A Travel Agent's Pro Tips for Booking Accommodation

Accommodation is where most travelers spend the bulk of their budget. We asked Nomad (and travel agent) Matt Castell to teach us the secrets to booking accommodation like a seasoned pro.


Bunk beds in a hostel Photo © iStock/DaveLongMedia

Advantages of booking in advance

Sorting your lodging before you pack your bags has its advantages. For me, it means that I can spend more time traveling and less time booking travel. Allocating a few hours per week searching for accommodation online in the months leading up to your trip also helps build extra excitement.

Heaps of hotel booking websites such as Booking.com, Expedia, and Hotels.com allow customers to lock in their fully-refundable rate and reservation without paying a cent until check-in.

This puts the power in your hands if the price drops at the same property or another one. Simply cancel the reservation and rebook, then, lean back and cackle like the boss that you are.

It’s worth mentioning that pre-booking your accommodation around popular events and festivals is a must!

Advantages of booking on the road

Booking accommodation when you’re on the road is a fantastic plan for flexible travelers. Other travelers I’ve met in person – not on the Internet – have recommended some of the best places I’ve ever stayed in.

Word-of-mouth is your best friend, as reviews are fresher than a $1 beach coconut in Costa Rica.

Not locking in the amount of time you’re staying in one destination puts the power in the hands of the backpacker.

If you let the owner of the accommodation know that you’re shopping around, this may provide a better deal, a nicer room, or bonuses for staying longer and paying upfront in cash.

Finding discount codes or offers

At any given time, there can be thousands of promo codes available.

Try adding a simple app to your browser, such as Honey. This cool little money saver automatically searches and adds the best discount code when you get to the purchase screen on popular sites such as Hotels.com and Expedia – plus hundreds of other online shops.

Don’t always rely on the web though. If you’re planning on staying somewhere for a long time, consider calling the property and asking for a discount to book direct.

What to look for in accommodation

Knowing how to book cheap accommodation is one thing – knowing how to book the RIGHT accommodation is another.

First, ask yourself a couple questions to narrow down your choices:

1. What type of accommodation do you want?

This may vary throughout your trip – party hostels can be great, but so can a boutique hotel for a few nights to recharge and relax.

2. What’s your budget?

Be realistic, $10 per night might go a long way in Honduras, but it won’t get you through the front door in London.

Next, read some recent reviews on Hostelworld and Tripadvisor. Remember that some guests may be complaining because they picked the wrong accommodation for them.

Support locals

Getting away from the hostel bubble is imperative if you want to have an authentic travel experience.

Beer pong and pub crawls are great ways to meet people you’ll probably never want to see again. Try to stay local every now and then to create memories and friendships that will go further than your Instagram story. 

It can be tough to link up with locals, especially if you don’t speak the language. Luckily there are a couple of great ways to do this online. Try Airbnb to break away from the backpacker trail for a few nights every now and then.

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