Securing Lodging: A (Personal) Case Study

In the past I’ve written about how to choose lodging. There are less expensive types of lodging and more expensive options.  I’ve written a bit about deciding and booking the lodging for a recent trip to Paris. In this post, I will walk through the process of choosing lodging for an entire trip.

My daughter and I are going to Spain and France in late spring/early summer. We plan to start in Spain, work our way north through western France, and then spend time in Paris.

B&B in Vernazza, Italy
The cost was around 80 Euros per night –
a bargain price!

We’ve set our budget at between $50 and $75 per night per person – $100 to $150 total for the two of us. As of today, one Euro will cost us about $1.06, so our budget should be between €94 and €141. (This may change before our trip and some of the accommodations will not charge us until we check in, but it should be close).

We have some ideas of where we want to go and what we want to see, but since much of the area is new to us, we need to pin down our itinerary before we start to book lodging. We have to determine how we will travel from place to place, since this could also influence where we will want to stay.

Ah, Paris!

My daughter and I started by booking the end of our trip. We thought we would like four or five days in Paris.  Since we have been to Paris several times, we know the area where we prefer to stay. In fact, we have rented a particular apartment a couple of times – it suits us perfectly. We looked a little but decided to stay in the familiar apartment if it was available.

We had originally found the apartment through Flip Key, which is part of Tripadvisor, but we now just email the facilitator (O-) directly. O- said the apartment was available and told us the price would be €115 per night plus a €40 cleaning fee.  There is also a €100 security deposit, but we will get that back after the stay.  We asked her to hold it for a few days as we finalized our itinerary.

Next, we looked at the beginning of our trip. Our first stop will be Madrid, Spain. We plan to stay for three nights in Madrid followed by three nights in Barcelona.

We will be arriving in Madrid in the late afternoon. It is usually a little easier to check into a hotel than an apartment. With a hotel, you walk to the front desk – with an apartment, you meet someone to get the keys, go to a mail box, or get the keys from a combination lock box.  If you have a problem, you need to get in touch with the apartment owner or facilitator – there is no front desk. Part of our decision to stay in a hotel in Madrid was because of the ease and the fact that we would have just spent the last twelve hours or more traveling.

Euros – Paper Money and Coins

We researched several hotels, before deciding on a room at a mid-level European chain hotel.  The cost for three nights totaled €363 or €121 per night – nicely within the budget we had set up.

We looked at hotels and apartments in Barcelona – trying to find one that suited us.  My daughter and I decided that an apartment would be the better way to go.  Arriving in Barcelona in the late morning, we would only have been traveling for three hours.  It should be easy to find the apartment or meet up with the owner.

Small Apartment Kitchen – Including a Clothes Washer

We looked for an apartment in a preferred area, with an elevator and a washer and possibly a dryer. From experience, we know that washers are relatively common, but dryers are not. We hope to be able to wash some of our clothes near the end of our stay in Barcelona – we will be seven days into our trip by then.  If we are able to do laundry in Barcelona, we will have clean clothes until we get to Paris. (Doing laundry helps me be able to pack for a three week European vacation with just a carry-on).

We searched Airbnb first, having had good luck with them in the past. We found a couple apartments that might work, then studied the map, looked at the amenities, and read the reviews. The apartment we chose looks great. The rent for three nights is $377 per night – Airbnb uses US dollars.  Again, this is within our budget at about $126 per night.

Renting a Car in Europe

As we leave Barcelona, we have a couple places we hope to visit. We’d like to drive through the micro country of Andorra, and we’d like to see the Château de Gudanes in southern France.  As we looked at the map, the public transportation options, and then at the map again, we came to the conclusion that the best way to accomplish our wishes was to rent a car.  We were planning to rent a car for our time in northern France, so we just added on a couple more days.

Originally, we thought about staying in Toulouse, France, for the night after we left Barcelona.  We looked at staying at a hostel there, since we would only be there for one night. (I can do a night or two here or there in a hostel, but would rather not stay in one every night).

We decided instead, to just drive on to Bordeaux, in the Dordogne River valley, skipping Toulouse altogether. Once we made that decision, the rest of our itinerary and lodging needs fell into place. We would stay two nights in Bordeaux, two nights near Tours in the Loire Valley, one night near Mont Saint-Michel, and the rest of the time in Paris.

Since we would be driving a rental car, I was not excited about (driving to and) staying in central Bordeaux. The Bordeaux airport is on the outskirts of the city and the airport hotels look easily accessible.  Bordeaux has good public transportation from the airport to the city center.

We didn’t look for an apartment in Bordeaux (or the next two stops) because apartments often have a three-night – or sometimes five-night – minimum. Although it may be possible to find an apartment that allows short stays, it is difficult. We also thought about staying in a hostel in Bordeaux, but hostels are usually located closer to the center of town.

Using Credit Card Points to Save Money

We found a very reasonably priced hotel from another mid-level European chain and booked through Chase Bank’s travel portal. The total came to $158 for two nights, including breakfast, which is $79 per night – well under budget! (We booked through Chase Bank so we could use some credits card points – we didn’t actually pay this total amount in cash).

My daughter and I plan to visit three or four of the many châteaux in the Loire Valley so we looked for a place to stay in close proximity to the ones that are our highest priority. We decided to stay in the smaller city of Amboise, east of Tours. As we studied the lodging possibilities, we were struck by a beautiful château just outside of town.

The 16th century château offers five guest rooms, full modernized with private bathrooms and wifi. This would be such a unique experience – and a great memory. How could we resist? It was a little over our budget, but we could justify it since we had saved so much in Bordeaux. The two nights in the château will cost €290 or €145 per night, including breakfast.

After Amboise, we will leave the Loire Valley and head north to Mont Saint-Michel. There are only a handful of hotels in this area, but we were able to book one that looks nice for €91. We added breakfast for €5 each, bringing the total to €101.

From Mont Saint-Michel, we will drive through Normandy on our way to the apartment in Paris. With this itinerary, we will have five days in Paris, but six nights. We emailed O- again to confirm our reservation. The total for six nights in the Paris apartment, with the cleaning fee, comes to €730, or about €122 per night.

Here is the summary with the totals:

City # of nights Cost in Euros Cost in US Dollars Total Dollars
Madrid 3 nights 121 per night 128 per night $384
Barcelona 3 nights 126 per night $378
Bordeaux 2 nights 79 per night $158
Amboise 2 nights 145 per night 154 per night $308
Mont Saint-Michel 1 night 101 per night 107 per night $107
Paris 6 nights 122 per night 129 per night $774
17 nights $2,109

As you can see the total for our lodging comes to a little over $1000 per person. If you divide the individual by 17 nights, it comes to just $62 per person per night. This is a total of $124, which is right in the middle of our budget.

Could we have done it cheaper?  Of course, but we could also have done it much more expensively. To me this is a “middle of the road” representation. We were well within the budget we had set. Even if the Dollar/Euro fluctuates, we should be fine.

Sometime after we return from our trip, I will review the specific hotels we stayed in. My daughter and I will determine if they met our expectations and were a good value.

What budget amount would you prefer for lodging when traveling in Europe? Would you want to pay less? Would you rather go more deluxe? Leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *