stairs

Then, I light a cigarette, inhale deeply, and really begin to take a look around what is — in this moment — my world.

The dilapidated steps, crumbling into the weeds growing alongside what used to have been something bustling, something grand.

I sit, and as I pull the toxicity into my lungs, I get it. I let myself open up to the history of Sarajevo being surrounded, the struggles, the pain, the rebirth of this city.

When I stub my cigarette out, I light another one and ponder some more.

Smoking and Travel. The perfect couple.

The Comfort Zone Project Travel

Daily Wanderlust: happy elephants

Happy elephants aren’t always easy to find in Thailand. A quick look at the current Travel Blogger Calendar and the related blog posts can give you insight into why this happens. (Note: you can win a trip to Thailand through them!)

For me, working at Save Elephant Foundation, I am treated to happy elephants whenever I journey to Elephant Nature Park, located just outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.

The elephants here are most definitely happy. I mean — they get to roam free, eat heaps of tasty fruits and veggies and hang out with their best buddies and family all day, without ever having to work.


Hayarkon 48: the beach hostel to chill at in Tel Aviv

Normally, beach lodging is made up of pricey, resort hotels. However, in Tel Aviv, if you’re looking for a place to rest your pretty little head and meet other backpacking travelers, you can find one a quick walk from the beach.

Tel Aviv's beach

A quick walk from the hostel and guests are treated to this!

Hello, Hayarkon 48.

 Exterior of Hayarkon 48 in Tel Aviv

This hostel, with a rather nondescript exterior, is anything but once you are buzzed in. After three nights in Tel Aviv already, I just want a place to chill out and get some beach time in. The days in Tel Aviv in August are blazing hot and a relaxed vibe, air-conditioning and wifi are all I want when I arrive.

When I enter through the doors, the staff immediately greets me and is super friendly.

“We have a Shabbat dinner tonight, just sign up and you can join our hostel and another for a big dinner,” the staff at the front desk informs me. I swing my head to the right, and there is a huge board showing all of the different activities going on each night for guests, including this dinner and a pub crawl the following night.

While I’m not in the mood to be social, if I was, this would be the perfect place to greet other travelers, swap stories and make friends for a night, a day or a lifetime.

I sidle up to the bar/front desk and give them my information. My room isn’t ready yet, so they take my belongings and tuck them safely into a locked storage area.

After an afternoon shopping, I return and am given instructions to my room. A cool three floors up. With no elevator.

If I had a backpack, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But, this Tel Aviv visit isn’t a part of a backpacking adventure, it is a stop-over en route to America, where I need a proper suitcase. So, hot already, I lug my suitcase and backpack up 60-plus stairs to my room. It isn’t anything I haven’t done before, after all, there are plenty of hostels in Europe where elevators don’t exist. But, at the end of a hot day, I want to magically be whisked to my room with my heavy suitcase, not drag it up flights of stairs. Again, a backpack would have been a lot easier in this situation.

Private digs

I’ve got a private room for three nights — my first truly private room ever — and when I open the door I love it. In the late afternoon, the sun casts a golden glow through the multi-colored curtains opening up to a private balcony. A. Private. Balcony. Granted, when I step outside, I don’t see the Mediterranean, but I still love the fact that I can step outside without having to haul it down to the main floor.

The private room at Hayarkon 48 in Tel Aviv

The room is huge. Bigger than what I expect in any hostel for a private room. And, there is a flat screen TV that rivals my TV in Thailand, hanging from the wall. I hop on the bed, and it is hard. Thailand hard. But, I don’t expect beds in hostels to be plush and perfect. Hostels are a budget option, and I cannot recall a bed in a hostel that hasn’t had coils, or a hardness to it. But, it isn’t bad. I pop on the air-conditioning and check out the bathroom.

It’s clean, with a shower curtain separating the little shower from the toilet and sink. The hostel provides soap and towels, which for me is a definite bonus since I’m traveling sans these things.

The view from the roof of Hayarkon 48

I head upstairs to the top floor, which is a gorgeous rooftop terrace with a spectacular view of the sea. I can imagine plunking down here and enjoying the breeze and sunset. Apparently, they used to have a bar upstairs, but it stopped because it was difficult to lug the stock up all of the flights of stairs (yeah, I can imagine). But, it is still a fabulous place to chill out and relax above Tel Aviv.

What’s included

With my stay at Hayarkon, I get complimentary breakfast each day. While the sign at reception tells guests it is toast, it is a far nicer breakfast than just that. The full kitchen offers up eggs you can cook, veggies and yes, toast. With Nutella. Of course, I’m happy. Israel is expensive, and not having to shell out the sheckels for breakfast is nice.

Wifi is also included in my stay. However, at three floors up with the router on the first, the wifi is anything but good. It doesn’t even get acknowledged on my iPhone, and the signal goes in and out on my laptop. While I can get the general stuff done while in my room, if you’re staying on the third floor, don’t expect the wifi to be up to par … unless a stronger signal or more routers get put in. Sometimes, late at night, I can go out on my balcony and pick up a signal for my phone, but it was only on occasion. If I want to send someone an iMessage, I have to go downstairs to the first floor to be able to do so.

The hostel is very secure. You cannot even get in the front door without getting buzzed, and no guests are allowed anywhere beyond the main area. There are also lockers which can be used, and locks to rent.

I love some of the little things that are included — like access to sun block as you walk out the door to the beach and free ear plugs in case you have noisy bunkmates. It’s stuff like that which can make a superfly hostel.

The bottom line

As far as hostels go, Hayarkon 48 is really good. I’ve stayed in nearly 100 hostels during my travels, and this one ranks as one of the better, if not one of the best. The staff is friendly, the rooms are clean and I always feel secure. The atmosphere can definitely be social without being too much of a party hostel, and I love that they organize outings with guests to encourage meeting new people. They can even arrange a taxi to the airport for you for less than you would get on the street. The only downside for me is the wifi. I love places with good wifi. It is important to have good wifi. Hell, I’d even pay to have some wifi that worked all of the time in my room. The location is stellar. There is a bus line that takes you down the main drag of the district tourists want to see, and staff is wonderful.

Editor’s Note: My time stay was organized by Hostelworld and courtesy of Hayarkon 48, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy


Hotel Reviews Travel

5 Great Places to Enjoy in Ogunquit Maine

Editor’s Note: This post is written and provided by Jenna S.

New England is a beautiful part of the U.S. to visit. There is so much in N.E.; pristine beaches in the summer, foliage in the fall, skiing in the winter, and sightseeing in the spring. But with so many places in New England to visit, it may be hard to decide where to go for a week of leisure and fun. Ogunquit, Maine offers some of the best beaches, restaurants, scenery, and festivals throughout the year for anyone to enjoy.

Where to Stay

The Juniper Hill Inn is a quintessential property located in Ogunquit. With five acres of trees in rural Maine, you’re sure to find relaxation when you stay here for the week. It is within walking distance from the beach or the town if you want to do some exploring. According to TripAdvisor there is also a trolley that comes by and has a stop in front of the Inn. Some of the amenities you’ll find:

– Business center.

– Free breakfast.

– Free parking.

– Wheelchair accessible.

– Fitness center.

– Swimming pool.

Enjoying the Sun

Ogunquit beaches are one of the best places for camping, swimming, or just enjoying an afternoon walk. Fill your beach bag and head out to enjoy 3 ½ miles of award winning white sand and smooth surf. At the beaches you will be able to access:

– Public restrooms.

– Beach chairs.

– Umbrellas.

– Float rentals.

– Indoor and take-out restaurants.

If you want to camp out on the sand, you can connect with Beach Acres Campground. You can make reservations year around, and the grounds are located near shopping, sporting activities, and great places to eat.

Marginal Way

OgunquitBeachInfo shares about one of the most exceptional finds in the North East – the Marginal Way. The Marginal Way is a paved footpath that stretches for 1 ¼ mile along the coastline, and it was actually a gift given by Josiah Chase of York in 1925. As you walk along the footpath you can enjoy the ocean, along with tangled bayberry and bittersweet bushes, gnarled shrubs “of fragrant pink and white sea roses”, and shaded coves.

Unique Shopping

If you’re going to hang out in Ogunquit for a few days, you will certainly want to stop by Spoiled Rotten. It is one of the best places to shop in the area and you can find everything from upscale gourmet foods, to kitschy tourist items. The Melamine dinnerware is a precious find for individuals who love beautiful plates or dinnerware pieces. You can pick up some unique and charming décor pieces like a Balance desk lamp and Prism Hammered glass jars.

Finding What Maine is Known For

Okay, you can’t vacation in Maine without getting lobsta’! The locals tout Footbridge Lobster as having the best lobster rolls in town, and you won’t go wrong with great deals like $1 ice cream with any lobster purchase! Yelp lists them as:

– 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

– Affordable.

– Great for groups and kids.

Your Maine vacation won’t be complete without a stop at Footbridge for sure!

If you’re looking for a week of fun and relaxation, you can’t beat Ogunquit. Grab your swimsuit and lobster bib and enjoy!

Guest Posts Travel

Daily Wanderlust: Vendors in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul provides no shortage of ways to spend your money. There is the Grand Bazaar, where the whirl of colors, maze of ancient halls and vendors hawking their goods makes it easy to part with cash to the Spice Bazaar and the impending assault you know want to inflict on your tastebuds, playing tourist in Turkey is often times synonomous with dumping your wallet into the hands of vendors.

It’s no different on the streets of Istanbul.

Grilled corn. Bread. Kebabs. It’s all there, ready for you to enjoy a cheap snack en route to spending more money.

What’s your favorite street food in Istanbul?

Vendors line the street in Istanbul