Last week I wrote about finding very inexpensive lodging. I promised to write about other options this week, so here goes…
My favorite places to stay have been small hotels or bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). Staying in this type of accommodation is a good way to experience the local culture. The furniture and artwork, along with the linens, usually represent what the local people would use in their own homes. The owners or managers are good sources for restaurant and activity recommendations.
Small family owned hotels (ten to fifteen rooms or less) or B&Bs can be very reasonable. The prices start around $50 per room and go up from there – sometimes significantly – although price is not always an indicator of quality. Most small hotels will have a website; B&Bs that don’t have their own website will be listed on a group site. The websites usually include pictures to help you get a feel for the character of the place. Some hotels or B&Bs are classic, while others are more modern.
The small hotel where we stayed in Venice, Italy, has about ten rooms. The lobby is on the European first floor – what we would call the second floor. There are also three guest rooms and the breakfast room on this floor. More rooms are on the higher levels. The building where the hotel is located is over three hundred years old, but other than not having an elevator, it is a clean, comfortable place to stay. The large room where we stayed had eleven- or twelve-foot ceilings, a large window and air-conditioning (obviously, an added modern convenience).
Accommodations that include breakfast can lower your overall budget. Despite their name, B&Bs occasionally do not include breakfast. Be sure to check if breakfast is included – if it is, the web site will probably say. In my experience, the breakfasts are usually very tasty. They often include meat, cheese and fruit along with fresh, local pastries.
Vernazza, Italy was devastated by a mudslide in 2011. The town – including restaurants, hotels and B&Bs – has been rebuilt. One of our favorite B&Bs is in Vernazza – we loved it despite the fact that it did not include breakfast. The place has been beautifully rebuilt by the friendly and authentically Italian host.
Another good option, if you are staying three or more days in one place, is to rent an apartment. Although you will have to find your own breakfast, apartments include appliances where you can cook meals. You can save money by eating out at lunch time and then cooking dinner in the apartment.
Apartments are great for families with young children. Separate bedrooms for the children make it easy for them to take naps or go to bed earlier than their parents. Children (and adults, too) often find comfort in returning to the same “home” each night.
Our apartment in Paris had a washing machine (no dryer, but it had a drying rack), which saved us having to find a Laundromat. We could put a load of laundry in the washer as soon as we got back in the evening and by the time we were ready for bed we could put it on the drying rack. Some things were dry by morning, others we left to dry while we were out for the day. Being able do laundry in our apartment also meant that we were able to pack less – packing light is always a good thing.
Some people like to stay in large chain hotels. Although they can be very comfortable and even luxurious, they usually do not include as much cultural flavor. Think about why you are traveling; you will learn a lot about the country you are visiting by staying where the locals would stay.
If you still prefer a larger hotel, you will find them in many cities. Hotels can be expensive – especially the large brand name chains – but there are ways to save money. If you travel often, you probably have a favorite brand. Look into the hotel’s rewards program – you can earn free nights by staying often.
On a recent organized tour, we stayed in larger hotels. Although the accommodations we very comfortable, we could have experienced this type of room in the city that is a half hour from our home.
As you can see, there are many options for accommodations when traveling to Europe. Everyone has their own preferences. I love small hotels and B&Bs, but I like to add variety by staying in different types of lodging at times.
What is your favorite kind of place to stay?