The right accommodation for you may not even be a hotel. Have you ever considered the alternatives?
Maybe you should. Your budget may just love you for it, and your travel experiences may be a little more precious as well.
If you are ready to start planning your next trip you may also like to read: Travel Planning Guide – Getting Started
In this article I will be covering the types of accommodation I have experienced and recommended (and not recommend) and why.
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Hotels are the most obvious place to start, and the easiest. Of course, this is the most common form of accommodation around the world, and you can find everything from sheer opulence and luxury to budget basics.
Some hotels can provide more than a room for the night, including various facilities like pools, gyms, restaurants, concierge, minibars, room service, free wifi, business facilities just to name a few.
The critical thing to remember when organising your accommodation is the type of experience you want and the money you are willing to pay.
The two main factors I look for when I am choosing a hotel apart from the cost are:
Is it centrally located so I can walk to most places? Or is it close to public transport?
Does it have a kitchenette?
Room with a kitchenette
I have some dietary issues I need to manage so being able to shop and prepare my food is essential, AND it also saves significantly on the travel budget.
There comes the point on a trip where I just cannot eat out anymore and want something simple and home cooked.
For example, when I visit New York I try and stay at the Beacon Hotel on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
The rooms are large, have a great kitchenette and dining area. The hotel even has laundry facilities. It is well priced for Manhattan and located in a friendly neighborhood.
There are quality places to eat and excellent shopping nearby. Central Park is a small walk, and I can also walk to Times Square and everything in between.
Importantly, it is only one block from the subway giving me access to the city and beyond. Across the road is a Fairways supermarket and a favorite locals café upstairs.
There is also a liquor store on the corner. Picnics in my room with food from the deli at the Fairways Supermarket and a good bottle of wine equals happy days for me.
And of course, there are boutique hotels that just hit the mark with everything – rooms, service, food, extras – the lot.
For us, this was the Villa Marsili in Cortona. Because I was hosting a travel group, our needs were different from what I would want personally. The hotel was perfect for us.
Like anything that is worthwhile, doing your research and reading reviews is essential because the prices and standards vary greatly. And of course, don’t forget the type of experience you want, and your budget.
Apartments, Villas & Airbnb
There are a lot of good companies you can rent private apartments and villas through.
And now with Airbnb on the scene, those choices have become even more abundant.
Apartments are my preferred style of accommodation for many reasons.
I like experiencing life a little like a local and a lot of the places available are in local neighbourhoods and not tourist areas.
I would not stay in a tourist area. I want to see the “real” place and not walk out of the door and be surrounded by sightseers. Have I mentioned how much I hate crowds?
I want to amongst cafes and restaurants that are popular with locals. Café bars where I can hear the native language spoken while sipping on a glass of local wine.
You get the benefit of kitchen and laundry facilities which is very handy if you don’t want to be trying to wash your underwear in a hotel sink and hanging it in the shower.
Most apartment owners have a Welcome Pack (or exercise book in some cases) for guests and sometimes a Visitor’s Book. These usually contain helpful information about the area like suggestions on where to shop, eat, drink and recommended things to see that you may not have considered.
I have stayed in apartments in Paris, Rome and Melbourne and Port Macquarie. They were all awesome, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Paris and Rome were through private companies I found on the internet, and Melbourne and Port Macquarie through Airbnb. I am a big fan and will be using that service.
If you would like to use Airbnb for the first time, you can get a $50 discount voucher here.
The thought of hostels conjures up the image of 20 something-year-old backpackers having a blast, partying and experiencing life to the fullest. And loudest.
But not all hostels are like that, and if you do your research, you can find ones that cater to couples and families.
Some have private rooms with an ensuite bathroom.
I am not the biggest fan; I have to admit.
But I include it because it is a great budget option, and if you don’t mind neighbors facilities and shared kitchens then this could be the perfect option for you. It is an excellent way to meet other travellers who will share their experiences with you.
I stayed in a hostel in Germany with my then family of four. I chose that particular hostel it for various reasons. It was family orientated with a kid’s programs (not that my kids wanted to participate!) although most days we were out sightseeing every day.
And it was a castle. Burg Stahleck is a 12th-century fortified castle in the Rhine Valley, Germany and the kids were beyond excited when I told them my plans.
It was situated above the medieval village of Bacharach and sat overlooking the Rhine. Seated in the courtyard with a cup of wine in my hand (purchased from the front desk for €3) and watching the sunset over the river below, was a magical experience.
Our family room could have fit eight people, all in bunks, and included a basic ensuite bathroom.
The only problem I had is that I am relatively tall and didn’t quite fit into the top bunk very well and it was under the sloping roof.
I had moments where I felt like I was sleeping in a box with the lid slightly open (or coffin). I was sleep deprived!
We paid for half board so ate breakfast and dinner at the hostel. Never again! The food was far from average.
The Hostel catered for families during the European summer, and there were kids everywhere (pesky kids!)
But hey, we got to stay in a castle, and it was a unique experience.
You can see our room at the top
Camping & Cabins
There are companies like Eurocamp, a UK company that have camping resorts all over Europe.
They range from large resort style parks to smaller grounds offering a range of accommodation from standard tents, safari tents, cabins, lodges, tree houses and more.
A Dutch company, Tentsetters also has facilities in France and Slovenia.
I can hear some of you protesting. No! Not camping. I know Dan would be.
I know camping is not for everyone, but we were campers and loved it, and the fact that we didn’t have to set anything up was fantastic.
We used Tentsetters and camped for a week at Lake Bled, Slovenia. It was a laborious process booking with Tentsetters, (no online payment facilities) a website that doesn’t have an English option and I believe I had to send a cheque!! Yikes!
But I had my heart set on visiting Lake Bled, and this was our best, and cheapest, option.
It turned out to be a fantastic experience. We turned up. Our name was on the board. The tent was ready, complete with indoor camp kitchen and an outdoor table setting.
We met our Belgium neighbours who we spent a couple of nights with exchanging stories (or at least what we could understand of each other) over possibly a few too many wines and beers. How many times can you be told to be quiet by management? It was only 9 pm for goodness sake. Although if the sore head I was nursing in the morning was anything to go by, maybe Management had good cause.
Tentsetters don’t own the campgrounds but rent places within it. The grounds were immaculate, the shop well stocked and the restaurant excellent. And it was across the road from Lake Bled.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Lake Bled, and I would return tomorrow if I could.
You can check out Camping Bled here – their new cabins look fantastic!
The disadvantage of camping was that we had to add sleeping bags, travel pillows and towels to our already bursting luggage.
That was a bit of a trial, but I sourced compact sleeping bags and we have used them a lot since then.
Another option is to find a camping ground that offers cabins. These are self-contained but usually, have a minimum weekly rental condition.
That suits me and my preference for Slow Travel.
We chose this option in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland and I would highly recommend it.
The facilities at the campground in Switzerland were excellent. The restaurant provided the opportunity for the occasional respite from cooking.
We experienced a lot of rain that week, but we were cosy and dry and able to go out exploring between showers.
It was close to the train station so that we could easily explore the surrounding areas and it was in the most beautiful location I have ever seen with the sound of the Staubbach Falls across the road to lull us to sleep at night.
It had a lovely verandah at the front to enjoy the stars and a glass of wine in the evening.
Bed and Breakfasts are a great option when travelling. You not only get a room and a good breakfast (usually), but you get local hospitality and the benefit of the owner’s knowledge.
Most of the time. The standard of B&B’s vary and I highly recommend you do research and read many reviews.
I have stayed in traditional B&Bs where you are in the house of your hosts, with a shared bathroom and a home cooked breakfast in the morning.
And others have been like a small boutique hotel, run by staff and others still have been like an apartment.
I have found the overall B&B experience to be a little hit and miss.
In the Black Forest, Germany we stayed with a lovely couple in a very traditional home (unfortunately with THE WORST BED in all of Germany!!). The owners were friendly and helpful, full of advice for our stay in Switzerland. They even lent us an esky (cooler), so we could buy groceries in Germany to take into Switzerland, to save money.
Switzerland was scarily expensive.
The B&B owners had a friend who worked in a hotel in Grindelwald, a place we planned to visit, so a stop to drop the esky off was easy. It was so thoughtful of them.
The B&B we stayed in Orvieto was an apartment with basic breakfast provisions, but an overall fantastic experience.
And the B&B in London was average, with a damp basement bedroom. But they did serve the best breakfast.
And then there was Venice. Not a B&B as far as I was concerned, but a very cheap and nasty hotel.
They got our booking wrong, served packet croissants for breakfast and had terrible coffee. How is that even possible in Italy?
But to make up for the booking error, they gave us a second room overlooking the canal (which is what we had booked in the first place, but could only sleep 2).
My daughter and I ended up sharing it and thoroughly enjoying our time to ourselves. Without going into details, it was a welcomed reprieve that I really, really, really needed. So, all in all, it worked out.
And last but not least I wanted to cover this option which I am yet to try but thought worth mentioning because it’s free.
Free accommodation. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Although I haven’t housesat, we did get a housesitter to look after our dog and house while we travelled for 2.5 months.
The experience from our end was fantastic, and by all reports, our housesitter was more than happy too.
I would like to try this in the future as I believe it will take me to places I would not otherwise consider. There is a range of things that can be included in a housesit such as food in the pantry or a car to drive, but each experience is different.
Basically, you get free accommodation, usually with a pet (or two) to mind.
I found our housesitter on Aussie House Sitters, but there are other sites that I will be looking at when the time comes.
Having a housesitter could also save in ways you didn’t consider. You might be interested in reading Clever money saving ideas to make travel affordable.
Whatever accommodation you decide on, make sure you are comfortable with your decision. There is no point choosing a Hostel to save money, only to end up hating it. It could ruin your trip. The trick is to find the right balance between comfort and budget.
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