Hi, My husband and I are planning a trip to Berlin at the beginning of June. We're flying out of Frankfurt 2 weeks later, with no lodging reservations made at this point save the first 3 nights. We're wanting to try (for the first time) to not make reservations ahead of time and be a bit more spontaneous. Is this wise, given that summer will have just started? Or should we give in to our risk-averse ways and book through the end of the trip? Any thoughts would be very welcome! Thanks in advance!
I think it is feasible to go without reservations, but not economically sensible. I tried this in March a few years ago. I "rolled" into town a day earlier than expected, and although I could have gone to the hotel where I had reservations, I decided to try the TI approach. The place they sent me to was quite acceptable, but farther from the Bahnhof and more expensive. They didn't try to minimize my cost, they just gave me the next place on their list. Remember this, there are thousands of Europeans out there scouring the accommodations list on the town website. When they find an attractive, low cost place, they don't say, "Oh, that's too good for me, I'll save that for Sarah." They take it and you get what they didn't want.
And of course, it depends on where you wanted to go. I wouldn't expect you would be able to get your first or even fifth choice in a tourist hot spot like Rothenburg. But it probably wouldn't be as difficult in, say, Mannheim (not that you would really want to stay in Mannheim anyway...)
Sarah, You'll probably be able to find a room at that time of year using the "spontaneous approach", but keep in mind that June is in the middle of the "spring shoulder season". I suspect it could be busy, so you may have to settle for something either above the price you anticipated or in a part of town that perhaps isn't too convenient. I always pre-book accommodations for those reasons. Happy travels!
Have a look at this website that lists the school holidays for the various States in Germany. That might help you decide whether or not you will need reservations for specific towns or not. School groups in Europe, tend to take week long trips towards the end of the school year, so many places will be filled with students. http://www.holidays-info.com/School-Holidays-Germany/2009/school-holidays_2009.html
Sarah, it depends on how flexible you are. If you have a car, you can stop in small towns or even villages and find clean but maybe spartan overnight accommodations, especially in early June. If you're travelling by train - I agree with the other posters - it may be riskier. I like the www.hotel.de website for checking on available rooms; you can pick a location close to the train station or museums or whatever.
Sarah, I used to travel like that,.. pop into a city, such as Paris, Salzburg, Prague, Metz, Berlin (West), numerous other cities in Germany, etc. and then look for a place while encumbered with luggage or calling them up from the station, be it a Pension, hostel, university dorm, cheap 2-star hotel. Nowadays, I don't find that as an efficient way of traveling. Unless there is a specific hotel, Pension or hostel at which you want to stay in Berlin, you should have no problems finding a good, cheap place at the beginning of June there in Mitte, Charlottenburg, Prenzlauer Berg, Wilmersdorf, or Friedrichshain by this spontaneous method. I reserve beforehand because I want a specific establishment over another.
Rather than internet booking websites (like hotels.com), I prefer to try the towns own website first. Particularly in small towns, this is very effective. Booking websites will show only a few hotels in town, usually the more expensive ones. The town website, usually www.town name.de, might be in German, but accommodations are found under Unterkünfte or Übernachten or Hotels. You'll find listing of Hotels, Gästehäuser or Pensionen (smaller hotels) and Privatzimmer (B&Bs). Often the hotel will have their own website, with English. In 2007, as an example, I spent €522 for accommodations using town websites. Booking websites rarely had the same places I stayed, substituting a more expensive, less convenient property, and would have charged €700-750 for the same route (not always even the same towns).
Hi Everyone, Thank you so much for your thoughts. I think this has really helped us quite a bit - we'll save the more spontaneous approach for the off-season! Sarah
Looks like you might have made up your mind already, but I have traveled most times with very few reservations and always found great places. Germany never seemed especially busy at the beginning of June. I have almost always had a car, so if one thing didn't work out, I'd move on. I love the spontaniety this allows, but it can also add an amount of stress, but so can driving around trying to find the hotel you prebooked on the internet. They can be disappointing as well. It's just not the end of the world for me if I have to struggle a little to find a room, because what I usually find is far more amazing than I would have found on line. I say if its not life threatening and you want to do it take the risk!
What..... does no one enjoy that mad panic any more, when you realise it's getting dark and you have no where to stay? that anywhere will do and hang the price feeling? Ending up eating pizza on the hoof because the restaurants are all closing because you've spent the evening dashing from one hotel to another looking more and more manic? I thought that's what holidays were all about.
You have all given me some wonderful food for thought. Thanks for all the comments...I'll sign back in after our trip (and beforehand, if anyone has anything else to add) to let you know how we did!
I'm going to vote for spontaneous. I generally travel that way and have never had a problem anywhere, including Germany. It's a liberating way to travel without being restricted by reservations made months before for places that you have never been. Living life by always trying to minimize risk can also minimize life. Travel gives us the opportunity to break free and be a bit daring, to try new things and explore new ways of being. There have been times when I did have reservations that locked me into a place that I wanted to move on from and also other times I wanted to stay longer but was forced to go because of my next reservation. Early to mid June should be no problem. When I am ready to move on I will call ahead to one of Rick's listings or go to tripadvisor or another travel site and find a place that looks good and shoot them an email. Other times I have just arrived and looked around--always finding something nice. There is a lot to be said for traveling this way, it opens the door to unexpected serendipity. Any challenges along the way make some of the best stories later. "Life is either a Grand Adventure or nothing at all..." Helen Keller
Rich, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Winston Churchill "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." Benjamin Franklin "go to tripadvisor or another travel site and find a place that looks good and shoot them an email" Trip Advisor or other booking sites don't give you email addresses, and, like RailEurope for tickets, they have a limited selection of more expensive properties. On my last trip to Germany and Austria (2009), except for a few "repeats", I used town websites to find accommodations and spent €455 for 14 nights, single occupancy, all with breakfast. I did a search on booking websites using the same criteria (the same place, if possible, least expensive, convenient to public transportation). Booking.com had acceptable accommodations in the same towns for €832,50 (83% more) and HRS.com was €715.25 (57% more). Venere only had accommodations for half of the nights for €519. So, spontaneity has a price
I still agree in general with the gist of what Rich is saying, especially considering the time of year that Sarah is planning her holiday. I have rarely booked hotels upfront, and despite the odd moment of panic, have never not found a bed for the night. We've found some little gems infact that we otherwise may not have found. This approach is of course easier if you have a car. I have only booked ahead when I have my mother in law with us, quite why I'm not sure. I have found good deals by just turning up. You can haggle. The price stated is not always the price you will have to pay, especially if you are going to stay more than one or two nights. Hotels are often happy just to have the room occupied at the last minute, a room that would otherwise have stood empty.
"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." Lao Tzu "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by" Robert Frost LOL... do quotes help support our style of travel? Glad we're all different... we just have to travel with friends who have the same 'travel philosophy'
travelling spontaneously I have also ended up in pubs where the beds sagged horriby to the middle, and noisy crowds under the window until late. And if thereis an event in the neighbourhood, you do find "no room in the Inn". You take a chance
Apparently heartless when young, then becoming brainless later; now I still love to plan and prefer that to following an escorted tour. I've tried to be a spontaneous traveler, but I enjoy the planning so much that I find great places to book, do so, and have yet to be disappointed; but then I like planes with 4 engines. I haven't travelled with GPS though, merely a paper map and have yet to get lost. Lucky? Who knows?
Trying to keep my heart...and use my brain only when necessary! I guess Lost is relative...I eventually find my destination and have incredible experiences along the way...(although I don't always know what my destination is)
Well, planning won out with us here, at least for part of the trip. Besides our Berlin stay, last night we booked 3 nights in Rothenburg at Altfränkische Weinstube and then 3 nights in Baden-Baden at Hotel Beeg. How we'll end the trip we have not figured out yet, we fly out of Frankfurt 6 days after Baden-Baden and want to do some poking around the Rhine area (Mainz-Cologne). We'd prefer to stay close to the Frankfurt area at least the night before we leave but outside of that are flexible. If anyone wants to add anything about that leg of the trip, we'd welcome it!