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Tipping in Greece: The Greece Tipping Guide

A vacation in Greece promises beautiful scenery, fresh and delicious food, and interactions with friendly locals. As a visitor, you’ll find yourself in plenty of situations in which you might naturally think to tip. But should you?

Tipping in Greece is customary, but is by no means obligatory. This Greece tipping guide will help you navigate when/where you can leave a little extra for great service.

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Tipping in Greece

[st_content_ad]Tipping in Greece may be expected in most places, but it is by no means an obligation. There is no set standard for how much to leave when service exceeds expectations, but there are certain times when it’s expected you’ll tip. For instance, some restaurants may round up the bill to include gratuity, so it is wise to look for this inclusion before tipping. Note that it’s also common for servers not to receive tips included on a credit card, so try to leave cash whenever possible so ensure the person you’re trying to tip actually receives the gratuity.

Want to know when to tip for other services? Read on to make sense of where, when, and how much to tip when you’re traveling in Greece.

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View of a narrow street in the old town of Thessaloniki, Greece

How To Tip In Greece

Cafe Server:

Greece doesn’t have a strong culture of tipping at cafes. But if there is a tip jar by the cash register, it’s a nice gesture to leave a couple of coins. For exceptional table service, round up to the nearest €1.

Restaurant Server:

A tip is typically expected, especially for stellar service, but some restaurants round up the bill to include gratuity. Check the bill first for these inclusions before deciding whether or not to tip. If there is no added tip, leave 5 to 10 percent, and a few coins on the table for the busser. Some restaurants may refuse gratuity for service, so if you’re unsure, you can certainly ask before tipping. There may be a “cover charge” on the bill, which covers the cost of bread and non-bottled water, but doesn’t include gratuity.


At bars, it’s not necessary to tip a bartender, as most do not expect it; but it is considerate to round to the nearest €1 for great service.

Tour Guides:

In Greece, it’s customary to tip tour guides. Tip €2 to €5 per person, per day for a group tour; and €20 per person, per day for a private tour.

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View of Greek Orthodox Church in Monastiraki Square and line of yellow cabs


A good rule of thumb is to round up to the nearest euro. This approach simplifies paying with cash, and it’s not an unusual way to tip without actually tipping. For exceptional service, or if you use a taxi driver for multiple stops, for a longer distance, or as a guide, you might add 5 to 10 percent of the final fare to your total payment.

Airport Shuttle Driver:

It is not necessary to tip your driver, but feel free to give €1 per bag if they help with your luggage.

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If a doorman assists with luggage or hailing transportation, a simple thank you is appreciated. But for exceptional service, it certainly wouldn’t be remiss to offer €1.


At hotels, feel free to tip the bellhop €1 to €2 per bag delivered to your room, but no more than €5 total. 


At hotels, or in vacation rentals that have daily cleaning services, it’s customary to leave €1 per night, especially if the cleaner is doing a great job.

Front Desk at the Astra Suites


If the concierge goes above and beyond with helping you book reservations, giving you directions, and/or providing insider recommendations, it’s considerate to tip €5 to €10. For answers to quick questions, though, you shouldn’t feel obligated.


For haircuts, shampoos, trims, and shaves, it’s considerate, but not expected, to tip 10 percent of the final bill if you’re satisfied with your new look.

Spa Service Provider:

A tip isn’t expected, but you can leave up to 10 percent for anything that goes above and beyond your expectations. Simply ask for an envelope for the tip at the front desk, and then either deliver the envelope to your provider or leave the tip at the front desk.

Beachy Jumpsuit for Greece Adventure

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12 Incredible Hawaii Hotels Where You Can Escape Completely

You’re scraping ice off your car’s windshield on yet another frigid winter morning or gritting your teeth through a stressful day at work, and you think: “I wish I were somewhere else.” How does Hawaii sound? Transport yourself to paradise with this list of dreamy Hawaii hotels where you can stroll along the beach, relax in a spa, and wake up to tropical birdsong.

Prince Waikiki, Oahu

Prince Waikiki, Oahu interior room

Every room and suite at the popular Prince Waikiki has an ocean view, plus windows that open to let in the tropical breezes. You can walk to the beach, the shops of Ala Moana Center, and a variety of restaurants—or take the complimentary hotel shuttle to Waikiki Beach. Catch a sunset from the infinity pool or treat yourself to a massage at the Naio Bliss spa.

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Hotel Wailea, Maui

Hotel Wailea, Maui Balcony view during breakfast

Perfect for honeymooners or anyone else seeking an adults-only getaway, Hotel Wailea offers 72 exclusive one-bedroom suites. Here you can focus on wellness with spa treatments or complimentary yoga classes, or head outdoors for kiteboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, or stand-up paddleboarding. The hotel can arrange several unique experiences, including a scenic drive in a 1957 Porsche and a tropical mixology class. The beach is a complimentary shuttle ride away.

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Kalaekilohana, Big Island

Kalaekilohana interior room with balcony

The owners of boutique inn Kalaekilohana have thought of every detail, from fresh flowers in the rooms to locally sourced fruit and coffee at breakfast. Past guests rave about the chance to learn about Hawaiian culture, with classes available on traditional weaving and feather arts. All rooms have private balconies and walk-in rain showers overlooking the surrounding treetops. Although the inn doesn’t have an oceanfront location, there are multiple beaches within hiking or driving distance, including Papakolea with its unique green sand.

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Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort, Kauai

Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort lava rock whirlpool

Ko’a Kea is a boutique resort on Kauai’s sunny southern shore. Its 121 rooms feature private balconies or patios and are located just a short walk from the beach. Relax at the pool overlooking the ocean, take a dip in the lava rock hot tub, savor a treatment at the spa, try your luck at surfing or paddling an outrigger canoe, or have dinner at the on-site Red Salt restaurant.

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Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head, Oahu

Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head room with balcony

Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head is close enough to downtown Waikiki that you can walk but far enough away that you won’t be swamped by noise and crowds. Guests can borrow bicycles to cruise around the area, then come back and enjoy complimentary wine each evening. Private balconies in each room look out over the ocean, Kapiolani Park, and/or Honolulu’s most famous landmark, Diamond Head.

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Montage Kapalua Bay, Maui

Montage Kapalua Bay view of pool and beach

Spread out in the condo-style accommodations at Montage Kapalua Bay, where you can choose among residences with one to four bedrooms—each with a full kitchen, separate living area, and private outdoor space. The spa includes a steam room, sauna, and infinity pool, as well as a fitness center offering a variety of classes. You can also play a round at one of two championship golf courses nearby.

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Volcano Rainforest Retreat, Big Island

Volcano Rainforest Retreat exterior view of lush forest entrance

The four guest cottages at Volcano Rainforest Retreat are shaded by giant tree ferns in a lush, misty rainforest, just three miles from Volcanoes National Park. Start your day with a private breakfast in your cottage before heading out for a day of hiking, cycling, scenic driving, or bird watching. When you return, relax in your private hot tub or enjoy a good book in front of the fireplace in your cottage.

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Four Seasons Resort Lanai

Four Seasons Resort Lanai

On the quiet, sparsely developed island of Lanai, you’ll find the exclusive Four Seasons Resort, one of the best luxury hotels in Hawaii. Spacious rooms include private balconies overlooking either the ocean or the resort’s lush botanical gardens. On-site amenities include multiple pools, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a spa, a yoga studio, tennis courts, and a children’s program. Dining options include the sushi bar at Nobu Lanai and a poolside restaurant serving up organic items from the resort’s farm.

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The Laylow, Oahu

The Laylow guest room

The Laylow offers a classic Hawaiian experience in the heart of Waikiki, with funky 1960s decor accompanied by modern amenities such as free high-speed Wi-Fi and mini-fridges in every room. Fun perks include free shaved ice in the afternoons and ukulele lessons in the lobby. The beach is a short walk away, as are countless restaurants and shops.

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Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel pool and beach view

Located on one of the Big Island’s most stunning stretches of sand, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a resort where you can do as much—or as little—as you’d like. Play a round at the championship golf course, swim in the outdoor pool, enjoy a game of tennis or volleyball, learn to make a lei, go stand-up paddleboarding, have a spa treatment … or simply lie on the beach and watch the waves roll in.

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Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, Maui

Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono guest room

If big resorts aren’t your thing, consider a stay at the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono. Housed in a restored 1920s building, the B&B has 10 individually decorated rooms that capture the spirit of old Hawaii. Its location in the center of Maui makes it easy to drive to various island attractions, including Haleakala National Park and Kula Botanical Gardens.

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Waipouli Beach Resort, Kauai

Waipouli Beach Resort pool

The one- and two-bedroom condo units at Waipouli Beach Resort feature plenty of space to spread out, and the ocean-facing ones also offer the chance to wake up to gorgeous sunrises every morning. The resort’s location in Kapaa puts you within easy driving distance of most Kauai attractions, including plenty of hiking trails and beaches. The poolside Oasis on the Beach restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a side of ocean views.

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The 14 Most Unique Hotels in the World

[st_content_ad]After you’ve been traveling a while, every hotel begins to look the same—unless, that is, you’ve booked a much more unusual place to stay. For those who’ve gotten bored of the standard overnight setup, here are 14 of the most unique hotels in the world.

Treehouse: Treehotel, Sweden


Kids don’t think twice about sleeping in a treehouse, but as adults, we forget how much fun it is. Revive that childhood magic at Sweden’s remarkable Treehotel, which consists of seven living pods suspended in tall pines up to 20 feet above the forest floor. (You get into them via ladder, suspended bridge, or electric stairs.)

Choices include an abode that looks like a humongous bird’s nest, one shaped like a UFO, and the reflective “Mirrorcube.” Guests get enchanted views of the woods, the Lule River, and (at the right time of year) the aurora borealis. From September to March, the hotel’s employees give guided northern lights tours; all year long, you can eat at the on-site restaurant, which specializes in northern Swedish cuisine, and explore the 600-person village of Harads.

Other worthwhile treehouse hotels around the world include British Columbia’s globular Free Spirit Spheres, Quebec’s Canopée Lit in the Boreal forest, Peru’s Amazonian Treehouse Lodge, Texas’s new Treehouse Utopia, and Washington state’s Treehouse Point and 50-foot-high Cedar Creek Treehouse, with its rainbow-painted suspension bridge. For more ideas, see The 10 Most Incredible Treehouse Hotels in the World.

Undersea Accommodations: The Muraka, Maldives

muraka undersea bedroom

In late 2018, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, already known as an extraordinary place to stay, debuted a two-story, three-bedroom undersea residence with a modern, domed design and 24-hour butler service. But the Muraka’s most impressive feature is its full, glassy immersion in the Maldives’ mesmerizing ocean life. World-class architects and engineers teamed up to construct the unique hotel room in Singapore; they then transported it to the Maldives, anchoring it in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The only catch: The Muraka costs $40,000 per night.

Those of us not stocked with that level of disposable income can have a meal at the Conrad’s undersea restaurant, Ithaa. Or travel instead to Key Largo, Florida, to stay at Jules’ Undersea Lodge—named after Mr. Verne, natch. You’ll have to scuba dive down to this strange guest room, at the bottom of a fish-filled lagoon.

Other undersea suites around the world include those at Tanzania’s Manta Resort, Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm, and Singapore’s Resort World Sentosa. Bali’s Bambu Indah resort has a glass-bottomed room that lets its guests observe the sea life below. And coming soon, supposedly: Fiji’s 40-foot-deep Poseidon Undersea Resort.

Igloo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland

kakslauttanen arctic resort

By now, everyone knows about Sweden’s remarkable Icehotel and its frozen brethren: Quebec’s Hotel de Glace, Norway’s Snowhotel Kirkenes, and Ice Hotel Romania—all artist-sculpted hotels that arise gorgeously every winter, only to melt away in summer.

But if you’re more interested in finding out what it’s like spend the night in a real-life igloo, head to Finland for a stay at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Most images of it show its rows of glass-domed “igloos,” which are eminently worthwhile in and of themselves, particularly for their unobstructed view of aurora borealis. For the true igloo experience sans quotation marks, however, opt for one of the property’s dozens of actual snow igloos, where you’ll find calm, quiet, and a sleeping bag to keep you toasty in the room’s below-freezing temperature.

Traveling farther south? Iglu-Dorf lets you experience igloo living in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.

Crane Hotel: The Yays Crane Apartment, Netherlands

yays crane apartment

What to do with an old crane? Why, turn it into a hotel, of course. This is exactly what a company called Yays did with a retired Figee—it commissioned Dutch designer Edward van Vliet to create a stylish interior for a three-story apartment with vertiginous views over the IJ River. The crane operator’s box was left intact, so guests can still hear his recorded stories play.

Apparently, transforming cranes into hotels isn’t a one-off thing to do in the Netherlands: There’s also the 164-foot-high Crane Hotel Faralda, as well as the Harlingen Harbour Crane, whose movement you can control yourself.

Should you find yourself getting hooked on overnighting in industrial contraptions, you can continue on to sleep on a decommissioned oil rig at Malaysia’s Seaventures Dive Rig, in a granary at New Zealand’s SiloStay, in a wine barrel at the Netherlands’ De Vrouwe van Stavoren Hotel, or in a drainpipe at Austria’s Das Parkhotel.

Lodge with Live Animals: Giraffe Manor, Kenya

giraffe manor

At the 12-room Giraffe Manor, one of the unique hotels in Africa’s Safari Collection, the welcoming employees teach each guest how to feed giraffes. This is because the elegant property, built in 1932 at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet, is home to a herd of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes who are fond of stretching their long necks into the hotel’s large windows for a snack. Every guest room is stocked with giraffe food so that when you receive the inevitable long-necked visitor, you can nourish it appropriately. (For a similar experience, but with elephants instead of giraffes, book at Zambia’s Mfuwe Lodge.)

If you can’t get out of the U.S. but still want to sleep where animals dominate, you have at least one option in Texas—The Lodge at Fossil Rim—and three in California: Safari West in wine country, Vision Quest Safari B&B at the Monterey Zoo, and Farm Sanctuary, which also offers accommodations in upstate New York.

Hyper-Themed Hotel: Fantasyland Hotel, Canada

fantasyland hotel space room

Everyone loves a good theme. And while amusement parks are famous for making good use of them, it’s harder to find hotels that are themed through and through. In Canada, Edmonton’s Fantasyland Hotel is in a shopping center, but that’s hardly the most unique thing about it. True to its name, Fantasyland offers 120 fantasy-themed rooms, and you choose your surroundings. Options at this novelty hotel include rooms that look like a spaceship, a gas station, Polynesia, Rome, the Arabian desert, and a prison cell. Plus, the attached mall has a waterpark, thrill rides, miniature golf, and a bowling alley.

Other unique hotels with hyper-themed suites include Denver’s Curtis Hotel (Star Wars rooms and Star Trek and Ghostbusters suites), New Hampshire’s Adventure Suites (room names include “Motorcycle Madness,” “Dragon’s Lair,” and “Cupid’s Corner”), and Fort Worth’s Western-themed Stockyards Hotel, where Bonnie and Clyde once slept in a suite that bears their names.

For Dog Lovers: Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

dog bark inn

Idaho’s Dog Bark Park Inn is on virtually every list of the world’s most unique hotels for good reason: It’s shaped like a dog. Also, everything inside the homey B&B is over-the-top dog-themed, including the pillows, the bedrest, the books, the cookies, the board games and puzzles, the curtains, and the canine chainsaw art (also sold in the on-site gift shop) handmade by the property’s welcoming mom-and-pop owners. More than a quirky roadside attraction—though it’s that, too—”Sweet Willy,” built in 2003, is made from wood, metal, and stucco. And yes, you can bring your own pup.

If you’d rather sleep inside a Trojan horse, book at Belgium’s uber-whimsical La Balade des Gnomes.

Cave Hotel: Ottoman Cave Suites, Turkey

ottoman cave suites

If you’ve ever had the craving to sleep in a cave, put Turkey’s magical Cappadocia region on your bucket list. There, many of the unusual hotels are carved right into the land’s ancient stone. There are plenty of cave hotels to choose from in Cappadocia, including the lovely Seraphim Cave Hotel, but Ottoman Cave Suites, in a town called Goreme, is perhaps the most unique hotel of the bunch. Its dramatic, Ottoman-themed rooms feature velour furnishings, Turkish art, and—the distinguishing feature—scalloped stone walls and ceilings of cool, hollowed-out volcanic stone.

Elsewhere in the world, you can also stay in Grand Canyon Caverns’ cave suite, at Kokopelli’s Cave in New Mexico, and at Switzerland’s Felsenhotel La Claustra.

Train Hotel: Red Caboose Motel, Pennsylvania

red caboose motel

Train buffs will be pleased to learn that the world has a set of unique inns situated in retired locomotives. Pennsylvania’s Red Caboose Motel, for example, has turned the world’s largest privately owned collection of cabooses into a quirky hotel that’s surrounded by Amish farms, with an on-site dining car called Casey Jones’ Restaurant, and the impressive Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania just down the road. The sleeping quarters resemble basic motel rooms—except that they’re set in real caboose cars.

Fans of the iron horse can also sleep in retired trains at California’s Featherbed Railroad and Railroad Park Resort, Minnesota’s Whistle Stop B&B, Montana’s Izaak Walton Inn, Indiana’s Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station, Alaska’s Aurora Express, and South Africa’s Santos Express.

Eccentric Lodging: Helga’s Folly, Sri Lanka

helga's folly

Here’s a line from Helga’s Folly‘s website: “If expecting a regular hotel experience, best look elsewhere, thank you.” This is an understatement. One of the world’s truly weird hotels, this property in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is covered from top to bottom in psychedelic hand-painted art, skeletons, wax-dripped candelabras, and a clutter of other creepy-cool decor. Staying here is guaranteed to make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Tim Burton movie. If you’re not quite up for a full-on overnight, you can visit just for dinner.

For other properties approaching this level of wackiness, check out Vietnam’s Crazy House and Chile’s hobbit-like Montaña Mágica Lodge.

For Art Lovers: Angad Arts Hotel, Missouri

angad arts hotel room

The recent opening of the Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis is good news for anyone who’s ever wished they could sleep in their favorite art museum. At the Angad, there’s striking artwork throughout, pop-up performances, a musical playroom, and a refined David Burke eatery. You choose which color you want your guest room to be saturated with: a bold red, green, yellow, or blue. Calling itself an “incubator for the arts,” this unique hotel is in the city’s Grand Center Arts District, surrounded by more than 40 thriving arts venues.

Art lovers can also stay at Japan’s Benesse House, which displays original works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Yayoi Kusama, and David Hockney, as well as Florida’s Art Ovation Hotel, or any of the 21c Museum Hotels.

Celebrity Connection: Villa Casa Casuarina, Florida

villa casa casuarina suite

Miami’s Villa Casa Casuarina, better known as the Versace Mansion, has been many things: Gianni Versace’s over-the-top villa, a rundown apartment building, and the home of the Standard Oil heir Alden Freeman, who built the property in 1930 as a replica of Christopher Columbus’s son’s house. It became a murder landmark in 1997 when the famous fashion designer was gunned down on the mansion’s front stairs. After that, it was the backdrop for FX’s American Crime Story television series—then, finally, a hotel. Spanning its three palatial stories are 10 bedrooms, including the aptly named “Extravagant Villa Suite,” where Versace himself slumbered. Overnight guests can luxuriate amid hand-painted frescoes, a fountain courtyard, hand-carved wood doors, elaborate mosaics, Italian marble, opulent furnishings, and a swimming pool lined with 24-karat gold.

If your particular interest is staying at hotels that are owned by celebrities, there’s also Australia’s Palazzo Versace (owned by Gianni’s sister, Donatella), Florida’s Costa d’Este (Gloria and Emilio Estefan), Morocco’s Kasbah Tamadot (Richard Branson), Belize’s Blancaneaux Lodge (Francis Ford Coppola), Italy’s Palazzo Margherita (also Coppola), Utah’s Sundance Resort (Robert Redford), Dublin’s The Clarence (Bono), and two in Carmel, California: Cypress Inn (Doris Day) and Mission Ranch (Clint Eastwood).

Salt Hotel: Hotel Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

palacio de sal

True to its name, Bolivia’s Hotel Palacio de Sal is built entirely of salt. Its walls, ceilings, and sculptures, as well as the majority of its furniture—including the beds—are made from large salt bricks. The floors, for their part, are covered with a thick, crunchy layer of the stuff. The sodium-themed property, which sits at an elevation of 12,000 feet, also offers a full-service spa, a fine-dining restaurant, and an in-house tour operator that takes guests out onto Salar de Uyuni, the planet’s largest salt flat—an otherworldly white-desert destination that should be on any serious traveler’s bucket list.

Another unique hotel to consider on Bolivia’s vast Salar de Uyuni is Kachi Lodge, a new luxury dome camp that looks as though it would be right at home on the surface of the moon.

More interested in staying amid other minerals? Consider Zandotel Oss, in the Netherlands, to sleep in a bona fide sandcastle, or Sweden’s Sala Silvergruva, a historic silver mine whose “Mine Suite” is the world’s deepest hotel room at 508 feet underground (claustrophobes, steer clear).

Airplane Hotel: Hotel Costa Verde, Costa Rica

hotel costa verde plane

Never been able to sleep on a plane? You won’t be able to say that any longer after staying at Costa Rica’s Hotel Costa Verde, the site of an upcycled Boeing 727 that used to belong to Avianca Airlines. The innkeepers hollowed out the fuselage, paneled the interior in Costa Rican teak, added furniture, and perched it high in the jungle for elevated views of trees and sea, making for a completely unique getaway.

A similar experience can be had at Stockholm’s Jumbostay Hotel, a grounded 1976 Boeing 747 spiffed up with comfy beds—book the cockpit, if you like. Aviation aficionados will also be interested to know that New York City’s TWA Hotel is set to open this May at John F. Kennedy International Airport, as an upscale tribute to the defunct but beloved airline. Request a runway-view room if you’d enjoy watching as jets take off.

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Booking Strategy Budget Travel

Where to Stay in Germany: Lodging Tips You Need to Know

With so many tempting possibilities, deciding where to stay in Germany can turn into a dilemma. Should you choose ultra-modern hotels or charm-filled historic properties? Should you dream away your nights at country inns, fairytale castles, or pampering spa resorts? Even if you’re on a budget, Germany’s lodging options include hotels, B&Bs, and hostels that are among Europe’s very best. Or, for a change of pace, you can spend a few days on a farm or a countryside vineyard. Can’t choose? The best plan may be to mix and match as you travel through the country, sampling some of Germany’s best accommodations.

Traditional Hotels in Germany

Germany uses the international rating system of stars for hotels, from modest one-stars to five-star luxury. In one- and two-star hotels, you’ll find smaller rooms and perhaps shared bathrooms. From three stars up, hotels will have an on-site restaurant, luggage service, private bathrooms, and a reception desk that stays open at least 12 hours of each day. At four- and five-star hotels, you’ll enjoy room service and plenty of amenities, including robes and washcloths.

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German lodging standards are very high, and you can generally expect clean and comfortable rooms with breakfast included. Better hotels may serve a lavish morning buffet that includes eggs, meats, yogurt, fruits, and cheese. Many hotels in all price ranges have Wi-Fi, though sometimes for a fee.

Europeans still tend to smoke more cigarettes than Americans do, so if you’re sensitive to smoke, it’s worth requesting a nonsmoking room or floor when you make your reservation. Be aware that in a climate where air-conditioning is seldom necessary, many older hotels may not have it. If you are planning a summer trip, be sure to check.

Keep a copy of your reservation confirmation with you to make sure the promised rate is honored. Always check hotel sites directly for specials and deals, such as low weekend rates in cities when business travelers go home. During major events like Munich’s Oktoberfest or the Frankfurt Book Fair, rooms are scarce and rates can double or even triple. You can also find great deals on Germany hotels via TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) and

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Germany’s Romantik Hotels

While star ratings tell you about amenities, they do not measure charm, and many older European hotels have great appeal. Among the most enjoyable places to stay in Germany are the aptly named Romantik Hotels, found in Germany’s major cities as well as in its smaller towns. The hotels in this group are all in historic buildings and owner-managed.

Another romantic experience is to choose a schlosshotel, or castle converted into a hotel. Germany has more of these special accommodations than anywhere else in Europe. You can find many of them listed at TripAdvisor, and at a site called Castle and Palace Hotels.

Note that some of Germany’s older hotels do not have elevators, so if stairs are a problem for you, make sure to request a room on the ground floor.

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Germany’s Country Hotels

The German countryside has so much beauty and so many attractions that it is well worth your time to plan part of your itinerary in Germany away from the cities. This will give you the chance to experience delightful places to stay such as gasthofs and gasthauses, atmospheric country inns that also serve good local food.

For a different experience, spend time at a countryside bauernhof, a farm that offers rooms for travelers. These are great fun for families, especially for city dwellers. You can also stay amid scenic vineyards at a winzerhof, a winery guesthouse. A site called LandReise is an excellent source for these types of lodgings (though it’s only in German; use the Chrome browser for translation). Bavaria alone boasts more than 1,000 farmstay listings, along with its own association and website to help find them:

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Germany’s Spa Hotels

Ever since Roman times, visitors have been coming to Germany to “take the waters” in health spas surrounded by hot mineral springs said to have healing properties. “Bad” means bath, and hotels in cities such as Bad Reichenhall, Wiesbaden, and chic Baden-Baden share access to the coveted spa waters. Many of these cities also have diversions like casinos and fine eateries. Hotels vary from modest to super-luxurious. Check listings in each town to make your choice, as well as

Germany’s Budget Hotels, B&Bs, and Homestays

For those who are looking for a well-priced hotel in Germany, booking services like Expedia and offer good values in all price categories. Another good source is Best Western. The chain’s listings in Europe are not motels as they are in some parts of the U.S., but rather small hotels that have been inspected and are reliable. If you’re willing to stay outside the city center and take public transportation to get around, you can often find lower rates in better hotels. Just be sure that quick connections are near the hotel.

Germany has its full share of economical bed and breakfast choices, as well. B&Bs, also known as pensions, may be small hotels, but most often, they’re private homes with live-in hosts. They are a far more personal experience than staying in a hotel. The best way to find listings is by contacting the local tourist offices in the areas you plan to visit. You can also find listings at international online services such as BBOnline, or, of course, Airbnb.

At the lower end of the lodgings scale in Germany are zimmer, meaning simply “rooms,” in private houses, offered by families that have a spare bedroom or two. These can be especially handy if you’re looking for an overnight while touring the country by car. Watch for signs that say “Zimmerfrei” (room available), check with the local tourist office for locations, or try

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Germany Vacation Rentals

Apartment and home rentals provide more spacious quarters and can be less expensive than booking multiple hotel rooms when traveling with family or a group of friends. The agencies and websites that specialize in offering these types of properties have listings ranging from studios in the city to villas in the country. Among the sources to try are AirbnbHomeAway, and TripAdvisor’s vacation rentals page.

Ask for references or read reviews from people who have previously rented the property that you’re considering. Be sure that someone will be on call to help in case of emergency, like a lost key or a plumbing problem. If you’re hungry for more information before making your reservation, read up about what you need to know about booking a vacation rental.

If you’re planning to stay in Germany for a week or longer, you could consider a house swap. A German family might be delighted to trade their home or apartment for yours, saving each of you a lot of money. Specialized agencies such as HomeExchange or Intervac have listings all over the world, including many in Germany. As with rentals, references from others who have stayed in the property are invaluable. Not quite sure how to arrange this type of accommodation? Read more about how to set up a home exchange.

Hostels in Germany

Germany helped pioneer the idea of youth hostels, and today has more than 500 hostel properties that are among Europe’s most modern. While they still offer the bunk rooms that are popular with thrifty students, many hostels also offer private double rooms and family-style rooms that appeal to budget-conscious older travelers. Rates are modest and often include breakfast.

The best hostels book up fast, so reserve well in advance. Find listings at the German Youth Hostel Association or via Hostelling International, an organization that covers countries around the world. You may also want to consider investing in a Hostelling International membership, as this will allow you to stay worldwide at deeply discounted rates.

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–original research and reporting by Eleanor Berman

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Booking Strategy

Where to Stay in South Korea: Lodging Tips You Need to Know

Considering a trip to South Korea? Set aside that spicy bowl of kimchi for a moment and settle in for a crash course about where to stay in South Korea. As a major East Asian tourist destination and convention hub, South Korea is home to an array of accommodation options that includes everything from the luxurious and modern to the cozy and conventional to the downright bizarre. Indeed, South Korea lodging options will suit every budget, and virtually every fancy.

Hotels in South Korea

The most obvious place to begin your time in South Korea is at a hotel. Hotels in South Korea are largely the same as you’ll find at home, and just like those, vary in standards and service. An average room can be quite inexpensive outside of major tourist destinations like Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island, but prices may skyrocket depending on the time of year or local events.

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You can browse hotel listings throughout South Korea on review sites like TripAdvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent site. Avoid hotels branded as “tourist” or “business”; quality is often subpar at best. Agoda is also an excellent website for hotel booking in South Korea.

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South Korea Luxury Hotels

You’ll find plenty of luxury hotel options in South Korea, operated by many of the same global hospitality chains that you’re familiar with back home. If you’re willing to splurge, you’ll have an opportunity to experience legendary Korean hospitality, a king-sized bed, swimming pools, and all the other modern amenities you could ever want. Standouts include the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul, where the impeccable rooms include marble bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows; the Conrad Seoul, known for world-class service and hospitality; and the Lotte Hotel Busan, the most luxurious place to stay in the southern part of the country.

South Korea Resorts

The resort experience in South Korea can be incredibly unique. For example, you can cruise (but not really) aboard the Sun Cruise Resort, a giant ship firmly affixed to solid ground in Donghae, offering a faux deep-sea adventure for the consummate land lover. South Korea is home to myriad quirky resort properties such as these.

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South Korea Jjimjilbangs

On the other end of the spectrum from the luxury brands are Korea’s ubiquitous saunas, also known as jjimjilbangs. For about the cost of a fast food meal at home, you can sleep on the (heated) floor in a community bathhouse.

Hang on—this is not nearly as bad as it sounds. In fact, jjimjilbangs, almost always open 24 hours, are an excellent option for weary travelers who are simply looking for a place to rest awhile. These social gathering places include access to steam baths and saunas, so despite sleeping on the floor, you may actually come away feeling rejuvenated.

Listings are difficult to find online and typically only in Korean. The Visit Korea site, however, does supply a good listing of Seoul’s jjimjilbangs, as does TripAdvisor.

South Korea Motels

Travelers beware: Not all motels are created equal. More often than not, South Korean motels double as houses of ill repute. “Love motels,” as many of them are known, are usually rented by the hour—your first clue that you’re not in Kansas anymore.

That said, if you’re in a pinch or you arrive late to a destination that is otherwise sold out, motels actually aren’t a bad option in South Korea. Beds are usually large (surprise, surprise), and most rooms are clean and well appointed. If you don’t mind sleeping next to a condom dispenser or walking across a floor of velvet, a love motel could suit you.

Love motels aren’t usually listed on sites like TripAdvisor, and rarely advertise; the easiest way to find one is to learn to recognize the Korean symbol for love motel, and then inquire within. Don’t worry, they’re easy to spot; most marquees and logos include a heart shape somewhere.

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South Korea Guesthouses and B&Bs

Koreans are famously hospitable. Staying at a family-run guesthouse is a great way to peek inside Koreans’ everyday lives; a night at a guesthouse often includes a community breakfast, tea time, and more socializing than you’re probably used to when traveling. Guesthouses are similar to Western bed and breakfasts, though the term “B&B” is relatively new to South Korea. A property advertised as a B&B is probably recently opened and more expensive than a guesthouse.  To find these types of accommodations in South Korea, try Agoda or TripAdvisor.

South Korea Hanok Lodging

A hanok is a traditional Korean building; think clay-tiled roofs, massive wooden support beams, overhanging eaves, and plenty of peace and quiet. Sparsely styled, a hanok will usually feature ondol (traditional home) standards, beautiful paper doors, and manicured gardens. More expensive than a guesthouse, a hanok stay is a uniquely Korean experience, and worth the inflated price.

Some of the best hanok experiences include Rakkojae Andong, at the Hahoe Folk Village; Rakkojae in Seoul; and the stunning Hyangdan Hanok Guesthouse in charming Gyeongju. For many guests, the best part about staying in a traditional hanok is the blissful disconnect from the everyday. No TV, no Wi-Fi, no distractions—not something you can say often about visiting South Korea.

South Korea Temple Stays

The only type of accommodation more unique than the hanok is the temple. A Korean temple stay is a charming experience; imagine waking up at dawn each day and watching monks in saffron-tinted robes wander about a perfectly manicured garden while lost in thought. Join them in prayer, enjoy simple meals, meditate, and reconnect with your spiritual self at any one of South Korea’s many overnight temples.

Tapsa Temple is an outstanding option for first-time visitors looking for an experience that won’t overwhelm. Originally built by a Buddhist hermit in a valley near Maisan Mountain, Tapsa features dozens of stone pagodas (some more than 30 feet tall), each constructed by hand over a period of years. The temple has an almost ethereal air about it, especially at night. For more information and to book temple overnights in South Korea, check a website called Templestay.

South Korea Yeogwans

Yeogwans were once the most common type of accommodation in Korea. These simple rooms are notable for their ondol stylings; instead of a bed, you sleep on a mattress on the floor, which is sometimes heated, sometimes not. The supposed explanation? Koreans like to travel in groups. By removing the bed, you can get more people into a room.

Whether this is truth or myth doesn’t matter much: Yeogwans were the standard in Korean travel for generations, though they’re far less popular these days. A night in a yeogwan is pretty cheap, but be prepared to share restroom and dining facilities. The cozy minbak (see below) is a step up from the yeogwan. Want to try staying in one? Yeogwans are frequently listed alongside hostels on major lodging websites, including TripAdvisor.

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South Korea Minbaks

Cheaper than hotels, a minbak is a family-run outfit that offers modest accommodations. Expect a simple room that may or may not feature a bed. If your room does not come with a bed, make sure that the floor is heated. Restroom facilities may be shared, and kitchens are often provided. Minbaks vary wildly in comfort and size, so it pays to have a look at your room prior to booking. Looking to book one? Minbaks are often listed alongside hostels on sites like TripAdvisor.

South Korea Hostels

South Korea’s range of hostels is no different from what you might expect to find in other parts of the world. The best offer tidy dorm rooms, shared kitchen facilities, clean bathrooms, and community living spaces. Most of South Korea’s hostels are in Seoul; jjimjilbangs (see above) are far more popular in other parts of the country. Looking to book a hostel in South Korea? Try HostelWorld or

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–original research and reporting by Flash Parker

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Weekend Getaways

SmarterTravel Spotlight: Pickering House Inn, New Hampshire

Built in the 1800s as a home for a wealthy businessman, the Pickering House was transformed in 2018 into a luxury boutique hotel. The painstaking efforts that went into the landmark’s renovation are evident as soon as you pull up to the hotel.

Pickering house inn

I visited the Pickering House Inn in January for a cozy winter getaway, and to experience one of the inn’s demonstration dinners.

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The Location

The Pickering House Inn is located in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, a quaint town nestled on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. The town is much quieter in the off-season, but there are plenty of fun events taking place on the frozen-over lake throughout the winter, like ice fishing and beer festivals. The inn is also located near the Abenaki Cross Country Trail Network, nearly 20 miles of groomed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. The Pickering House Inn has trail passes that guests can borrow for free.

The Rooms

Pickering house inn

The boutique hotel has eight guestrooms and two suites, all of which are outfitted with luxurious amenities, such as Frette robes and towels and Beekman toiletries. The rooms are designed in rustic New England style, but have modern touches for guest comfort—like remote-controlled blinds, an electronic shower that allows you to set the temperature with the push of a button, and heated bathroom floors.

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Pickering house inn

The inn’s rates include daily breakfast, freshly baked afternoon treats, coffee and tea, and morning pastries. On the night that I stayed, I returned from an afternoon of snowshoeing to find homemade cookies waiting, and the next morning, pre-breakfast scones and almond croissants were stocked for early risers.

Pickering House Inn hosts demonstration dinners on select evenings. The hotel’s chef, Patty Roche (who previously taught at Stonewall Kitchen’s world-famous cooking school), showcases how to make a three-course dinner. The night I dined, we enjoyed a little gem salad with a homemade chive and lemon vinaigrette, chicken saltimbocca, mashed potatoes with mascarpone and fresh herbs, and a seasonal vegetable pasta while we picked up cooking tips and learned how to make the recipes. The night ended on a sweet note with a decadent tiramisu made by the in-house pastry chef, Barbara Mosley.

Price and How to Book: Weekend rates in January start at around $345 per night. Book on the Pickering House Inn’s website or compare rates on TripAdvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent company.

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Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by the Pickering House Inn. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from New Hampshire and all around the world.


Food & Drink Health & Wellness Travel Etiquette

How Dirty Is Your Hotel Room Coffeemaker?

Before you pour yourself a free cup of joe from that hotel room coffeemaker, ask yourself—does it come with a side of germs? 

How Clean Is Your Hotel Room Coffeemaker?

[st_content_ad]Good news: Your hotel room coffeemaker probably isn’t any dirtier than the one at your office. The bad news is, that one is pretty germy, too.

Excited to see a coffeemaker stocked with free K-cups or Nespresso pods in your hotel room? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re probably better off sampling the local coffee shop instead to get your caffeine fix.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, the Chairman of South Nassau Communities Hospital‘s Department of Medicine, told me: “Any food-related item could potentially be a source of contamination, but as the coffee is brewed or boiled, this is less likely to be a common source of infection transmission. In any event, these items should be regularly cleaned as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

It’s the “regular cleaning part” that’s the issue here. In order to prevent mold and bacteria from growing inside of coffee makers, they need to be cleaned every few months with vinegar. Hot water alone won’t kill the mold, so don’t think a quick rinse in the sink will cleanse your communal coffeemaker.

How often do you think hotels are doing this to in-room coffee makers?

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A study by the University of Valencia tested nine different Nespresso machines that had been in use for at least one year. The report states: “All the machines revealed a significant bacterial diversity, with the total number of identified genera ranging from 35 to 67,” meaning a “moderately to highly abundant” quantity.

But it’s not just the inside of the hotel room coffeemaker that you have to worry about. “An interesting thing about germs in hotel rooms is that they aren’t solely due to the people staying in those rooms,” Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, warns. “In fact, we’ve done virus tracer studies where we found that maids move the viruses from room to room during cleaning.”

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Think the coffee pot in the hotel lobby might be a better choice? Dr. Gerba has studied communal coffee machines in office breakrooms, too. “In studying the spread of a tracer virus, we found that the coffee pot handle in the break room was one of the first contaminated articles with the virus,” he says. “So, my suggestion is to always get your coffee first in the morning.”

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Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelwithCaroline and Twitter @CarolineMorse1 to see her adventures around the world.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Experiential Travel Historical Travel Oddities

I Spent the Night in a Haunted Hotel

In Mount Morris, New York, The Allegiance is a bed and breakfast that screams hospitality. Its tall Greek columns, red-white-and-blue draped windows, and a bucking horse statue on the front lawn make it an impressive, all-American sight. But I know something about the Allegiance most guests don’t—it’s haunted by a shroud of ghosts.

I’m a first-time guest visiting the Finger Lakes region on a weekend tour of the Haunted History Trail of New York State, which is dedicated to cataloging the state’s haunted and historical attractions. I’ve never knowingly checked into a haunted hotel before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would there be a creepy groundskeeper to tell me there was no going back? Would I feel a chill go down my back as I entered? Or see a mysterious face staring out of the window?

I’m a skeptical person and on most days I’ll tell you that I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe that some places feel inherently different. Maybe some places hold on to good or bad energies, which are what give you that good or bad feeling when you experience a place for the first time. That’s why I elected to stay in a haunted hotel in the first place: I wanted to see if something would happen, something I could be sure was more than just a creepy feeling.

As I approached the Allegiance, I was not at all prepared for what actually happened. As I climbed up the front steps, two wraithlike flashes darted out at me, heading straight for my ankles with wide eager eyes.

It was Sarah and Mr. Wizzy, the Allegiance’s resident teacup schnauzers.

Checking into a Haunted Hotel

[st_content_ad]I cooed over and rubbed the bellies of the two small dogs as the Allegiance’s owners, who had been on the porch with their schnauzers, welcomed me. Steve and Glenda Lueck moved from California to the quiet village of Mount Morris (located between Rochester and Buffalo) in 1999 and purchased the historic mansion.

The Allegiance is named for Francis Bellamy, the Mount Morris native who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. Today, it’s a bed and breakfast that attracts mostly travelers on their way to nearby natural wonders like Niagara Falls and Letchworth State Park. Steve and Glenda were attracted to the historical charm of the home, but they didn’t know it was haunted until guests, and Steve himself, started having strange experiences.

A Haunted History

As Steve shows me to my room he tells me about the ghosts. He has heard the sound of people walking upstairs when nobody was home, spotted a large tabby cat in his bedroom, and has seen a man sitting in a chair in the library. Many guests over the years have also reported seeing and speaking to a teenage girl in the Wadsworth Room, seeing a woman with long gray hair standing at the top of the stairs, and have even described seeing the same tabby cat Steve saw. Many have also heard a dog barking, but it was never seen until very recently, when one guest spotted a white dog sitting in the back window of the Rochester Room.

With word of the haunted hotel spreading over the years, the Allegiance has attracted paranormal groups and mediums who have been able to communicate with the ghosts and provide more details about them, including their names. The woman with long gray hair is called Karen, and the man Steve saw sitting in the library is Raymond, who’s known for being very talkative.

“And don’t call him Ray, because he hates that apparently.” Glenda tells me.

There’s also Sammy the manservant, in the basement. He worked for one of the home’s former owners, Mr. Prophet, and is still very loyal to him. Members of the Wisner family who built the home in 1838 are also still present: Mr. Wisner, his first wife Sarah, and his second wife Ellen have all been discovered by paranormal groups who reported that “Mr. Wisner and Ellen are hiding out from Sarah because she is angry that he replaced her.” Mr. Wisner has also said that he loves the horse statue out front because it reminds him of a white horse during his time that would get loose and run up and down the street.

Guests have woken up in the middle of the night feeling something heavy on their legs. Steve says that they also have a ghost cat and a ghost dog that sometimes like to sleep on top of guests’ feet. He mentions that the cat in particular likes the room I’m staying in.

“We’ve had a lot of people come and it’s pretty clear that our spirits are harmless.” Steve tells me. “We had one woman who was a medium. As soon as she walked in the front door she said ‘It’s a party in here!’ … so we know it’s all good energy.”

I’m not a medium, but when I stepped into the Allegiance it felt like a party to me, too. Trimmed in Victorian touches, the first floor looks like something from a different time. Chandeliers hang in just about every room, and from the decorative wallpaper to the patterned rugs, the decor provides a feast for the eyes. As I walked past the dining room, the sitting room, and the library, I didn’t see any strange figures out of the corner of my eye—but I was suddenly overcome with the desire to book the whole place for the world’s most authentic murder-mystery dinner party.

Steve showed me to my room, and I settled in.

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Sleeping with the Lights Off

After exploring the surrounding area for a few hours on a nearby ghost-hunting tour, I returned for my overnight stay in the haunted hotel. The Luecks and all the other guests had gone to bed. I let myself in with a key they provided and tip-toed to my room.

As I went through my motions before bed, I felt extremely aware. The stories of each ghostly character played through my head. I looked in corners and windows, checking to see if everything is exactly where I left it, and listened constantly for sounds of—well, anything. I was extremely present and definitely paranoid.

As I drifted off to sleep, though, I hoped I might feel a cat curling up by my feet.

But it never came. After the full day ghost hunting in the Finger Lakes, I was exhausted. In the plush, king-size bed of the Dansville Room, I was in for a deep and dreamless sleep. But that doesn’t necessarily prove anything: Even if any ghosts did pay me a visit that night, I doubt Raymond’s talking or any ghostly barking could have stirred me.

Earlier in my stay, Glenda had told me that this house was one of parties, dances, and was always filled with children. Although it’s haunted, it’s by friendly spirits who don’t mean anyone harm. Maybe they just didn’t want to leave the party.

After just one night in this friendly haunted hotel, I felt that energy for sure—the party. Which might be why I found it so easy to fall asleep despite my paranoia. There’s a cozy and comfortable energy here, from the celebratory decor to the historic air of the manse.

Morning Comes

Once the sun was up, I enjoyed a quiet breakfast of coffee and cinnamon cake and wandered through the study and sitting rooms one last time. I said goodbye to the Luecks and their schnauzers. I packed up my things and as I walked out the door, I looked back one last time at the staircase where Karen with her long gray hair was known to stand.

I felt overcome with eerie curiosity and a strong desire to spend another night, or to return one day with friends for that murder-mystery dinner party. After experiencing this particular haunted hotel for myself, it’s easy to see why so many spirits have decided to stay indefinitely.

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Jamie Ditaranto visited the Finger Lakes as a guest of the Haunted History Trail of New York State. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Beach Cities Family Travel Holiday Travel Theme Park Weekend Getaways

5 Reasons to Visit the Jersey Shore in the Off Season

The Jersey Shore is synonymous with summer—think ice cream, amusement parks, and long, sunny days on the sand. But while most visitors flock to New Jersey beaches between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the quieter months of the year have their own pleasures. Below are a few reasons why you should visit the Jersey Shore in the off season.

Cheaper Rates

[st_content_ad]In August, I found a rate of $334 per night at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City on a weekend, but they’re just $243 per night over a weekend in October. Off-season prices drop even further at the nearby Golden Nugget, which costs $514 a night in August but just $289 a night in October.

Vacation rentals offer similarly dramatic discounts for stays outside the summer months, and many B&Bs are also affordable, especially on off-season weeknights. If your dates are flexible, planning your trip during the off season could be the single best way to save money on a Jersey Shore vacation.

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No Crowds

Especially on summer holiday weekends such as Labor Day or the Fourth of July, visitors often find themselves sitting in long lines of traffic en route to New Jersey’s barrier islands or swimming shoulder to shoulder beside dozens of others in the ocean. But come late September or early May, you’ll find that the crowds have melted away. This is the time of year when beaches are blissfully uncrowded, and it’s easy to find your own oceanfront stretch of sand.

In particular there are few families at the Jersey Shore in the off season, which makes this a good time of year for seniors or couples looking for a quieter romantic getaway.

Pleasant Weather

Not a fan of the summer heat? While the ocean temperatures may not be ideal for swimming much past mid-September, Jersey Shore air temperatures are typically mild enough in April, May, September, and October to enjoy biking, strolling the boardwalk, or relaxing on the beach with a good book—though you might need to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket.

Biking at the Jersey Shore in spring and fall is especially nice, not just because of the pleasant temperatures but also because of the lack of traffic. With fewer people in town, it’s easier and safer to ride along the streets and boardwalks.

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Festivals and Special Events

The summer months boast a series of baby parades, fireworks, and concerts on the beach, but there’s still plenty of action up and down the Jersey Shore in the off season. This includes music festivals like the Exit Zero Jazz Festival in Cape May, held in November, and the Fabulous 50s and Beyond weekend in Wildwood every October. Foodies shouldn’t miss Belmar’s New Jersey Seafood Festival in May or the Que by the Sea BBQ Festival in Seaside Heights, held each September.

To find more events, check out or

Holiday Celebrations

Winter is by far the quietest season at the Jersey Shore, but things liven up around the holidays. The historic town of Cape May is a particularly festive spot to visit during Christmastime, when its Victorian homes are decorated with twinkling lights and traditional greenery. Consider a Christmas Candlelight Tour or Holiday Lights Trolley Ride to get in the spirit.

On New Year’s Eve, events include family-friendly First Night festivities in Seaside Heights and Ocean City, complete with fireworks. Other fireworks displays are held in Atlantic City and Sea Isle City. Many people even start the New Year with a polar plunge into the ocean in communities such as Asbury Park, Ocean City, and Brigantine.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Cities Family Travel Historical Travel Romantic Travel

11 Beautiful English Villages to Discover Before the Crowds Do

You’ve toured the museums of London, paid tribute to the Beatles in Liverpool, and walked the hallowed halls of Oxford’s famous university—but if major cities are all you’ve seen of England, you’re missing out. For a slower pace of life and an up-close glimpse of rural life, you’ll want to visit the following English villages that haven’t yet been spoiled by tourism.

From fishing hamlets in Cornwall to traditional market towns in North Yorkshire, these are some of the most beautiful villages in England, featuring cobblestone streets, quaint churches, and cozy pubs—but not motorcoaches and crowds.

Painswick, Gloucestershire

[st_content_ad]The Cotswolds region is ground zero for picture-perfect English villages, but some of them feel overly touristy. That’s not a problem in Painswick, a quiet hilltop village with charming narrow streets and relatively few international visitors. Don’t miss a stop in the colorful Painswick Rococo Garden, originally designed in the 1740s. There are also plenty of lovely walks in the area.

Where to stay: Located in the heart of the village with rooms overlooking the Cotswold hills, The Painswick is the most elegant spot in town.

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Polperro, Cornwall

Polperro england

Once a fishing village (and shelter for smugglers), Polperro is now a popular summer holiday spot—but it’s maintained its unspoiled charm. Walk the footpaths along the coast on either side of the harbor to soak up the salt air and discover uncrowded beaches, or stay in town to explore its art galleries and shops. You’ll find tasty, fresh seafood on menus around town.

Where to stay: With just 12 rooms, Penryn House is a cozy lodging spot within walking distance of Polperro’s pubs, shops, and restaurants.

Kettlewell, North Yorkshire

Kettlewell england

Kettlewell is an ideal base for walking and hiking in Yorkshire Dales National Park, but it’s also a beautiful village in its own right, with welcoming pubs and quaint stone cottages. The most popular time to visit is in August for the annual Scarecrow Festival, when the community comes together to hunt for whimsically themed scarecrows hidden around town.

Where to stay: The Pennycroft Guest House draws raves from past guests for its comfy beds and warm hospitality.

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Rye, East Sussex

Rye england

With its quiet cobblestone streets and well-preserved medieval and Tudor buildings, Rye is the type of English village where it feels like time simply stopped centuries ago. One of the greatest pleasures in Rye is simply walking around and taking photos, but you can also visit a 13th-century castle and browse local art galleries. Don’t miss a stop in St. Mary’s Parish Church, where you can climb the tower for views over the surrounding countryside.

Where to stay: Individually designed rooms at The George in Rye feature quirky touches like antique mirrors, built-in bookshelves, and colorful vintage wallpaper. The hotel has been in its current High Street location since 1719.

Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Robin hoods bay england

If you love wandering on foot, you’ll appreciate this beautiful English village overlooking the North Sea. Leave your vehicle in the parking lot at the top of the main street and head downhill to stroll along the coastal path, rummage through shops and galleries, or visit the clean sandy beach—where you might even find a fossil or two. You can also learn about the town’s seafaring and smuggling history at the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum. Despite the name, Robin Hood’s Bay has no known affiliation with the famous outlaw, and the origins of the moniker remain a local mystery.

Where to stay: The Raven House Bed & Breakfast offers a comfortable home away from home with sweeping sea views and homemade breakfast.

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Stamford, Lincolnshire

Stamford england

If this elegant Georgian town looks familiar, it might be because it was used as a filming set for the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. You can easily spend a day wandering among its well-preserved churches, shops, and pubs, which overlook the Welland River. Also worth seeing is Burghley House, a grand Elizabethan estate just a few minutes’ drive from downtown.

Where to stay: The William Cecil at Stamford is located on the grounds of the Burghley Estate but still within easy walking distance of Stamford’s main attractions.

Turville, Buckinghamshire

Turville england

With just 100 inhabitants, the tiny English village of Turville offers a quiet break from the London crowds. It’s less than 90 minutes from the English capital, and worth a quick detour en route to Oxford. Stroll up to Cobstone Windmill for views of the village; have lunch at The Bull and Butcher, a traditional pub; and visit St. Mary the Virgin Church, which served as the featured church in the 1990s British sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.

Where to stay: Turville is so small that it doesn’t have any hotels of its own, but you can stay overnight just a few miles away at the Row Barge Inn, a traditional B&B in Henley-on-Thames.

[st_related]The Art Deco Guide to London[/st_related]

Helmsley, North Yorkshire

Helmsley england

This beautiful English village features historic stone buildings, a peaceful walled garden, and a square where you can check out a traditional market every Friday—all in the shadow of medieval castle ruins. Love wildlife? Pay a visit to the National Centre for Birds of Prey, where you can have hands-on experiences with hawks, falcons, and owls. Also nearby are the rolling hills of North York Moors National Park.

Where to stay: The 45-room Black Swan Hotel has been hosting travelers for more than 500 years. Rooms have garden or market square views.

Hawkshead, Cumbria

Hawkshead england

It’s almost impossible to find hidden gems in England’s popular Lake District, but Hawkshead hasn’t yet been spoiled by the tourist hordes. Because cars aren’t allowed within the village, visitors can enjoy its whitewashed buildings, cobblestone streets, and medieval square the same way locals have for centuries. Stop by the grammar school where poet William Wordsworth studied, and see drawings by children’s author Beatrix Potter at the gallery named after her in town.

Where to stay: A flower-filled courtyard welcomes you into Ivy Guest House, a Georgian building with a half-dozen cozy rooms. The hosts serve a full English breakfast each morning.

[st_related]Getting Around England: Transportation Tips[/st_related]

Beaulieu, Hampshire

Beaulieu england

A cluster of historic buildings overlooking the scenic Beaulieu River, this beautiful English village dates back to the 13th century. The area’s main attraction is the Beaulieu Estate, home to the National Motor Museum, a collection of nearly 285 classic vehicles. Also on the estate grounds are the Palace House (a Victorian mansion) and Beaulieu Abbey. But you’ll want to leave plenty of time to stroll the streets of the village, browse its shops, and wander along its riverside path.

Where to stay: The Montagu Arms Hotel oozes with Old World charm, from its classic English gardens to its conservatory serving afternoon tea. Upgraded rooms include lavish four-poster beds.

Mousehole, Cornwall

Mousehole england

Just a few miles down the coast from the better-known town of Penzance, Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzel”) is one of Cornwall’s prettiest seaside villages, with stone buildings overlooking a harbor filled with sailboats and fishing boats. The most popular times to visit are summer, when you can relax on the sandy beach, and the period from mid-December through early January, when the harbor is decked out in twinkling holiday lights.

Where to stay: Thanks to its bustling pub and convenient location, The Ship Inn is the center of the action in Mousehole. Many of its eight rooms overlook the harbor.

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12 Best Hotels in Vancouver for Every Type of Traveler

Vancouver makes for a great family vacation or long-weekend getaway, but with over 12,000 rooms in the downtown area alone, knowing where to stay can be tricky. Here are the best hotels in Vancouver for every type of traveler and budget. (Not only did I look at dozens of reviews for this list, three SmarterTravel writers personally visited three of these properties, so you can trust us.)

Best Hotels in Vancouver: Luxury

Whether it’s rooftop views or entertainment options, these luxury hotels in Vancouver don’t disappoint. With the downtown Four Seasons closing in 2020, look to book one of these three properties instead.

The Fairmont Waterfront

[st_content_ad]Fantastic harbor views, the downtown location, and a rooftop pool and terrace make this an ideal option for spring, summer, and fall stays in Vancouver. It’s also within walking distance to the main cruise port.

Book it: Get prices for The Fairmont Waterfront

Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver

Reviewers rave about the exceptional service and attention to detail at the Shangri-La. The property also has a spa, and a location close to restaurants and shopping.

Book it: Get prices for Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver

PARQ Vancouver: DOUGLAS and the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver

PARQ Vancouver is a new entertainment center next to BC Place Stadium complete with two luxury hotels here—the DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection and the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver—as well as a casino and eight restaurants and lounges. The rooftop views from the complex are out of this world.

Best Hotels in Vancouver: Downtown

Vancouver is a popular cruise port come spring, summer, and fall. These hotels are all centrally located to make the most of a short trip to the city.

Rosewood Hotel Georgia

Any traveler will appreciate the historical details and decor of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. From the prohibition-style bar in the lower level to perhaps one of the best restaurants in the city—Hawksworth—you don’t have to go far for entertainment or fantastic food. Some rooms have views of the Vancouver Art Gallery across the street.

Book it: Get prices for Rosewood Hotel Georgia

Sutton Place Hotel

With a central location near popular sights, and spacious rooms with downtown views, Sutton Place is a good option for those looking for a mid-range hotel. SmarterTravel’s Christine Sarkis notes the property carries “unusually robust Gilchrist & Soames bath products … including lip balm.” There’s also an onsite wine merchant, large fitness center, spa, indoor pool, and restaurant with a raw bar.

Book it: Get prices for Sutton Place Hotel

L’Hermitage Hotel

If you’re staying in Vancouver for an extended period, or with a group of friends or family, the suites at L’Hermitage are an economical option. Travelers rave about the exceptional service, and the outdoor saltwater pool is an added bonus.

Book it: Get prices for L’Hermitage Hotel

Best Hotels in Vancouver: Boutique

Boutique hotels are on the rise in Vancouver, and a stay at one of these more intimate properties complements the local feel of Vancouver’s neighborhoods.

OPUS Hotel

With its own personalized wellness program, onsite restaurant, a popular bar, and convenient Yaletown location, OPUS is a place you stay for the experience. Partnerships with local brands and artists make your stay here feel like you’re living like a local for a few days, as opposed to just visiting.

Book it: Get prices for OPUS Hotel

Blue Horizon Hotel

For a boutique hotel experience with a view, book a stay at Blue Horizon; all rooms are corner rooms with balconies. The hotel is located in the West End on Robson Street, near shops and restaurants. It’s larger than most boutique hotels, but reviewers still comment on the hotel’s personal service. Note that the aquatic center is undergoing renovations. While this hotel is of good value, rates drop dramatically in the fall and winter.

Book it: Get prices for Blue Horizon Hotel

The Burrard

This renovated motel has modern design details, an outdoor courtyard, and is really an urban oasis … I mean, do you see the palm trees? Reviewers note that The Burrard is less expensive than many other hotels in the area, and that it’s within walking distance to many tourist attractions, like Granville Island and local restaurants in trendy neighborhoods, like Yaletown. Insider tip: Ask for a non-street-facing room to avoid traffic noise.

Book it: Get prices for The Burrard

Best Hotels in Vancouver: Budget

If saving on accommodations is the name of your travel game, then book one of these more affordable hotels in Vancouver.

White House Bed and Breakfast

If you’re in favor of saving money over modern design and amenities, then this budget hotel is fit for your trip. Located near the airport, the White House Bed and Breakfast is an economical choice for travelers headed to Vancouver. Reviewers love the friendly and thoughtful hosts, as well as diverse breakfast selection and comfortable rooms and beds.

Book it: Get prices for White House Bed and Breakfast

Samesun Vancouver

For backpackers or hostel lovers, the Samesun Vancouver is the hostel in town. With a fully functional bar, restaurant, and ticket desk for hockey games, you’ll be fully immersed in the community. Private rooms are available. Other hostel amenities include free Wi-Fi, a movie room, kitchen and dining area, complimentary breakfast, a launderette, and lockers. Tourists sights, like Stanley Park and Granville Island, are under a 30-minute walk away.

Book it: Get prices for Samesun Vancouver

YWCA Hotel Vancouver

For a budget hotel in a convenient location, book the YWCA Hotel Vancouver—it’s located right next to the BC Place Stadium and Rogers Arena, and is about a 10-minute walk to the beach. You can choose to upgrade to a private bathroom if the shared style isn’t for you. All rooms are air-conditioned and there is a coffee shop, three kitchens, and a launderette on site.

Book it: Get prices for YWCA Hotel Vancouver

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Ashley traveled to Vancouver courtesy of Hello BC and OPUS Vancouver. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on @ashley_stravel.

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The 8 Best New Jersey Beaches to Visit This Summer

Every summer an annual pilgrimage begins: People all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York start heading “down the shore.” They’re in search of summer’s simple pleasures—biking on the boardwalk, eating ice cream and funnel cake, and, of course, soaking up the sun. You can do all of the above in dozens of New Jersey beaches up and down the coast, but which one should you choose for your next summer vacation?

Listed in geographical order from south to north, these are the best New Jersey beaches for travelers.

Cape May


[st_content_ad]Visiting Cape May, located at the southern tip of New Jersey, feels like stepping into the past. Founded in the mid-18th century, it’s America’s oldest seaside resort and one of the best beaches in New Jersey for history and architecture buffs. Visitors can rent a bike or hop on a trolley to see its colorful Victorian mansions, many now serving as quaint B&Bs. Or savor the sea views during a jog or stroll along the paved promenade, which stretches for nearly two miles along Cape May’s clean, wide beach.

Where to Stay: The Queen Victoria draws numerous repeat visitors who love its individually decorated rooms (some with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs), sprawling front porches, and daily afternoon tea.

The Wildwoods


This collection of three adjacent beach towns offers a little something for everyone. Wildwood has a classic wooden boardwalk, complete with shops, restaurants, and arcades, plus three separate piers of amusement park rides. It’s flanked by North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, which offer a quieter, more residential experience. While Cape May is known for its stately Victorians, the Wildwoods are all about the 1950s, with fun retro motels and diners scattered around town. The Wildwoods also boast some of the widest beaches in the state, and access is free—no beach tags required.

Where to Stay: The Starlux Boutique Hotel is in the middle of all the action, just a short walk from the beach and boardwalk. Its decor captures the 1950s “Doo Wop” style Wildwood is famous for, and you can even stay in one of two vintage Airstream trailers.

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Ocean City


Ocean City is one of the best beaches in New Jersey for family fun. It’s been a “dry” town since its founding in 1879 by four Methodist ministers, so it attracts less of a young party crowd than some other New Jersey beaches. Visitors flock to its 2.5-mile boardwalk, which is lined with amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses, pizza places, ice cream shops, and arcades. Some of the prettiest beaches are on the southern end of town, where you can go hiking, fishing, or sunbathing on the quiet grounds of Corson’s Inlet State Park.

Where to Stay: The big pink Port-O-Call Hotel is a local landmark, located right on the boardwalk. Rooms overlook either the Atlantic Ocean or Great Egg Harbor Bay.

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Long Beach Island


This barrier island on the central New Jersey coast stretches from Barnegat Light State Park in the north (with its picturesque lighthouse) to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in the south, a popular spot for bird watching. In between are a variety of beach towns—some lively, others quiet and laid-back. The heart of the action is Beach Haven, where you’ll find Fantasy Island Amusement Park, the Surflight Theatre, and the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.

Where to Stay: The 22-room Daddy O Hotel has contemporary rooms and a hip rooftop bar with views of both the ocean and the bay.

Spring Lake


The Jersey Shore isn’t usually associated with genteel elegance, but that’s what you’ll find in the quiet seaside community of Spring Lake, where the streets are lined with gracious Victorian homes. It’s a perfect spot for strolling, from the non-commercial boardwalk along the beach to the downtown shopping district and the leafy park in the center of town.

Where to Stay: Pull up a rocking chair and relax on the front porch of the Spring Lake Inn. Many of the 16 individually decorated guest rooms feature nostalgic touches such as four-poster beds or fireplaces.

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Though it’s just a couple of miles up the coast from Spring Lake, Belmar has a completely different vibe. Popular with college kids and families, Belmar always has something going on during the warmer months, including movies and concerts on the sand. Certain parts of the beach are reserved for boogie boarding, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. And you can breathe easy: Smoking is prohibited on both the beach and the boardwalk.

Where to Stay: The eight-room Tandem Bike Inn offers a homemade breakfast each morning, as well as free bikes for guest use.

Asbury Park


Asbury Park is best known as the city that launched Bruce Springsteen’s career, and it’s still a great place to catch a show—not just at the legendary Stone Pony but also at the Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, located right on the boardwalk. But there’s a lot more to do in one of the hipper New Jersey beaches, including biking, surfing, fishing, and strolling the boardwalk. You can even bring Fido to the dedicated dog beach at Eighth Avenue or to Yappy Hour, a happy hour for dogs at Wonder Bar. There’s a diverse range of cuisine in Asbury Park, from typical beach fare like seafood and pizza to Korean tacos and vegan wraps. There’s even a distillery producing vodka and gin.

Where to Stay: The Hotel Tides is a boutique option just a few blocks from the beach and boardwalk. There’s a variety of art on show in the lobby.

[st_related]The Essential Beach Packing List[/st_related]

Sandy Hook


Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook offers several miles of clean, quiet beaches with views of the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Pack your bike or rollerblades and hit the Multi-Use Pathway (MUP), which makes a seven-mile loop around Fort Hancock. Hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and bird watching are also popular activities at this New Jersey beach.

Where to Stay: The 14-room Cedars and Beeches is a friendly B&B located in nearby Long Branch.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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10 Best Cheap Hotels in Seattle

Who doesn’t love a deal? When I say “cheap hotels in Seattle,” I mean properties offering remarkable value for an urban destination as popular as Seattle. If you watch for specials and off-season deals, you often can find rooms at these budget hotels in Seattle for under $150.

The Best Cheap Hotels in Seattle

These cheap hotels in Seattle deliver loads of charm and comfort at hard-to-believe budget prices.

Ace Hotel Seattle

cheap hotels in seattle

[st_content_ad]In the heart of Belltown, this hipster favorite in a former maritime workers’ hotel is both chic and affordable, especially if you opt for one of the rooms with a shared bath. Rooms have large windows and high ceilings. Furnishings include vintage and repurposed pieces, local art, industrial accents, and welcome touches like Pendleton wool blankets. Rates include continental breakfast of waffles, juice, and quality Stumptown coffee.

Amenities: Rudy’s Hair and Body bath products, and sink and vanity in rooms with shared baths.

Book It: Get prices for the Ace Hotel and Seattle hotels

Hotel Max

cheap hotels in seattle

Lodging meets well-curated gallery at one of the hippest cheap hotels in Seattle, where more than 300 original works of art fill the walls of public areas and guest rooms. The entire fifth floor is an ode to Seattle’s music scene, with guest rooms featuring turntables and vinyl collections selected by indie label Sub Pop Records. Live music venues surround the hotel, an easy walk from both downtown and Capitol Hill.

 Amenities: Dining at Red Fin, loaner bikes, fitness center, luxury bedding with pillow menu, complimentary morning coffee, evening craft beer hour, in-room spa service, pet-welcoming amenities, and pet room service menu(!).

 Book It: Find prices for the Hotel Max and other Seattle hotels

MarQueen Hotel

cheap hotels in seattle

In the heart of the classy residential neighborhood of Queen Anne, you’ll feel right at home at the handsome red-brick MarQueen. Built in 1918 as an engineering school, its upstairs apartments now serve as comfortable and spacious guest rooms, with hardwood floors, high ceilings, and cute revamped kitchenettes. Some rooms have fine views of the city. The lobby, with its beveled glass doors, terrazzo tile floors, and grand staircase, preserves the era’s European-inspired elegance.

Amenities: Tin Lizzie Lounge and continental breakfast.

 Book It: Find prices for the MarQueen Hotel and other Seattle hotels

11th Avenue Inn

cheap hotels in seattle

One of my favorite cheap places to stay in Seattle is this turn-of-the-century inn in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Guests enjoy exploring this highly walkable ‘hood filled with international flavors and funky shops, and have easy access to downtown with the nearby light-rail station. Antique furniture decorates the inn’s nine guest rooms, each with private bath. The full hot breakfast is a highlight, served in an elegant Victorian dining room with bay windows.

Amenities: Full breakfast, roomy common areas, and free parking on-site.

 Book It: Find prices for the 11th Avenue Inn and other Seattle hotels

Mediterranean Inn

cheap hotels in seattle

The sunny yellow Med brings a cheery presence to the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. Rooms are simple, clean, and comfortable, all with private baths and small kitchenettes. The big star here is the huge shared rooftop deck: Plop into a comfy couch and take in views of the nearby Space Needle, skyline, Puget Sound, and even distant Mt. Rainier.

Amenities: Loaner bikes, fitness center, shared computers, complimentary coffee, and affordable parking.

Book It: Get prices for the Mediterranean Inn and other Seattle hotels

Hotel FIVE

cheap hotels in seattle

An enormous number five against a red facade announces your arrival—and sets the tone—for this splashy contemporary hotel in the heart of Belltown. Furnishings are youthful and modern, in a bold palette of bright red, yellow, and gray. Guest rooms are fun, not fussy, featuring plush beds and linens, hardwood floors, streamlined furnishings, and glossy bathrooms. It’s one of the most stylish cheap hotels in Seattle.

Amenities: Breakfast at Max, loaner bikes, fitness center, iPod docks, complimentary coffee and cupcakes, and free downtown shuttle.

Book It: Find prices for Hotel FIVE and other Seattle hotels

Warwick Seattle

cheap hotels in seattle

Perhaps oh-so-slightly dated, the Warwick more than makes up for it with a central location, spacious rooms, and more amenities than you’d expect for the price. Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, private Juliet balconies, and some fine views (especially if you request a higher floor in this 18-story hotel). An indoor pool is a welcome addition to the fitness facilities.

Amenities: Dining at Margaux at the Warwick, Margaux Lounge, fitness center, indoor pool, hot tub, and business center.

 Book It: Find prices for the Warwick and other Seattle hotels

Belltown Inn

cheap hotels in seattle

The Belltown Inn feels less like a hotel and more like the apartment you wish you had in Seattle: clean, quiet, and within easy walking distance of dozens of restaurants and key attractions. Rooms all feature queen or king beds with plush-top mattresses, with handy kitchenettes and private baths. The communal rooftop terrace is a gem.

Amenities: Loaner bikes, tour desk, computers, and rooftop terrace.

 Book It: Find prices for the Belltown Inn and other Seattle hotels

Hotel Theodore

cheap hotels in seattle

Seattle’s downtown Roosevelt Hotel, a local landmark since the Great Depression, has been reborn as Hotel Theodore, and it’s now one of the best cheap hotels in Seattle. The Art Deco brick tower, capped with a red neon Roosevelt sign, remains; inside, the new look is sleek and masculine, with dark woods and white subway tile. It honors “the city’s tradition of makers, builders, and doers” with patent drawings and displays of Seattle creations like the Space Needle and the Amazon Kindle. Be sure to book a reservation for dinner at the outstanding Rider restaurant.

Amenities: Dining at Rider, coffee bar, fitness center, pillow menu, in-room spa services, robes, slippers, Lather beauty products, board games, and pet-welcoming amenities.

Book It: Get prices for the Hotel Theodore and other Seattle hotels

Bacon Mansion Bed and Breakfast

cheap hotels in seattle

This graceful Tudor mansion in the Capital Hill neighborhood retains some of its 1909 fine detailing, including marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, pocket doors, and stained-glass windows with the family crest. Eleven comfortable rooms vary in size and price; nine have private bathrooms. All guests enjoy a full breakfast.

Amenities: Down comforters, waffle-cloth bathrobes, bath products, complimentary tea/cocoa/cider and cookies, and newspapers.

Book It: Find prices for the Bacon Mansion B&B and other Seattle hotels

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—Original reporting by Tina Lassen


10 Secret French Villages to Discover Before the Crowds Do

Imagine the perfect trip to France, and you probably picture the chic streets of Paris, the glittering beaches of the Cote d’Azur, and the fertile vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne. But your vacation wouldn’t be complete without following the lure of small French villages, where cats wander down quiet cobblestone alleys and patisserie windows beckon with tempting displays of macarons and fruit tarts.

Secret French Villages You Probably Don’t Know About

With tourists and motor coaches crowding their medieval streets, some French villages are in danger of being loved to death. These 10 villages aren’t completely off the tourist map, but they remain unspoiled by mass tourism, and offer visitors a glimpse of everyday life in the French countryside.

L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, Provence

[st_content_ad]Pastel-painted shops and colorful flowerboxes line the canals that course their way through “the Venice of Provence.” The sun-splashed French village of L’Isle Sur la Sorgue is best known for its antiques, and hosts two annual antique fairs (at Easter and in August). If you’re not up for the crowds, visit other times of year and browse the hundreds of antique stores and art galleries scattered around town.

Where to Stay: After a recent renovation, the centuries-old Grand Hotel Henri has reopened to guests with its trademark elegant rooms and warm staff.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:309537″ /]

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Noyers-sur-Serein, Burgundy

Just a couple of hours southeast of Paris, one of the most charming French villages sits on the Serein River. Noyers is surrounded by well-preserved medieval ramparts that protect its cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. Visit the small folk museum, or hike to the atmospheric ruins of Chateau de Noyers-sur-Serein for aerial views of the village.

Where to Stay: The pet-friendly Le Gratin Mondain oozes with rustic charm. Breakfast and dinner are available on site.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:10537014″ /]

Calvi, Corsica

A 13th-century citadel looms over the seafront town of Calvi, located on the northwestern coast of the island of Corsica. Stroll along the seafront promenade or relax on the long white beach fringed with pine forest. Locals claim that Christopher Columbus was born here, and visitors can still see the ruins of the house where he supposedly lived. For Calvi’s best views, hike up to the hilltop church of Notre Dame de la Serra.

Where to Stay: The centrally located Casa Bianca offers easy access to Calvi’s historic core and the beach. Rooms are modern, clean, and air-conditioned.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:8000328″ /]

Beuvron-en-Auge, Normandy

Wandering amid the half-timbered houses of this picture-perfect French village will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. Beuvron-en-Auge is located along Normandy’s 25-mile Cider Route, which means you can sample delicious apple ciders and brandies in restaurants all over town—with a side of local Camembert or Livarot cheese, of course.

Where to Stay: Le Pave d’Hotes offers five individually decorated rooms, each with satellite TV and minibar. Breakfast is included and served outside in the garden on warm, sunny mornings.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:675015″ /]

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Collioure, Occitanie

“In the whole of France there is no sky as blue as the one above Collioure,” said the artist Henri Matisse, who once lived in this Catalan-influenced fishing village just 15 miles from the Spanish border. It’s easy to see why Collioure appeals to artists, with its brightly painted shops and cafes overlooking the turquoise waters of the harbor. There’s even a well-maintained castle worth visiting.

Where to Stay: Hotel Madeloc offers moderately priced accommodations within walking distance of the village center. Spring for a balcony room to enjoy a view of the surrounding hills.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:672170″ /]

Yvoire, Rhone-Alpes

Unspoiled Yvoire has a spectacular location right on Lake Geneva, and it’s one of the best French villages for strolling, thanks to its flower-bedecked cobblestone lanes and the manicured paths of Jardin des Cinq Sens. Because most visitors arrive on day trips from nearby Geneva, Switzerland, consider spending the night so you can appreciate the quiet evening and early-morning hours on the lake.

Where to Stay: Villa Cecile is the perfect place to relax and indulge, with its two seasonal outdoor swimming pools and small on-site spa.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:1060567″ /]

Dinan, Brittany

You may as well keep your phone or camera out at all times in Dinan, because there are Insta-worthy scenes around every corner. Geranium blooms spill out of flowerboxes, sailboats bob on the River Rance, and blue and red shutters offer bright pops of color against medieval stone walls. The main drag, called Rue du Jerzual, feels right out of the Middle Ages.

Where to Stay: Just outside the city walls is the Hotel de la Porte Saint-Malo, which offers simple yet comfortable rooms. Public spaces include a garden and a common room with a fireplace.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:280059″ /]

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Espelette, Basque Country

Espelette is a different local flavor than other French villages—literally. It’s best known for the Espelette pepper, and you’ll see the long, narrow chiles hanging out to dry all over town, their skins a vibrant red against the whitewashed walls. Also worth seeing are the town’s traditional Basque church and a 16th-century castle that now houses the tourist office and educational exhibitions.

Where to Stay: Hotel Euzkadi overlooks the main square and offers comfortable rooms and a large swimming pool. Sample Basque specialties at the excellent on-site restaurant.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:649452″ /]

Oingt, Rhone

Oingt is one of the “golden stone villages” of the Beaujolais wine region, named for the warm honey color its medieval limestone buildings turn to in the setting sun. While there are a few interesting sights in Oingt, including the Church of Saint-Mathieu and a tower that affords visitors sweeping vistas over the surrounding wine country, the greatest pleasure of visiting this French village is simply wandering its quiet cobblestone streets.

Where to Stay: Stay within biking distance of Oingt at Chateau de Bagnols, an 11th-century fortress that’s been converted into a Relais & Chateaux luxury hotel. Choose a room decorated in either modern or medieval style, and enjoy garden, courtyard, or vineyard views.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:283819″ /]

Gerberoy, Picardy

About an hour and a half northwest of Paris is the sleepy French village of Gerberoy, nicknamed “the town of roses.” Visit during the warmer months to wander through the Henri Le Sedaner Gardens, named after a French painter who once took inspiration from the town’s quiet lanes and centuries-old houses. The annual rose festival in June celebrates Gerberoy’s most famous blooms.

Where to Stay: Located just six miles from Gerberoy is Le Moulin des Forges, a B&B set in a restored watermill.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:1699523″ /]

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Sarah Schlichter never met a medieval village she didn’t like. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Airbnb’s 10-Year Plan to Rock the Travel World

Airbnb recently revealed a road map designed to jump-start the company’s annual guest count to more than 1 billion by 2028.

The 10-year plan includes multiple elements, including more rental types and a consumer loyalty program.

First, the low-hanging fruit: Airbnb is adding filters to allow customers to search for new categories of lodging, including vacation homes, unique accommodations, bed & breakfasts, and boutique hotels.

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Next, Airbnb is adding new tiers to its product lineup, Airbnb Plus and Beyond by Airbnb. The former is a collection of more upscale homes, for those with Champagne tastes and the budgets to back them up. The latter “will offer custom designed trips of a lifetime, including the world’s finest homes, custom experiences and world-class hospitality.”

Another addition: Airbnb Collections, “perfect homes for every occasion.” Launching immediately are Airbnb for Family and Airbnb for Work. Later this year will be added collections for social stays, weddings, honeymoons, group getaways and dinner parties.

Airbnb already has a Superhost loyalty program for its hosts. This summer the company will test-launch the Superguest program for guests. Details weren’t disclosed, but perks might be expected to include lower prices and access to fitness centers for heavy Airbnb users.

If Airbnb is to meet its lofty 10-year goal, it will be in large part at the expense of the traditional hotel industry, which isn’t likely to take losing market share lightly. Sparks will fly, and travelers will (should) be the beneficiaries.

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.