Three Hotel Bargains In Crete For Less Than $100 Per Night

palazzo duca hotel chaniaCrete has it all: frozen-in-time mountain villages, unspoiled beaches, medieval churches and monasteries, the atmospheric Venetian port cities of Rethymno and Chania, and an abundance of hiking, rock climbing and other outdoor activities. The north coast of the island is also chock-a-block with hideous resorts filled with sun-starved package tourists from Northern Europe.

But it’s easy to avoid the tackiest places and, perhaps best of all, Crete is still very affordable, even in the cusp of the high season in late June. I stayed in four hotels, all priced at less than $100 per night for a family of four and can highly recommend these three establishments as great bargains.

Palazzo DucaChania

We were staying on the outskirts of town in The Halepa Hotel, which we found to be adequate but overpriced, when we stumbled across this brand new, eight-room, family-run hotel, right smack in the middle of Chania’s unforgettable old town, just a half block from the waterfront. The Duca had just opened a couple weeks before and the large, light-filled rooms were cheaper and far nicer than the Halepa, so we decided to switch hotels and were glad that we did.Most budget and mid-range Greek hotels are pretty light on amenities – scratchy towels, razor thin mattresses and archaic plumbing are often the order of the day, but this place comes as a terrific surprise in the mid-range price category. We paid 75for a big, beautiful room (see photo above and video below) with a terrace and small kitchen. The Duca has super comfortable memory foam mattresses, plus very high quality sheets, pillows and towels, all very rare at this price point in Greece.

Plakias ResortsPlakias

plakias resorts plakiasIf you’re looking for a relaxed little beach town, free of big, tacky resorts with a huge, lovely sandy beach, look no further than pretty little Plakias, which is popular with families and naturists, rather than party people. Plakias Resorts offers inexpensive but very high-end, new vacation apartments right across the street from a beautiful clothing-optional beach.
We had a modern, very comfortable one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and three terraces, two with stunning sea views, for just 70per night. My kids loved the kids pool and there’s a beachfront taverna around the corner with very good grilled octopus. The only downer about this place is the dour manager who always seems to be in a bad mood. But it’s well worth enduring her moodiness for this terrific bargain.

Afroditi HotelRethymno

afroditi hotel rethymnoOn a three month trip around Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Greece, this was the cheapest place we stayed at just 40per night but I don’t think we received a warmer welcome anywhere. Yiannis picked us up at the bus station, plied us with free wine, a plate of fruit, gifts for our kids and a ride back to a car rental establishment upon departure.

We had a very nice loft with a kitchen that was fully stocked, a washing machine and a shady courtyard terrace. The bed was a bit Greek for my tastes, as in hard and uncomfortable, but at this price, I was complaining. I couldn’t figure out where Yiannis’ profit margin was but loved the bargain.

4 Hotel Bargains In the Greek Isles at $75 Per Night Or Less

sirena hotel samosWith the Euro sliding and many tourists avoiding Greece on the faulty assumption that the country isn’t safe, this is a great time to visit the Greek isles. If you can travel outside before outside July and August, you’ll find some amazing bargains.

I’ve spent the last month in the Greek isles with my wife and two young children and these are three of the best deals I’ve encountered for apartment-style hotels suitable for families. Each of these places cost us between 50 and 60€, but if you don’t have kids and need less space, you might be able get by on less if you travel outside the high season. Here are four great deals in Samos, Syros, Santorini, and Patmos.Sirena Hotel/VillageSamos

The Sirena Hotel is a swanky place in the beachside town of Kambos on the gorgeous island of Samos in the eastern Aegean, right on Turkey’s doorstep. Sirena Village is a collection of holiday apartments right across the street from the hotel. We had a beautiful little two-bedroom apartment with kitchen that was very comfortable and full of character. The pool is delightful and my kids loved the turtles that live in the backyard.

Our neighbor was Giannis, the owner’s dad, who lives in one of the villas in the summer (see photo above). Giannis likes to stroll the grounds, watering trees and chomping but not smoking cigarettes. He and the rest of the family make you feel incredibly welcome. We stayed for a week and didn’t want to leave. We had an evening ferry on our last day there and when I asked about check out time, they said, “Don’t worry, stay as long as you like.” I could live at this place.

syros lilas guesthouseLila’s GuesthouseSyros

Syros is an underrated little island – popular with Greeks – that has a bustling, non-touristy port city, great food and beaches. It’s also a ferry hub, so you can make day trips to more expensive islands like Mykonos with no problem.

My love affair with Lila’s Guesthouse started even before we arrived. I booked via email and Lila asked what ferry we were arriving on. I told her we were coming in from Samos at 2:30 a.m. but she still offered to come pick us up. And sure enough, she was there, bleary eyed, in the middle of the night waiting for us as we got off the boat.

Sometimes hotel websites can be very misleading, but what you see is what you get at Lila’s. The place used to be the French consulate and the rooms are beautifully renovated and tastefully decorated. We had a one-bedroom loft with incredibly high ceilings, two balconies, all kinds of windows and light and a small kitchen. As beautiful as the place was, the best part about this place is the hospitality.

Lila and her husband, Dimitrios, are amazing hosts. One morning, I asked Dimitrios to recommend a Laundromat.

“Why?” he asked. “We’ll do it for you.”

“How much will that cost?” I asked, showing him a huge bag of dirty laundry for a family of four.

“No, no, it’s free,” he said, and three hours later he brought up our laundry, all neatly laundered and folded. I’ve been traveling the world for twenty years and no one has ever, ever washed my clothing for me for free. God Bless the Lila Guesthouse!

renas rooms and suites santoriniRena’s Rooms & Suites– Santorini

Santorini is easily the most expensive Greek island, due to its spectacular setting, so finding a high quality place here at a low price is a bit trickier than on other islands. But Rena’s Rooms & Suites is a very pleasant surprise. The place has some negative reviews online, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the rooms were completely renovated in 2011 and it’s like a brand new hotel.

We have a very stylish two-room suite with a terrace and access to a lovely pool that serves big frosty mugs of Fransiskaner Dunkel Weiss for 3.5€. Best of all, the owners left a whole slew of toys for my children in the room, which were a huge hit.

patmosHotel Australis- Patmos

Patmos is another gorgeous island in the eastern Aegean that has it all: history, great food, beaches and stunning scenery. We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment at the Hotel Australis for a week, and at the shoulder season (cash only) bargain price of 50€ per night, it was a steal. The apartment was functional, not fancy, but we practically lived on our terrace, which had an amazing view of the port.

The family that runs this place is wonderful. They brought us a bottle of wine when we checked in, and fresh baked goods every day. If we needed a ride somewhere, Peter was always there to help us, and before we even checked out, we were Facebook friends. Right around the corner from this place, you’ll find the trailhead for a great hike up to Patmos’s ancient Acropolis.

NOTE: Room rates will vary based upon time of year, occupancy, number of persons in the room and other factors.

(Photos and videos by Dave Seminara)

Hotel plates increasingly filled with free grub

There’s plenty of seating in the upscale hotel restaurant right now – wherever you are. Guests are tending to choose the free breakfasts and buffets over the pricier (and often far better) paid offerings. Free meals and snacks eaten ticked up 1 percent as of the end of the third quarter, which isn’t much … until you figure in that hotel occupancy is down severely. So, the effective number of freebies chomped is actually much higher than the 1 percent, as fewer people must be eating more. The number of paid meals in restaurants is off 14%.

The rise in free meals consumed may suggest that travelers are skipping the luxury (and even mid-range) hotels and turning to budget-friendly alternatives. Full-service restaurants are giving way to free breakfasts and fast food later in the day.

When the travel biz finally kicks around to a recovery, this sort of tradeoff will become less necessary. But, for now, being able to travel means finding the ways to do it on less.

Travelers’ Choice Awards 2009: The best of the best

Trip Advisor has just released its Travelers’ Choice Awards. The several pages missive provides a hefty selection of the best hotels in various categories. This is the opposite end of the spectrum of the worst hotels. It’s not uncommon that the best can be had for less money than a dump.

Sea Coast Inn in Hyannis, Massachusetts has held onto its first place spot as the Best Bargain from last year. Interestingly, it has kept its spot as “Best Hidden Gem” as well.

Of the other top10 bargains in the U.S., five of them are in California, two are in Florida, and Colorado and Utah have one each. When it comes to overseas bargain shopping, several countries have options. Italy does have two slots in the top 10.

Organized by categories, the Travelers’ Choice Awards are a great place to start when planning a trip whether you’re looking for luxury, romance, a bargain or a family destination.

Keeping with this month’s theme of bargain destinations, here are the number one places to stay in each of the bargain categories. Browse through each list, however, because one hotel further down might catch your eye–or a destination might beckon. Egypt has several listings for top places for families in Africa, for example. That has me thinking.

Best Bargains

Click here for the pdf file for the whole list. The photo is of Hotel Vecchio Asilo.

Cody Cowboy Village in Cody, Wyoming: a family friendly place

Cody Cowboy Village’s name grabbed me when I was reading over Trip Advisors’ Best of 2008. It’s number 7 on the Best Bargains list. We head through Wyoming by car almost every year, and as timing has it, we usually stay for the night in a hotel somewhere in this state so we aren’t totally road weary by the time we reach Montana.

Cody Cowboy Village looks like a good road trip stop for more than a couple of days. One thing that attracts me is the log cabin style rooms that are grouped into a setting conducive to feeling like you are part of a place. The decor captures the ambiance of staying in the West–much more interesting than another chain hotel that looks like all the others, no matter the location. According to the Web site there’s a large swimming pool which is an item we list as our must haves after hours of driving. Staying in a hotel with a pool is one of the carrots we dangle to our son so that he gets the idea that road trips are fun.

Cody, Wyoming is worth a stop for a few reasons. A big one is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center that pays tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody, one of the American West’s iconic cowboys. In this museum center there are other museums that highlight the Plains Indians, Western art and natural history. Check out the center’s calendar for special events throughout the year. Cody is also only 50 miles away from the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park and has a rodeo every night in the summer. Rafting trips and fishing are two more area offerings.