Having been on the road for over seven months now, I’ve had to book and choose countless accommodation options. Although I do admit to quite enjoying hunting for a new place to stay, researching and booking accommodation can sometimes be an arduous task which I’m just not in the mood for. To save myself extra stress and effort on those occasions when I just can’t be bothered to put any more time than I need into the task, I have come up with a bit of a formula for my booking process.
Just by asking a few simple questions of your potential accommodation and your family’s situation, it’s surprisingly easy to come up with clear options which will suit you and what you expect from your stay.
Set Your Budget
First things first, working out exactly how much you want to spend for however long you’re staying helps you decide straight away if a place is for you or not. If you’ve got a bit of money to spare for your trip, why scrimp on a few dollars by staying in budget hotels or even entertaining them as an option? Vice-versa too; if you’re like me and traveling with a light wallet, just cut out the accommodation you can’t afford straight away by having a clear maximum budget for a hotel per night/week, leaving you to concentrate on finding the best of the rest.
Accommodation in the Jungle
It’s important to do a little bit of research in this area just to see what other similar hotels are charging for their rooms in order to work out what’s a good deal and who is trying to rip you off instead.
Shortlist Your Wants and Needs
I always make a list of the things I definitely need in my accommodation – which can range on a number of options depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing – and then things I would preferably like to see in a place I’m staying.
For me, this can depend from accommodation to accommodation, whether I need certain things to do a bit of work during my stay, like decent WiFi and coffee making facilities (sometimes it’s the little things), or maybe I’d like to see a poolside bar with a bit of an atmosphere if I’m in a super hot place and just chilling out for the duration of my stay.
Accommodation with a Pool and a Bar
Whatever you find a necessity or a preference for your accommodation, it’s best to set out with them in mind before you start searching. Once done, you can start to shortlist all the hotels that match your expectations.
Research the Area
Before I book anything I always conduct a little research on the area I might like to stay in, or the area a particular accommodation I like is in. I look for its vicinity to the center of an area’s main attractions that I want to see, its difficulty to get to from whichever transport hub I might be arriving to, and the area’s safety. There’s no worse feeling than finding a really nice hotel or hostel but then arriving to find it’s either way out of the city, in a boring area, or even a dangerous one. The best way of finding out where’s best to stay in a city or area for safety or sightseeing is to either check out well reputed guide books, or via blogs and travel sites where you can see firsthand from writers and commentators where they recommend.
Accommodation with a View
It’s great when you find a good place to stay, but even better if it’s in an area you like too.
I never book a place without checking out reviews first. Reviews give me a pretty solid gauge on whether or not a place is worth staying in. I like to think that the majority speaks volumes over a minority, so if a place generally has loads of four to five star reviews and positive comments about staff, facilities and the local area, I tend to take that as gospel. Sometimes there will be the odd negative review which puts me off as I feel the commenter has a similar viewpoint to what I’m looking for in accommodation. But on other occasions, there can be negative reviews that I just don’t put any salt into as I find that they’re just being a bit more pedantic than I imagine myself being.
When you’re looking at reviews, just bear in mind what it is you enjoy when you’re staying in a hotel or hostel and if the comments seem to reiterate those sentiments, chances are you and your family are bound to enjoy the accommodation too.
Accommodation reviews can be found on sites and apps such as Tripadvisor, or a number of hotel booking sites. You may even find reviews on a company’s website, but I’m never sure how far I can trust them as they’re more easily modifiable.
Choose a Booking Method
There are a number of methods for booking an accommodation, depending on where it is you are looking to stay and whether you’re looking for hotels, hostels. or other forms of accommodation.
For hotels, sites such as Secret Escapes and Booking.com offer a huge range of choices the world over and include the potential for discounts.
For hostels and other budget accommodation options, Hostel world and Hostel Bookers are two great apps and sites with thousands of choices to choose from and a great review system, with only those posted within the last year showing, which helps with perspective of how the place fares in its current form.
With both of the above, you can also book directly through the accommodation via their websites or email and phone contacts. This can often save you money on booking fees and will give the hotels or hostels more money as they will receive the full amount, with no discount for deposits.
To book your own apartment or something a little different for the family, AirBnb now have accommodation options in most parts of the world and are constantly expanding, with communication directly with the apartment or home’s owner being the main way to book. Giving you a chance to get a few questions in about the place and the surrounding area, including what would be considered a good itinerary. There are also reviews with each property from past tenants or vacationers to give a good overview of the host and the space.
School Bus as Accommodation
This is the simple formula that has stuck by me over the past seven months, and one I’ll continue to use well into the future. It allows for changes in ideals and options depending on location and reason for travel, but also stops me from ending up somewhere and not knowing what to expect. Whether you’re staying at a seven star resort and spa or in a cabana in the jungle, these are all actionable steps to finding the right spot for you and your family.