26 Sep How to Plan for Travel: Choose Your Accommodations
This is Part 3 in my How to Plan for Travel countdown series with one blog post per month containing travel tips to get my family, friends, clients and you ready to go for your next vacation overseas. From August 1 through June 30, I’ll be counting down the tips by how far in advance it’s optimal to plan. If you stumble across this blog post in February, and you’re planning a trip in May, you’re not too late. You’ll just have to do things at a heightened pace.
How can I get organized for travel: 9-12 months before
How to Plan for Travel: Choose your accommodations.
Now? Seriously? Why can’t I just show up and find something when I get there?
Actually, that is a choice you’ll have to make:
- Do you want to research ahead of time, make reservations and just show up and drop off your bags?
2. Do you want to play it by ear and find something when you reach your destination?
I’m a huge proponent of Option 1 simply because of what I’ve witnessed when we travel. We’ve met folks who’ve spent a couple of hours in each of their destinations searching for a place to stay because everything was full. I’d rather spend those hours at a museum or famous site or a restaurant, rather than worrying about where I’m going to stay that night. So this is why I book everything early.
If you prefer Option 2, be sure to pack a charger for your phone or tablet so that you can Google hotels when you arrive and use GPS to find the places.
If you’re leaning toward Option 1, keep reading.
There are different types of accommodations, so you’ll want to check with your travel partners to see which they prefer and how much they’re willing to spend. The different types include:
1. Campground – Some have small cabins; at others, you will need to supply everything you need from tents to sleeping bags.
2. Youth Hostel – These sleep anywhere from two to twenty per room and usually have only community bathrooms. After I hit my 30’s, I could no longer stay in these budget accommodations because I craved privacy and quiet. (I know – how fuddy duddy!)
3. Bed & Breakfast – Mom and Pop B&B’s tend to offer a more personalized experience since the owners can share their perspective with you and can often give you “local insider” tips to help you navigate the location. We try to locate B&B’s that are closest to the sites we want to see so that we don’t have to walk far.
4. Hotel – These range from one to five stars and are priced accordingly. If we can’t locate a B&B within close proximity of our sites, we look for hotels that are located nearby. We generally stick to two- and three-star places because they’re pricey enough to keep away loud people, but not nearly as expensive as the fine hotels. (We found that when we stayed in the one-star places, there were always loads of loud people who made an absolute racket crawling in at 2 or 3 A.M.)
5. VRBO – Vacation Rental By Owner – Property owners can list their homes or apartments for rent to vacationing families and individuals. It’s often cheaper than a hotel, plus comes equipped with a kitchen and (if you’re lucky) a washer and dryer. The downside is that no one will be available at a front desk to answer your questions or help you make phone calls. Next summer will be our first time renting an apartment, so I’ll post later about how that goes.
You’ll also want to discuss with your travel partners what their hotel requirements are. Ask them what’s made their past hotels their worst or best stays ever:
English spoken at the front desk
Private or community bathroom
Shower or tub
Type of Bed – Double, King, Queen or Twins
Elevator or stairs only
Breakfast – included, extra or not available
Is a deposit required?
What is the refund/cancellation policy?
To find accommodations that meet our needs, we use two resources: our Rick Steves guidebook and www.TripAdvisor.com reviews.
This series originated because we have many friends and family who are heading to southern France next summer. It’s important to book hotels early because:
1. Accommodations in this region close from October through March. If you wait until March to book a summer reservation, you probably won’t get any of your top five choices.
2. Many Europeans stay in the same places year after year and have standing reservations – which leaves fewer spots for you to begin with.
3. Most accommodations in this area require one-week minimum stays in July and August, with many requiring Saturday to Saturday stays. You’ll need to plan ahead for this. And those that don’t have this requirement book up fast.
Southern France is not the only overseas destination that operates this way. Many areas around the world do, so you’ll want to check on your destination.
Read more from my How to Plan for Travel series:
Part 1: Budget
Part 2: Set your travel goals
Part 3: How to choose your accommodations
Next time: Transportation choices