Easy peasy, stress free travel planning – Part 4 (the finale)

 

champ2

So it’s been so long since the Part 3 post, AGMA forgot where I was…

I think I was lecturing everybody about not sleeping with bed bugs.

Not a hard sell (I hope…)

The lodging piece is such a very important part of your travel experience.  It can make or break a trip.  And of course, you want it to make the trip…

…absolutely fabulous, darling!

For our upcoming trip to France (coming up really fast for an unprepared AGMA), we have booked a combination of small hotels and AirB&B’s.  It just all depends on the location, the cost and the parking situation as to what I booked.

We’re going to be traveling with another couple, so getting a two bedroom apartment through AirB&B in several cases was MUCH cheaper than booking two hotel rooms.

AGMA has had wonderful AirB&B experiences and would not hesitate to recommend using them if they make sense for your trip.  I truly believe that 99.9% of AirB&B hosts are NOT going to have a hidden camera in your room.  And if they do, they will be horribly disappointed with AGMA staying there.

Like watching paint dry…

IMPORTANT: ALWAYS read the reviews on any AirB&B’s you are considering.  A-L-W-A-Y-S.  And stay with a Super Host if you can.  These are folks who are…Super Hosts. Very smilier to Super Heros (can you tell I spent last weekend with the grands?), they give you a fantastic, heroic AirB&B exprience.

Our AirB&B host in Epernay, France last year had our fridge stocked with her own brand of champagne!

Eddie and Patsy, com’on over!

AGMA is a “thrifty” traveler. And I generally don’t like to pay for 100% of my lodging up front, which is how AirB&B used to work.  Booking with AirB&B all depended on the host’s cancellation policy (which you need to read and understand.).  With a flexible    policy, you can generally cancel several days before your trip and get a full refund minus the service fee.  Those are the ones AGMA liked to book.

Now, AirB&B has an option to pay 50% of the cost at the time of booking.  Yes please!  The balance is due something like 7 to 10 days before your stay.  Again, you need to pay attention to the date you will be charged for the balance.  It’ll automatically be put on your credit card.

But you still need to be aware of the host’s cancellation policy.  And AGMA still wants to only book the flexible ones!

Check in procedures for AirB&Bs can vary widely.  They will be posted by the host on your reservation which is why you need to have the AirB&B app on your phone so you can refer to them when you’re driving into town!

If you booked an entire apartment or studio, some hosts want to meet you to see how many tattoos and piercings you have (just kidding…sort of) and show you around the property.  This can make coordinating schedules a bit tricky between your travel and their schedule.   But we’ve always been able to make it work and actually enjoy meeting our hosts.

Other hosts give you a code and you get the key out of a lockbox so you can arrive at any time.

If you are renting a room in a home (which I have done on numerous occasions), you will always have to coordinate your schedule with your hosts.

On rare occasions, I have also booked lodging through Priceline or Hotwire.  If you haven’t used these two booking sites yet, they can offer incredibly cheap lodging at your destination, however you don’t know exactly where you’ll be staying until after you pay 100% in advance and book.  And the booking is non-refundable if you cancel.

Ugh.

With Priceline, you can “name your own price” for hotel.  If they accept your bid, again, you don’t know where you’ll be staying until AFTER you pay for your non-refundable booking.  There are bidding strategies to use in order to increase your chances of getting your bid accepted, but that is out of scope for this post.  Sorry…

Google “How to bid on Priceline” and you will get bidding strategies out the wazoo…

Clearly, this is a risky venture if you want to stay in a specific location at your destination or in a certain class of hotel.  Or both.  Both sites show you a radius of the area their hotels are located in, but it’s usually a pretty big radius.  And I’ve also found out that their hotel rating system doesn’t exactly agree with AGMA’s rating system.  Their 3 star hotel might be my 2 star hotel.  Bummer.

There’s a “helper” website called Betterbidding.com that can give you insights from other travelers on they hotels that Priceline and Hotwire are using in specific cities. Many times Better Bidding also has discount coupons for both sites.

AGMA used the Better Bidding site for researching bidding on a hotel in New Orleans because it’s such as walkable/scooterable city.  We got a killer deal at the Royal Sonesta  Hotel on Bourbon Street which would normally be waaaayyyy out of our price range.  It was a gorgeous hotel and we had a spectacular time!

I know that there are many more options for budget travel lodging like house swapping, house sitting, hospitality clubs, friends of friends of friends, Couchsurfing.com, but AGMA hasn’t done any of those so you don’t get to hear about them.

Sorry.

But if you’ve had any experiences with any of those, please comment – we’d love to hear about your adventures!

Every day’s a school day.

Happy travel ya’ll!!

P.S.  Can’t sign off without mentioning the devestating fire in Notre Dame.  I still can’t believe it.  USA tax deductible donations for her restoration can be made at www.notredamedeparis.fr or just Google “Friends of Notre Dame”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parlez-vous bucket list?

Medoc-marathon-630x417

AGMA’s getting ready for a bucket list experience.

Okay – it wasn’t really on my bucket list, but then again, I don’t really have a bucket list.

Well, I do, but it’s a dynamic list. Most things get added after I’ve done them.

It’s also a mental list. God forbid I writing/type anything down. That would be a bit too ‘restrictive’. And concrete.

AGMA likes flexiblity.

It’s just soooooo satisfying to add things to my mental bucket list after I’ve done them, then mentally check them off the list.

I think there might be a diagnosis for that.

Hubs and I leave on Sunday for 23 days in France.

What?? 23 days?? Are you crazy?? Are you rich??

23 days in France. Yes. Maybe. No.

We made the airline reservations way back in January right before the inauguration. Getting out of the country for an extended period seemed like a really good idea at the time.

Still does.

And we caught an amazing sale. $394 RT per person from ATL to CDG.

Yeah we did!

And we were heady at the prospects of Hubs impending retirement and no restrictions on vacation length anymore. We really didn’t think through the budget restrictions we would have after retirement…

But AGMA’s a ‘value’ travel planner so I think we’ll be okay.

Lots of Airbnb’s and budget hotels. But they all have good reviews, so no bed bugs. Hopefully.

And lots of ‘value’ meals. We need to cut back on calories anyway.

AGMA’s going to try to post while we are gone. ‘Try’ being the operative word. I might just post a “Hello, we are in ______. Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.”

We’ll see how things go.

Getting back to the bucket list experience that I didn’t know was on my bucket list until February…

Since I was planning on running the Rome marathon in April, I figured AGMA would make 2017 the year of the international marathon. I started looking for a marathon to run in Europe during this trip.

And boy, did I find one!

It’s called the Marathon du Medoc and is unlike any other marathon in the world.

Turns out, it’s on many runner’s bucket lists. Who knew?

It’s in the Bordeaux region of France where some of the best wines in the the universe are produced.

So it would be natural that instead of water stops for runners, there are wine stops right?

Twenty (20) to be exact, from some of the top wine Chateau’s in the world. Actually, you can get water at the wine stops too, but seriously?

Wimps.

Aside from the wine, there are ‘nutrition’ stops. But instead of the orange slices and bananas and energy gels you get at a normal marathon, they will have breads and sweets and meats and cheeses.

BONUS – at mile 20…oysters!

Finally, all the runners dress up. Well – the fun ones dress up. Which is about 90% of the 8500 runners.

Hey, AGMA’s fun.

But AGMA has to schlep my costume across the Atlantic in my little suitcase. So I opted for compact, easy to run in and cheap so I can pitch it all afterwards.

And nothing says compact, easy to run in and cheap like HULA GIRL!!

Yes – AGMA is going to be a hula girl. But don’t expect any pictures. Nah baby nah.

I don’t mind exposing my chubby arms and midriff to a bunch of crazy, drunk French strangers, but to post a picture of Hula AGMA for the rest of the world to see…

Oh, the humanity!

The marathon time limit is 6 hours and 30 minutes. My fastest marathon was 6 hours and 10 minutes. And I thought I was going to die afterwards.

This does not bode well. Especially since there’s wine involved.

But then again, maybe the wine will help.

So AGMA’s decided not to stress about it and just enjoy what is sure to be a once in a lifetime experience. If I end up swimming in the pond at Chateau Lafite Rothschild for the afternoon, so be it.

Two things I know for sure. It’s going to be unlike anything I’ve ever done. And I’m gonna come back with some pretty good stories.

Aging Gracefully My Ass!

Catch you on the other side of the Pond.

P.S. If you are in the US and haven’t yet donated towards the relief efforts of the historic, devastating Texas floods, please consider donating today to the charity of your choice. Just make sure it’s legit… Love you all for your generous hearts and spirits!