Q: My wife and I are planning a vacation to Europe but are struggling with accommodations. We have found most hotels to be fairly expensive, and my wife does not want to stay in a hostel. Can you suggest any other European budget accommodations?
A: Most people who have vacationed in Europe have asked this very question after seeing the cost of hotels or the conditions in the hostels.
After almost two decades of living and traveling in Europe, I have stayed in every type of lodging imaginable. Some have been great, others an absolute nightmare. Some of my favorite lodging types have been both affordable and enjoyable. Each category can easily be found online.
Often overlooked by American tourists are vacation apartments. Found throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, they are family-owned and operated. Vacation apartments offer all the amenities of home without the high cost of a hotel. I highly recommend this form of lodging: It takes you away from the tourist traps and places you among the locals. I prefer to deal directly with the owners instead of a second party when renting a vacation apartment.
Other unique lodging options are more country-specific. In Britain, I recommend staying in a bed-and-breakfast, where you'll find much more charm and enchantment than any hotel there.
Family-run guest homes called pensions are found throughout Western Europe, especially in Portugal, France, Spain and Italy. Although they may not offer a large hotel's amenities, they will more than compensate in hospitality. You'll get a good night's sleep and a home-cooked meal. Their presence on the Web is not as strong, but online listings are growing.
One of the newest lodging crazes in Europe is staying in a convent. They offer clean accommodations along with a quiet atmosphere away from tourist crowds. Most convents offer both room and board, with meals cooked by the nuns. The one drawback to most convents is a mandatory curfew, which if missed will lock you out for the night.
A last suggestion: Use the tourism Web pages created by the city you are visiting. Most will provide a list of lodging options to fit every budget.
Finding affordable and unique lodging in Europe requires time and energy, but the payoff is worth it.