When traveling there are many, many options on the kind of lodging to stay in. Beyond the traditional hotels, bed and breakfasts and hostels there are now homestays, housing swaps, renting a room or an entire apartment/house on a site like AirBnB, camping and campervans depending on where and when you are traveling. and there are programs like WOOFER where you can trade your room and board for work around the property. All these options give travelers seemingly endless ways to customize trips to suit your particular needs and interests.
In this article, I will share a few of my best travel tips when booking lodging as well as the online resources I find most useful.
Tips When Choosing Lodging:
- Look closely at the photos to determine as best you can the quality of the bed, cleanliness of the unit, how large/small it is, and any possible discrepancies between posted photos.
- Read reviews carefully to see other traveler’s experiences.
- Contact the renter/host/owner/manager of the property to inquire about the specific terms, any unlisted or unclear amenities, check in/check out policies and to get a feel for how promptly they respond. Even one email can tell you a lot about the person you will be renting from.
- Read the fine print carefully and understand policies on changing your reservations, cancellations, extra fees and costs and amenities that may or may not be included.
- Do venture out beyond traditional hotels. AirBnBs, bed and breakfasts and homestays can be a wonderful way to connect with locals and have memorable travel experiences.
- Book with a credit card where you can. Most credit cards have fraud protection that an protect you if something happens in terms of your booking.
AirBnB is the largest website focusing on staying with locals and renting local’s apartments. I love AirBnB and use it whenever I can. It is important to note that usually it is everyday people renting out their homes rather than professional companies renting you lodging. This is part of the charm. You get to stay like a local around the world for often what is the fraction of the price of hotels. There are options to rent out an entire home or just rent 1 room. Recently, I’ve noticed more B&Bs putting their lodgings on AirBnB. Because you usually are renting from local individuals don’t expect it to be like a hotel. Not everyone offers anytime check in. There isn’t daily cleaning and homes can come with imperfections. Make sure to read all the renters rules and the comments left by previous visitors to see how well the renting process fits with your travel style and preferences.
Email the renter and ask as many questions as you need to get a feel for what the place will be like. And look closely at the photos to see the quality of the bed, rooms, bathroom, etc. I find AirBnb makes the most sense when you will be in one place for a number of days since AirBnB charges both a booking fee and a cleaning fee. These tend to raise the price of you per night rate. Also a few renters will charge a fee after one or two people. Be sure to actor this into your total cost. Even with these extra charges, I still find AirBnB is often cheaper than a hotel or B&Bs. I find AirBnb is a great way to be a temporary local when traveling and see how locals live. The extra research is well worth its weight in travel gold with all the good travel experiences you can have at AirBnB.
Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts:
Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts still remain a traveler’s staple.
- Bookings.com: My favorite site to book hotels, B&Bs and even sometimes hostels. Travelers can leave reviews and photos. And many times you won’t need to pay until you check in to the hotel. Also bookings.com usually offers generous cancellations options. This is my go-to website after AirBnB.
- Expedia: Another solid website for researching and booking hotels. Expedia tends to list more chain hotels and B&Bs.
If you prefer bed and breakfasts look on AirBnb as more of these establishments are posting listings on that site.
I’ve found what a “hostel” means can greatly vary country by country and city by city. In some countries hostels are focused on young travelers looking for cheap dorm beds and a party atmosphere. In other countries, I’ve found hostels can range from simple dorm-style rooms to mid-range hotels that offer a few triple rooms. Don’t discount a lodging just because it is termed a “hostel,” instead read up on the location to see if it fits your travel style. (For example, I recently stayed in a “hostel” in Cusco, Peru that was a colonial mansion converted to a hotel. The reason they called is a “hostel” was because some of the rooms were triples. The atmosphere was very much of a hotel.)
Hostelbookers and Hostelworld are both great sites for listing a wide variety of hostels. The sites have a variety of ways to filter hostels including price, distance, amenities. Read the reviews before booking a place to see what other traveler experiences were since the quality of hostels can greatly vary. Often you pay when checking in.
AirBnB: Even though the site is supposed to be exclusively for individual renting rooms in their homes or renting out their entire home, some hostels are still able to squeeze through the rules and list themselves. I can be worth taking a look for hostels on AirBnB.
While the internet is a favorite place to research and book lodging, don’t discount the power of a great guidebook. I always include guidebooks in my research. A good guide is well researched by a seasoned travel writer who is discerning about properties and can properly convey what staying at a property is like. They usually list everything from hotels to bed&breakfasts to hostels and even campgrounds. A few of my favorite guidebooks are: Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, Fodors and Frommers.
Camping and Campervans:
Camping and campervans can be a great way to get off the beaten path, have more freedom in exploring a country and often to reduce costs of travel. Many countries such as Canada, New Zealand, France, Namibia have an excellent network of campgrounds and campervan infrastructure.
AirBnB and Homestay.com: Both websites are great options for renting rooms from locals. Staying with locals is a wonderful way to get into the culture and spend some time as a temporary locals. These are the kinds of experiences that go beyond museums, beyond books and beyond tours. Connecting with the people provides unique travel memories that last a life time.