Kay`s Explorer Guide to Solo Travel | Part 1: Booking Accommodations

Close to exhaustive list of accommodation options:

  • Hostels
  • CouchSurfing
  • Airbnb and similar services (see my blog entry about an NYT article re: other private accommodation ideas)
  • Hotels, motels, inns
  • Frequent flyer points
  • Friends and relatives’ places
  • Camping
  • And probably a couple others I am not aware of, but suddenly became aware of (boats, resorts [this isn’t REAL traveling])

Musings on securing accommodations in advance vs. last minute (though this reads as mostly for in advance)

When deciding whether to plan or not plan accommodations, consider how foreign your destination is to you, how skilled a traveler you are and how risk averse you are. Regardless, my suggestion is to secure your accommodations in advance. Having a home away from home planned out will give you peace of mind once you’ve arrived and provide you with a “homebase” when you are tired of exploring, ready to retreat for a while, or not enjoying yourself wherever you end up.

You can try to find accommodations once you get to your city, but you run the risk of spending a lot of time shopping around and not finding first-choice accommodations on several qualities; price, location, amenities, company. That, and if you’re the worrier type, you add the perception of stress to the experience which can change the enjoy-ability stat.

If you choose to find a place to stay last minute using (what I like to consider) alternative accommodations such as CouchSurfing or airbnb.com, you are  temporarily stressing yourself to find someone who will respond to your last minute request (read: plea) AND be able to host you.

When looking for a host using CouchSurfing or airbnb.com or a similar private accommodations site you need to spend time reading many profiles hoping to find someone you are likely to get along with and who is willing to host you. The very last resort is you don’t care who hosts you, as long as someone does.

Hostels are another option, but depending on season and what’s going on in the city at the time, the hostel may be booked last minute. 

If you are planning ahead to CouchSurf but the instability has you worried, consider also booking a hostel or a cheap hotel and canceling at the last minute. You will probably eat a small cancellation fee, but at the least, you will get a more cultural travel experience, still for less than the price of a paid room.

Booking hotels, motels and inns last minute is sometimes an advantage if you aren’t picky about the room. Being that it’s last minute, you can negotiate down the price since the business would rather make some money on the room that otherwise would have been unoccupied 

The flip-side is there are plenty of people who get by running their travel itineraries last minute and even prefer it. If you are able to deal with uncertainty, are open to chance and have an uncanny ability to get people to like you, you may want to leave your accommodation plans open-ended. There is a certain satisfaction to watching plans work out and unfold in front of you based on a series of unforeseen events that “click”. This satisfaction can only be experienced first hand. I haven’t done this with accommodations, but I have done it with activities and it’s awesome!

So in short, if you’re a newbie traveler or not so newbie with ingrained preferences, having a place to stay staked out in advance allows you to spend less time worrying and more time enjoying once you’re finally in your city. After collecting a couple pins on your travel map, you will gain experience and insight into your style and can then adjust your haphazard travel dial.