There’s an art to finding travel accommodation. Here’s how to find affordable and good-quality accommodations when you’re already traveling.
After spending a year traveling with their kids, my friends Claire and Tom really refined their ability to find decent and affordable accommodations.
As Claire put it they had a pretty detailed “accommodation algorithm” that they used whenever they were looking for somewhere to stay. (Like Brad, she’s a math-y sort.)
Finding Travel Accommodation at the Last Minute
When we were in our twenties, Brad and I did a number of cycle touring trips where we didn’t plan ahead at all. We just showed up in a town and hoped that we could find somewhere to stay. That didn’t always work out… but that was just part of the adventure!
However, when you’re traveling with kids, not having a place to stay is extremely stressful. Tom and Claire only had one such moment when their accommodations fell through at the last moment. Their train arrived in Bucharest at 9 pm, and not knowing where they were going to stay was pretty upsetting for their two tired children.
Booking Accommodation Ahead of Time
After a few weeks of traveling, Claire and Tom discovered that booking accommodation at least 6 weeks in advance was necessary.
- They were traveling with children and needed to know that they had a decent place to stay.
- Booking accommodation on short notice meant either paying more or having to stay somewhere not very nice. Six weeks in advance was the best way to get a good price and good quality.
- Most of their traveling was during the offseason. It might be important to book even earlier than 6 weeks in advance if you’re traveling during the popular tourist season.
- Using their accommodation algorithm, they spent about 2 to 3 hours booking a place to stay in each of their destinations. Considering they spent only a week in most locations and were traveling for a year, they spent a considerable amount of time booking accommodations.
- Staying somewhere for a whole week is often cheaper than booking a place for just a few days.
The Travel Accommodation Algorithm
Finding good quality and affordable accommodation while traveling is an art form. Here is Claire and Tom’s accommodation algorithm:
- Neighborhoods: They started by researching neighborhoods. To get the most out of their travel, they wanted to stay in cool and interesting neighborhoods.
- Attractions: Next they looked at the tourist attractions and figured out where those were located in proximity to the neighborhoods, further refining their search.
- Transit: They only looked at accommodations that were within easy access to public transit.
- Amenities: Obviously they needed certain amenities (3 beds, wifi, bathroom, kitchen, washing machine).
- Price: Price was the last thing they used to pick their accommodation. As long as they were booking 6 weeks in advance they usually had a few different options and could stay somewhere affordable.
Claire also offered one more piece of advice, always ask very specific questions about the number of beds and the amount of bedding. Apparently, it’s not always as obvious as it might seem. They had times when there wasn’t enough bedding. And times when a couch (not a hide-a-bed) counted as a bed.