Step 1 – Are you winging it or securing it
This is a very personal decision. Some people like to have every night booked before they leave. In heavy tourist season this is probably a very wise choice.
However, some people like to have the option to travel each day as far as they want without a concrete itinerary. This is fine if you don’t mind using your time at your destination looking for a suitable place.
I have traveled both ways.
- Scenario one: No concrete bookings.
One trip we traveled around Europe by car with another couple. It was not high tourist season so we opted to just find a place each night. We would drive around until we saw a sign that there was a room to let and check it out. In Germany it was a “zimmer frei”….find out the term used for the countries you are visiting before you go. The only room on that trip that was not suitable was one above a local gasthaus (pub) that was having a party all night! Otherwise, it all worked out well.
Another trip we took in England we booked our first night before we arrived. The rest of the trip we would look in Rick Steves Guide book for England and call ahead each night to a recommended place.
- Scenario two: Booking all accommodations before you go
Normally, I like to investigate places and secure them before I leave. I like to look on TripAdvisor and check out other reviews before I book. This gives me more assurance that the place I am booking is suitable.
Booking before I go eliminates the hassle of trying to “find” a place once there.
Step 2 – Decide what type of place you want to stay in
You might decide to stay in several types of accommodations. Or you may be on a very tight budget and decide you are going to stay in hostels for the entire trip.
Be flexible….on our first trip to Europe when we were winging it……we were two couples and certainly had not considered hostels. We came upon a hostel in Belgium that looked like an old castle. We decided to check it out. To our delight there was no one else there but the lady running it! We decided to give it a go…..great place!
For the most part I personally like to stay in:
—B&B’s….you can get more of a feel for the country when you stay in homes. Having breakfast served by the host from that country is most times very interesting. They are normally very friendly and helpful with tips about their country.
One host actually fixed us a picnic for our lunch that day. Also, we left a jacket at his place. He knew where we were going for our first stop of the day. He drove to the parking lot, located our car and left a note telling us we had left the jacket. What service!
—Small boutique family run hotels…….we have stayed in several of these. Again you get the personal touch from the owners. They are glad for your business and treat you like they want you to return.
—Vacation apartments…… if staying a few days in a place with more people, this is a fantastic way to go. Bonuses included a kitchen to make breakfast or meals in, a sitting room to discuss the day’s adventures and plan tomorrow’s. PLUS…..many times it includes a washing machine!
Step 3 – Find the places you want to stay
Guidebooks…..again one of the best is Rick Steves’ books. He has guidebooks to most European countries. All of his recommendations have been suitable for us. Not castles but suitable.
TripAdvisor this website has excellent reviews on places you might be interested in.
airbnb this is a new site for me. I have booked an apartment in Rome with it for an upcoming trip. I will be posting on how it turns out. This site does charge your card as soon as you book. It also charges a service fee. Your money does not go to your host until you are there 24 hours. This gives you a chance to contact airbnb if there are problems with the place.
SNAP EASY TIP: I rely heavily on reviews. However, if there are lots of good reviews and yet there are a couple of really bad ones, I ignore the bad ones. No place is going to please everyone. If it is pleasing to a majority then I don’t sweat it. Also, look at the most recently dated reviews. A place can change from the conditions reviewed 2 years ago. Do us all a favour and place a review…good or bad….on www.tripadvisor.com on every place you stay and eat.