Sunsets, the wind through your hair, a chilled bottle of rosé, not checking your emails for two weeks — these are the things that might just cross your mind when you’re thinking of running away to Budapest or Tulum. But as your well deserved trip inches closer, one major question looms large: Where to stay? You’ve got more options for lodging than ever before, from time-tested to a little off the grid – the trick is to pick the abode that suits the journey.
Reliable & Balanced
For many of us, the prospect of staying in a hotel has at least one major advantage: You know what to expect. This is the option with the most creature comforts, from the continental breakfast to the free coffee to the package service. That sense of security and familiarity can be a real boon when you’re not a seasoned traveler (if you know how to check in to a hotel in the States, you know how to do it pretty much everywhere), or when you’re on a foray that requires a little more focus.
If you’re on a business trip or traveling abroad with your family for the very first time, for instance, the conveniences of a hotel and knowing that staff is always on-hand to ease you through any issues that arise (or recommend popular local spots) can be invaluable. And though hotels don’t win the cost-comparison contest, you’ll save on included amenities like toiletries, printing and access to the gym or the pool (plus the aforementioned coffee and breakfast). Certain travel-oriented credit cards may even offer rewards points to offset the costs.
In terms of price, it comes as no surprise that you’re looking at the most expensive lodging option on the list. According to 2019 estimates from Skyscanner, the average hotel cost in Europe ranges from about $50 per night in the most affordable countries to well over $500 a night during a peak tourist season in some of the more popular destinations.
Quirky & Personal
In the battle of Airbnb vs. hotel, Airbnb claims an easy victory in terms of square footage for your dollar, euro or yen. As Quartz reported in 2016, you can often rent an entire home on Airbnb for the price of a hotel room in the United States, and you’ll find similar situations worldwide. That often makes this an ideal space for a big group, or for those trips where you truly need a home away from home. If you’re off to write your screenplay or taking an introspective sabbatical, a cottage with some lived-in character might be farther away from the tourist traps, and that may just be richer soul food than a by-the-numbers hotel.
While an Airbnb potentially offers lots of character, charm and seclusion, you won’t be getting any amenities or services, and you’re expected to clean the place up before you check out. Be aware, too, that some hotspot cities have tough restrictions on Airbnb, which may limit your options.
Affordable & Adventurous
Writing for Medium, photographer, travel writer and editor of Pilgrim magazine, Hayli Nicole, really puts a neat bow on it: “If I’m on a photography assignment [...] or playing tourist in a new city where the only things I really need are a bed to crawl into and access to a shower, I’m going to cut costs by booking a hostel.” And we can’t mention hostels without mentioning the price – we’re talking $20-ish rates here, sometimes with a meal pass included.
Leave the idea of privacy behind and imagine staying in a trendy dorm. If you can handle that, the extreme cost-savings of a hostel are officially an option. And, as Nicole notes, when your trip is more about impulsive escape and taking in as many sights in one day as possible, that money might be better spent on taxi fare and espresso. That goes double if you’re a seasoned explorer, on a backpacking trip or traveling with a group (especially as hostels won’t win the safety trophy in the “hostel vs. hotel” debate).
Hostels aren’t just about cutting corners, either. If a dozen strangers gathering round the same table to share kimchi or the notion of meeting a lifelong friend on an impromptu karaoke trip lights up your eyes, hostels are more than worth a look. While Airbnb can provide a more private pied-à-terre and hotels host your standard bars and restaurants, hostels offer far and away the most communal experience for those of us who travel on the wings of a social butterfly.
About the Author: Dan Ketchum
In addition to owning a small business, Dan’s experience spans from fashion to teaching to mixology and bar management. In the food world, he’s collaborated with the likes of Kellogg’s, JIFF and Kroger, with his work appearing in publications such as Civilized Life, GlobalPost Food, LIVESTRONG Food and Drink, and ModernMom Food, among others. Dan has been a freelance writer since 2009.
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