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Sleeping Ricks way vs Sleeping in nice Hotels.

Hi,
Last night i had to make decisions when Booking Rooms in London, like many of you already have. Do i Book a nice Hotel or go with a less expensive Hostel, B&B Type.

My question is, for those who have done both what what was the best experience and why? I booked a Holiday Inn in Berlin right in the Center but also Booked a few Hostels in Switzerland so i'll get both experiences.

Is it really as Steve describes or is roughing it overrated? I consider myself a Moderate traveler, not hardcore but not a City slicker either.

Posted by
6721 posts

Do you really think Rick is "roughing it" or it's more like a persona he puts on? I think it's the latter. Seriously, people have never had it so good as far as comfort goes (no one is suffering in a hotel or motel, let's face it). Besides that, who cares what other people do? You have your own budget, values, and preferences...I would listen to those over anyone else.

The way I do it is I have a certain budget in mind, and I offset more expensive accommodations with cheaper ones on the same trip. As long as the average cost across the trip doesn't exceed some amount, then it doesn't matter that one room is more expensive/nicer, since another one is the opposite (within a certain range). It's worth trying out rooms at all levels because it makes you realize what you value and what you really don't. I've stayed in some expensive hotels that just didn't have value for me considering the price, and I've stayed in cheaper ones that were a steal and I was really happy with them, even though bathrooms were down the hall (eg. Chicago Getaway Hostel and YWCA Hotel Vancouver).

Posted by
4602 posts

I haven't stayed in a youth hostel since I was 20, but I'm glad to have had the experience. I will say, though, that I stayed in that hostel because it was all I could afford; I was considering sleeping on a bench in the train station when another student told me about the hostel and took me there.

Check out the lists of accommodations in some of Rick's books. They range from dorm-style hostels to very nice "splurge" hotels, with convents, tiny family-run hotels, and uniquely quirky hotels between those two extremes. So stay in at least one hostel for the experience. Many of them now host visitors of all ages, not just students. It's a good way to meet fellow travelers in a convivial atmosphere.

But I would look for smaller, family-owned hotels near the center of town. Prices can be quite reasonable. There's no need to pay mega-euros to have a clean room where everything works. After all, how much time do you plan to spend in the hotel? Even budget hotels often have a good breakfast and public areas where you can relax.

I do have a relative who spends almost all her time in the hotel when she travels. For her, luxury rules. But for most of us here? Reasonable comfortable, safe, and clean. We're spending most of our time out exploring!

Posted by
3222 posts

I agree with what Agnes says. Additionally, in some countries, like the UK, we tend to stay at B&Bs outside of the large cities. In other countries like Spain, B&Bs are a little harder to find, so we tend to stay at hotels everywhere. Where ones stays is a personal choice that is location and budget dependent. Another factor is whether you plan out your entire trip ahead of time or stop on the fly. If you don’t know where you’re stopping each night, then you’ll stay where there is lodging and pay that price.

Posted by
7205 posts

I think it really doesn't matter what "Rick thinks". What does matter is what YOU think.

I think RS is a nice guy with some experience and a GREAT marketing team.

Lastly, concerning London. I have YET to discover a hotel, B&B, whatever - that was really really top notch.

Posted by
911 posts

I don't think the hotels Rick recommends are 'roughing it.' When in London we stayed in his recommended London House Hotel and it was great. That being said, it is really more about what you can afford and what you are really looking for in a hotel, as well as location of that hotel within the city.

Posted by
3895 posts

I think it comes down to the level of comfort you want. I'm a budget traveler, who tends to stick to airbnb's (generally a private room). I tend to stick to the $60-100 (Canadian) range, sometimes getting into the $120 range. The one time we dropped a lot (for me) of money on a hotel - it was strictly for the convenience - we stayed at the Sofitel either Gatwick or Heathrow - I can't rem which - it was 10 yrs ago. It was up in the $175 price range - but we were taking a late flight from Venice that wasn't getting in til around midnight, and we just didn't want to mess with taxis. And the sad thing is - we barely enjoyed it because we didn't get to the room until after midnight, and prob left around 9am or so.

But we are fine staying in a private room. We def aren't the 'luxurious' type (tho I wouldn't turn my nose up at it). We like meeting people and have met some lovely airbnb hosts. One lady we've stayed with twice in Paris. Another one I'm hoping we can stay with again (stayed with her in 2015) for our upcoming travel.

I'm in the same frame of mind right now. Looking at booking places in Provence for July. We just decided last week to do this trip, and even now, finding something in my budget that is good is hard, because it's a very popular time to travel there. I had a very well meaning person send me a link to an airbnb - it was $265 (Can) a night - I'm like - that's my budget for 3 nights! I just can't bring myself to drop that kinda cash on somewhere we are most likely only going to sleep and eat breakfast.

My husband and I just really like meeting and talking to people - at a traditional B&B, we've had some great chats with folks over breakfast. At airbnb, we've had great chats and experiences with our hosts - I feel like we are connecting more, which we def don't get at a hotel.

You seem to be doing it right for you - you'll figure out which you like better. And sometimes a hotel is just what you need. We've never used hostels, so I can't speak to that, tho we did couchsurf some at the start of our travels, and have slept on some air mattresses, regular mattresses on the floor, and yes - even couches!

Posted by
9784 posts

I agree with what Agnes and Jane had to say. A Premier Inn in the UK is not luxury,nor is it “roughing it” by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve also had charming B & Bs for 75-125 euros a night. Once in awhile we book nicer digs for a short stay, like two or three nights between long stays of a week or more. By “nicer,” I mean a splurge of maybe 200-230 euros per night.

IMO, all of our European experiences beat the heck out of a standard American chain like Hilton or Marriott.

Posted by
1352 posts

I stayed in a Hostel in Paris in a private room that was not too bad. I probably wouldn't stay there again though. I stayed at a hostel in Prague that was not so nice - very noisy! and would not stay there again. I have gotten "express deals" on Priceline for big cities in Europe in the past - had a few of them turn out good, but a few of them not so good. I have learned over the years that how I feel about my accommodations colors how I feel about the town / city I am visiting. I look for accommodation near city center with character - not big box preferably. I have also learned that if you carefully read the descriptions in the RS books they are pretty accurate.

Posted by
1024 posts

What Agnes said: budget-per-night average in mind, search on airbnb and Booking.com. I have never used Rick's recs for a place to stay (have never even looked in that section of his books). I am methodical about searching, and knock wood, so far have found mostly remarkable places for quite little money. I don't want to stay in a hostels because of my experience in my 20's (not bad at all, just not suitable for my family of 5), although I think it could be an interesting experience and should look into it. I never stay in chain hotels. I make a point of looking for locally owned mom-and-pop b&b's or pensions, and if this is not in my price range we more often stay in rental apartments which is more affordable for us, and gives us more space and ability to save on meals. As for roughing it, we have been backpacking every summer with the kids since they were two (yes, the two year old rode on dad's top of pack/shoulders like riding a pack mule), so they are so happy to have a bed that it feels like luxury to us ;)
On the other hand, my good friend was telling me that one of the "10 things we learned on our trip to Europe" was "there is a difference between 4 and 5 star hotels". This cracked me up. So there are some people for whom luxury is important. Not us

Posted by
3173 posts

Sleeping Ricks way vs Sleeping in nice Hotels....Do i Book a nice
Hotel or go with a less expensive Hostel, B&B Type.

I am confused by the premise above.

On one of Rick's London programs, he recommends and stays at Aster House in South Kensington. This is NOT a budget property. Here is the website. Click on "Tariff" on the left side of the page and you will see that the cheapest rate FROM 1 January 2015 is £180 and that is for a small room with a single bed. What part of this is "less expensive"? What part of this also isn't "nice"? The property looks absolutely lovely.

We stay at Doubletree by Hilton properties. I am traveling two weeks from today for 5 nights and have a room with a new king-sized bed plus a full breakfast, free high-speed wifi, in-room safe, 40" HDTV, Nespresso maker, terry cloth bathrobe, Crabtree & Evelyn products, mini fridge, kettle, and bottled water both sparking/still each night for £77 per night. This fits my budget. It's a business hotel and that's fine by me as this hotel makes London AFFORDABLE. Plus I like the amenities particularly the breakfast. We've stayed there before & this works.

Posted by
1785 posts

After staying in hostels in my 20’s, I can gladly say those days are behind me. I definately like higher end now!
We have considered taking an RS tour, but the number one thing that concerns me is not to expect air conditioning (or climate control) at his hotels. Being Alaskans, we get over-heated easily and especially at night, like our room on the cool side. If its too hot, we can’t sleep.
I also realize that climate control is hard to come by, especially in older hotels.

Posted by
6721 posts

Hostels are not your grandfather's hostels anymore - they are quite diverse in their offerings, so it pays to actually look at each property individually. Some have private bathrooms and rooms which do cost more (which isn't really a traditional hostel model), while others have private rooms and a bathroom down the hall. Of course, this is in combination with shared rooms full of bunk beds, which comprise the typical hostel arrangement. In the US, they can be terrible or perfectly nice. In Europe they are of a higher standard, and some countries really have high standards.

Hotels are really tweaking their business models to attract younger customers or non-traditional ones. I wouldn't write anything off. In NYC, I often stay in Pod hotels which are micro-hotels but very well laid out. Some rooms have bunk beds, some have shared bathrooms, and some have completely private amenities (in-room bathrooms). I'm 45 and flexible as to hotel arrangements. I thought I couldn't stand sharing a bathroom...that is, until I actually did it and found it was no big deal to me. Of course I'd prefer not to, but Chicago and NYC ain't cheap and I'd rather spend money on food/entertainment. I don't select hotels based on guidebooks, I pick them on www.booking.com because I can read up-to-date reviews and see photos. I don't really care for granny type establishments (old furniture, old fashioned, etc.) so that rules out a lot of guidebook recommendations.

Posted by
4884 posts

It is all about Location, the City and price.

We don't go for expensive five star hotel unless they are included in a tour package that is competitive.

In selecting accommodations, I look for a great location, walking distance from the key sights in the city. If B&Bs are available, we prefer them, since highly ranked B&Bs often have equal or better quality than a four star hotel. We sometime choose a four star or boutique hotel depending on reviews and prices or lack of B&Bs in the area of interest.

Also, with a B&B you almost always get a wonderful breakfast. Further, in exploring a city, B&B proprietors usually are very helpful advising on restaurants and touring options.

Rick Steves guidebooks can be helpful with selection of lodging, but I also use TripAdvisor and other sources.

Posted by
3526 posts

One of the reasons I like Booking.com is that you can filter by review score. Stars mean nothing to me, especially knowing that how a lodging gets them and what they represent varies from country to country.

I haven't stayed in a hostel since my first trip to Europe in 1977. That was a trip where I stayed in lots of hostels and rooms in private homes with no advance reservations and bathrooms down hall. Some of the places were pretty dodgy and could qualify as "roughing it," but it was what I could afford at the time.

Now I usually choose small hotels, B&Bs or apartments. Sometimes they are from Rick's books and/or recommended by people on the Forum. I have never thought any of my selections 2009 to the present have been roughing it. And with 2 RS tours under my belt, none of the places I've stayed on them could qualify as roughing it either.

My requirements are pretty basic: an en-suite bath with a shower head or wand high on the wall, free in-room wi-fi and TV that gets some English-language channels. I have bad knees, but I still like rooms with a view, so having an elevator is appreciated, but not required. I'm more concerned about being cold than about being hot.

I tend to avoid large hotels affiliated with known US chains, but I do like European business hotels because the breakfast is often exceptional.

The point is the same as others have said. You have to decide what is truly important to you and concentrate on those criteria as you look for places to stay.

Posted by
4368 posts

Lastly, concerning London. I have YET to discover a hotel, B&B, whatever - that was really really top notch

You're staying in the wrong hotels then! Some of the best hotels in the world are in London, I've stayed in some fantastic ones but at a price. Equally I've never had a problem with Premier Inn, perfectly acceptable however if it's my wife and I then we'll splurge.

Posted by
1217 posts

My preference is for mid-level, quiet, and clean. That might be a big concrete box; that might be a 200 year old inn the owners have renovated to modern spec. I do stay in a fair number of chain hotels, and regard London as a good place to use points and do award stays since the cash price can be quite high.

I do not regard a musty smell and dust as signs of lodging authenticity, and would not share a bathroom in an urban property.

While Rick's books often skew toward the older quirky properties, his France one has a pretty high number of recs for the budget-friendly concrete box Ibis hotels, so I'm not sure it's an either/or question here.

Posted by
3418 posts

Good Grief, "Rick's Way". There is no Rick's way. He does have some thoughtful suggestions about the value of location and getting out into the country and its culture.

What matters if what you need and what you value. You don't need to to do anything that you are uncomfortable with if you don't want to do it.

Posted by
9810 posts

Where you stay and what comfort level you want is completely up to you.

I like to be comfortable. I like my place to be clean. I insist on ensuite. I like to be near the center of town.
That doesn't mean I need to stay in a boxy American style hotel but it also doesn't mean that my only choices are those RS recommends. (I do like some European chains.)

I take into consideration budget, reviews (Booking.com over Tripadvisor because anyone can post on Tripadvisor while only people who booked that hotel through booking.com can review on that hotel's page.)

I have stayed in a few recommended RS hotels. Most were on his tours. Some places were very nice and others, well, I doubt I would stay there ever again.

In regard to Premier Inn, I've stayed in quite a few and never had a problem. I have no hesitation staying in one.

Posted by
18911 posts

I look for the cheapest single room I can find that has an en suite bathroom and decent reviews on booking.com (cleanliness, noise, Wi-Fi, a/c in summer) and is well-located. What I normally get is an extremely small room, often looking out on an air shaft (but quiet!) with the sort of furniture one might find in a recently redecorated dormitory room. These characteristics will normally be clear from online photos and reviews. Budget rooms are fine with me, because the room rate is usually about half of what pickier travelers have to pay for a somewhat more spacious room with charm. I can't afford to pay for charm and a lot of extra square footage on a long trip.

Posted by
5635 posts

So Keim with all these answers what have you decided to do regarding your Accomodations?

Posted by
1584 posts

And Rick doesn't travel the way he used to. Somewhere on his website is the video that shows the evolution of his travel company. In the early days he used to travel by VW style van and the tourmates were told to fan out and find accommodations. Now his guidebooks list accommodations from hostels to things that are above our price range.

Posted by
228 posts

I almost always stay in a holiday home, villa or AirBnB-style accommodation because I prefer to have the space, a kitchen for self-catering when we don't want to eat out and a lounge/sitting room for relaxing in the evenings. Where possible, I will book something with views and/or a great location.

I find this style of accommodation lets us feel we're temporary locals rather than just passing through. Hotels can feel rather impersonal in comparison. I don't think any hotel proprietor has ever invited us back to their own house for coffee or lunch, whereas holiday home owners have done that several times.

Posted by
1878 posts

Rick's hotel listings have moved upscale over the years. He still favors family style hotels, or B&Bs depending upon the country. He might list a hostel or two, but his books are not the Let's Go Guide. B&Bs are most definitely not roughing it, the standard is usually very high. But in London, you might want to be careful. Good value places book long in advance, rooms are often very tiny, etc. My wife and I stayed at the Doubletree Hilton near Victoria Station on our 2013 trip on points. There is something about staying at a business class hotel, especially at the end of your trip, in a big city, that is comforting. We are doing the same in Berlin this spring.

Posted by
7923 posts

Hostels are not like they used to be, as Agnes said.
I haven’t stayed in any but my son travels a lot and always stays in very nice hostels. He loves meeting people from all over the world and this is the best way even though he can afford hotels.
He researches extensively before booking and never stays in noisy, “party” hostels. Even though he’s in his 20s and likes to party, he doesn’t travel for that.
He’s in Medellin, Columbia now for 2 wks staying at this hostel, which looks good and he’s very happy with...

http://lospatioshb.com/

He has stayed in many all over Europe and in Asia and they all looked as nice, or nicer, than many hotels I / we have stayed in.

I used to stay in RS recommended hotels but stopped b/c some were good and some were not good at all. I realized many different people were writing the reviews/descriptions in his books and they all had different criteria/standards so it was very inconsistent and unreliable.
I use Hotels.com or Booking.com.

Posted by
5668 posts

As others have said, everyone defines their ideal lodgings differently -- for us, en-suite bathroom is optional (and walking down the hall to a clean shower room isn't "roughing it") but good Wi-Fi is a requirement.
Haven't stayed in a hostel (my daughter, who has, advised that I wouldn't like it) but I have stayed in a hostal in Spain as well as pensions and zimmerfrei and other forms of B&B/small family-run hotels. Occasionally the places I find on booking.com turn out to also be in Rick's books.

Posted by
2791 posts

We usually stay at Hiltons with frequent traveler points(from my husband's business trips) but in places where there is no Hilton or it is not centrally located, I have loved the places we got from Rick's books. We do like AC and elevators when staying more than one level above the ground. My husband is a huge fan of the Trafalgar, a Hilton located close to the National Gallery and lots of other sights. Hotels are like real estate-Location, Location, Location!

Posted by
72 posts

Claudia:

We will stay in a Air BNB close to the British museum. I decided Airbnb was by far the best option. Its really hard to beat the selection they have in any city really.

But we will stay in the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, and another Hostel in Paris i believe. And a Farmhouse near Florence. But a Holiday Inn with a perfect location in Berlin. So we are doing both the Hotel chain deal and the off the beaten path.

Posted by
25771 posts

Be careful with any rental apartments in London - there are loads of fakes and illegal sublets.

Just do your due diligence, read the reviews very carefully, use Google Street View, and don't short circuit the AirBnB protections of paying through AirBnB (especially if the "owner" says they will cut you a deal for going direct) and communicating through AirBnB channels (especially if the "owner" tries to get you to correspond with them outside the channels). Use google search on some of the photos.

Most places are fine but there is a large enough underworld to be very careful.

Posted by
1128 posts

For a big city like London, I go for chains and don't care about any personality. Admittedly, I"m a solo traveler, so it might be different on a romantic trip. I want the staff to be friendly, and I don't mind saying hi, but I'm probably not looking for extended conversation. There's been a few times where I've chatted with the bartender at the hotel, and that's fine.

I've become a huge fan of Premier Inn and especially their Hub properties. I also like Z Hotels, although they have gotten pricey in London the past year or so.

I wish I'd done the hostel thing when I was younger. But now, no, it isn't appealing, even in a private room.

Posted by
897 posts

I love Rick Steves, but I hate his hotel recommendations. I've stayed at a few RS hotels, including some that he RAVES about, and I was not a fan. I like quiet, predictability, and decent amenities.

Posted by
875 posts

@Agnes,

I am staying at YWCA-Vancouver in May. I am traveling with my Mom for her 80th birthday. It is on her dime and she can afford an expensive hotel but I think she will appreciate the value. She said that for one night she can share a bathroom in the hallway. I am feeling even better about it since you mentioned it in your post. The next day we board a ship to Alaska.

I am also limiting her to carry on luggage only. Her 7 sisters think I am an ogre, but she is enjoying the challenge it presents.

Posted by
3465 posts

Why do you think the Rick way is roughing it? Unless you feel that staying at a 3 star hotel vs a 5 star means roughing it?

Long gone are the days when the tours would spend their nights in Switzerland sleeping in the hay barns (Yes, they really did. We were supposed to on the GAS tour I took, but the owner of the barn was too ill to take care of us so we ended up at a very nice brand new hotel with fantastic views of the mountains).

Since then the 10 tours I have been on the overall hotel quality has constantly improved. Even the B&B places we stayed were newer, fully equipped, and just very nice and comfy. This doesn't mean there are no hotels with quirks chosen any more. One we stayed at was the one in continuous service for the longest of any in Europe. It creaked and none of the floors were level, but the beds were new, each room had a bath, and the food was top notch. Some of them list their rooms at over €300 a night, like the one we stayed at in Paris (I know RS negotiates a far better price than that!), so not all of them are budget level. Even the chain hotels that get used have some undefinable difference about them (in a good way) that makes staying there enjoyable.

I really have no need for most of the extra frills you get with a 5 star hotel, or the cost. I am happy staying in moderate places and the desk person at the 2 and a half star business hotel located in the middle of everything I want can give me better suggestions for dinner than most 5 star concierges.

Posted by
7485 posts

Sleeping Ricks way vs Sleeping in nice Hotels.

Have been on RS tours and used RS recommended hotels on private travels as well.

Was unaware i was not in a "nice" hotel.... Thank you for pointing that out.

Posted by
1939 posts

I have used some of Rick’s recommended hotels during independent travel and been on many RS tours. I never thought any of the hotels we were in were less than “nice” (poster’s word) and some were outstanding.

Posted by
9810 posts

I guess I've been unlucky in RS hotels (all on his tours).

I've encountered:

--showers that fell off the wall
--serious mold in the shower
--towels that literally ripped in half trying to dry my back after a shower(I'm not that strong.)
--pillow so thin that when folded in half they not only stayed folded but didn't get any thicker.
--soap the size of a U.S. half dollar.
--showers so small it was impossible to turn around. (One door was so small only a very small person could fit in it.)
--B &B owners that turned off the heat at night even though it went down to the 40's (F) and then overslept the next morning so there was no heat when trying to get dressed and the towels were damp and cold before even using them.

I've also stayed in some very nice rooms as well. It's hit or miss.

Posted by
3465 posts

Frank II, I have had those types of experiences traveling on my own in the US and elsewhere as well. Never fun when it happens.

Don't know when you took your RS tours, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, the hotels have constantly improved in quality over the past 10 years I have been taking the tours, and some of the ones on the first couple tours were iffy. Since I have not repeated any of the tours I took, I don't know if they continue to use the marginal hotels or have moved to different ones when the tour members complained about these types of things.

All of the hotels on the tours were not perfect. Sometimes the "quaint" factor made them nearly uninhabitable. Like the one we stayed in for our Munich nights on my very first tour. The place had started a complete gutting for a remodel. The stairs were barely hanging onto the walls. And to top it off, was a 90 minute train ride to get to Munich. No one liked that place. Definitely the worst, and none stand out in my memory for terribleness like that one.

Posted by
2265 posts

I think this “Rick’s way v. Nice hotel” to be pretty much a red herring or canard or false choice or whatever you want to call it. I’ve stayed in various Rick’s type hotels in many European countries, and generally they have been nice or very nice and some times wonderful. My own go-to source for lodging has become Booking.com, with personal recommendations on this Forum and Expedia.com as back-ups, often just to verify my choice. I look for well-located, moderate-priced hotels, usually €100 per night, give or take, with very high customer ratings on Booking.com, 8.5 or ideally 9.0 or higher. Then I look especially at room size in square feet and the trending comments in reviews. I really like having some space to move around in, and will also pay an additional €20 or so for a larger “superior” room, and look carefully at photos to try to make sure that the shower is not one of those 2 foot by 2 foot boxes. A very good included breakfast is a nice thing, but not if comments about the breakfast are not positive, or if I know that some days I will be out too early to enjoy breakfast at my lodging. Usually by the time I am looking at lodging, my itinerary is pretty much locked in, so I am then willing to go “non-refundable” in order to save some money. By the way, I have never had a problem with a Booking.com or Expedia.com booking. I will usually check the hotel or inn’s own web site, but often Booking.com offers me a better price, room selection or conditions.

Posted by
9810 posts

Mark, my tours have all been in the last 20 months.

And it also surprised me that while RS claims his tours stay in "centrally located" hotels, a few were far from the center of town. On one tour even the guide mentioned this about where we were staying. The walk back from the center of town at night was so dark, the guide arranged for taxi service at hour intervals so everyone would get back safely.

Again, there have been some very nice hotels as well.

I don't want people to think I'm demanding. I don't care about the size of the room. I've stayed in some small singles that were fine. I just want my room to be clean, fairly comfortable and quiet so I can get some rest, have enough hot water for a shower, bug free and a couple of halfway decent towels. If it has good wifi I'm happy. Anything above that is an extra. i''ve had great views and I've had views of the trash dumpsters. Not a problem.