After many years of solo and group trips, a year of backpacking Europe and now living as a flight attendant, I’ve seen a multitude of walls. Be it a hostel, a hotel, couch or train station, your pillow has a great potential for change. I’ve had a lot of questions recently about where the best places to stay are. This all depends on the country, who you’ll be travelling with, for how long, and your budget. Let your eyes take a gander and find out what kind of travel may (or may not) work for you.
This online community is a worldwide network of hosts who accept travelers into their home for free. It’s anti-freeloading history comes from the lust of appreciating a new/unfamiliar culture, or simply to help out a fellow traveler. If you’re travelling solo or with one or two (max) other people, looking to get to know the culture of your future vacation destination, hang out with a local and in turn share your cultural diversity while saving your wallet, sign up now. If you’d rather not worry about spending time with someone you haven’t before met and would rather figure out the area on your own, I don’t suggest Couchsurfing. I personally love it, have met many wonderful people and have created life-long friendships.
Be it solo or group travel, hostels are perfect for those who want to meet other travelers, spend a few days in the city while going on tours and partying. Hostels today are so modern that you can go on the cheap and share a room anywhere from twenty to sixty people (maybe more) or pay a bit extra to have a private room, female only, etc. The best part about hostels (in Europe at least) is that everyone has the same mind set; see the city, party and become temporary best friends with your housemates. It also gives the freedom to come and go when you please, with a lock and key. Many hostels in Europe also give the option of working for stay so if you plan on staying a bit longer in the area but are low on dinero, they may have you do some laundry and dishes to earn your room and board, just like back in the day! However, if you don’t want to pay extra for a private room and you do not think taking the risk to meet an eccentric person from a different culture is worth risking being woken up to their potential train snore is worth it, this kind of travel may not be for you.
More suitable for two or more, Airbnb swings on the private side of vacation. Most are cheap but many places have fancier options for those who are willing to pay more. The concept is simple; you go online, look through what is available according to your needs and pay to stay in someone else’s apartment/condo/house. More times than not the owners aren’t there and an agreement is worked out to get/return the keys. Sometimes they pop in and out during your stay and rarely do they stick around. The bonus of this is that you are living in someone else’s place so it is already fully equipped with what you’ll need. It is also usually in a good location. Sometimes somebody owns a multitude of properties simply to rent them out for travelers. I’ve used Airbnb in England, Spain, Portugal, St.Lucia and Saint Maarten and every experience varied completely.
For those who seek less adventure, a bit more routine and all of your privacy with free shampoo, hotels/motels are the spot to stay. If you don’t need to watch your budget, a hotel could be a great option for you to escape the hectic life on the road, be pampered and enjoy the familiar luxuries of a dip in the pool, room service and a dependable, warm shower. It will also make you feel like you could be in any city, anywhere in the world, so if you’re dealing with culture shock, this could help. Personally, I have not stayed in one hotel during my own leisure vacations (not counting destination wedding trips) but, hey, to each their own!
This may thing like a silly thing to mention. After all, train stations and airports are for travelling, not sleeping, right? After solo travelling, especially in Europe for a year, I have come to learn that plans you make are really only backup plans, meaning things change, people don’t show up, trains are missed and phone numbers are lost or don’t work. What happens when you get to a country, by yourself and the person with whom you are supposed to stay doesn’t show up or turn out to be the president of creep city across from weird world? Where would you go that is easy to find, always open and is safe? First choice- international airport. In every airport I have been to there is a constant presence of security, restaurants, bank machines and wifi. It is a great hideout option until you can figure out your next step. If you’re in a smaller village or town and the airport is not as easy to access, the nearest train station may work, as well. In both cases, sleep on your bags and keep valuables close to your body (wallet in your shirt, passport down your pants, etc.). It may be stinky but guaranteed nobody’s going to touch it!
Travelling with the right eyes is the best kind of education. It feeds your mind and awakens your soul, shedding light onto new faces, places, customs and traditions. To make the best out of your next journey, be it for two days or two years, do the research so you’re not left with head or heart aches but instead with positive memories that will leave you smiling for years.