For my recent trip to Toronto, the adventure started a couple of weeks before I got on the plane.
Booking a room through airbnb:
I started by searching for places to stay, using airbnb. It's tough to research places if you don't know what the neighborhoods are like. Or where the closest transportation is.
If cost were no object, I could have stayed in a downtown hotel, near the conference center where I was attending TBEX, a two-day conference for travel bloggers. But that would have cost about $600 just to sleep. Nevermind eating, flying and incidentals.
I'd never tried Airbnb but I have a friend in D.C. who rents out several rooms and her place is great. She and her husband welcome guests from all around the world. I pictured Leslie and Joe rather than the Boston strangler when I registered at the site.
I found two places I liked and emailed the owners. One never answered. The other turned out to be a couple who live in an area called Spadina (Spuh DINE uh). Where was that in relation to the conference?
After a pleasant email exchange I learned the apartment wasn't within walking distance of my conference, but the streetcar was nearby and the commute would take only 15 minutes and runs a scenic route past Toronto's Chinatown. I emailed a few times with questions and for $75 a night, I was ready to book.
But just for kicks, I went to ...
Priceline, the site where you negotiate price:
Priceline lets you name your price for hotels, flights and car rentals. So I asked for a hotel room in the area surrounding the conference center.
I offered to pay $75, figuring why not shoot for a room closer than Spadina for the same price as the shared apartment. I entered my credit card information and felt my heart pounding. What if I actually got a hotel room that way? At $75, would it be a dive?
I clicked "enter" was immediately notified my price was accepted at a Howard Johnson's hotel, in a neighborhood called Yorkville, near the University of Toronto.
Yikes. Guilt washed over me as I realized that I would have to explain to the Airbnb couple waiting for my reservation that I wasn't going to book after all.
Tripit, an app that coordinates your travel information.
This app's not about adventure so much as convenience and efficiency.It compiles all your trip info in one place. So instead of having hotel, car and plane reservations residing in various emails, printouts or apps and trying to remember where each one is exactly, you find them on Tripit.
You have to do some work to get the info in there. But confirmation emails from hotels and airlines are easy. You forward them to Tripit, which populates the trip schedule for you.
And, no matter what you put in there--restaurant reservations, addresses, phone numbers, conference center address, etc.--Tripit will arrange it in chronological order, based on the dates and times of your various plans.
Before I left, I printed out a paper version since I wasn't sure I'd always have wifi and I hadn't bought a data plan for my phone for Canada. Turned out that I had access to the electronic version most of the time. I'm a convert.
As for the hotel that was selected for me?
For $95 a night (including some fees) I was located in one of the ritziest neighborhoods in Toronto. I was across the street from an InterContinental Hotel and two blocks from Bloor Street, the Fifth Avenue of Toronto, with stores such as Porsche (they make watches, fountain pens and other things besides cars) and a Dolce and Gabbana (pricy, fashionable items) and lots of little, unique shops all around.
And, it was minutes from two different train lines and three popular museums.
For less than $100 a night, I was living the high life.
Photo: Ellen Perlman. Old City Hall, Toronto, Canada, (near the new city hall, not visible in the photo.)