11 January 2015

Accommodation | Why the best choice isn't the cheapest

Comparison website, filters and sorting make it easy to find the cheapest accommodation online, so now I ask myself how can I find the best value accommodation for me? It may be tempting to go for the cheapest accommodation, but sometimes paying a bit more works out best value either because you get breakfast included, save on transportation costs (as you're more central), get a kitchen saving you meal costs or just because you feel safer, happier and cleaner....

...After all we all travel to enjoy ourselves and be content in life. 

1//Compare a few website
Yes, you can looking on hotel comparison website, but that will only compare hotels, not hostels, guesthouses, holiday rentals and rooms for rent. If I have the time I look at the website below for a really great variety of options.

I used to book with Hostelworld religiously and although I think they beat Hostelbookers for usability, Hostelbookers offers hostels at slightly cheaper prices. Both websites have apps, which is convenient for when you're on the road and also to avoid Hostelworld's booking fees.
Even if you don't fancy a dorm (though you'd be mad not to if you're travelling solo as it's the best way to meet people) hostels have great value private room with all the added bonuses of being in a hostel - great public transport links, atmosphere, free wifi, potential friends and sometimes great bars and food!

Offers a huge variety of rooms and entire homes to rent all across the world. I've found some really cool places on here from converted school buses, tree houses, seafront penthouses and yurts. You can save places for later and the pricing is very clear, especially useful for the USA where taxes can catch you out on other websites. There is an app that is positively addictive.
I booked my weekend break in Wales through Airbnb and it was stunning. Find the Studio perched on the side of a Welsh Valley on Airbnb.

Stands for "Vacation Rental By Owner". This is an American website, so has a slant towards American listing, but offers rentals across the world. I have used this for family holidays and for the USA road trip. Normally lists an entire house, so great if there is a group of you. Not quite as trendy as Airbnb, so can often beat it on price. 

We rented an apartment on the coast, just outside of Rome through VRBO.

Though I find a lot of the hotel websites very uninspiring, Agoda had good availability in Asia, particularly some little guesthouses. Booking.com has had some of the cheapest prices for the same hotel across engines. 
When there were no hostels available we splashed out (about £35 for a double) on Baan The Wang Hotel, Ayutthaya which we found on Agoda and currently has a rating of 9.1!

The first two websites offer something more upmarket with great discounts in 'flash sales' where they are only available for a few days. That said they now have permanent offers too! You need to sign up to the 'club' first, but you can unsubscribe to emails... not that you would want to as they're just full of drool-worthy holidays. Similarly Mr&Mrs offer special hotels, but when you're in major cities all options can be expensive and I wouldn't rule these websites out.
Secret Escapes offered a great hotel in the centre of Paris for my Birthday trip. As it was a flash sale, the hotel is no longer on the site, but they're sure to have something similar.

2// Order by rating.
It is easy to just order it by price, but not all the top rated accommodation is the most expensive. I like to stay in properties with an 75%+ or 7.5+ rating. The more expensive the accommodation the more I urge you to read and ignore some reviews. Sometimes people give bad reviews for something so menial and then say "... but overall the hotel was very clean and you can't fault the value." so sometimes it's worth giving the hotel the benefit of the doubt.
Yes... That is a date stamp. Miramare E Castello, Ischia had unbeatable views and fantastic ratings. The breakfast was nothing short of phenomenal.

3// Pay attention to location

Location is often a very important factor in value. A good location may not be a central hotel, but one in a great area with lots of restaurants or one that is right by an airport link. There are a few ways that you can research the best location:

Airbnb Neighbourhoods
Airbnb do this great thing in some cities of defining and describing neighbourhoods. Great photos give you an idea of what the area is about and descriptions let you know if this is a neighbourhood of hipsters, or a quiet suburb with great views of the city.
Here's a link to neighbourhood guides to London, LA & Paris as a taster.
Westminster, London

This website give you often very candid views on any particular neighbour and will warn you of any safety concerns in any particular area. Obviously sometimes you must take these things with a pinch of salt, but may be more of a concern for a family or new solo traveller.
Granada, Spain (top) & Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife (bottom)

If nothing else, use google maps to work out directions from the accommodation to a few places you know you want to visit. You may not mind that 30 minute journey if it's only one bus that leaves 5 minutes walk from the hotel, but hate a minute journey that includes two bus changes and a tube journey.
Public Transport in Berlin, Germany

4// Consider your state of mind
Sometimes you just need a really comfy bed, an easy transfer and a buffet breakfast after a long long day/week/month. This is so important when you're travelling long-term as if you tire yourself out you will stop appreciating things and make yourself ill (I know I sound like you're mother, but I hate to say she's right).

Will you be...
...arriving at night?
...very tired after a busy few day or a night train?
...have a lot to cram in in a short period of time?
...wanting some home comforts?
...lonely and wanted some people to chat to?

DO the research now and you'll thank yourself later for having the foresight to find somewhere that offered the best value to you, not just the lowest price tag.

Read about my experience of Fiji - I wish I had done my research before leaving!
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