The Ins and Outs of Travel Sleep

When you travel, there’s always the question of where to sleep. There are major advantages and disadvantages to each place. So I’ll share my experiences here, listing from lowest to highest prices.

  • Airports and Train Stations
    • When in a pinch, passing up free accommodation is hard to do. Whether it be because your flight out is really early, your flight in got there really late, you couldn’t afford anywhere that night, or simply because everywhere you tried was booked, you might find yourself stuck in a station overnight. In general, you can expect most airports and train stations to be safe places to sleep. They usually have lots of security and lots of decent people around to discourage not so decent people from doing bad things. If you need to sleep at an airport, www.sleepinginairports.net can be an incredible resource to tell you what it might be like. Tip for sleeping in stations and airports:
      • Try to stay near a security guard or open business
      • Keep your things locked and unreachable without touching you somehow (like underneath the seats you are sleeping in front of, or use your bag as a pillow
      • Never sleeping for longer than a couple hours at a time.
      • Obviously this isn’t a good option for multiple nights, and you often need to recover the next day. Avoid if possible.
  • Couchsurfing
    • If you’ve never heard of it before, couchsurfing.com is an incredible online community of travelers who open up their homes to one another for absolutely free. You create a profile on the website, search the city you want to stay in, and send requests to people who look nice and say they have space at the time. Much of the time, people say no. Not because they’re mean, or don’t like you, or whatever. Because they are travelers too, and are either away or already hosting someone else. I know, it sounds creepy. It sounds scary. It sounds like you’re a paranoid, distrusting American. COUCHSURFING IS AWESOME. First and foremost, it’s free. But more importantly, you get to stay with a LOCAL. Someone who (typically) knows the ins and outs of the city you’re staying in, who can give you tips, tricks, and recommendations, someone who if they have time, can even come with you. If you’ve ever travelled, you know the help of well-meaning local is invaluable and improves your experience tenfold- especially if you don’t speak the language. Some hosts even cook you breakfast or dinner, and let you use their things, or become lifelong friends! I could go on for days about Couchsurfing, but I won’t here. Feel free to ask me questions or let me know if you want to hear about my experiences. Couchsurfing is by far my favorite way to travel! Don’t be afraid to try it!
      • PSA- An American recently told me that Couchsurfing USA unsurprisingly has turned into a hookup site. Choose requests carefully.
      • The app suggests how many requests you should send out to make sure you find a place. Follow this suggestion.
      • Many hosters’ profiles say they will not accept you if you have a “copy and paste” request. However, not using one can be quite difficult and time consuming if you need to send out fifteen. We used a blend of both, kind of like a mad libs where you fill in pertinent info specific to each host. It worked just fine. They are just looking for people who are genuine.
      • The hosts never expect anything, but it’s a really nice gesture to bring them a thank you gift. We never did this, but some small token or home state/ country is a great way to say thanks.
  • Hostels
    • If you can’t Couchsurf, hostels are your next best option. Hostel prices range from $5 to $50 per bed per night. Hostelworld and Hostelbookers apps are great resources for finding hostels, and most of the people that use these apps leave reviews which I’ve found to be accurate and helpful. Hostels offer a wide variety of living situations. I’ve stayed in 18 bed mixed gender dorms with a shared bathroom for the whole hostel to private rooms with an en-suite. Typically the price will depend on what type of room you choose. Most hostels offer gender separated and mixed dorms as well as private rooms. Private rooms, although the most expensive, are almost always cheaper than a hotel. Hostels are great because they cater to travelers. They often have common areas with couches, TVs, and kitchens. The staff like to give out maps and recommendations. Some hostels even offer free walking tours, bus tours, or hostel led pub crawls. The only negative I can complain about is that every hostel makes you rent one bed per person (unless you book a double bed) even if you plan not to use one of them. This is really only an issue for frugal couples, though. Unlike a hotel, don’t expect a maid to clean your room or change your sheets every day. I’ve never really understood the necessity of this anyways. A good hostel will keep the common areas and bathrooms clean, but for the most part you are expected to tidy up after yourself. HOSTELS ARE NOT SCARY. Dorm living relies on everyone respecting each other- if you’re paranoid that somebody might steal your things, aren’t you actually worried because you could see yourself doing it? Many travelers don’t even think about it. And if you are worried, most hostels have lockers for rent or guarded luggage storage. Above all else, hostels are by far the best place to meet other travelers- one of the best parts of travel. The communal atmosphere really promotes friendship as opposed to a hotel, which tries its best to make guests forget that other people are there. Tips for choosing a hostel:
      • Check the location of your hostel. It’s most convenient if it is a short distance away from public transport or the attractions you want to see.
      • In Europe especially, it’s necessary to book ahead of time. Don’t find yourself roaming the streets at night with nowhere to sleep.
      • Most hostels don’t provide towels or toiletries, so don’t expect them. However, many will allow you to rent a towel for a fee.
  • Camping
    • Particularly in Europe, camping can be a pretty cheap way to sleep, particularly if you have a few people who are willing to sleep in close quarters. When Keenen and I travelled the EU in 2014, campgrounds were often the cheapest way for us to stay since you don’t need to pay per person, and the locations are much closer to the city than you’d expect- sometimes even in the middle. Camping in this sense is just used as a cheap way to stay- not a way to enjoy nature. It’s largely just a hostel where you bring your own room. In fact, many hostels in Europe are a blend of the two. However, do not expect European camping to be the same as American. In the EU, tent “sites” at city campgrounds are usually just large fields where you can set up anywhere you want. In Amsterdam, the field was incredibly crowded and there couldn’t have been more than a foot or two between us and the next tent on all sides. It rained a lot while we were there, and a lot of poor souls ended up with tents in puddles. So here’s a few tips for picking a site:
      • Try to find higher ground. Even if the field seems flat, there will be higher ground somewhere. Even if it’s just a centimeter. And if you’re on an incline, make sure you orient your head at the top. You’ll be lucky if it rains when your tent isn’t the one in the stream of water (thanks for the mad skillz papa).
      • Don’t go anywhere near the bathroom. I know it seems convenient. Don’t do it. People will be tromping by your tent all night long.
      • Put the rainfly on when you leave for the day. Always. Regardless of the weather. Aside from the fact that it will protect you from an unexpected pour, it will also provide extra security.
      • Although it might seem like a good idea to stay as far as possible from other tents, don’t go too far in a crowded field. You don’t want people using the space between your tent and another’s as the main path to get out of the field- it will get trampled up, muddy in the rain, and be loud at night. That being said, try to be respectful to other people when you walk through as well. Take different paths each time and don’t muck up one area for the unlucky souls who chose to set up camp next to it.
  • AirBNB
    • For those of you who haven’t heard of AirBNB (hopefully that’s nobody) it’s an awesome service that let’s people rent out their home to you. Personally I’ve never done it but I’ve heard great things. This is a really good option if you have a larger number of people and can split the costs.
  • Hotels
    • Hotels- blech. Expensive, overrated, boring. Okay, hotels aren’t all that bad. A bit of real privacy can be nice in the middle of a long trip, in addition to comfier beds (typically, but this isn’t always true), a TV in your room, and guaranteed security. But be warned- be wary of a hotel that is cheaper than a hostel. You probably won’t like what you find there. There’s a reason it’s $20 dollars a night- whether it be that they don’t clean up very often or the clientele tend to have “chosen the dark side”. For the most part, hotels aren’t really conducive to extended international travel. They are more designed for short trips or stays where you don’t intend to move around a lot. And if that’s what you’re planning, then this blog isn’t written for you.
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