Hipmunk’s Best Hotel Tips

Since it’s Hipmunk Hotel Month, we’re sharing some of our best hotel tips. We’ve asked our in-house hotel expert, Tom, to share some of his favorites. Here are 5 for this week!

  1. Room service can be expensive. Oftentimes, you can get the same food at a better price, by ordering your food to-go at the lobby
  2. Forget your phone charger? Ask the front desk – they often have a spare they’ll loan you
  3. When you check-in to your hotel, ask if it has a view. If it doesn’t, ask to upgrade without the additional fee. It never hurts to ask!
  4. Request to have your mini fridge empty, so you can easily store your own items
  5. Keep “green” by requesting that housekeeping does not wash your sheets every night. They’ll just make your bed instead!

Next week, we’ll have 5 more hotel tips for you! In the meantime, find the perfect hotel for your summer vacation on Hipmunk

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Taking Great Travel Photos (Part 2 of 2)

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our travel photography tips. We got such a great response (and a shoutout on that we’ll find some excuses to bring professional photographer (and friend of hipmunk) Mike Scrivener back onto the blog. Now without further ado, here’s Part 2!

Use your surroundings

Get creative. Low-light scenes (interiors, dusk, etc.) require longer shutter speeds in order to properly expose an image, but can evoke a powerful mood.

In these instances, you have two options: use your flash or use a tripod.

I always try to avoid using flash if possible; some places won’t even let you use it. Lugging around a tripod is annoying so, instead of using a tripod, try to use your surroundings to steady the camera. If you’re looking for a portable tripod, the Gorillapod is a versatile small option you’ve probably seen around.


Change your perspective

Whether you’re shooting a person, building, or landscape, don’t just standback with your feet firmly affixed to the ground.

Change your perspective and move around: get low to the ground, move closer to the subject, then further away, approach it from the front and then the sides.

If you’re standing in front of a massive structure – like the Duomo in Florence (see below) – get a shot from far away, and then, to really emphasize its size, move in close, get low, zoom wide and shoot it looking up. The lower perspective, combined with the distortion caused by the wide focal length, really exaggerates and emphasizes the size of the building.


Photographing friends and family

We all have tons of traditional vacation photos, with the subject standing in front of something, smiling at the camera. Those photos are fine and good, and i’ve taken tons of them, but rarely are they the kind of shot that will make you stand up and take notice.

Try to move your subject out of the center of the frame, put them off to the side, take a shot of them from behind looking at something. Again, don’t be afraid to change your perspective; shoot from up high looking down or vice versa; get in close, pull back.

Be a documentarian and capture the candid, spontaneous shots. If your subject is somewhere interesting, try tocapture that sense of place in your image and place your subject as part of the scene, not separated and standing in front of it.

At City Lights Books in San Francisco, I took the standard picture of Kath (a passionate reader and writer) outside of the building, but this shot of her sitting in the store, reading, surrounded by books, really speaks to what it was like to be there.


Photographing strangers

Approaching strangers to ask for their photos can be nerve-wracking, but most people really don’t mind having their picture takenand, sometimes, they might even take it as a compliment.

The important thing is to treat them like a person and not just some object to point your lens at. Walk up to them, say “hello” (ideally in their language — if you’re in a non-English-speaking country, it’s always worth learning a few words), introduce yourself, spend a minute talking to them; if they are a shopkeeper, spend some time browsing their goods, etc.

Thenafter you’ve made an attempt to get to know them and developed some sort of comfort level, show them your camera and ask them if you can take a picture.

Their first reaction is usually be to smile for the camera, so take a shot or two of them doing that and then ask for an shot of them just going about their business.

Typically, you’ll find that those candid shots are the ones that are the strongest. Also, try to tell something about who the person is in your picture. Are they selling spices in an open air market? Incorporate the spices and market in the image or, even better, show their hands covered in various colors from the spices.

Always try to avoid shooting strangers papparazzi style. No one wants that (well, maybe Paris Hilton). In some places, you might have to offer a tip in order to take someone’s picture (this was especially true in Egypt, for instance).


The world is full of so many wondrous places to explore, we hope you’ll bring your camera with you. Armed with a few our photography tips, we hope you’ll come back with some memorable photos. Please share your best ones with us!

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Taking Great Travel Photos (Part 1 of 2)

Even if you’re not about to run off on vacation, be sure to bookmark this collection of fabulous photography tips from professional photographer (and friend of hipmunk) Mike Scrivener. And if you are about to go on vacation, have fun! We’re not jealous or anything…

Inject life into your landscapes

Beautiful, sweeping landscapes are great, but sometimes they run the risk of being cold and distant. You look at that picture a month later and think, “meh.” Counteract it by putting just a little bit of life into your shots. In the picture of St. Peter’s square, the pigeons were just standing there in the foreground. I did the only sensible thing and charged to get them flying before quickly snapping this shot. Pigeons Don’t shoot everything you see Many people (myself included) will walk into a beautiful locale and feel the urge to just start shooting everything. It’s a natural reaction, but you’re going to hate yourself for it when you get back and sift through hundreds of mediocre photos. Instead, try to make a conscious effort to put the camera down and walk around. Take in the sights, the sounds, the “feeling,” and then, after several minutes, pick up your camera and start shooting. You’ll find that, with a better understanding of a place, your images will be stronger and more accurately represent the experience of being “there.” And you’re on vacation after all, so why not take your time and enjoy it. Colliseum Watch your horizon lines You’re looking at a beautiful vista, with lush green fields stretching far out into a stunning mountain range — where do you put the horizon? We tend to put the horizon in the middle of the photograph. This typically results in either a boring photo or one that is cut into twohalves. Go ahead, play with the horizon. Add more foreground and move the horizon towards the top of the image; or, if the sky or clouds are really dramatic (like in this picture from Maine), drop the horizon down to the bottom of the image and add more sky. Don’t be afraid to put the horizon at an angle, either. MainePay attention to the light Lighting is just as important as framing and focusing your subject, but it’s something that we usually aren’t actively thinking about. The best times of day to shoot are during the early hours of morning and right around sunset. Basically, when the sun isn’t overhead (see Ponte Vecchio shot). Alas, when traveling, we’re often forced to shoot during the harsh, direct sun of midday. In those instances, especially with people, you always have to be aware of where the sun is:

  • Behind you and in your subject’s face?
  • Silhouetting them from behind (so you have to use a flash for fill light)?
  • Coming in from the side and lighting only half of their face?

Move your subject around and watch how the light changes. If the sun is very harsh and there’s a piece of shade nearby, move to the shade. You’ll find that the light will be softer and more even. Even in direct sunlight, you’ll often have to use have some sort of fill light (typically from a flash) to compensate for the dark shadows that a direct, overhead sun will produce. It seems silly to use flash in direct sunlight, but give it a try next time your confronted with the shadows created while Helios’ chariot is right on top of you. Ponte_vecchio Part 2 is here, shutterbug! If you’ve already taken some great travel photos on a trip you booked with hipmunk and would like them to appear on our blog, email them to and we’ll give them a shoutout here on the blog!

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