We have been doing a lot of research on the different types of accommodations in Europe. We will be starting an around-the-world adventure later this year that will have us in and around Europe for the first year. Since we will be on a tight budget, proper planning is important.
Hotels, B&B’s, and Hostels, Oh My!
Most travelers stick to the standard lodging options of hotels, B&B’s, and youth hostels. The problem with these is that you will be surrounded with other tourists, many from your own country, and the experience will lack true immersion into the culture that you are visiting. For us, one of the main reasons why we travel is to experience the different cultures as a local, not a tourist. This allows a better understanding of the place you are visiting and offers a more memorable experience. This can be easy to do as long as you find the right place to stay.
Besides the lack of culture found in touristy hotels, B&B’s, and youth hostels, they can often be more expensive than you would have thought. Depending on the size of your family, you may need more than one room or a suite with bedrooms, which can really blow your budget quickly. But the real expense comes from the lack of a kitchen. Being forced to eat every meal at a restaurant (excluding the breakfast provided at B&B’s) can really add up quickly. Many hostels have a communal kitchen where you can prepare meals. But hostels are not family friendly for more than a night or two. Spending every night in a quad with your kid(s) while you and your spouse are crammed into a tiny bunk is not my idea of a fun time!
Stay in a Timeshare
One type of accommodation that we have used a lot while traveling is the use of a timeshare. Timeshares can be found in every touristy place around the world. They can be a very affordable option if you travel often. But you need to be a bit flexible on where you want to stay, unless you own a specific time slot at a timeshare resort and return to that location every year. Most of the timeshares we have stayed in have included a kitchen stocked with dishes and one or two bedrooms making our stay very comfortable with our daughter. Unfortunately, European timeshares are mostly located outside the cities and away from the museums and places that you would want to spend time visiting. Transportation costs can quickly eat away your budget or turn into a nightmare if you rent a car. When we were in England 12 years ago we rented a car and made the mistake of driving into Central London. We were lucky enough to find parking for the night, but the real fun came when we tried to leave London the next morning. The British don’t believe in straight roads and even with a map in hand, we ended up back where we started after 2 hours of making a large circle. Even if you do want to spend your European vacation outside the cities hanging out with other tourists, the chance of actually finding an available timeshare in Europe is slim. Timeshares in European countries are in high demand and you would be pretty lucky to find someone willing to trade or an available vacant week.
Stay in Someone’s Home
So where can traveling families stay where they can cook their own meals, have enough room to spread out, and be surrounded by the culture they came to visit? Private homes is the answer! And I don’t mean couch surfing. What I mean is that there are furnished apartments available throughout Europe for the same cost, or cheaper, than staying at a hotel.
Although there are plenty of furnished apartments listed on Craigslist as vacation rentals, I would not risk dealing with anything listed on there. There is a good chance you would get ripped off and end up having your dream vacation ruined. Better to deal with established companies that specialize in apartment vacation rentals.
We recently came across a company with raving reviews called onefinestay. Onefinestay gives you the chance to stay in an unhotel – someone’s place while they’re out of town. You get to live their life for a few days and nights, see what they’d see and, if you like, do what they’d do. The homes come with recommendations from the people who live there on where to go and what to do. Now that’s cool! Before we travel to London next year we will definitely be considering onefinestay for our accommodation needs. And hopefully, they will expand to other cities in Europe.