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Pre-booking hotels or go on the fly?

My boyfriend and I have planned a trip to fly into Madrid and out Lisbon. The cities we want to travel to are Madird, Toledo, Barcelona, Ibiza, Valencia, Granada, Sevilla, Lagos & Lisbon..

We are going to pre-book our Madrid hotel/hostel prior to going beacuse we fly in late at night. We will be traveling July 3-27th during a peak tourist season.

Do you recommend pre-booking all low budget hotels & hostels prior to going because things book up or would you recommend booking the first city or two and then doing everything on the fly? I'm just concerned that maybe we'll get to one place and want to stay an extra day or leave a day early etc. Is it cheaper or the same price booking in advance or on the fly?

We were thinking of staying in hostels in the big cities and hotels in the smaller ones? Any thoughts on this?

I've also read that a lot of people plan their transportation (busses, trains) on the whim while in the city...do you recommend this over internet booking at home? Thank you for any tips!

Posted by
4555 posts

Personally, I would book ahead during the busy summer season. Most hostel websites give clear indications of when you must cancel by....so make sure you give them enough notice. The only thing you'll lose is your booking fee. Or, if you find nice hostels listed on the hostel booking sites, try looking for the hostel's website directory and book thru there....they'll have the latest info on cancelling bookings. Most hostels and budget hotels don't give you any break for booking early, so price won't be a concern....unless the only room left if you call a day or two ahead is the most expensive one!

Posted by
39 posts

I agree also. Book early, especially for summer and if you plan to stay in any of Rick's recommended hotels. There are ALOT of people using Rick's books.

Posted by
199 posts

Anna: Our first couple of Europe trips we booked only the first and last nights and in larger cities.
Since discovering Rick Steves 5 years ago, we now book everything in advance -- WAY in advance -- and are much happier. We don't have to spend time looking for a place, and from Rick's recommendations we know what to expect. Granted, you don't have quite the flexibility you might have otherwise, but we have found it well worth it. We carry all the information with us and are in the position to make field changes if we so desire...but we never have.

Posted by
2000 posts

I agree, book as much as you can. Cancel if you have to, just be prudent about giving places enough notice to not get charged. Valuable time is spent hunting for suitable places or standing in line for tickets at train stations. Avoid this as much as possible - spend the time enjoying the cities instead. It's not so bad to have a schedule. Once you check things out, perhaps on later trips you will be able to travel in a more casual way, but don't put yourself through unnecessary hassle or disappointment now.

Posted by
800 posts

Anna - cheap, but good hostels are now online which means that they too get booked up. The good news is there are only 2 of you - if you were a family of 4 I would say book every night. If you really don't care where you stay and if you can afford to have a few places that might be a little high then you may be okay with not pre-booking. Remember though that you will need to be sure you get into each town early enough to begin the looking for a room process (TIs do shut down).

Posted by
638 posts

Though it wasn't part of your question I'd like to pass along a great website, www.madridman.com. Though as the inplys, Madrid, the site is not confined to just the city, but to all of Spain, it has the most extensive links page I've ever seen for accomdations, also a very good message board and info on just about anything you might want to know about Spain! The hostels in Spain are the way to go, they are not the large dorm type facilities but are family owned small hotels, I've stayed in a couple of them in Madrid and both had a/c and private bath. I recommend the Hostal Adriano which is near the Puerta del Sol and the Hostal Cruz Sol, both great bargains.