Booking Hotel Rooms in Europe
Hotels, like any other commodity, are subject to the rules of supply and demand. The more flexible you are about where to stay (and when to stay), the more money you can expect to save.
For lowest rates, use a consolidator.
Hotel managers know they'll seldom fill all their rooms at the published "rack rates," so they often negotiate discount rates with consolidators like our advertising partners, Venere and Booking.com, which offer competitive rates in all hotel categories.
You might be able to match consolidators' rates by showing up at the last minute and negotiating your own price for a vacant room, but you can't count on doing so--and you might not find a room at all.
Avoid tourist-office booking desks during high season or on weekends.
Tourist offices often have hotel counters in railroad stations and airports where you can get a room at the last minute. Although these services are useful in emergencies, they do have several disadvantages:
How to get the room you want.
The quality of hotel rooms can vary, especially in older hotels or in cities where the shape and layout of ancient buildings may limit the number of rooms that have good views and sunlight. Although you can request a specific room ahead of time, you can't always be sure of getting it--and if you've never stayed in the hotel, you may not know what to request in the first place.
Fortunately, there's an easy solution in most cases: Check in as early as you can. If you aren't happy with the room you've been assigned, ask to see another. (In hotels, as in many other endeavors, the early bird often gets the worm.)
Consider alternatives to hotels.
If you're on a tight budget, a youth hostel may be worth considering. Many newer hostels have double, triple, or quad rooms instead of the traditional open dormitories, and others (especially privately owned hostels) have done away with onerous rules about check-in times and curfews. Check our city guides for listings.
For visits of several days to a week or more, apartment and cottage rentals can save money while offering a taste of local life. Read our article, A Home Away from Home, for more information on self-catering accommodation.
Private rooms are a possibility in many countries, where homeowners and farmers supplement their incomes by renting out rooms at modest rates that normally include breakfast. Local tourist offices usually have lists of such informal B&B-style lodgings.
For more articles on hotels and other accommodations, see:
and the pages on hotels, hostels, camping, vacation apartments, etc. in our:
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