How to Get Exercise While You’re on Vacation

August 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Many people who exercise regularly are often reluctant to go on vacation because it ruins their exercise routine. They’ll spend a week not working out, and returning to their regular schedule can feel like drudgery.

Other people would welcome the relief, but they worry that if they stop, they won’t return to it. So what can you do to maintain some kind of fitness routine when you’re away from home and your favorite gym or running routes?

To begin with, make sure to pack your workout gear, but here are a few other things you should try.

Count your steps

Hotel Gym at Casa Velas Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. You can find a fitness room at most vacation hotels.

Hotel Gym at Casa Velas Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

If you’re already a walker or runner, use your mobile phone to count the number of steps you take while you’re out seeing the sites. You may find that you walk as far or farther than you normally do in a regular workout. You can even schedule walking tours of the places you’re visiting to help.

I prefer the Pedometer++ app for my step-counting, although there are others you can use. It gamifies walking, which means I can earn badges and accomplishments just for walking every day. And since we walk a lot on vacation, I know how much exercise I’m getting, so I can complain about it on Facebook the next day.

Find some workout videos on YouTube

If yoga is more your thing, you can always do your routines in your hotel room. Some of the fancier hotels will provide a yoga mat for their guests, but if you’re driving to your destination, you can always pack your own.

That may be a little tricky on a plane, since most yoga mats are wider than suitcases are long. But you can do it if you only have one other carry-on item; you’re allowed a carry-on bag and a personal item, so just carry your yoga mat.

Also, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of yoga videos online, whether it’s YouTube or one of the many yoga apps available. Pick a few of your favorites and work out to those.

You can also do an online search for local yoga studios and visit one of those as well.

Scout out some safe running routes before you arrive

Look at Google Maps and check out some walking routes between your hotel and a couple of sights or points of interest. Google is fairly reliable in checking out walking routes that keep you off of busy highways and out of construction. Find a sight you’d like to see, plot a walking route from your lodgings, and head out the door.

You can also check out sites like Runkeeper.com, the Map My Run app, or even the USA Track & Field’s running database.

Finally, look for a local running group or run shop in your destination and see if they have any scheduled runs or workouts.

Get a hotel with a workout room

It may cost a little more, but if you’re dedicated to staying fit, it’s worth it. Most hotel gyms have an exercise bike, treadmill, and maybe a few weights. If you need to move some iron, you won’t find the big racks of weights at a Holiday Inn Express, but there will often be a small universal weight machine. But if you’re looking for cardio workout equipment, most hotels have you covered.

If you need to find a hotel with a good workout facility, use Trip Advisor or Yelp, as well as the hotel’s own website, to get the insight on what they have to offer.

See if your local gym has sharing privileges at other affiliates

Places like the YMCA, Planet Fitness, and Anytime Fitness often have sharing privileges from gym to gym, regardless of where you are. So if you already belong to one of those gyms, you can flash your membership card at the gym in your destination city and use their equipment.

And sometimes you just need a break

Finally, remember you’re on vacation. You’re supposed to take a break from work, from stress, and all the things that drive you mad. Splurge on some food, cheat on your diet, and don’t beat yourself up just because you miss a couple workouts. You can get back into the swing of things when you get home. Relax and enjoy your time off.

Besides, an important part of exercise is the recovery process. So consider this a critical step in your health journey. Just remember to start back up again when you get home.

How do you exercise while you’re on vacation? Do you work harder or count on some of your activities to give you that workout? Share your tips and tricks on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Chain Hotels versus B&Bs versus Airbnb

February 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

I have mixed feelings about bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). The best B&B experience I ever had was at the Kintner House Hotel in Corydon, Indiana. Corydon is notable for being the site of one of only two Civil War battles north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Also, it was Indiana’s first state capital. So the place was pretty special to me as an Indiana history buff.

I stayed there a few times over the years, while traveling on business, and had my favorite room, the Trunk Room. The staff even got to know me a bit and remembered me each time I visited.

Kintner House Inn, a normal B&B. Not available on Airbnb (I checked).

The Kintner House Inn in Corydon, IN

I also had a terrible B&B experience once when my wife and I traveled to Indianapolis for a wedding one August and realized the B&B in question was someone’s spare guest room in a 1940s ranch-style bungalow. The hostess kept the house too warm, and we had a secret back-and-forth fight over the AC setting. I would bump it down to 74, and she would bump it back up to 78. We did this at least two times during the night, but we never spoke of it over breakfast the next morning.

Compare that to the good luck I’ve had with chain hotels. When I stay at one of my favorite hotel chains — usually Holiday Inn, sometimes a Hampton Inn — I can always count on an identical experience free of any surprises or unexpected quirks.

On the other hand, that’s the downside of staying at chain hotels. It’s an identical experience free of any surprises or unexpected quirks.

And my limited Airbnb experience has been primarily positive. I’ve always rented an entire house so I can avoid my negative B&B experience, and the houses have always been clean, safe, and in decent neighborhoods. It’s a nice compromise, although my wife isn’t a fan.

If you’re trying to decide which option you want on your next family vacation, here are a few things to consider before you book your rooms for your vacation.

Chain Hotels

If you’re looking for a way to save money, a chain hotel may be your best bet. Depending on where you’re going, nights can be anywhere from $95 to $300 or more (especially in big cities near major event venues, e.g. Manhattan, downtown Chicago). The more they cost, the nicer the rooms. And there’s something great about feeling like a VIP when you step into a decked-out high-rise room.

You can also earn loyalty points, which can reduce the costs of future stays, or give you other rewards. You can earn these points by flying specific airlines or even dining at certain restaurants.

And like I said earlier, barring an unusual situation, you can rely on the kind of experience you’re going to get at a chain hotel. No surprises, no unusual sleeping arrangements, no weird room layouts. Many of them serve breakfast — my son loves the breakfast buffets at the Hampton Inn — so it’s a way to save a little money on food if you’re on a road trip.

At the same time, there’s something special about specialty boutique hotels, like The Galt House in Louisville, Colcord Hotel in Oklahoma City, or 21C hotels. They may not have loyalty programs, but they’re quite fancy and still affordable. I can’t recommend 21C enough if you want an interesting, but artistic hotel stay.

Bed & Breakfasts

I’ve stayed at more than a few B&Bs, and my one terrible experience notwithstanding, I’ve always enjoyed them. These are usually old historic houses in small towns or quiet neighborhoods, and they serve a nice little breakfast in the morning.

The one downside is that they’re not always ideal for families, especially if you have small kids. And they’re usually destinations, not stop off points like a hotel. They’re geared more toward the quiet weekend away from the mad rush of the city and constant nagging of social media and television.

The times my wife and I stayed at a bed and breakfast, it was strictly to relax, sleep in, and enjoy the town we were visiting. But we never took our kids because they weren’t made for little children, they didn’t have rollaway beds or cribs, and a lot of them didn’t have televisions or ways of entertaining little ones. At least the ones we visited were made this way, and we chose them intentionally for that reason. If you want a place to take your younger kids, check with the owner before you book your room so you’re not disappointed. Some B&Bs (and Airbnbs) even have “no children” rules, so be sure to check.

Airbnb

I appreciate Airbnb when I travel to a city where I’ll be staying for several days, but want something cheaper than a good hotel. You can get an entire house to yourself, or you can get a single guest room inside someone’s house, and I’ve always managed to get something for less than $120 per night. My wife took my oldest daughter to New York City for her 18th birthday, and they stayed in someone’s room in their apartment, and said it was a great experience.

I took the same daughter to Nashville, Tennessee for a conference and got the upper floor of a house (the owners lived in the lower level) in an east side neighborhood, just a few miles from where I needed to be. What was really great was all the hotels were sold out because it was the Country Music Awards, and no one had scooped up this house. It cost less than most of the hotels ($90/night versus $300) and quite a bit closer to where I needed to be.

An Airbnb is an ideal setup if you have a carload of kids and want to be able to spread out, but don’t want to be crammed into a single hotel room. You usually get cable television and wifi, there are plenty of beds and bedrooms (assuming you planned properly), and best of all, you get to control the house’s AC and heat.

Ultimately your sleeping arrangement comes down to your own personal preferences, but for the most part, I like the hotel option first, Airbnb second, and a regular bed and breakfast third. But part of that is because I’m a bit competitive, and like accumulating points at the hotels. However, if you want to stay at an Airbnb, they do have a point-sharing loyalty arrangement with Delta Airlines now. Just visit DeltaAirbnb.com and book your room through that site, and you can earn Delta SkyMiles.

Where would you stay? Which do you prefer? Do you have a go-to lodging choice, or do you pick it based on your own travel plans? Share your recommendations in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Family Vacations: Airbnb Versus Hotels?

October 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

How do you feel about staying in someone else’s home during family vacations? I don’t mean visiting family during your holiday break (which is no picnic, let me tell you). I mean renting someone else’s house for a night, a week, or even a few weeks?

If you’re traveling somewhere for a few days on one of your family vacations, would you rather rent a hotel room with a brand you can trust so you can get an experience you can expect? Or would you rather be adventurous, stay in a place that lets you experience the real part of a city, and have a lot more space than you would in a cramped hotel room?

I’ve had a chance to stay in both Airbnbs and hotels over the years, and I’m actually having a hard time deciding which I prefer. Not my wife though. She’s insistent: no staying in other people’s houses. She’s only done it once, and then only because it was way cheaper than a hotel room. Otherwise, she doesn’t like it.

She just doesn’t like the idea of sleeping in a stranger’s bed, using their sheets, occupying their space. I’m less worried about it. For one thing, they always put clean sheets on the bed. For another, they’re never around (I always get the “whole house” rentals, never an “own room”).

Airbnb is a great way to find an inexpensive place to stay during family vacations
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The 9-Step Hotel Safety Checklist Used by Some CIA Operatives

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

You know how, when you’re on a mission, and you reach your hotel, you check for surveillance equipment, and secure the door against counter-intelligence operatives?

Not so much? Me neither.

Holiday Inn Express Daytona Beach ShoresDrew Dwyer does. He’s a Marine veteran and former CIA operative who shared his hotel check-in safety checklist with Entrepreneur.com. He’s been on countless missions in other countries, and developed a habit of making sure his hotel room was as safe as he could make it.

Our vacations may not be as danger-filled and exciting as Dwyer’s, but there are still a few things we can do to be safe while staying in a hotel. Here are a few of the items from Dwyer’s list.
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Top Resorts/Hotel Brands for Families

March 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

As a family of five, hotel stays can be a little tricky. They’re cramped, crowded, and can make vacations pricey. So we’re always careful about where we stay when we hit the road. We’ll try to book ahead of time, but there are times we have to rely on Travelocity or remembering previous stays to find a hotel that meets our standards.

Holiday Inn Express Daytona Beach ShoresWhen we’re on the road, we have three criteria:

  1. The place has to be clean, or have a reputation for being clean. This is one time I favor chains over local options, because those chains have corporate standards to meet.
  2. We prefer a continental breakfast. It’s actually cheaper in the long run.
  3. We want a pet friendly hotel. It varies from hotel to hotel, depending on ownership, but you can find them with some research.

Last year, Parents Magazine picked their own choices for Top Family Friendly Hotels, naming as their top five budget hotels, the Residence Inn, Hyatt Place, Springhill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Wingate by Wyndham.
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