Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Travel Souvenirs

When you you really need souvenirs?  

I like to have a little something to remember a place by.   I've gone through a few phases.
At first, I would buy books...uh, heavy and expensive and how many of those have I actually read?   Zero.

Than I went through a calendars and whatnot phase.  Better.  But again, done after a year or so and other than the calendars, they weren't things I would just see on a daily basis, so not much remembering going on.

Now I get tiny things that I'll see now and then...and smashed pennies.  The smashed pennies take up almost no space and cost 50 cents or a dollar each.  And you usually get to turn the crank thingy which is fun and a little obnoxious so double fun.   I'm thinking about having the pennies from a trip joined on a chain into a bracelet (by my sister so cheap).

The daily use souvenirs that have been great successes for me:

Tea towel from the tea and coffee museum in London.  I use it as a cozy for my kitchenaid mixer and so I see it most days and think "That was a great trip."

A handmade pottery plate from Santa Fe.  I met the potter and her husband and chatted.  I really liked the plate and use it most days and think "that was a great trip."   Since I had bonded with the potter and husband, they even stopped by Idaho for a visit on their way through.  Fun.

Thin cheapo reproduction plates of English royal dishware from olden tymes.   (I think Chris got me these...still love them).  They are a bit fragile so I don't let guests use them...I wouldn't mind the damage so much but they are tin and the paint comes off in your food if you're not careful and I figure guests don't want to eat paint chips.   They are cool and I remember the trip when I use them.

In DC, I tried to go even smaller.  I got quite a few smashed pennies, kept the Van Gogh decorated metro pass card, and got chapstick from the Smithsonian.  I put the pass card up with other tickets I've posed in a little space in the kitchen.  It gives me things to think about while I cook.  The chapstick is in my pocket.

In Wales (trip described in past post), I got a pen at a thrift store.  It was new, but had a logo that reminded me of the store and of Wales.  It just gave up the ghost.

I've got ticket stubs from Italy, Wales, Seattle, Santa Fe, Denver, pretty much everywhere I've been.  These are fine souvenirs.

I guess my recommendation is tiny and cheap.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thrifty Vacation Housing Options

Moving along on my list of topics I said I'd cover about vacationing....frugally and simply (or fairly frugally and fairly simply since the MOST frugal and simple would be to sit at home in the cold and dark).

So, I've tried hotel/motels...some are a fairly good deal.  Some are not.
I've tried (vacation rentals by owner), not bad.  Prices go as high or low as you want.
And the DC trip was through  Again, price range is quite wide.

3 of us shared a 2 bedroom apartment in DC, with full kitchen, one full bath, and a washer dryer (nice ones, not those crap stacking ones with a top loading washer), breakfast foods included for about 35-40$/each per night.   That was really good.
Here's a link to the place if you're curious:

The beds were great.  Pam (Hi Pam) got the couch so she'll have to give us a ruling on that.   It was very private and no steps other than the front porch.  It is in a working class neighborhood in DC.    The Metro stop is literally yards from the front door.  You can see the place when you get off the Metro.   4 stops to the Mall.   So, we didn't feel we spent too much time or money on transportation.

Having the washer/dryer meant we could pack with only a small carryon that fit under the seat in front of us.  The airlines sometimes require you to check the roller bags these days with the overloaded flights.  That doesn't cost you money, but it does cost you time waiting for the bag.  I personally don't want to pay to check a bag so the washer facilitates that savings.

By staying in a working class neighborhood rather than at trendier or more "nightlife" type area, we also got a less expensive place.

With much of your experience depends on your host so read the reviews and communicate with the host before committing.  The host, Wayne, was awesome!   Good directions and suggestions.   He encouraged us to take a bus to the national cathedral rather than the metro.  Even cheaper AND it's like getting a free tour of DC.   Some people might not care for the bus as the poor people take the bus along with everyone else, but we didn't mind at all. 

What you don't get with airbnb: a round the clock concierge, linen service, a cookie-cutter-predictable-chain-hotel experience, reward points, etc.

When I've managed to get excellent prices on hotels/motels, it's largely been in "mom-n-pop" type places.   They don't have advertising and often don't have websites so there is some risk.  But isn't life full of risk?
One of my favorite cheapy hotel/motel experiences was at Paul's Motor Inn in Victoria BC
This was several years ago and I cannot vouch for their current conditions.   The room was clean and quiet (due to the cinder block walls...those don't transmit much sound).  The onsite restaurant hadn't been redecorated, or restaffed, since the 1970s.  If you like vintage you'd love it.  If you like modern and exotic then probably not for you.   The place came with parking.  Since I drove there and it costs to park in the city, free parking is important savings for me at a motel/hotel. 

In Seattle I generally stay at the Travelodge University.  It's not the cheapest, but the location is good, the price is very good for the location, free parking, and there are some 1 and 2 bedroom apartments with full kitchens.  These cost a bit more than the regular rooms but I'm usually able to recoup much of the difference by having 1 or 2 meals a day in the hotel.

I no longer go so far as to sleep in the car to save money.  I have a job and find that sleeping inside with a toilet and shower available is way better and worth the money these days.