Preview the facilities on social media
Budget travelers these days have it so good because walking into a hostel or budget accommodation doesn’t have to be a blind date. Visitors before you have likely shared images of the rooms or other facilities on social media. A simple Google search for “JetPAK Hostel Berlin Foursquare” will take you to the Foursquare page of that hostel (one of our favorites), complete with all tips and uploaded photos. We like to do this to get a feel for the tone of the place. Is it a party hostel? Good for working? Do the beds look comfortable and with reasonable privacy?
Form a backup plan
So you’ve arrived, and the place looks horrible or, even worse, their WiFi isn’t working. Move quickly to snag alternate accommodation by having a nearby place or two already scouted out with the address, Google map snapshot, and nightly rate saved in your phone or jotted in a notebook.
Learn from our mistakes. One time, we arrived to our favorite hostel in Munich during Oktoberfest, and of course it was sold out. The entire city appeared to be sold out, and we wasted hours walking from tourist hotel to tourist hotel asking for availability and pricing. Just as we were considering sleeping in the train station like so many other Oktoberfest vagrants, one cheap hotel came though with a tiny room. It was…more than we wanted to spend and less than ideal.
Pack a lock
It need not be a massive MasterLock, but you’ll find a variety of uses for a lock aside from using it to secure a locker. We always travel with a small combination lock, which works well for providing some extra security against thieves looking for easy targets, and sometimes we just use it to help hang items in tight spaces (attaching the lock the frame of the bunk bed above you means a place to hang a scarf, charger cords, etc).
Compare prices with Airbnb or HotelTonight
Consider that, perhaps, you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice privacy for price. We’re big proponents and users of both Airbnb and HotelTonight, and frequently find them offering last-minute, awesome rates for accommodations we would’ve thought outside our budget. We’ll use Munich again, since we recently opted to forego our trusty $65 per night “deluxe” hostel near the train station for a wonderful $89 Airbnb private room in a beautiful apartment in the heart of the city, with a lightning-fast WiFi connection and two cute cats.
Stock up on tiny toiletries
Depending on the hostel or cheap hotel, amenities like toiletries or even towels may not be provided without an extra fee. This is where the “travel size” section at your local drugstore becomes a best friend. Grab the teensy bottle of purell, a mini deodorant, the bite-size shampoo and conditioner, and consider a dish towel (none of the bulk of a regular towel, but better than nothing at all).
Bonus tip: pack slippers with a plastic or grippy sole, or simple flip-flops for shower times, hanging out, and running quick errands.
Got any other tips to add? Share them in comments below!
[Photos: Jaunted, ajalfaro]