Arranging accommodation is one of the important parts of your travel planning. No matter how exciting is our journey, we need places to sleep and relax for our bodies. Animals can just lay on the ground and sleep, but we are not like them. We need something more, and only in this way, we can be ready to proceed traveling. Various people have various requirements for their accommodation, and in many cases arranging it is not so simple. So, let’s get into more details and useful tips about this matter.
About the places to sleep
In general, when we want to arrange our place to spend the night, we look for three things: comfort, convenience, and price. The perfect situation (at least for many people but not everybody) would be to sleep in a “palace”, in a perfect location for (almost) free, if possible. But while this is a difficult achievement, we usually have to look for something balanced.
Finding places to sleep is closely related to our travel style. For some people relax in a luxurious hotel is an important part of their trip- with its swimming pool, massage rooms, romantic dinner in a restaurant with beautiful views. In this case, the hotel or resort is not just a place to spend the night, but an important destination like all other destinations on their route.
But for others- mainly backpackers or adventure explorers, the accommodation is not a destination. It is just a place to spend the night (at least to provide some relaxation in safety) and nothing more.
Anyway, no matter what is your travel style, it is always good to include your accommodation in your travel checklist.
Types of accommodation
So, there are various ways to spend the nights today, depending on the traveler’s preferences, traveler’s budget, and traveler’s itinerary. Some of these ways are well-arranged by people in the tourism industry, while other ways are more exotic, often arranged by the traveler.
Luxury hotels or resorts
The idea of luxury hotels and resorts is to be used not just for spending the night, but mainly for relaxation. And not just for relax, but for relaxing like a king. They make everything possible to make tourists (their clients) feel like kings.
The hotel and resort owners try to arrange their properties in the places with the best views. Rooms are luxurious, perfectly clean, spacious, with luxurious furniture, usually in an apartment-style. They make glamorous restaurants, bars, sauna, swimming pools, playgrounds, various places for entertainment, and many other facilities and “king’s” services.
Depending on the level of luxury, these hotels and resorts are ranked by the number of stars. If they have more than 4 stars, they are considered luxurious or splurge. By standard, the highest rank is 5 stars, but there are some exceptions like Burj Al Arab in Dubai, made for millionaires.
Needless to say, the luxurious hotels and resorts are very expensive, and obviously, they are proper only for rich tourists. Prices are normally from 200-300 USD per night and above, in some exclusive cases reaching several thousand US dollars. If you absolutely must stay in luxury on your vacation, consider looking into hotel loyalty programs, such as Marriott Bonvoy.
Pros: Extremely comfortable, convenient, and perfect for relaxing
Cons: Very expensive, and useless for a too-short visit
Cheap hotels and resorts
These are properties that are ranked from 1 to 3 stars. They can be used for “more normal” relaxation, not “like a king”, but more or less comfortable for spending a longer time. But also, they are normally used for just spending the night and nothing more.
Their rooms are smaller, with a small bathroom-toilet, and modest furniture. Usually, they have a small restaurant or just a canteen, as well as some other facilities, sometimes including even a swimming pool. If they are resorts, they usually consist of modest bungalows.
These properties still can be located in good places- places with nice views or just places with a convenient location, unless the best location is already occupied by something luxurious. And of course, they are cheaper and proper for budget travelers. Prices are normally between 100-200 USD to less than 15 USD per night.
Concerning the cheap hotels and resorts, sometimes you can expect dirty sheets, bugs, old and rusty water pipes in the toilet, broken furniture or other deficiencies, but if you are a traveler and want just to spend the night in safety, you’d better don’t be too pretentious and don’t let these things to destroy your day. Again, such a hotel is not a destination and a goal of your journey.
Pros: Proper for just spending the night, even for a few hours. Cheap.
Cons: Sometimes not so comfortable and not so clean.
The main differences between hostels and hotels are that hostels usually offer bigger rooms with many beds that are usually double-deck, and toilets are shared. Nevertheless, many hostels still offer hotel-type of accommodation (private rooms with private toilets), at hotel prices.
At the same time, hostels are usually much more colorful and attractive. They are designed for adventurous travelers and tend to be places where travelers meet and share their experiences, or just spend a nice time together. For this purpose, you can often see hostels designed to create an “adventurous” atmosphere, local traditional decoration, with cozy bars, and full of local travel information written on hanging paper sheets.
Normally, hostels are cheaper than hotels (unless you use their “hotel” parts)- you just pay for a bed. Again, they are made for meeting new travelers, share your travel experience with them, or just spending the night. Prices can vary between 5 and 30 USD.
Pros: Excellent travel adventurous and geographical atmosphere with a lot of information. Opportunity to meet new traveling friends. Cheap.
Cons: Not enough privacy. Sometimes too noisy.
Chalets have most of the hostel’s features. The main difference is that chalets are usually built in the mountains or other places out of the cities. Their main purpose is to serve as shelters for hikers, but of course, other people also can sleep there, if there is a paved road to them.
The rooms in the chalets are usually arranged like in the hostels, but often with a canteen instead of a restaurant or a bar. Some of the chalets are reachable only by hiking, while there are paved roads to others of them. And like the hostels, chalets are usually decorated for creating an adventurous atmosphere.
There are variations of chalets in different parts of the world. Some of them are more like cabins or lodges, while others- more like cottages or even hotels. They originate from the Alps, but during the last 100 years have spread mainly around the mountains in Europe and the Americas.
Pros: Good shelters in the mountain, opportunity to meet new traveling friends, cheap.
Cons: Not enough privacy. Sometimes conditions are too basic.
Guesthouses are like small hotels. However, they don’t reach the level of luxury of the splurge 4, 5, and above star hotels. Usually, they have fewer rooms than a normal hotel, and the rooms with toilets and bathrooms are private.
Many of them offer facilities like small restaurants, bars, and swimming pools. The main difference from a hotel is that guesthouses allow you to dive better into the local culture and life. You have much more opportunities to talk with their hosts, to see their daily life, even to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with them.
Guesthouses are usually cheap, like the cheap hotels, although not like the cheapest ones.
Pros: Comfortable, cozy. Provide better opportunities to meet local people. Cheap.
Cons: Sometimes can be noisy.
Airbnb and homestays
In general, this is to live in someone’s home, although Airbnb is a system that can be used for guesthouses and lodges too. At the same time, many homestays around the world are not a part of Airbnb.
So, you just live in a normal home, with or without the host. In this way, you go even closer to the local people’s life, especially if the host is there too. You can become friends, you can have dinner together, you can see how your host spends the day, and you can learn a lot about the place that you visit.
Homestays are usually cheap, including those that are joined the system of Airbnb. However, some Airbnb properties can be quite expensive- more than 150, even 200 USD per night. It is usually when their host makes the apartment very special and luxurious, or when it is not an apartment, but a kind of luxurious Airbnb guesthouse.
Pros: An opportunity for a closer look at the local people’s daily life. Cheap.
Cons: If the host is there, privacy may be limited.
This can be an exotic form of accommodation. Most of the world religions have buildings like monasteries, churches, mosques, or temples. And many of them provide some places to sleep, in the form of small hotels or guesthouses. Almost always they require some payment from the travelers.
However, these are religious sites, and everything there is more or less involved in the local religion with its requirements. Usually, you have to be silent, you have to wear proper clothes, and in general, you have to follow or at least respect the local customs.
Most of the religious sites allow people that don’t belong to the same religion to sleep there, but sometimes they are not as privileged as the people of the same religion who can be pilgrims. And finally, if you have a certain form of faith that is different than the religion of the place you are going to sleep, you have to consider it too.
Pros: This is an interesting way to dive into the local culture. And it is cheap.
Cons: You have to respect the local rules, even if they could make you feel uncomfortable, and if there is a difference between your faith and the local religion, you have to accept it.
Alternative sleeping options
There are some ways of spending the night that can be a bit weird or exotic, but they have their unique features for a unique experience. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Couch Surfing. This is a powerful platform that allows you to sleep in other people’s homes. You join the platform and get not only the opportunity for accommodation but also to participate in local events and meet new friends. Website: Couch Surfing.
- Home exchange. In this case, you have to be a homeowner, because this is what home exchange means- you sleep in someone’s home, then this person should freely sleep in your home. Websites: Home Exchange, and Home For Exchange.
- Volunteering. This is an opportunity to pay for your accommodation by work instead of money. The problem is that in many cases working would require a longer stay in one destination, so it is proper for slow travel. Websites for volunteering: WorkAway and WWOOF. You can see a good example in this volunteering story in Guinea, Africa.
- House/Pet sitting. In this case, you sleep in someone’s home, but in exchange, you care about the owner’s house or pets. Again, this usually requires even slower travel than in volunteering. In other words, you have to think about the house you sleep in as your long-term “base camp”. Websites for House/Pet sitting: Trusted Housesitters.
- Squatting. This is a bit adventurous- you find a building or another construction and sleep there without the need to inform the owner (if there is such). Website: Squat the planet.
Sleep as a local’s guest
This form of accommodation is when you just go somewhere and sleep in someone’s home. For example, you reach an off-the-beaten-path village and can’t find any hotel or other traditional accommodation. But you meet the local people, ask them about possible places to sleep, make friends with them and one of them invites you to his home.
It can also happen in some more adventurous places like local nomad’s yurt (in places like Mongolia or Kyrgyzstan), or a wooden hut in the jungle of Amazonia.
Needless to say, this is maybe the best way of all to dive into the local culture and people’s daily life. Normally, you don’t need to pay anything, but it would be goodwill to give them something- not necessary money, but a gift, a help, or at least anything nice that could be proper for them.
Pros: The best way to dive into the local culture and daily life.
Cons: It is unpredictable.
Camping and other forms of free sleeping
This form of spending the night gives you freedom. Like the snails or turtles, you “bring your house” everywhere with you and sleep (almost) wherever the nightfall comes. You don’t need to hurry for a hotel in the daylight, and don’t need to make any reservations.
The only thing you need is to bring the thing that you will spend the night. And it can be not only a tent. It can be just a shelter, a sleeping bag, a hammock, your car, or a campervan.
However, not everything is great and perfect in this form of accommodation. Bringing a tent usually requires a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad too. It can make your luggage heavy. If you bring only a sleeping bag, you can be too unprotected.
Besides, there are places where you are not allowed to sleep, like city parks, national parks with restrictions. There are also dangerous places- people or animals with bad intentions could harm you. Cars and campervans provide better protection, but again, you can’t go everywhere you want.
You can also sleep in public places- railway stations, airports, bus terminals, or seaports while waiting for the next route in the morning. It is not so comfortable (although there are some cabin-type hotels designed in some airports recently), but at least you can sleep in safety for free.
Sleep while traveling
Finally, you can sleep just while you travel. You can sleep in a bus, in a train, on a plane, or a ferry. Many overnight routes provide sleeping opportunities, like sleeper buses or trains. In the evening you sleep in one place, and in the morning you wake up in another place.
It is the same in the airplane, although usually, the economy class is not so comfortable. If the train or the bus is not sleeper type, it would be not so comfortable too, but in some cases, we can accept it for one night, if we don’t have another option.
Probably the best way of sleeping while traveling is on a cruise. Today, many cruise ships are designed like hotels. But of course, this type of traveling and sleeping is usually expensive.
With so many options to sleep, you can easily arrange your journey, according to your traveling style and your budget. If you are looking for budget traveling, as cheap as possible, there are enough opportunities. Some of the ways of accommodation require a reservation in advance, or just a “Plan B” if the properties are full, while other ways just require smart organizing. But in any case, arranging your accommodation well is crucial for your unforgettable and happy journey!
Check some travel books about planning a trip!
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.