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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Finding a Hotel Deal in Tempe and Beyond

Earlier this year, I visited Phoenix to go to the International Travel Goods Show. I had to search for a bit to find a good deal on a hotel that wasn’t too far away, but found that most hotels near the convention center were out of my price range. Luckily, I knew that Tempe wasn’t that far from my daily destination and had lower rates than I was finding nearby. Since I planned to rent a car anyway, staying a bit out of downtown was a perfect option for me.

Considering there were a lot of events happening in and around Phoenix the days I was going to be there, I was lucky to find a deal at all, but I did. If I booked out earlier, I would have had a few more options, though I was quite happy with my choice. So, what are some things to look for in order to stretch your dollar?

Suite – If you have kids or are traveling with one or more others, a suite can be a sanity-saver. Do you want to go to bed at 8 and wake up with the sun? Probably not, but if you share a traditional room with your kids, likely that is what you will end up doing. I like a suite, just because it gives us a few different spaces to hang out in. If Eric wants to go to bed before me, then he can and I can do my own thing. And if I’m just sick of being with other people, I can go hang out and read or check email in my own little space. It's also cheaper than two rooms.

Freebies – Anything you would need/use during your stay that you don’t have to pay for is always a plus. Some of the things I look for are:
  • Breakfast – I’m not a huge breakfast person, but I’m happy with a bagel and some fruit in the morning. If I don’t have to go out and buy them, then that saves me a trip to the store and money I can use to do something. It’s also nice when a place serves hot breakfast, because you know there’s more to choose from, plus you probably eat better than you would otherwise.
  • Internet – As a blogger, I pretty much need internet when I travel. Of course, now it’s great to be able to get online and check your emails or watch shows or play games, so not having to pay extra or wait for the shared computer to be available is a big plus.
  • Parking – Some places you go, you’ll find charge for parking everywhere. When you have to pay at a hotel, it’s often $15+ per night you stay there. That’s totally money you could spend on dining or souvenirs.
  • Kitchenette or microwave & fridge – This is another way to save money. I like to have cold drinks and a variety of snacks on hand when I travel. Inevitably, I’ll want something right before bed. It’s nice to not have to run down the hall to the ice machine or use the microwave in the lobby. 
  • Gym/swimming pool – Eric finds having a swimming pool a plus. I also know a lot of travelers use a gym if they have one available, especially business travelers who need the exercise when they spend much of their time on a plane or in meetings.

On-site laundry – Laundry is a must for us when we vacation for longer than 3 days. It’s really inconvenient to go out to a Laundromat and, even though I am not opposed to hand washing in the sink, it’s a lot easier to do it in a machine for a few quarters.

Proximity to things you want to do – As much as I’m willing to commute, sometimes it just makes more sense to pay a little extra to stay near things you have planned, or to be in the middle of everything downtown. 

Tempe budget hotels have all these conveniences and more, making it easy to choose a place to stay in your price range. With so many awesome things to do in the city, you’ll definitely want to spend more money doing them than staying there. Soon, you’ll be able to read about all the fun things to do in Tempe, along with the best places to stay in the city based on your budget and travel style, on the Hipmunk travel site, where I am now a contributor. At the moment, you can read my Portland Travel Guide, which can really help you if you want to visit my awesome city. You can also find great hotel for these cities and others on Hipmunk.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How I Enjoy the Beach

Last month I was in Virginia Beach. We had planned several afternoons at the beach, because my husband is totally into that. Unfortunately, the weather didn't totally cooperate with those plans. As much as I like the beach, just hanging out there for hours is not really my thing and I rarely get in the water. Yes, maybe I'm not all that fun to some people, but I like to enjoy the beach in my own way. It also means I'm making more out of my trip.

Seafood! There's always bound to be some delicious seafood when you're near the ocean. The fun is trying different dishes and seeing how they differ from the seafood you have at home and have eaten other places. One of my favorite things about Virginia is hushpuppies. While not technically seafood, they do come with fish and are totally worth the whole trip to me. 

Eric mad about his rapidly melting cone

The boardwalk - This is great for getting exercise, seeing the beautiful coastline and people watching. It's also perfect for enjoying seaside treats without them getting all sandy. Eric and I checked off eating ice cream at the beach from our Summer wish list.

The aquarium - Cities by the beach almost always have an aquarium, where you can check out some of the local marine life without getting in the water. Of course, even if you did get in the water, you probably wouldn't see most of the animals there, so you're actually getting a better view. Some facilities also have other animals you may find in the area, as the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center did. while we saw sharks, sea turtles, sturgeon and other fish, they also had komodo dragons, which a fun viewing bubble.

Lighthouses - As many times as I've been to the beach, even in Oregon, I've never actually visited a lighthouse. For some reason, I always assume they're haunted. Is it just me? Not that that's the reason I've never been, since I love visiting abandoned and possibly haunted places. Well, I didn't meet a ghost at the Cape Henry Lighthouse, but it was the middle of the day and there are not stories that suggest it might be even the tiniest bit haunted.

Reading and people watching on the beach - Yes, just because I don't usually just sit on the beach doesn't mean I don't ever. While Eric tested out the waters, I read up on things to do in the area that I might not have known about, enjoyed the sunny day and watched the people around me having a good time building sandcastles and surfing.

I'll write more about the cool things to do in Virginia Beach and include a lot more photos. In the meantime, what are your favorite ways to enjoy the beach?
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