Booking Hostels/Hotels - first time traveller
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Aug 16, 2012 1:12 PM Last Post By: gawkabout
Aug 13, 2012 8:52 PM
Booking Hostels/Hotels - first time travellerHi there, any help would be so much appreciated.
My best friend & I are planning our first adult-y trip together to Greece in late June early July 2013. I am a very inexperienced traveller who in normal life needs structure (at the very least, I need to know where I'm sleeping/keeping my stuff while I'm out and about) and she is a very experienced traveller who likes to let things come as they do and doesn't need a set agenda when travelling.
Basically, I'm wondering when you would suggest we book hotels/hostels? If we're going in High Season, for 2 or 3 nights at a time in the big destinations like Athens, Santorini, Crete, etc, when should we book? We're looking for hostels or mid-range hotels.
I understand that not everything (anything) will go smoothly when travelling and we have to be ok with last minute transportation plans, etc, but I at least need a blueprint for something like this!
Thanks so much for your advice : )
Aug 13, 2012 8:53 PM
Aug 14, 2012 12:37 AM
Another important detail is that a lot of people take island-hopping holidays. This means that there is always a rapid tournover of a percentage of the rooms available. On any given day as many people may be leaving an island as are arriving. So, vacancies enough.
And keep in mind that a lot of the cheaper accommodation options won't be on the web booking sites anyway. The seasonal rooms to let places count on the rapid turnover of island-hoppers (or resort/village hoppers in the case of Crete).
I wouldn't bother pre-booking at that time of year. However, I don't because I already have the practice, I know what to expect, and how to deal with the task of looking after I arrive somewhere. Until you have this knowledge yourself, you can't really avoid feeling anxious to some degree.
Anyway, pre-booking as such is not so much the issue. Your commitment to a fixed itinerary is what you have to decide on. In other words, the 'how far ahead' part is to an extent irrelevant. If you're prepared to commit to a fixed plan, book now. It won't make any difference when since you need a room no matter what.
The thing about pre-booking is that it ties down your itinerary and also commits you to the particular hotel - which is what drives people in a panic to web review sites, looking for recommendations, etc. They're afraid of committing to a bad choice. If you don't pre-book you can size things up after you arrive, the location, type of room, everything.
What you can do by way of compromise is to pre-book the first and maybe the second stop of the itinerary. If you know you'll arrive on, June 28 or whenever, make a reservation. At least it'll ease the nerves. This structure will give you a chance to get a feel for the situation as a whole. After that, the next easiest compromise is to reserve ahead before you make your next jump to a new location. Arrive on one island, call ahead to the next one as soon as you decide when the next move will be.
Aug 14, 2012 1:41 AM
Aug 14, 2012 5:21 AM
Aug 14, 2012 6:53 AM
5I'm like you. I always like to book ahead and know where I will be staying. I take comfort in itineraries. LOL
If you book a room and don't pay in advance, you can always cancel easily if you decide to change your plans within the weeks (or even days) leading up to the trip.
I went to Crete, Santorini, and Athens in the first couple weeks of July this year and I booked probably 3 months in advance. I don't think you have to book quite that far ahead because I had to change my itinerary around a bit later and there were still a lot of vacancies available.
Have a great trip!
Aug 14, 2012 8:09 AM
Aug 14, 2012 9:44 AM
7Do you want advice or do you want justification/agreement?
I will give you advice. I lived in Greece for 7 years and KNOW that you do not need to pre-book anything. If your friend is as experienced as you say she is then she is no doubt comfortable with finding a place when she gets there. You have an OPPORTUNITY to learn something from her if you take that opportunity. It may take you out of your comfort zone initially but that is what growth is about. Put yourself in her hands.
I always remember the first trip in Europe that my wife and I did together. I was experienced in independent travel while she was used to pre-booked everything. So I dutifully (to keep the peace) pre-booked our first few nights in France. It was a driving vacation (car by ferry from UK) and we drove into Switzerland. We had no hotel booked, but I told her I knew exactly where we would stay. (I lied) She was a bit uncomfortable about there perhaps not being a room available in the hotel I planned on (I had no idea what hotel we would stay in). We arrived in the town I thought we might stay in and I just looked as we drove until I saw something that I thought looked good. 'Here it is I told her but we will look at the room first before we book because maybe it has gone down hill since I was last here'. (What a liar).
It is considered normal to ask to see a room before you book in Europe. So the room was fine with a view of the mountains. I booked us in for 4 nights. Once we had the room my wife was fine and relaxed and enjoyed the next few days hiking and sightseeing. On the last day she said, 'Oh I love it here and wish we could stay longer'. So I said, 'then why don't we?'
We had a 'plan' (in her mind) to spend a few days in the Alsace region on the way back to the UK. But again, no pre-booked hotel (I told her I knew where we would go yet again).
So I went down to the front desk and booked another 2 nights where we were. No problem.
That is when the light bulb went on for my wife. Having no real plan means you can stay longer or leave earlier as you please. The same kind of thing happened when we visited Las Vegas. No pre-booked hotel, we just got there, found a hotel and booked a room for one night. The next morning I asked her, 'do you want to stay a few more days or move on?' Her reply was, 'get me out of here'.
Now, you could not get her to pre-book anything. She is very reluctant to even consider a package holiday to somewhere. She wants that freedom to choose.
Getting out of your comfort zone is obviously all about fear of the unknown. But in the case of travel and pre-booking, that unknown is in fact preferable. Lucky you, you have a friend who can take you there.
Aug 14, 2012 10:34 AM
Aug 14, 2012 10:38 AM
9Everyone has their own travel style. Partnering with someone whose style is apparently diametrically opposed to yours could be a disaster or it could be a lot of fun. That all depends on how flexible you are and how much of an adventure you are willing to have vs. needing to be in control of every detail in advance. My best advice to you is for you to be VERY honest with yourself. Decide on which travel style you can live with, discuss your concerns (again) with your friend until you're both on the same page as to how to do it and are committed to which travel style you'll adopt. You have to own it and the challenges it brings, no matter what. Personally I'm of the take-it-as-it-comes school of travel, having done so for over 25 years, and Greece is particularly easy for that approach, but late-June/early-July can be very busy depending on where you go, so one way you can work a compromise on travel styles is to make a list of the top 10 hotels for every destination and call ahead the day before you arrive at each destination, starting with your top choice, to see who might have a vacancy. Buy an OTE phone card to use in the Greek public phones, or if you have an unlocked quadband mobile phone you can buy a Cosmote SIM card to use from one of the Germanos Stores in Greece and buy more time as needed from local stores. You'll need to know the island codes for this. http://www.athensinfoguide.com/genareacodes.htm
If you decide to play it as it comes just remember that the locals who meet the ferries with offers of rooms won't have the best rooms in the best locations, and you can find yourselves out in the boonies somewhere instead of where you would want to be if you had made a reservation at someplace you found online.
http://www.tripadvisor.com is a very good source for advice and reviews for all things Greece.
http://www.booking.com will help you find affordable accomodations. The filter system is excellent and there are also lots of reviews. Start by entering your destination and travel dates. For Santorini, for example, you can enter the village name to narrow it down even further. On the next page you can choose your budget and other options.
Aug 14, 2012 12:16 PM
Aug 14, 2012 3:41 PM
11Hi All, thanks for the advice. A lot of you had some really good tips. I know I over-think everything, but that's not necessarily a part of my personality that I can just "shake off". I trust my friend very much and I know she's not going to make stupid decisions, so I like the idea of pre-booking the first and maybe second locations and then compromising with a list of hostels/hotels i've researched that I'd be happy staying in for wherever else we decide to go.
I would LOVE to take a long trip but I can really only afford about 2 weeks, so unfortunately it's going to have to be fast-paced. However, we're in the very early stages of planning and haven't decided totally where exactly we'd like to go so maybe we can make it work - best bang for your buck kind of thing.
Like I said, I need a blueprint, not necessarily a strict regiment lol. The point of this trip is to go on an adventure so, might as well go on an adventure!
@gawkabout, I'm not sure about the relevancy of your second to last post - what are you trying to tell me? I'm not closed minded, just worried about where I'm going to keep my stuff.
Aug 14, 2012 4:17 PM
Aug 14, 2012 5:32 PM
Aug 14, 2012 6:14 PM
(0 star Hotel)
From US$44.60 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$147.97 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$132.11 per night