Monday, October 12, 2009

Budget for Your Vacation--Pt. 4 (Lodging-Bed & Breakfasts)

In my last post, I talked about hostels as a viable form of lodging. In this post, I will be discussing my favorite form of lodging, bed & breakfasts.

The reason that I love bed and breakfasts so much is that I feel that I am part of the community that I am learning about rather than just an outsider visiting. I like the idea of walking into a home rather than a hotel lobby. I enjoy sitting down to breakfast with other people and hearing their thoughts about the places they've visited and sharing my experiences about where to go. I like meeting the owners or hosts and finding out what drove them to open their home up to strangers.

If any of this sounds the least bit appealing to you, then you should stay at a bed and breakfast at least once during your travels.

Bed and breakfasts vary wildly so open your mind up to the different variations and don't go into your search with a definite mindset of what you HAVE to have. Admittedly, most B&B's have a bedroom, with at the very minimum, a double bed available; however, most places offer a queen sized bed and in Europe, many of them are geared for 2-4 people to stay in one room.

Some B&B's have "en suite" rooms which means the room has a toilet, sink, and shower in your room. En suite rooms are usually the highest priced of all the available rooms but if a private bathroom is important to you, the cost will be a necessary one. Some rooms have a sink and shower in your room and the toilet or "water closet" will be down the hall. These rooms are usually less costly than en suite and the sink and shower make them pretty convenient to use if you don't mind walking across or down the hall to use the bathroom. Some rooms have only a sink with the remaining water works, shower and toilet, down the hall. And finally, you have the bare bones room with no bathroom facilities at all in the room. These rooms are the least expensive and if you're traveling on a budget, these rooms are your best bet.

As for breakfast, this varies greatly as well. Some B&B's offer a full breakfast. Often the menu is set with a wide variety of breakfast foods from which to choose but some B&B's may offer you a list of foods to choose from the night before so your particular choices are ready for you in the morning. If your B&B does not advertise a full breakfast, then the standard European breakfast usually consists of cold cereal, fruit, a roll, croissant, or pastry of some kind, and coffee or tea. Europeans aren't big on breakfast so unless your B&B specifically states it serves a full breakfast, don't expect it. Some B&B's have a separate dining area and some have a tray or stand in a common area where all the breakfast supplies are available for you to take back to your room. I stayed in one B&B that actually had a lady who did nothing but make us coffee (in Italy) while we ate our pastries and cereal! If you're not a breakfast person, ask your B&B proprietor if they would consider lowering your room rate then take your savings and have breakfast at the little cafe down the street instead!

Do your research (or pay someone like me to do it for you)! READ, READ, READ every guidebook you can get your hands on. If you can't afford to buy a lot of different guidebooks (they can be expensive at about $15-20 a pop) then go to your local library or used book store and start reading up on recommendations on where to stay. Make copies or take notes of the places that interest you. Talk to people who have traveled to the areas you're planning on visiting. Read blogs, visit websites like Journeywoman (for women travelers) or IndependentTraveler (for solo travelers) and read their recommendations. Join groups like Travelzine (a Yahoo group) and ask other travelers for their recommendations. My point here is someone always has a favorite place to stay and if their reason for staying there is the same or similar to your reason to wanting to stay there, you've found a place to stay!

Look at your budget and keep a number in mind for your lodging and try your best to stick to it but remember that you can juggle the number according to the cities you will be visiting, in other words, your stay in a small city like Orivieto (in Italy) will probably be much less expensive than your stay in Rome. You also need to decide ahead of time what is more important to you, budget or location. Are you willing to pay more for location?

If it's your first trip to Europe, I would recommend that your budget take location into account as better locations usually cost more than out of the way locations; however, remember in larger cities, there are probably several good locations to choose from and you will be able to take that into account.

In the last 5 years of my European travel, I have been able to find B&B's that run as low as 45 euros per night. My own personal number for lodging is 75 euros a night for a B&B for a good, centralized location. If you'd like more specific information regarding the B&B's I stayed in anywhere overseas, drop me a line.

Next on the agenda are local hotels versus chain hotels.


Holli Garnett said...

your job sounds like a lot of fun.

GlobeDiva said...

It's more of a passion and a part-time job than anything else.

I'm really committed in my belief that anyone can take the vacation of their dreams with a little planning and a little savings.