Easy Hikes

Most people enjoy the outdoors and taking hikes in nature but sometimes you just want to take a leisurely walk and be bothered with long strenuous hikes. For some people who may not be in the greatest physical fitness health they want to get out but are not sure where they can go. That’s where this exclusive Guide to Easy Hikes comes into play.

For heavy, out of shape and over weight hikers, we’ve created Guides for hiking gear designed for heavier people. We’ve also created Guides for eBikes for Heavier Riders as well as regular bikes for riders over 350lbs. Hopefully this Guide helps people find easy walks in nature no matter where they are!

Criteria for Easy Hikes

This Guide focuses on hikes that are less than 2 miles round trip and has an elevation change of less than 200′. Most hikes are shorter than that and stay fairly flat but that’s where we draw the line for an easy hike.

If you know an easy hike that should be included on this list, please email Dave Broer at dbroer@lincon.com for consideration to add the hike to this list.


Runway Markings

Any pilot needs to understand the markings around an airport, particularly runway markings. It’s important to understand runway markings so that you can avoid sensitive areas and operate according to FAA regulations.

Understanding runway markings is important no matter what type of aviator you are. Whether you are a passenger or a pilot – be that of a larger jet or a drone/UAV. In fact, UAV pilots testing for their Part 107 commercial license can be tested on runway markings so it’s important to understand what these markings mean.

Satellite picture of a runway with markings

Above is a satellite image of an a runway along with the taxiway and the markings on the runway. You can see a plane in the taxiway having moved from the terminal apron and it is making it’s approach to the runway.

Runway Diagram with Markings

Here’s a look at a runway and it’s diagram. You can see the same markings above on a real runway. Let’s start breaking down these markings to understand how a runway is marked.

Runway diagram with markings

The left most edge with the yellow chevrons is called the Blast Pad or Overrun Area. This zone is an area built at that the end of runway to allow for jet blasts or for planes that did not stop by the end of the runway. Use of the Blast Pad or Overrun Area for taxiing, take off or landing is not permitted.

Blast Pad marking on a runway
The Blast Pad or Overrun Area

The next section is the Displaced Threshold. Not every airport has one as you can see from the runway markings at the above airport. Displaced Thresholds can be used for takeoffs but not landings. However, landing aircraft can use the Displaced Threshold for roll outs.

Displaced Threshold marking on a runway.

Next up is the Runway Threshold. This marks the beginning of the runway available for landings. After the threshold is a runway number. The number represents the compass degree that the runway is orientated. In the example below, the “09” represents a runway oriented 90 degrees. In the real world example above the runway is orientated to 330 degrees. Optionally if there are parallel runways, the runway can be marked with an R, C or L for Right, Center or Left.

Runway Touchdown Zone markings

Following the runway name, the Touch Down Zone begins. It is marked by a series of Fixed Distance Marks. Down the middle is the Center Line and two solid white bars that mark the Landing Target Zone.

Taxiway enhanced markings

Just off the runway are taxiways that lead to the runway. It’s important to understand these markings as they connect with the runway. They are marked by parallel yellow lines and dashed yellow lines marking a warning zone to pilots that they are approaching the runway and that they need to stop unless they have obtained prior permission from the ATC to proceed.

Runway Regulations

Runway markings are highly regulated and consistent from one airport to the next. The FAA has a publication which outlines the markings and how they are to be done. In addition to runway markings, the regulations specify the taxiways, approaches and other markings at airports. Some regulations vary in different country, most are the same across the globe to provide uniformity.

Hopefully this guide has been helpful. It’s part of our exclusive Guides so check out out other exclusive Guides here on LincOn.com.

Ship Tracking – American Phoenix

Ship tracking is a way of tracking ships anywhere in the world. The American Phoenix is a popular vessel to track because it is one of the largest ships sailing under a U.S. flag. Ship Tracking American Phoenix can be done on a number of sites including Vessel Finder, MarineTraffic.com and others. Here’s the latest position courtesy of Vessel Finder:

The American Phoenix is an apt name because this tank ship started as Jones Act tanker (see below) but Shell abandoned the project. Years later it was resurrected and “Phoenix” once again rose from the ashes.

What is the Jones Act

The American Phoenix is a vessel built under the guise of the Jones Act. The Jones act was passed in 1920 and requires that all vessels carrying traffic between American ports need to owned and crewed by Americans and the ship needed to have been built in the U.S. This protects the U.S. Maritime industry and vessels like the American Phoenix are proof of that.

American Phoenix

About the American Phoenix

As mentioned above, the American Phoenix was a ship whose construction was started by Shell Oil but the project was later abandoned. The tanker project was later resumed. At the time of launching in 2012 it was the largest ship ever launched in Alabama. It features twin engines, individual crew quarters and meets all engineering standards for vessels of its type.

Ship Tracking

Ship tracking ships like the American Phoenix is made easy by only tools that receive location information from hundreds of thousands of vessels on waterways across the globe. Ship tracking American Phoenix can be done via Websites that relay this information. These ship tracking sites include:

These sites let you see all shipping traffic on waterways around the world. This includes commercial and private vessels. The map below is a live tracking map of shipping around the United States. Use the interactive map to track vessels like the American Phoenix:

Hopefully this information has been helpful. Be sure to check out our other exclusive Guides found only on LincOn.com

Why is Amtrak so expensive

Anyone looking at Amtrak’s fares might do a double take, particularly when looking at long distance overnight accommodations. So why is Amtrak so expensive? There are a number of factors to consider starting with the fact that Amtrak needs to cover all of its expenses and receives few subsidies to support itself. This means what it charges for its services need to cover all its expenses including fuel, equipment, facilities and personnel needed to operate all of those including retired personnel.

Amtrak Train

Operating Expenses

Amtrak has a number of operating expenses from the fuel that they use to power locomotives, the personnel who operate and maintain them and the facilities in which they operate in. All of these need to be factored in when thinking about the per mile cost to operate.

Mile per mile, Amtrak’s operations in the Northeast pay for themselves and even make a profit for the railroad. However, those aren’t there only operations. They have trains that they operate all across the country.


The fuel that Amtrak uses to power its locomotives is going to be one of their larger expenses. Outside the Northeast Corridor, most of the trains are powered by diesel locomotives. Believe it or not, they are technically electric because giant engines generate electricity and power electric motors that in turn drive the wheels. They also supply power to the entire train or consist.

In the Northeast Corridor the “fuel” that Amtrak consumes is electricity and a lot of it. From Boston to Washington the lines are electric. Instead of generating the electricity to drive the motors, they draw the electricity from the grid. As a commercial user, they draw large amounts of electricity that needs to be paid for.

Once all expenses are accounted for, Amtrak can then look at their income opportunities and forecast how much they expect from each of those along with how much the market will bear.


Many employees of Amtrak work behind the scenes
Many Amtrak employees work behind the scenes.

Amtrak employs a wide variety of staff for their operations:

  • Conductors
  • Engineers
  • Baggage Handlers
  • Ticketing staff
  • Police
  • Mechanics
  • Cleaners
  • Track Maintainer
  • Markerting
  • Human Resources
  • Office Staff
  • Painters
  • Metal Shop
  • Signal Operations


Amtrak doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Its trains operate out of stations and staff need to operate out of offices and maintenance facilities. All of these need to paid for, whether they are leased or owned by the railroad.

Amtrak staff cleaning trains
Amtrak staff have extra cleaning duties.


Both the facilities and the equipment that Amtrak uses need to be maintained. This requires personnel or hiring contractors to come in an performed the required tasks.

Income Opportunities

There’s a number of income opportunities for Amtrak. These include their Rail Operations and Facility Leasing.

Rail Operations

Amtrak’s rail operations are their bread and butter. They own their own lines in the Northeast but elsewhere they need to lease the use of the lines from freight companies. The freight companies take priority and so it can delay Amtrak’s operations in these areas.

Amtrak passengers in the dinning car
Amtrak’s passenger service is its primary means of income

Passenger Service

Amtrak’s primary service is obviously passenger service.. This includes moving passengers on their own inter-city lines or acting as an operator for some regional rail like Connecticut’s CT Rail line. In addition to passenger fares they can take in income from ancillary services like meals, drinks and overnight accommodations on longer trains.

Shipping Services

Amtrak currently offers shipping services for products loaded at one station and having someone else take them off at another station.

Rail Rentals

Amtrak also allows people to pay to have their privately owned rail cars towed from destination to destination.

Facility Leasing

Amtrak owns several stations that it operates out of and so can lease space to other other operators such as regional rail and bus lines like Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. This presents another income opportunity for the railroad.


Once Amtrak know how much their expenses are, they can look their income opportunities and determine what the rates should be. It’s a simple equation at this point – divide the miles that they operate by expenses and determine the cost to operate by mile. From there you can figure out the fare between stations but you have to keep what the market will bear for different segments. For example, if they charged what it really cost for a 1000+ mile journey, few people would take it but if you increase your cost on other more well traveled lines, you can lower your cost on those longer lines and have more passengers.

There’s a lot of different things that get factored in to make Amtrak’s fares what they are but when you think about why is Amtrak so expensive and everything that they do, their fares do make sense.

Does this answer your question? Hopefully it does. Please check out our other exclusive Guides found only on LincOn.com.

Soapstone Mountain

Soapstone Mountain is a mountain in Somers, CT. The summit is 1075′ (328m). It’s located in the 7000+ acre Shenipsit State Forest which is located in the towns of Somers, Stafford and Ellington, CT. It’s a popular spot with the only observation tower in Eastern Connecticut. Although the summit is not that high, it is prominent over the surrounding terrain and an observation tower on its summit provides a commanding view that includes four states.

The view from Soapstone Mountain
The view from Soapstone Mountain includes 4 states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont


Soapstone Mountain gets its name from the historic quarry that was located on its slopes. The remains of the quarry can still be seen today along the Quarry Trail located on the eastern slope. The trail leads from the summit area to the base parking area.

The trail and the mountain get their name from an old quarry that mined soapstone. Soapstone was used in many homes in the colonial days and thus the quarry provided an important resource. Little information is know about the quarry but it certainly did exist!

Soapstone Mountain is where the surrounding Shenipsit State Forest started. It was purchased by the state in 1927 to erect a fire tower. That fire tower remained until the late 1970s when it was removed.

Recreation Options

The Soapstone Mountain area is full of recreational opportunities. The area is popular with hikers, mountain bike riders, picnicking and other outdoor activities.

An annual race takes place on the mountain. The 24km race has been run since the 1970s and uses the mountains terrain to add to race.

Summit Facilities

There is an auto road which leads to the summit off Gulf Road in Somers. The summit area features a small parking area and so if it is full you will need to park at the base and hike up. Beware that the site can become crowded on weekends and both parking areas can be full.

Surrounding the summit area are several picnic sites with a view looking to the north and east. One is located just off the summit and offers a great view to the east.

As you walk from the summit area parking lot to the actual summit, there is a fenced in area which houses a tower that was the former Bradley International Airport National Weather Service office’s weather radar. That tower is where the former fire tower was located. The for radar tower now holds antenna’s for the State Police and Tolland County Fire Departments. There is also a building located in the fenced in area that houses the transmitter equipment.

Near the fenced in area is the obvious high point and a rock with a USGS marker indicating the actual summit.

Observation tower on top of Soapstone Mountain.
The observation tower on top of Soapstone Mountain has a commanding view of the area

Also on the summit is the observation platform. Closed for several years due to vandalism, it re-opened in 2018. It features a commanding view of the Connecticut River Valley and the surrounding hills. From the platform to can see Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, Hogback Mountain in Vermont and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. All three are over 60 miles away. Springfield, Massachusetts is also in view.

Considering that the view takes in four states, it’s a great place to take in New England’s fall foliage!

Surrounding Forest

The Shenipsit Trail passes around Soapstone Mountain
The Shenipsit Trail passes around Soapstone Mountain

Soapstone Mountain is located in the middle of the nearly 7000 acre Shenipsit State Forest. The forest includes many forest roads and trails for different outdoor enthusiasts.

The surrounding forest consists of miles of trails. The extensive trail system is used by hikers and mountain bikers. Trails include a variety of terrain from steep sections to relatively flat ones. The trails can either be accessed from the summit area or the base parking area.

The Northeast States CCC Museum in Stafford is located in the Shenipsit State Forest Headquarters
The Northeast States CCC Museum in Stafford is located in the Shenipsit State Forest Headquarters not far from Soapstone Mountain

The regional state forest headquarters is located in Shenipsit State Forest and features the Northeast States CCC Museum. The headquarters are a former CCC Camp and the buildings are setup to show how life was when the CCC was active. They helped plant trees, build roads, picnic and other facilities in forests across the country.

Surrounding Area

The state forest is connected to other conservation areas such as Bald Mountain in Somers which is the highest point along the eastern Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts. It also connects to several local land trust parcels allowing one to hike from the center of town to the summit on conservation land.


Soapstone Mountain is great place to get out and enjoy nature, even from the comfort of your car or spending an entire day hiking around with rewarding views.

I hope this information on Soapstone was helpful. Check out our other exclusive Guides on LincOn.com.

Snowmobiles for Heavy Riders

Snowmobiling or sledding is a great activity to get out and explore nature in winter. If you’re a heavy rider, there a few things that you should look for in a sled before you hit the trails. Here are some snowmobiles for heavy riders and a few suggestions of features to look for when buying a new machine.

Snowmobiles for Heavy Riders
Even large people can ride snowmobiles for fun!

Features to look for in a sled for heavy riders

There’s several features that you’ll want to look for in snowmobile. These include the springs and shocks, length, engine performance and weight.

Springs and Shocks

Features to look for start at the base. You’ll want a sled or snow machine with heavy duty springs and shocks. These will absorb the extra weight and flex as you hit different terrain. These can be added to an older sled so you don’t have to buy a new sled. Talk to a local shop and ask about heavy duty springs and re-building shocks to accommodate a heavy rider. Air shocks are easier to adjust than gas shocks and some models like the Yamaha Apex X-TX come with them from the factory. Fox Float shocks can be added to models if they don’t come from the factory with the,


Another feature to look at is length, With a longer sled, you have more surface area for the machine to grip the snow and support you if you’re off-trail. Look for a model that has a length longer than 151″ for best performance.

Engine Performance

Engine performance is another thing that you’ll want to consider. The more power that you have the easier it is for the sled will be able to pull itself and the rider through the snow, especially if it’s not groomed. Look for a n 800cc engine. 700cc would be the minimum but 800cc will give you enough power.


Weight is another factor. Most newer (2017+) snowmobiles are lighter than their predecessors. Combined with generally more powerful engines, a lighter sled will handle a heavy rider just as if it was a heavier sled with a lighter rider. Being lighter means being able to float better on top of the snow instead of sinking and allow the engine to work more smoothly.

Models to Consider

Here is a list of models that are well suited for larger/overweight riders looking for a good experience on a day out sledding!

Arctic Cat M Hardcore Alpha One

Arctic Cat M Hardcore Alpha One
Arctic Cat M Hardcore Alpha One

The Arctic Cat M Hardcore Alpha One is a good contender for a snowmobile for a big rider. It features a near 800cc motor which will give you plenty of power and is available in 154″ & 165″ lengths. You can also order it right from the factory with Fox Float shocks. The Mountain Cat Alpha One is another model by Arctic Cat with the longer length as well.

Polaris Pro RMK 174

Polaris Pro RMK 174
Polaris Pro RMK 174

The Polaris Pro RMK 174 features a 174″ track and is a great machine for climbing hills and going off trail. It has an 840cc engine which is certainly going to give you enough power to get through any terrain. Air shocks are not available from the factory but, as we’ve discussed, they can be added aftermarket.

Ski Doo Summit X

Ski Doo Summit X
Ski Doo Summit X

The Ski Doo Summit X features a 175″ length making it one of the longest sleds available. It comes with an 850cc engine so it has plenty of power to take you where you want to go, whether on-trail or not.

Yamaha Mountain Max LE 154

Yamaha Mountain Max LE 154
Yamaha Mountain Max LE 154

The Yamaha Mountain Max LE 154 has a 154″ track so it’s one of the shorter models on our list. It features a 794cc engine so it has plenty of power to get you through the deepest snow. It features Fox 2.0 Zero shocks as standard so no need to add them as an option or add them on later.

Other Options for riding in the snow for heavy riders

Polaris Ranger with Track System
Polaris Ranger with Track System

In addition to snowmobiles for heavy riders, you can consider other modes of transportation in the snow. There are several companies that sell conversion kits that allow you to add tracks to any ATV, UTV or side-by-side making them very capable machines in the snow. Companies like Camso sell after market conversion kits so you can replace your summer wheels for winter tracks and hit the trails year round.

Some manufacturers also sell kits as an option. Polaris, Arctic Cat and Can Am all sell units that they manufacture for their ATV’s, UTV’s or side-by-sides so if the idea of a snowmobile is intimidating or doesn’t sound comfortable, there are options out there for heavy riders.

Concluding thoughts on snowmobiles for heavy riders

Snowmobiling is a fun sport that allows everyone to get out into nature and enjoy the sites and sounds and have fun at the same time. Hopefully this Guide has helped you and given you ideas on what to look for in a snowmobile for heavy riders. Do you have any suggestions for other models on this list? Be sure to email Dave at dbroer@lincon.com with your suggestion and we’ll consider adding it to the list.

This Guide is part of a series of guides on for heavier people to get out and enjoy the world around them! Be sure to check out our other Guides such as ebkes for heavy people, bikes for heavy people, hiking gear for heavy people and a guide to RVs for heavy people.

How to make paper in Minecraft

Paper is a useful item in Minecraft. Paper can be used to make maps, banners and other useful items. To make paper you need sugarcane. It can also be found in looting chests such as those found in Shipwrecks or Cartographers chests.

How to make paper in Minecraft

How to make paper in Minecraft
How to make paper in Minecraft

Paper starts as sugarcane in Minecraft. Place three pieces of sugarcane on the crafting table and it will produce paper. The sugarcane can be found naturally along water edges and can also be farmed.

Where to find paper

In addition to making paper, paper can also be found in a few places as you explore around the world. It can be found in Supply or Map Chests in Shipwrecks, in Library Chests in Strongholds and in a Cartographers Chest in Villages.

Uses for paper

As I mentioned, paper has a number of uses. One of the primary uses is in creating an empty locator map but it can also be used to create different banners, books, maps and firework rockets.


Hopefully you found this helpful. This is our second Guide on Minecraft. We originally posted some simple design ideas that anyone could implement in Minecraft. If you have any tips that you would like to share, please email Dave at dbroer@linon.com.

eBike’s for Heavier/Overweight Riders over 350lbs

If you are heavy (obese) or just overweight, you may be looking for a way to get in better shape. Riding a bike is a great way to get into shape! The problem when you overweight or morbidly obese, many bikes have weight limits which means that you can’t ride them. The list below has ebike’s for heavier/overweight riders that have a weight limit over 350lbs and is part of our guides to help people find the information that they are looking for on the Web.

This is a comprehensive list (and growing) of available eBike’s for Heavier/Overweight Riders that have a weight capacity over 350lbs.

Why are eBike’s great for heavier/overweight riders?

eBike’s are like a dream for someone trying to get into better shape. They have a motor which can either assist with pedaling or do the pedaling for you when you get tired or exhausted. The problem is that many eBike’s have low weight limits.

That’s where this list comes in. I’m compiling this list of eBike’s for Heavier/Overweight Riders that have a weight limit for riders over 350lbs and for others like me who might be looking for an eBike and they are a heavier rider. This list is not exhaustive and I will be adding eBike’s as I become aware of others. If you don’t find an option that works for you, you can also buy a regular bike and a conversion kit and add an electric motor to it.

Comprehensive list of eBike’s for heavier/overweight riders

Cyrusher XF800

The Cyrusher XF800The Cyrusher XF800 is a 1000 watt 48v eBike with a weight limit of 360lbs. It has a range of 25 miles on all electric mode but can go 50 miles with pedal assist. High Quality Aluminum Alloy Frame, Fitted with the Oil Spring Suspension Fork with Lockout, Kiwigambling ,A Larger 5-inch LCD Screen That Clearly Displays Vital Information Like Battery Charge Level, Speed, and Trip Distance. You Can Control Your Speed and Monitor Your Mileage.

It’s not cheap, but it is an option if you weigh up to 360lbs.

Ariel Rider M-Class ebike

The Ariel Rider M-Class ebike

The Ariel Rider M-Class ebike is a 500 watt 48v folding eBike with a weight limit of 370lbs. It has a range of 70 miles and features multiple baskets for carrying groceries or other items on your journey.


RadWagon This 750 watt 48v RadWagon can go 25-40 miles at 20mph. It features a 350lb weight limit but is designed for 120lbs of cargo.

Day6 Samson

The Day6 SamsonThe Day6 Samson is the first on the list from Day6 and it has a capacity of 400lbs. It comes with a 750 or 1000 watt mid-drive motor and has a 25-30 mile range at 17mph. It’s slightly above average for heavy weight ebike’s but it does have a 400lb capacity.

Day 6 Behemoth

The Day 6 BehemothThe Day 6 Behemoth is the second Day 6 eBike to make the list. It has a weight capacity of 350lbs so it makes the list. If you have or get sore backs riding, this bike might be an option for you with a seat back. It features a 1000 watt motor so it’s sure to have plenty of power.

29ER MAX 2.0

The 29ER MAX 2.0The 29ER MAX 2.0 from Zize Bike’s has a weight limit of 400lbs and is a reasonable contender for having a high weight capacity and relatively low price. I say that as most eBikes with a weight capacity around 400lbs are $3K or more. This bike could be a good choice if you’re looking for a traditional bike with extra capacity.

Juggernaut Ultra 1000

Juggernaut Ultra 1000With a capacity of 400lbs, the Juggernaut Ultra 1000 has a nice capacity for heavier riders. This is a mid-drive motor (more efficient than hub motors) can go 25-60 miles up to 35mph.

Addmotor MOTAN M-5500 Watt Electric Bicycle 

The  MOTAN M-5500With a weight capacity of “only” 350lbs, the Addmotor MOTAN 1000 Watt Electric Bicycle barely makes the list. The MOTAN M-5500 is a 1000 watt 48v system that has a range of 40-50 miles of assist.

Juggernaut Ultra FS

Juggernaut Ultra FSAlso on the expensive side and only having a 350lb capacity, the Juggernaut Ultra FS does meet the criteria for the list but it can be on the pricier side. It is however, probably one of the best built full-suspension ebikes available.

Trike eBike Options

If the eBike options above don’t work for you, perhaps a trike ebike might work. The following Trike ebike’s have a high weight capacity.

Liberty Trike

The Liberty TrikeThe Liberty Trike is a cross between a bike and a scooter but it does have a 400lb weight capacity so it might be a viable choice for larger riders looking for a “cheaper” option.

EW-29 Electric Trike

The EW-29 Electric TrikeThe EW-29 Electric Trike is another Trike option for a heavier rider and it’s on the lower end of the spectrum. With a speed of up to 15 mph, it can go 20 miles on a single charge.

Other Options

ebike conversion kit option

If you already have a bike or the above options do not fit your budget, another option for having an ebike is to buy a conversion kit that includes a motor, battery and controllers. These kits can turn a regular bike designed for riders over 350lbs and convert it to an ebike sometimes for less than the cost of buying an ebike outright.

If you know of an eBike for Heavier/Overweight Riders that has a weight limit over 350lbs that should be added to the list, please email me the model information and I will add it to the list.

How to book cheap hotel rooms

Hotels are going to be a mainstay of your travels.  There are a lot of different puzzle pieces and everyone is different about what they want in a hotel and hopefully my tips can help you get the best deal on a hotel.  Hotels will charge the highest rates Friday and Saturday night so expect to pay more on these nights.  Also expect to pay more in peak tourist times.  It’s all a matter of supply and demand – if a lot of people are travelling to a location, there will be fewer rooms so the rooms that are available will be more expensive.

A few words about hotels

Hotels are rated in stars, typically 1 to 5.  A one star hotel is your entry level
amenities and a 5 star hotel will have the most amenities along with services
not found elsewhere.  I typically try to
look for 3 or 4 star properties but there are many 1 star and 2 star places
that are perfectly fine but you just have to know how to find them and we’ll go
over that.  5 star properties are very
special places that most of us will only stay at once or twice in our
lifetimes.  I suspect if you’re reading a
book on saving money while travelling that 5 star hotels are not your usual
lodging choice but it’s OK if they are or are not.

Today we have lots of tools to judge a hotel such as online
reviews.  The
problem is that most places know this and they try and skew the reviews by
paying people to write great reviews of their properties and you need to know
how to spot these.  I do read reviews of
target hotels so I can make sure that I’m spending my money wisely and I mostly
look at the negative reviews.  I start there
because of most of the issues that people report are petty or out of the hotels
control and all the other reviews are mostly OK, I know that the property is
OK.  You want a place that has a healthy
mix of reviews.  If they are all glowing
reviews, take caution.

When checking into a hotel, they will typically ask for an ID and a credit card.  I like to ask the clerk how much they need to pre-authorize on the credit card because it will put a hold on those funds.  Some places put a very large hold so it’s a good idea to ask.  Most clerks are very accommodating.  If the amount is very large and I’ve already pre-paid for the room, I’ll always ask for a lower rate or ask that it be removed upon check out.

So, how do you book cheap hotel rooms?

Now I’m going to go through the tools that I use to find and
book hotels at a discount.  I typically
save about 10-50% off the advertised rate but that savings does come at
cost.  First, I typically don’t choose
the exact hotel that I’ll be staying at. 
Second, if I pre-pay for the room, sometimes I lose the ability to
choose what bed types I have.  However,
if I book things far enough in advance, it’s nice to know that my hotels are
already paid for an it’s one less expense that I need to worry about while on
the actual trip.


My main booking tool for hotels is Priceline.  Priceline allows me to look at hotel prices from a couple of different perspectives.  First, it lets me see the hotels regular rate.  This lets me see the names of the hotels, their ratings along with their rates.  This allows me to see how a 3 star hotel lines up with another 3 star hotel.  Second, it allows me to see “Express Deals” which are hotels in a particular area at a certain star rating for a set price.  These are typically 10-40% less than the regular rates displayed.  Finally, it allows me to make a bid or set my own price which can be up to 50% off the regular rate.

Priceline Express Deals

I typically start by
looking at the regular rates, then the Express Deals.  The Express Deal is going to tell me what area and what star
rating the hotel is.  It will also tell
me approximately how many reviews the hotel has and what that rating is.  You typically want a 7+ rating but 8 or 9 is
better.  This Express Deal is going to
tell you what the lowest price that is available to you without bidding.

The Express Deal is not going to tell you what the name of the hotel is, but you can usually make an educated guess by going back to the regular rates and displaying only hotels that are in the area that the deal is in along with hotels that are at the same star rating.  Then looking at those results, look for one that has a similar review rating.  So if it tells you that you can get a 3 star hotel which has  rating of 8+, look only for hotels that 3 star properties and have 8+ review ratings with a similar review count.  Further, the Express Deal will tell you what percentage off the regular rate the deal is so you can guess from there.  Using all of those criteria, you usually can make an educated guess and figure which hotel or narrow it down to one or two.

Bidding for Hotel Rooms

If the Express Deal meets all of your criteria, you can pay for it
right then and there.  If you have time
though, you can also make a bid a little lower than that and see if you can get
the hotel for the lower rate.  You have
nothing to lose because you know you can always get the hotel at the Express
Deal price.

We’re going to do the same process that I suggested for bidding on a rental car.  So once you know your lowest possible nightly rate, we can usually get up to 40% off of that rate if things align right but it will probably be less than that.  Priceline allows you to bid once every 24 hours so that’s what we will do.  I like to increase my bid about 5-10% every day, so you’ll need at least 4 days before you need a hotel to allow for maximum savings.  I like to start about a month out which will give me the best regular rates and enough time to put in daily bids.  However, if you need a room for that night, you can always bid about 5-10% less than the Express Deal to see if you can save a little more off that deal.

Making your bid

If the regular rate was $140/day, we’ll start by bidding
$84/day.  That’s 40% lower than $140/day
and I got that number by multiplying $140 X 0.60.  If I wanted to get 30% less I would multiply
$140 by 0.70 and if I wanted 20% I would multiply it by 0.80.  I’m basically taking 100 and subtracting
whatever percentage I want off.

So on day 1 I’ll bid $84 and if I’m denied, I will wait 24
hours and then bid another 5% more or $140 X 0.65.  I’ll keep going up 5% every day knowing that
I can always get it at the daily rate if needed.  Just remember to wait 24 hours between bids
and check the daily rate every day.  They
may initially tell you that there is a small chance of it being accepted and
I’ve even seen counter bids that are higher than the daily rate on an Express
Bid!  So
ignore those and just keep trying.

Also, if you are bidding in a place that has multiple
“zones” or areas, and you are bidding for a three/four star hotel in one zone
and know that there are no three/four star hotels in another zone, go ahead and
add that that zone and you can do a second bid right then and there.  It’s safe because you know there are no three/four
star hotels in that zone and you are only looking for three/four star
hotels.  The way you can tell is to check
the box for each zone before you bid and it will tell you what the maximum
hotel star rating is available in that zone. 
Once you start bidding, you won’t be able to tell.

Keep in mind that things can change day to day so the Express Deal might be higher or lower each day so you take a look at that to give you extra guidance on what you should bid or if you should just take the Express Deal.

Final thoughts on booking cheap hotel rooms

One word of caution about Priceline’s Express Deal or Name your Price bookings.  They are not for everyone.  If you are someone that needs to be in a
specific hotel or you have special room needs (handicapped, bed types, etc.)
some properties may not honor those requests or make you pay the difference in
rooms to accommodate them.  Also, some
properties will have special fees like valet parking or “Resort” fees that you
have to pay even if you are not using those facilities.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Priceline and
sometimes not being able to get a room with two beds is an issue and sometimes
it’s not.  If you’re willing to work with
that you can save a lot of money.  I just
wanted to make sure you knew about that limitation.

RV Newbie Buyers Guide

Are you considering buying an RV but have no idea where to start? This RV Newbie Buyers Guide is designed to help walk someone who have never owned or maybe never even been in an RV into the process of selecting, buying and operating an RV for the first time.

When we first thought about buying an RV we soon discovered a world that we never knew existed. It had its own language and protocols and it took a little while to orient ourselves and figure out what would work for us. Then we needed to understand how the pricing worked and then once we were in the RV, how all the systems worked. Everything was different than we expected so hopefully this RV Newbie Buyers Guide will help walk you through the process.

Understanding Classes | Layout Considerations | Purchasing an RV | Operating an RV for the First Time

Understanding Classes

RV’s are divided into different classes and it’s important to have an understanding of the classes so you can know which one fits what you’re looking for.

Class A

Class A RV’s are the ones that look like buses. They feature a flat front with the largest windshield. They are the largest RV’s and often the most luxurious. They are the most expensive to purchase and operate but they will have the most automation and amenities.

Class A’s generally do not have air bags and very little motor in front of them like a class c. However, this also offers a better view out the front.

These units are mostly diesels or “diesel pushers” (DP’s) and get about 8-10 MPG.

Class A’s generally have the most amount of storage space, be that in the unit and outside, below the living space in what is known as the “basement”.

Class B

Class B Rv’s are the the smallest, most compact. They are vans converted to have camper amenities. Due to their size and complexity, they can be be expensive but offer the most portability and can fit in places that other classes cannot.

Class C

Class C RV’s typically feature an over the cab design and can be up to 32-33′ long. They feature most of the amenities of class A but in a smaller space.

Expect about 8-9 MPG from this drive train. Class c’s also have air bags for the front passengers and other passengers can be seated at the dinette or on the sofa.

Class c’s can also tow vehicles (known as “toad’s”).

Super C

A Super C is a Class C RV built on a larger truck frame so that the body of the RV can be larger than a typical class C. It basically combines the added amenities and luxuries found in a class A in a Class C form factor.

Travel Trailer

Travel Trailers are tow behind vehicles. They are connected to the the rear hitch and can be up to 40′ in length.

Travel trailers can be anything from a pop-up which has a hard bottom and a tent like structure that “pop’s up” out of it. These are great for families on a budget and looking for something better than a tent. The next model up from a pop-up is a hard sided travel travel.

Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheel trailer is also towed behind a truck but the hitch is located in the bed of the truck. These are the largest towable RV’s and are comparable to Class A RV’s.

Class Considerations

Every class has its pluses and minuses. The RV is where you will stay and so you’ll need a vehicle to get around once you reach your destination with the exception of a class B RV. Class B RV’s are small enough that you can take them into town and easily find parking. You can sometimes do that with a smaller class c but don’t count on it.

A class A & C will need to tow a vehicle that can be driven at the destination. These are affectionately call “toads” by the RV community.

RV Considerations for larger travelers

If you are heavy, overweight, perhaps obese and are looking to buy an RV, there are a number of things that you should look for in an RV. To help with that, I’ve put together separate discussion on RV considerations for larger travelers. In that discussion I’ve also put together a list of RV models that would work well for larger travelers.