One of the most common questions I get asked is “How do I book my place? …or Where should we stay?” Before we moved overseas, that was an easy question to answer. We have been reward members for 15 years now and like nice, clean accommodations that include breakfast. Our kids were smaller and it was a “no-brainer” because we knew we could get a really nice place where everyone would be happy.
No doubt, it’s a lot harder now to decide, because we have so many options. We travel so much more now and have realized we really aren’t in our “home away from home.” So here’s my formula for narrowing down my search.
Here are some factors that may help you decide where you’ll stay.
It’s always what we look at first right, well you’ll be happy to know it matters to me too, since the more I save, the more I can travel. I typically shoot for middle of the road, however, I know that might be tough if your traveling with little ones. (See below)
Additionally, if price is your lead and/or ONLY motivator and you are looking to stay somewhere REALLY cheap, you can’t be surprised when they have no cancellation policy or a toilet in your bedroom with no walls and a full dumpster out your window – p-eww. (True story)
Here are a few destination trips that will affect your price
- Beach/waterfront or views of the sea
- Heart of the city in major European cities (think Rome-Florence-Paris-London)
- Close to an event or theme park
If you choose accommodations that have full amenities this will impact your price as well. I usually just choose Wi*fi and Breakfast.
Other helpful amenities are ~
- Parking on premises
- A/C in summer months
- If separate beds are available for children ~ additional beds at no charge
- Transportation from/to the airport
FOR FAMILY travel
#1 Choice – AirBnB
You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about AirBnB. I’m now on my 16th trip with them in two years and have yet to have a bad experience. In Europe, you can find great accommodations close to the city, close enough to entertainment or transportation (metro) and can sleep 5 people without being in separate rooms. We have found the most interesting places. Like this one in Paris… I would’ve recommended our Berlin apartment but they’ve done away with AirBnB in Berlin now. Sad face.
Don’t wait too long, with AirBnb the property owner has 24 hours to respond, we lost out on some great places to Hamburg, because it was too short notice. So maybe not a great a last-minute option.
Here is why I think I have GREAT experiences with AirBnb.
- I check the reviews ~ if there are at least 5 or more reviews and it’s 5 star then I READ all the reviews. Yes, I read them all. If they don’t have any but have other properties I read the reviews from the other properties and see if it’s just a new property they’ve added.
- I don’t choose the CHEAPEST, I go for middle of the road UNLESS, there are other factors like being close to a city, destination, beach, amenities that are important, then I’ll go higher on the scale.
- I ASK lots of questions. Before you go and even before you book, you can write to the owners and ask questions. I now ask about the internet, High SPEED Wi*Fi does not mean wireless. I ask that and a few more. If I get no response, I move on.
FOR COUPLES/ROMANTIC travel
For Solo/Couples/Romantic travel in hotels/gasthaus’s I typically check with TripAdvisor/Booking.com first. I only check with them, just to see their ratings and reviews. However, I’ve been dupped before by their “cancellation” policies (not all hotels have the same policy ~ read the FINE print) I’ve heard recently they aren’t doing a great job reviewing the reviews, if you’d like to spy on your hotel before booking, check out Oyster.com. They consider themselves the “Godfathers of the hotel industry.”No kidding.
THE BIGGEST THING!! I HAVE SAVED UP TO 20% by calling/booking directly with the hotel. They pay huge fees to those search engines to be a part of it. Almost ALL of them speak English.
Check with the local tourism board or city website. In Germany the websites are typically (Bernkastel-Kues) www.bernkastel.de or (Münich) www.muenchen.de it is typically the name of the city and .de. This includes areas like Bavaria, Black Forest, North Sea, etc. In Germany, tourism boards love to help travelers find local places that are awesome. I use to work for one in Rhode Island and once you find out what and where a traveler wants to do it’s exciting to pair them with their accommodations. I guess it’s like being a mini-realtor. HA!
WITH SMALLER KIDDOs travel
I know it’s been a little while for me since I’ve traveled with little kiddos and I remember we didn’t travel that often because when you’ve got ADD and your kids do too, overstimulation and lack of routine is chaotic. Those were the good days. So since I’m not an expert on kiddo travel anymore I’d like you to ~ meet Holly from Pack the Corkscrew. Check out her site for accommodation how-to’s with little ones.
From what I remember though, cause I had a super little one the last time we were here is this~
- Have comfortable, clean accommodations, where you can rest peacefully.
- Bring familiar toys, blankets and have the IPad/IPod loaded (it was DVDs for me)
- DON’T try to DO everything in one day
- PACK SNACKs (twice as many as you think you need) and water
- Be prepared to chill by a water fountain, city park or playground at any given tour moment.
- Bring wine/beer for Mommy and Daddy or prepare to purchase!
Here are some great German sites for closer trips that might help you narrow those choices down ~
- Holidays in Germany
- Familotel – my German friends swear by this one!
- The Healthy Holiday Company – even have places in Dubrovnik!
For SOLO travel
Although I haven’t done it yet in Europe, I surely will before we scoot! I am an extreme extrovert. However, I’m a writer too, so down time is important to me. When I do “fly solo,” I know I will be staying more in hostels and smaller gasthaus’s because I really like the connection with locals.
Recently I stayed in a castle/hostel in Beuron, a small town in the Swabian Alb, it was awesome. I liked it so much, I joined the Youth Hostel Association. Check out this blog for more information on how to travel in hostels.
I hope this has helped a little bit with how to book your next place! What are some tips and tricks you’ve learned about “booking” a place? ~ I’d love to hear from you!
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!