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Travel Smarter 2012: New hotel alternatives
While booking a hotel was once the standard when traveling, there are now a range of unique alternatives for every budget and preference. In 2012, it's now possible to stay in anything from an eco-friendly tree house to a tent with more amenities than a 5-star hotel. Here are some modern takes on the classic accommodation based on traveler personality:
Luxury travelers who want to get in touch with nature
Camping no longer means you need to sleep in a vinyl bag and use the nearest tree as your personal toilet. Glamping, which takes the camping philosophy of being immersed in nature but makes it more luxurious, allows even the most high-maintenance travelers to "rough it" for a bit. For example, you can stay in an extravagant yet eco-friendly safari tent in Algarve, Portugal, that is surrounded by countryside and mountains and includes amenities like hot water, electricity, a pool, an onsite spa, a wellness center, and a garden where guests can pick and enjoy their own fresh vegetables. To view other glamping properties, you can click here for a roundup from Australia, Argentina, and India, or visit GoGlamping.net.
On the other hand, there may be some travelers who want to experience nature, but in a setting not too far out in the wild. For them there is garden camping, which offers the experience of camping in someone's backyard. For example, for about $9, travelers can stay in Driftshane's backyard in Cornwall, England. Amenities include sea views and a neatly terraced ambiance, farm-to-table meals, and the use of the shower for an additional charge. There are also many points of interest nearby, including sailing, rowing, and beaches at Helford River, Seal Sanctuary, Glendurgan Gardens, Trebah Gardens, and Bosvathick Riding Stables. There are also ample opportunities to visit great restaurants and bars. By staying in someone's garden, you're still immersing yourself in the beauty of nature while also keeping yourself close to civilization. You can view more garden camping properties by clicking here.
Travelers who want a modern take on vacation rentals and apartment sublets
While checking apartment and home rental listings used to mean browsing plain text to look for a basic room or house, Airbnb brings a modern twist to the idea. First of all, owners can list their properties for free, including vibrant photos, a wealth of information, and contact data. Moreover, travelers can browse through listings while being able to search by location, price, amenities, neighborhoods, or accommodation style. They may also read reviews, look at maps, and take virtual tours. The site also has a social connections feature, which allows travelers to see which of their Facebook friends uses the site. What I personally love about Airbnb is the range of unique accommodation options, from a private room in a London lighthouse to a houseboat under the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
For Earth-concerned eco-travelers
Ecotourism is a hot topic in the travel world, and accommodations are catching on to the trend. First, there is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), which allows travelers to exchange working on an organic farm for room and board. Some possible experiences include harvesting grapes on a vineyard in Mendoza to beekeeping in Italy or ranch work in Poland. Moreover, hotels and hostels are also jumping on board, implementing green practices to try to help the environment while also keeping guests comfortable. For example, backpackers can enjoy the Gyreum Ecolodge in Sligo, Ireland, a partially underground hostel and Installation Incubator where travelers can come together to brainstorm new ideas. Green amenities like water heated by solar panels, a toilet linked to outside compost, and the use of a wind turbine to power geothermal heating are included, as well as comfortable beds, thick comforters, and hearty breakfasts.
For travelers who want a local experience
With travel becoming more and more social, doing a homestay is now easier than ever. One way to participate in one is to sign up to volunteer abroad with an organization like International Volunteer Headquarters or by using a forum like SE7EN. Moreover, social websites like Couchsurfing and Tripping allow users to offer their couches to travelers. What's great about these options is that participants can read reviews on hosts and guests, and even interact before their trips begin to see if they feel comfortable staying with the person.
[flickr image via left-hand]