How We Book Our Travel Accommodations
There are so many websites to help you choose where to stay when you travel. We’re going to tell you about our favorite ways to book where we stay, and when to use each.
Accommodations define your trip
It’s true that accommodations have the potential to make our break your trip. For example, that time I stayed in Mamallena Hostel in Boquete, Panama? It made the trip. I made friends with whom I still keep in touch, I have only good memories of the two day trips to a forest hike and a canyon that the hostel put together with a van full of travelers and I can say I helped make a Friday night dinner for 12 people with a bunch of Israelis. In Israel, our stay at Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv showed us that a hostel can be so awesome that locals come there for rooftop happy hour and concerts. However, in Hong Kong, our second Airbnb host, who was out of the country, didn’t leave us enough instructions for the WiFi nor for unlocking the gate in front of the entrance door, and we thought we had locked ourselves out, with our passports inside.
So, how do you make sure you’ll have somewhere awesome to stay when you go somewhere really far from home?
We book accommodation through three major websites - Hostelworld, Airbnb and Booking.com, and we’ll detail below when and why we use them.
Hostelworld is for when we’re going to a place where we want to meet other people and have events and/or helpful staff available. I’ve been using Hostelworld since 2011 when I was living in Asia. I was always traveling on a budget and my ideal place to stay was a hostel where I could meet tons of travelers from all over the world and stay in a dorm. Nowadays, I also use Hostelworld to get a gist of general accommodation prices in a particular place. Is a dorm bed $60 (NYC, Iceland, San Francisco)? That’s expensive. Is a dorm bed $7 (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Vietnam, Panama)? That’s on the low end. Similarly, we’ve learned to get the same idea based on the cost of a private room, which will run us $35 in Mexico or $120 in Amsterdam.
When to book a hostel
We start by searching for hostels if we know we’re going somewhere that’ll be more fun if we will get more space or perks (a backyard, a kitchen, a restaurant, a bar, events, concert space, bike tours, taxi pickups) by staying in a hostel. La Serrana Hostel in Salento had the absolute best breakfasts, and it was at La Serrana’s campfire that we met a great group of people who became our hiking buddies. In San Jose, Costa Rica, I felt very safe by staying at Pangaea Hostel, at which the security was top-notch, and in Loki Hostel in Cusco, Peru, it was a party every night. Jollyboys Backpackers in Livingstone, Zambia, was where I watched the football world cup with people from all over the world and having a pool was great for beating the heat! Our favorite things about hostels are the ease of meeting other people, the fun social environments and the convenience.
Airbnb is for when we want to have a local experience in a place, usually in a city where we feel comfortable figuring out plans on our own. Our one-bedroom Airbnb apartment in Barcelona allowed us to feel like locals, and when we left for the day in the morning we felt like we could sense what everyday life was like there. Our Airbnb in Vila Nova de Milfontes in Portugal turned out to be one of three rooms that an elderly couple rented out to travelers, and staying there made us feel like we had Portuguese grandparents for a night. In Hong Kong, both our Airbnbs had fantastic locations, and booking through Airbnb’s website lets you look at lots of neighborhoods.
When to book an Airbnb
Booking an Airbnb is for when you want some privacy and quiet, and it also pays to check out the reviews in order to determine if the Airbnb is one room in a larger environment like a hostel or hotel, as hostels and hotels sometimes post rooms on Airbnb.
We started using Booking.com when we started going to smaller locations that had no listings on Hostelworld or Airbnb. Booking.com has listings for hotels, motels and campsites, with prices, ratings and reviews. This being said, Booking.com saved us a few times! We booked same-day and one day before during our road trip in Portugal, when we had no idea where we’d be in two days. We stayed in small hotels in villages and everything turned out fine. In Sri Lanka, we learned that some places have few hostels, but instead, lots of guest houses and bungalows. We booked just a few days before and stayed in a guest house in Nuwara Eliya and two different guest houses in Ella.
When to use Booking.com
I have never used Booking.com on my own like I’ve used Hostelworld when I’ve traveled solo, so I started using Booking.com when Dan and I began traveling together. I’d suggest mainly using Booking.com if you plan to stay in a hotel or if you’re looking for a campsite and you want to compare prices and amenities, as Booking.com really gets into detail when spelling out the different amenities on all the properties. The site is kind of overwhelming, but it’ll help you out and the ratings are useful.
Do you have other sites you use for making accommodation bookings? We’d love to hear, so tweet us or send us a message on Facebook.