Depending on your career, finances, vacation hours and where you live, travelling may be something that you can do often. However, it is not always easy to synchronise your travel plans with another person, or even a group! Such is the life of a solo traveller.
Today’s traveller has never had it so good. But when it comes to travelling solo, what type of accommodation is best? Whether you have the finances to stay anywhere, or need to rough it to make it work, here are a few things I have learnt, when it comes to choosing the right solo accommodation.
No matter what your circumstances allow and how much interaction you wish to have with others, the choice of what works for you is ultimately your call.
Hotels, Inns and Motels: Are they a good fit for solo travellers?
If you have the means to splurge a little extra on your holiday…why not? Hotels are stress free solutions for solo travellers who want to guarantee a good night’s sleep, AND preferably include amenities, like breakfast and wifi in their rates. For me, this is usually a Best Western as they offer the most value for money on a global scale. It is hard to beat this chain in value no matter where you are.
My go-to hotel in Los Angeles is the Best Western PLUS Sunset Plaza on Sunset Blvd. I always return here every time I visit as it has the LA feel and reminds me of Melrose Place. This hotel has a central location about 5 minutes bus ride to the Hollywood and Highland area, free breakfast and wifi and really spacious rooms! Hotels like these are why I trust the Best Western name.
Inns are some of my favourite solo accommodations as well, with beautiful property features and rooms I can only describe as heaven on Earth. The attention to detail in these accommodations is outstanding. Although they can be pricey at times, inns generally include the same amenities as hotels…with an added charm.
Inns like the Fairview Inn in Jackson, Mississippi are perfect for solo travellers to stay in when you want to treat yourself, especially when a standard hotel room will cost you the same. The Fairview Inn is truly a grand residence complete with the historic white pillar extravagance that just screams ‘The South’.
I honestly didn’t want to leave my suite. I had booked the Dayton Cooper Room which looked cozy, but I was upgraded to the Hayloft Suite, which gave me so much room to move I wasn’t sure what to do with it all! AMAZING is just not descriptive enough a word to describe this property! I would return to Jackson just to stay here again!
One could also count motels in this category, with some of the nicest rooms I have stayed in being in motels. Rooms are usually out in the open next to where you park your car, and the property will tend to be smaller with not as many rooms; but they are usually good value for money in comparison to other properties in the area.
When I recently stayed in Santa Barbara, I stayed at the Blue Sands Motel which offered a casual feel but a very inexpensive price tag compared to any other accommodation in the area. The room felt luxurious and the location was one of the best, with the beach a 2 minute walk from the entrance.
It felt completely safe and the money saved went on a delicious dinner and drinks…so it was an easy choice!
Hotels, inns and motels are fantastic accommodation choices if you want to enjoy a certain standard; but they can isolate solo travellers with their lack of interaction opportunities. These days however, more and more properties are beginning to offer mixer events – like complimentary wine and cheese hours, making it a little easier for solo travellers to mingle with others and not feel so ‘on their own’.
Bed and Breakfasts (B&B’s): Cozy places for the solo traveller
B&B’s could technically fall under the hotel category, except that many of them are run differently to hotel accommodations. Depending on where you are visiting this can be a wonderful option, with beautifully decorated rooms, charming hosts and breakfast the next day. I like B&B’s as they allow me to feel homey and relaxed.
If you are visiting a small town, this option is perfect for a solo traveller, with properties like the Aerie B&B in New Bern, North Carolina a favourite of mine. B&B’s like this are amazing, offering themed rooms (I stayed in the Duck Inn Room), as well as a picturesque lounge area for guests to relax in.
It was a wonderful experience in a lovely small town, with caring hosts that allowed you your space, and a person to talk to.
Some B&B’s can force interaction with other guests by having one set breakfast time for everyone (sometimes at 7am!) As a sociable person I like conversing with others and hearing their stories – though I prefer a later tea time to ensure I get my beauty rest!
Not all of them will operate like this, but this may turn you off staying in these properties – especially if you are not a morning person!
Airbnb: The true local experience for any solo traveller
Airbnb has skyrocketed in the past few years, gaining popularity in most cities. The premise is simple-affordable private rooms in a person’s residence. The bonus of this option is that you will usually get kitchen and laundry access which is a money saver for the cash conscious solo traveller.
Airbnb properties are located everywhere, which means you will have more chance to actually live like a local than most other accommodations can provide. Living in a house with people who call a place home gives you an insight into more than just a city’s attractions. You will also get amazing local advice (and a person to talk to) that travel guides don’t offer.
Airbnb was a lifesaver for me when I moved abroad to London in 2013. Not being familiar with where I wanted to settle myself was stressful enough. But, having a ‘settled’ and cheap accommodation helped ease my worries and helped me decide on the type of permanent accommodation I was looking for.
If you want a true local experience in a city, then Airbnb is a wonderful choice. But do read reviews as you are not guaranteed a successful experience.
Guest houses: A local feel with privacy
Another option that really allows a solo traveller to connect to a city and interact with people (at sometimes 50% less!) are private guest houses. These accommodations are the middle ground between an Airbnb and a B&B, with private rooms in a local residence that the owner generally won’t share with guests.
Guests however, will share a bathroom as well as a kitchen, lounge and other communal areas.
In 2013, while visiting Portland, Oregon, I found a bargain in the Portland International Guest House, which is located in the Nob-Hill district, 15 minutes walk from the centre of town. I had a charming private room (Room #6) on the 3rd floor, which was just as nice as any B&B; and I shared a bathroom with one other guest. Complimentary cereal and toast were also provided to us.
The owners of this accommodation were there anytime, living in a private area which was separated from the rest of the house. Being a small property with a handful of rooms, it was never too busy or noisy. A solo traveller can really get a feel for what it is like to live in Portland staying here, and I tend to prefer places like this over most other accommodations, as it feels completely local, yet private.
Share Hotels: The way of the future for solo travellers
Share hotels operate very simply, in that they offer private rooms with various bed types (bunks, singles, doubles and queens), that have bathrooms included; as well as rooms that do not. Put simply, you have your own hotel room, but share a bathroom with others on your floor if you choose that option.
This is not as scary as it sounds – there are enough bathrooms to cater to the number of shared rooms on a floor, and these bathrooms are modern and cleaned regularly. What is good about these is that you have the choice to bathroom or not to bathroom, but it is much cheaper to go the shared option. Rooms are standard but stylish, giving you more money to spend on things like SHOPPING!
My go-to New York hotel is the Pod Hotel. I have stayed here twice, once with my own bathroom and once without, and there was no difference. This hotel is located on 3rd Ave and E 51st St, with a sister hotel on E 39th.
I found the share hotel option the best value no matter what I compared it to, and it wasn’t as isolating as a standard hotel. It also has a sitting area and rooftop bar, and I found more people chose to remain in these areas than in their rooms.
You can’t beat this type of accommodation in cities like New York. With an awesome location, comfortable lodgings and people to interact with – hotels like this are a solo travellers dream when they end up on their own in a city of strangers.
I will always choose this option over a hotel that is double the price, especially when I am footing the bill! A bargain is hard to find, and this one is so worth it!
Hostels: The cheapest (and most social) alternative for a solo traveller
The last accommodation is the cheapest of course, and the old adage is true – you get what you pay for. Hostels are a wonderful option if you plan on roughing it. If you decide to take a trip where you can just afford accommodation for the 30 countries you plan on backpacking through, then hostels are exactly what you’ll need. Sites like Hostelworld can help you with this.
While hostels are raising their standards due to competition and Tripadvisor, you will have to pay more for a private room and fancier finishings. If you are happy to share with others then hosteling as a solo traveller has many social benefits as you will meet people from across the globe and won’t have to worry about being on your own.
While I have never needed to stay at a hostel, it is not to say I never will. I have just always managed to save that little bit more I needed to get by to cover my accommodations. I have many friends who loved every minute of it, whilst others have had belongings stolen and issues galore. It really is luck what you end up with. But always do your research in any case.
Now the choice is yours…
There are various types of accommodations out there. Each trip you take will determine how long and how good you can have it whilst you are away. But the one thing all travellers, especially those doing it solo need to remember is this: stay where you are comfortable and sacrifice in the lead up to ensure you get the holiday you want.
Because in the end, sometimes you need to be realistic of what you can afford and what experiences you wish to have. Your accommodation choices can make or break your holiday…so always remember to do what makes you happy and keeps you the most comfortable.