I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.
Follow me as I try to balance "real life" with exploring the world, all while trying to conquer a wickedly ironic case of homesickness.


Confessions of a Travel Snob

As I attempt to plan several escapes with some newly available funds, I can't escape the fact that my travel style has changed immensely over the years.  I've become a Hotel Snob, but I am perfectly okay with that.

I have always been in awe of those who can be at home anywhere. Those who can sleep in an airport, a bus, a brothel; I am very much not like that.  I nest wherever I am, and if it doesn't feel like a home away from home, it actually ruins my entire experience.  That probably sounds strange to some, but it's true.  I have the personality of someone who needs to recharge at the end of every day, and I can't do that just anywhere.

I am not inexperienced in the frugal.  When I started traveling heavily a decade ago, my primary goal was the location.  I was one of those "Who cares; all I'll do is sleep in it" people.  As a result, I slept in my share of smelly, cramped rooms with questionably-safe elevators and stained sheets.  I endured sleepless nights from paper-thin walls, broken HVAC systems, mattress springs that have simply given up.  I shared rooms with mold and insects.  I did traffic noise, elevator noise, party-next-door noise, even noise from a night club right below my bed.

The turning point came when I rented a private apartment in London in 2008, thinking I was getting a better place to stay for comparable cost.  And I would have, if the estate agent hadn't turned out to be a scam artist.  The rental worked perfectly while we were there, but I never saw my significant security deposit again.  Because of the currency exchange rate, I lost thousands of dollars on that single trip.  Ironically, it was also a trip with several unexpected hurdles, like late-season snow and the closure of public transportation, making our decision to stay in the suburbs even more difficult and unpleasant.  It was somewhere between literally freezing in the snow waiting for a delayed train and the slow realization that I would never see my money again that I decided: the extra money for reputable, accessible accommodations is worth it to me.

It's more relaxing
I used to feel like it was me against the world when I traveled.  Did I forget my toothbrush?  Was I hungry after restaurants closed?  Did I have transportation?  How was I going to print my boarding pass?  I had to solve these problems on my own. As a result, I was always on, so as not to drop any of the balls I had to juggle the entire time I traveled, and that was exhausting. But nicer hotels?  They pride themselves on service.  They will provide you with forgotten toothbrushes, print your boarding pass, book your train, confirm your flight, have dinner waiting in your room when you've been stuck in unexpected traffic. When I stay at a nicer hotel, I actually enjoy my time outside the hotel more because of what they have taken off my to-do list.

Escaping your life
I'm not kidding when I say nice hotels are service-oriented.  The best ones go to surprising lengths to customize your experience with them, and it can make you feel like a million bucks.  I've been upgraded to a junior suite for free in Seattle and Vienna, simply because 1) the upgraded rooms were available, and 2) I asked nicely.  A San Francisco hotel had an enormous piece of chocolate cake waiting for me on my birthday.  And my favorite so far: an NYC hotel provided me with my own in-room cereal bar. These little things can take a trip from enjoyable to exceptional.

The science of hospitality
Nicer hotels have departments of people who study how interiors affect guests psychologically.  The linens, color schemes, lighting, font, temperature, even smells they choose is deliberate.  I can imagine those who can sleep anywhere don't really understand why this stuff even matters, but I'm someone who is really sensitive to it.  As a result, I feel more at peace in nicer hotels.

Proximity and views
The cheaper hotels I've stayed in were always out of the way.  It took a significant chunk of time to get to and from them every day, and I felt very separated from whatever I traveled to experience while I was there.  Nicer hotels, however, are typically situated centrally, and the best have views you can partake in from the comfort of your room.  You never have to leave the action, making the most of your limited time.  Some of my favorite memories were made on a room balcony overlooking Ka'anapali Beach, 5th Avenue in NYC, and hopefully this fall, the Chicago River.

Ease of flights
My snobbery has extended to all aspects of travel, especially flights. I used to go with cheapest I could find, but I've clocked enough miserable hours with lost luggage, screaming children, people that cut in line, burned out TSA agents, and airlines that simply run out of food somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I only fly direct and nonstop nowadays, and I pay extra to land at a decent hour of the day.  I only want to go through security and/or immigration once each way, thank you very much.  I'm very much done sprinting through airports, dragging luggage behind me, begging desk agents to please please please let me on the plane because (insert tears here) I JUST WANNA GO HOME!!!  Been there, done that, simply not doing it anymore.

I still refuse to overpay; in fact, I've never paid standard rate. I use email lists, sale websites, credit card miles, and loyalty programs to be smart about it. I research, I wait, and then I pounce.  Sometimes, I research for months, but it always pays off.  Everywhere has a sweet spot between price and indulgence if you're willing to wait for it. Sure, they still cost more than budget options, which therefore limits the total number of trips we can take.  I also usually have to book early; last minute travel is my arch nemesis.

But still, as I look back, my evolution as a traveler intrigues me.  I used to refuse to pay more than $150/night, even after currency conversions.  Now, I'd be highly suspicious of a $150/night room.  Two years ago, I paid $529/night, but I promise you: that trip was incredible.  Tonight, as I seriously consider cancelling an entire trip this summer so I can afford a $640/night room this fall, I realize I've come to terms with my Travel Snobbery.

They're worth every penny.


Done with domestics

If you'll just pardon me briefly, I need to vent.  You see, tomorrow, I'm flying on a major US domestic carrier for the first time in nearly a decade.  I've spent the past nine years flying on international carriers and a smaller airline based in the Seattle area. My preferred airlines include British Airways, Alaska Airlines, Virgin, and Qantas. These have been very deliberate choices based on personal experience.

Nine years ago, Delta ran out of food on a 5-hour flight.  I was seated about halfway back in the economy cabin, yet they'd simply "run out" of anything edible by the time the cart got to my row. There were still easily over one-hundred people behind me waiting to discover they were simply going to remain hungry, as well. To my logical mind, this is a plane with a fixed number of seats and passengers, so unless the people in the rows in front of us were permitted to order hundreds of extra meals - which also seems very irresponsible - this wasn't a random accidental happenstance. The plane had to have left the tarmac without enough food to begin with. Why was this permitted? Did Delta take a gamble to make a guaranteed profit?

Fast forward to this morning, when I'm checking in for another cross-country flight on Delta. It leaves in 23 hours; I am not anywhere near late for checking in for this flight. In fact, check-in has only been open less than an hour. I logged in, expecting a very smooth process. And yet, at some point between no check-in last night and check-in this morning, I and the other two people I'm traveling with were randomly assigned elsewhere in the cabin instead of the carefully chosen seats we had originally picked.

This might not seem like much to some people, but it means something to me.  I'm the type of traveler who uses sites like SeatGuru to find and secure the most comfortable seat I can afford.  Furthermore, I have tight hip flexors and my travel partner has sciatica, so we make allowances for our needs to stand and stretch regularly without repeatedly inconveniencing our fellow passengers.  Finally, in an effort to secure seats together, we had carefully coordinated our separate purchases.  Needless to say, a bit of thought and effort went in to where we were very deliberately sitting, and these new seat assignments weren't satisfactory.

In an effort to solve the problem, I called Delta and requested to be moved to the seat next to my party, and barring that, any available aisle seat would be preferred to where they'd moved me.

I was told the seat next to my party is occupied, and there aren't any aisle seats open on the entire plane. End of discussion.

As a creature of logic, I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind this. First of all, I would understand if every passenger in an aisle seat had already checked in and confirmed that, yes, they did indeed want that seat. First come, first served makes sense to me.  But check-in has only been open for an hour. There is no way in hell everyone has checked in already.

Furthermore, I was one of those in possession of an aisle seat less than an hour ago. Something in the Great Seat Assignment Algorithm caused me and at least two other reservations to be shifted, which means other passengers had to be moved to make room for us.  Yet, no one else in the entire plane can be moved to accommodate my request now?  How was it that someone got our original seats?  Blood sacrifice?  Sexual favors?

It seems to me that Delta only starts to respect the details of a traveler's reservation after they've already made a mess of the whole thing, thereby trapping passengers in something they never wanted in the first place.  And the saddest part is that Delta is not the most complained-about major US domestic airline out there.

I realize that very few airlines guarantee seat assignments nowadays; I really do. However, I've done my fair share of traveling over the past decade, and I have never had this kind of blatant disregard for customer request and preference on my preferred airlines, and especially not when the request was made this early. Furthermore, I think I've been pretty patient regarding today's travel rules. I've accepted a lot of changes and restrictions for the sake of traveling as safely and affordably as I can.  I've been able to find reason behind a lot more inconveniences than many others. What I can't abide, however, is being subject to things that simply make no sense. That is the straw that breaks this camel's back.

After this weekend, I'm going back to my preferred airlines. In the meantime, I'm bringing my own food.


Vegas escape

When you live in a place known for its green,
the desert is a beautiful change of pace:

too many people think Las Vegas is reserved
solely for those looking for debauchery.

I respectfully disagree.
You just have to look a little closer.


My perfect year

January - April:
Sydney, NSW, Australia

May - September:
London, England

September - December:
New York City, USA


Regent Street, London

One of the first European architectural gems I ever encountered firsthand was Regent Street in London. My naive 24-year old self rode an urban subway for the very first time, alighted at Piccadilly Circus, and emerged underneath the most grand, breathtaking curve of street I'd ever seen in my life.

I've since been introduced to many other architectural wonders around the world, but Regent Street will always hold a special place in my heart.

Regent Street from Sam Scott-Hunter on Vimeo.


Expedia's Find Yours

I think real travelers must have created the new Expedia ad campaign,
because it's perfect.

For the passion of travelers everywhere:


Shouting love

I realize the cheese factor of this post might be immense,
and that I have some British readers that might have different views.

But there is little doubt around the world that 2012 belongs to Great Britain,
and the entire Commonwealth should be proud of the Jubilee song, "Sing".

The lyrics are awesome, but the collaboration is even better.

Some words they can’t be spoken, only sung
So hear a thousand voices shouting love

There’s a place, there’s a time
In this life when you sing what you are feeling
Find your feet, stand your ground
Don’t you see
Right now the world is listening to what we say

Sing it louder, sing it clearer
Knowing everyone will hear you
Make some noise, find your voice tonight
Sing it stronger, sing together
Make this moment last forever
Old and young
Shouting love tonight

To sing we’ve had a lifetime to wait
And see a thousand faces celebrate

You brought hope, you brought light
Conquered fear, it wasn’t always easy
Stood your ground, kept your faith
Don’t you see
Right now the world is listening to what we say

Sing it louder, sing it clearer
Knowing everyone will hear you
Make some noise, find your voice tonight
Sing it stronger, sing together
Make this moment last forever
Old and young
Shouting love tonight

Some words they can’t be spoken only sung
To hear a thousand voices shouting love
And light and hope

Just sing
Come all and sing

Sing it louder, sing it clearer
Knowing everyone will hear you
Make some noise, find your voice tonight
Sing it stronger, sing together
Make this moment last forever
Old and young
Shouting love tonight

Hear a thousand voices shouting love
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