When most of us think about going on a European holiday, we think about al fresco dining, long walks through historical towns, and interesting tours of medieval castles or Roman villas.
But, between all that sightseeing, eating, and relaxation, you need to find an equally lovely place to stay. However, if you’ve never been to your destination before, it can be hard to know where to stay or what to look for — particularly as everything is always a little different in mainland Europe.
So, here’s a quick guide to help you pick the best lodging for your next European holiday.
First and foremost, you need to ensure that your accommodation is accessible for everyone at your party. There’s no point staying in a charming villa or the 5th floor of a waterfront hotel if your entire party won’t be able to easily navigate independently.
So, before booking any accommodation, check in with your party members and see if they have any specific needs that must be met. This can even be as simple as asking about dietary restrictions before you book a hotel in a seaside town like Saint-Jean-de-Luz — a charming French town famous for its seafood.
The safest bet when travelling with a party that has accessibility needs is to book through larger chains of hotels. This might sound boring, but many European hotel chains provide a much better quality of service than we are used to in the UK. Alternatively, if you can find a communicative Airbnb host, you might luck out and find a place that works for you all.
When you’re looking through listings, you may be tempted by remote country lodges or historical villas on the edge of town. But, bear in mind that public transport works differently in different European countries, and you may find that your holiday plans are ruined by bizarre bus timetables or subways that seem to be completely void of actual trains.
If you’re able and willing to walk into town, don’t put yourself more than 10 minutes walk away from the city centre or beach where you’ll be spending most of your time. A 10-minute walk doesn’t sound like much when you’re planning a holiday, but at the end of a long day of sightseeing, eating, and drinking, you will not want to walk more than 10 minutes to get back to your accommodation.
If you’re planning a longer holiday, then look into the train connections that are local to the area you’re staying in. It’s quite likely that you’ll want to visit a few different cities if you’re in Europe for more than a week, so be sure to pick a base town like Basel which has free public transport and great connections to the rest of Europe.
We all have a romantic notion of discovering a small European town and being the only tourists around. The idea is that a tourist-less town will give you the “authentic” experience of Spain, France, or Germany. But, in reality, visiting towns that aren’t set up for tourists usually results in a lot of awkward interactions and a fairly boring time.
Ideally, you’ll want to strike a balance between a tourist-saturated city like Paris and an unheard-of mountain town where you can’t figure out how to buy milk. Typically, this balance between convenience and authenticity can be through beach vacations where out-of-country tourists mingle comfortably with citizens who are also looking for a relaxing getaway.
The good thing about holidaying in a beach town is that you don’t need to plan something new every day. If you ever run out of ideas or have your plans unexpectedly cancelled, you can always head to the beach and enjoy the sun or sea. Remember, the beach also has a host of engaging activities you can partake in, like metal detecting on the shoreline. Who knows what you might find buried under the sand in Corfu, Marbella, or Rhodes?
Picking the right kind of lodging is a surprisingly pressurized decision. Your party will spend plenty of time at the place you pick, so you want it to be just right. There are plenty of types of lodging from chain hotels or inns to bed and breakfasts or eco-hotels. The variety of choices can quickly become overwhelming, but you should always book your accommodation sooner rather than later.
First, you need to establish your parameters. Consider your budget, accessibility needs, and what your priorities are. Most hotel finders will have a filter to help you remove unwanted results, and it’s worth keeping a separate spreadsheet to help you effectively rank your choices.
A word of warning: during your search, you will likely find a few places that seem remarkably cheap compared to the market average. Occasionally, these cheaper spots will be brilliant finds that save you money. But, in reality, places that undercut the market dramatically are usually cheap for a reason. So before you book, take care to read all the reviews you can find and read between the lines — you do not want to book two weeks in a charming, one-bed Parisian apartment to find that you’re actually staying in shared student accommodation.
A European vacation will take you to plenty of areas of natural beauty and historical significance — and all for the fraction of the cost of trips further afield. However, you’ll need to ensure that your lodging is up to standard if you want to have a truly relaxing holiday. Your best bet is to do plenty of research and book well in advance.