The decision of whether to stay in a hotel or not whilst on holiday is not usually at the forefront of many people’s minds. Most holiday goers will book their flights and then the top recommended hotel without even a second thought as to where else they could stay.
Why are so many of the population failing to remember that there are alternative, cheaper, more immersive and entertaining options available. Or maybe they just haven’t been informed yet. Well in that case, let’s begin.
Hotels: What are you paying extra for? Absolutely nothing.
If you enjoy late night strolls around a resort, listening to a British expat performing Whitney Houston Covers, and fighting other holiday makers for the sun lounger closest to the pool then hotels are definitely for you. Hotels are notoriously safer, and offer heightened security for families with private lockable rooms with en-suits and balcony areas. Great! But this is not the say that the same quality can’t be found elsewhere.
To offer some tangible evidence of what Hotels offer lets look at ibis hotels.
Whilst staying in an ibis hotel I couldn’t fault the breakfast service, the room, or anything else for that matter really. Although, the common area was less of a common area and more of a standard entrance area into the hotel.
Ibis hotels make good on the buffet breakfast and provide you with all your breakfasty needs from cereals to continental meats you’ve probably never thought to eat for breakfast.
This is all well and good you might say, but why oh why am I paying £50 – £100 (or more) a night. One person, one room, one bed, one breakfast, and you are asking for £60. Call me a cheapskate (because I am) but I say this pricing is totally unnecessary!
To be completely fair to ibis hotels, I searched the going rates across 10 countries in Europe, even ‘cheap’ countries and the prices were pretty similar across the board. Ibis hotels aren’t the only offenders of high prices for little in return, Premier Inn, Travel Lodge, Best Western, Hilton, Marriott… You name it, it was all a little too overpriced for me.
In my opinion, if anyone is paying £50-£80 per night, this is the least you should be asking for:
- Blackout Curtains
- Sound Proof Walls
- Breakfast and Dinner
- A fun, free, functioning common room
- Outdoor seating areas
- Comfortable bed and en-suit
- Tea and Coffee in your room
If your paying over £80 for a hotel room then firstly – what on earth are you thinking? And secondly, there had better be a huge heated pool and a sauna with onsite creche for the kiddies to play in.
Hostels: It’s not all doom and gloom
Once you understand that not all hostels are as grubby as they seem in the movies your holiday savings will increase, and your holiday experience will change forever.
Hostels are available in almost every country in the world, and at a fraction of the price of booking a hotel you’d be silly not to consider it. Some of the nicest places I have ever stayed have been hostels costing no more than £13 a night WITH breakfast included. For more information about what staying in a hostel is really like read Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stay.
So, let’s address 3 of the main issues that people talk about when I suggest that they stay in a hostel.
1- “I don’t want to stay with 10 other people with no privacy or bathroom to myself.”
2- “It won’t be a safe environment for the kids to sleep in or to be able to walk around in.”
3- “I’m not sleeping in a dirty room where the sheets are gross and the bathroom smells”
I am happy to report that for the most part I have found none of this hearsay to be true. Read
Overall I have found hostels to be more welcoming, friendly, cleaner, entertaining, and helpful than any hotels I have previously stayed in. Private rooms are always a little pricier, but you get what you pay for after all. Booking is easy with sites like Hostelworld and HostelBookers offering a transparent efficient service to users.
Home Stays: Living like a local
Staying in someone else’s home can feel daunting, especially if the family are still in the vicinity during your visit. Unless you had selfish plans to trash the place there’s no reason to feel nervous at all, provided that you have done your research beforehand.
Whilst in Vietnam we stayed in a host home – accidentally. The family had advertised their home on a hostel site. We were pleasantly surprised as, luckily, we got on well with the family. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and we learnt a lot from the experience.
Whilst some host family / home stays are advertised on the usual hostel sites your best bet is to head over to sites such as Homestay.com or simply type ‘host family stay’ into Google and check out the many country specific results available.
Another option is the increasingly popular Airbnb which offers a wide variety of options depending on your needs. You can rent a whole home, a room, or shared accommodation. The majority of places you find on Airbnb will be self catering, so you will miss out on the luxury meals you are used to at the hotel, but with thousands of yummy restaurants around every corner why not sample the real local cuisine in the streets. This also cuts out all of the moaning about the lack of diversity on the hotel menu.
When booking with Airbnb be sure to tick the ‘whole house’ option if you don’t fancy meeting the homeowners each day. Another mistake we made whilst in Paris was not ticking this. We didn’t mind ultimately, but we did find it strange that the owner was still at the house. That is, until we realised we hadn’t ticked the all important ‘home alone’ button.
Despite any booking errors we may have faced in the past, staying with a host family is always a very enriching experience. I’ll admit that it’s more of a solo traveller / couples travel option, but if children are welcome then why not just book the whole house instead for a fun family experience?
Will you take the plunge?
I think it’s clear to see that I am a hostel kind of girl. Be it a private room, or a communal room, it’s all good to me. Don’t forget to read my blog ‘Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stay‘ for a real insight into why I view Hostels as being the best.
Next time you book your accommodation for your holiday perhaps you may take a step back and consider just how much you could save to spend on enjoying expensive foods or activities, rather than on the £100 room that you could have got for £20 elsewhere.