Finding the right type of accommodation can make or break your trip abroad. There is nothing worse than arriving at your dream destination just to find out that your room isn't clean and you're woken up at 7am by construction works just outside your room.
To make sure you book the right accommodation, read this chapter of my book: Ten Small Steps, One Giant Leap.
Depending on your travel schedule, you can either book your accommodation in advance or just roll up and find a place to stay when you arrive. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Booking accommodation in advance
Before booking accommodation, check Tripadvisor to read reviews of the hotel or hostel A handy feature is to select only the reviews of the type of traveler that you relate to most, for example, friends, couples, families, etc.
When I book accommodation in a place that I haven’t visited before, I usually don’t book for more than a few days. It’s often hard to get a good idea about the accommodation and the location until you arrive. Nothing is worse than to arrive at a location and find there is a much better option, but you’re stuck with a week’s booking.
TIP: On booking sites like Booking.com, you can often book a room with no cancelation costs, up to a few days before arrival. A good option is to book all accommodation in advance and note down the latest day that you can cancel for free. If you find something better, or your schedule changes, you cancel the room. At least you have something locked down! You can also book the same hotel using separate bookings. For example, let’s say you plan to stay for one week and you can cancel a day ahead. You make one booking for the first three days and a second one for the next four. If you don’t like the hotel, you can cancel the one for four days and stay somewhere else.
Staying at hostels is a good option if you’re on a budget. It’s also a great way to meet people and get local info about parties and things to see and do. Good sites for finding hostels are Hostel World and Hostel Bookers.
TIP: Ever slept in a bed with bedbugs? Not fun.You wake up in the morning to find your legs covered in red spots. In most high-end places this won’t be a problem, but if you are staying in the lower-priced budget hotels, it’s wise to check reports on Bed Bud Registry. They cover the US and Canada.
If you are traveling with a group, a good option is to rent an apartment This is usually a bit cheaper and you’ll have the benefit of having all the amenities of a house that a hotel room doesn’t, like a kitchen and a living room. Good sites for finding apartments are Airbnb and Homeaway.
￼￼TIP: When contacting apartment owners, always ask for a discount! You’ll often be able to negotiate a lower rate, especially if you are staying more than two nights. Use the sample message below.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I just came across your beautiful apartment I’m looking for a place to stay from
to for three friends and myself Unfortunately, the price of your apartment is outside our budget We would really appreciate if we could stay at your place for
Please be advised that we are all very respectable people and we will treat your apartment as if it’s our own house We’ll be very respectful towards your neighbors and will not have any parties or be noisy I understand if it’s not possible, but if it is, we would be very happy!
You can contact me at <...>
Finding accommodation when you arrive
Not booking accommodation in advance has a few advantages:
• Flexibility: you have the flexibility to change your travel schedule, as you’re not tied to any bookings.
• Know What You Get: the hotel might look great in the pictures, but what does it look like for real? You really only know when you’ve seen it.
• Adventure: I quite like the adventurous feeling of rolling up, not knowing where I will be staying.
• Discounts: Depending on the country, you may be able to negotiate great last-min- ute deals Walk into a few different places and see if you can get the price down.
Make sure to check a few different options before you make your decision. Before booking, check the room prices online Then try to negotiate a lower price. If this doesn’t work, you can still book the room for the online quoted price.
Tips and tricks for making your stay perfect
Once you've decided where you want to stay, there are a few things you can do to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Here's how.
Getting a good room
When you have chosen your hotel, you might want to think about the room you prefer. Will it be right next to the loud nightclub? Is your view going to be a brick wall or the ocean?
￼To ensure you won’t be allocated the worst room in the hotel, make sure to check out the layout of the hotel and pick your preferred location. Maybe you want to be on a high floor, or close to the pool, or away from the elevators. You can add these preferences when making the booking or send out a separate email after you have made the booking. If you wanted to be really sneaky, you could say you have trouble sleeping or walking difficulties. And if you really do have special needs, then, of course, definitely let the hotel know!
Here is a sample message you could send to the hotel manager:
I have just booked a room at your beautiful hotel. It’s been recommended to me so I’m really looking forward to my stay. It will be special to us as it will be our one-year anniversary. If you could be so kind to select a nice room for us away from the nightclub, on one of the higher floors, I would be extremely grateful
Adjust the message to your actual situation and preferences. Be truthful. Make sure you send the message directly to the manager, and if you can’t find his or her email address, call the hotel and ask for it. If you send your message to a general email address or to reception, the manger will most likely never see it!
You want something? Ask for it!
Don’t be shy to ask for something you want or need. Hotels generally try to make their guests happy but they can only do so if you let them know what you need, whether it’s a late checkout, extra pillow or shaving kit.
￼When you’re not happy
If you’re not happy with something, you should let the hotel know as soon as possible. If a hotel employee isn’t being helpful, the best strategy is to ask for his or her name and then ask to speak to the manager. This way you let the employee know you will hold him or her accountable. Often this will be enough for your problem to be solved.
On a budget? Stay somewhere for free
If you are on a budget, you may want to consider staying somewhere for free! I’m not joking, this is actually possible!
Couchsurfing is a site where people offer travelers a place to sleep This may be a couch, but if you are lucky you might find someone willing to provide you with a bed or even your own room!
More information: Check out this great guide to couchsurfing written by fellow blogger Kay Rodriguez.
House sitting means temporarily looking after someone’s house. This could be a few days or even a few months. There are a number of sites that connect house sitters with people who are looking for someone to look after their house:
More information: The Globetrotter girls have written a nice post on how to set up a great house sitting profile.
This article is a chapter from my eBook "Ten Small Steps, One Giant Leap." You can download the full eBook for FREE by signing up for my newsletter below!
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