Booking Accommodation In Europe
At first, I thought booking accommodation in Europe would be a daunting task.
Most of our travel experiences thus far have been in Asia. The beauty of travelling to Asia, is once you get there, most things are quite cheap, accommodation included.
And although accommodation in Europe was more expensive then Asia (to be expected), in most parts, it was not as expensive as I thought.
So we can keep the case study clear, we will share our experiences and results from Italy.
Other countries we are visiting include, France, Greece and Turkey. For France and Italy, it will be just Chris and I, so the results you see here are based on two people travelling.
Although we don’t discuss France here, we found it to be similar to Italy in terms of accommodation. Greece and Turkey were a bit different, as we travelled with Chris’s family, so we booked a mixture of apartments/houses and individual hotel rooms. I’d recommend booking ahead for the Greek Islands as they can get expensive, but Turkey was reasonably priced (it was booked well in advance though).
For this trip, we were definitely on a budget. We wanted to keep accommodation down to less then $150 per night for the both of us, but preferably less then $100 per night if we could. We chose not to stay in hostels, as we would rather use sites like airbnb and stay with local people or within local homes, at great rates. Other times we have opted for hotels. And in one stop in Italy (Rome), we were able to use staff rates, as Chris works at a hotel for his full-time job.
Spotlight on Italy
In Italy we are staying in these locations:
- San Gimignano
- Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore
The Most Expensive Places
Two places that stood out to me as being expensive, were the Amalfi Coast and Venice. I presume because they are very touristy, and smaller in comparison to other tourist areas e.g. Rome, therefore less options.
I found it disheartening that the options were not just more expensive, but the value doesn’t seem to be there. A room here for 200 AUD might be very basic, where in other places you can get great value for this amount of money.
We looked at airbnb, booking.com, venere.com, just google searching bnb’s (which actually turned up some great results, but most were sold out!).
If you are going to these places, or destinations similar, my only advice is to book ahead. You will pay the price for where you are, and I’d much rather pay it than not go. But you will get much more value for your money the earlier you book. We started looking about 2 – 3 months in advance. I would say start looking from at 3 – 6 months in advance if you want the best deal. I’m basing this on the fact that a lot of the cute bnb’s that looked charming and were less expensive, were mostly sold out by the time we started looking.
Booking Sites We Searched
Firstly, I want to say that I really enjoy looking for and booking accommodation. I feel like I’m already there, like the holiday has already begun. So I tend to do a little more research/looking around different sites then your normal person. Secondly, as this was our first time to Europe, I wanted to test out different booking sites as I didn’t know what worked best for Europe. But if you have a website you know and love, you could use that and one other to compare, and that would be fine.
So, here is a list of websites I used to research/compare:
- Trivago/Hotels Combined: I use these just to compare and get a feel for what’s available for what price. I use it if i get stuck, or if I have decided on a hotel say, on booking.com, I’ll come here to check the price compared to other websites.
- Agoda: I always check Agoda as they are partnered with Sinagpore Airlines frequent flyer program (any opportunity to earn points). Although Agoda is most known for Asia bookings, it has some great options in Europe, although more limited. So unless you love Singapore Airlines, if you are only looking at one or two sites, I wouldn’t choose Agoda for Europe.
- Expedia: After reading a review of Expedia on Nomadic Matts Travel Site, where he found they weren’t as expensive as he thought, I gave Expedia a go. I was actually surprised, as they did have the best price for some hotels. But I found booking.com had more options, and because of this you could often find a cheaper hotel that weren’t listed elsewhere.
- Jetsetter: I love the collection of curated hotels they have. They are more expensive hotels, but great finds if you have the budget!
- Mr and Mrs Smith: They have a great collection of boutique hotels, usually on the pricier side, but always quality finds.
- Venere.com: Hadn’t used this site before, but it seemed to offer some alternate options that other sites didn’t.
Booking Sites We Booked Through
This website had so much range and variety. Without meaning to, we ended up booking all “hotel” stays through booking.com. It was simple and easy to use, and it would be hard to come here and not find something you like. The price was good compared to other sites, or other sites didn’t offer the hotels.
This was our go-to website for these moments:
- “Wow, accommodation is so expensive here/not good value for money”
- “It would be nice to have something homey and unique here”
- “Would love to cook here, kitchen would be nice”
And we kept going back to airbnb, because it kept giving us what we needed, and saved us money.
How Much Does Accommodation Cost In Italy?
- Rome // 4 Nights // 4 Star hotel // Staff Rate // 189.20 Euro or $276.69 AUD
- Sorrento // 1 Night // 1 Star in city centre // Booking.com // 72 Euro or $110.10 AUD
- Amalfi // 2 Nights // 2 Star in Town Centre // Booking.com // 200 Euro or $292.48 AUD
- Florence // 2 Nights // Entire Apartment in Historical Centre // Airbnb // 218.15 Euro or $320 AUD
- San Gimignano // 1 Night // Room within the walls of San G // Airbnb // 58 Euro or $85 AUD
- Venice // 1 Night // 2 Star hotel in Cannaregio // Booking.com // 81 Euro or $123.37 AUD
- Bologna // 3 Nights // Entire apartment in city centre // Airbnb // 258.37 Euro or $379 AUD
- Lucca // 1 Night // Not rated – 8.5 Review Score // Booking.com // 72 Euro or $110.10 AUD
- Cinque Terre // 2 Nights // Not rated – room in Riomaggiore // Booking.com // 144 Euro or $212 AUD
- TOTAL = 17 Nights // 1292.72 Euro ($1909.23 AUD) // 38 Euro (56.12 AUD) each/per night
How much does accommodation cost in Italy? Overall, booking accommodation in Italy was less expensive then I imagined. In Italy, accommodation worked out to be $56.15 AUD each per night, which I was very happy with, especially knowing how expensive the Amalfi Coast and Venice could have been. Although some of our accommodation is basic, we still managed to find places in fantastic locations with a charming feel to them.
The hardest thing about booking accommodation in Europe was that we are there for 9 weeks, moving every few days, which means finding and booking a lot of different accommodation. Airbnb was a life saver and helped us keep the cost down, and get value for money. I remember looking in Florence for hotels, and was a little disappointed with what $150 AUD could get you (a very basic room with a bed). I’m more then happy to stay in basic accommodation, but if you can get more value for you money, that’s nice too. So I then checked Airbnb, and found you could get entire apartments in the city centre for around $100 – $160, that have kitchens if you want to cook, are cozy and comfortable, and usually have well reviewed hosts that give you all the “local” recommendations.
I ended up booking all hotels through booking.com, even though I searched many booking sites. Booking.com seemed to have a much larger range and many options in each location/price category. It was also pretty easy to book, especially if you sign up as your details remain and you don’t have to get your credit card out for every booking.
Takeaways/Things We Learnt
- Europe doesn’t have to be expensive
- If you are on a budget, book early (I would recommend 3 – 6 months prior)
- If you want value for money, try Airbnb
- To save time, pick one main hotel booking site, and perhaps just use hotels combined/trivago to do a quick price comparison before you book. But don’t forget to think about alternate options to hotels.
- Get Creative. You don’t always need to stay in a hostel for a cheap stay, or a hotel for a good stay. Try staying in local homes on sites like airbnb, or on farm stays on sites like agriturismo.net
- If you love travel, consider getting a job at a hotel. This isn’t career advice, more if you need a job whilst you study (unless, like Chris, it is your career). Depending on the hotel chain, you might be able to take advantage of some great staff rates and save money on accommodation.
- If you are staying in one place for a little longer, try house sitting or a working holiday.