Traveling is the best. The thrill of adventure, planning what to do, booking your flight. It's all a rush. But the hard part, in my opinion, is picking where to stay. Most of us want to stay in a well-priced hotel with the amenities we want. So, how do you book the best hotel deals in Europe while still finding the accommodation that fits your needs, is close to what you want to do, and is a good bargain?
Having traveled to countless cities across Europe, I'm going to share my expert tips for finding the best hotel. I'm sharing my secrets on things that can make or break a trip – like when you think it's a nice hotel but there's no Wifi, or the reviews are totally off. No matter what your needs are or whether you'd like budget friendly or a luxurious stay, this guide is going to show you how to get a good hotel deal in Europe (and beyond!).
Whether you're on a whirlwind Euro trip, a honeymoon, or a solo trip, I want to make sure you don't spend more than you need to on your hotel reservation.
First and foremost, where are you going? The location can play a big role in determining where to stay and how much to spend. For example, if you're going to be in a busy city like London, things like making sure there is free parking won't matter because you likely won't have a car. But being close to public transportation might be very important.
If you're in a more remote location, like Killarney, Ireland, and will be on the move, then things like parking are necessary. For an upcoming trip in Rotterdam, we know we'll have a car, so we booked a place to stay a bit farther out since we know we'll have access to public transportation or the car.
Do you have an early flight like we did in Florence? It might be nice to be near a train station or the airport. So know what your needs are first and structure your stay around that.
Also, think about your purpose. Are you just there to sleep? If so, go cheaper. You don't need to roll out the red carpet for a quick stay. But if you're looking for some R&R or want to treat yourself, then spend a bit more money to get what you want. That's not to say that you can't get a good deal, you can. But it's good to have an understanding of your needs before booking a hotel room.
How much time do you have? If you're only in Paris for 48 hours you might want to be in the heart of it all. And I wouldn't blame you! You won't want to waste time on transportation, instead, be near the big sights so that you have ample time to see and do what you came here for.
What's Your Budget?
Before you book a hotel, know your budget. Yes, yes, duh. But first, you need to realize that some places you might want to spend more in and save in others. For example, is there a can't miss and well-priced luxury hotel in Santorini? Then maybe you splurge there and stay in an Airbnb in Athens. Having a rough idea of how much you'd like to spend can really help.
To create your budget for your Europe stay, comparison shop. Do a quick Google search of “hotels in city name.” This will tell you what price range you can expect. But please know this is the published rate. That generally means that's the highest rate a hotel charge for a room. Meaning, you don't need to pay that price. Here's how.
Understanding the European Star System
All hotels in Europe have a star rating. That is directly correlated with the amenities that a hotel has. I've stayed in two-star and five-star places. I can tell you some “nice” places have been terrible, and some low star places have been just fine. The system of stars is NOT based on things like charm or atmosphere or even luxury. Tourism officials inspect hotels and add a star rating based on criteria. For example, a toilet and shower in every room means it can qualify as a three star. Basically, the facilities and amenities provided amount to the stars.
Hotels don't work like restaurants in Europe. A 4-star restaurant is much better than a 3-star. That's not the same for hotels. The difference between 2 and 3 stars could be things like elevators and room service. If that's not something you need, then realize that when booking.
My suggestion is to not focus on the stars too much and focus more on the hotel rating and the amenities you need. Some hotels just look to get boxes checked and therefore have more stars but the hotel experience isn't any better. Also to note: the star ratings differ by country. Germany and France don't have standardized ratings, while Spain and Italy do.
Related Reading: How to Book Super Cheap Flights
Tips for getting a cheap hotel in Europe
What kind of hotel do you want to stay in? Budget? Hostel? Chain? Luxury? Have a good idea of what you absolutely must have and go from there. I also bring this up because you might like to consistently stay in a hotel that offers points. That way you can use those points on your hotel stays.
Now that you've looked online and found what hotels you like or are in your range, I suggest heading to Booking.com. This is consistently what I use. I like this because it easily breaks down: location, number of stars, reviews (so important), and amenities (like pet-friendly). I personally really like having an on-site gym in case I'm not too tired and want to work out. Breakfast included is also highly important to me. I can see that all on Booking.com. Of course, other sites like Hotels.com work well too, I just like Booking.com. I also like that they have price alerts so I can be in the know if a deal arises.
If you're looking for last-minute deals I recommend HotelTonight. You can book up to 100 days out, but typically, you might find super cheap deals for booking if it's a few days before.
If you'd rather not book a hotel, go for Airbnb. This is one of the best ways to get a great rate at a good location in Europe. When I book an Airbnb I make sure there are at least a few ratings. While you might snag a good deal on a newly listed property, I'd rather not be the test person. I've stayed in many Airbnbs and found most of them to be wonderful. Just make sure to check for things like air conditioning if you know it's going to be hot. Same goes for hotels. I'll never forget that I got approximately one hour of sleep in Strasbourg, France when the hotel had no AC and I just sat there all night roasting.
P.S. sign up for Airbnb using my link and get $40 off your first booking!
My next tactic is a bit different, because it involves using your phone to… wait for it… make a call! Yes, your phone can actually make calls and not just to your Mom on her birthday. But I find a great way to get an exceptional deal on a room is to just call and ask for the best rate. Simple and effective.
Next step, can you be flexible on your dates? If so, you're more likely to get a better deal. Weekend dates are typically higher priced than during the week. Same goes for different seasons. If you can be flexible, you'll find better deals.
Use deal sites. In Germany, there's a site called Urlaubspiraten (travel pirates) where I booked a trip to Ibiza for 7 days with flight, hotel, and breakfast for under $350 per person. There's a companion site in the USA and other countries that offer similar deals. I also like good ol' Groupon for finding good deals on travel packages. Most of the time you have to book flight plus hotel, but sometimes there are deals on just hotel stays as well.
Amenities I look for
Having traveled and stayed in hundreds of hotels, I know exactly what I'm looking for when I'm booking my hotel in Europe or elsewhere. Minibars and fridges are nice, of course, but these are the things I make sure are included in a hotel.
Wifi – I have to have internet when I travel. This is my number one essential for a hotel, besides the bed. One of my favorite, secret websites is Hotel Wifi Test. It does exactly what it says: gives the site a rating for Wifi. I can't tell you how many times I've kicked myself for not using this. The other day I picked a hotel solely on the fact this site gave this hotel the best Wifi rating in the area.
Free cancellation – Things happen that you can't control, that's why I have to have free cancellation policies. This will be listed plainly and clearly when you book.
Breakfast – I love having breakfast included in a hotel stay because I can eat and then have time to explore. It gives me a chance to eat and plan out my day and a good breakfast can really make the hotel experience enjoyable.
Blow Dryer – This might be obvious, but I've stayed at many places that don't offer a hair dryer. Since I pack as light as possible, I never travel with one. So I think having a blow dryer and other small toiletries really make a difference.
Friendly Staff – While this isn't an amenity, it's a necessity. Oftentimes you'll have questions about the city, what to do, see, eat, etc. So you want to be able to communicate with the staff. I think my favorite hotels are my favorite not just because the room was great, but because the hotel staff was so kind.
Related reading: How to Land Sponsored Travel as a Blogger
My favorite hotels in Europe
I thought I'd share some of my favorite hotels in Europe.
Bulgaria – Best Western in Sofia
Czech Republic – Golden Key in Prague
Denmark – Hotel Ibsens in Copenhagen
Germany – Novotel in Munich
Italy – Starhotel Metropole in Rome
Romania – Best Western in Bucovina
Sweden – Story Hotel in Malmö
Switzerland – Hotel Cervo in Zermatt
Of course, I've stayed in many more, but all of these hotels were exceptional and met all of my standards. I hope this helps you on your quest to find the best hotel deal in Europe!
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