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Travel Accommodation Guide: Booking For Your Trip
You’ve booked your transport and the countdown to your trip is on. The next important thing is accommodation. But where to stay exactly? With so many options available, booking travel accommodation that is right for your needs can be a dizzying exercise.
Finding the right accommodation is a universal concern all travelers face. This travel accommodation guide helps you understand your needs as a traveler, the different accommodation options available, how to find the best accommodation deals, what to look out for and avoid, and the easiest places to book.
Your Needs As A Traveler
Understanding what type of traveler you are, the kind of place you want, comfort levels, and having a budget in mind can go a long way in helping you book travel accommodation.
Depending on the kind of traveler you are, your needs will change. If you have a hit-list of things you want to do and sites you want to see, then your top priority is being somewhere that is well-connected with transportation. However, if you are not a big planner and prefer to wander around and soak up whatever comes your way, then the most important factor will be the feel of the neighbourhood you’ll be staying in.
Always consider your comfort levels and what you want out of your trip beforehand as this will help you know the kind of place you want.
Hostels are great if you want to socialise with a lot of people – they will be loud. Meanwhile, Couchsurfing and Guest Houses are amazing if you want to just meet locals and have a more immersive experience. If you want to relax, need stable Wi-Fi, or are traveling with companions, a hotel or Airbnb will offer you the stability and comfort you need. Wanting something more adventurous? Explore alternative accommodation options like a farm stay, tree house, mountain hut, or villa.
Knowing your budget will be critical as accommodation is one of the biggest fixed costs for travelers.
Having a budget in mind will help reduce this expense and can lead to huge savings for your back pocket. You can create a simple travel accommodation budget in an excel spreadsheet, or just in the Notes function of your phone. However you do it, taking the extra time to do this upfront can make the difference between going home broke and having a lot to spare for the next vacation.
Types of Travel Accommodation Options
There is an abundance of travel accommodation options available to suit the needs of every type of traveler, on every budget. These include:
- Camping (cheap do-it-yourself accommodation; great for off the beaten track travel);
- Hostels (affordable lodging for backpackers);
- Hotels (private serviced rooms ranging from very basic to extreme luxury);
- Pensions & Guesthouses (typically smaller residences where you interact with hosts and other guests, often sharing common spaces – often run by a family);
- Capsule Hotels (one-person capsules with basic mattress set up; popular in Japan);
- Airbnb (wide selection of unique properties ranging from apartments and villas to houseboats and castles; great opportunity to stay in a local, non-touristy location);
- Couchsurfing (stay with locals for free);
- Housesitting (look after people’s homes and/or pets while they’re away); and
- Alternative Accommodation (Farm Stays, Huts, Tree Houses & More).
Booking In Advance
Booking accommodation before you go gives you the peace of mind you will have somewhere to stay upon arrival at your destination. This means you won’t be spending time worrying about how and where to find a place to stay, and can instead go about your day seamlessly. Another benefit of booking accommodation in advance is that you will protect yourself from any last-minute price surges.
The downside here is that unless the accommodation has trusted reviews, you are taking a gamble as to whether it will be as described. I haven’t had this problem personally, but is based on anecdotal experiences from my friends.
The easiest ways to book ahead is via the internet (through sites such as Booking.com, Hostelworld or Airbnb, or through your travel agent. Note that with peer-accommodation sites like Couchsurfing, you should request to stay as early as possible to ensure your hosts will be available.
Booking On The Day
If you are planning your trip by yourself (i.e. not using an organised tour or travel agent), then finding accommodation on the day can be a viable strategy. This just means that you have a little more freedom to explore once you arrive and choose a place to stay based on what you see on the day. This process can be fun because it opens you up to spontaneous events and meetings with people which can make your trip a far more immersive experience.
Once you arrive, finding accommodation should be your first priority as looking for a place as darkness falls can be a real anxiety inducing experience.
I experienced this first hand one time when I winged it to the small town of Český Krumlov in Czech Republic without accommodation, only to step off the bus to find every place was booked due to the International Music Festival taking place.
Keep in mind that this method can be a little challenging if you’re jet-lagged or overwhelmed by your new surroundings. The other problem with last-minute reservations is that many countries require foreigners to have already arranged accommodation before admission into the country. Accommodation may also be a requirement in order to apply for your visa.
Cancelling A Reservation
There are a few key things to be aware if you need to change or cancel a reservation.
Firstly, always pay attention to the cancellation policy when you make the reservation as this will determine what options are available to you in case your circumstances change.
Most hostels and hotels require a credit card to guarantee the room and will usually charge you for one night if you cancel less than 24 hours before arrival. Certain popular destinations are known to have a minimum notice of about 72 hours.
On peer-accommodation sites like Airbnb, you may lose your deposit if you do not announce your cancellation or request to amend the booking before a certain date, so confirm this when you make the initial reservation.
Having travel insurance can help safeguard you for some of the expenses associated with changing or cancelling your accommodation.
Finding The Best Accommodation Deals
Accommodation is one the biggest fixed costs faced by every traveler and cutting this expense can lead to some massive savings for your travels.
With an over-abundance of travel accommodation options available, it’s important to be able to separate the low-quality or overpriced places and find the ones that fit your needs and offer good value for money.
Here are some tips for finding the best accommodation deals:
- Check Airbnb: Airbnb has a wide variety of high quality accommodation options at good value pricing;
- Couchsurf: Connect with locals, gain an insiders perspective on your destination and lodge for free. What more could you want!?;
- Last-minute offers: Many accommodation providers discount their unsold rooms and sell them on large online booking websites. These reduced rates are not usually advertised on the hotel sites directly. Search large accommodation consolidators for these deals; and
- Book early, or on the spot: Accommodation providers usually offer the best rates to those who book early, so the sooner the better. However, oftentimes providers find themselves with empty rooms so to they will drop their rates to get last-minute bookings;
- Location: Prime locations such as those close to the city centre or major attractions come at a premium. Stay further away from these hot spots and you’ll pay less for accommodation. Note: sometimes you can find some fantastic deals in prime locations on sites like Airbnb and by staying for free on Couchsurfing; and
- Newly Opened Hotels: Hotels that have just opened frequently offer discounts to attract new clientele. Ask locals upon arrival which hotels have opened in the past 1-2 years, or Google search, “new hotels in [location]”.
My Favourite Travel Accommodation Resources
The following sites are my go-to resources when looking for the best deals on accommodation:
- Airbnb – click here for up to a $55 USD discount (you’ll need to create a new Airbnb account with a new email to get this $55 Airbnb coupon);
- Booking.com; and
It’s never been easier to get the the best experience with your accommodation whilst saving the most thanks to these sites. So, if you’re planning your next trip, consider using these resources along with this travel accommodation guide to get the most out of your trip and save the most cash.