You've booked your flights, now you need to figure out where to stay. Some people have told you to just book when you arrive and a quick look online leaves you feeling a bit lost and confused. What's the best way to do this!?
While we don't generally book accommodations, we can help with hotel stays at the airport if you have overnight stopovers or with some other short term stays. We do however have some advice regarding booking accommodations because we want you to have the best possible trip and where you stay will greatly affect this.
Similar to how you've booked your flight tickets, for some people, they'd prefer to have this comfort already arranged for each destination, while others prefer the flexibility that booking from the road has to offer. If everything is pre-booked and you end up having to make changes to some of your travel plans due to unforeseen circumstances or just a desire to stay somewhere for a little longer, you can incur great costs trying to change things. On the other hand, you don't want to spend half of your time on the road trying to arrange the next accommodation or arrive in a city and end up in some dodgy hotel with bed bugs.
Our suggestion would be to pre-book the first few nights in each new location so when you arrive, exhausted from the travelling, you have somewhere to go. Often hotels or hostels will offer some kind of airport shuttle or pickup which also keeps you away from the stress of finding a taxi at the airport who won't rip you off or navigating the public transit in your currently sleep-deprived state. And even if they don't offer this service, they can give you specific instructions or directions to get you there. And as you've only booked the first few days, if you get there and realise you'd rather be in another part of town or someone you meet highly recommends a place down the street that's cheaper, you've not committed to one place for your whole stay.
For Pre-booking accommodations, we recommend that you do as much research as you can. Read Trip Advisor or Expedia to get an idea of how other travellers felt about the place. Bear in mind that anyone can post on these websites so don't take all reviews as gospel and also remember that travellers of different cultures and backgrounds might have a different take on certain things, but you should be able to get a good idea if people would generally recommend a place or not.
Remember that you're not limited to booking through the hotel website and that there are other types of accommodations that are great for travellers. You can use Hotel booking sites, which will sometimes get you a better price, but speak to the actual hotel staff before paying to ensure that the bookings will stand as there are some dodgy websites out there. Whether you stay in hostels or not, Hostelworld.com offers options for hostels as well as hotels, B&Bs and other cheaper types of accommodations, so is always worth a check. You can often book private rooms in hostels for cheaper than a hotel room and other than sometimes having to share a bathroom and sometimes having cooking facilities, these can be just as good as a hotel room for much cheaper. Also consider AirBnB or Couch Surfing as you can get some good options from these websites as well. Bear in mind that anywhere you can get cooking facilities can help reduce the cost of food in some destinations where groceries are much cheaper than eating out. Finally, you can also use a Travel Service, which like us as travel agents for your flights, can be incredibly well informed about the properties they use, and you have someone to contact if things go wrong. These services may cost a little more but they offer a peace of mind for that fee.
ON THE ROAD BOOKING TIPS
Once you're on the road, you'll get into a rhythm with booking accommodations for those nights that you've not pre-booked. Again, you'll want to do your research. Beyond the travel advisor websites listed above, you've got the advantage of meeting other travellers and asking for first-hand advice if you meet someone who's been in a city a while or has just come from somewhere you'll soon be heading. And travellers love sharing and exchanging information about both good and bad experiences. If you're staying in hostels and have found ones you like, ask at the front desk as they may be connected to hostels in other cities you'll be going to and can often book for you at your next stop.
You always have the option of arriving in a city and can walk up and book. It's a more risky option, but it gives you a chance to walk in the door and get a feel for a place and for whether you actually want to stay there, without committing first. Walk-in rates can often be much higher than if you pre-book and you do run the risk of a hotel being full or of you not liking the feel of the place and being back on the street going from hotel to hotel with all your luggage. But you save yourself the time pre-booking accommodations in the last place and you end up staying where you want in a city.
Slightly less risky would be to call or book online ahead of arrival. As with flights, the closer you get to the date, the more risk you take that things will be booked full or that prices might be higher, so it's best to book as early as you can. As soon as you determine you'll definitely be in a certain location, it's worth contacting the hotel and trying to get your booking in. If you're booking online from public computers, be sure to take appropriate steps to protect your personal information.