London accommodation under £100 a night? Pffft!

Finding a room in London for under £100 a night is no myth. Inexpensive accommodation, outside of hostels, does exist! While the variety of locations and list of amenities may not be up to snuff of any hotel with a 4- or 5-star rating, you can find places that are perfectly serviceable for anyone who values saving money when and wherever possible.

We’ve gone and picked out some of the best values for money London has to offer.

Zone out in Zone 2: This £79/nt. “aparthotel” studio is located in Zone 2 near Kilburn Park underground station (Bakerloo line) in Northwest London. It sleeps 2-4 comfortably and has a kitchenette with a washing machine making this an ideal pick for those travelling with small children. Getting to top destinations like Oxford Street, the London Zoo or Hyde Park is a snap with the tube and a multitude of bus routes right on your doorstep. Kilburn might not be the fanciest of neighbourhoods, but it is bustling and has all the necessities (bars, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, shopping) in abundance within a short stroll from your front door.
Best choice for families

Small space, small price: You may have already heard of EasyJet, the low cost airline that is so popular with British travellers. The Easy travel brand has extended their reach to include ground transportation and accommodation, too. There are seven EasyHotels across London with centralised locations in Paddington, Victoria, Earls Court, South Kensington and Barbican. While the rooms are über cheap (rates from £30-£40 a night), they are also über small. Small rooms are 6-7.5 square metres, standard rooms are 7.6-11 square metres.

While you might get a bit of cabin fever if you were staying in one of these compact rooms for a week, you’ll find the space is perfectly adequate for a weekend break. At those prices, who could really complain? You will have to pay extra for items like TV access, Wi-fi, extra towels, luggage storage and extra housekeeping, so plan your budget accordingly.
Best choice for those wanting a great location

Trendy and chic on the cheap: Located in the trendy postcode of N1, the Luxury Inn is tucked neatly between the boroughs of Angel, Hoxton, Old Street and Islington. Because this unique establishment is located on a residential street, you’re guaranteed a quiet and restful night’s sleep, something that can often be hard to come by in more centrally located hotels. Although the nearest tube station is almost a mile away on foot, there are buses aplenty to take you wherever you need to go.

For the price, a fantastic £95/nt. for a double occupancy en-suite room, you get a self-service breakfast, free Wi-fi plus all the mod cons you could ever need. There’s even parking available for a paltry £3 per day. With the level of thoughtful design and comfort packed into the Luxury Inn’s rooms, we’re sure you’ll agree when we say that this is one of London’s best kept secrets!
Best for those that want the boutique experience without the cost

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Bilbao, Spain

Most people know Bilbao, Spain for one thing: the architecturally stunning Guggenheim Museum. But Bilbao has much more to offer than just a museum. After seeing the impressive Puppy (the flower dog at the Guggenheim’s entrance), you can do loads of other things in this diverse and scenic city. From enjoying the best pintxos (a Basque snack and relative of Spanish tapas), drinking a quality txakoli (a dry, white wine) and getting lost in the small streets in the old part of the city, you won’t want to miss out on all that Bilbao has to offer.

Guggenheim flower Puppy in Bilbao

For example, on the banks of the estuary that traverses the city (where you can see many bridges that are really worth your time, like Zubizuri or La Salve), we have the Arriaga Theatre, a very beautiful neo-baroque building built in 1890. Don’t forget to see the balcony in August, where the txupinazo (fireworks) are launched, starting Aste Nagusia (translated as Big Week), one of the best parties in the world.

After the Arriaga Theatre, head on over to the Euskalduna Palace, a very modern concert and conference centre worth seeing at night. Gracing the exterior is a bunch of street lamps modeled to look like electrified, modern trees in a forest – a very beautiful effect at night. If you’re in the vicinity of the Euskalduna, why not go to the San Mamés Stadium (also known as The Cathedral)? This is a football field that’s worth a visit because of the large arch that covers the entire stadium. If you can, try to watch a game with the Athletic de Bilbao Lions for an experience you won’t surely forget.

If you don’t want to walk around San Mamés, you might prefer to go in the opposite direction to the old part of the city. Here, it’s likely that you’re going to be wandering in one of the many bars that surround Bilbao as the city has many to choose from. While drinking the day away is always fun, you shouldn’t miss seeing the “other” cathedral in Bilbao: the Catedral de Santiago, built in 1397 and totally restored from the Nervión flooding in 1983. And if you want to see another church, you have to see the Iglesia de la Merced, the actual seat of the Bilborock discotheque. Nearby is the Ribera Market, with the best fresh fish on offer in Spain, surrounded with a spectacular facade plus the well-known and stunning Ribera Arches.

Of course, you have to go to the Museum of Fine Art, home to works from El Greco, Zurbarán, Sorolla and Chillida. Also, it has temporary exhibitions and is near the Doña Casilda Park, the biggest in Bilbao, which has a Chillida statue and many ducks who won’t say no to a tasty hand out. It’s not the only park in the city, as there is also the Etxebarria Park or the Memory Avenue.

One of the most wonderful and charming things about Bilbao is the spectacular transport system. Highlights of the Metro (it’s a tourist attraction by itself) are the Abando (Indalecio Prieto) station with a beautiful stained glass window and the exterior of Feve station, a city classic.

The best thing about Bilbao is getting lost in the city, finding yourself by the modern building of Osakidetza, being surprised with the Isozaki Towers, entering the Begoña Basilica or the greatness of the Bilbao Exhibition Centre. Now you know why Bilbao is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, architecturally and culturally.

Getting there: there are a number of airlines that fly direct from cities in the UK to Bilbao. If you’re looking to spend a week or more there and need your car, you can take a ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao. The trip takes a full 24 hours to complete a leg and can be costly (a few hundred pounds for 2 adults), but the cost can be offset if you factor in your savings on car hire for a week or more. This can be a viable option if you have children or pets travelling with you. Each ferry cabin comes with en suite facilities and, for an extra cost, television.

-Miguel Fernandez
Kelkoo Spain

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Bolsena, Italy

Did you ever dream of going to Italy? I recommend a trip to the small town of Bolsena located near the large lake Lago di Bolsena, a few hours north of Rome.

Bolsena is an ancient Roman city located in the province of Viterbo, a few hours north of Rome. It’s worth a trip! When you arrive in Bolsena from above, you see a lovely view of the city and lake below. The city centre consists of old stone buildings with great architecture and narrow, cozy streets. In the town, you can find the Basilica di San Cristina church and the Castello Rocca Monaldeschi, which was built between the 12th and 14th century. Inside the castle is an archaeological museum, which opened in 1991. Here you can see archaeological finds from Bolsena and the surrounding areas.

We flew from London to Rome via Munich. The journey took most of the day, as we had to wait a few hours in Munich, but we saved some money by doing it. When we landed in Rome, we went straight to Europcar where we got the rental car delivered immediately. We could pick out the child seat ourselves, then we could just pack our suitcases in the car and drive north on the A1 towards Florence. The drive took a couple of hours.

In Bolsena, there are a number of hotels, some by the lake and a few in the city. As we travelled with two small children, we chose the Hotel Holiday, which is by the sea and has a private pool with a children’s area. Here, the kids could swim safely while we sat and relaxed in the shade of a parasol. At the pool, there was a kiosk selling snacks, ice cream and drinks, and you could eat lunch on the lawn next to the pool area or on the pool edge if you wanted to. The hotel staff were nice, but most spoke very little English so there were some misunderstandings, especially when we were trying to book a room with two extra beds and access to a balcony outside the room. But mostly, we managed to make ourselves understood. The children really enjoyed themselves in the pool and the garden, and when it was too hot outside, they relaxed in the air-conditioned hotel room.

In the evenings, we went into town which was close enough that even the 3-year-old could walk there. In the narrow, dark streets there were several restaurants that had outdoor seating facing the street. Those were, of course, very popular, but we managed to find a cozy restaurant called Ristorante Trattoria Da Picchietto that had outdoor seating behind the house, and therefore it was not crowded.

The servings were small, so we should have ordered a full meal of antipasti, pasta, main course and dessert, like the Italians. However, it was a bit difficult to know in advance because in some of the restaurants we ate at, they served plenty of food on the plate, while others did it the Italian way. We also thought it was a disadvantage that we had to compose the dishes yourself by selecting the side orders in addition to the meat, as it is not always easy to know which vegetables and sauces that will go well together with some food that you have picked out randomly from an Italian menu.

One day, we walked over to a playground that was about a 20 minutes’ walk along the sea from the hotel. There we found slides, swings, and more for the kids. Unfortunately, there was little shade over the playground, so the kids got tired of playing quite fast. (We should have gone there in the evening.) We went instead down to the lake and waded into the warm water. Then we sat down at a pavement cafe’ and relaxed with some drinks and some watermelon while the kids were playing in the sand. We bought buckets and shovels at a small shop nearby. It was a lovely relaxing day which we rounded off with dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Other things you should do in Bolsena is eat delicious Italian ice cream at Gelateria Sarchioni Bolsena and rent a bike down by the lake so that you can easily get to the beach and around town. A trip to this cozy little Italian town was a great start for our vacation in Italy and I would recommend you go there, whether you are interested in history and architecture or you just want a relaxing beach holiday!

Have a nice trip!

- Hanne Holter
Kelkoo Norway

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Montreal underground

What would you do if you had only a few hours to visit Montreal for the first time?

1. Use Foursquare on your smartphone to get around the city
2. Run to a local bookshop and buy a city guide
3. Stop a passer-by and beg him to be your guide for the day in exchange for $100

Alternatively, you could follow this plan for the day:

10.00 AM: You just got up and you feel a little hungry. Your hotel fridge is full of peanuts and green olives. Yummy? Heck no! Start acting like a true Montrealer and go for brunch.

11.00 AM: Montreal is famous for having the best brunch in the world. No exaggeration, it’s true. Depending on your tastes, local restaurants have so much to offer: French toast, bagels, eggs benedict, pancakes, fruit plates and, of course, bacon, potatoes and maple beans. The Plateau Mont Royal, a famous borough in Montreal, will impress you with its selection of restaurants which offer brunch on their menu.

If you are on a budget, try the B&M Restaurant. Situated on Saint Viateur Street, it is in the middle of The Mile End (the equivalent of Soho in New York). Once you have finished, you can go for a walk on Park Avenue.

12.30 AM: It’s noon now and you are walking slowly to Mount Royal Park. It’s time to rest. Around you lots of people are lying on the grass, playing football, badminton or just sharing quality time with their family and friends.

13.30 PM: Above the Mount Royal Park there is a place called “the View”. Yes, it’s a very touristy place because of the great city views looking over the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the St. Laurent River, the Olympic stadium, etc. But the real reason you need to go is because you will see the biggest raccoons in the world! Get your cameras ready.

14.30 PM: It’s time to visit downtown Montreal. If you’re visiting in the summer, you can try Bixi, the bike hire scheme in Montreal. Montreal has great bike paths that you can use to visit the famous Sainte Catherine Street, then cycle on to the City business centre on René Lévesque Boulevard and then a little further to Old Montreal.

18.00 PM: At this hour it’s time to taste a Canadian beer. Or if you’re still downtown, Crescent Street is the place to have a cocktail. You can also go and sip on a long, cool drink on the 20th floor terrace at the Hotel de la Montagne’. The view is breathtaking!

20.00 PM: You must be hungry by now! After all, you didn’t even have anything for lunch. Luckily for you, Montreal is also famous for its various steak houses. Why not try the steaks at Reuben’s on Saint Catherine Street?

22.30 PM: Time to party. Saint Laurent is the place to be for partying: Koko Lounge, Gogo Lounge, Buonanotte. Do you love good old school R&B, hip hop, funk, soul or a concert bar? Jello Martini Lounge will transport you to New York for the night. Regardless of your tastes, Montreal is a great place to try something different.

3.00 AM: Nightclubs are closed and it’s time to grab a cab and finally taste a poutine (a typical dish from Quebec  -  French fries, cheese and barbecue sauce) at La Banquise Restaurant on Rachel street.

After doing all that, you can definitely say that you have seen the best of Montreal.

- Myriam Moby
Kelkoo France

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Roughing it in style

The latest travel buzzword making the rounds for the past few years is “glamping”, a portmanteau of the words glamour and camping. Glamping is an alternative for those who can’t properly camp without comfy beds, flushing toilets, hot water and heaping cups of tea on demand.

This new and trendy way to camp is a far cry from its humble beginnings of an oiled tarpaulin and a pole. But glamping serves two purposes: it allows you to lavishly experience exotic and new locales without leaving a gigantic ecological footprint or it acts as a fun alternative to hotels while still being close to home.

We’ve picked out a few of our favourite glamping experiences here, there and everywhere.

Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town, S.A.The Grand Daddy in Cape Town, S.A. is a boutique hotel in every sense of the word. The smart interiors of the rooms, eateries and bars are smartly decorated and oh-so-chic. The inside of this hotel is not what concerns us. To be truly astounded, we’re looking up. The rooftop of the Grand Daddy has installed seven Airstream trailers on the roof for one of the most unique accommodation experiences in the city.

Each trailer has been thoughtfully decorated by local artists, complete with squishy duvets and loads of character. A standard trailer will run you between £104 – 140 per night. For the single largest trailer (aka the suite), prices are somewhat higher at £147 – 184. Prices vary on the time of year, of course, but that includes breakfast. Please note that the tariff is for the room and not per person, but be aware that most trailers only sleep two. Contact the hotel for maximum capacities.

Grand Canyon Cavern Suite in ArizonaWhile sleeping in a cavern located 67 metres below the ground certainly wouldn’t be considered camping, or even glamping, by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly would be a lifetime experience to actually stay in one for a night. Located in the Northwest part of Arizona, the Cavern Suite at the Grand Canyon Caverns gives you the chance that not many can say they’ve shared.

For a king’s ransom (£447 per night for two people, to be exact), you don’t get much in the way of amenities. There are no on-demand movies as you’d need a television for that. Did we mention there is no TV, either? There is a record player, books and the enjoyment of your own company for entertainment. Water is carried down by staff (100 gallons at a time).

For the cost, you do get to stay in a place so unique, it took 65 million years to create. When you’re 22 storeys down in the earth, you are guaranteed a bit of peace and quiet and an experience unlike any other.

If you don’t have the time to travel halfway across the world, then why not keep things local and go glamping in the good ole’ English countryside. Nowhere has the glamping fad caught on faster than in the United Kingdom. You’re spoilt for choice with locations from as far north as Inverness and as far south as the Isle of Wight.

Your choices are varied – yurts and camping pods to Airstream trailers and gypsy caravans. Take your pick and prepare for an adventure!

4 Winds Lakeland Tipis in the Lake DistrictTipis are an icon of the Native American people from the United States. They aren’t found very often outside of the U.S., in fact. Located in the picturesque Lake District, 4 Winds Lakeland Tipis are a slice right out of an old Western movie. Surprisingly, a tipi’s conical shape makes for cosy living even in the wettest of English weather.

4 Winds has two tipi camps to choose from: Coniston or Ambleside. Prices vary on time of year, length of stay, number of people in your party and tipi size. A large tipi for two (with room for a maximum of six) for a 4-night midweek summer stay will cost you £300. There is no breakfast included, but facilities to cook your own meals in your tipi are available.

Middlewick Holiday Cottages near Glastonbury, SomersetMiddlewick Holiday Cottages near Glastonbury in Somerset offers families and large parties variety in accommodation. Aside from 12 tightly located traditional cottages, there are also two camping cottages that resemble something between a shepherd’s hut and a space age camping pod.

Each of these funky camping cottages sleep two people. Amenities are few inside of the pods aside from a kettle for making tea and a bed. If you want to cook, you must bring your own camping stove with you. Toilets and showers are located nearby and are private, although you do get use of the common facilities like the pool. The best thing about Middlewick’s Adam and Eve pods is that they are cheap: a weekend for two in August is £120. Not bad!

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Outdoor Utopias

Photo credit: www.geograph.org.uk

Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
Located on the northern end of Scotland, Smoo Cave is a naturally formed sea cave characterised by dramatic limestone that has been weathered away by water erosion. The cave’s outer chamber opening (the largest in the UK) was created by the fierce action of the sea, whilst the smaller inner chambers were fashioned by freshwater runoff which culminates with a stunning 20 metre high waterfall.

Smoo Cave is a popular destination with hikers and campers and hotels near the site are few. Durness, the nearest village, is 2 km away. In the immediate vicinity, there are facilities for day hikers such as a car park, toilets, stairs and walkways. In Durness, there is a camp ground for caravans and tents alike at Sango Sands Oasis. A cheap alternative to a pricey hotel, prices for a pitch at the Sango Sands start at £6.50 per adult. If camping isn’t your cup of tea, you could always splash out at for a plush room at Mackay’s which will set you back at least £125.00 per night.

Photo credit: www.havasupaitribe.com/

Waterfalls of Havasupai, Supai, Arizona USA
The waterfalls of the Havasupai are often overlooked by its more famous neighbour, the Grand Canyon. Located 65 miles north of the historic stretch of Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman, you will definitely want to hire a car to reach the canyon’s access point. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you have three ways to descend into the canyon: hike, horseback or helicopter. The hike is 8 miles (12.8 km) from the top of the canyon and another 2 miles (3.2km) to the campsite. The terrain is rugged and is only for the serious hiker to try and undertake.

If the hike or horseback options are too difficult, you can always splurge on a helicopter trip down and back that will set you back $85 (£55) each way. Once you’re in the canyon, there are five waterfalls to hike to and swim in. Water temperatures average at about 21C and swimming is definitely encouraged. Accommodation is limited to tent camping (£14 per person, per night) and a lodge (one family room sleeps four at £92 per night). All persons entering the park are also subjected to an entrance fee of £22.

The lodge has no restaurant, although there is a separate eatery in the village. Unfortunately, the quality is not very good according to reviews on travel sites. You are allowed to pack in your own food and there is unlimited, unfiltered spring water available.

Regardless, the lack of quality amenities is overshadowed by the views and incredible hiking in one of those most beautiful spots in the United States.

Verzasca River, Pizzo Barone, Switzerland
If you’re an avid scuba diver and are looking for the unusual and something closer to home, then you might want to check out the Verzasca River valley in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of southern Switzerland. The crystal clear water of the river cuts a deep swathe through a rocky ravine. Because the water depth doesn’t exceed 10 metres, the water is a vibrant turquoise colour and clear enough to take underwater photographs of your exploits.

Accommodation choices are most plentiful in the city of Ticino, which is 9 km to the southwest, Sonogno at 7km to the southwest or Faido, 9km to the northwest. Because facilities are few, you should bring your own scuba equipment if you are there to dive or find a tour guide who operates in the area and provides all of the equipment as part of a package.

 

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Travel hacks, hints and tricks

A “hack”, for those not in-the-know, is a clever, DIY trick of repurposing an existing object’s primary function with minimal cost incurred. Hints and tricks are self-explanatory, really. You may ask how you can apply all three to travelling. We’ve scoured the ‘net for the best travel-related hacks, hints, tricks, tips and everything in between so that we could give you new ideas before, during and after your next holiday.

Add detachable wheels to a duffel bag - instructables.com

How to pickpocket-proof yourself – thesecretyumiverse.wonderhowto.com

Contact Lens Case as Pill Storage - realsimple.com

Platypus PlusBottle – Lifehacker.com

Scottevest 37-pocket jacket - scottevest.com

Generate your own QR code for luggage tags - qrcode.kaywa.com

Save money on a hotel by crashing on someone’s couch - couchsurfing.org

A flight attendant shows how to pack for 10 days in a carryon – nytimes.com

Traveler first aid - ricksteves.com

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Sleep a delay away

Photo courtesy of Yotel

If you travel by plane often, you will have probably run into delays, cancellations or long layovers leaving you stranded at the airport. In May 2010, thousands of travellers all over the world were grounded for weeks due to the violent eruptions of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Even Heathrow Airport infamously shut down operations for almost a week during the Christmas holidays in 2010 because of a lack of snow removal equipment.

The bottom line is you never know when you’ll be forced to sleep off a few hours in an airport. Some of the larger, more sophisticated airports have luxury hotels on site with full amenities. But for those airports with no hotels in the immediate vicinity, the answer comes in the form of “sleep cubes”, an innovation adopted from Japan.

Some “sleep cubes” are just that: an enclosure big enough for one or two people with beds, Wi-Fi, TV and lighting, room for luggage and not much else. Other sleep pods are more akin to miniature hotel rooms with their own en suite bathrooms and, if you’re lucky, room service.

Below, we list the airports currently offering sleep cubes for hire.

Russia’s Sheremetyevo International Airport has a Sleepbox prototype located in the Aeroexpress terminal with potential to expand (no further information on that point at time of publishing). The plywood Sleepbox can fit two people in bunk beds. The unit costs 400 rubles (£8) per hour, per person in a double capsule. A single bed Sleepbox would cost approximately  500 rubles (£10) per hour.

At Dubai International Airport, Snoozecubes are available for 55AED (about £9-10) an hour. There aren’t any toilets with these, but you will have Wi-Fi access, music and an LCD TV to keep you entertained if you choose not to sleep. Ten soundproof Snoozecubes are located in Terminal 1.

Inside Munich Airport’s Terminal 2, Level 4 and 5 are Napcabs. Napcabs come with fresh linens, full bed, a work space, air conditioning and a touchscreen multimedia unit. Multiple exits and entries are possible so that you can sneak off to the loo as needed. One hour in a Napcab will set you back €15 per hour  in the daytime (6am to 10pm) and €10 per hour at night (10pm to 6am), with a minimum charge of €30.

Sam’s Snooze at My Space inside Indira Gandhi International Airport Delhi offers the weary traveller a private sanctuary away from the hustle of the public airport lounge. For $10 (£6.50)/hr single and $14 (£9)/hr double you get a bed, work space, flatscreen TV, DVD player and socket to charge your electronics. Located opposite boarding gate 17 international departure piers, pods ceilings are open so noise could be an issue for those with sensitive ears. You should also note that bedding is not provided.

At Atlanta Hartsfield and Philadelphia International airports, you’ll find Minute Suites. Each suite is equipped with a bed, fresh blankets, HDTVs with access to the internet and real-time flight info. The in-room workstation and Wi-Fi will also come in handy if you’re conducting business on the run. One hour minimum costs $32 (£20.50) and additional 15 minute blocks cost $8 (£5). A discounted rate of 15 percent is applied to a stay of four hours or more; 25 percent is applied to stay of eight hours or more. There aren’t any  showers, but two new locations in Dallas/Ft. Worth that will open this year (one in international and Terminal A) will be equipped with en suite facilities.

Last on our list is the most luxurious and hotel-like option for sleeping pods. Yotel is owned by the same group that operates YO! Sushi.  London’s  Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport offer a more upscale sleep pod environment similar to a boutique hotel. Rooms are 7-10 square metres and come equipped with en suite bathrooms, Wi-Fi,  TV and room service. A 4-hour minimum stay at Heathrow is £32, £27 at Gatwick, €45 at Amsterdam. Prices go up incrementally from there.

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Off The Strip

“What’s there to do away from casinos, gambling and The Strip?”

I’ve heard this question asked many times over the course of the eight years that I lived in Las Vegas.

The good news is that there is TONS to do away from The Strip. Although, I will say that if you have children, you may find Las Vegas a challenging place to have a pleasant holiday that will please everyone all the time. With that said, here are some ideas for those who just want to get out of town for a day or two.

Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

The Grand Canyon: One of the Seven Wonders of the World surely should not be missed if you are within striking distance. There are a few ways to get out there: hire a car and drive yourself, hop on a tour bus or plane. The nearest access point by car or bus is the South Rim, which is about 3 hours away. Hiring a car is more convenient, but also more expensive. The tour bus option takes all day – from about 7am to 8pm – and can be quite taxing as you’re ferried around to some potentially unwanted and “touristy” points along the way to stock up on cheap tat and souvenirs. The plane, while surely the most timely and costly option, quite possibly offers up the best views you will ever get of the Grand Canyon. You will land at an airstrip near the Rim and be driven to key viewing points including the incredible Sky Walk, a cantilevered, clear overlook owned by the local Hualapai Native American tribe.

Valley of Fire: This gorgeous National Park often gets overlooked as it lies about 56 miles from town. I wouldn’t recommend going here during summer as it can and does get uncomfortably hot with temperatures well in excess of 40C. If you happen to be in Las Vegas any other time of year, definitely take a day to check the park out and even camp if you’re feeling adventurous. The stunning landscape makes this a photography hotspot and the jagged rock formations are a hit with climbers and hikers alike. If you’re just out for a lazy Sunday drive, Valley of Fire is a perfect little getaway for a few hours and you can be back in time to eat dinner and hit the blackjack tables.

Photo courtesy of Pinball Museum & Hall of Fame

Pinball Museum & Hall of Fame: This little gem has been located just east of The Strip for years, but it seems that only locals know about it. You can get there in a Strip taxi for around $10. Games are plentiful and cheap with all games either 25 or 50 cents. The oldest game out of the 152 (and growing) machines on site is from 1938! All proceeds from this not-for-profit museum support local charities and causes. This place is one of the last cheap, family-friendly things to do in town.

Lake Mead: Lake Mead was formed by the completion of the Hoover Dam in 1936. It stretches over 30 miles of the Colorado River and is a great place to go boating, fishing, hiking, water skiing, scuba diving or jet skiing. You can rent boats, equipment and even houseboats at Callville Bay Resort & Marina. Hire rates for a 17’ fishing boat start at $250 for the day. Callville Bay Marina also has a campground and RV park for the hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. This is a great way to spend a hot, summer day but don’t forget to bring lots of sunscreen!

Rafting the Colorado River: During the summer months, the river is a great place to try your hand at white water rafting. Also, it’s the only way to see Hoover Dam from below provided it is via an approved tour operator. Black Canyon and Willow Beach River Adventures offer all types of Colorado River rafting and sightseeing packages depending on your needs and budget. They’ll even pick you up and drop you off back on The Strip for a nominal fee.

Off the beaten path: Food and drink is no doubt plentiful in Las Vegas, but what you don’t know is that some of the best bars and restaurants are located off The Strip. Some of my favourite drinking establishments are the tiki-themed Frankie’s Tiki Room near downtown Las Vegas, the Bootlegger Bistro which offers a touch of old school Las Vegas entertainment seven nights a week and the Double Down Saloon which is the only punk rock dive bar in the Las Vegas Valley.

Photo courtesy of The Peppermill

As for food, Las Vegas is not short on variety. Some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had has been in Las Vegas at local’s favourite Lotus of Siam. Located in a commercial “strip mall” that is quite dubious in quality sits the unassuming Lotus. Very popular with the locals, call ahead on the weekend to get a booking.

For the quintessentially cheesy Las Vegas lounge feel, you would be cheating yourself if you didn’t visit The Peppermill. This half-lounge, half-coffee shop hybrid is open 24 hours a day and appears it hasn’t been decorated since the 1970’s. Do yourself a favour and order a Bloody Mary or Scorpion from the bar and then get a stack of pancakes at 3am just because you can. Even though “The Pep” is located on Las Vegas Blvd. and technically is on The Strip, you don’t need to traipse through a casino to get to it which you will find is a luxury.

If you’re missing your old local pub, don’t worry! Vegas has one of those, too. The Crown & Anchor pub pulls a mean pint and serves up traditional British fare like fish and chips, steak and kidney pies and even a curry or two! They also show big footie and rugby matches on the telly which brings out just about any British person living within a 50 mile radius.

Las Vegas is a 24-hour town that has more to it than just the glitz and glamour you see in TV and movies. Peel back the glittery facade and you’ll find it caters to tastes from all over the world. You just have to where to find them.

- Krista Hind
Kelkoo UK

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The world’s best hotel pools

Destination hotels and resorts are definitely seeing a spike in popularity. They are a way for hoteliers to keep up with customer demand for higher-end accommodation and to keep customers spending money on their property (think a cruise ship that never leaves port). All you could possibly want is there at your fingertips: shopping, bars, restaurants, spa, pool, etc. And what the hotel doesn’t have on site can be found nearby. Sure, the location might have great weather, beautiful beaches or mountains, stunning skylines, and more, but that isn’t enough for discerning travel enthusiasts.

So it’s no surprise that top destination hotels are upping their game by building some of the most architecturally interesting pools in the world. We’ve compiled a list of what we think are some of the best hotel pools with a little something extra.

 

The Grace Hotel in Santorini, Greece
The Grace Hotel in Santorini, Greece

The Grace in Santorini, Greece has all of the design hallmarks this volcanic island is famous for: white-washed stucco exteriors, multi-level storeys built into steep cliffs and spectacular views over the Med. But you’ll never find this high-end boutique getaway in a package holiday. All but two rooms at The Grace possess their own balcony with plunge pool and it’s all private and just for you. If you’re unlucky enough to be left without your own pool, fret not! Their new infinity-edge pool is brand new and, by far, offers the best views in the house. On the cheap end, low-season rates for a deluxe room start at €350 and zoom to €1650 during the high season for the 2-bed Grace Suite. Last but not least is the Villa, new for 2012. No price is listed for this one-of-a-kind abode but if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Built in 2010, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino in Singapore is a new hotel/resort/casino complex that looms 57 storeys over the Singapore skyline. With the world’s largest atrium casino, a spa, an art museum, shops, an ice rink, two theatres, seven celebrity chef restaurants, and 120,000 square meters of exhibition space, the crowning jewel of the Marina Bay Sands would have to be the pool. This is no ordinary pool. The 150 metre infinity swimming pool sits on top of the world’s largest, public cantilevered platform. It really must be seen to be believed. But you can’t swim in it unless you’re a guest of the hotel. With that said, a deluxe room will run you about £240 a night.

 

HotelIntercontinental Festival City in Dubai
HotelIntercontinental Festival City in Dubai

The InterContinental Hotel Festival City in Dubai takes the sophisticated, modern hotel swimming pool and adds a funky architectural twist to it. This pool is located on the upper floors of the hotel’s sun deck with the added bonus of an extended glass “balcony” that comes out away from the side of the building. This is a very cool way to spend a lazy day in the heat of Dubai. Standard rooms start at £160 a night.

 

Ubud Hanging Gardens Hotel in Bali
Ubud Hanging Gardens Hotel in Bali

Ubud Hanging Gardens in Bali is an Orient Express hotel, a name synonymous with luxury. Set high above the rainforest, perched on a gorge, the Ubud has 38 villas and suites each with their own plunge pool. But if you don’t feel like staying in your room, you have many an option close at hand from spa treatments, quality dining and even cooking classes. Of course, if you do plan to relax near a pool on your trip (who wouldn’t want to do that in Bali?) make sure it’s the main pool that is, in a nutshell, a stunning feat of architectural wonder. The two-level infinity edge pool is not only unique, it’s also a tranquil oasis that even the most ardent water lover will find appealing. Rooms start at about £200 per night.

 

The Cambrian Adelboden Hotel in the Swiss Alps
The Cambrian Adelboden Hotel in the Swiss Alps

The Cambrian Hotel Adelboden in Switzerland is nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps and is the perfect modern, chic getaway for the winter skiing addict or for the summer mountain biker. The infinity pool at the 71-room Cambrian has views that are unrivalled anywhere in the Alps and if a picture is worth a thousand words, this is it. It’s a perfect end to an exhausting day only after you’ve had a cocktail in the bar and a steak in the restaurant. Tomorrow, a trip to the spa might have to be on the menu! Rooms start at £150 a night including breakfast.

 

Jade Mountain Hotel in St. Lucia
Jade Mountain Hotel in St. Lucia

Nick Troubetzkoy’s Jade Mountain in St. Lucia, Caribbean is for those lucky enough to think that money is no object. This über exclusive hotel is the brainchild of Russian-Canadian architect, Nick Troubetzkoy. Each of Jade Mountain’s 24 villas is based on Nick’s earth, air, or water themes and has an individual infinity pool to match. There are also five Sky suites with private jacuzzis instead of a pool.  The 4th wall of your villa is open to the elements and offers a spectacular view of the Caribbean and St. Lucia’s iconic Pitons making this one of the most luxurious open-air sleeping experiences you might ever have. Of course, quality like this comes at a price – almost all of the 7-night packages (excluding airfare) will easily set you back upwards of 5 figures.

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