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Published: July 31st 2019
Things we’ve found through painful experience:
In planning for the trip, we chose medium size luggage (to meet the airline limit of 23kg per bag (50 pounds). Our criterion for the bags was mainly weight. Why buy a bag that already weighs 11pounds when you could buy one weighing 9 1/2 pounds and give up two to the airlines? We settled on Swiss Army bags, slightly different models in different colors. They have compartments for small items as well as a waterproof bag for medications. They appeared strong enough, so we went with them. We’ve had them for some time now, but the work we are putting them through is starting to show.
With 43 pounds of clothes in the bag and another strapped to the top, we have both struggled with train platforms and stairwells, lots and lots of stairwells. Yesterday, navigating the train station, Susan found the handle of her bag had bent forward about 30 degrees. She couldn’t telescope the handle back into the bag. We worked for some time bending it back into shape. Of course we had the time because our transfer was “retard” (late).
The lesson here is
two-fold: find the most well constructed bag, with strong, 360˚ wheels and reinforced telescoping handles and jettison all unnecessary weight. I know, Susan could get rid of a couple hundred pounds of useless weight if she left me behind, but she’d have no one to get her out of internet hell; a place she frequently finds herself.
Over the course of a year, Susan has consulted five sources for accommodations: Airbnb, Booking.com
, TripAdvisor/Homeaway, Expedia and VRBO. Here is what we’ve found and our level of satisfaction:
All five are effective at helping you find accommodations. In planning a trip with a number of stops, cities and possible changes of dates, we recommend landing on one of these and making it your go-to source. It got to be tedious to remember whether a reservation was with Air BnB or some other source.
Each has their strengths, be it ease of use for the web-site, photographs or accurate reader input. What we have found to be the most critical aspect though, is access to the owner of the property and accurate address information. On one occasion, we repeatedly requested a time to meet with the owner. What we didn’t know was that the English speaking wife of the owner died. He did not speak English, so when we finally reached him, had to get an interpreter to tell him we needed an address. It costs us hours and a lot of confusion. We have found Booking.com
to be the best in this regard. They act as a back-up to the owner of the property and will intercede if there is a problem. They answer quickly, contact the owner and help to get things straight. Make no mistake, some owners on sites like Airbnb are conscientious, helpful and very considerate. We’ve simply found Booking to have the best infrastructure to help the traveler. One great tip is to look up any property on Google Earth to find the topography, accessibility and location of any prospective property.
Another consideration for the frequent traveler is that you may have to change dates. Booking.com
has been our go-to source, since we can book well in advance without penalty, (though the rent is a bit higher). Just recently, Air BnB charged us a fee to change a date, though the owner had no problem with the change and it wasn’t a problem to her. If you are rock solid on your date, use Booking and pay the lower rental fee. If you have any concerns about possible changes, pay a bit more and have the freedom to cancel without penalty.
Scrutinize the photos and descriptions of the property. Susan has a rule of thumb: if the photos show everything but the bathroom, or you get a picture of a towel and a soap dish, don’t bother. While our history of rentals has been pretty good, we’ve found that if the owner neglects to fully depict the property, and give good views, forget it. We know that the camera can do wonderful things, some people capitalize on that to their advantage. Oh, look deep into the reviews to be sure you have a place you will be happy with. Our worst experience involved a property in Costa Rica that was totally misrepresented. When we arrived, we saw the room was substandard, dirty and not at all what was represented. I offered to pay one night, but be released from the two other nights we booked. The owner said, “you knew what you were booking, you saw the reviews. “ Well, we went into the archives and found a number of negative reviews we hadn’t seen before. In those cases - we’ve had three - when the property is substandard or down-right deceptive, Booking has backed us up and released us from our obligation, with their apologies.
Read the fine print. You will see a lot of photos, many of which are not part of the property you will eventually rent. Look, or ask to see, only photos of the property you want. Narrow your search criteria when looking for a place. The more precise you are, the more satisfied you will be with the property.
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