Finding accommodations is my least favorite part of planning travel. Do you agree? This Travel Tip Tuesday is for you! Accommodations are expensive, hit-or-miss, and a little bit like house hunting–location, location, location! Well, stop muddling through accommodations websites and follow these guidelines to find your best sleeping solution when traveling.
What Do You Want to Do?
You want to be close to the things you want to do! So first, figure out where those things are. Use my guide for How to Trip Plan with Trip Advisor for an easy way to see all your “to-dos” on a map and get an idea of their locations in relation to each other. Try to find an accommodation that’s close to the majority of those things, or close to something you’ll want to do early in the day–like be in line for the top attraction or an amazing running trail.
The most important thing about your accommodations abroad is the location. You want to get a good price, but to see the whole picture, you have to consider expenses that are not included in the price of your hotel room:
- Can you walk to the things you want to see and do, or will you have to take a cab or other transportation you’ll have to pay for round-trip?
- What’s the proximity to the airport, ferry terminal, train station, or other transportation point that will bring you to the area? If you’re arriving late at night, consider staying close to your transportation point the first night so you won’t be wandering around jet lagged and in the dark getting frustrated looking for your accommodation.
- Is it a safe area? Do a little Internet searching if you’re not sure. This is especially important for male and female travelers going it on their own.
- Is there a view? Do you care about a view? Are you willing to pay more for a view?
What Are My Options?
You have more options for accommodations today than any time in human history. That’s great! But it’s also overwhelming. Here’s a run-down of the most popular accommodation options, as well as pros and cons of each.
- Conventional Hotels: These are undeniably impersonal, but some people (like my husband) prefer that! They often occupy prime real estate, and because they usually have hundreds of rooms, you’re almost certain to get a room for the dates you want. There have been some weird instances in hotels–gross stuff, dead bodies under beds, unchanged sheets between stays, loud bachelorette parties next door, an intruder offering turn-down service at 10:00pm (no really, that happened to us in Austin), etc. But in general, hotels are still a great way to go. These accommodations are best for those who want convenience and amenities, like a gym, pool, on-site dining, and more.
- Bed and Breakfasts (B&B’s) and Guesthouses: These are usually more personable, but sometimes the bathroom is not attached to your room, or you may have to share the bathroom with another guest! (the B&B’s website will specify that.) You’ll usually get a hefty breakfast each morning included in your nightly price, so you might even be able to skip lunch! B&B’s and guesthouses are usually well-cared for because the owners depend on your business and reviews, and it’s their home–they want to take care of it! I’ve always had positive experiences at B&B’s and guesthouses. These are often a great pick for the history loving, chatty crowd.
- Inns: Inns are generally like hotels, but often with fewer rooms. The owners usually don’t live there, and sometimes no one is tending the front desk late at night like there would be at a hotel. They are like a hybrid of a hotel and a B&B or Guesthouse. They are often historic, so if that’s something you’re into, it could be a fun place to stay!
- Hostels: These are often considered a young party person’s accommodation, but truth be told there are lots of different kinds of hostels. Some have everything there for you, but some require you to being your own towels and sheets. And complementary toiletries? Think again! I’ve had some negative experiences at hostels, so I don’t usually choose that anymore. Some are co-ed, some have individual or group room options, and some are in the best locations in town. Read the fine print and consider the extra sheets and (wet) towels you might have to lug with you everywhere you go. This is a great option for solo travelers who want to meet people while traveling, and for travelers on a super tight budget.
- HomeAway and VRBO: This is a fun option for a girlfriend getaway, a weekend away with another couple or two, or a large family trip. You have to rent the whole house, condo, or apartment, but when you split the cost among several people, it can be much more affordable than getting a hotel room or multiple rooms. Just be aware, some vacation rental properties require you to do the laundry and cleaning for the next guests before you leave. That was not the case with my recent HomeAway experience. My mom, her college friend, and I enjoyed our HomeAway stay at a Fixer Upper house in Waco, TX!
- Air BnB: I’ll be honest, I’ve never had a positive experience with Air BnB. I know plenty of people who have, though! In my experiences, the accommodations were a little farther away than the listing let on, the owners were rigid to the point of being hostile, and in one instance the owner’s boyfriend happened to be in town for the weekend and he stayed over–kind of uncomfortable for two girls on a girlfriend getaway. Read your listings carefully!
How are you going to get to your accommodation? Before you book, make sure you find out how people usually get to the accommodation from your mode of transportation. Here are some things to consider:
- If you’re driving, how much is it to park at your accommodation? Is there even parking available?
- Is there public transportation, and is it easy enough to figure out?
- How much is a cab vs. Uber? Call your potential accommodation and ask how much a cab ride is from the airport, train station, ferry terminal, etc. Then check your Uber app to get an estimate on how much that same trip would be with a ride share service. But beware! Uber can start “surge pricing” at any time, but I always check them before I get in a cab, just in case.
- Does your accommodation provide a shuttle service? Is there a cost or is it complimentary?
- Can you walk? The airports on both Kauai, Hawaii, and Easter Island, Chile, are walking distance to Lihue and Hangs Roa respectively!
Getting a Good Price
Your accommodation can be the most expensive part of your trip–even more than airline tickets! You want to choose wisely, and you want to get a good value. Here are some tips:
- Check multiple hotel websites. Trip Advisor, Trivago, Booking Buddy, SkyScanner, Kayak, Hipmunk, and others check multiple hotel websites at once, so you only have to go to one of them to see prices on Orbitz, Priceline, Hotels.com, etc. Read the reviews, look at the amenities (shuttle service, location, gym or not, a/c, pool, toiletries, etc.), and make notes if you need to. Then call the accommodation directly and ask if they have a better price for booking directly with the accommodation itself.
- Compare multiple types of accommodations. Check hotels, B&B’s, HomeAway, and any other options listed above that sound good to you. Be sure to keep in mind how you’ll be splitting the cost if you’re going with friends or another couple!
- Go in the “shoulder season.” This is right before the high season (expensive) and right after the off season (cheapest, but attractions may not be open and weather may be terrible). You’ll get a better price, you’ll avoid large crowds, and you’ll have better weather than in the off season!
What are your best tips for choosing an accommodation when you travel? Tell me in the comments section!