After spending a year travelling with their kids, my friends Claire and Tom had really refined their ability to find decent 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 Accommodation at the Last Minute
When we were in our twenties, Brad and I did a number of backpacking trips and 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 travelling 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 in Bucharest. Their train had arrived 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 travelling, Claire and Tom discovered that booking accommodation at least 6 weeks in advance was necessary.
- They were travelling 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 travelling was during the offseason. It might be important to book even earlier than 6 weeks in advance if travelling 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 travelling 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 Accommodation Algorithm
Finding good quality and affordable accommodation while travelling is an art form. Here is Claire and Tom’s accommodation algorithm:
- Neighbourhoods: They started by researching the neighbourhoods. To get the most out of their travel, they wanted to stay in cool and interesting neighbourhoods.
- Attractions: Next they looked at the tourist attractions and figured out where those were located in proximity to the neighbourhoods, 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 more 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.
If you want to read more about Claire and Tom’s adventures, check out their other posts.
- Taking a year off to travel
- Homeschooling while travelling
- What it’s like to spend a year backpacking with kids