Decide What Kind of Accommodations Suit Your Needs
When it comes to finding the best travel accommodations, I’m of the opinion that one size does not fit all. These days, many socially conscious travelers expound the merits of slow tourism, eco-tourism and other variations of a low impact travel philosophy. At the same time, you have more traditional tourists who want and expect things such as all-inclusive resorts and attractions that fit a more mainstream, American consumer model. Between these end posts are a plethora of tourism styles and, often, people hold to their favorite version of traveling as a matter of principle. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what the best travel accommodations are for you.
Personally, I’m not committed to any single way of traveling and, by extension, to any specific type of accommodation. In general, I am interested in absorbing as much local culture as possible and I don’t usually gravitate toward the most touristy of tourist traps. So, my typical travel plans may not be quite as mainstream as the average American. I consider myself more of a traveler than a tourist, more of a student of the world than a consumer of it. On the other hand, sometimes I just want to have fun for the sake of having fun. If that means going on a cruise, or staying at an all-inclusive resort, then so be it. Different moods and different goals call for different approaches. What defines the best travel accommodations for you may vary from trip to trip, as well.
Have You Tried Couchsurfing?
Staying at someone’s house in a new and distant location is arguably the best way to get to the heart of local life and culture, not to mention save some cash. I’ve done it and it has made for some of my most memorable adventures. The down side is that you may not actually know someone who lives where you want to go. Making friends in far away places can be easier said than done, that may not seem like the ideal way of finding the best travel accommodations. Fortunately, there are ways to make this work. In the age of the internet and, more particularly, social networking, there are now innovative ways to reinvent the idea of staying with a friend.
Couchsurfing has become popular in some circles, especially with young, independent travelers. If you choose to take the plunge into the world of couchsurfing, make sure you are taking all the necessary safety precautions. Saving money is never a good enough excuse to place yourself at risk. Couchsurfing.com provides some practical tips for your safety and is also home to a large network of couchsurfers and hosts.
Full disclosure: I have not used this network, nor do I get a kickback for suggesting them to you. I am simply aware that they are a popular resource and have also read positive reviews from travelers who have used them. Basically couchsurfing is a equivalent of crashing on someone’s couch. These days, though, that someone may be a person you’ve never met before, but connected with via the internet. Needless to say, this requires an adverturious spirit and may not be for everyone.
Are Homestays Your Best Bet?
A step up from couchsurfing is a homestay. It may sound like semantics, but to me, the homestay difference is that it seems more formal and may not skew quite as much toward the younger crowd. With a homestay, you are more likely to go through an agency, also. Homestays are more likely to be with a family. Of course, there is some overlap between these two distinctions. In either case, you are staying in someone’s home. As a result will, hopefully, you will enjoy some insight into your destination that would not be possible by staying at a hotel.
Again, staying in someone’s home means being conscious of safety precautions, but going through an agency can help alleviate such concerns. Not surprisingly, there is at least one network geared toward this type of accommodation, called – you guessed it – Homestay.com. If you think homestays are the best travel accommodation for you, or you are curious to find out, shopping around is still a good idea. If you do a Google search for homestays in your specific destination, you may find local resources to help you out. For example, Green Olive Tours has some options for facilitating homestays in Israel and Palestine.
The Best Travel Accommodations May Be a House or Apartment
Renting a house, or apartment, is another option that also inserts you a bit more into the local culture. I like this option when I know I’m going to be in one spot for a week, or so. It allows you to having a little more of a homey feeling than a hotel. Often, in a residential area you get a better peek into the lives of the locals. Simple things like shopping for groceries, or visiting the corner cafe, may not seem earth shattering. Yet, it’s just these sorts of small, mundane tasks that provide a glimpse of everyday life in a new locale. The two powerhouses of the home rental world are VRBO and Airbnb. These days, finding the best travel accommodations usually means at least seeing what is available on these two sites. I’ve used them both with great success.
My advice is to search both websites before you book your travel. For some locations, I’ve found the house that suited my needs on VRBO. For other locations, Airbnb had the property I liked the most. Comparative shopping is usually wise, just as with other aspects of travel planning. If you’ve never used AirBnB, signing up through my link will get a discount on your first booking. It also scores me a credit toward my next booking, too. To get set up with AirBnB and get $40 off your booking, just click HERE.
Sometimes Hotels Really Are the Best Travel Accommodations
Whatever the merits of staying with a local, or staying on your own, sometimes you just want, or need, a hotel. One consideration when renting a house, or condo, is how well you can negotiate the area you’re in. In places where you don’t know the language, or aren’t as comfortable on your own, hotels provide a good buffer. The staff can help you out a lot. Not only is someone on staff likely to speak English, they can help with recommendations. Hotels provide a fairly consistent, predictable product. In cities, in particular, hotels may place you in better proximity to public transportation.
As much as I like the house, or apartment, option, sometimes a hotel really is the best fit. For short trips, or longer trips where I’ll be moving from place to place, I’m usually looking for a hotel. What type of hotel I’m interested in is usually determined by budget and the purpose of my travel. There are tons of ways to find good deals on hotels. Expedia and Booking.com are good places to start. If you already have a favorite hotel chain, you can always shop properties directly from their website. However, keep in mind that some of the large booking sites may have negotiated discounted rates. I know I keep saying it, but checking multiple sources can save you money.
Going the All-Inclusive Resort Route
If I’m overnighting on a road trip, a cheap and basic hotel suits me. Traveling with my family, spending our evenings in, I’ll want something a little nicer with more amenities. For a romantic couple’s getaway, a cozy bed and breakfast may be just the ticket. Although it’s not often, sometimes I may even want the hotel to be a destination in and of itself. This type of accommodation is not my favorite, but a lot of people love the convenience and amenities.
Finding the best travel accommodations is about what you need, or enjoy. If the best accommodations for your travel destination is a resort, searching for an all-inclusive property has its advantages. Especially throughout the Caribbean, all-inclusive resorts have become a popular option. Whether you’re a couple looking to be spoiled, or a family looking for some activity filled excitement. There are numerous options, but the industry powerhouse is probably Sandals Resorts. Like I said, all-inclusives aren’t my thing, personally, but I know many people who love them. I have family members who primarily stay in all-inclusive properties and they swear by Sandals Resorts.
Weigh Your Options and Shop Around
One size may not fit all, but there is a size for everyone and for every occasion. It’s true, finding the best travel accommodations requires a little leg work. It more than pays off, though, when you are spending your vacation in just the right spot. Don’t be afraid to shop around within a variety of property types. You may unexpectedly save money by doing so. For instance, renting a house is very often cheaper than a hotel. Better yet, you may experience a side of life in your target destination that you would have otherwise missed. Time, place and purpose all play a factor in what options are best. That may very well be different from one trip to the next, even to the same destination.