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Why more travellers are trading the hotel for a homestead

Travel Essentials: Reasonable Accommodations

Dec 4, 2012

by Robin Schroffel

The way people travel is changing. Just a few years ago it was all about ticking off a list of sights and retreating back to your hotel room, but according to Willie Kelly, senior consultant with Edmonton’s Paull Travel Ltd., one of the biggest travel trends she’s seeing is the turn towards experiential travel. That means soaking up the culture and the spirit of a place by living in it, Kelly says, rather than simply observing it from outside. “Most North Americans are well-travelled to start off with. Now they want to do the experience thing – go and feel and see and smell, that Eat, Pray, Love feeling.”


Photograph Courtesy of Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

A huge part of getting that experience involves breaking from routine when it comes to booking accommodations. “A hotel is a hotel,” Kelly says. “What kind of experience do you get from a hotel?” Booking a private apartment in Paris, an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora or a turret in a Scottish castle, however, is another matter entirely – one that can add that extra immersive dimension that turns a mere vacation into a life-changing experience.

From rooms in Tibetan monasteries and luxurious tents in the African savannah to Mick Jagger’s own Caribbean retreat and rustic-chic cabins on Australian Outback farms, alternative accommodations are everywhere – and they’re getting more accessible all the time. The Internet, obviously, is a good place to start looking. But an even better idea, Kelly says, is to talk to friends who have done it themselves. And although you don’t technically need to use a travel agent, it’s not a bad idea when you’re booking a place that’s less corporate than a Hilton or a Holiday Inn. Online travel scams can be pretty sophisticated, and with an agent you’ve got someone who can vouch for the property and make recommendations based on experience. Plus, if things do go awry and your dreamy Moroccan riad turns out to be a vacant lot, it’s their job to sort out the mess, get you into new digs and push for that refund.

If you do choose to book on your own, Kelly says that it pays to be on your guard. We’ve all heard horror stories of places found online that looked perfect but turned out to be roach-infested dumps. Kelly recommends building a safety net by only making payments with a credit card (never cash or personal cheque). And if someone’s asking for the full payment up front, listen to your gut: chances are it’s a scam.

The Essentials

Business Class Case by Powerbag
Ever find yourself with a dying battery and escalating blood pressure as you race towards the nearest electrical outlet? Powerbag takes the stress out of our modern-day device-dependence by combining traditional briefcase functionality with enough stored battery power to charge a smartphone up to four times. Simply connect via USB and you’re back in business. The case’s padded compartments for laptops and tablets keep your technology safe from harm, while its airport checkpoint-friendly design means you don’t even have to take your computer out of your bag when passing through security.
mypowerbag.com US$149.99

Week at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
You don’t have to head south for a blissful escape – or even overseas, for that matter. The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort brings luxury into the Canadian wilderness and integrates its guests with nature in absolute comfort. Prospector-style tents are outfitted with antiques, wood stoves and exquisite rugs, while outside, bears wander through the misty forest. “It’s the only place that I remember leaving and crying,” says Paull Travel senior consultant Willie Kelly.
wildretreat.com, from $9,450 per person, all inclusive

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SeatGuru app
Take the guesswork out of aircraft seat selection for good with SeatGuru, the latest app from online travel bible TripAdvisor. Find out if you’ve got a good one or a bad one at a glance through the handy colour-coding system (red for bad, green for good) and read notes on each individual seat, including everything from its amenities like TV and power outlet to how likely it is you’ll be bumped into by travellers walking up and down the aisle and how much leg room you’ll actually have.
App Store and Google Play download, free

Love Home Swap membership
Featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Elle Decor, the website Love Home Swap connects homeowners in more than 95 countries for the perfect house swap. Upscale, character-infused homes and condos are the norm here, from designer Brooklyn townhouses to chalets in the French Alps to Australian beach homes.

On top of helping travellers save big bucks on holiday accommodations, house swaps give you the chance to live like a local and experience a destination in an entirely new way.
lovehomeswap.com, US$159 per year

AFAR magazine subscription
Since publishing its inaugural issue in 2009, AFAR has set itself apart from other consumer travel magazines with its focus on experiential travel. Bright, full-page photographs, unusual destinations and journeys, and an almost National Geographic-like sense of discovery inspire and inform armchair travellers like few others on the rack are able to manage.
afar.com, US$30 for 7 issues

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