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Wait until arrival to find a hotel/B&B????

I was watching a rick steves interview, and he mentioned it is a good idea to wait until you arrive in a city to find a place to stay. he suggested going to the local tourist office and asking them to find you a nice play to stay,

has anyone does this? i would stay just about anywhere...but for the sake of keeping a happy wife, i dont want to do anything that will cause us to end up something thats not up to snuff.

we will be in bruges, brussell, strasbourg from april 2-5. any ideas/advice?

Posted by
1167 posts

Have her go on the internet and pick out places that she would like to stay. If she does it then you can't do it wrong.

Posted by
276 posts

Is there another way to do it? :) Okay, sometimes I do make reservations ahead of time, but I usually prefer travel flexibility to the security of a pre-booked room. It is a risk, but if you're patient, polite and flexible, you can almost always find something. Sometimes the rooms I get are just passable, but on the whole, I've been pleased with what I get for the money.

Posted by
18942 posts

I, too, have done this, strictly to see if it worked. It did.

I did it in March 2001, not exactly in high season. I came into Lahr, across the Rhein from Strasbourg, and went to the TI office. They sent me to a nearby hotel. It was simple, but very nice, and reasonably priced, what I look for. When I came down for breakfast the next morning, I discovered I was the only one there.

A few days later, I arrived in a little town in the Black Forest. I had a reservation for the next night, but I went to the TI office and they sent me to a hotel not too far away. Again, it was nice, but a little more expensive than where I stayed the following night.

I've stayed in that town three more times since then, the last two times were in a Privatzimmer closer to the station and less expensive than where the TI office sent me.

My conclusion was that, certainly in slow times, you can make this work, but the accommodations might not be as good as what you might have had if you booked them yourself in advance. There are people who do book ahead, and they get the choice of the best places; you get what's left. In slow times, there are a lot of good places. In busier times you might not be so lucky.

Posted by
22984 posts

We always book the first night simply because I don't wan to mess around finding some place off of an overnight flight from the US. And we always book the last night especially if it is important for the departure. After that it is kind of hit and miss. TI works wells and carry the guide book to call ahead by a day or two. You need to be flexible.

Posted by
14210 posts

There are advantages and disadvantages coming into a town or city without having reserved first. I have done it both ways too. In Vienna I went to a Vermittler--it was called that back then--and was asked how much I wanted to spend for a room, and after mentioning my room rate limit, I went to the hotel which had been reserved by this office.

Upon arriving from the States, I prefer to have a reserved room waiting. It's also a waste of time searching for a place to stay when you arrive in a city, even by train. If you are going to the big cities and the capitals, I would suggest reserving first, especially if you have a preferred B&B, Pension, or hotel in mind.

In Strasbourg as you step out of the train station, you enter the Place de la Gare. On the other side of the Place are numerous two and three star hotels; from the Place de la Gare you'll see the large hotel signs. I've been to Strasbourg on three occasions, two of which I stayed in a two star hotel (1997, 1999)

Once you cross the Place de la Gare, one of the streets is rue du Marie Kuss, the hotel at 14 rue du Marie Kuss is part of the French chain Balladin, if you prefer staying in a chain establishment, such as Ibis.

Can't help you on Brussels and Brugge.

Posted by
9110 posts

We do it maybe a third of the time and it and it works out perfectly well any time of year (although we try to avoid summer travel). You can preview the places prior to plunking money down. Herself makes all the arrangements so if she's not delighted it doesn't fall on me. In many years of travel, I can only remember her fussing once; as opposed to the several times I've caught it for reserving places.

Posted by
1357 posts

I like to make my reservations for my first night, last night, and any big cities that I'll be in. If you know for sure where you'll be and when, you might want to go ahead and make reservations. Also check and make sure that there's not some holiday going on then. If not, you'll probably be okay for that time of year just winging it.

Posted by
4132 posts

Sure you can do this. It's how we travel.

A sightly better variation (also recommended by Rick) is to call ahead the morning of. But we've used TIs a lot too.

You don't want to do this if there is a particular hotel it would spoil your trip not to sleep at.

And, if you are 100% sure of your dates, why not reserve everything in advance?--it will save you time and hassle on the ground. Certainly for your first night.

But if your itinerary is not set in stone (ours never are), it is both feasible and freeing to get rooms on the fly.

Posted by
3580 posts

I've traveled both ways. Sometimes with only night #1 reserved and the remainder of nights as I arrive in a new town. But I was younger then. I have also reserved every night on shorter trips, more recently.

My compromise system for longer trips (over 3 weeks) is to start out with a reservation and reserve ahead by phone or internet as my plans unfold. There is more flexibility this way, but more time and effort as I travel. I find that even the idea of arriving in a new town without a reservation is unpleasant. The main problem is: the luggage, even tho light, is a hindrance to walking all over the place looking for a room.

Several times I have arrived in a new town (Nice, Moreton-in-Marsh) and gone directly to the TI looking for a room. That worked. The old wisdom (Frommer's Europe on $5 a Day) was that you just look around the train station for the closest, cheapest lodging. In Nice that works. In many cities that would not lead to a pleasant stay. I think in Paris it would be possible to find an affordable room after arriving. There is a whole row of hotels across the street.

Weekends (Friday and Saturday nights) and holidays, it is probably best to have a reservation in hand. Anything decent or economical is likely to be full. April 2-5, 2010 is Easter weekend. I'd make reservations NOW.

Posted by
689 posts

I have to think that when you heard Rick recommend that, there was some context. He's pretty clear in his books that you absolutely need reservations for some places. I'd only do it if you are traveling off season, and are very flexible with budget and quality. What will you do if you end up in Bruges during some festival you didn't know about, and find that everythings booked? The best value lodgings in any city always are booked up in advance, so even when things are slow and you might have no trouble finding accomodations, you probably won't get as nice as place for your dollar as you would have had you reserved ahead.

Posted by
18942 posts

The best value lodgings in any city always are booked up in advance, so even when things are slow and you might have no trouble finding accommodations, you probably won't get as nice as place for your dollar as you would have had you reserved ahead.

Christy, so well stated. That should be at the top of the boards.

There are a lot of other people out there (like me) who regularly book reservations in advance. Do you think we look at a place and say, "No, that place is too good a deal. I'll leave it for someone who wants to walk in." I book in advance, and I try to get the best place. I never leave it for others. If someone just waits to arrival, there not going to get the best deal. I already got it.

Posted by
5318 posts

Ten years ago, I used to find most of my places to stay at the tourist office and most were fine. I stayed at some very nice small places ... rooms rented by individuals, small family-run hotels, etc.

Now I book most things in advance. I choose most of my hotels based on Tripadvisor reviews. I look at both their hotels section and the B&B section. I have generally been very pleased with my choices and have stayed in some very nice places at good prices. I nearly always book directly with hotel.

For such a short trip, I would book in advance. The downside of going to the tourist office is that when you arrive in the city, you have to find the tourist office. While typically they are centrally located, it is nice to be able to go directly to your hotel.

For Easter week, I would absolutely make reservations in advance. I was in Bruges last year over Easter. I made arrangements only 3 weeks before Easter and I had a challenging time finding a good room ... many hotels were booked up. I did really like where I ended up staying (Hotel ter Duinen).

Posted by
32110 posts


Especially with the first stop, my suggestion would definitely be to pre-book your lodgings (even in April). When I arrive after a trans-atlantic flight, I'm not in the mood to start looking for a place to stay.

There shouldn't be any problems "winging it" at that time of year, but pre-booking at least the first stop would be a really good idea!

I tend to plan my transportation between cities and my lodgings very precisely, so all of my lodgings are usually pre-booked. With that method I don't have to waste any valuable travel time looking for something when I arrive in a new city. I use the budget accommodations listed in Rick's Guidebooks primarily, but have used other methods to find lodgings in the past.

Happy travels!

Posted by
29 posts

Well I would like to thank all of you for your wonderful insights. I work so much right now that I have hardly the time do all of the necessary research so I have found it very convenient to quickly pose a question on Rick's site and wait for answers from knowledgeable travelers. I have decided to book in advance...went to barnes&nobole and wrote down a bunch of places recommended in Ricks' Books and have been researching them in the early hours of the morning instead of sleeping (coffee helps). im really looking forward to staying somewhere quaint in bruges and colmar...there there are so many places to choose from!

Posted by
14210 posts


Reserve a room in Strasbourg and while visiting that fabulous city, you can take any of the numerous trains to Colmar--it's not very far--for a day trip. I've been to Colmar once, a very lovely town in Alsace.

Posted by
12154 posts

I'm fortunate to have a wife who is willing to stay in anything from a hostel dorm room to a four star hotel (and we've done our share of everything in between).

I call ahead about 10am to get a place for the night. I call from a list I developed while still at home planning my trip using travel guide and web site suggestions and tripadvisor reviews.

When I call, I tell them what I need and let them suggest what they have. Example, "I need accomodation for two nights for my family, myself, my wife and three children. A bathroom down the hall is fine. What do you have?"

After they tell me what they have, I ask what the price is. If the accomodation and price are right, I book it and tell them when I plan to arrive. If not, I call another place.

I travel outside of high season so the only time I had a problem was Oktoberfest.

You may not get the first room you want, but I'm always able to get something within a few calls.

I get great deals because the rooms I book would go empty if they didn't give them to me.

TI's have changed over the years, now they seem likely to steer you toward more expensive hotels. I would use a TI as a last resort more than a first choice.

I do book first and last night while still at home. Other than that, I prefer flexibility.

Posted by
46 posts

We did both on our recent first trip to Europe in September. For most of the trip we knew our itinerary and researched and booked ahead over the internet. Through Normandy and in some of the Greek Islands we had no firm plans until we got there, so found accommodation when we arrived.

We definitely got better prices and nicer accommodation by booking ahead (with the exception of the one hotel our travel agent booked for us, I would add).

In Turkey we paid 38 euro per night over the internet, where the "walk up" price was something like 105 euro. It also saved a lot of time which we could then use for sightseeing. I would rather give up winter evenings at home researching on the internet, then precious holiday time!

Posted by
1014 posts

When I was staying in Nice this summer, I booked the Etap close to the train station for 62Euro per night for wife and self. I was at the desk, asking a question about the internet password and a gemtleman walked in and asked about the room rates for the night. The reservationist quoted him a 102E rate for the night. So, booking in advance saved me a bundle at this hotel.

Posted by
700 posts

We have traveled this way in the month of May--no problem. When taking this approach in August we had room finding difficulties some of the time. My conclusion is that the time of year makes a difference. I don't imagine it'd be a problem in April.

Good luck.