One of the most requested blog posts in the end of year post was on hotels. Many asked how I choose accommodations when travel planning, so I wanted to share my process.
Many of you know that hotels or Airbnbs are near and dear to my heart. It’s something I try to prioritize when traveling and some trips are born completely out of a space I fell in love with. There’s power to where you choose to stay — whether it’s to provide a good location or fit in a budget. Perhaps it’s to experience local design or enjoy the culture through someone’s home, either way it impacts a trip.
With all of this in mind, I’m going to share my process behind how I ultimately decide on the accommodations.
How I Choose Accommodations When Travel Planning
Step 1: Budgeting for Accommodations
I will start off by saying there’s no secret that price is behind everything. It’s the first thing to consider: budget. Unfortunately it can’t be skipped, so I would start with deciding how much you want to spend on accommodations.
Depending the trip, I consider factors like these which will impact budget:
- Is this a resort destination where the majority of my time will be at the hotel? (may consider spending more)
- Is this just a place to stay and use as a base? (may consider spending less)
- Will I need a kitchen or other amenities? (may consider spending more)
Step 2: Hotel or Airbnb rental?
This is a very personal question of preference. I will break down these two categories but for myself I always consider the length of trip and what my needs are.
Things to consider:
- Airbnb tacks on a ton of cleaning fees and rates that may not make sense for a one night stay.
- I may need to check in early and store baggage which can be a problem on Airbnb rentals who have late check in’s.
- I need a kitchen and area to hang out in which often costs more in hotels so an Airbnb may work better.
Once I’ve considered my needs, I then decide on either booking a hotel or airbnb.
Step 3: Location is everything.
You may have picked the most beautiful hotel room but is it where you want to be?
Here’s my top recommendation for choosing location: star everything on Google Maps that you may want to do, see, and dine at. Do you see a concentration of saved places? Then you probably want to consider this area for location.
Other factors to consider for location:
- Is it busy and loud?
- Is it near public transport if you will be relying on this?
- Can you easily access the airport (especially for major cities)?
Step 4.1: How to choose a good Airbnb.
I actually wrote a blog post on this titled “Top Tips for Booking a Successful Airbnb Rental.” You can head there to read the full post and I’ll summarize here as well.
- Have you read through the reviews?
- Have you considered factors like WiFi or other amenities?
- Have you looked at location, amount of rooms, types of beds?
For me, a good Airbnb fits my needs, is visually pleasing, and the owner has a good response time. One factor I always love is if I see that they are a “superhost” which means they have had really good customer interaction and more.
(Be sure to use this link for $40 off your first stay!)
Step 4.2: How to choose a good hotel.
Again, budget will be the biggest determine factor for this, so it is a very personal decision. Once I’ve narrowed down the area I want to be in, I start looking.
My top three websites for vetted, good design, and great service hotels are:
- Kiwi Collection
- Preferred Hotels
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith Hotels
These three websites have personally gone and vetted each hotel, so I know with confidence that anything on there will generally be a great choice. It takes the stress out of the unknown. They also have incredible perks with booking on their sites and opportunities like on Preferred Hotels to gain points.
If the hotel is not listed on these sites, I will then start my process of looking through reviews on Tripadvisor, Booking.com, and do a general Google search.
It’s pretty quick to see if a hotel gives a good experience to their travelers.
Step 5: Booking and reconfirming before travel.
Once I’ve decided, I always aim to book the hotel immediately. If I am far out from a trip, I always opt with a refundable rate to help give flexibility. If it is close to travel with no chance of change, I’ll book the lowest price rate.
One thing I try to do before each major trip is reconfirming my hotel. There’s been a few times that maybe the reservation had a glitch or it’s been double booked, so for long stays I check in.
If I am at an Airbnb, I let them know my arrival time, get the contact info and make sure it’s logged in on my Airbnb app.
I hope this was a helpful guide to help you choose accommodations while traveling. If you have any tips, I’d love to read them in the comments below. Find my whole travel planning series here:
Save this post for later on Pinterest:
PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!
These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.
1. Book Your Flights
Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.
2. Book Your Accommodations
Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
3. Book Your Tours & Experiences
4. Book Your Car
Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access
Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.
6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: