When planning a trip, aside from the tickets to get to your destination, finding the right place to stay is equally as important. For us, when traveling, we usually are on a budget. Having scored cheap tickets, we search high and low for the best deals on a place to stay. That being said – we have learned the hard way perhaps, that cheap doesn’t always mean the best – nor does expensive. Its all about finding what works for you, and your budget.

Italy2Italy – 2013

One of our first trips that I ever planned was to Hawaii a few years ago. Having not traveled for years, we decided a family trip was in order – we set the date, bought the tickets, and then set out to find a place to say. As our travel date approached, we soon realized that it was not going to be possible to fulfill this trip without going into debt. And since none of us wanted that, we postponed the trip, and instead went on a road trip to the lower 48 – a trip that of course, has opened the door to so many more opportunities.

Since that day – we have been to many more places, and traveled much further than our wildest dreams could have even imagined. China, France and Italy are the few that stick out the most. And every time, we managed to not only score good flights – we scored decent places to stay without going into debt. Let me share a few tips and tricks that we have discovered along the way.  A jump start, if you will, into a great vacation.

Don’t slam it until you have tried it
Hostels. The word is enough to send panic into many people, most likely thanks to the movies where only tragic things happen in hostels. Plus the fact that much is known about hostels, it can be a scary thing. But here’s the truth: Hostels can be great! Hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com are two of the more common sites. Just because the world hostel is in there, doesn’t mean all of the places are hostels. There are B&B’s, Inn’s, and even apartments. The convenient lay out helps you find the place that suits your needs best.

Another great find is airbnb.  You can choose to share a house with someone (basically renting their spare bedroom) or opt for renting the entire home / apartment.  As a bonus you meet some really cool locals who are almost always willing to give you tips about the area.  It’s like couchsurfing -for larger groups.

francecaravan“There are B&B’s, Inn’s, and even apartments.”

Know what you want
While budget is always a big concern of ours, there are other things that play into booking the perfect place as well. Things that are important to us are put as the main selling points, with wants close behind. While you can score cheaper places to stay in a hostel by selecting a dorm styled room for us, it works best to rent a “Private room” which usually means you an apartment styled place to stay complete with a kitchen, which also is of importance to us.

Dorm vs Private room
This is a common term when booking through a hostel site, and terms that often confuse people.  I know it confused me when I first started looking into things.  But fear not – it really isn’t that complicated!  A dorm room is basically a room with many bunk beds – you are renting one bunk bed.  If you are a single traveler, this could be an option that would work great for you.  You rent a bed, and share the kitchen/bathroom/amenities – one of the perks of hostels is that you get to meet other travelers.  Often times there is a “Social” room where travelers hang out and talk.  A private room is just that.  Often times, however, you have to book a private room for 2 or 4 people – even if you are just one person.  Hostels charge per person – this could work for you or against you, depending on how you book.

Be quickly (but not too quick)
There are so many options, that spending a lot of time pursing them all out will frustrate you. I find it easiest to browse though the options, and open the potential leads in a different browsing tab. When I have finished – I weed them out by selecting the ones that look most promising and compare them at the end – looking for the best option to suit not only our needs but budget.  Of course once you find a place that you are thinking about booking, you should always make sure to do research (next two points).

Of course this really should go without saying – but do your research. Once you have found a place that you think looks good – make sure to check out the ratings and comments. Often you can find the best information simply by a users feedback – what did the previous users have to say about the place? The quality? The location? Also check out the ratings – we tend try to steer clear of the ones with lower ratings, unless it is just because it is a newer listing. Remember to stay safe – when it comes down to it, you cannot put a price on safety.

france1“…one of the things we look for when trying to find a place to stay, is bike rentals.”

Ask Questions
As a general rule if you don’t see it listed as an amenity – chances are they don’t have it. One thing that is important to us for example, is free wifi. If they only list “Internet access” chances are they have computers which you can pay to use. But this isn’t always the case – one of the things we look for when trying to find a place to stay, is bike rentals.  A few places offer bike rentals, but now with JD we need a baby seat for the bike.  While none of the places have a baby seat listed – a quick email answered that they did in fact have a baby seat for rent as well as other assorted baby items. Don’t be afraid to email and ask questions.

And finally…
Remember to have fun. Relax and enjoy your vacation. Choosing the right place to stay will only help further your enjoyment, so make sure you choose the right place for the right price.  Once you have found that perfect place, remember to enjoy your stay and take it all in, and when you return – be sure to give some feedback onto how your stay was – to help out another fellow traveler.

“When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, it’s Time to Go Home”

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