Booking for the future…Safari in four days!…

Views from our upcoming hotel, Club Intrawest Condo Hotel in Vancouver. British Columbia.

Wouldn’t life be simple if we decided to travel to a popular destination and at the last minute we could book reasonable airfare and hotels?

Unfortunately, if one is determined to get “the best, for the least” we’ve found, after almost two years of planning, waiting until the last minute leaves fewer options from which to choose. Sure, there may be a few “bargain basement” or “last-minute” prices. But, when all is said and done, you get exactly what you pay for.

When it comes to hotels we prefer four-star customer ratings with free WiFi in convenient locations where we won’t need a car. We prefer flights, where we don’t have to go to the airport at 5:00 am or earlier. These simple choices cost more which we’re willing to pay. Other travelers have different preferences.

A sleek newer building has a certain appeal after staying in older properties.

Thus, we decided that we’d better get on the ball and begin the search for a hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from September 17 to September 23, 2014, less than a year away. Were we ever right to do this early! 

As we searched several of the major hotel booking resources online, many list how many rooms are left at a particularly lower price than would be posted on the hotel’s website. 

Upon entering the dates we’ll be in Vancouver, many hotels were completely booked and, many had listed only 2 or 3 rooms left at the best pricing. Vancouver must be a popular tourist spot in September.

Although not huge, the condo provides us with all the amenities we prefer when staying in hotels.  This is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, convenient to restaurants and local attractions. 

Why are we going to Vancouver? As mentioned in prior posts of two weeks ago, we’ll be working our way across the Atlantic Ocean toward the US to spend Christmas with our kids in 2014. To maneuver in that direction, we’ll sail from London to Boston, spending a few days with family, and then fly from Boston to Vancouver to stay for the six nights, after which we’ll board another cruise heading to Hawaii.

We’ll arrive in Hawaii on October 5, 2014, for which we’re now looking for a place to stay until we take our pre-booked house in December on the Big Island until January 15, 2015, when we move to our pre-booked property in Kauai.

We realized that we must book the following over the next few months:
1.  Hotel for three nights in Boston
2.  Flight from Boston to Vancouver (oddly, under $300 each!)
3.  Hotel for six nights in Vancouver
4.  Condo in Hawaii from October 5, 2014, to December 1, 2014
5.  Flight from Honolulu to Big Island on December 1, 2014 (not necessary to book until we’re actually in Hawaii.

So far, after considerable searching, we’ve booked the Vancouver Hotel. However, our criteria was beefed up.  We’d just come across the ocean for 14 days, later spending three days in Boston. A reality we have to deal with is our laundry. 

There’s no way with our limited clothing supply that we can go 14 days without having laundry done. As in the past, it will be necessary to utilize the ship’s laundry service usually costing from $80 to $100 for a 15 to 18 item load. We’ll hand wash the smaller items as we’ve done in the past. 

(A few cruise lines have coin-operated washers and dryers, mostly Carnival, which overall doesn’t fulfill our expectations).

Thus, our goal for Vancouver, having accumulated many days of laundry, was to find a “suite hotel” with coin-operated laundry facilities either in our suite or available in the building. Mission accomplished.

Here’s the hotel we booked for 6 nights in Vancouver, Club Intrawest which is a condo-hotel with amenities that are perfect for us, including free WiFi, laundry facilities, added space, a kitchenette, walking distance to restaurants, and an easy bus ride to many of the renowned sites in the city. The price at US $188 a night plus taxes brought our total to $1300.44. 

We’ll most likely eat dinner out each night, adding approximately another $600 to our expenses, plus an approximate $300 in expenses for entertainment.  Our combined cost per day will be $366.74, comparable to our cost per day while cruising. 

Cruising every day is not economical for us but when added to the great rental rates we’ve been able to book when staying put for 2 to 3 months, it balances out to an acceptable monthly level. Again, it’s all about trade-offs.

This morning, cab driver Alfred drove us to Nakumatt Grocery Store for our weekly errands: grocery shopping, more SIM card date scratch-offs (Tom does this while I shop), and a trip across the street to the ATM for more Kenya Shillings. We don’t carry much cash for security reasons usually getting more every other week as needed. 

When Tom didn’t return to the grocery store as quickly as I’d expected I began to worry.  Usually, he finds me while I’m still shopping. Standing near the front entrance with my grocery cart, a million thoughts ran through my head. 

A little comforting was the fact that we saw numerous armed guards stationed at the intersection and at the entrance to the small strip mall. Our taxi is always inspected when we arrive. For Tom to get to the bank, he only had to cross twice at the intersection to get to the ATM. 

After waiting 15 minutes for him to return, I let out a sigh of relief when I saw him enter the door of the Nakumatt, sweat pouring off of him in today’s’ humid heat. Finding me quickly, he explained that the beefed-up security slowed his time at the Safaricom phone store to purchase more data and at the bank. Plus, the stores were more crowded than we’ve seen.

As we began the checkout grocery checkout process, we were further detained when their computer system was down, unable to read credit card transactions. We waited patiently while they manually processed our total bill of Kenya Shillings $20,568, US $235.39, a typical weekly amount including taxes. 

Today, its really hot and humid, raining off and on, beginning last night. If the rain continues through tomorrow, we’ll have to postpone our planned weekly trip to Madafoo’s for a day of sun, free WiFi, and an early dinner.

We’re excitedly counting the days until we leave for our photo safari in the Masai Mara.

Back at you soon!

Comments and responses Booking for the future…Safari in four days!…

  1. Anonymous Reply

    Hi! I enjoy your blog immensely. Looking forward to the safari posts.
    Another cruise line which has self-serve laundry is Princess – not certain if it's all ships but everyone that I have been on did. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean and Princess in the Caribbean – to us they are of similar quality.

  2. Jessica Reply

    Hi, to you too! Princess cruises have been recommended to us by many passengers we've met along the way. Unfortunately, none of their dates and itineraries have worked or us so far. Hopefully, at some point they will and our laundry issues will be solved for a period of time.

    Here in Kenya, our kindly houseperson, Hesborn, does our laundry but only once a week which is typical here. We don't want to ask him to change his routine and struggle a bit waiting for it. As a result, I hand wash almost every day. Small trivial thing, I suppose. In our old life, I used to do laundry every day and enjoyed it. Maybe I just miss the routine.

    Old habits die hard.

    We both appreciate that you're enjoying our blog. It means so much to us when we hear that our readers are enjoying it, often sending the link to family and friends.

    Thanks for visiting and for writing!

    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

  3. Anonymous Reply

    Your trip to Vancouver for 6 days sounds fun. We have just been there for a few days and it is lovely. That is interesting that the hotels are almost booked that far in advance. I would never have thought that! So we have learned a lot about traveling through your blog and we thank you. And a condo in Hawaii for such a long time would be delightful. I have just got to talk to Dan about doing a condo for a couple of months somewhere. Of course it would have to be in the US and Hawaii would do just fine!
    About your laundry, remember on the Norwegian Epic, they ran specials twice during the 11 day cruise. It was $24.95 for all you could fit in their bag. It was surprising how much I did fit in the bag. But I am not overly fond of the Norwegian cruise style.
    So exciting that your safari is only 4 days away. We can't wait to hear about it.
    Until tomorrow,
    Pat and Dan

  4. Jessica Reply

    It's good to hear that you liked Vancouver. We think it will be an enjoyable experience. Hawaii is outrageously expensive making finding a nice place tricky. I'm sure we'll figure it out soon.

    I had forgotten about the laundry bag deal on the Norwegian Epic. We, too, aren't that big on Norwegian. Its too "cookie cutter" for us as I bet you'd agree.

    Thanks for writing once again, dear Pat and Dan!
    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

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