Finding accommodation can be one of the most frustrating aspects of planning your travels. There are two ways to solve the accommodation problem: booking in advance or finding a place on the day.
Booking in advance
Booking in advance gives the traveller peace of mind that they will have somewhere to sleep once they arrive at their destination. It is also a good idea when travelling to a popular tourist destination.
This can be done in a number of ways:
You can book accommodation online, either at hotel's own web site or at web site of an agency. Depending upon where you are going, this can be extremely useful. Yet if you are traveling to somewhere a bit more out of the way, for example, a small city or town, you may find something, but there will be accommodation options not listed on the internet. In this situation, it is better to find accommodation "on the day", as described below.
Meta-search (price comparison) websites are very useful. They offer an online service which searches and compares numerous accommodation websites at once to return the cheapest price across them all. This saves time as they do the searching and comparison for you.
Another frequent situation is that hotel has its own web site, but doesn't publish which dates it can it is not busy. Then filling a "Contact us" form or sending an email are equal choices for inquiring every detail you need.
For booking by email, the sequence of events is roughly the same, with some steps omitted when not applicable:
When you use non-native language for writing to a hotel, it's work best to ask one or two questions per email, get answers and choose next questions: asking all questions at once frequently results in huge delays that can be broken only by a telephone call (and splitting questions message into small pieces afterwards).
Travel agents often have deals with specific hotels, although you may find it possible to book other forms of accommodation, like camping grounds, through a travel agent.
Consumers often find the best lodging rates by calling travel suppliers directly. Contacting the specific property, rather than the chain's main toll-free telephone line, provides the best opportunity to negotiate discounts and ask about specials (advertised and unadvertised). In the U.S., hotel and lodging listings can be found for free either by name or category via 1-800-Free411.
Cancelling a reservation
You might have to change or cancel a reservation. For example if your plane/train/bus is delayed or cancelled and you therefore arrive a day later.
Pay attention to the cancellation policy when you make the reservation. Most hotels will require a credit card number to guarantee the room. They will usually charge you for one night if you cancel less than 24 hours before arrival. In some popular tourist destinations such as Hawaii or Las Vegas, this minimum notice may be as long as 72 hours, or you may be charged for the entire stay. This can happen even when you make reservations through a travel agent and your delay is caused by transportation also arranged by that travel agent.
Some hotels and pensions will let you make a simple booking by phone or internet. Call and cancel you reservation when you know that you will not make it.
Most hotels will require a credit card number to make a reservation. They will usually charge you for one night if you cancel less than 24 hours before arrival. In some popular tourist destinations such as Hawaii or Las Vegas, this minimum notice may be as long as 72 hours.
If you make reservations through a travel agent you can get charged for accommodation that you do not use even though your delay is caused by transportation also arranged by the travel agent.
Types of accommodation
(moved in from Finding accommodation, to be merged into respective sections)
On the day
If you have planned your trip yourself, which means you have not decided to use a package from a travel agent, sometimes finding accommodation when you arrive is the best option.
If you have not made reservations in advance, this should be your first priority upon arriving. The best and/or cheapest hotels have a tendency to fill up most quickly, and looking for a place to sleep as darkness falls can be an anxious - and even dangerous - experience.
It is sometimes frustrating to be reading a guidebook and looking for the listed recommendations trying to decipher an unfamiliar map having just travelled for several hours. In this case, it is possible to walk around and inquire at the first few places you see. Courage and confidence are required for this type of thing, especially if you are not using your native languages. However, it is sometimes easier to do this rather than tracking down listings, especially for the first night.
Larger cities and popular tourist destinations may have "tourist information offices". These may be operated by the local government, a consortium of local hotels and attractions, or independent parties (of varying trustworthiness). These frequently offer listings of hotels and other lodging options (e.g. hostels, bed-and-breakfasts). Some act as booking agents for hotels, placing visitors in facilities with vacancies (though there may be a fee for this service).
Newly opened hotels
Frequently, the best hotels are those just opened. Beyond being new and modern, they need to attract clientele, and may strive to offer more comfort or services for less money. It often makes sense to inquire locals upon arrival which hotels / pensions etc have opened in the last year or two.
For people looking for a bargain, many hotels discount their unsold rooms and sell them through specialist 'last minute' type consolidators. The reduced rates available from these consolidators are not usually advertised in the hotels themselves (the hotels do not want to advertise these lower rates to guests who are paying full rates). Contacting a consolidator directly can save you money and, especially in larger cities, legwork - the better companies will usually telephone the hotels within your budget to confirm availability, important when you've got tired legs in a large city like London for example. Look for consolidators offering a telephone as well as online booking service so you are not dependent on internet access when trying to find a hotel.
Types of accommodation
When planning your holidays you have to take in consideration not only the location, but also the best accommodation that will provide you and your party with value for money according to your requirements.
If you are looking to get away from it all and relax with your family in privacy, than a holiday villa would be the ideal choice for you. By renting a private villa you will have your own kitchen, living/dining room, bedroom and in many cases your own private swimming pool. Renting a villa provides you, not only, with more space and privacy but is also a more economical option rather than staying at a small hotel room.
A villa can usually accommodate a minimum of 4 people, and the rental price is charged per week making it more cost-effective than staying at a hotel.
See main article: Hostels
See main article: Hospitality exchange
Camping is do-it-yourself accommodation: you carry your roof and your bedding in your backpack or your car. It's often the only choice of accommodation you have when you're travelling off the beaten track, but there are also very popular sites for camping holidays.
Many popular national parks or protected sites have limited camping to particular sites and some have banned it altogether. Always check whether you need a permit to camp, how much it costs and whether your choice of site will be restricted. You generally need to get permits either in advance or on arrival. Permits for sites at very popular holiday periods are actually quite hard to get and sometimes sell out months in advance, don't blithely plan a Christmas camping holiday without being sure you can get a permit if you need one.
When hiking, there will often be set campsites a day's walk apart, and often you are forbidden to camp between them.
Caravan parks tend to have two or three types of accommodation: powered sites to put your caravan and car; caravans owned by the park that you can stay in; and small cabins with a bit more space. Caravan parks are usually located in medium sized towns and cities, or in very popular tourist spots.
See also: Car Camping
See main article: Hotels
Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouses
Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) and Guesthouses provide hotel style rooms. However, they are typically smaller residences and you will interact with your hosts and other guests, often eating together and sharing common spaces. Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouses are found both inside and out of major centers. Many market themselves as providing a "quiet escape". There are many associations and websites that offer help finding a Bed and Breakfast in your travel area.
Many residents of popular tourist destinations lease their houses and apartments to vacationers. The residence may have been bought specifically for this purpose or the normal occupants may vacate it during some parts of the year. The guests will have full use of the residence, and usually the residence will not be serviced during their stay.
Vacation ("self-catered") rentals are usually cheaper than booking a hotel room for the same length of time. Utilities are normally included in the rental price and electricity and so on (if available) will be connected for your stay.
You will find vacation rentals all over the world. They offer excellent value for money and much more space than a hotel room. They are ideal for families or groups of friends who like to vacation together but are equally suitable for couples wishing to relax in comfort.
The facilities offered will vary from house to house. The homes will be individually furnished and equipped by their owners so you are sure to find one which suits your requirements.
Many will have private pools or accesss to a communal pool. You can expect kitchen and laundry facilities. Probably a TV - in the US you can often find TV in every room, maybe a Video player or DVD as well.
Some of the homes will have a games room with games like pool or table tennis. Some will have games consoles such as Playstation 2 or X-Box.
You will find vacation homes near the theme parks, on the beach, in the mountains or countryside. Literally anywhere you are looking to vacation you will be able to find a vacation rental.
The ideal way to rent a vacation property is to talk directly to the owner. Many owners book their properties themselves and they will be able to answer any questions you have about their property. The pricing is more competitive as you are cutting out the middle-man and you know exactly which property you are renting.