The excitement of traveling to new places usually evolves around what you will see, what you will eat, and what stories you will come home to tell. While I planned our weekend getaways during my adventure abroad, I started to realize that something that was slipping through the cracks was a proper search of lodging. As long as the hostels or apartments were cheap and had wifi then I had no problem. That is, until we had a bad hostel situation when I started to reevaluate my search process.
For those studying abroad and looking forward to weekend adventures, here are my suggestions for a positive lodging experience:
First: You have an choice. What kind of atmosphere are you looking for?
Pictured above were my two go-to sites when planning a trip. Both are very different and have different pros and cons.
Hostelworld.com: When reading about and listening to stereotypical stories of backpackers visiting Europe, the lodging that is most always used is a hostel. The easiest definition (for travelers who–like me–didn’t understand what they were) is a hotel without the commodities and more community areas (bathrooms, kitchen, bunk rooms). Hostels may offer private rooms or rooms with other travelers–I have seen as many as 28 beds in a room! Usually the fee you pay covers the bed you will sleep in and sometimes a locker. Make sure to bring a lock! That way you can keep your stuff safe.
1. The people you meet, the stories you hear, and the connections you make are amazing.
2. Sometimes they offer free or discounted resources from anything like maps and coupons to tours and pub crawls.
3. Easy to pick and choose what you are looking for with Hostelworld (wifi, location, price, food, room size, etc).
1. The rooms that hold less people are often more expensive, and soon you are in London sleeping in an 18 person room with people snoring and making out in the beds around you…
2. You get what you are willing to pay for–if you are willing to pay less and take the metro in what is the price difference to a more expensive and better located hostel?
3. Sometimes sharing isn’t caring. How well did the people before me scrub this fork…? When was the last time these sheets were washed? It shouldn’t take someone that long to shower….Were all thoughts that ran through my head in a few choice hostels we stayed in. Just be conscience of what you are using and BRING YOUR OWN TOWEL AND SHOWER SHOES.
AirBnb: This was a new resource that I learned of from other people on the trip with me that we started to use regularly. This site lets you “live like a local” and stay in an apartment (house, tent, castle, even cave!) wherever you are looking either renting a room from the owner or the entire place. Staying on the smart side, we looked for options with very high reviews. Excitingly, these are very easy to find on this growing site that is now worldwide. We made sure to find apartments with good locations, a kitchen that we could use, and of course–wifi. Our constant goal was to fit in as locals and walking out of an apartment building rather than a hostel/hotel was a great way to do so.
1. The owners of the apartments–usually young couples or singles–really helped us find points of interest, restaurants, bars, and shopping that only locals would know of.
2. In some cases, for the price you would pay for a bed in some hostels will pay for the entire apartment–and that is split between the people you are traveling with.
3. With private bedrooms, bathrooms, and in some cases–entire apartments–we had a comfortable, clean, and safe place to keep our stuff in every night
1. Misleading advertising. We had a situation when they said they have two beds for the three of us but we came to learn it was a bed and a mattress–and we weren’t given the mattress until the third night. Three sunburnt girls on a full size bed isn’t very comfortable…
2. Unfriendly hosts. Read the reviews to make sure that the people who stayed there previously got along with their hosts–otherwise it might make for an uncomfortable stay.
3. Overbooking. Sometimes the hosts rent out several rooms at a time and suddenly six people are trying to make dinner and all speaking different languages in the kitchen.
All in all, traveling is an adventure and no plan is ever perfect. When it comes to lodging, in the end it is simply a place you will sleep every night while you enjoy exploring the city you are in. But there is no hurt in easing the stress of it a little!