Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb- Misconception versus Truth

For those of you that consider yourselves world travelers and stay at properties through Airbnb all the time, you may think everyone else also uses Airbnb all the time. Lately I’ve discovered more and more people who have never stayed anywhere with Airbnb. While I don’t consider myself an expert, I have stayed at multiple properties around the world and would like to hopefully shed some light on the company for newbies.

Since Airbnb was founded in 2008 it has grown to include over 3 million properties worldwide and over 200 million people have stayed at an Airbnb property. Airbnb is in over 191 countries and is constantly expanding. From what I’ve been told by people who have never stayed at an Airbnb property, there seem to be some common myths or misconceptions.

First misconception: it’s easier to just stay at a hotel. Truth:  it’s just as easy to make reservations through Airbnb as it is with a hotel. Simply go online, put in your destination and dates and see what’s available. You can even tailor your inquiry with specific requests but more on that later.

Second misconception:  I’ll be staying at someone else’s house. That would be weird and uncomfortable to me. Truth:  you have the option of choosing the entire property (house, apartment, condo for example), a shared space, or a private room in someone’s house. Some options work better for some people than others.

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View from our airbnb in Chile

Third misconception:  wouldn’t it be cleaner to stay at a hotel than through Airbnb? Truth:  Airbnb owners thoroughly clean their properties (most pay for a cleaning service rather than cleaning the place themselves), just as a hotel would. I’ve found just with hotels, you get what you pay for. If you go for the cheapest property on Airbnb, it’s not likely to be nearly as clean or in as good of overall shape as a more expensive property.

Fourth misconception:  it costs more to stay somewhere with Airbnb than to stay at a hotel. Truth:  sometimes it can be cheaper to stay at an Airbnb property than to stay at a hotel. I always check both and compare my options.

Fifth misconception:  the host is only there to take your money and won’t be available to help you if you have questions or problems during your stay. Truth:  in my experience, the hosts have always gone out of their way to help make me feel comfortable, offering advice on things to do in the area, places to eat, etc. One time the heat wasn’t working where I was staying and I sent a message to the host through Airbnb, and she responded within a few minutes, with step-by-step information how to turn on the heat (I was in another country and the system wasn’t one I had ever used before). She followed up several times after that to make sure everything was OK.

Now that we’ve cleared up the most common misconceptions, let’s move on to actually making a reservation. The first step of course is to go to the website, Airbnb.com. You should see choices for “Homes,” “Experiences,” and “Restaurants.” Choosing “Restaurants” allows you to make reservations at restaurants throughout the US. The “Experiences” option includes a plethora of options that basically put you in-touch with someone from the local area to do anything from go hiking, biking, surfing, wine tastings, cooking lessons, and the list goes on and on. “Homes” is just what it sounds like and includes single-family homes, apartments, cabins, and even camping sites.

Let’s start simple and choose “Homes” first. Then put in dates, how many guests,  and room type to start. You can fine-tune your search by putting in minimum and/or maximum rates per night and selecting from the list of options under the “More filters” button at the top. If you’d like to bring your well-behaved dog along with you, choose the Pets allowed option. If you really want a swimming pool, check pool under Facilities options. Just know that the more filters you check, the fewer your options will be. I suggest only choosing filters that are extremely important to you, or your dream property might not show up because of something you checked that really wasn’t a big deal to you.

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One of many beautiful sunsets taken from our airbnb in Chile

There is also an option for “Instant book,” which means you don’t have to get approval from the host before booking. I don’t usually check this, but it is an option. If you’re not sure where you want to stay, you can also search using the map and zoom in and out of areas around the world. You may also notice some hosts are listed as “Superhost.” This means the person hosted at least 10 trips, has a 90% response rate or greater, has 5-star reviews the majority of the time, and didn’t cancel reservations that were confirmed.

Finally, to give you a little peace of mind, if there is a problem during your stay that you can’t work out with your host, you can contact Airbnb to have them help you resolve the problem.

For those of you that are now convinced they should join the millions of other people who have used Airbnb, I have a little incentive for you. If you use the following code, you’ll get $40 towards your first rental and I’ll get $20 in travel credit after you travel. This is only for first-time Airbnb users.

link to airbnb with $40 discount

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

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Dipping My Toes into Heart Rate Training

Many years ago I bought a Polar running watch with a chest-strap heart rate monitor. Honestly, I was new to running and really didn’t get much out of the whole experience. I think this is common to new runners, and for good reason. Heart rate training is complicated!

Recently, I decided to try heart rate training again. My TomTom running watch suddenly stopped working so I had to buy a new running watch. I decided to buy a Garmin and bought a slightly older model through Amazon, the Garmin 630 with heart rate monitor (a chest strap versus wrist-based). I opted for this model because I feel like chest straps are more accurate than wrist-based. You can read a whole article just about chest straps versus wrist-based heart rate monitors here. They both have their pros and cons. Knowing I never had any problems with my Polar chest strap before (as far as chafing, etc.) I didn’t think wearing one now would be an issue.

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Ok. So now you have your heart rate monitor, whether it’s wrist-based or a chest strap. Now what? To begin, you’re supposed to take your resting heart rate. That’s the easy part. Then it gets much more complicated. Unless you can afford a stress test, by far the most accurate way of getting baseline numbers for heart rate, it’s all kind of a guess from there.

There are calculations for determining your maximum heart rate, heart rate reserve, aerobic heart rate range, aerobic training range, anaerobic training range, recovery training range, and lactate threshold zone. Have I lost you yet? Runners Connect has some pretty good info on getting started with calculating resting and maximum heart rate here and there’s more info on Active.com for calculating heart rate training zones here. I’ve also seen the calculation Maximal Heart Rate (MHR) = 206.9 – (0.67 x Age). If I do the calculations for myself using the three suggestions, the final way of calculating MHR is right in the middle, so I’m going with that one.

Depending on the type of workout you’re doing, you want to focus on keeping your heart rate within a particular range. For example, if you’re doing a recovery run, or an “easy” run, you should try to keep your heart rate within the recovery training range. If you’re doing speed work, you should try to stay within the anaerobic training range. This is high intensity, where you can only sustain that pace for a couple of minutes at the most, and not where you want to spend the majority of your training, or you’ll just wear yourself down.

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As my title states, I’m just dipping my toes in at this point. By no means am I an expert on heart rate training. At this point, I’m exploring heart rate training, educating myself, and trying to use it to supplement what I’m already doing. I didn’t have a stress test so my numbers are a best guess. If I start to stray over my targeted maximum heart rate, I’ll back off a bit to get my heart rate to go back down a bit. I try to stay within my recovery training range on easy runs, and let me tell you initially it feels like you’re just crawling! My hope is that eventually my body will adapt and I’ll be able to go faster without my heart rate going crazy. We’ll see. I’ll try to keep you all updated after some time has passed.

Do any of you do heart rate training? What methods do you use? How did you figure out your target heart rate ranges? I’d love to hear any and all comments!

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

“Welcome to Miami”- Long Weekend in Miami, Florida

I have a dear friend that used to live where I do and she moved to Miami several years ago. The last time I went to see her was around 6 or so years ago so I was long over-due for a visit to see her. When I was planning my vacation to Malta, I was curious to see how much more it would cost to go through Miami on my way home. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a single penny more (in fact it was a bit cheaper to go through Miami) so after making sure she would be available in late November (she was) I booked our airfare.

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I’ll admit, I’m a huge planner and always have been. It’s nothing for me to have tentative plans for vacations or races a year or more in advance. It may all be in my head, with nothing purchased, but it’s still more or less planned. However, for my time in Miami, I didn’t plan a single thing. I didn’t go online to check out restaurants. I didn’t go to TripAdvisor to choose things to do. Since we would be staying with my friend and she would be driving us around, I didn’t even have to make hotel and/or rental car arrangements. This is truly unusual for me, to trust another person with all of the details for my vacation.

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I’ll also admit our time in Miami may not be how many of you would choose to spend time there. We didn’t go to a single club or bar. When we went to South Beach, the only things we did were go to lunch and spend the rest of the day on the sand and/or in the ocean. We also went to my friend’s neighborhood pool and my daughter had a grand time there. Most of all, we relaxed and thoroughly enjoy ourselves as my friend went out of her way to make us feel truly welcome.

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So what did we do other than go to the beach and pool? Well, we went on an airboat ride in the Everglades. We wanted to also go to Everglades National Park but because of a recent hurricane, they were closed. My friend has gone on multiple airboat rides in the Everglades over the years with visiting friends and relatives and she likes Everglades Safari Park the best. For $28 per adult or $15 per child you get a 30-40 minute airboat tour, a wildlife nature show, and you can walk along the “Jungle Trail,” observation platform, and exhibits on your own after the airboat tour. There’s also a discount if you buy your tickets in advance online.

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I’ve been on airboat rides before through the Everglades but I had forgotten how much fun they are! My daughter had never been on one and she loved it as well. During our tour, we saw multiple alligators, a few birds, and our guide pointed out some interesting plants in the area such as some so poisonous you would be dead within 20 minutes of touching it. After the airboat ride, we watched the wildlife nature show, where they had a boa constrictor and alligators. You could also get your picture take with a baby alligator after the show for $3 (we didn’t). We finished up our time at Everglades Safari Park with a walk around the “Jungle Trail,” which was nice but we didn’t really see much of anything of note.

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One of a few alligators seen on our airboat tour

Two things of note come to mind when visiting the Everglades: this is apparently an entirely different experience if you come during the warmer versus cooler months. My friend has been here during all seasons and said the mosquitoes will eat you alive during the warmer months (most of the year in Miami) and you may not even see a single alligator on the airboat ride. More reasons to go to Miami during the winter.

This vacation was a nice break after being so busy and active in Malta the previous couple of weeks. Normally you wouldn’t think of a long weekend in Miami as being quiet and relaxing, but like I’ve said many times, my family and I don’t vacation like typical Americans do.

How many of you have been on an airboat ride through the Everglades? What was your experience like?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

Spreading the Love for my Fellow Bloggers who Run

During this time of year where we’re surrounded by heart decorations in stores everywhere and commercials filled with products to buy for our loved ones, I would like to spread the love in a different way. I would like to send out some admiration to some bloggers I follow who, among other things happen to be some pretty amazing runners, and they inspire me for different reasons.

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First, Paula at neveradullbling. If you don’t already follow Paula, you should know she’s on a quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states like I am. In addition to all of the half marathons she’s already ran, she’s training for Marine Corps Marathon, which will be her first marathon, in October. What I find most inspiring about Paula isn’t even related to her running, though. Paula also works for a wildlife rescue place and her love and dedication to animals is palpable in her posts. She seems like one of the kindest, sweetest people you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet. Just don’t piss her off though because she also seems like there would be hell to pay if you screwed her over. Just my kind of friend. Follow Paula at neveradullbling.com.

Paula’s husband James also deserves a spot here. James is on a quest to run a marathon in all 50 states. James manages to run several half marathons a year in addition to the marathons he runs, which is impressive. James had a back injury in 2017, however, that set him back and he was unable to run at all for months, which meant he had to cancel plans for some of the races he had planned. He did end up running a half marathon in San Antonio, Texas, however, in November of last year. I loved how he said it was the slowest, best half marathon he had ever ran. Not surprisingly, James also seems like a kind, caring person who would do anything for a friend. You can find James at 50in50marathonquest.com.

Helly is one of those people who I wish loved near me so I could run in a running group with her. Although she would kick my butt and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her for long, it would push me to see how long I could run at her pace and would be good motivation for me. Helly is trying to qualify for Boston at the Phoenix Marathon which just happens to be on my birthday, February 24. I have no doubt she’ll qualify for Boston, if not this month then later when the time is right. Send her some love and best wishes for a BQ if you don’t already follow her at hellyontherun.com!

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Elle is the kind of person the more I get to know her through her blog, the more I feel I have in common with her. Like me, she loves to travel and goes to beautiful places every chance she gets. Unlike me, Elle is super speedy and qualified for Boston 2018 at the California International Marathon last December, a race she told no one she was running until after the fact. I always learn so much from Elle’s blog and feel like she’s always two steps ahead of most people. Follow her on her blog afastpacedlife.wordpress.com and I’m sure you’ll learn a thing or two!

Jodi is the social butterfly of the bunch here. I’m always amazed at how many fellow runners and bloggers Jodi knows when she posts photos to Instagram. Then again she runs more races than anyone else I know, so I guess that’s part of the reason she knows so many people, the other part being how genuinely nice of a person she seems to be. Jodi went through a pretty scary time last year and had to deal with some health issues that went undiagnosed for a while. She openly and honestly shared her experiences on her blog and I admire her for that because I know it’s not always easy to share such personal experiences with others. Follow Jodi on her blog if you don’t already at mykindoffit.wordpress.com. She’s the one with the huge smile on her face!

Finally, Mai, the youngest of the bunch here. Mai is a woman on fire and the type of person who can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Mai is a fairly recent PhD graduate so of course she’s highly intelligent and she’s also a fast runner. I’m always amazed at all of the things she does (and I don’t mean just running) and posts to the blog. In January she completed the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World, which means she ran a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon in the span of four days. Enough said. Follow Mai at if you don’t already at ifijustbreathe.wordpress.com.

Who are some of your favorite bloggers? Feel free to post links to their sites here and of course tell everyone what you like most about them.

I also would like to share the #nuunlove with a code for 30% off through February 11 with code NUUNLOVE30 at nuunlife.com and nuuncanada.com.

Happy running!

Donna

 

Beaches of Malta- We Saved the Best for Last (Maybe)

On our final day in Malta we decided to check out some of the beaches a bit further away than the one across the street from our hotel. Although we had walked along this beach in St. Paul’s Bay a couple of times, we hadn’t attempted to get into the water and it was a rocky beach so it’s not one where you would sit on the sand and relax. Still, it was nice to walk along the water in the evening and watch the beautiful sunsets.

I had read that Ghadira Bay Beach is Malta’s largest sandy beach and that even in November the water could be warm enough for some people to swim in. I also knew that Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and Gnejna Bay were also worth checking out. Popeye Village, the movie set for the movie Popeye that was left permanently after filming ended on Malta is also close to Ghadira Bay Beach, so I thought we could make a day of it going to all of these places.

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Popeye Village, movie set from the 1980 movie “Popeye”

First we went to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and were blown away by how beautiful the view was. The water is this mixture of turquoise, greens, and darker blues that’s mesmerizing. It’s all surrounded by these huge limestone cliffs that just add to the beauty of the area. We hadn’t packed our bathing suits or towels because we hadn’t planned on doing anything other than taking in the views but our daughter begged my husband and me to drive back to the hotel and put on our swim suits and get beach towels. We agreed on the condition that we could first check out Ghadira Bay Beach and if we didn’t like it as much we’d go back to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay.

Ghadira Bay Beach is beautiful but we didn’t think it was nearly as beautiful as Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. Honestly, I don’t have nearly as good of photos of Ghadira Bay Beach as I do of Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, so I’m only going to show Ghajn Tuffieha Bay here. After having lunch at Ghadira Bay Beach, we drove the short drive to Popeye Village. We decided it wouldn’t be worth the 30 Euro it would have cost to go inside the village, especially since we didn’t want to spend more than 20 or 30 minutes there. After admiring the view and snapping some photos, we drove back to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay.

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Just look at this water!

My husband and daughter who are both more cold-tolerant than I am got in the water and swam around for quite a while before they both got out to warm up on the soft sand under the warm sun. I kept thinking to myself that this was a very nice way indeed to spend our holiday. I felt very fortunate to be here in this beautiful country with such rich history, awesome scenery, and friendly people.

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One unexpected thing that we discovered in the Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and Gneja Bay area were all of the trails there. We explored the many paths that wrapped around the bays and were rewarded with some fantastic views of both bays.

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Stopping on one of the trails to take a photo

After leaving Ghajn Tuffieha Bay we went back to our hotel to get cleaned up for dinner (which happened to be Thanksgiving Day for us Americans). So what did we decide to have for our Thanksgiving dinner in Malta you ask? We actually got take-away from a Chinese restaurant and celebrated back in our room. It was our last day in Malta, since we would be flying out the next morning to continue our vacation in Miami, Florida.

As we were driving to the airport bright and early the next morning to leave Malta, I started thinking about what was my favorite part. Usually I have an answer to questions like that pretty quickly, but here, I’m not sure. I loved Gozo and the salt pans there. I loved Dingli Cliffs and the views from there. I also loved Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and the beautiful water. I think in this case, I’ll have to go with my top three.

You can find other posts about Malta here:

Where in the World is Malta?

Rabat/Mdina/Mġarr Area of Malta- Touring a Roman House, Temples, and Catacombs

Valletta Area of Malta- the Capital City

Harbour Area of Malta- A Palace, a Fort, and Temples

How many of you have been to Malta and have been to these beautiful beaches and bays? What is your favorite part of Malta?

Happy travels!

Donna

Running a Women-Only Race

It seems that women-only races are becoming more and more popular and for good reason. For many years women weren’t allowed to run long distances races. To even be typing that seems absurd to me but I remember when doctors would tell women they shouldn’t run. Going on absolutely no real findings, doctors believed running was somehow bad for women and/or that women couldn’t run long distances because we were too frail and our periods somehow interfered with running. If you even attempted to run while pregnant, you would be condemned by everyone you knew.

Flash back to 1967 when Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon with a numbered entry. She registered under the name “K.V. Switzer” and was almost thrown off the course while running by race official Jock Semple. Kathrine is a legend in the field of running and an inspiration to all runners but especially female runners. It took another five years before women were officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon in 1972.

The field of female runners has increased over the years and gradually more and more women have been entering races but women are still out-numbered by men at most marathons. So why the draw to a women-only race? Well, I can tell you my first-hand experience. I ran a women-only plus “one lucky guy” half marathon in Massachusetts a few years ago. The race organizers allowed entry for one guy (I’m not sure how he was chosen from the other males that entered or even how many males entered for that matter).

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Some of the fall foliage from the All Women and One Lucky Guy Half Marathon

The All Women and One Lucky Guy Half Marathon I ran in Massachusetts was one that sticks out in my mind, of all of the half marathons I’ve run. Yes, the course was beautiful with all of the fall foliage in peak season and running past farms along country roads was lovely but that’s not what makes the race memorable. The race stands out in my mind apart from the rest because of the camaraderie at the race simply because it was an all-women race. It’s difficult to explain but it had a different kind of vibe than the usual male/female mixed races. You can read my full race report here.

I know there has been some backlash from some women’s only races, namely some of the Diva races, which include the half marathon and 5K in many cities in the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada. These races are all about the stereotypical feminine bling like pink boas, tiaras, tutus, and pretty much all things pink. I think it’s all meant to provide a fun atmosphere and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Personally, I’m not a diva in any way, shape, or form, but I feel if some women want to be, that should be their choice. I have a friend who has run in some of the diva races and she said they’re “kind of silly” but also “kind of fun.” I say if it takes that kind of thing to encourage some women to run a race, so be it.

One important note, not all women’s only races are like the diva ones or the ones you hear about firefighters handing out jewelry to finishers at the end. The race I ran wasn’t handing out chocolates, roses, or anything frilly. The medal did have a pink ribbon but it wasn’t anything too over the top. In general this race was like any other race, except it happened to be all women and one guy running the race, and like I said earlier, there was a different kind of vibe.

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Women in the All Women and One Lucky Guy at the start- not much pink here!

Finally, my thoughts on men running in women’s only races. While these races are geared toward women and providing a safe, encouraging space, sometimes men will sign up. Sometimes their wife/girlfriend/friend/sister will ask them to run the race with them, and sometimes they just want to sign up and run it on their own, although I think both cases are pretty rare. There’s nothing to stop them. I don’t think we would ever have a role reversal like the Kathrine Switzer attempt to throw a man off a women’s only course. I think most men understand that women enjoy having their own space to run a race and they’re fine with that.

Want to try your own Women’s Only race? Here are a few to try:

See Jane Run Women’s Half Marathon & 5K – San Francisco Bay Area

Her Madison Half Marathon & 5K- Wisconsin

Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon & 10K- Oregon

Queen Bee Half Marathon & 4-Miler- Cincinnati, Ohio

Unleash the She 5K & 10K- Minnesota

Phoenix Women’s Half Marathon, 5K, & 10K- Arizona

Cocoa Half Marathon, 5K, 10K, & 1 Mile Family Fun Run- San Antonio, Texas

Savannah Women’s Half Marathon & 5K- Georgia

Thelma and Louise Half Marathon & Relay- Utah

National Women’s Half Marathon & 8K- Washington, DC

Disney Princess Half Marathon, 10K, & 5K- Florida

Tinker Bell Half Marathon- California

Shape Women’s Half Marathon- New York City

Diva Running Series- multiple locations

How many of you have run in a women-only race? Any you’d recommend? Please share your experience here. Do you hate the very idea of women’s only races? Share those opinions as well!

Happy running!

Donna