I love hotels and hate hotels at the same time. When planning a trip as a solo traveler, there is no one to split the cost of the lodging so I need to be pretty particular when spending cash on lodging. This is why I love my Starwood AMEX card as I can rack up points from daily spend and then use the points to offset hotel costs. I’ve stayed in some amazing Starwood properties on points – looking out at the canal in Venice, a corner suite in Istanbul, club level at the Westin Capetown and of course, Park Lane London, to name a few for under $150 + points per night. Many of these properties easily go for $300-$400 a night (out of my budget range generally) so I’m more than happy with the various redemption options offered in the program.
There are many travelers that love the plane (first class/business class) experience, others who are foodies but I am a (boutique and luxury) hotel girl who loves a bit of pampering such as room service, an onsite spa and a fantastic concierge team (this is my vacation right?). When I travel, there are many times when my hotel room is a haven so I need for it to make me happy if I am going to spend a lot of time there. There are other hotels when I know I only need to sleep that I don’t mind missing all of the frills. So it definitely is a fine line to pick the right place for my stay – many questions to answer before I go.
I recognize that the hotel is key to many successful trips and because of this, for me, the hotel choice can be fraught with potential disappointment. When I find a hotel I like, I tend to be loyal which sometimes is just my fear of having a bad experience elsewhere when I know the comfort of my favorite hotel. While I know that there are many other lodging options that I’ve not tried such as hostels (damn scary movie) and backpacking (with size 11 shoes, backup snacks and contact lenses, I’d barely have room left in a backpack). I am awe of those who successfully do this though), couch surfing and AirBnb (from my experience there are gems, duds and ones that send you to the E.R.) for now I stay close to the hotel model. My solo travels have been centered around some pretty nice hotel experiences in the past few years due to loyalty points. However, I have also had some incredible experiences at hotels that offer no points – they earned my loyalty with their service levels.
So a bit of context before we go back to the hotel safari tent and hotel planning…
Over the years, I have mixed chain hotels, local hotels, charming inns on my travels in order to make my budget go further. On planning my safari, my whole “luxury hotel girl” was tested when the travel agent sent the “draft” 27 day safari itinerary. She suggested my first stay in the Okavango Delta, Botswana would be in a safari tent for two nights – my first camping experience. I went back and forth with the travel agent that I didn’t think I could do it – stay in camp for two nights in a safari tent and using a bucket shower (I know I said that but it really was an issue for me when planning – fear of the unknown – it’s only two nights for goodness sake!) and wasn’t sure my first camping experience should be in Botswana. Obviously, I didn’t think there would be a hotel in the middle of the Okavango Delta, however, I also hadn’t realized what I see in magazines was way out of my price range so I needed to rethink the experience and what I was going to do – how to get out of my comfort zone – way out (for me at least).
But let’s not get too excited that I would be down in the mud and really roughing it because as I learned on safari – a safari tent isn’t always quite a tent as we know it (a bit of a hotel safari). But I’m jumping ahead….there’s a lot to sort out before you go on safari, after locking down the itinerary – travel medicine shots, the duffel bag, how to pack for safari, etc. before leaving for almost a month and going to Africa on safari…
Are you a city girl too? Is the thought of a bucket shower a bit too much for you? What is your ideal safari tent situation? If you’ve been on safari in Africa, do share your favorite safari camps to help others plan their trips.