Accommodation is often one of the most stressful parts of travel planning. Deciding whether to book ahead or wing it on arrival, figuring out where to stay and then how to get the best rates can all be daunting, especially from the other side of the world.
But, as always, we’re here to help. We’ve pulled together our top tips for booking accommodation as well as some alternative sleeping arrangements you might not have considered.
- To book ahead or to wing it. Booking all of your accommodation before you even leave home has its advantages. You can relax knowing you have a place to lay your head each night, you can spend time in advance finding the best rates and you can research reviews and photos before handing over any cash. But, being spontaneous and finding a place to stay on arrival has a few plus points too. It gives you more freedom to leave earlier, or stay for longer, you can see a place in person (important if it’s a long term gig) and in rural areas the best rates may be only found by knocking on doors. Consider the length of your trip, how confident you are turning up without a place to stay and how popular (or booked up) your destination might be. We recommend booking at least the first night’s bed in advance. That way when you arrive, jet lagged and culture confused, you’ve at least got the first night sorted so you can collapse into a bed hassle free.
- Renting. Renting an apartment, villa or room isn’t just for those staying long-term. You can rent for just a month, or even a week. The benefit here is you get more of a local experience. Perhaps you’re located out of the tourist area and surrounded by culture, perhaps you’re staying with a local family who can show you the customs, language and best places to grab lunch. At the very least, it can often work out cheaper and you have access to your own kitchen. If you want the local experience with a shorter stay try coach surfing, Airbnb or a language exchange.
- To hostel or hotel. Hotels, with their private rooms, ensuite bathrooms and balconies overlooking the pool, are lovely. But, they also come with a price tag. If you’re looking for a cheaper accommodation alternative hostels are your best friend. If you’re willing to bunk with ten others, and share a bathroom with twenty more, you’ll be getting a roof over your head each night for next to nothing. But if you’ve got a little more cash to splash you can opt for smaller rooms, designer boutiques or female only dorms. There are even private rooms for the hotel experience with a hostel price tag. Bonus: many hostels have a lively social scene which is great for meeting other backpackers.
- Overnight transport. No, we don’t recommend riding the bus line back and forth each night for a cheap bed, but why not make the most of overnight transport. If you’ve got a long flight, bus, boat or train journey coming up why not book the overnight version. Not only do you save money on a hotel night but you can arrive at your destination fresh faced and ready to explore, or as fresh faced as one is after a twelve hour bus ride. Look out for sleeper versions, trains especially often offer these meaning you can spend the journey stretched out in a bed.
- Finally, you can always score free accommodation (and sometimes food too) by earning your keep. Check out Helpx.net and WWOOF.com to get started with a work program. (do we have any jobs like this on our jobs board?)
Jetsetter Jobs Top Tips for Booking Accommodation
- Go compare. Just like travel insurance, accommodation prices aren’t set. If you’ve decided to book ahead it’s worth doing a little shopping around to get the best deal. First stop, price comparison websites. Check out Trivago, Kayak, and Travel Supermarket to narrow down the choices.
- Go Direct. Once you’ve zeroed in on a favourite, spend a little time trying to beat that rate. Try going directly to the hotel’s website, or a step further and calling, to sniff out a cheaper deal. If you’re cutting it close try Lastminute.com or Hoteltonight.com for those last minute deals.
- Double check. Before booking anything, check out any reviews on those price comparison websites and give the place a cursory search on Trip Advisor. Keep an eye out for guest photos to see what the place is really like and scan through reviews to get a feel for the place. Be sure to take any ratings with a pinch of salt, they can be a great indicator of how good the hotel is or they can be 5* rated by owners themselves, or given 0* by picky guests.
- Once you’ve compared across sites, gone direct for a cheaper deal and it’s been given the Trip Advisor nod of approval – you’re ready to book.