Picking where to stay on your trip is probably the most daunting task when booking travel outside of deciding where to go. This is not just a solo traveler issue either, but it becomes more pronounced when you are traveling alone. There are many things you may want to consider when picking a place. Hotels are not your only option! Here are my tips for picking the type of accommodation you want and what other factors you should consider when booking.
What Kind Of Accommodation?
What is most important to you when picking the kind of place you stay in? This sometimes varies depending on your location and the time of year you are traveling.
Hotels – Good for shorter trips when you don’t have lots of time and need to be close to the attractions or public transportation. Hotels are also great since you can ask staff for advice or the maybe even the concierge to book things for you. Also, they are good if you have mobility issues as most will have an elevator and or have ground floor rooms. Don’t think you can’t book a hotel because it will be expensive! Not all hotels are expensive.
Hostels – Hostels are good if you are watching your budget, which doesn’t always mean they are cheap and uncomfortable! Hostels are slowly changing their image and many have private rooms at a fraction of what a hotel would be. It just may mean you have a communal bathroom or a small room, but who cares you aren’t living there forever right! Hostels are also great if you want to meet people as they usually have communal areas and sometimes free tours or happy hours. Several other travel bloggers I follow on Snapchat have been staying at hostels and I have been amazed at how nice they are and they have some amazing art on the walls! The Hostel Girl reviews hostels all over the world and is a great resource if you are looking for a hostel.
Apartment or Airbnb – If you want to live like a local, then I highly recommend that you stay in an apartment or Airbnb rental. The apartment gives you a feel for what living in that city is truly like. If you stay with someone in an Airbnb then they can give you the local’s insight into the city. In many cities, Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel. The other advantage is that you may have access to a kitchen allowing you to cook for yourself and save money. If you are traveling for a longer period of time then cooking for yourself is very helpful to the budget. Also, you may have access to laundry facilities in an apartment or Airbnb.
House sitting – Another great option if you are staying longer in a location. If you are not familiar with house sitting, basically you look after someone’s home for an extended length of time. Usually, there are chores involved, such as taking care of pets or garden. The upside is that this is usually an exchange of services and you don’t pay any money to stay at their house. You will also get to experience living like a local and have access to a kitchen.
Couchsurfing – While Couchsurfing sounds similar to Airbnb, it differs in a huge way in that you are not paying to stay at the person’s apartment or house. However, you may actually be sleeping on a couch! This is definitely not for everyone and you need to check other’s reviews for safety factors.
How Do I Chose Where I Want to Be?
Once you have decided what kind of accommodation you want to stay in, then you can research where you want to stay. Here is what I look for in a place to lay my head.
Reviews! – My first stop is TripAdvisor for hotel reviews. I know lots of people discount them since some people have claimed that negative reviews have been deleted, but not all of them are and I have found it is a good place to start. I especially like that they tell you the most popular places in town and the map view. Keep in mind that one negative review does not outweigh all the positive reviews or vice versa. One person could be incredibly picky or have unrealistic expectations of a place. Pay attention to what negative things people are talking about because it could be about things that don’t bother you. I frequently see complaints about small rooms in Europe and I know that small hotel rooms in Europe are normal and I don’t care! Some people complain about outside noise, but I know that some people like outside noise as it helps them sleep. Airbnb and Couchsurfing also have reviews.
Location, Location, Location – Next to finding out the scoop on the places on reviews, is to look at their location. Do you want to be close to the attractions or do you want to be away from them? The convenience of being near them may mean higher prices and more noise. If I am only going somewhere for a short period of time then, I tend to stay near the sights so I don’t waste time getting there and that is worth paying more to me. You also want to consider safety along with the location. Reviews may have information regarding safety, but you may have to dig deeper into blog reviews or other sites to find this out. Also, is the hotel safe itself? Are there deadbolts and key cards? If after the first night, you don’t feel safe, change accommodation. This may cost you money, but your safety is worth more!
Amenities – Is there a pool? Do you want to have spa treatments? Think about what you want in a place. Some Airbnb places will rent you the room, but may not let you have access to the kitchen, which if you were planning on cooking then you’re in trouble. Last summer, I was looking for a place in Verona, Italy that had parking available for my rental car. Each type of accommodation will have different amenities available, so check out the place’s website and don’t rely on reviews for what is offered as they may be out of date. I have also emailed hotels and gotten great responses and most of them respond in less than 24 hours.
Comfort – Just because you are on vacation and not sleeping in your own bed does not mean you shouldn’t be comfortable. My biggest thing is to look for reviews stating that the bed was uncomfortable. I hate soft beds as they make my back hurt, but again you have to look at more than one review as each person has their own preferences. The next thing I look for is noise in my hotel. The worst experience I had in a hotel was because the walls were so thin and each night I could hear the people in them and each night was a new set of people, including a crying baby. I didn’t get much sleep that week and was attending a conference, not a good combination.
Most of this you may already know, but it can be hard to remember all these things when looking for a place to stay. Hopefully, you can use these tips will help you pick an excellent space on your next trip!
Need a place to stay in Venice, Verona, Bangkok, Doha or Goa. Click on the links to see my reviews of hotels I have stayed in. What do you look for in a hotel?
Good post, very useful, and very well written.
Travel forums (like the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, Frommers, Wanderfly etc) are another source of information, not unlike TripAdvisor. However, some can be a pain to navigate, but hey, there is no substitute for research.
Industry specific forums (like Crazy Hotel Workers, Hostel Management, or the Professional Pilots Rumour Network) are also good for insider information when travelling.
Another way to pick up useful information is via forums that concern your profession. Let’s say that you are travelling to Italy to do research on teaching gladiators to become librarians. Then ask around at a teaching forum, as they might have information/connections/contacts to people in the area you are visiting. You can’t beat local knowledge.
Other use sources are related Facebook communities, Twitter and/or Instagram (by using the relevant hashtags) and even YouTube videos by people who have been there. Check out the comments below the posts/videos.
Finally: earplugs. They are the most underrated travel item, yet probably the most practical. They are great for noisy hotels, planes, trains, busses, and automobiles. They vary by cost and quality. Some are soft and some are hard, and their effectiveness likewise varies. The best place to find them is at a hardware store, which should have a decent variety. They are usually also cheaper in hardware stores, compared to chemists and other places. Get a few different types to see what works best for you.
I put a few everywhere (pockets, bags, fanny packs), including close to the bedside lamp, because you never know when the people in the hostel/apartment next door decide to have a domestic/party/get raided by the cops, and you don’t want to have to go rummaging through your suitcase/handbag/manbag while half asleep.
Thank you! You have some great suggestions! I have earplugs everywhere! They have saved me many nights of sleep.
Hey Tiffany – thank you for the shout out and what a great informative post! You’ve managed to create a great resource here for newbie travellers! I also love the ‘Year of Travelling Fearlessly’ series – keep it up!
You are welcome! Thank you as well. I am so glad you like the series.
Great informative post. Along with tripadvisor, I’ve also found the Lonely Planet and travel blogs to be helpful when planning a trip.
Yes, I love Lonely Planet! Of course, travel blogs are great (obviously, or I wouldn’t be here). Thanks for stopping by!