Choosing the right accommodation type for your trip can have a huge impact on your trip, not to mention your budget. That’s why we’ve outlined the different accommodation options and their pros and cons so that you can choose the best one for you.
Hotels are the most common accommodation option. They vary from 1-5 stars with five being the highest. It’s important to note that star levels are often set by the country, there’s not a worldwide rating, so a hotel that’s rated five-star in one country, may only be a four-star in another. You may also find a difference in room size, for example, a 4-star hotel room in Europe will often be much smaller than a 4-star hotel room found in the U.S. and Canada.
While some chain hotels can be cookie-cutter, discerning visitors can avoid this by choosing a boutique hotel or a historic hotel (usually 4 or 5-stars). These are unique properties and are among my favourite type of accommodation to stay in.
The most affordable hotels are one or two-stars. They will be a very simple room with the bare essentials. Check what these essentials are, as sometimes towels and shampoo aren’t included and you need to bring them with you.
Another consideration with one and two-star hotels is that the bathroom may be shared so check this carefully if you don’t want to share a bathroom. This is especially true in Europe.
City center hotels are usually more expensive than those located further out, so consider how important location is to you or if it’s more important to have reasonably priced accommodation.
Compared to hotels, motel accommodations usually have fewer rooms than hotels and they don’t usually have as many amenities. However, they can be an effective accommodation choice if you’re doing a road trip and just looking for a place to sleep for the night. You’ll often find them on major highways.
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When Should You Choose Hotel Accommodation?
- Luxurious hotel accommodation is great when you want more amenities. Many 4 and 5-star hotels have pools, a gym, spa, nice lounge, a restaurant (or multiple), serving gourmet cuisine airport pickup and some will even have babysitting services. If amenities are important to you, check carefully before you book to see what the hotel offers.
- When you’re only staying for 1-2 nights. I find hotels are much more convenient than other types of accommodation for short trips.
- If you’re arriving late or checking out early. Most hotels, especially the larger ones will have a 24/7 reception so if you’re checking in at 2:00 am hotels are the ideal accommodation.
When Should You Avoid Hotels?
- For stays of 3 nights or longer, you may find that self-catered accommodations are much cheaper. However, that’s not always the case, so it’s good to compare.
- If you’re travelling as a family and would be more comfortable if the kids had a separate sleeping area from you, or if you’re travelling with others. Then I think self-catered accommodation is a better choice.
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Where to Get the Best Deals on Hotel Accommodation?
I recommend Booking.com. They negotiate hard to get the best deals for their clients and as they rely on volume they’re usually successful. In addition, many hotels have a flexible cancellation policy (check before you book).
It’s also easy to search for properties by location or amenities.
Finally, their site is easy to use. It’s easy to see what’s included in the price and what’s not and they’ll often give you different prices depending on what you want. I.e. an optional breakfast.
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Self-catered includes a wide range of accommodation – everything from apartments, historic homes, lodges, cabins and villas. What’s included and what’s not varies widely so it’s important to check carefully to ensure that the accommodation has everything that you’re looking for. Some are very basic, while others are luxurious with a hot tub, private swimming pool, beach access and more.
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When Should You Choose Self-Catered Accommodation?
- Great for longer stays (3 nights or more) and often significantly cheaper than hotels.
- If you want kitchen facilities so that you can cook some of your meals.
- When you’re looking for accommodation that is more unique and not cookie-cutter like many hotel chains are.
- When you’re travelling with a couple of friends, a few other couples or families, renting a villa or a large house can save you a lot of money and be a lot more fun than each couple/family having their own hotel room.
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When Should You Avoid Self-Catered Type of Accommodation?
- If you’re arriving really early or really late. Some self-catered accommodations have an automated check-in where the host gives you a code in advance so that you can enter. If that’s the case it doesn’t matter when you arrive. However, if the host is meeting you in person, they’ll likely have specific hours they’ll do it, so check before you book.
- If you’re only staying for 1-2 nights. Then I find hotels are a more convenient option.
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Where to Get the Best Deals on Self-Catered Accommodation
While Airbnb has been the market leader, I really like VRBO (vacation rentals by owner). They offer stays in 190 countries and have some really unique ones, like this Romantic Tree House Cottage in Alabama or the Haunted Honeymoon Cottage in Arizona.
Hostels are a great cheap accommodation option and the most affordable You’ll normally have a shared room, and will often be sleeping in a bunk bed. Some offer mixed rooms (men and women), while others have women-only rooms. Bathroom facilities are shared and you’ll have a storage locker to store your valuables. Towels and toiletries aren’t usually included so remember to bring these with you.
Some newer hostels also offer private rooms that are quite nice. For example, I stayed at one in Stralsund, Germany and loved my stay there. The price was similar to that of hotel type accommodation but the room was also comparable to a hotel room.
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When Should You Choose a Hostel?
- Hostels are a great choice if you’re looking for a social atmosphere. They usually have friendly hosts there’s usually a large place to hang out and some even have communal cooking facilities so it’s easy to make instant friends
- When you’re looking to save money. Hostels are among the cheapest accommodations for travellers and can save you a ton of money, especially when you’re travelling in expensive cities like London or Paris.
- When you’re willing to work in exchange for your bed. Not all hostels offer this, but some will give you a free bed in exchange if you help them out. Each hostel is different so check the conditions before agreeing to this.
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When Should You Avoid Staying in a Hostel?
- If you’re a light sleeper/really need your sleep. People will be coming and going at all hours and some may not be so quiet when they come back at 3:00 am or when they’re packing up their stuff to catch a 6:00 am bus.
- If you’re travelling with an expensive camera or other equipment. While most hostels will have a locker for your valuables, you need to be vigilant. Ie. don’t leave your laptop on the bed while you go take a quick shower. If you’re travelling with valuables and aren’t good at locking your stuff up, a hostel isn’t a good choice for you.
Where To Get the Best Deals on Hostels?
I recommend HostelWorld. They have hostels in over 170 countries and some properties have free cancellation.