Planning out the logistics of your travel can both be fun and challenging. It’s fun on one part because you are learning important skills while doing it! First, you develop and improve your organizational skills when you plan out the whole itinerary of the trip. Second, you learn to be resourceful and patient when booking flights, tours, and accommodations. Third, you enrich your financial knowledge and strengthen your decision making skills as you do all the maths — comparing prices and budgeting!
But on the other hand, it can also be very challenging especially when it’s your first time doing this. Fortunately, there are a lot of blogs and resources available on the internet to help you with planning (although this could also be quite overwhelming as there is a lot of information to process).
Nevertheless, this is an important step to ensure a good and hassle-free vacation so don’t skip this one out!
How to pick the right accommodation?
One of the most daunting tasks involved in planning your travel is booking your accommodations. It’s not a simple task of just choosing because a lot of thought and considerations should be put in before deciding on it. Even if you have a large budget to spare, the best and most expensive lodging does not automatically mean that it’s the best fit for you.
There are also different types of accommodations. You have hotels which are the most common ones and any popular spot will sure have numerous hotel choices. There are also apartment rentals or more commonly known as airbnbs. These are locally owned spaces open for tourists to enjoy their stay. Some places also offer dorm type accommodations (bed and breakfast) and hostels which are generally more on the affordable side. Other countries have unique accommodations that they offer tourists like in Japan.
So before you book one, consider the following factors.
First is your destination.
This plays a big role in the quality and quantity of accommodation choices. If you’re going to a tourist spot, rest assured that you will find a lot of good vacation stays in the area. Since these are tourist spots and are popular, you can find blogs to review some of the choices and you can also find good and trustworthy recommendations. If you’re going to a not so popular area, you may find fewer choices. Some countries also offer other different types of accommodations aside from those mentioned above. Also note to factor in safety when choosing your lodging.
Second: What is Your Budget?
The biggest and most important factor is your budget.
You should set aside your allowable expense for lodging to narrow down your searches. It’s good to put an allowance on your budget as to not to restrict your choices too much. Too tight a budget may cause you to sacrifice some factors that could make or break your experience.
Third: What do you need?
Third is amenities and other services offered. Different accommodation types also have different services they can offer so put your priorities on a list.
Fourth: Who are you with?
Fourth is the travel companion (or lack thereof). If you’re a solo traveler, there are a lot of choices for you depending on your preferences. But if you have friends or you’re travelling with a large group, you also have to consider their preferences, the size of lodging, and the price.
Fifth: Where are you going after?
Fifth is your itinerary. It’s important if you’re going to spend a lot of your time in your accommodations or would you be devoting much of your time outside? If you’re planning a chill trip, go ahead and indulge in lodging. You would want to be as comfortable as you can get, right? But if you’re not, then you can opt with a less indulgent one as long as it meets your needs.
Lastly: Do you need English?
Lastly is your language skills. If you’re familiar with the area and the language, it’s an enriching experience to pick a local accommodation and imbibe with them. But if you’re definitely a foreigner in the area, it’s better to pick lodgings with multilingual staff.
How to find lodgings and get the best deals?
Now that you have carefully picked your type of accommodation, it’s time to book one. This part is challenging as it’s not assured that you’ll really get everything you want so it’s better to list what things you can compromise and what are the things you can not. Just make sure that whatever you pick should give you the minimum of your requirements to ensure a good vacation.
One tip in booking accommodations is that you may opt to change. If you’re going in for week-long vacation or longer, you can book an accommodation worth 1-2 days just to make sure that you have a place to stay upon your arrival. You can then ask for local advice or recommendations once you’re there and plan your next steps. This method is used mostly when it’s off season and there are a lot of available lodgings. Aside from that, it allows flexibility especially when you realize that you’re not comfortable or your accommodation was not as you expected it to be. But if it’s peak season, it’s best to reserve your whole stay in advance.
There are a lot of apps and websites now that allow you to find the best deals on accommodations.
If you’re definitely looking for hotels, one way is to look first through their websites and directly inquire regarding their accommodation availability and price range. You can use that to compare with the information you get with websites and apps.
For most travelers under a tight budget, hostelworlds.com is a good place to start looking. It’s present in 178 countries with over 36000 properties and provides affordable hostel options. It’s recommended by many travelers and has good reviews as well.
You can also explore Booking.com which gives you a variety of results in a healthy mix of different types of accommodation although it does not filter according to type preferences so you will need to filter those out. Nevertheless, it gives you a wide range of options as well as a good overview of the cost.
If your destination is in Asia, explore Agoda or Zenrooms. Both have websites and apps you can use to look through options.
Agoda delivers really good and wide search results. It has a very user-friendly interface with search filters to help you narrow out your search results. From personal experience, agoda provides discounts when you sign up for an account instead of using a guest one. As for cost, agoda provides a breakdown and total of your straightforward cost. You can directly book and pay through agoda.
Zenrooms on the other hand is a budding accommodation booking site offering cheap rates but quality stays in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand and is continuing to expand. They also have great search filters that give you a good rundown of choices that can help you compare with other booking sites.
Airbnbs are also very popular accommodations and are chosen by those who love a more local feel compared to other types. The airbnb app provides personal and business booking and verifies user sign-ups. In terms of accommodation exploration, airbnb provides search filters that will help you out in finding what you’re looking for. In the app, you can see reviews and photos of the place and even lets you connect with the owner through the app. You can book accommodations directly through airbnb and all other processes are smooth as well.
Priceline is an interesting site to explore accommodations. It has a visually appealing interface and also easy to navigate. It’s a good accommodation “search engine” although you are not really going to see the best deals in a straightforward manner. More often than not, priceline does not filter by price and you have to manually do that. What makes it interesting is its unique “Name Your Own Price” which lets you cut a deal by offering a hotel price where the hotel can then accept. And another is its “Express Deal” which offers flash deals but the catch is you won’t be able to see the name of the hotel not until you book it.
Trivago and TripAdvisor are more common for accomodation comparison and have external sources such as Booking.com. They also offer options and rates from lesser known booking sites so you are looking at all options possible. Although the downside for these apps is that even though they display all options, they don’t necessarily give you the best deals. But these are good if you’re looking to see multiple hotel deals in one click.
If you’re on a tight budget but you prefer to connect with locals, then you can try Couchsurfing and Be Welcome platforms instead of staying in hostels. These communities provide free accommodations with locals like a cultural exchange. But if you’re staying long-term, you can also opt to try housesitting which is also free accommodation in exchange for work like pet-sitting.