Insider Secrets – Booking Accommodation

Asleep

There’s A Huge Choice Of Places To Sleep

So you have booked your flight for you microadventure and now need somewhere to sleep? Well there is a huge array of options, apps, websites and tricks to finding somewhere to rest your head. Although a good nights sleep isn’t always guaranteed, it is an adventure after all.

I suppose I should have mentioned this first tip when I wrote the insider secrets to booking flights post. Can you plan your adventure so you don’t need any accommodation? Now I’m not suggesting you sleep on the street, although I have slept in airports, railway stations and on a roundabout before to save on a hotel or two. You could take a night flight to your destination and return on another night flight. Although you will be exhausted on your return you wouldn’t have to splash out on accommodation. You may even get some sleep on the aircraft. Some adventures don’t really require a lot of sleep as you are so busy exploring the sites or checking out the bars and clubs.

Sleep in the airport

Some airports are a lot better than others and the website sleepinginairports.net is a great resource and offers advice on where to sleep in various airports around the world. On my travels I have slept for 3 nights in Bangkok’s airport. I’ve spent 19 hours and slept in Krabi airport and 36 hours in Kuala Lumpur airport. In Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur I used the shuttles to go into town during the day and explore and came back to the airport to sleep.

Rent a car then sleep in it.

Some hotels are expensive especially airport hotels but car hire can be a bargain when booked in advance. There are lots of car hire companies who will allow you to stay in the airport car park too. Just pack a lightweight sleeping bag or bivi bag and relax in your hire car for the night. Just ensure you don’t have to buy the car hire companies insurance otherwise it’ll bump the price up.

Go and sleep on top of a hill

There’s a guy called Alistair Humphreys who invented the Twitter hashtag and term #microadventure. Alistair flew to Barcelona and then slept on top of a hill only a short distance away from the city. Alistair had amazing views a great picnic and a free nights sleep. Checkout Alistair’s Video here :- Barcelona Microadventure

Wild Camping

I’m not talking about taking the whole kit and caboodle here just a sleeping bag and a bivi. If the destination is a hot one you can just take a bivi bag. The best places to wild camp are in between towns, on a hill with great views, close to a lake or on a beach. I always head out into the countryside or towards a body of water and although midges can be annoying it’s free.

Take an overnight train

Booking an overnight train is a great way to get some sleep whilst on your way to the next destination. You can do this almost anywhere, spend a day in another location before grabbing the overnight train back too. I did this to travel into the arctic circle in Norway, I took the overnight train from Oslo to Trondheim before taking the famous Northern Railway route to Bodo to see the northern lights. Unfortunately it was overcast and I didn’t see the northern lights but I still managed to have a great adventure. Checkout my post on the Northern Railway journey and the video too! Northern Railway Video.

Sleep in a hotel reception

Whilst cycling across Europe in 2014 I was so exhausted and I smelt a bit like I’d been to a Glastonbury festival I decided to check out some hotels. I explained my adventure to the friendly reception staff that I was on a budget and really just wanted a shower and freshen up. The staff were amazing they let me shower, shave and change for free followed by an invite to get a few hours sleep in the corner of the reception. This got me thinking, I had seen lots of people dozed off in hotel receptions on my previous travels and when I’m working. So why not have a nap in a hotel reception area. I have successfully done this on a few occasions, when I want to visit a destination for a photo walk. I buy a cheap flight ticket to my destination and then wander into a few hotels to check them out before having a nap in a quiet corner.

Sleep next to a hotel swimming pool.

This is so easy to do especially in the tourist hotspots in Europe. I flew to Palma, Majorca to have a weekend away on the cheap. Once I had explored the capital Palma, I jumped on the bus to the nearest resort and wandered into a few hotels. Once I found one I liked I bought a drink and made myself comfy on a sunbed next to the pool.

The mileage varies with this technique as some hotel pools close at night. In popular destinations the entertainment takes place outside but usually you can find a spot. Also there is no problem during the day as hotel staff don’t remember every customer. So relaxing by a pool sunbathing and having a snooze is a great option.

Sleep in a 24 hour internet cafe

This is huge in Japan due to people who either don’t have a permanent residence or can’t get home because they missed the last train. A lot of countries have 24 hour internet cafes where you can grab some sleep.

So we have now actually got to the meat and potatoes booking accommodation.

When I travel I use the Agoda app, I find it easy to use and it gives you a wide choice of places to stay. I first started using this app in Asia when I noticed that the hotel website I wanted to stay at wasn’t secure. As I didn’t want to enter my credit card details in an unsecured webpage I had to find an alternative.

Agoda has a simple search feature where you enter the destination you want to stay and the dates. The app then offers you plenty of options as well as the ability to filter by price and accommodation type. Another feature I like is the ability to pay once you have arrived rather than in advance. There are various cancellation options too.

It is worth opting for a room with free cancellation just in case your plans change but there are also a few great techniques for getting a cheaper price.

Choose your accommodation and leave it in the basket without completing the payment method. You usually will get an email saying you have not completed the transaction and it includes a discount code to encourage you to buy. This doesn’t always happen so I usually only leave it 24 hours and then I will make the reservation. You can use this technique with any online purchase it’s quite effective.

Book a room with free cancellation then keep your eye on the price. If the price falls book a room at the cheaper price and cancel the original booking. A lot of hotels will drop their price on the day of arrival if they have empty rooms, so you can take advantage of this.

Call ahead and speak to the hotel directly

I’ve used this twice and was pleasantly surprised, both times it was close to an airport. I have found a good but short story always helps and most people are sympathetic. I didn’t want to pay £100 for a room before my flight. There were no trains from Blackpool to Manchester airport which would get me there on time for my 7am flight.

I had to check in by 5am so I called a hotel close to the airport and explained that I only needed a room for a few hours and rather than checking out at 12 noon I would be checking out at 4:30 am. (most hotels still checkout at 11 am or 12 pm) I also said I could leave checking in until 11pm and asked if there was anything they could do.

I was very impressed by the response. If I left checking in until midnight and checked out at 4 am I could have 50% off the price. The person on the phone also said that if there was more than 4 rooms vacant when I arrived I could have 90% off. I ended up paying £10 for a room and they gave me a free shuttle to the airport terminal. I caught the last train from Blackpool to Manchester airport and snoozed in the hotel reception until I could check in.

Want a free room upgrade

Adding things like honeymoon or anniversary to your booking will usually get you something extra. Obviously don’t say its your birthday when it isn’t as the hotel sees your passport.

Get a loyalty card or join the club

A lot of hotel chains have a loyalty scheme which offer many benefits. Look for companies that offer a free loyalty card and sign up. Why not sign up to all the free loyalty cards whilst you’re at it because you’ll receive a flurry of discounts and offers.

Everything from a free spa massage to room upgrades are available. You can also do this even if you are booking a package holiday, check whether the hotel you’re stopping at runs a loyalty scheme and sign up. You can usually do this on the hotels website.

Pay with points

You can get a free hotel room just by using your cash back credit card or Clubcard when you shop. If you pay by card in the right stores for your weekly shop then you can save up the points to pay for your hotel. I know people who spend everything on a cash back or an air miles card and get their whole holiday free. You are going to spend the money anyway so by tweaking the way you pay can bring huge benefits.

Hostels

Hostels are a really good alternative and provide everything you need plus a few new friends. Mention the word hostel to someone who hasn’t stayed in one and you tend to get a negative response. However gone are the days of dirty uncomfortable places which are situated at the back of beyond.

Today hostels are clean comfy and friendly, they also are situated in the heart of your chosen destination. I was looking for somewhere to stay in Oslo and when searching the interweb I couldn’t believe how expensive accommodation was. That was until I discovered the Anker hostel situated next to the Anker hotel.

The Anker was well run clean, warm and most of all cheap. You do have the option of having a private room in most hostels. So if you need your privacy then do a little research in advance. Couples or families are well catered for and again most hostels have family and double rooms. These are a little bit more expensive than being in a dormitory but are still cheaper than a hotel.

Ensure you take a padlock as most hostels have lockers for your stuff. Having your own towel and some wet shoes are also a good idea. You can join the Youth Hostel Association to take advantage of deals but it’s not compulsory as most hostels take bookings directly. Also the word youth has actually been dropped from the term youth hostel as anyone is allowed to stay in them.

Airbnb

Airbnb offers lots of choices were you can stay, with a family in their spare room or book your own private house for 6 months. I wrote an article on my own Airbnb experiences you can read it here. My Airbnb Experience.

Airbnb has an app that’s useful when you are on the move and works great on a mobile phone. If you are doing your research at home then the website is a good place to start. Ensure you read the reviews and do your research as some properties advertise on Airbnb to avoid having to comply with fire regulations.

Couchsurfing

The sharing community has taken off in recent years and couchsurfing.com is on the forefront of this movement. The idea is you stay with someone for free and you reciprocate for others when your at home. Checkout the website for more details. couchsurfing.com.

House sitting

Look after someone’s home, plants and pets whilst enjoying free accommodation. House sitting is a great way to spend time in a local community and gives you a different perspective on your destination. The majority of the properties are of a very high standard and usually in an affluent area of town. Checkout trustedhousesitting.com for more details.

Boat Sitting.

Similar to house sitting but with a more nautical theme. Spend your holiday on a boat. The UK alone has over 2000 miles of canal network and boat life is an amazing experience. You can stay on a narrow boat or sail a yacht halfway around the world. There some great benefits for both owner and sitters so it’s a good alternative to renting a boat. sign-up for more details at trustedboatsitters.com

Volunteering

There are hundreds of opportunities to help around the world whilst enjoying free accommodation. Whether it be fruit picking, teaching English or helping the needy.  Woofing which is working on organic farms is a popular choice. Search for volunteering opportunities on the internet will bring up some promising results.

Booking Apps

If I had a £1 for every app that was available for booking accommodation I could travel forever. There are so many choices it is sometimes difficult to know which one to use. I would recommend using more than one so you can compare price but here are a few I use on a regular basis.

AGODA

This is a clean-looking app which is easy to use and provides a good selection of choices. You can login using Facebook but I suggest using an email address because you will receive offers and discounts via email.

The main screen is a simple search query, you just enter the area you are visiting and your dates. You can type a specific hotel name in the search box too, so if you have somewhere in mind you can check on the price and availability. There is also a filter area where you can narrow your search by star rating, price and based on customer reviews.

Once you have your search results you can have a list view or map view. I use the map view to pinpoint the hotels location and to see how close public transport hubs are. (see where to stay). You are able to change what currency you see the prices in, I would suggest you pay in the currency of the country you visit that way you take advantage of the exchange rate. Take into account that local taxes and tourism taxes may not show up in the search results, you can change this in the price display settings.

You can view the hotel information by selecting it and this gives you an expanded view. There will be photos of the property as well as a favourite button so you can make a shortlist. The review section is worth a read but I always take these with a pinch of salt as everyone’s experience and expectations are different. I sometimes book 1 night if I’m unsure, I can then extend my stay if I like the property or find another close by if not.

Below the reviews will be your room choices and any other bookables. This is followed by a similar property section which allows you to see other properties close by quickly. You can ask the hotel questions, see all the property facilities, what languages they speak, check in & check out times, important information , where the nearest airport is, hotel policies and even a hotel description.

AGODA have put a lot of thought into this app and it works well. I havent done a full review of this app as there are a lot of useful features as well as a loyalty points scheme. Why not download it here:- AGODA app from the Play Store

Trip Advisor

This is the biggest review website on the internet today however it’s also possible to book accommodation via this app.  This app has a lot of areas to explore and includes hints and tips of things to do in your chosen location. It has a lot more information than most other apps which can make it slow. I would use Trip Advisor during my research phase to checkout potential places to visit. When booking a room via Trip Advisor it will redirect you to another company to complete the transaction.

Google Maps

I have been a contributor to Google Maps for seven years now and it has changed tremendously in that time. You can view your destination in maps and see places to stay. Pop “accommodation” into the search box and you’ll be given a vast choice of places. Booking is also very easy through Google maps, below the map you can add your dates and be taken to various booking websites.

Stay in the heart of the city

Booking a cheap motel on the outskirts of Paris or Venice is great but when you add in the cost of getting to the sites you might as well have stayed right in the heart of it all. You will also be able to wander the streets when it’s quiet as the hordes of people who are staying on the outskirts will have to travel back to their hotels. Also ensure you are fairly close to transport hubs as this will save you in taxis or a long walk.

There are quite a few options to choose from when you want to get some sleep and I hope I’ve got you thinking about some potential places. The main thing is to get out and have an adventure and these adventures don’t have to cost a lot of money. You can have a weekend in Barcelona for less than a pub lunch. Enjoy!


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About John Holt

John Holt has worked in the travel industry for over 14 years and comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor for his practical and candid talks on travel destinations. Spending 18 months as a "Local Interest Specialist" for a leading tour operator John has become known as having more practical information than Google.

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