Hipmunk Hotels: Find Comfort in Wheeling, Newport, Norfolk and More!

This post was orginally published on the Nomadic Chick Blog on August 10, 2016 by the Nomad Chick.

Photo courtesy of Nenna via Trover

It’s that time of year to travel and a staycation is a great way to save money, but still have a satisfying trip.

If you live in the northeastern part of the states, take a chance on some off-beaten places you might otherwise ignore.

They are less busy, have hidden gems, and are usually has something for every family member, children included.

Enjoy this guide to what to do and where to stay along the northeast:

SpringHill Suites in Wheeling, West Virgina

West Virginia is a state full of history and natural beauty. Take a stroll through Oglebay Park or get a picture view of the suspension bridge, built in 1849. The most comfortable hotel is SpringHill Suties because it really caters to your needs. With a full service snack bar, indoor pool, spa, and fitness center, it really is a perfect home away from home.

Ambassador Inn & Suites in Newport, Rhode Island

Picturesque Rhode Island evokes ocean views and a calmer life (with a dash of luxury thrown in). One of the most beautiful drives you will ever experience is along Ocean Drive. And if you want to fit in a slew of historical sites and buildings, consider taking a historic tour. For cozy accommodations, the Ambassador Inn & Suites will be perfect for you. Savor a free breakfast and use free WiFi to plan your day. After you return from sightseeing, take a dip in the outdoor pool and then sink into your king-sized bed.

The Melrose Georgetown Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia

Just located outside of D.C., Alexandria is a quaint destination with fascinating historic tones. Don’t miss the Christ Church, Carlyle House, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Since you’re taking a walk down history, why not stay at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel. Right in the heart of everything you’d want to be near (including the JFK Center), enjoy fluffy duvets, brocade love seats, and all the amenities, like room service or the hotel restaurant.

Aloft Chesapeake in Norfolk, Virgina

Norfolk really has a lot of treats and shouldn’t be overlooked. The MacArthur Memorial is a must-see, along with Harbour Park. Those two are a great mix of nature and architecture. A terrific place to rest your head is atAloft Chesapeake, a charming hotel that’s loft inspired and pet friendly. Share a meal in the café and an exercise session in the fitness room together.

Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

A city with interesting history, you’ll enjoy what Bethlehem has to offer. Book a tour at the Burnside Plantation, to learn how a plantation operated. Another fun activity is to do a walking tour of the town and take in some sites at an easygoing pace. For that final touch of antique, stay at Hotel Bethlehem. Built in 1922, it’s a mix of colonial style with modern flair. Photograph the grand lobby with its Palladian windows as you make your way to two choices of restaurants. All the comforts are there!

 

How to Visit Cuba on a Budget

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on April 12, 2016 by The Hipmunk.

Editor’s note: As of Aug 31, 2016, direct flights from the US to Cuba are taking off for the first time since 1961.

Now that Cuba’s tourism industry is up and running, we’re doing everything we can to educate our readers about how to make the most of their Cuban vacations. From knowing which cities to visit to learning how the country has changed and prepping for your trip, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re ready to visit but worried about finances, we’ve still got your back. Simply implement the following strategies in order to enjoy a budget-friendly trip to Cuba.

It helps to know Spanish.

Overwhelmingly, travelers to Cuba report that you’ll be more accepted if you speak Spanish—and that means you’re more likely to be offered lower prices and to haggle successfully. Even if you don’t have time to become fluent before your visit, learning a few key Spanish phrases will surely make the trip a little easier.

Don’t withdraw or exchange cash in Cuba.

Cuba currently uses two types of currency: the CUC, which is designated primarily for tourists, and the CUP (the peso national), which is civilians’ primary currency. (The government has announced plans to eliminate the dual currency system, but has yet to do so.) For the most part, tourists will be dealing in CUCs, but budget-friendly travelers may want to keep a few CUPs on hand (more on that later). In either case, it’s smart to exchange your money before arriving in Cuba—otherwise you’ll incur a10% penalty to exchange dollars to CUCs. Similarly, avoid using credit cards whenever possible, as fees are quite steep.

Plan for exit and entry.

You’ll be charged $25 CUC to enter Cuba, and another $25 CUC when you fly out of the airport. Go ahead and set aside $50 CUC before your trip so you aren’t caught by surprise on the way in or out of the country. While you’re at it, set aside another $20-$25 CUC for the taxi ride from the airport.

Take advantage of cheap eats.

Want to save money on food? Then seek out local establishments that operate on pesos (namely, street food vendors and peso restaurants). This can be a serious money saver—think the difference between paying $0.80 or $8.00 for a sandwich. If you’re staying in a casa particular (aka a private homestay), this is also a good place to eat cheaply—meals tend to be huge (meaning you can split one dish between two people) and less expensive than meals at touristy restaurants. Or hit up hotel buffets for a meal that will fill you up for around $8 CUC.

Pack your own snacks and toiletries.

Basic toiletries and medical supplies—think sunscreen, Aspirin, and contact lens solution—are either very expensive or totally unavailable in Cuba, so don’t assume that you can pick up supplies once you’ve arrived. Instead, bring along any toiletries that you can’t go without. Same goes for your favorite snack foods.

Get mobile like a local.

Cuba has designated tourist buses, and (not surprisingly) they can  be a bit of a money trap. You’ll save on transportation by taking public buses, camiones (i.e open-backed trucks), or shared taxis. As an added bonus, local transportation tends to operate on a more flexible timetable than the tourist buses.

Entertain thyself.

Cuba has a vibrant nightlife scene, and you can drink for change if you stick to local establishments. (A good rule of thumb: Avoid any club that charges an entrance fee.) If you’re not sure where to go, ask your casa hosts or local street vendors for suggestions. If the club scene isn’t your thing, you can still find cheap entertainment in the form of museums, which typically charge only $1-2 CUC for entry. Just be aware that many museums charge an additional fee for anyone who wants to take photos.

While Cuba may not be the cheapest destination around, there are plenty of deals to be had for the frugal traveler. Just remember: When in doubt, act like a local.

Tips for the Ultimate (and Drama-Free) EDM Vacation

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 30, 2016 by TheHipmunk.

So you’ve decided to spend your precious vacation time at raves and EDM festivals. You are undoubtedly in for a blast of epic proportions. Still, it’ll be helpful to employ a few strategies in advance of your trip in order to ensure that things go smoothly—i.e. sans epic meltdowns, lost friends, or bodily discomfort. Whether you’re heading to Electric Daisy Carnival in Tokyo or Electric Zoo in NYC, here’s how to prep for the ultimate EDM vacation so that you can enjoy it drama-free.

1. Read up on the venue in advance.

Once you’ve purchased tickets to a festival or rave, check out the venue’s website to learn if any items are prohibited from the grounds as well as what amenities will be on offer. (For example, some festivals have started going “cashless”—meaning festival goers can load money onto a wristband and leave the credit cards at home.) While you’re at it, print out the show lineup and a map of the festival grounds so you canplan your route in advance.

2. Pack layers.

EDM festivals involve lots of dancing and require being on your feet all day. Do your body a favor and pack layers that are comfortable, breathable, and appropriate for the weather. Even if the day starts out warm, it’s a good idea to bring along a hoodie or light jacket in case the night turns cool. If you have room in your backpack or fanny pack, it’s also a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks in case yours get wet or dirty during the show. Perhaps most importantly? Remember to wear comfortable footwear.

3. Eat and drink well.

Dancing for hours under the beating sun—it’s a blast, but it’s also tough on your body. Give your body the best chance at feeling okay by the end of the night by eating a nutritious meal before raves, packing healthy snacks, and staying hydrated while you dance the night away.

4. Bring the right toiletries.

While you simply won’t be able to maintain everyday hygiene at a show or festival, you can approximate cleanliness with a few key toiletries. Consider packing baby wipesfor tackling grime on your neck, armpits, arms, and feet in addition to dry shampoo, sunblock (an absolute must for summer shows), and hand sanitizer for post-porta-potty cleanup.

If you’ll be camping at a festival, pay-per-use showers may be available—bring along flip flops, a bathing suit, and cash if you want to take advantage of these facilities. Also be sure to bring your standard toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, deodorant, etc. And don’t forget to pack a basic first aid kit—stashing one of these in your pack can save many a headache (literally) in the event of minor cuts and bruises.

5. Accessorize smartly.

A few items tossed into a backpack or fanny pack can make a huge difference in your rave-going experience:

  • Once night falls, a headlamp is tremendously useful if you drop something on the grass or need to review a festival map in the dark.
  • Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from summer rays or the flashing lights that are common during nighttime raves.
  • Ear plugs will help protect your hearing so you can enjoy EDM for years into the future.
  • Plastic trash bags can serve as a poncho, a seat, or protection for your belongings in the case of rain.
  • A waterproof phone case will help spare you from the devastation of ruining your phone
6. Make sure your phone has juice.

Before heading to a rave, make sure your phone is fully charged so you can take pictures and stay in touch with your group in case you get separated. It’s a good idea to put your phone on airplane mode while you’re at the show in order to conserve its battery. If the venue offers a charging station, then bring along your charger. You could also opt to bring an extra battery.

7. Secure your belongings.

Although it’s impossible to guarantee with 100% certainty that your stuff won’t get lost or stolen at a rave, a little vigilance can go a long way. Some festivals offer rental lockers, which can be a great idea if you’re willing to pony up the cash. If you want to keep your belongings with you, you can help secure your things by hiding valuables in unappealing packaging (such as a cleaned-out sunscreen bottle), keeping your items on your body at all times (i.e. dancing while wearing your backpack, fanny pack, or Camelbak), and making a pact with your friends to help look out for each other’s stuff.

8. Coordinate with your group.

Communicating in advance of a rave can do a lot to keep everyone in your friend group safe and in the loop. Before arriving:

  • Select a designated driver when applicable.
  • If you’re going to a festival where multiple artists will be performing, reach a consensus regarding which shows you’ll all see together and when you might split up.
  • Write your friends’ numbers down on a piece of paper and keep it with you at all times (in case your phone dies).
  • If you’re up for it, choose an identifier that can help you all spot each other in a large crowd—for example, you could all wear matching T-shirts or bring along a flag or a balloon tied to a pole so that people can find the group again when returning from food or bathroom runs.

Upon arriving at the venue:

  • Note where you all parked, where the bus station is, or where your taxi will pick you up (depending on your chosen mode of transportation). This is especially important for festivals that are held in remote areas where it’s easy to get lost.
  • Select a meet-up spot for the group so that if anyone gets separated, you all know where to find each other at the end of the night.

A little advance planning, packing some key toiletries and accessories, and coordinating with your group both ahead of time and at the rave will help ensure that your EDM vacation goes off without a hitch.