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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where would you like to go?

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, jet setting or road tripping - I wanted to share a couple of the best new things that have raised my travel experience to the next level on the chance that they're probably things you'll like too.

My new favorite thing is Uber - It's an app on my phone that I can use in major cities worldwide to have a professional, well mannered driver pick me up and drive me to my destination in a black town car, SUV or other vehicle for about the same price as a cab, sometimes less. Try it sometime at home or out of town when going out for an evening of cocktails with friends, or instead of parking at the airport for a few days. What's great is it's luxurious, convenient and eliminates the payment procedure in the car because I just register my credit card with the app and it directly charges my card at the time of service. I registered more than one card so there's a business and a personal account. When you order the service, the app already knows where you are - just add your destination and a quote will appear so you know exactly how much you'll be spending and what time the driver will arrive. The app will then send you the name, phone number and picture of the driver you can expect to arrive shortly, usually within a few minutes. They'll send you their ETA and a description of their vehicle too - genius! And the best part? No tipping. They won't accept them! I don't have to calculate, make change, or give any thought at all to the payment process. It's a complete door to door service that is completely perfect. Most drivers have bottled water, gum, mints, candy to offer during the ride too. Such a nice touch! I use it at home when I'd prefer not to drive myself (no drinking and driving, no long term airport parking), and when I'm in cities like New York and San Francisco where driving isn't practical.

My other new favorite thing is Airbnb - this is an app or web page that I use to rent personal residences when I travel. They're also worldwide and include some obscure, more unusual accommodations, if that's your thing - think treehouse in a forest, Airstream trailer glamping, being rocked to sleep on a sail boat - cool stuff! They're usually more competitively priced than local hotels and they run the gamut from very basic to high end luxury residences, from a shared space with the homeowner in a private room to the privacy of having the home all to yourself. I especially like using it when I go to Palm Springs so I can find a place with a pool all to myself and invite a few friends to join me. For about the same price as a luxury hotel, I can get a 3 bedroom home beautifully furnished with a private pool and all the amenities I'd want.

Recently I tried putting my own residence on the site just to see what would happen. I'm away a lot so I thought it could be a source of extra income without having to commit to a roommate situation. I also really enjoy playing host to guests in my home whether I'm there or not. There's just something about making others feel comfortable and pampered, anticipating their needs and wants, that's naturally fun for me and feels good. So it's been a few weeks and so far pretty great! I booked the dates I wanted and the payout is remarkable - a week's worth of bookings is equivalent to what I could have expected from a full time roommate for a month. I select the dates I want to offer and block the ones I don't. I set the price, the rules, the extra charges (for cleaning, extra guests, dogs, security deposit, payment options, cancellation policy, whatever). I can control everything. I can accept or deny any requests at my discretion. Airbnb's fees are paid by the renter in addition to the amount the homeowner charges and the site is helpful in having done the research already so they can recommend pricing based on other local listings and comparing amenities, size, etc. They also insure the homeowner up to $1M for damages, theft, etc. I like that!

There are several other sites like this one. Homeaway is another one I really like - similar concept.

So where would you like to go? Next time your traveling, or even if you are staying close to home and just want to feel like your on vacation, try one of these. And if you enjoy playing host to out of town guests, maybe try putting your extra room or home up as a destination and see what happens... you might meet some really cool people and help yourself to a little extra income while you're at it.