There are so many websites to help you choose where to stay when you travel. Depending on what you’re looking for, you have plenty of options for staying in a hotel, hostel or guest house. We’re going to tell you about our favorite ways to book where we stay, and when to use each.
How to find the perfect place to stay on a 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.
After staying at a good hostel in Israel, I can now say that I helped make a Friday night dinner for 12+ people with a bunch of new friends. 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, we had a bad Airbnb host. He was out of the country and didn’t leave us enough instructions for the WiFi nor for unlocking the gate in front of the entrance door. We thought we had locked ourselves out, with our passports inside, and that wasn’t very fun!
BUT, in the Catskills region of Upstate NY, we stayed in the most unique Airbnb property that was a Japanese-style “zen house,” and we never would’ve found anything close to this weekend getaway spot on Booking.com or Hostelworld.
So, how do you make sure you’ll have somewhere awesome to stay when you go somewhere really far from home?
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How to figure out which accommodation type is right
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.
We feel that we don’t get the same level of attention when we stay at a hotel or an Airbnb.
We like the community aspect about hostels when we travel. There are times when we do prefer to stay in a hotel and an Airbnb!
How to book with Hostelworld
We use Hostelworld when we’re going to a destination 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. It’s a good gauge to see the cost of living and what to expect in a new city.
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.
How to book through Airbnb
We like to use Airbnb 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.
This was perfect, considering that we had no plans to be out late, and we had one of the best nights of sleep on our road trip.
In Hong Kong, both our Airbnb apartments had fantastic locations, and booking through Airbnb’s website lets you look at lots of neighborhoods.
It does pay, however, to do your own research about neighborhoods separately.
You can get a sense for the popular neighborhoods by looking at the density of available listings in a certain area. Be careful when doing this research as you might be looking at the least popular accommodations. Do some research!
In general, booking an Airbnb is reserved when you want some privacy and quiet. A good rule of thumb that we have is to check out the reviews.
The reviews tell you a lot of information about the place. We didn’t do our research when we booked a hostel-style room on Airbnb and found out that we had left the box checked for ‘hostels.’ Luckily, we were only there for one day and all we did was cook and sleep.
Use the filters on Airbnb to your advantage. Do you want to be able to cook? Do you need a laptop-friendly work-space? Do you require that the host speaks English? These are ways in which you can filter your results when you search based on dates, number of people and geographic area.
When to book through Booking.com
We started using Booking.com when we found no listings on Hostelworld or Airbnb for the places we were going in Portugal.
We stayed in tiny villages of 4000 people, and due to not having our trip planned (a surprise every day, as we like to say!) we booked each night’s accommodation only one day before.
Booking.com has listings for hotels, motels and campsites, with prices, ratings and reviews. This being said, Booking.com has saved us a few times!
In the Portuguese Algarve region, we stayed in small hotels in villages, and we found them on Booking.com.
In Sri Lanka, we learned that some towns and cities have very few hostels, but instead, lots of guest houses and bungalows. We booked only a few days before arrival and stayed in a guest house in Nuwara Eliya and two different guest houses in Ella.
I have never used Booking.com on my own like I’ve used Hostelworld when I’ve traveled solo.
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.
For some destinations in the US, like Montauk, NY, and the Hamptons, Booking.com is pretty much the way to go, in addition to verifying more reviews of a property on TripAdvisor.
All the info is there, and it’s the one-stop shop for hotels and motels.
One more thing about Booking.com is that the site functions in a way such that it’s a little stressful.
During your search, there are frequent notifications that, “This property is selling out soon!” If this doesn’t bother you, then Booking.com is fine to use.
Find the best accommodations
Wherever you travel, book the type of accommodation that will allow you to enjoy your trip how you picture it.
Are you on a couples getaway? A friends weekend? A long-term solo trip?
Consider how much sleep you’ll want, which type of amenities are ideal and how much your budget permits.
We hope you find accommodation that makes your trip memorable, based on these tips!
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.
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Last updated on January 11th, 2023