No, not that kind of sleeping around! I’m talking about regular, old fashioned, lay-your-head-on-a-pillow kind of sleeping. Those of you that thought this would be some kind of salacious, really-get-to-know-Gillian posts will be disappointed ;-)
One of the things I was really worried about before leaving was sleeping in so many different places. I imagined all kinds of sketchy scenarios that included creepy crawly critters, stained bed sheets, foul smells, and paper thin walls. And, while we did encounter each of those, it was never as bad as it had been in my imagination.
Turns out that one of the most difficult parts of traveling around the world is actually finding a place to stay for the night. Oh, there are plenty of rooms for rent, but I seemed to have trouble finding a reliable way to filter through them all and find the best one for us.
I think that searching for a place to stay was one of the biggest tasks I had. I never seemed to find the ‘sweet spot’ of balancing research and finding the perfect place. I tried researching many, many places and then choosing…and I tried only researching one or two places and neither method changed the result. I spent hours cross referencing all the places on TripAdvisor but, even then, still wasn’t confident that I’d made the best choice. It always seemed to be a crap shoot as to whether the place would be good or not.
1. Check The Guidebook
Use a guidebook that caters to the type of travel you’re doing. No point checking Lonely Planet if you’re expecting luxury any more than it’s worth checking Frommers if you’re expecting budget.
We used LP and usually looked at the midrange price options – we may be budget travelers but we don’t need bottom-of-the-barrel. I’ll be honest, it was hit and miss. The descriptions of hotels/hostels seemed to be all over the map. What one writer described as ‘clean, cute and cozy’ was definitely not what I would call any of that. Yet, other times, we found some real gems.
2. Surf Accommodation Sites
We used the internet a lot in researching where to stay. There were a few regular accommodation sites that I would search but, just like the guidebook, I found a lot of variation within and across sites not only with descriptions but also with price.
Here are some of the sites I used:
3. Get Real Traveler Recommendations
This was, by far, the best way to find a place to stay. Speaking directly with other travelers , or connecting with them by email, provided the best information regarding what a place was like and whether we would like it.
After meeting someone, or reading their blog, or chatting by email, we would know a little bit about what they were like. Did they travel in the same style as us or did they flop in dorms all the time? Was their budget twice ours? Or half? Then, when I asked their advice I would know where that advice fit within our travel style.
This was my absolute favorite way of finding a place because all the research had been done for me. I didn’t have to check it out online, or look for user reviews, or worry that we wouldn’t like it. I would just book a night, or just show up, based entirely on the recommendation.
Thank you so much to all that I contacted for advice. I really appreciate that you took the time to get back to me. I always pay it forward and am more than happy to help anyone who contacts me.
Bonus: Get An Apartment If Possible
Many times, if staying longer than 3 or 4 nights, getting an apartment is totally worth it. We had apartments in Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Berlin, Germany. Each time, the nightly cost was a little more than our usual budget for a night but it was worth it to be in a neighborhood and have a kitchen and living room for a few days. We would be able to relax, cook a meal or two, explore a real neighborhood and enjoy quiet evening cocktails. We could really pretend that we lived there and, in each case, we really wished we did!
There are plenty of ways to find apartments – Craigslist probably being the most popular – but we always used an agency. I just felt more comfortable having the buffer of the agency to guard against scams (not that an agency couldn’t scam you either). I found some of the agencies I checked out in the Lonely Planet and sometimes I just googled looking for them.