My husband and I are planning a two to three week trip to Spain and Portugal. I would like to have accommodations already arranged---my husband wants to play it by ear. He also prefers to travel off the beaten path and would prefer staying with locals. Any thoughts?
Both systems work. There is no "best way." If you have all of your accommodations arranged then you are locked into that schedule. I know you can cancel a day or two ahead but that is just another hassle. Our normal plan us to lock in the first night or two and the last night. And, if in major cities and location is important, then arranges those ahead. Otherwise there are lots of hotels. Maybe a question to ask -- when traveling in the US do you always reserve ahead? If you don't have reservations it does a require a little extra work finding someplace after you arrive. And, of course, there are some control freaks that would never consider getting on an airplane without every reservation in place. I assume your husband is the risk taker in the family.
Ellen: You didn't say what time of year you're going.
Yes,, both ways can work,, but not always, and not at all times For instance,, if you are planning to check out some popular beach towns in high season,, arriving with no bookings can mean staying in higher priced places,, that may be less satisfactory then cheaper places booked in advance.
I have not been to either place,, but , I know that every year when I go to Paris,, I book in advance. I stay in small places,, less then 20 rooms in some of them,, and they are good budget choices.. Other people know that too, so if I don't book early,, I find they full well in advance.
In small less popular towns,, there will always be A room,, but you are taking chances. I would compromise with hubby,, book SOME rooms in the more popular and well known places, and wing it in others. This is easiest if you have a car, since you can always find a place if you drive around long enough,, not as fun if hauling bags on trains or buses.. or walking.
This assumes you are travelling during higher season,, say April, May thru Sept.. during low season its probaly alot easier to just find a place. So when you go counts.
As for staying with locals,, is your husband interested in Couch Surfing.. I understand there is a website for that,,, I wouldn't mention it to him unless you are interested in it too,, I suggest you google for more info on that.. some people love it,, I personally am too darn old not to have my own toilet and some privacy.. LOL
Ps Consider some hostels,, some have private w.cs and rooms..my experience with hostels is from long ago,, but I found private rooms are always booked up,, but dorms are often available if you want to share a room with 10 other people,, LOL
Maybe compromise. Have a few towns you know you are going to hit and secure rooms there. Then you can wing it a little and keep him happy as well.
Nobody can predict what your experience will be. I used to "just wing it" for accommodations, but after ending up sleeping in some really awful, stunningly over-priced dumps, I have come to the conclusion that by locking yourself into an itinerary (with confirmed hotels) you actually enjoy more freedom. Rick talks about this and I agree with him. For me, my time overseas is precious - the trips are never long enough. I would rather spend that couple of hours after arriving in a new city walking around and enjoying the sights or a meal, rather than trying to find an acceptable place to spend the night. I've eventually become convinced that it's worth it to me to not only book ahead, but to book long in advance, so we get to stay in the nice places - these can be some of the highlights of your trip.
We usually try to book in advance mainly because we're budget travelers and many times, the good budget options aren't available at the last minute.
For flexibility, we try to reserve rooms with a cancellation policy that doesn't penalize you if you change your reservation within a day or two of arrival. For example, if we've booked for 3 nights and decided to only stay for two--we let them know up front. We also have the option to call a day or so in advance to cancel if we find another place we'd rather stay. Typically we leave a day or so every few days open for other options. That's worked well for us!
We are planning to travel mid-June into July...I'm even okay with hostels. I just don't want to get to a place and have either nothing or a very expensive hotel...Tentatively looking at flying into Lisbon, staying there for a few days, then renting a car, travel through southern southern Spain and Madrid, then leaving from Barcelona...
Just remember, you are not the only one going to these places. There are others out there, and they are booking in advance. They're going to take all the best accommodations; you'll get what they didn't want.
Even hostels can be booked in advance, particularly in summer when every college kid is out of school and traveling. Spontaneous works best if you are traveling off season, are way off the beaten path, and don't have budget concerns. You say your husband wants to get off the beaten path--keep in mind sometimes off the beaten path doesn't come with hotel/hostel rooms! And if there are hostels there, you aren't off the beaten path.
I'm now a full fledged planner due to my traveling experiences. All it takes is a few times when you show up in a town and learn there's not a room within 200 miles because of some festival or event, or when the only rooms left are either squalid or out of your price range, or when you're wandering from hotel to hotel in the rain, to make you wonder why you didn't just book ahead from the comfort of your own home.
Horror stories of people unable to find a room for hundreds of miles around are exaggerations.
I've traveled both ways. You can ALWAYS find a place to stay, even when winging it.
If you don't speak any of the language at all, then going without reservations can be more of a challenge. Also, high travel season (Mid June through mid September) is more challenging.
Have at least one of you traveled in Europe before? Have either of you read up on the techniques for landing a last-minute hotel room?
I'll end with this -- and you can print it and show it to him. I've traveled over 210 nights in Europe in the last 20 years -- and chose to do over 160 of those without any hotel reservations. I love to find last-minute rooms, but on any trip I will do whatever makes my wife most comfortable. That could change based on the destination, time of year, or just how she feels, but this is her vacation, too, and I will do it however she likes this time.
We have travelled to Ecuador, Costa Rica, Germany, Austria, Hungary. My husband is fluent in Hungarian, Spanish, and can get along in German. I can muddle through in German and Spanish. When traveling we've stayed with relatives or friends for the most part. I guess I'm just leery because we ended up in Sturgis during the big motorcycle rally and ended up sleeping in the van with two kids because there were no places to stay...and that was here in the US. Steve is in his 70s and I am in my 50s, so I would rather not camp out...
Sturgis is an influx anomoly that is off the charts -- you won't encounter anything like that in Europe (not even Oktoberfest can compare to the spectacle of Sturgis... I've been to both.)
With that much travel experience and language skills you two could easily handle going without reservations -- but that comfort level call is ultimately up to you.
A few years ago, I arrived at a little town in the Black Forest a day earlier than planned. Although I had reservations for the following night, and could have just checked in a day early, I decided to see what the TI office could do. They got me a place. I would have been quite satisfied with what the TI sent me to, but the place the next night was closer to the train station, less expensive, and available. Bottom line, last minute arrangements are not likely to be as good as what you can get by reserving in advance.
Lee is a meticulous planner. I can't live that way. We spend a couple or three months a year in Europe (although we try to avoid the sunmner), mostly wandering, and make reservations only when traveling with others when we'll need a couple of rooms in the same place. We've always found places, even in summer, and they were no better nor no worse than they places we stayed when we used to make reservations.
My dad and his wife rarely make any reservations,, just first and last nights( he is 73 she is 60). I have travelled around Europe with my dad. He could always find a place off the highways,,, formula hotels. Cheap and convenient. NO character at all, usually no nice place to walk around,, just cheap clean motor hotels.. by roads.
So , yes,, you can always find a room,, but not the nice cute AND cheap places I prefer.
Also, if you rent a car , its much easier as I said,, you can always find stuff off highways, ,or on outskirts of towns .
I think It also makes a difference how you travel.If traveling by auto and you arrive in a town and there are no rooms it is easy to drive somewhere else.By train or bus that may not be as easy.Ive done it both ways and find I get better places at better prices when I book in advance.
Our family of 4 compromised. Major cities, we had reservations for. But we did leave 1.5 weeks of "wandering time." We drove from Cologne Germany to Paris, and allowed our interests to guide where we stayed. We'd never been there before and ended up deciding to spend more time in Germany than we'd thought we would.