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Great coffee right from your hotel room!

Hacking Your Hotel Room Coffee

Coffee pots are a standard hotel room appliance, but the phrase “hotel room coffee” doesn’t usually conjure up images of the perfect cup. For caffeine junkies on the road, however, using that questionable pot becomes inevitable. Luckily, it’s easy to hack your standard hotel coffee gear; just because you found a great deal on a cheap hotel doesn’t mean you have to settle for bad coffee.

Optimize the Coffee Pot

Run the pot through with clean water at least once before you brew. A first run cleans out any gunk in the pipes (you’d be surprised how much build up the average hotel coffee pot has). It also brings your pot’s heating element up to the optimal temperature for brewing coffee. Many coffee pots take a little extra time to get to full power, so preheating your pot can make a world of difference.

Upgrade Your H20

Water from the tap isn’t always the tastiest stuff, and coffee is only as good as the water you use. If you have it on hand, use bottled water to brew your coffee. Don’t want to pay a premium for better water? Most hotel ice machines use filtered water, so simply fill up the coffee pot or a clean ice bucket with ice cubes the night before. In the morning, you’ll have plenty of tasty water ready to brew.

Skip the Pot and Go for Cold Brew

If that coffee pot is looking a little gnarly, skip it and make a cold brew the night before. Just mix up coffee grounds and water (a 1:3 ratio works well) and set it in the mini fridge overnight. The next day, simply pour the mixture through a filter (or use a folded paper towel in a pinch). For quicker cleanup, use the bag method; tie the grounds up in a rubber band before you add water, and simply lift the bag out when you’re ready to drink. Add a little ice and you’ve got a refreshing, intense cup of cold brew.

You can hack your coffee to make it better, but the best way to get good coffee is to start with better beans. Hotels in San Francisco and other coffee-loving cities often feature beans from awesome local roasters or high-quality national brands. If you want to be sure you’re getting the very best in-room coffee experience, be sure to read the hotel reviews on Hipmunk ahead of time and keep an eye out for rave coffee reviews.

When staying in New England, most hotels are a short walking distance from this yummy New England classic.

4 Great Lobster Rolls in New England

Ask four people where to find the best lobster roll in New England and you’ll probably get four different answers. Seems simple enough: lobster meat in a hot dog bun. True lobster lovers know it’s not that easy. Here are four suggestions to get your lobster mojo going.

Brown’s Lobster Pound

Perched over a marsh at the southern-most point of New Hampshire’s 13 miles of Atlantic coastline is Brown’s Lobster Pound. This family-owned restaurant on Highway 286 has been around for 65 years, and it doesn’t disappoint.

The lobster is fresh out the tank that you see when you place your order (cash only, by the way). You can sit inside at one of the big picnic tables in the cavernous, no-frills space or head outside to the deck. Spoiler alert: Brown’s has a great view of the Seabrook nuclear power plant across the aptly-named Blackwater River tidal basin, but that hasn’t slowed down Brown’s business one bit.

Scarborough Lobster

Further north along Route One, you’ll find Scarborough Lobster. This is the real deal, and if you’re lucky, you might just wander in at the same time one of the local fishermen is hauling in a load of live lobster. Look for the sign beckoning you to “try our famous lobsta rolls.”

At $9.97 for a quarter pounder, this may be one of the best lobster roll bargains in New England. BTW, this place is just a few minutes from Interstate 95.

Red’s Eats

Even further north past Portland, Maine, you’ll find Red’s Eats on Route One in Wiscasset. It’s hard to miss this tiny place because there’s usually a long line of people waiting to order one of the most impressive lobster rolls you’ll ever see. We’re talking meat from a one-pound lobster that is heaped to overflowing on a tasty, buttery roll.

You may have to wait … and wait … and wait to order. If you’re patient, though, the reward will be one of the best lobster rolls you’ll ever eat!

Sprague’s Lobster

If you don’t have the patience to wait in line at Red’s, there is another good choice across the street. There’s no doubt that Sprague’s Lobster benefits from the long lines at Red’s, but it has a following of ardent fans who say Sprague’s is just as good.

Plus, you are much more likely to get instant gratification at Sprague’s. They may not pile the roll as high, but you’ll get lobster that’s just as fresh and delicious.

Follow this link for some hotel options so you’ll have a place to rest after your eating tour of the New England coastline.

Stay beachside in a comfortable Orlando hotel.

7 Geeky Places to Visit in Orlando, FL

If “Orlando vacation” makes you think of tacky souvenirs and mouse ears, think again. The City Beautiful is turning into The City Cthulhu-ful as Orlando becomes a destination for gamers, comic-book nerds and pop-culture enthusiasts. Add these places to your vacation itinerary and get your geek on.

1. Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Muggles can finally experience the magic in this recreation of Harry Potter’s universe. At Platform 9 3/4, climb aboard the Hogwarts Express to travel between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Browse the enchanted shops, choose a wand at Ollivanders — or let the wand choose you — and have some butterbeer while checking the latest Quidditch scores.


BART, located in downtown Orlando, intersects the Venn diagram of passion for craft beers and old-school arcade games from the 1970s-1990s. Sip on an OBP Toasted Coconut Porter while getting it on like Donkey Kong. Don’t worry if you’re a beer novice – the BARTenders will help you choose your brew.

3. The Geek Easy

Tucked away inside A Comic Shop, in a strip mall in Winter Park, the Geek Easy is a popular venue for geek-culture music acts, with live performances by local favorites. Regular events include Geeky Trivia and Nerdy Karaoke nights, open mics and campy movie screenings. Come for the Super Mario Bros-inspired decor, stay for the Tetris-shaped tater tots.

4. Gods & Monsters

Located in Artegon Marketplace on International Drive, Orlando’s largest comic store offers a wide variety of pop culture memorabilia, high-end comic-related toys and original art. Gods & Monsters also features ample seating areas for tabletop gamers and free-to-play games for visitors.

5. Orlando Science Center

If you’re more into Neil deGrasse Tyson than Neil Gaiman, take a trek to the Orlando Science Center for some real science fun. The OSC features nature exhibits, a planetarium and observatory, and seasonal laser light shows for anyone craving a little Laser Zeppelin.

6. Epcot

No geeky getaway is complete without a visit to Walt Disney World’s home for technological innovation. From Mission: Space to World Showcase, this never-ending world’s fair is a mecca for nerds of all kinds. Epcot’s epic IllumiNations light show, featuring fireworks, lasers and LED screens, will spoil you for all other firework shows.

7. Escape Rooms

The escape-room boom has arrived, with numerous locations popping up around International Drive, home of the largest selection of hotels in Orlando. Escape the Florida heat while immersed in a live-action locked-room game at Escapology or It’s a Trap. Work with teammates to solve clues and challenges in hour-long story-driven scenarios.

So let your geek flag fly, and consider planning a geeky getaway this summer.

For easy streaming, use Chromecast when staying at your next hotel.

Hotel Entertainment Thanks to Google

One of the hidden costs of travel is getting charged for watching on-demand movies in your hotel room. Now, thanks to Google’s Chromecast dongle, you can stream your own entertainment to your hotel television.

What is Chromecast?

Chromecast is a thumb-drive sized device that plugs into the HDMI port on your television. You can use the device with Android and Apple mobile devices, and with Mac and Windows laptops. It allows for wireless streaming of whatever is on your device to a bigger TV screen.

Even when you aren’t watching your favorite movie, you can use Chromecast to display artwork or personal photos on your TV screen, transforming it from a big empty space into a fluid, morphing canvas.

Get a Portable Router

Before you spend money on a Chromecast, remember that there is one caveat: Chromecast requires Wi-Fi access for set up and use. It will only work on networks that allow device-to-device communication. Some hotel networks may prevent you from setting up your Chromecast device properly. The solution is a portable router that you can use in hotels from New York to London.

A great post on howtogeek.com explains how you can connect your Chromecast using a travel router that you plug into one of the hotel’s Ethernet jacks. In practical terms, this means you’ll need more than just a device that fits in your pocket. You’ll also need an Ethernet cable and a travel router.

Choose Your Own Entertainment

When Chromecast was first released in 2013, there were only a few apps available. Today, there are dozens of apps to facilitate streaming movies, television shows and music from the small screen to the big screen. From Netflix and HBO to ESPN and Pandora, you can program your own entertainment.

One nifty feature for Android phone users is the ability to share Chromecast using “guest mode.” With guest mode, you can let your friend cast from their Android device via your Chromecast – without having to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

Similar devices have been released in recent years, including Roku’s Streaming Stick, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and the Vudu Spark. However, Chromecast remains the smallest and most versatile device for streaming whatever you want from your small screen to the hotel’s big screen.

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7 Things To Know Before Traveling to Cuba

While adventurous travelers are urged to visit  Cuba before authenticity goes the way of a Starbucks on every corner, travelers should take a little extra time preparing, as heading to the island still isn’t that easy.  Whether planning to spend time relaxing on sandy beaches or exploring on a bike, the all-inclusive resorts of Varadero  are a great options for those just seeking some R&R.  Just note the following before booking your trip:

  1. Prep for the Sky

Direct flights from the US are still scarce and expensive, but that’s bound to change. Make sure to purchase traveler’s insurance when purchasing tickets — it is required to enter Cuba, and customs will likely do an insurance inspection upon arrival in Havana. Regardless of the route take to get there, get to the airport at least three hours before departure time, as check-in procedures are bound to take longer than usual.

  1. Go off the grid

Most hotels will have Internet cards for sale, and Wi-Fi in their lobbies, but with no real infrastructure, access is always spotty. To avoid frustrations, book any tours or activities, before arrival. Download local maps or purchase paper ones, and print out all travel documents that may be needed while abroad.

  1. Get around

Vintage cars converted into taxis are everywhere in Havana, and as glamorous as that may seem, it is important to note that they are not retrofitted. Beware that most cars, both government and privately owned, will have no seat belts, no air-conditioning, and no meters, even though they are supposedly mandatory.

  1. Get rid of the Benjamins

Cuba has two currencies, the CUC (Cuban Dollar) and the CUP (Cuban National Peso.) Tourists should exchange their cash into CUCs, as non-Cubans are not supposed to be in possession of CUPs.

There are very few ATMs around, but if if withdrawing cash is a must, the best bet is to do so at the Havana airport upon arrival.

Exchange rates are horrible for American dollars, and much better for Euros and Pounds—consider exchanging dollars into Euros before heading to Havana, and then exchange them into CUCs once in Cuba.

This may change in the near future, but as of now, it is nearly impossible to use credit cards to pay for anything in Cuba. In any case, make sure to inform the bank and credit card companies about any travel.

  1. Try the Cubano

There is still a heavy embargo on food, so meals may not be as spectacular as expected.  As a rule, “paladares” or privately owned restaurants will always be much better than government-run eateries. When in doubt, stick with local fruit, coffee with milk or “cafe con leche” and a Cubano sandwich, known in Cuba as a “jamon con queso.”

  1. Pack it light

Small doorways and cobblestone streets are not conducive to carrying a lot of luggage. With 24.1 billion bags being mishandled by airlines each year,  there is an advantage to packing all the essentials in a carry-on. Even bare necessities can be hard to track down in Havana,  so try to anticipate any needs.  Forgetting a toothbrush, means it may be days before finding one for purchase.

  1. Learn a lesson

A Spanish phrase here and there will go a long way with the locals. Most people will want to chat but very little english is spoken outside of the resorts. Any effort to speak the language will tend to be appreciated. For those looking to enjoy some salsa dancing, take a couple classes before embarking on the trip. Lessons will only better the odds for joining in on the fun on the dance floor!