One of the things I love most about planning a trip is deciding where to stay. There once was a time when I’d leave this critical travel planning step to chance. Armed with a plane ticket and a reservations for just one night, I’d venture off to my destination not knowing what my first travel day would hold.
Fortunately, I soon smartened up.
Perhaps it’s getting older (and, hopefully, wiser!), but I’ve since moved well beyond the happy-go-lucky, sleep-on-anything philosophy that ruled my more youthful travels.
Much to the chagrin of nearly every other travel blogger known to man- and womankind, I no longer book myself into hostels. These days, I prefer the comforts of mid-range luxury hotels or apartment rentals to the cramped shared quarters of budget accommodations. (In fact, that’s the main reason I travel part-time rather than full-time!)
I’ve created this guide with all this in mind. In it, you’ll find a run down of some of the best accommodations options out there as well as some guides to some of the major cities I’ve been covering on Treksplorer.
How to find the perfect accommodations
On my international travels, I’ve managed to find myself in nearly every type of accommodation imaginable from camp grounds & hostels to hotels & homestays—and just about everything in between.
Although I privilege comfort over shaving a few pennies these days, here’s a quick summary of all the main types of accommodation you’ll encounter in your search:
- Camping: If you’ve got an adventure streak and are willing to “rough” it, consider finding a camp ground. It’s generally cheaper than a hostel, although usually not quite as comfortable. The biggest disadvantage is that you’ll have to carry along more gear than you might want.
- Hostels: When sticking to your budget is your prime concern, you’ll know doubt be looking at a flurry of hostels. Although some hostels have budget-friendly private rooms with private bathrooms, you’ll most often find shared accommodations like dorm rooms and shared bathrooms on offer. Hostels are for all ages, but I’d being lying if I said they weren’t geared towards the twenty-something backpacker crowd.
- Guesthouses: A slight step up from hostels, guesthouses are often budget-friendly and offer a more “local” experience than many hotels. Both private and shared accommodations are common.
- Homestays: To get insight into local cultures, there’s nothing better than a homestay. Most home owners will go out of their way to give you the experience that you travel for. They’re usually quite comfortable, but, as you’d imagine, less private than other types of accommodations.
- Apartment rentals: Like homestays, apartment rentals puts you into more local accommodations both with or without the owner present. One of the biggest disadvantages over hotels is the inconvenience. (If you’ve ever had to wait an hour for a building manager to hand off the key after a 12-hour travel day, you’ll know what I mean.)
- Hotels: Ranging from budget-friendly to only-a-celebrity-could-afford-me, hotels are the most wide-ranging accommodation option out there. They’re generally more expensive than guesthouses or hostels but tend to offer more services. At the best hotels, you’ll find amenities like world-class restaurants, pools, spas, and all kinds of other goodies.
Best hotel booking sites
There are few things that will get a traveller more riled up than recommending a hotel booking site. Nearly everyone has a hotel horror story they’re all-too eager to share as a cautionary tale to avoid a certain site.
After reserving a wide variety of rooms on a number of platforms, I feel confident doling out this advice. I can’t promise that your experience will always be perfect, but here are my recommendations for the best hotel booking sites:
- Booking.com: My go-to site for accommodations for years has been Booking.com. Even with dozens upon dozens of rooms booked here, the biggest problem I’ve encountered is a hotel lying about taking credit cards several times, but I can’t blame Booking.com for that. Although it’s most famous as a hotel booking site, Booking.com now offers everything from holiday rentals to hostels and guesthouses to hotels.
- Agoda: Another solid hotel booking site. I often use it now while travelling in Asia as they seem to have a slightly wider selection than the other OTAs in Asia. Prices for Asian hotels tend to also be marginally better on Agoda.
- Hotels.com: A good selection of hotels available with the bonus of a loyalty program that gives you a free night after 10 qualifying nights.
- Expedia: Another booking site offering an in-house loyalty program where you can collect points towards travel. Expedia is the best place to find awesome travel deals by bundling your flights and hotels.
- Airbnb: My favourite option for booking owner apartment rentals and homestays. Get C$40 off your first stay by signing up here.
Best hotel chains
One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that hotel booking sites don’t always offer the best deals. While things may look good on paper, there’s one thing that’s missing: hotel loyalty programs.
When you book with third-party sites like Booking.com, you give up your right to collect points and stays with the hotel’s own loyalty programs. (Of course, I found this out the hard way.)
Since then, I’ve been starting my search on the hotel chain’s own sites after logging into my membership. Not only are the prices often cheaper than third-party sites, you can often price match with other advertised offers and collect loyalty points on your stay. Here are a few of the best hotel chains:
- Marriott: One of the biggest hotel chains out there featuring top hotel brands like JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard Marriott, Delta, and Renaissance. After merging with Starwood Hotels, their portfolio of properties also now include St. Regis, W, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, and Four Points by Sheraton. Their Marriott Bonvoy is one of the best hotel loyalty programs out there and the one I personally use for my own travel hacking needs.
- Hilton: Ignoring the antics of this chain’s ditzy heiress, Hilton is one top hotel brands in the mid-range to luxury market. With brands like Hilton, Conrad, Double Tree, and Hampton under its belt, there’s plenty of places to choose from at all ends of the earth. Join the Hilton Honors program for discounted rates and benefits like free WiFi and express check-out.
- Hyatt: With some of the world’s best hotel brands under its belt like Park Hyatt, Hyatt Place, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, and Hyatt Regency, it’s hard to not recommend staying at a Hyatt. Their World of Hyatt loyalty program is superb, allowing you to save up to 10% and rack up points for free stays quickly.
Where to stay: The best hotels in the world
Okay, so maybe that title’s a little misleading. I’m not going to cover the whole world.
(Remember: I’m just one dude with an insatiable travel addiction here.)
I’ll be periodically adding to this section as I fill up the site with all more fun travel stuff. Until then, here are some where to stay guides in some of my favourite cities on earth…
- Best Hotels in Beijing
- Best Hotels in Chengdu
- Best Hotels in Guangzhou
- Best Hotels in Hangzhou
- Best Hotels in Shanghai
- Best Hotels in Xian
- Best Hotels in Fukuoka
- Best Hotels in Hiroshima
- Best Hotels in Kanazawa
- Best Hotels in Kyoto
- Best Hotels in Nagoya
- Best Hotels in Nara
- Best Hotels in Nikko
- Best Hotels in Osaka
- Best Hotels in Otaru
- Best Hotels in Sapporo
- Best Hotels in Takayama
- Best Hotels in Tokyo
- Best Hotels in Yokohama
- Best Hotels in Berlin
- Best Hotels in Cologne
- Best Hotels in Dresden
- Best Hotels in Frankfurt
- Best Hotels in Hamburg
- Best Hotels in Munich
- Best Hotels in Barcelona
- Best Hotels in Bilbao
- Best Hotels in Granada
- Best Hotels in Madrid
- Best Hotels in Marbella
- Best Hotels in San Sebastian
- Best Hotels in Seville
- Best Hotels in Valencia