How to Pick a Hotel on Oahu

Do you dream about sunbathing on the white sands of Waikiki, exploring a tropical reef with a snorkel and mask just off the lava-rock coastline or enjoying a cocktail in the Hawaiian sunset? You’re not alone.

Going to Hawaii on vacation is a dream come true for many people, and the 50th state’s beauty is not exaggerated.

Tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the Aloha State, and it’s easy to see why. Hawaii has plenty of hotels, resorts and other man-made attractions in addition to the naturally compelling vistas and seascapes. You can’t go wrong with the natural beauty of the islands, but when you’re planning a trip to Hawaii you will need to carefully consider what hotel or resort will serve your needs best.

Where on Oahu?

The first thing you should consider when planning your Hawaiian vacation to Oahu is which part of the island you’d like to stay on. Honolulu appeals to many because of the sheer number of things to do here — from sporty to cultural and romantic to adventurous — but it’s not the only place to stay on the island. Many travelers prefer a smaller, less populous base for their Hawaiian trip and thus choose a hotel on the North Shore of Oahu, or at Kailua, which is famous for its wind- and kite-surfing opportunities.

If you love the bright lights-big city feel of Honolulu, it’s understandable! “The Big Pineapple” is a wonderful place to visit in its own right — even if you never leave the city limits. Honolulu is most famous for the numerous, fabulous, hotels and resorts that line Waikiki Beach. The beach is the place around which most tourists gravitate — whether for swimming, surfing or simply strolling. If it appeals to you, the rooms with sea views and glimpses of the sand and Diamond Head at the resorts along Waikiki are understandably popular. Rooms are usually spacious, and the resorts’ added features such as cocktail happy hours, kiddie pools and room service make for a great vacation in paradise.

However, staying along Waikiki might not be the best answer for you if you are planning on renting a car and making daytrips to see the rest of what Oahu has to offer. As in any city’s most popular areas, the streets near Waikiki are often crowded and finding parking may be onerous. To make sure that your rental will have plenty of room to manoeuver, look for smaller properties off the beach.

Does It Have Entertainment?

Picking Hotel OahuIf you’re staying in Honolulu, you’ll never lack for entertainment. The Hawaiian capital has plenty of daily cultural performances, as well as museums and galleries to explore. However, this is another metric by which to measure your hotels. If you know that you’ll be looking for a hula performance or musical review every night, you can find a hotel that offers the best kind of entertainment for you.

Does It Suit Your Group?

Although Hawaii is a popular honeymoon destination, newlyweds are far from the only kind of tourists who stop on Oahu. Whether you are a solo traveler, a family with children, seniors on a group holiday or some other category, you can find a hotel that suits your needs. If you’re bringing small children, for example, you’ll want rooms with pullout beds and a kid-friendly menu at breakfast. You may even find a hotel with a babysitting service. For seniors, it might be important to have ground-floor rooms or other accommodation that allows access with limited mobility. For all groups, it helps if the hotel caters to your particular kind of traveler and offers tours and other extras for your interests.

Does It Have a Swimming Pool?

Everyone knows Waikiki Beach is the hot spot in Honolulu, but the truth is some people prefer to swim in fresh water than in salt water. If you love swimming, but not the sea, do yourself a favor and book a hotel that has a swimming pool. Many of the hotels offer these — and some of the larger resorts have fancy options, such as infinity pools, pool bars and kiddie pools with slides — but not all, so be sure to check.

Finding a hotel in Hawaii can be a challenge because of the sheer variety and number of accommodations available. If you know what services and options you need from the hotel, it will be easier to choose.

Teeth, Feathers and Sea Cows: A Look at the Fascinating Wildlife on Sanibel Island

According to USA Today, Sanibel Island is one of the best Florida beach towns for escaping the winter cold. A serenity- and peace-seeking tourist’s dream, Sanibel is home to beautiful white beaches that lead gently into warm Gulf water. The entire island is easily accessible by bike and foot — there isn’t a single traffic light — which makes it a perfect place to appreciate its wild creatures in between regular bouts of shell collecting and beach reading.

Whether you hope to take advantage of one of Sanibel Island’s fabulous resorts or are just out on a day trip, Sanibel Island’s wild things are worth a quiet walk and a silenced phone. From alligators to manatees, you won’t want to miss a thing.

Pelicans

Pelicans are large diving birds that feed on fish and other marine life. They are friendly birds, living in flocks of both sexes all year long. Incredibly buoyant, their skin and bones have internal air sacks. When looking for food, pelicans might fly a few feet above the water until they spy a school of fish, at which point, they dive into the water — often at very high speeds — becoming completely submerged as they consume their prey. Some pelicans have a more inactive feeding style and simply scoop up fish while they swim. When they live around people, they may also resort to foraging behaviors.

Pelicans are known for their unique mouths. The lower half of a pelican’s bill is really just a frame around a pouch that can expand to fit in more fish. Believe it or not, a pelican’s bill can hold up to three times more than its stomach can. When a pelican catches more fish than it can eat, it stores the excess in its esophagus.

Anhingas

Also called the Snakebird, the Anhinga is a large water bird that often swims with only its neck poking out of the water so that it looks like a water snake. A darter, it hunts by spearing fish and other prey with its thin, sharp beak. It is not able to waterproof its feathers, which means its feathers can become so waterlogged that the bird is barely able to stay afloat. This feature makes it especially well-suited to diving and seeking underwater prey, and it is able to stay submerged for long periods of time and travel great underwater distances.

Marsh Rabbit

The marsh rabbit is a small, short-eared and short-legged cottontail rabbit that lives in the coastal and southern United States. It’s a strong swimmer and is found only in regions that are close to water. Catching a glimpse of one of these little guys while they’re swimming is a special treat.

Alligators

Alligators live on Sanibel, and they do get out and about. To avoid them, stay away from grassy areas close to water. Of course, if you want to spy an alligator, that’s right where you should go — but be careful, alligators can reach 11 feet in length, and they are predatory animals. Never approach an alligator or feed it. If you happen to spot one in a residential area, report it to the city.

Manatees

The manatee is a large, solitary plant-eating mammal that is fully aquatic and can reach up to 13 feet and 1,300 pounds. Also known as the sea cow, the manatee’s closest living relatives are elephants and hyraxes, making their sea-loving ways seem all the more strange. They sleep half of each day in the water and come up to the surface for air in 20-minute intervals. The rest of their time is spent grazing in water around ten feet deep. They are slow-moving and curious, sometimes coming close to inspect human-powered watercraft like kayaks. Other fun oddities about the manatee:

  • Their eyelids close in a circular motion.
  • Their teeth are continually replaced their entire lives, with new teeth growing in the back of their mouths and moving to the front as older teeth fall out — the kangaroo and elephant are the only other mammals whose teeth do this.
  • Their intestines measure around 45 feet, which is incredibly long for an animal their size.

Sanibel Island has much to offer the wildlife-loving visitor. Rent a bike or hoof it by foot; however you choose to get about, keep your eyes peeled for predators, snakebirds and swimming rabbits, because this Florida vacationland is full of them.

Image by D. Gordon E. Robertson from Wikimedia Commons

 About the Author: Jeremy Birks is a retired zoologist and avid birdwatcher who calls Southern Florida home.

Hotel Safety Tips for Travelers

Going on vacation somewhere, especially when you’re visiting the place for the first time, is seen as the perfect opportunity to “let loose”, set aside your worries, and simply enjoy yourself. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should take hotel security for granted. A number of trips have been ruined once travelers go back to their hotels only to find it ransacked, looted, and their things stolen. This could happen to anyone – frequent business travelers included.

Just because you’re staying in a 5-star hotel does not mean you’re completely safe. Here are some things to remember regarding your safety and security while staying in a hotel.

Hotel Safety Checklist

  1. Preparedness is key. When booking your hotel accommodations prior to your trip, look up reviews and testimonials of the hotel, inn, or bed-and-breakfast you’ll be staying at. Assess how safe the location is – particularly with respect to fire hazards, break-ins, and other crimes
  2. Rooms in the upper floors are harder to break into, so book a room that’s not located on the ground floor or the second floor
  3. Most hotels provide lockers or safety vaults for their guests. Place your valuables (passport, travel documents, gadgets) in these safes when leaving your hotel for the day
  4. Confidentiality and privacy are your rights as a hotel guest. Front desk clerks are not supposed to announce your room number (and room phone number) for everyone to hear. Ask for a different room if that’s the case
  5. Check the locks of the windows and the doors of your room. If you find them to be faulty, or some windows are stuck, ask to be transferred to another room
  6. Make sure you know where the fire exits on your floors are located. The hotel should also provide you with a list of emergency phone numbers you could call. Program them into your phone or bring a copy of the list with you everywhere you go
  7. Being friendly with locals and other tourists is not a bad thing, but you should still practice caution, especially if you’re all women in a new place. Do not allow other people inside your rooms, not even if you’ve known them for more than a couple of days. While befriending people you should also be knowing the culture and ethnic practices of people in your travel destination so as to avoid any racism related issues
  8. The most important security tip is to maintain a high level of vigilance. Double-check that the doors and windows are locked when you’re leaving the hotel for a day of exploring the town, and when you go to sleep. When someone knocks on the door, do not immediately open it, not even if they announce that they’re Housekeeping or Room Service (especially if you didn’t order anything). Peepholes are there for a reason

You never really know for sure what could go wrong on your trip, so make sure you do all you can to be prepared for any eventuality. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry

Search Terms: safe hotel, hotel safety tips, hotel fire safety, hotel room safe, hotel safety and security, hotel safety checklist

Top 5 Family Vacation Spots in the US

Planning a vacation for the entire family is a difficult process as one needs to worry about the suitability of the location for every member. Fortunately, there are new breed of family friendly resorts and vacation spots that provide numerous options for all age-groups.

If you are thinking of an exquisite vacation in the mainland US (hence pre-empting Hawaii, Bahamas, Mexico etc), the following are the top family vacation spots that could provide you all the excitement and fun.

Top Family Vacation Spots

(Not in any particular order)

1. Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg, Virginia
Kingsmill Resorts is amidst wilderness of more than 3000 acres of land and it has a huge list of recreational activities. Multiple golf courses, numerous tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, billiards, game rooms, fitness centers with personal trainers are some of the activities that you can think of.

For your kids, there’s a Kids camp that introduces them to all types of sporting activities, fishing, arts, crafts etc. And for the fun-loving kids, there is a Kids Night Out where they can enjoy their pizza and game party while parents can indulge in their own romantic world or enjoy dinner at one of those great restaurants in this property.

Check out the Kingsmill Resorts website for more details and reservations.

2. Tanque Verde Ranch, Tuscon, Arizona
The 640 acre Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona is a place that wannabe cowboys will relish. Tanque Verde means “Green Pool” and that’s what it’s all about. It’s ultimate greenery amidst desert and it’s very near to the Saguaro National Park. The ranch offers great cowboy riding opportunities as they host 100+ horses there. You can opt for one of the many horse rides based on the time and duration. And of course, newbies get to learn riding lessons as well.

For nature lovers there are hikes through the deserts and canyons. One can watch a variety of cacti and even mini waterfalls. As for kids there’s this popular Buckaroos & Wrangler team programs. Just like other resorts they offer riding, swimming, tennis lessons as well as arts and crafts to kids.
Visit their website for further details.

3. Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, Utah
If you are into skiing there is no better place than this beautiful resort. By the way, this place is not just for winter but good for a fall get away or even during summer.

This resort is in the Little Cottonwood Canyon and very near to the Great Salt Lake. It boasts 5000 plus acres of mountain terrains to explore. Guests can make use of the lift cars for the uphill ride. Skiing and snowboarding fun is offered for all age groups from 3 year olds to adults and training is available at Snowbird Mountain school. The resort also offers ice skating, snow tubing and snowshoe tours. If your goal is to relax, there is is the Cliff Spa where stone massage, herbal wrap etc are in offer.

Snowbird website

4. Out ‘n’ About Treesort, Takilma, Oregon
Amidst the woods of Oregon lies the Treesort which is one of its kind and very unique. This is a treehouse type of resort that offers fourteen treehouses and each of this can accommodate up to eight people.

Climbing up to your room is quite an adventure that takes ladders and a 90-foot suspension bridge. However, once you are there it’s an exciting place with kids and parents units separated by swing access mechanisms and firepoles for ground level access. The units are very well appointed and offers all the luxury that you can think of.

The Treehouse Institute teaches various treehouse building techniques for guests. Also in offer are horse riding, rafting, ropes courses, pools and arts and crafts classes as usual.

5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Orlando, Florida
If your family wants to experience African safari at an affordable price, look no further! Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge is an exciting 30-acre property which has a entrance lobby with a 65-foot window through which you can have a good view of what’s in offer. The animal kingdom hosts over 100 species of animals and the rooms with traditional African ambience overlook the savannahs. From the room balconies, you can get very close to animals such as giraffes.

The resort features a lot of antiques and wood carvings of the African origin. The dining experience in their restaurants is awesome as well.

Learn more about the Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge here.

If you have any more suggestions on great family vacation spots within the US, do let us know via your comments added below.

Best Spa & Luxury Resort Destinations in the World

Luxury resorts and spas are the ultimate in relaxation and indulgence for those who does not mind spending money for the best spa experience. Best spas are the ones that promise an overall rejuvenation with specialties like ethnic therapies and traditional methods – all that packaged well in luxurious but natural environment. There are plenty of luxury hotels across the world today but some are truly a class apart. A destination resort should by definition contain a variety of amenities including entertainment and relaxation options to provide their guests with the ultimate luxury experience.

Below is a list of the top luxury resort destinations of the world that truly blend the luxuries like ultimate spa facilities, beaches, exquisite golf courses and much more. Most of the ones listed below have been recognized with many awards for their class, facilities and services on top of being very exotic and ethnic in nature.

1. Spa Village Pangkor Laut, Malaysia – For the Best Spa

Malaysia is known for its ethnicity, rich tradition, culture and has a fantastic reputation as a host. The Spa Village Pangkor Laut is set away from the main city and specializes in providing a variety of relaxation treatments to its guests drawn from different cultures of the East including its own. The Resort is equipped with numerous spa villas, healing huts as well as treatment pavilions. Guests can ask for customized spa experience. The Resort also offers the best spa experience overlooking the sea among other luxuries.

spa village pangkor laut - the best spa

Check out Spa Village website for more details.

2. Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort, Mauritius

As the name suggests this luxury resort destination is heaven for golf lovers. Golf is the ultimate relaxation tool for those who like to play golf and the resort has fantastic golf courses for its guests to enjoy. Golf, the beautiful surroundings of Mauritius, spa and fitness center together makes Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort a top luxury resort destination.

heritage awali golf and spa

You may visit Heritage Awali website to learn more on what we are talking about.

3. Muckross Park Hotel & Cloisters Spa, Ireland

This luxury resort destination is situated on a lake shore in Killarney National Park which is regarded as one of the greatest garden of the world. The natural beauty including the large lawns, natural rocks, trees, flowers and water garden surrounding the luxury resort destination is extremely soothing and relaxing. The hotel includes historic suites with a typical Victorian feel. Suites with private staircases are also available. This luxury resort destination also provides spa and other such luxurious amenities.

muckross park hotel and cloisters spa, dublin

Visit Muckross Park Hotel & Cloisters Spa Dublin website for more information.

4. Grayshott Spa Hotel, UK

This luxury resort destination is extremely popular amongst those who look forward to addressing their health issues or just simply relax. The Hotel offers a large number of health programs which includes de-stress, weight management programs and more. It offers tis guests tailored health retreat options for their general well-being.

grayshott spa hotel, uk

Check out Grayshott Spa Hotel website for more details.

5. Spa Gaucin, Spain

Spa Gaucin is the ultimate luxury resort destination for those interested in a Mediterranean getaway. The Spa resort offers couples suite with marble fireplaces, tranquility lounge, wellness options as well as many other amenities for its guests not

spa gaucin

Visit Spa Gaucin website yourself and decide.

So where are you going with your partner next to enjoy the Best Spa experience ever?

Homestay for Tourists: Advantages and Disadvantages

Homestay Holidays are becoming more and more popular these days especially in countries within the Asia and Oceania region. In Malaysia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries, homestays for tourists are more than just an alternative.

What is Homestay?

The homestay – in the context of tourism – allows the tourist (or family) to rent a room or the whole house from a local family in the visiting country. This helps the visitors understand the local culture, lifestyle, food, custom and improve in the local language etc. (There’s another type of homestay in the context of education abroad. This student homestay aspect is not in the scope of this article)

In order for the home-stay system to work, the modalities regarding the contract between the host and the guest must be established in advance. This mainly includes the facilities (meals, recreation, family activities, Internet-phone usage, entertainment policy, pets policy and so on) that can be consumed by the guest, when to make payment, smoking rules etc.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Homestays

The main advantage of homestay is that it’s really like a home away from home as you get to stay with the host’s family. You will never feel like a stranger in an alien land if you have a few friendly faces out there.

The home stay host and his family can really help you to get accustomed with the new land, its rules and customs and that’s a big plus to hear and learn it directly from the local people than reading books etc.

Cost-wise most homestays are a lot cheaper than the hotel accommodation and it can get very cheap and affordable for long stays. Further, most homestays are in good residential areas than commercial areas of main streets. This means more peaceful and pollution free life.

In a homestay environment you hardly miss celebrating your festivals. Most hosts like to celebrate the festive activities with their guests and that’s a major positive as well.

However, homestays can have certain disadvantages too. Sometimes, there can be privacy issues when the host or his family members do not know where to draw the line. This is particularly an issue in certain Asian countries.

Very rarely there have been issues of cheating (or not respecting the contract) reported but that’s why you have to read the homestay online reviews etc to find the right homestay for you. Travel review sites such as Tripadvisor has so many travelers writing reviews on homestays. Browse such sites to pick your homestay for the next overseas holiday.

How much does a Cruise Cost?

Luxury cruises are considered to be something that belongs to the rich or celebrity class. Not any more if you know the tricks of the game and plan properly well in advance.

Before understanding how much does a cruise cost, let me explain the typical expenses involved before, during and after a cruise vacation.

Things that attribute to the cruise cost

  1. Person Per Day charges (PPD) for your chosen cabin type. PPD typically include all meals, room service etc
  2. Applicable taxes on the above – Check if the PPD include taxes
  3. Duration of the cruise (7 nights, 10 nights, two weeks etc)
  4. Airfare from your home town to the port city
  5. Any hotel stay that may be required the night before in the port city before boarding
  6. Number of ports visited during the cruise and inland excursions and other activities
  7. On-board additional paid entertainment, cocktails, special dining place reservation etc
  8. On-board additional services (spa, salon etc)
  9. On-board shopping, souvenirs etc
  10. On-board tips to the attendants
  11. Other related expenses such as costumes shopping for the cruise – there is dress code applicable for the dinner on certain cruise classes

Most of the expenses boil down to the type of the cabin chosen and the duration. There are 15 or 20 variations cabins based on the 4 basic cabin types (Inside, Outside, Balcony, Suite). It is possible to get an inside cabin (no window) for 150 dollars a night upwards but if you want an ocean view cabin it may be 50% more and a balcony cabin almost double the price as the inside cabin. Further it gets even more expensive with suites.

Please note that for a 7 day cruise, there may be times when you need relaxing just looking around and hence an Outside cabin (i.e. a cabin with a window/hole) is probably what you need as a minimum. And if you want to enjoy the sea the most, probably a Veranda/Balcony is the right choice.

Let us talk about a $200/day deal per person on mid-range cruise lines. You are talking about $1400 per a seven night cruise here. Add the air fare from your home town to your pickup destination to that plus any hotel charges for overnight stay. A few of hundred dollars for your onboard cocktails, hundred dollars or so for all the tips and gratuity together and you may be talking about $2500 to $3000 per person for basic cabin types and services mentioned above. Now, it can vary hugely if you go for higher grade cabin types. Please note that we are talking about inbound air travel. If you need an international air travel to board the cruise vessel to your favorite destination, it gets really expensive due to the air fare involved.

Please note that if you go for specialty luxury cruise vessels, the starting range could be around $2500 per person for 7 nights for most basic cabins (talking about cabin rates alone)

Tips for getting the best Cruise deals

In order to get the best cruise vacation deals, you may want to note the following important tips.

  • Decide whether you want to be on a luxury cruise or semi-luxury – the prices go up big time on those star and celebrity category vessels
  • The best deals can come to you only when you book well in advance – We are talking about one year or 18 months advance booking here
  • When you read about the cruise deals on those travel sites or magazines, check out for multiple offers with the agents who deal with that cruise line or directly ring up
  • Make sure that you know the cabin type and what is covered in the PPD charges. Also make sure that taxes are all included in his final quote
  • Always cruise with cruise line that has good reputation and several years of quality service under its credit
  • Once you know your cruise date, book your hotel room and airline in advance so that you save money there
  • If there is any dress code applicable, shop for the same during offer sales without waiting for the last minute shopping

Have a great time!

Modified American Plan

When you search the Internet for your dream vacation resort or holiday home, one of the statements in your package could be something like “Modified American Plan all inclusive”.

What does it mean?

American Plan, Modified American plan etc are basically the hotel meal plans that comes with your lodging package or room reservation.

Hotel Meal Plans

The following are the typical meal plans that you get to see in hotel or vacation packages

American Plan
American plan (AP) means that you will get all three meals a day for the lodging deal or package that you signed up.

Modified American Plan
Modified American Plan (MAP), on the other hand, is a hotel plan that has two meals – typically breakfast and dinner – covered as part of the lodging package. Some MAP plans offer the flexibility of choosing breakfast plus either lunch or dinner as an option where as in most places it is fixed (i.e. breakfast and dinner)

Continental Plan
Continental Plan (CP) is a hotel meal plan where by only breakfast (a continental breakfast per se) is served as part of the package.

European Plan
European plan (EP) includes only the cost of the room and no meal is served to you for the specified tariff.

So you already figured out that “Modified American Plan – all inclusive” is probably the wrong claim or statement. I should be ideally “American plan all inclusive“.

The following non-standard term also is used by certain package tour operators and holiday agents.

All Inclusive or AI
AI typically means that the room tariff, taxes, all meals and sometimes even drinks included. You should however clarify it with your tour operator as to what it means in your case.

Packing List for Vacation

What is the relevance of a Packing List for Vacation? Basically an organized list is pretty much the very first requirement to get your suitcase packed (Read: How to Pack a Suitcase Efficiently?)

When you are going to pack for a trip, you need to be aware of how long you are going to be there, how hot or cold it’s going to be, the places you are going to stay or what you want to do there. With these things in mind you will need one or more suitcases, organization, vacation packing checklist, hotel accommodation information, travel sized containers, leak proof bag, small bag or purse.

Let it start with a Packing List for Vacation…

  1. First, make a check list of all the things you need according to your itinerary. Ideally you need two copies of your packing list – one for your return journey as well. When you travel with family, this checklist will contain as many individual sections as the number of travelers plus a common section for all
  2. Pack 2 to 3 days in advance and while keeping things in your suitcases, put a check mark against those items in your list
  3. Check with your hotel to see if they provide hair dryers, toiletries or towels, so you can avoid the same
  4. Pack cosmetics and toiletries in travel sized containers – preferably leak proof ones – and keep them separated from clothes
  5. Keep clothes and accessories to one to two color schemes, so you can mix and match. Also take a couple of quick dry items that can be hand washed
  6. Distribute the clothes evenly throughout the bag by rolling them
  7. Save room in your bag by wearing the bulkiest shoes and jackets (if the weather permits) while traveling to the destination
  8. Keep all your jewelry and other valuables in a small carry-on bag or purse
  9. Do not forget to do some study on the foreign currency and ATM availability in your destination, just in case you are traveling abroad. Accordingly, you may want to keep enough money with you while traveling
  10. If you are on medication, do not forget to carry your medicines in your small bag or purse
  11. If you are traveling as a family, try to dedicate one suitcase or bag per family within the allowed luggage limits
  12. Never over stuff your suitcases – a broken suitcase is a vacation spoiler and can cause embarrassment in public places
  13. While leaving home, do not forget to dispose your garbage, switch off your electric appliances and lamps, close windows and doors and inform your good neighbors
  14. While stuffing things back on return, do not forget to crosscheck with the other copy of your checklist

Bon Voyage!