After two years full of everchanging travel restrictions, the time has finally come for the world to slowly open up again. Countries around the world are lifting entry requirements and local measures, welcoming intercontinental travelers. We’ve seen this positive news as a sign to start planning new adventures, abroad and even intercontinental! We’re dusting off our backpacks and other travel gear and warming up the travel planning muscles. For us, this always raises the question: how will we make the most of our travel budget? You might recognise this, but your travel budget skills are going to be a bit rusty after all this time, right? That’s why we thought this is a good time to create a series of blogs full of travel budget tips. In this second of three blogs: accommodation budget tips!
Accommodation budget tip 1: where you stay defines what you pay
The way you choose to travel means a lot for the costs. We mentioned how your choice of transportation impacts your travel budget in the first blog of this series on how to make the most of your travel budget. And once you get there, the truly fun research starts, at least in my opinion: where will you stay?
Hostel, hotel or apartment?
We’ll touch on camping just below, but other than that the main choice will be between hostel, hotel or apartment. A quick overview of the pros and cons for each:
|Hostel||Most budget, especially for solo travelers staying in dorms. Double private rooms can also be quite affordable depending on your destination.|
Most social option! Easy to meet new people.
Usually cooking is possible in a shared kitchen
|Less comfortable and private|
|Hotel||More luxury, comfort, privacy and service||More expensive per night than hostels|
No options for cooking means you’ll have to eat out every night, which is usually more expensive than cooking
|Apartment||You can cook in a kitchen or kitchenette, which means you can save on food expenses||Often more expensive per night, comparable to hotels. Works mostly if you’re staying longer in one place, or you’ll have to carry kitchen basics (oil, salt, pepper, etc.)|
When in Europe, your most budget accommodation option will most often be to opt for camping. In some countries such as Scotland or Norway, wild camping is even legal, meaning you’ll be able to stay somewhere for free if you’re willing to go without a shower and a toilet for a night or two. If you choose to go to a regular campsite, prices in Europe can vary quite a lot. Your usual camp site in Italy will be about twice as expensive as similar quality ones in France, which we’ve found to be the most budget-friendly and easiest country for camping in Europe. The country has municipal campgrounds (search for ‘Camping Municipal’) starting at less than €10 per night for a tent and two people. Quality can vary quite a lot though, so read some reviews before you go anywhere.
For our Dutch readers, we recommend using ACSI Eurocampings to find small, affordable camp sites away from the crowds!
Of course you’ll have to take into account the stuff you need to go camping. From basic to comfortable, you’ll always be spending at least a few hundred euros on a tent and other necessary camping gear. But if you’ve got the stuff or are willing to make the investment, camping will definitely be your cheapest option per night.
Accommodation budget tip 2: off season = on a budget
Of course peak season is usually peak season for a reason. You’ll get the best weather and yearly festivities, but you’ll also be paying the most for your accommodation. Opting for the mid season or off season to visit a place can save tons on accommodation costs. Sure, in some places this is not to be recommended, but others are perfectly fit for off season travel. This winter, we spent two weeks in Southern Spain completely off season, as you can see on the photo 🙂 We enjoyed the lack of crowds everywhere, and saved a lot on our stays. One of the apartments we booked was €59 per night for us, whereas the peak season price would have been €129 per night! An easy way to save €140 in two nights, right?
Within the season, prices can vary too. If you’re looking for a long weekend getaway, compare weekends and even compare which days to add to the weekend to see which is your cheapest option. Most major booking sites will have an ‘I’m flexible’ option to see what the prices are like up to two days before and after your chosen dates. You’ll be surprised by the money you can save with just a little flexibility!
Accommodation budget tip 3: overwhelmed by options? Zoom and be selective!
In your average major city, booking sites such as Booking.com or Airbnb.com offer countless options for accommodation. There’s often so much to choose from that it’s hard to decide which place fits your needs best! Don’t be afraid to be more selective in terms of budget and facilities. But most importantly: did you know that you’re missing out if you don’t zoom in on the maps of all the possible accommodations? The further you’ll zoom, the more accommodations will pop up seemingly out of nowhere, that didn’t quite make the cut for the zoomed out view. Look at the example for Paris; so many more options pop up when you zoom in, even down to street level! Try this, in combination with a little more selective searching, and you’re guaranteed to find the perfect option in any city.
Accommodation budget tip 4: book where it’s cheapest
Once you’ve found your intended accommodation or are left with a few options, be sure to check between different sites to see which has the cheapest offer. Between Booking.com, Airbnb.com, any other booking site or the website of the accommodation itself, there might be a surprisingly large price difference. Another easy way to save some money, which adds up in the end!
If you’re looking to make friends with the owner, always be sure to book directly, even if you found the accommodation through a third party website. The accommodation will get to keep all the revenue, instead of having to pay a percentage to the booking site.
Accommodation budget tip 5: B is for budget
Staying in an A-location is perfect for many reasons, but can hurt your budget quite a bit. It’s worth considering which is more valuable; spending more on central accommodation to be closer to all the highlights, or saving on accommodation in a B-location and spending a bit more time and some money to get to the tourist hotspots. Let’s say you’re looking to visit Lake Bled, one of Slovenia’s absolute highlights. There are hotels right by the lake, but maybe it’s worth choosing an option a bit further away near Lake Bohinj. Both have all the properties necessary to be called a lake, but the one near Bled seems to get all the attention…
Accommodation budget tip 6: stay somewhere in return for a helping hand
Here’s a tip we’ve not used ourselves, but fits a certain kind of traveler. If you’re the type of traveler that has all the time in the world, and you’re looking to extend your budget, there are numerous platforms, communities and websites that list places that offer accommodation (and sometimes food) in return for some type of work. Think of hostels and farms that need a few extra helping hands and are willing to offer you a place to stay in return. One of the websites we’ve heard about, that seems to list tons of options all over the world, is Workaway.info.
These tips can help you make all the accommodation considerations on your upcoming trip! In part 3 of this blog series on how to make the most of your travel budget, we’re looking at activities. Stay tuned!
Kirsten & Thomas