Tag Archives: review

Review: Hotel Hotel Hostel in Seattle

hostel-logo

Hostels are interesting places. They can be kind of hit and miss because a good hostel experience is made of a certain combination of the location, structure and decoration of the space, common areas, activities offered, amenities, and the random mix of whoever happens to be there at the time.

Hotel Hotel Hostel is a smaller international travelers’ hostel in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and it seems like it falls on the positive end of the range of possibilities.

Because I’m a local (Washington residents aren’t allowed to stay because like all travelers’ hostels, they focus on providing space for visitors), I can’t get first-hand experience of what it’s like to stay here, but I was able to tour the place and I feel comfortable recommending it based on that experience (because if I was from out of town, I’d definitely consider staying here!).

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“How many days until…?” – Online countdown timers reviewed

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Part of the excitement of planning a bucket list activity is the anticipation. I always find myself counting down to various events and activities, and impatiently watching the shrinking number of days makes me look forward to it more.

Today I’m reviewing several web-based countdown timers. I looked for timers that were…

  1. free online
  2. customizeable (to varying degrees)
  3. shareable/bookmarkable (most are also embeddable on websites)

(While the reviews are for the online timers, I’ve linked to the apps if they’re available, but please know that the apps may not be free and I haven’t tried them).

My favorites:

Time and Date 
Apps also available: iOS, Android
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, no embed
Customization: moderate, for design, event name, countdown display
Visual appeal: high, for cute animated designs (that visually show you getting closer to the highly anticipated date, for example, a plane that travels until it lands when the countdown ends)
Editable after initial creation: yes
Example: Time and Date – Countdown Example

Are We There Yet?
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: high, for event name/text, background (image, Youtube video, or GIF), color of title/text, display after date is reached
Visual appeal: high, for full page display and animated numbers
Editable after initial creation: yes with password chosen when countdown is made
Example: 
Are We There Yet – Countdown Example

Some others:

It’s Almost
Apps also available:
 none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: minimal, for event name only
Visual appeal: moderate, clean minimal design (stylized gray text on white background)
Editable after initial creation: no
Example: It’s Almost – Countdown Example

Counting Down To
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: minimal in free version, for event name only
Visual appeal: low, basic design (black box with white text)
Editable after initial creation: no
Example:
 Counting Down To – Countdown Example

TickCounter
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, Javascript embed
Customization: high, for event name, countdown display, and colors of background/text/numbers
Visual appeal: low, minimal design, lots of ads on web version (but embeddable widget is promised to have no ads)
Editable after initial creation: yes
Example:
TickCounter – Countdown Example

Date Countdown
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: low, for event name, limited countdown display options (display in days or timer mode)
Visual appeal: low, basic design (black text on white background)
Editable after initial creation: no
Example:
Date Countdown – Countdown Example

There are many other options, but some of them wouldn’t load correctly or they’d let you change things but never kept preferences, instead changing themselves back to defaults every time. Oh well. This list should be more than enough for now, especially when you have Time and Date and Are We There Yet? as the top options!

Did I leave off a free online countdown timer that you love? Let me know!

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Travel by bus

Bolt Bus

Photo credit: GoToVan via Flickr – Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

There’s something innately exciting about every mode of travel, but travel by bus is the very picture of budget travel from books and movies, allowing you to have more travel experiences with the same amount of money, especially when compared to flying.

I went from Seattle to Portland on the Bolt Bus, which had an interior like that of a small puddle-jumper airplane. The driver was friendly and the seats were comfortable enough. The bus was air conditioned, and there were two free Wi-Fi channels, one for streaming video/music and the other for everything else. Power outlets were in most rows of seats (mine didn’t have one for some reason, but luckily I didn’t need it). The bus was only half full on both trips so I got the full row to myself (it’s choose-your-own seating), which made it even nicer. Even in the rows that had both seats filled, the people still had as much room as they would have had if sitting next to each other on a budget plane.

I’d heard horror stories of bus bathrooms, but on the return trip I decided I was brave enough to check it out myself. Anticipating a tiny, disgusting box that could rival the gas station bathrooms we used during family road trips, I was pleasantly surprised that it was clean and about the size of the bathrooms on small airplanes.

There were only two small drawbacks: the legroom and the location of the bus stops.

The legroom wasn’t much of an issue for me (yay short legs!) but for taller people or those with longer legs, you might feel that you are as cramped as on a small plane, despite Bolt Bus’ efforts to give more legroom (according to their FAQ page, it’s 3 inches more than a standard bus seat configuration).

The bus stops were okay if you were trying to get somewhere central/downtown (Seattle’s is in Chinatown and Portland’s is in the Downtown neighborhood). There are many local bus routes that serve each area and getting to where you need to go from there, so it isn’t much of a problem, except that they’re in high traffic areas and it can be difficult to estimate where the traffic will be at what time if you’re not from the area. I ended up needing to get a ride from someone back to the bus stop because I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in time on the local bus during rush hour. However, now I know to plan ahead for things like traffic, and am more mindful of the time I book my trips for, so I doubt that it would be as big of a issue in the future.

The only other thing I was bummed about was that, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky people to be able to buy a $1 ticket (a few tickets each route are offered at $1 one-way), but it was still so much cheaper than flying. Round trip, the cost was $34. I could have also brought one luggage free, which would have gone in the compartment near the wheels, plus two carry-ons.

Overall, I think it’s a great deal, as comfortable as flying on a small budget airline, and with the same perks (or more, depending on the airline). I’d travel by bus again in a heartbeat.

Do you have bus travel stories? Share them in the comments!