When we book accommodations for a trip, it is a balancing act between cost, location and offerings by the accommodation. In general, we try to spend less than $150/night, find a central location and get private bath accommodations. However, this varies greatly between destinations. There is no right answer when it comes to where to stay but here are some questions to think about when looking into accommodations for a trip on a budget.
- How much time do you plan to spend at the accommodations on the trip?
- How much money do you want to spend?
- Are you renting a car or not?
- Do you want to be able to walk most places you are visiting?
- Are you looking for somewhere to sleep only or looking for other offerings (such as spa, kitchen, etc.)?
- What is more important to you, convenience or cost?
- Do you want a private bathroom/bedroom?
For each place you visit, you will likely have different answers to all these questions. For example, when we travel in Europe, we are typically looking for somewhere conveniently located, where we can walk most places, but nothing too fancy as we plan to spend most of our time out exploring. Conversely, when traveling in the US, where we typically have a rental car, a location can be much further from the city center and we can find more cost effective options. Once you’ve thought about the questions above, below are several different resources we often use to figure out the “best” place for us to stay. Here are our tips for how to book trip accommodations on a budget.
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1. Word of Mouth References
This is our #1 recommendation for booking trip accommodations on a budget. These suggestions are always the first options we research. If you are planning a trip, talk to your friends, family and coworkers who may have traveled to the area. People love to talk about their travel experiences and may have great accommodation recommendations for you. You can read all the books and reviews you want but word of mouth recommendations, including your favorite travel blogs, are unmatched. Speaking candidly to someone you know provides great insight into what might be the best place to stay. We have stayed at some of our favorite spots through word of mouth references.
2. Lonely Planet and Fodor’s Location Books
If the word of mouth references are not right for us (too expensive, not central, not available, etc.), these are the next resources we use. We have found the Lonely Planet books, particularly the “…on a shoestring” books (Europe on a Shoestring), and the Fodor travel books (Fodor’s Essential Europe) to be very helpful. Each of these books gives a breakdown of hotel options based on price, location and type of accommodation. We typically only look at the options under $150/night but there are options in these books for all price ranges. However, sometimes none of these accommodations, within our price range, are available and we have to search elsewhere. One of our favorite finds in these books was the adorable Lapepe in Madrid, Spain.
3. Airbnb, VRBO and Booking.com
Even if we use one of the above accommodation options, we will look at both Booking.com, VRBO and Airbnb to get a general idea of price range and availability in the area we are looking to stay. Airbnb and VRBO are great when we want a kitchen at our accommodations, particularly on hiking trips. However, it is really variable if Airbnb’s and VRBO’s are less or more expensive than a hotel so we always check booking.com as well. We also really like staying in Airbnb’s because these stays tend to give us a more local experience. Some of our favorite Airbnb’s were in Kenai Fjords National Park, Anchorage, Alaska, Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Zion National Park and Santorini, Greece. See all these guides for the details!
Another great resource we use when booking accommodations is Hotwire.com. Hotwire gives you the price, star rating and general location for hotels but you do not find out the exact hotel you are staying at until after you have committed to the booking. This website is great when you are looking to stay in a general area but do not plan to spend a lot of time at your hotel. These are usually great “just looking for a place to sleep” options. We have used Hotwire 20+ times and have been pleasantly surprised by our accommodations all but one time at a two star hotel. As long as you book 3 star or above hotels, we think you should always be satisfied with your experience and it is a great way to save some money. Our favorite find on this accommodation booking platform was in San Diego where we snagged a beachfront hotel for less than $100/night!
There are plenty of other resources and websites for booking accommodation but based on our trial and error, we recommend the above options as your go-to strategies. We hope this post helps you plan your next trip accommodations on a budget. Anything else you’d add to our guide on how to book accommodations on a budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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