Book from England, Cookie from America, Feet resting in the Croatian air.
Tip Tuesday time! Last week we talked about how to start thinking about taking an international vacation, adventure, or personal exploration time. That’s full of preferences specific to you-but I can help with some of the more immediate logistics. I’m talking, of course, about where to sleep.
Choosing your sleep location is possibly the biggest choice you have to make. It will affect everything that comes after it: your mood, your openness, the people you meet, and of course, the stories you have to share. Picking where you sleep is immensely important.
The secret to happiness is good socks, good shoes, a good bed, and good company. Or to put it another way, invest in what separates you from the ground.
There are two major factors to consider besides quality of mattress: the privacy you want and the price you are willing to pay. To flip that: the number of people you want to meet and the money you want to save. Different combinations will suit your different moods. Over the course of my 3.5 months, I sometimes wanted people, sometimes wanted privacy, and was occasionally splurged on the location. There are three genres of lodging to pick from, so pull up a chair, grab yourself a drink, and let’ get into the details.
First up: Hotels
Hotel/Resort in San Diego, California
Hotels are the classic, and maybe the first place people think of – but they’re also the most expensive. Sure you can find discount places, motels, et cetera, but consider what you’re paying for. What you get is privacy, cookie-cutter furnishings, and a dedicated cleaning service. The door has a lock, many rooms or hotels have safes, and maybe you get a breakfast. Why are they so popular if they are so expensive? Location. Hotels are usually situated close to attractions, meaning you can get up early, stay out late, and never be too far from a bed or the action. Some even have restaurants, pools, gyms, or other amenities for guests inside them. Certainly those can be perks, but in my book, it’s not worth the markup.
Pros: Privacy, Location
Second topic: Hostels
Hostel in Vienna, Austria
For you Americans in the audience let me make this clear: European hostels are NOTHING like American hostels. My American hosteling experience is best summed up by a place I stayed in Harlem, New York City: A doorman, a key, a bare room with metal beds, thin sheets, and dirty lockers. Technically there was a bathroom. Technically there was security. Overall, though, it wasn’t a place my mother would have been happy to know I stayed. They did serve surprisingly wonderful Banana nut muffins for breakfast, but somehow I don’t think that would have eased my mother’s heart.
European hostels, however:
Hostel in Prague, Czech Republic
Hostel in Prague, Czech Republic
So what is a hostel? Well, it’s dorm-room sleeping. Typically rooms come in 6, 8, 10, 12-person or higher rooms. A room is a space enclosed with walls and usually a single door. Privacy is less than what you’d get at a hotel – but that’s where their perk comes in. Hostels are where you meet people.
I cannot do hostels justice in the space allotted for this post, but let me sum it up for you: In Prague I spent the day with an Irishman, had dinner with six Australians, learned cautionary tales from a pair of English women, shared stories with a pair of Swiss women, spent a night and a day with three Polish folk, an American, an Irish lass, an English woman, and a Japanese sculptor, and spent some three days with a Ukrainian photographer. All of these amazing people I met in hostels.
In Poland I met a French Mathematician and an Argentinian businessman. In Manchester I met three German teachers cum PhD students. And in Germany I met a fellow Pennsylvanian. Sure I didn’t get to spend much time with all of these folks- but I had a healthy conversation with each and spent an extended time with most.
Hostels are about meeting people who want to meet people. I can’t tell you how many invitations I turned down above and beyond the adventures I had with the folks above. There were drinks, restaurants, card games, conversation, late nights in the city- whatever your interest there were folks looking to do it. And I went in the off-season.
A few tips: It’s easiest to sleep in a room with 6-8 people. Beyond that you WILL find folks getting up way earlier and coming in way later. 6-8 usually got me the interaction I sought while maximizing my chances for sleep.
If you’re traveling in a group, many hostels offer 3 or 4-person ‘private’ rooms at the same per-person rate as a 6-8-10 person dorm room, provided you buy the whole room at once. I usually hosteled alone so I didn’t get to try this.
Some cities have female or male-only hostels, if you’re worried about mixing genders. Others divide the rooms in the hostel by gender, and still more just mix. I had equal amounts of fun and sleep in both of the latter two.
Pros: Meet people, do things, pay less money.
Cons: Less privacy, higher chance of sleepless nights.
Last up: Hosts – Airbnb
One of the Airbnb host places I stayed at in Europe.
If you want privacy to the point of seclusion, pick a hotel. If you want interaction at the risk of less sleep, pick a hostel. But what if you want more privacy than a hostel for cheaper than a hotel? Enter: Airbnb.
Airbnb is a space sharing system. Upstanding, insured, and with dedicated customer service, Airbnb is a place where you can rent out or rent up your spare space. Pretty much anything is fair game as long as you present it accurately. Couches, rooms, floors, apartments, houses, trailers, yachts… if a person can sleep there, there’s a fine chance someone has (and lived to leave a review about it). You go online, create an account, prove your identity (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) search for places, and contact hosts. They let you know if their space is available, you book the nights, and then you pay through Airbnb. When you get there no money changes hands. The host’s only desire is to treat you well, and your only requirement is to respect the space and write a review after you go. I love Airbnb.
I’ve had the occasion to use it in California, Missouri, D.C., North Carolina, England, and Germany, and had a great time all but twice. Even the two lesser times were adequate. I think so much of Airbnb I’ve even helped my friend rent out her vacation home on the sea in Croatia. ‘Met some Canadian airline pilots working for a carrier in Hong Kong there, but that’s another story.
Seriously though, Croatia is a beautiful place to spend some time away.
Airbnb is wonderful because you get to stay in a home, close to where you want to be, for 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of a hotel. I cannot emphasize that home aspect enough. Your hosts live in this space, or used to. They maintain it like it’s their own because it is. I’ve found these experiences more welcoming and more informative than I believe any hotel stay would have been, and more private than any hostel. Airbnb, or house shares as I think of them, are a fair middle option.
Socially speaking, it’s comfortably light. In Missouri and Manchester I had barely a conversation with the host past “here’s the key.” But in London I was treated to helpful tips, in Charlotte I was greeted with chocolate cake and shown around town, in San Diego I was offered Salmon under pesto, raspberry lemonade, and Belgian Waffles, and in Freiburg, Germany- Oh, in Freiburg I was accompanied to an opera, raced down the Autobahn, granted mountain and street bicycles, accompanied to a restaurant open only a few weeks in the year, treated to breakfast, and invited to enjoy a special seasonal beverage. Truly, I had a wonderful time.
Like all things you can pay more if you want to. The longest I’ve stayed in an Airbnb space was about a week, but it is possible to do longer stays, especially if you are getting an entire apartment or house. Luxury spaces can get as high as you’d like, with Parisian apartments coming in at thousands of dollars a week. But that said, last I checked I found apartments with views of the Eiffel Tower for around $30 USD per night perperson. That said, I’ve noticed prices trending upwards, so you may find less of a discount as time marches on.
Pros: Privacy, location, price
Cons: A bad host is a bad time
Note: if you sign up through my links (it’s free) both you and I receive $25 travel voucher once you take a trip.
Sunset in Split, Croatia
So where and how do you want to stay? The choice is up to you but the trick is to balance the three: Price, Location, and People.
Hotel: Price $$$, Location: &&&, People: *
Hostel: Price: $, Location: &&, People: ***
Airbnb: Price: $$, Location: &/, People: **
Any questions? Post int he comments and I’ll tell you all I know.
Thanks for reading!