So you have created a list of your dream destinations, measured the lists against those of your companions and settled on a time of year to travel. But where will you be staying while on your grand adventure? There are many options to consider when researching lodging. Hotels, hostels, B & B or even couch surfing with friends you may have in a given location.
Hotels can be expensive, especially when traveling in peak seasons. However, room service, housekeeping and laundry services may be available to you. If the city in which you plan to stay is a large metropolitan area, there may be more than one hotel for you to choose from, allowing you to price shop. However, to stay competitive, the prices will often be fairly close between nearby hotels. To stay in a convenient location, near the center of the city, the cost in generally much higher than a location a few blocks from a transit station that carries only a few minutes ride into the city. Some hotels also offer Wi-Fi and breakfast each morning. They do carry limitations on the number of travelers allowed to stay in one room however, so this may limit you if you are traveling with a slightly larger group. Most hotels will also have an in-room safe where you can lock up Passports, extra cash, tablets and other valuables while you are away. (Be aware though, hotels can offer us a false sense of security. Do not leave valuables in your suitcase or backpack unless locked.)
Many cities, especially throughout Europe, hostels are a premium option. Some locations will have an age limit (Youth Hostel), however most of the ones we have found do not. There are many options to choose from when narrowing down your choices when considering Hostels. You can save a great deal by staying in larger co-ed rooms with 8-16 people, omitting places that offer an included breakfast or free Wi-Fi. The location within the city can also play a role when looking for an affordable option. In the off season, it is possible to find an affordable option with all of these amenities as well, which we were able to do when on our trip to Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland last year. Regardless of your filters selected when searching, we highly recommend selecting “Security Lockers” instead of “Luggage Storage” as the former offers either a cage or locker to secure your belongings when you are not with them in the room. Just be sure to bring along a couple of combination locks (in case you lose one or have need for a second one.)
In some cities, hostels cost as much as a hotel room, once you add together what each person will be paying. Sometimes, it comes out to more than a hotel room. Another option would be to select a Bed & Breakfast. These offer a taste of the local culture and will provide a home-like atmosphere. However, these may also carry limitations for how many may stay in a room, like hotels. B&Bs can be a bit out of the way from the city center and might not be near public transit systems, making for a distance to walk before getting on a bus or train into the city. Often, standard B&Bs are thought to cater to the older generations, however it is becoming increasingly more common for younger travelers to choose to stay. Through AirBnB, it is possible to select to have an apartment or house entirely to yourselves, with no host to wait on you or clean up after you. In some countries this can be found at a very affordable rate. For example, we searched lodging in Norway in October and found Hostels and Hotels to be at least $50 per person, per night, however a search on AirBnB resulted in entire apartments or houses that would cost $70 per night total, divided 3 ways, it is significantly less than a hostel or hotel.
In all, explore all options for the cities you plan to visit. Don’t rule out nearby locations that are easy to get to by train, taxi, bus or the good ole “heel-toe-express”. The most affordable option might not be the one you expect. Consider also, what experience you are looking to have in it all. If you want to meet many different types of people, from different countries and backgrounds, then a hostel may be your better option, regardless of cost! However, if no amount of earplugs, body spray and air freshener can offer you solace against the sound of strangers snoring or their scent as they stumble in from a night of drinking in the summer humidity, then a large co-ed hostel room may not be your cup of tea. (We only had that experience in one hostel on our big trip though.)
Make your list of options, compare what you will get with what you seek to gain from your travels, then make your reservation!
“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and wander often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits.”