My husband, sister-in-law, and I are headed to Italy on June 2. We have accommodations in Rome already reserved, but we are thinking of winging the rest of our lodgings when we get there. What do you think? In the past, we have mostly planned our lodging, but had a few nights where we went to the Tourist Information office and found a spot to stay. We always had great adventures as a result. With three of us, should we plan or take a chance on the adventure? Thanks!
Jan, I used to wing it but I don't anymore, I no longer have the patience to wait in a long line when I could have my reservation in hand. Also, it's easier to find one room than two on the fly. It depends on where you want to go - large cities usually offer more choices. One thing you can try is to ask your hotel staff to recommend a place in the next city you plan to visit. Or, check a site like booking.com or venere.com the day before you leave one city for the next (sometimes you can get a last-minute deal this way, too).
I found it to be a terrible idea. For a starter, tourist information offices are unlikely to be your best source of accommodation info. Due to local politics, they usually need to make a rotation of guests to different places. They must treat all places on their list "fairly", and in that case fairness usually mean distributing guests among the so-so places or not good value-for-money places that still pay taxes that fund the tourist information office... Then, both cities are relatively large, even if you consider only their "core" areas. If you are going to look for accommodation on spot, you might lose a lot of time. I recommend you to take your time, at home, to book accommodations online. Use a website like Venere, Booking or other where only those who stayed at hotels can write reviews. Take a snap on Google Maps (Street View) to see the exact location of your hotel. At most, you should book your accommodation online before departing your previous city. In other others: know where your next bed is when you leave a previous one.
Thank you both for the feedback. It's the way I'm leaning, but will have to convince the husband, who'd like the adventure. I don't want to waste time standing in line myself. I never thought to Google Map the area. What a great idea, thank you!
USing Google Street View is a great tool, where available, to get a sense of the immediate surroundings. If it says "3 blocks from train station", how is the walk, does it look pleasant or behind a couple abandoned factories? Is there a nightclub right next to the hotel? As for the "adventure" factor, I think that is better saved for something like walking without a very rigid route in Venezia, for instance. As in "getting lost on purpose" and so on. Much better than betting away the bed you are going to sleep over at night.
Between Rome, Florence and Venice, there are thousands of accommodations. Virtually every farm in the region has apartments for rent. All of the cities you're visiting have many available rooms. If you have a notebook or laptop with you, reservations are very, very easy on a daily basis. Just use Hotels.com, Venere.com or any other large reservation website. If you're wanting an adventure, AirBnB.com is really coming on as a website for individuals offering apartments and rooms; many of which are in their homes. Prices are relatively cheap, too.
Jan , different people have differing points of view so with that caveat in mind , here is mine : Years ago when our children were young and then away at school , we would frequently travel in rural New England " winging it " . We found that it was actually more of a pain than we thought . Admittedly if we were in for example , western massachusetts and wanted to head for Cape Ann for the night ,a quick phone call got that done en route . We had a car, and that also provided some flexibility .This past fall we made an extended trip to Italy and Switzerland . IMO arriving in Florence and especially Venice without reservations , would be a great time waster and nearly suicidal . While we were in both of these cities each for a week and enjoyed them tremendously , They were very , very busy ! The stress of trying to find something at the last minute would undoubtably throw a large monkey wrench into your plans . Also be aware that you would at that point be dealing with a seller's market and would likely have to settle for whatever you could find rather than being able to choose with discrimination . Also if you are traveling by rail as we did , you have far less mobility than using a car ( which you don't want in most of the Italian cities , Think ZTL ) Italy is wonderful , enjoy it!!
Jan.. I tend to travel 'winging it' a lot of the time, but usually it makes more sense when I have a car and am doing a road trip...not knowing where I want to go next..so, if a town doesn't have a room I like I just continue driving and exploring. But, when I already know where I am going (especially big cities) I am now more likely so spend some time at home finding a hotel on the internet. I agree that it can be a lot of fun to find your room once you arrive.. while some people might find this stressful, others find it exciting and spontaneous. But, two rooms are not as easy as one. Plus, now that there are all these people here to make suggestions, I try to listen (maybe I am just not as spontaneous as I used to be :(( )
My, how much can change in a day's time! You have all reminded me of some less-than-enjoyable hours trying to find a hotel outside of Niagra Falls along I-90 several years ago. We started at 9pm in Buffalo and found the ONLY room available at 4a.m in Avon Lakes IL due to a "Lucy and Ethel Convention". Seriously. We stopped at anything resembling a hotel along the way without luck. That was a long night, I'll tell you. When we awoke in the daylight, we wondered how we weren't in a movie of the week in which two stranded females encounter evil and meet a sinister end... At David's suggestion, and thanks to Rick Steves, we are hoping to stay at a small agriturismo near Asciano. We were going to take the train between Rome and Florence, but have since decided that we would prefer to meander the Tuscan Hills at our own pace. Thank you all for your input! It has been very helpful. :)