Let’s look at how I get a good night’s sleep on the road. It’s not always easy and then sometimes it goes flawlessly, but either way, there are a few options out there for accommodation on the road that work for long-term round the world travel as well as quicker trips.
There are dozens of ways to find your accommodation – booking engines, guidebooks, le Google, aimless wandering, but here are the sites and services I consider when sleeping in a new town:
- Guidebooks: New travelers may have one of these at their sides and nearly all offer up relevant suggestions alongside information on price and location. Drawback? Guidebook accommodation information is outdated the moment that it’s printed. Most of the major guidebooks update every year or two, but a lot can happen in that time. Also, once a hostel or guesthouse is listed in the more popular books (like the Lonely Planet) the prices may soar and service (often) suffers from popularity. SIDEBAR: Wondering which guidebook to choose? Generally, the Lonely Planet series is my go-to and is more budget focused. Frommers is boomer and higher end travel, while Moon guides are an Indie label I do not particularly love because of their organization. And Rick Steves has some great history sections and personalized tours through popular spots in his that are handy.
- Hostel Booking Sites: I use these for pre-research (particularly in Europe/Australia) so that I never had to land in a new place without lodging for at least the first night. I usually check HostelWorld and HostelBookers because they are the leaders in the field and have developed comprehensive user reviews and ratings. Also consider Hostels.com, it’s a HostelWorld powered site but no $2 booking fee with newsletter sign-up!
- Apartment Vacation Rentals: This is gaining popularity with travelers and for good reason, you can rent an entire apartment, or even just a room, from locals in each new place. Airbnb is a leader in this, though there are regional sites too if you do a quick search online.
- Major Booking Engines: The major travel booking engines like Expedia and Orbitz can work if you’re in a hurry and need hotels. These are not precisely ideal for budget travel but have good hotel sorting systems in place to find something close to say, your conference or event. Orbitz is my personal favorite of the major travel booking engines (though I use it mostly just for booking flights).
- Discount Booking Sites: Consider these for cheap hotels and the mid-range. Consider Hotwire, a good friend highly recs this site, though Priceline is another great option. This is only if you have the stomach for it and are willing to sort through and do some research costs before making bids.
- Word of Mouth: For long-term travelers asking other backpackers yields amazing and timely results. This works well for guesthouse, hotels, and hostel recommendations because often times a traveler has recently left the next city you’re visiting and may have found a sweet, family run joint that has yet to make it into the guidebooks.
- Review Sites: In this category are sites like TripAdvisor and Google. Both sites have extensive reviews on hotels, restaurants, and popular travel spots around the world. Reviewers are candid and timely and you can find a wealth of advice before booking–often directly through the hotel or review site.
- Blogs: How could I not mention travel blogs–these are also timely and bloggers will have personal stories in many cases. A Google blog search is a fun way to find some of the more unique spots that may have a little bit extra charm if they actually made it into a blogger’s story.
- Alternative Options: Couchsurfing and WWOOFing are two alternative types of accommodation. The Couchsurfing culture is more than just a free couch for a couple of nights and more so about trading stories and experiences with your hosts. WWOOFing is a way to gain free accommodation and food by working on Organic Farms all over the world–friends have sprinkled this into their trip with great success.
There are countless other sites out there. Truly. The options are limitless. If you have any other recommendations for budget and general accommodation