Archive: Are Hotel Reservations Necessary?
Europe's crowded. Thousands are traveling with the same guidebooks raving about the same hotels. Traveling foot-loose and fancy-free without reservations is more fun, but when and where are reservations needed? Here's what you thought:
Look for the "i" sign
We fly standby and are never sure when we will actually get a flight. We have rarely had reservations, but always head directly for the "i" (tourist information, also called a TI) office that is always near the train station. We often ask about places suggested by Rick and others on his website. If those are full, they give us suggestions of other places and usually have pictures. They make the call for us to see if there is a vacancy and save us lots of time; no dragging our luggage from place to place! We found a lovely B&B in Garmisch that was nestled in a "real" neighborhood that way. The "i" people speak English and are always very helpful with information about the area as well.
Clearwater, FL USA 02/02/04
[Editor's note: Using a room-finding service at an information desk can be a great way to get a last-minute room. Just be aware that not all local accommodations may participate as they may be charged a referral fee. You may also be charged a fee for this service. As mentioned above, it's always a good idea to have some information of your own with you so you can ask about availability for specific places. It would also come in handy if you end up making those calls yourself. More about room-finding services can be found on p.165 of Europe Through the Back Door 2004.]
Hotels, no reservations
Couple of years ago, we travelled around the Baltic, with reservations only in Copenhagen for the first day and in St. Petersburg. Not having reservations worked the best, using RS books for resources. Didn't always find that the B&B's or home-stays were still renting, but everyone we talked to referred us to a friend or a favorite hotel or B&B, and we really had some interesting stays.
Portland, OR USA 01/29/04
Drawbacks to both
There are of course drawback to both sides. Traveling through Europe last summer for two weeks we did a little of both. It was very stressful arriving in Rothenburg, Germany, near dark without a reservation. No rooms were available at the first couple of places we tried but did eventually find a decent one just out of town. Just don't know if it was worth the stress and time.
When in Reutte, Austria, though,
we also did not have reservations and found our most wonderful and cheapest
hotel of the whole trip. Hotel Pension Waldrasi. (0 56 72/62 443). For
55 euros we got a wonderful double room in the corner with a balcony looking
straight up over an old ski jump to the ruins. A wonderful breakfast was
included and the place was the most quiet and peaceful place have ever
been. Extremely recommended! We ate Chinese at a nearby restaurant (that
was an experience, ordering Chinese in Austria speaking neither language!).
It was superb..still don't know what we ate, though! In the morning we
climbed up to the ruins and had them all to ourselves. Can't wait to go
Ann Arbor, MI USA 01/21/04
My husband and I traveled throughout Europe for 7 weeks and roughed out our itinerary before leaving. We had plane tickets into Paris and out of Munich and made reservations for two nights in each city on either end of the trip. For everything else, we wanted to be free to travel in whichever direction we wanted.
However, we quickly found that we didn't like arriving in a city without a place to drop our bags, so we ended up with a compromise. A day or two before we left a certain town we'd call ahead to our next destination to book a room (using our Rick Steve's guide). Usually in one or two tries we had a reservation and got directions from the train station to the hotel/B&B. This worked beautifully. On one occasion we wanted to head to Nice, but every place we called was booked due to a festival we weren't aware of. No worries, we went off to Switzerland instead. That was much better than arriving in Nice to no rooms and chaos.
This gave us the best of both
worlds: an itinerary set just a few days out, and getting off the train
knowing exactly where we needed to go. The phone cards aren't too expensive,
and it only took 10 or 15 mintues to look through the guide, pick a few
places, and make some calls.
Durham, NC USA 01/20/04
Check for major events
Reservations may not always be necessary, but I would always look into the situation and see if there are any big events scheduled. My husband & I just cancelled a trip to Portugal in June (we're going to the Cinque Terre instead.) We had planned to make a few reservations, but also travel without. Using the Best Western website, I learned that there were no rooms available in Lisbon when we wanted to go. I also got turned down at a small inn outside of Coimbra and the clerk wrote me that they were fully booked for the first two weeks in June because Portugal is hosting the European football championship and there are many tour groups coming. Portugal looks great, but we don't need that hassle.
Austin, MN USA 01/11/04
Reservations are too restricting. You miss the adventure and excitement of the unknown. We travel the world and change our minds about destinations and activities on a near-daily basis. It's all part of the wonderful journey: Exploration. And, you might miss that amazing experience just around the next corner.
Tucson, AZ USA 01/02/04
Traveling foot-loose and fancy-free without reservations
Just got back from a month in Italy and France. No reservations, and no problems. molto bene!!
ramona, ca USA 12/16/03
To Rez or not to Rez
It's a mixed bag. We returned from our 6th trip to Greece in October, and for this trip all the places we visited were repeat visits. We always make a reservation for Athens, don't want to be looking around while we have jet lag! The other places we didn't have reservations, but we had an idea of places we wanted to stay.
In Sitia, Crete, I stopped by a hotel we had stayed at 8 years ago, they had a room at a good price, and it was even nicer than in 95. The only place I had to do some real looking was in Rethymnon, which was still doing brisk business in early October. Found a nice room at the 3rd place I looked.
As for dragging luggage around, if you are more than one, leave a person (that would be my wife) at a cafe with the luggage, and set off on foot. Take a small bag to leave at the hotel you find, return to cafe, get a taxi (if necessary) and occupy the room. No luggage-dragging.
On Naxos, we made a reservation by internet, about a week before arriving. We chose a place right next to a place we had stayed at in 98. Almost made reservations from home at a place that looked nice on the Internet, but we weren't sure of the location. Glad we went with reliable. Never did find the other place, and I walked a long way down the beach. This is something to think about for places where accurate maps aren't available (like Greek beach towns) and you don't have a car.
Washington, DC USA 11/30/03
My husband and I just returned from traveling through Europe for two months. We feel VERY strongly that reservations are the way to go if you know the basic places you want to go. This was our first trip and we wanted to see the main places first.
Our itinerary included; London, Amsterdam, Rothenburg, Venice, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Assisi,Colmar, Paris, and Monaco. We had reservations for about 60% of the time and the quality and price of the rooms we had at the places we had reservations in was so much higher than when we called from the town or just walked around. The biggest reason to reserve: Who wants to spend even one hour, usually longer, wandering around with your luggage trying to find a place to sleep when you just arrived in an amazing new place? Not us. In one hour we were usually sipping a glass of wine, all cleaned up after our long journey.
So our advice is to reserve ahead but only if you are pretty sure of where you want to go.
Lake Tahoe, CA USA 11/10/03
Travelling to Vienna, Prague and Budapest for first time, booked in advance for each destination. However when we got there found so many rooms to rent that we only stayed one night, checked out and found a better location and much cheaper place. Especially in Prague, 1st night very expensive, brand new highrise hotel. Checked out, went to train station and found girl we had talked with the day before. Rented a room from her, right in the heart of Prague for 1/3 the price.
Travelled Spain and Portugal with no advance reservations. No trouble getting a room in Seville, Granada, Lisbon, and couple other places. I prefer to only book a room for the first night arrival after long plane ride. Then wing it from there.
Winnipeg , MB Canada 11/09/03
Capital cities - reserve!
Arriving in a capital city can be daunting enough - the idea of not checking out the location, availability and rates beforehand seems insane. Also it means you are ignoring the invaluable advice of the Rick Steves guidebooks and messages posted here. Recently on our trip to London we found that there appears to be no real 'low season' in the very centre of town as there are always tourists, business conferences, etc. So it really is wise to reserve in a capital city.
San Francisco, USA 11/05/03
Reserve Early for this Spring
Reserve early! I know you can go to Tourist Information offices as Rick suggests (and we have done so in some places) to get rooms when you arrive in a city, but, when you have a family depending on your arrangements you don't want to leave anything to chance. I have spent a full week trying to find good, inexpensive accommodations in London and Rome and have finally had to settle for around $135 per night in both cities. The cheaper hotels had really bad reviews or were already completely booked for March! Check out www.tripadvisor for uncandid reviews of what other people thought of their stay at different hotels for a good recommendation.
hotels in Italy
On a recent trip to Italy we made few reservations in advance. While traveling through Assisi we found a wonderful little hotel called Hotel Ideale. They actually have a website. Make your reservation for their main hotel rather than their annex. They have great terrace rooms and serve a lovely breakfast. The owners are extremely personable. The hotel sits high on a hill with a fantastic view of the city. They also have a great sun terrace where you can sit and enjoy a glass of wine and the view.
In the Cinque Terra we stayed at a place called the Villa Marguerita. They also have a website. We had made reservations there and were very pleased with the accommodations. They served one of the best breakfasts we had during our month-long stay in Italy. The room was in the neighborhood of 80 Euro and breakfast was included. We had a small view of the sea.
In Rome we stayed near the Piazza Navonna. This must be the most happening place in Rome. Every evening the Piazza was full of activity and the restaurants lining the Piazza were all good. We stayed at the Hotel Navonna which is one of Rick's recommendations. We enjoyed the room and the owner was very personable and spoke English fluently.
In Sorrento we stayed at Pensione Elios for 55 Euros. A great little Pizzaria was within walking distance, there was a sun terrace and they shared a private beach with the hotel next door. Ask for the room with the large outdoor terrace and you will have a great view of the sea.
Our only bad experience was in Annecy, France. We booked a reservation at the Grand Hotel which is one of Rick's recommendations. He really missed the boat on this one. It was down a dirty grimy back alley and we were greeted by paint and plaster falling of the walls in the entry. After climbing two flights of stairs we arrived at the check-in desk where we met a young bare footed man who was easily distracted. When he took us to our rooms he explained that the lock on the door was actually a code which was something difficult like 1234. A key was not used, you just punched in the numbers. The bed was hard as a rock between the many lumps. The room was dark and dingy and the toilet seat fell off when I sat on it. The view overlooked the dirty alleyway and the area seemed a little seamy. We rejected the room and went back to the train station to journey on to Chamonix. I would not recommend this hotel to anyone.
In Bolzano we stayed at the Hotel Feichter which was close to the "i" center. We had a very quaint room under the eaves and were very comfortable. The owners were very pleasant.
In Varenna on Lake Como we stayed at the Hotel Beretta. Our room was on the street side so it was very noisy because of early morning and late evening construction. At a different time I am sure it would have been a perfect place to stay. There is a local bar downstairs so one did not have to travel far to drink or eat. We ate all of our meals at "Bar Milo" on the promenade because the service, ambiance and the food was excellent.
In Siena we stayed at the Hotel Toscana and though the room was okay, it was extremely noisy since they had opened a new bar less than a block away and the music was at maximum decibals into the wee hours of the morning.
In Venice we stayed at the Hotel Doni on one of
the canals not far from San Marco square. This was a nicely located hotel
for sightseeing and it was fairly quiet. Breakfast, however, for those
of you who are big eaters was simply a hard roll, juice and coffee.
Salem, OR USA 10/22/03
Yes and No
For our 2 weeks in October trip, we had reservations for the larger cities (3 nights each in Venice and Rome) and 1st and last nights in advance. For these, we had to call or e-mail a number of places to book Rick Steves' recommended economical lodgings. Otherwise phoning in a day or 2 in advance or checking out the local Tourist Information was generally a good way to find a place. A few caveats: watch the day of the week, Friday and Saturday nights are problems in places like Siena; having a car allows you to stay outside the center(more economical and more choice on short notice).
Bellevue, WA USA 10/22/03
It depends on the time of year...
In the three times I've traveled to Europe, I've only booked ahead on my last trip. I found that if you book ahead for the first day or two and then the last day before you leave, it allows you to be more flexible, if you like creating your itinerary on the fly (as I do). I think it's a lot easier to do if you travel in the offseason, but nothing says it can't be done during the summer months if you're more creative...
Beaverton, OR USA 10/18/03
Just returned from 3 weeks in Italy. Had reservations for the first few nights in Rome. The rest of the way, we just called ahead one or two days. However, had very difficult time in Cinque Terre, Manarola in particular. We were not able to just arrive and ask any business on main street about rooms. We did finally find a place, but after walking up and down alot of hills. We booked 3 nights and after 2, the guy told us he'd made a mistake and we had to check out. After scrambling around again, we found a very lovely apartment and booked for two nights...only to be told on our way out to dinner that she had made a mistake and only had one night available. This was after we'd bought some groceries since the room had a fridge and washed clothes because it had a clothesline. We were bummed so we left Cinque Terre the next day, one day early. The place had lost its charm after being kicked out of two places in one day. I strongly suggest reservations in Cinque Terre. This was October and many places were full. I think if I had to do over again, I would go ahead and book rooms before the entire trip. Yes, you lose some spontaneity but you also reduce stress.
Lubbock, TX USA 10/15/03
Reservations Reduce Stress
My husband & I traveled through Spain, France, & Italy earlier this month. He had been to Europe twice before & really wanted to "wing it." We tried, but when we arrived in Toledo, Spain (a smaller town), we couldn't find a room! It was very stressful to think we would spend our first night in Europe sleeping in the train terminal. Finally we got a room with a smaller than twin size bed. Thankfully, we did call ahead for Rome & Venice as both places were booked up. It was fun, but it depends on your personality.
Nashville, TN USA 10/06/03
We booked with i80096hotels.com. the rooms were cheap but not as cheap as a hostel. they were all gorgeous, even the 2 star hotel. we booked 2 and 3 star hotels. riomaggiore has apartments for rent. we had a 3 bed apartment with bath & fridge for $75/night. They have other rooms. check out the site at www.marmar.5terre.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Riomaggiore is on a hill, which is its only drawback.
wingdale, ny USA 09/29/03
We spent three weeks (last of May and first of June) traveling by car throughout Ireland. We only made reservations for the first weekend (in Ennis for a music festival) and the last weekend in Dublin. We had no set itinerary and had no problems finding places to stay where ever we ended up.
Titusville, FL USA 09/22/03
No reservations? Re-visit old friends & meet new ones
The low Danube waters forced the last minute cancellation of our 7 day river cruise so we rented a car in Munich and took off for Austria. Sure all of Europe is on vacation in August but who needs reservations, right?
Arriving in Reutte late in the afternoon, we stopped in to visit an old friend, the Hotel Moserhof (Best of Europe tour '95). They had just one room left but that was all we needed... Rick's castle day tour was on for the next morning!
Two afternoons later we motored into the west Salzburg Tourist Info Center. First time we've tried one and as advertised, these places really work. There was one room available for the two nights we needed (who's living right!) about 5 minutes away in the village of Wals (about 5 km from Salzburg zentrum). The 2 year old Hotel-Pension Koniggut... what a find! Think Hotel Moserof transported from Tirol and dropped into Mozart's backyard. Same friendly family atmosphere, charming decor and big, clean, comfortable rooms, at a similar, reasonable price. The Reiter family puts out a lavish spread for breakfast (included, of course); and sure, there are lots of places to eat in town, but treat yourself to at least one dinner in their Café Restaurant: delicious, expertly prepared entrees, with vegetables fresh from their own garden. We made new friends here, and have to go back; maybe this time we'll have time to try out the Wellness Center (Wellnessbereich)on site.
Have to admit though, we did make one reservation:
we ran into another new friend back on Castle Day, standing in line waiting
for a tour, he pulled out Rick's book and said he heartily endorsed one
of Rick's recommendations: Pension Suzanne near the Opera House in Vienna.
Frau Rieter was kind enough to phone ahead and we were in luck! They had
an apartment available for the 3 night we needed, giving us the opportunity
to hang out a little longer in the Salzburg area and visit Eagle's Nest
for schnitzel with Hitler... but that's an eating story!
Bill & Nancy
Shoreline, WA USA 09/03/03
If you have 2 or 3 people traveling together, you can get away without
reservations. We have 9 people traveling together and have booked through
180096hotel.com. I found very reasonable rates. We will see how the hotels
are. Also, if you go to Vernazza in july,august,or september book early.
The Cinque Terre has a website where you an find hotels and bed and breakfast.
wingdale, ny USA 08/30/03
Except for high demand cities such as Rome, Florence and Prague you
can do w/o reservations, provided you stop by 4:00p.m. Also if there is
a festival, this can be a problem w/o advance reservations. We also believe
in first and last night of vacation reservations at convenient hotels/pensions.
Cleveland, OH USA 08/26/03
Just finished 2 months travelling in Europe by car. The lack of a reservation
was not a problem EXCEPT for the small countries (Netherlands and Belgium).
Apparently they just don't have the quantity of hotels and cost was an issue
for us. We wanted rooms no more than about 80 Euros (didn't happen in Amstedam).
Since we had a car we we more flexible than some people might be.
Yorba Linda, CA USA 08/22/03
if you arrive without reservations you can suffer the problem of walking
the streets laden with luggage and find many hotels offer less discounts
to you as they suspect you are desperate! Also finding a hotel recommended
by other travellors who check out this web site is a bonus - thats how we
found Blades Hotel in London SW1 (close to Buckingham Palace). We also found
the hotel willing to offer discounts to Rick Steves' guests! Check out www.blades-hotel.co.uk
Chicago, USA 07/25/03
Reservations really not necessary (unless you don't like surprises)
My husband, 6 year old daughter and I just returned from 3 weeks in England, Belgium, France and Scotland. We had reservations for the first 2 days in London. Not having reservations allows us to pull up stakes and try somewhere new. The trick is to be flexible, know that you might get an icky place or two and relax. We decided after a week in London to go to Brussels and Paris. In Brussels we went to the hotel kiosk at the train station and got a 4 star hotel for 90 euros (did the same in Edinburgh). In Paris we asked a couple sitting beside us in a lunch place at the train station where they were staying and got a really nice room at a fabulous Parisian-style hotel for one night. When we checked out the following am, the desk clerk had found us a comparable room at the same price just up the street. It was a chain hotel, but it was a beautiful room. On our return to London, we checked an internet cafe and got a room for several days at another chain hotel. We have done this on previous trips to Europe and and throughout the US.
MA USA 07/22/03
I always make advance reservations for accomodations primarily so that
I can stay on budget. I always make reservations on the internet with the
hotel, guesthouse, or pension directly -- that way, I am not locked into
a contract which is often the case when booking with a travel agent, hotel
finding website, or tourist information center. Always request a confirmation
e-mail, print it out, and take it with you in the event of a problem. If
I book the reservation several months in advance, I write again a month
before my expected arrival date and request a second confirmation. At that
time I also provide an expected arrival time and indication that I will
call if there are any problems. Two years ago when I arrived at my hotel
in Wuerzburg, I was shocked when the owner greeted me by name when I showed
up at the arrival time I had designated.
Flint, MI USA 07/18/03
Reserve early for best hotels and rooms!
We just returned from a three week June trip through Italy. We luckily booked our Rick Steve's accomodations in April - good thing we did too! We found many of the places we stayed were full and didn't have rooms for drop-ins. Also, by booking early, we almost always had the "postcard picture" room! We felt we definitely got our euros worth in many of the places we stayed...the reason being - we booked early!
Seattle, WA USA 07/18/03
The German railroad website, www.dbahn.de, offers great services for
hotel booking. I have used this service, as I travelled from city to city,
booking the next location from the current one. Select "International Guests"
from the DBahn home page, "Hotels" from the next page, and then search by
city, date, etc. All of my reservations were correct and available when
I arrived. The system works very well, whether using it months in advance
or while en route.
Laguna Niguel, CA USA 07/17/03
We just returned from London, Cinque Terre & Rome. If you use Rick's room suggestions - be sure you have a reservation. They were FULL in mid June.
Pt. Ludlow, w USA 07/16/03
No reservation traveling
We just finished up 3 weeks traveling in Spain and Portugal. We traveled over 3000 kilometers and stayed in Barcelona, Pamplona, Bilbao, Toledo, Sevilla, Selema, Arcos, Granada, and Sitges. We had reservations prior to the trip only for Barcelona.
We were able to find hotels on arrival to new towns,
but it took up to two hours sometimes, since we did not know our way around
the streets. We used the internet cafes and tourist information to make
next stop reservations as we went along. The tourist information has a
book with hotels listed for each city or town, and out of that book, we
culled those with email addresses. Many of the addresses did not function
and were out of date and some hotels did not answer for up to three days.
However, enough answered immediately for us to travel this way. We did
not use hostals or pensions, only two and three star hotels. We did see
several very nice hostals along the way and could probably have saved
a little by using them. We are in our late 50's and early 60's and had
no trouble getting around like this. We had a great trip and liked the
Seattle, WA USA 07/05/03
I just returned from three weeks in Italy with my family. Imade all of my reservations in advance. Icrossed referenced using Rick's Italy book, Frommer, and the Michelin guide. If a hotel had a direct email address instead of a website booking system Icommunicated directly with them. Ispeak, read, and write Italian, so this was easy. however, I learned that almost everyone that worked in the hotels spoke english. Anyway, I was able to obtain lower rates than quoted in the travel guides and it did not cost anything. Once Ireceived the confirmation from the hotel, Iprinted it and took it with me just in case there was a dispute. There never was a dispute.
We had to change our itinerary and I managed to
find two nights in Florence. I went to 16 hotels before I was able to
find accommodations for two nights. I think it is better to have pre-made
reservations and then you can make changes, as needed. This was my eighth
trip to europe and my seventh trip to Italy.
Pittsburgh, Pa USA 07/03/03
Good hotel in Lutherstadt- Wittenberg
By necessity, using a Lonely Planet book, I found a great 'Rick-type' hotel in Lutherstadt-Wittenberg. It's the Gasthaus Central, Mittelstrasse 20, phone 034-914-1157. Was given double room for single room price. 42 euros w/o breakfast, 50 with for room w/bath. On checkout, I was only charged 40 euros even after pointing out that I was quoted 42 when I reserved over the phone. Pleasant place one block off 'main drag' Collegianstrasse.
Lakewood, CO USA 06/25/03
Finding room in Eisenach, Germany
Arrived in Eisenach, Germany without a reservation and decided to just take my chances and use the TI room-finding service. It worked well and the service is free.
Lakewood, CO USA 06/25/03
Definitely book early in the summer time! Europe is PACKED with tourists! For peace of mind, just do it and donīt spend half your trip finagling with hotel desks! Try this site for booking all kinds of hostels and hotels in Europe- http://www.HOOSTEL.com
ca USA 06/13/03
I have to add my agreement to "peace of mind". (Warning -- sad story following!) When my husband and I were in Barcelona for our honeymoon a few years ago, my mother took very ill very suddenly, and passed away a couple of days later. As my family didn't know what hotel we were staying in, it took them a precious couple of days to find our travel agent, who put them on to us. If we had left them a detailed itinerary with contact numbers, I might have been able to get home in time to say goodbye. Now, even if we're winging it somewhere, everyone in my family lets each other know what city we'll be in and our top picks for accommodation when we get there. This is admittedly extra effort but it does give us all "peace of mind". I know this is a downer, but you tend not to think of what might be going on at home when you're on "vacation".
Vancouver, BC Canada 06/12/03
Beehive in Roma and Edi Apartments in Cinque
Reservations are needed more and more. We had a lot of trouble with many of Rick's places. The whole world uses those great books, so it often means that his picks are booked well in advance. This was true at the Beehive in Rome. However, I suggest that people ask about other options right on the phone. After trying to book one of Steve's cheaper hotels in Rome without much luck, we tried to book a room at the Beehive Hostel in Rome, but they were also fully booked over four weeks in advance. Not to worry since they now have their own overflow apartments and found us a room in a clean secure and large apartment on the other side of Termini near Cavour. We liked it a lot. The best part was the fact that we paid only 60 Euros. The Beehive folks are very helpful and we enjoyed our stay.
In the Cinque Terre town of Riomaggiore we had
great luck. We were able to book an apartment in a nice woman's house
with panoramic seaside views and a patio only steps from a great swimming
area. Edi Rooms, which had a postcard from Steve on the door found us
this great place with no prior reservations for only 65 euros. Even Edi
now takes reservations in a town known for easy lodging without reservations.
We did meet some people who came in after 2 pm and had no luck, but later
found out that people in town helped them find a place to stay over a
beer at Bar Central. Another thing worth noting, if you walk into town
without a reservation you might be offered a room with "no view" which
might only mean that you get a room with a view of the pretty hillsides
(great) or of the town (also good) so I suggest having a look at these
places since they can be very pretty. Other than a few places that look
out on little alleys, every room in this town has a "view" of something
worth looking at but for a sea view, or a patio DO make a reservation.
The fancy-free days in Rome and other places seems to be coming to an
end thanks in part to cheap international calling and the internet.
Princeton, NJ USA 06/11/03
Reservations or no...
We just finished 3 1/2 weeks in Europe, 6 countries, with NO advance hotel reservations. No problems whatsoever!!!! Thanks for all the great advice Rick!!!
Jonathan & Andrea Atkinson
Scotts Valley, CA USA 06/09/03
Peace of Mind
I used to travel without reservations, just winging it. But once, in a remote part of England, I called home several times and couldn't get anyone. I then realized that no one had the slightest idea of where I was or how to contact me in case of an emergency at home. I finally reached my husband, and everything was okay (except on a hike my son had found himself in a rattlesnake den), but I resolved to stay in closer contact. At the time, that was difficult, because I was often in sparsely populated places with dubious phone service. Now four members of our family travel together, and we always make reservations so the grandparents will know where we are and can phone if they need to. Sometimes this is inconvenient, and maybe phone and internet service would be adequate now, but there's a lot to be said for ensuring peace of mind on the home front.
Huntsville, AL USA 06/04/03
Yes, for Scandinavia in summer
The most popular B&Bs fill up months in advance. Similarly with hostel private rooms.
Hotels - London
Recently, I stayed at the Jury's Kensington Hotel, London. I was very pleased with the hotel and would stay there again. I booked over the net, and the price quoted was the same as what I was charged. The hotel is lovely, the room clean, decorated nicely, and had a huge bathroom. The staff was helpful, while a few of them were rather stiff. The huge continental breakfast was great and included in the room price. The hotel is an easy walk to the tube, many restaurants, and some superb museums.
In Italy, we only reserved the 1st night and Venice ahead. Everything else we did the day before we arrived there by phone- it was in May, so the crowds were light in most places (except Venice!). This allowed us to change plans on the fly, spend more time in some places, less in others. it only took a few minutes in most cases to call, and if they were booked, we just got them to recommend another hotel. It's only as stressful as you think it is!
Minneapolis, MN USA 05/26/03
Reservations verus None
I've been living in Germany for 4 years. I've learned that if location is important to you and you just hae to have that seaview or park view or whatnot, make a reservation. IF you just want to wing it and aren't particularly attached to a particular spot or itinerary it's easier and cheaper to wing it. I just returned from 10 days on a bicycle. From around Bern Switzerland up the Rhein towards Strasbourg, over to Trier, and then along the Mosel and back to the Rhine. Cost was an average of $100 a day for two people including all meals. Can't be beat and all those lovely zimmer leave us tons of memories.
I only had trouble one night on a Sunday when
my wheel was busted (you can't get anything fixedon a Sunday) and we were
in Breisach (big German tourist destination). Got in at 2100 and paid
too much, but with a broken wheel it was that or the park bench. :) In
June I'm going to Cinque Terre but have my heart set on Vernazza and a
harbor view, so I made a reservation. Children also changes things. I
have a five year old. I'f I'm on my own I can always work it out. With
my daughter carrying a sleeping child on a bus/train/whatever in search
of further accommodations well.. isn't optimal. In summary -- if your
flexible, no reservations are great. If it's July/August and you have
your heart set on a particular town/view/etc, it can't hurtto make a reservation.
I've also found in high season most places will let you cancel with a
few days notice and not charge you as long as you are kind enough to phone.
Bad Aibling, DE 05/17/03
of course it is a good idea to make reservations ahead of time, save yourself some stress and enjoy your vacation!!!!
LA, CA USA 05/02/03
We have traveled Europe 5 times for a total of 12 months and 3 weeks without a reservation. Most of our rooms were found by going to the info desk at train stations. The one or two times this didn't work out, we got back on the train and went somewhere else.
Roy and Carolyn Breckenridge
Ft Myers Beach, FL USA 05/02/03
Always reserve the first night
At a minimum, it's always a good idea to reserve on the first night. Not only is it miserable to be hunting for a hotel when you've just gotten off a plane and are jet-lagged, but it's really helpful if your luggage gets lost. Especially if you're not staying in the same city as the airport. A few years ago my flight from LAX was late getting into JFK. I made my connecting flight but my bag didn't. So when I arrived in Frankfurt I only had my carry-on. Even worse, I was heading on to Berlin for the night.
Fortunately, if you have to lose your luggage, Lufthansa is the airline
to do it on. With precise efficiency they located my bag, told me to go
to Berlin and said they'd send it to my hotel when it arrived the following
day. Sure enough, a taxi dropped it off while I was out for the day. The
main hassle was wearing the same clothes a second day. (For some reason
the clothes you wear on plane always seem to feel extra grungy.) So I
now always pack a shirt in my carry-on if I need to check a bag.
Los Angeles, CA USA 04/29/03
Reservations wise for Easter in Italy
Finishing up our Italian holiday over the Pasqua (Easter) weekend, my husband and I were naive and not prepared for the difficulty we faced in finding a room for two additional nights in the Cinque Terre. Phone call after phone call, we heard only "Sorry, occupado!" We lucked out, however, due to the kindness of two Rick Steves' recommendations: we already were staying in Vernazza with Bruno and Annamaria Galleno, whose beautiful room and gracious hospitality we would have loved to enjoy for an additional night. When that was not to be, Bruno put the word out to all he knew in Vernazza...and we ended up getting an additional night with Tonnino Basso, whose gorgeous, modern rooms also have free Internet access! Bruno, Annamaria and Tonnino made us feel like part of their Vernazzan family. It made this trip extra special, and we can't wait to return (next time with reservations! especially over a holiday).
The other hotel who helped us out a great deal was Rome's Hotel Italia,
where we've stayed before. Andrea and Nadine could not have been more
helpful. When Hotel Italia (newly redecorated) was full and we returned
to Rome for an additional night, Andrea referred us to Kate's Hotel Giardino,
in all ideal location near the Presidential Palace. Kate's warm English
charm made us feel very welcome. And beautiful rooms! Both of these hotels
went out of their way to be helpful and us feel at ease.
Madison, WI USA 04/27/03
The AVE office in the main Praha train station had a selection of rooms available. The Bily Lev was a short tram ride away, 1700kc per night. Clean but spartan, quiet, breakfast included, located next to a small police substation.
New Paltz, NY USA 04/26/03
Email ahead to Cinque Terre
We went to Cinque Terre in March thinking that it would be empty. Luckily, we had reservations with Guiliano. He will only rents to people over the internet, so if you show up without a reservation, he will send you someplace else. It was March and he was already taking reservations for October. True there are cheaper rooms, but the extra $20 we spent was well worth the incredible view PLUS not having to spend our time looking for a place to stay.
Bremerton, WA USA 04/23/03
Martina's rooms in Vernazza (Cinque Terre- Italy)
We spent a few nights in Vernazza earlier this month. We found a very affordable room with Martina (in the Italy book) for only 55 Euros for a double with a bath. The room was very comfortable and the bathroom was newly remodeled. There was no view, but it was quiet and comforatable. We spend all our time outside and in the eateries anyway. If we go back we'll spend more time in the CT and leave the cities behind.
Seattle, WA USA 04/21/03
Reservations are not a bad thing
Five years ago I went to the British Isles. I had a package deal in Ireland, which included seven B&B stays; it was fun. I had peace of mind by calling my next expected destination early in the morning and reserving a spot. It helps when you find a place you like, but they may only have 2 or 3 rooms total. You only need to plan one day in advance what your plans will be.
However, in Manchester England, I chose to stay at the first hotel I
came across. It was a mid-century bland hi-rise, but comfortable. It would
have worked out fine except there was a fire alarm in the middle of the
night. In my haste to find the nearest fire exit, somewhere along the
way I lost my watch. If I had made reservations, I would not have chosen
to stay at that hotel in the first place. Oh well.
Olympia, WA USA 03/31/03
No need for a reservation
I went to Europe in October of 2002. I had made reservations in every town from Amsterdan to Caen. All I had was a small back-pack (didn't even check the bag at the airport). After a few days and advice from an older Canadian couple, I cancelled all my reservatiosns except for my last night in Paris (just in case). What I did was go from one destination to the next. At every town I came to, the train station had a customer service desk. These people can find you a room in town and tell you where (map and my little Rick Steves compass) and how much it is. So I did that for three weeks. If you come to a town with no rooms, just get back on the train and go to the next town. It was the way to go. And by the way, the French people were very nice (except for the one lady who wouldn't let me sit down on the train). I had never gone to Europe and there I was all by myself, with the knowledge gained from Rick's books. It was the trip of my life. i will always cherish those memories.
Houston, TX USA 03/20/03
Finding hotels in the off-season
We usually travel during the off-season, and this past trip was especially loose. We got a hotel for our first night in Brussels, and then reserved for our first week in Spain. After that, we winged it for a week and made sure we had a hotel booked for our last stop in Paris. Had we not booked in Spain, I think we would have been OK, as none of the hotels we stayed at looked all that crowded. As a matter of fact, we got half-board at a parador near Seville (quite posh) that came out to less than we would have spent on a hotel and two meals/day right in Seville. You can find all sorts of bargains in the off-season.
Hudson, NY USA 02/12/03
Making Reservations In Advance
We only make a hotel reservation for the first night. If we know where we will be on our last night, we will make a reservation for that night also. Otherwise, we just go to an internet cafe the day before departure and make a reservation. We also use the internet to make a reservation if we are heading to a heavily touristed town (such as Sorrento which is an excellent location to visit Capri and Ischia, as well as the Amalfi Coast).
Lake Forest, ca USA 01/20/03
Beware of Hotel Names
I would like to extend a very big thank you to Rick Steves on a fabulous book. His book was our sanity for 10 days! When booking hotels via the internet, be super careful that it is the same hotel that Rick is referring to in his book. We had booked and confirmed a hotel named "Hotel Campiello" that was recommended for Venice. Much to our disappointment on our late night arrival to Venice, this was NOT the same "Hotel Campiello" that Rick had suggested! This particular hotel was on the mainland area of Venice....not where we wanted to be! The hotel referred to in Rick's book was actually closed for the season. We had to pay for the reserved night at the hotel and did not stay there. Luckily enough we were able to get a room at Hotel Pagenelli. This was quite nice as suggested by the book and we were given a fair discount. We definitely needed a break in the very costly city of Venice!
Mt. Pearl, Canada 01/18/03
No reservations Pros & Cons
This is continued from previous. . . the pros of not making reservations are the flexability it provides for those who don't want to be tied to a tight itinerary. In that way, you can take advantage of opportunities that always arise when traveling in a free spirit mode. The downside is that sometimes you spend a considerable amount of time looking for a place to stay. Personally, that doesn't bother me because it forces you to speak the language and engage with local people. These interactions can open up avenues of opportunity and great surprises . . . places you might have never dreamt of finding yourself. Some truly unforgettable experiences are waiting.
Providence, RI USA 01/15/03
No Reservations In Italy
In the fall of 1992, I travelled to Italy for 23 days with my sister and her husband and we had no reservations. At that time, I spoke only the most basic Italian. In each city we encountered, my sister and I would be the scouts, checking for available rooms and her husband would stay with the car. We found some very nice places for cheap. We also had a budget book and had previously circled options in each city. In Rome, when the hotel we wanted wasn't available, they recommended another place a block away. We travelled the Venice, Florence, Rome circuit with stopovers in Como, Gaeta, Ischia and Sorrento as well. I've been back many times since then and sometimes I book a place for the first night and if I know how long I'll be staying, I'll book the last destination as well. Feel free to send me an e-mail for more free Italy talk.
Providence, RI USA 01/15/03
I forget the name of the tiny village near Neuchatel in Switzerland where i arrived with no info about accomodations. There was just one place: a three story tudor-like house with rooms that the owners rented to travelers. As I approached, the owner leaned out of an upper-floor window and asked if I had money. Reassured by my affirmative reply, she spilled over with courtesy. The rooms, beds, baths and service were absolutely wonderful--far better quality for the money than many expensive hotels. i learned about the house from the local tavern, where customers sit at tables which have baskets piled high with sandwiches and other delicious foods. You just eat what you wish and order your beverages from the waitress, then they check the basket and write the bill accordingly. So friendly and so much value for money.
CA USA 01/08/03
Rough Guides - Routard guidebook for France
Rough Guides publishes a translation of 'Le Guide du Routard' each year which I find a must for travelling in France. It is published under the title 'French Hotels and Restaurants 2002' and should be available in the US (I live in the UK). This book is particularly valuable for travelling by car and during high season. There are many great hotels and restaurants which Rick doesn't have room to list. There are also english versions of the Routard guides for Ireland, Andalucia, Paris, and the various regions of France which are great for detailed local color and go beyond what Rick can do. Highly recommended.
London, United Kingdom 12/25/02
Places to stay - with and without reservations!
We did make reservations at many of our hotels etc. before our 7 week trip to Italy, France and Spain but we also "flew by the seat of our pants" a couple of times and were delighted. Of course, I think it is easier in the Fall. Some notes on the places we stayed:
Venice/Hotel Marin (great; laudromat next door!) quiet, clean, nice folks;
Florence so-so...we made reservations at Casa Rabatti but when we got there we didn't stay at Mama's, she gave our room to some students so she moved us to the daughter's house...on a noisy street. The room was clean, Papa was our "host" - daughter was away on vacation but the worst thing is the entrance and 47 stairs up to the apartment! Dingy, and dark, and it absolutely reeked of garbage! I had to hold my breath and at the end of a long day of walking that's hard for this "old" lady to do!
Rome: we found a wonderful convent guesthouse! Casa Delle Maestre Pie Filippini -10 walking minutes from Vatican, 3 minutes from the train and bus, and 2 minutes from a great supermarket! Clean, quiet, good view of Vatican.
Siena - Rick's suggestion Alma Domus - he's right!
Cinque Terre - Guiliano Basso's hilltop apartments - not for the weak of heart or foot! 72+ steps but what a view! New, clean, lovely.
Nice: Hotel Berne - yuk! but it was only one night!
Arles no reservations but walked into the Hotel St. Trophime - Tony spoke English and was great. They could only accommodate us for 3 of our 5 days but they arranged for us to stay at the Hotel Forum. We loved the location and one can walk everywhere in Arles...great place.
Got last minute reservations in Carcassone at the Montmorency Hotel - really lovely.
Barcelona - Continental Hotel small but lovely for Fall - but not for the summer! No AC. Very convenienc though.
Lourdes is not on Rick's list but we're Catholic! Stayed at the Ibis - very nice. And, if you get away from the Shrine and take a walk to the western part of Lourdes, it is really beautiful...the scenery is spectacular.
Paris - ahhhhh, the Hotel Leveque was wonderful
and the room on the front side above the Rue Cler was not too noisy but
lovely...we found the location convenient - the metro is just down around
the corner but we walked a lot and enjoyed that too - even though it was
pretty chilly - it was mid-November!
Colorado Springs, CO USA 12/18/02
Reserve 1st night in Europe!
I got to Madrid on May 2. No Vacancy! I walked my soles off looking for a room. Thanks to Hostal T.I.J.C.A.L. owners for their help. Those gentlemen look after Rick's people. They have Rick's Christmas card posted. They are located fifty yards from Plaza Mayor. I usually reserve my 1st night in Europe. I didn't that time. Wrong again. May Day is a real big deal there. ;o) If you stay at the aforementioned digs, shower in the upstairs bathroom. It drains better. I took a night train to Lisbon. Same problem. Serendipity rules! I wound up in Sintra. But thats another story, as the bartender said. ;o) THANX, RICK!!
Austin, Tx USA 12/16/02
wonderful small hotel in Koln
I would once again like to recommend the Lint Hotel in Koln, Germany (Cologne). Located in the old section of town at Lintgasse 7, this great little place was recently renovated and it absolutely beautiful and modern. I was able to get a room via the Koln tourist office without a reservation last January. The staff were really nice and made my stay wonderful. I believe the hosts name was Wolf. Lint Hotel Lintgasse 7 50667 Koln, Germany tel.+49.221.920 55-0 fax +49.221.920 55-55 www.lint-hotel.de email@example.com
NY, NY USA 12/14/02
avoid Sorrento's La Minervetta Pension
Please do not reserve with La Minervetta Pension & Ristorante, Attn: Morvillo Salvatore, Via Capo 25, Sorrento, Italy,ph:011-39-081-877-3033, fax 011-39-081-807-3069 until we get back the 101 USD which they owe us! We have been trying to get our overcharged funds back since 09-2002.We paid by bank check. They cashed our bank check 03-19-02. They then "forced" us to pay again as we were departing! AVOID THIS PLACE LIKE THE PLAGUE UNTIL WE GET OUR MONEY BACK. WE WILL POST ON THIS GRAFFITI WALL WHEN WE GET OUR MONEY BACK! Many Thanks! Notice that I posted my email address which certifies to the authenticity of this message.
naples, fl USA 12/04/02
I just returned from a month in Europe. Here are some tips to help you with hotels.
Rome: Do not stay at Aquarium hotel near train station. Bad neighborhood, poor hotel, no credit cards.
Florence: we stayed at hotel Silla. It was nice but we could not sleep due to scooters racing up and down the alley all night. There is a nightclub nearby which creates the trafic. Not worth the $160
Venice: We liked hotel Florida. A good value and only about a block from the train station and 1st bridge.
Monterosso: We stayed at hotel Punta Mesco. It has been recently remodeled and it served our needs well for around $100. We did have some mosquito problems in the room though. It took me about 1/2 hour to find and kill them all.
Sestri Levante: Our best hotel all trip. Hotel Miramare. Can't wait to go back. Very charming with a romantic location on the bay. What a view at breakfast!
Birmingham England: Our hotel cancelled our reservation (along with other angry guests)! What a scam. It was called Hotel Brittania. I was able to get a refund through travelocity after around 10 letters of complaint and 6 weeks of waiting.
Paris: I found a great hotel for $92 high season right in the heart of the Latin Quarter. It is usually quite booked and I would like to return there, so I think I will keep it's name a secret.
By the way, we went to a restaurant in Rome that
was listed in one of Rick's books. It was great but every single customer
had the book in hand (except us). I think you may be treated better if
you look a little less touristy. Put the book away and try to blend in.
San Diego, CA USA 11/25/02
Hotel Castex, Paris
Checked out this hotel the last time I was in Paris, liked it. Tried to book a room for November, only to find out the hotel is closed. It is renovating and will reopen as a 3-star hotel in March 2003. Too bad. Another budget hotel bites the dust.
Daly City, CA USA 11/12/02
The Hotel Gerber in Rome was very good about making changes in my reservations, they did not charge for the changes in my schedule. The Gerber is not in the best of neighborhoods but very convenient to the metro, and we felt safe even at night, it was crowded with people. I suggest you use the metro in Rome, it's so easy. The ticket machines don't work so get a ticket from the tabacco shop, always close by and in the station too. We took the train from the airport, the direct to Termini and then hopped the metro to the Gerber. The Gerber made arrangements for private limo back to the airport at 5:30 am and it was 52 Euro.
The Accademia in florence did not charge for a cancellation and then re-booking. That was clean and convenient also.
The hotel Camiello in Venice was equally accommodating, and in a very good location.
We also stayed in the hotel Cannon di Oro in Siena which was 1 star but adequate and clean for just an overnight stop. The medieval walls did echo though.
In Madrid for an overnight stop-over. The Finnistere
was fine and very clean. All these hotels are in a super convenient location.
Verona, NJ USA 11/05/02
Highly Reccomend Hotel Globus
Just returned from Florence and my friend and I had a wonderful stay at Hotel Globus. It's located near the central market and is close to the train station and walking distance to all other popular sites (Uffizi, Accademia, Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Boboli Gardens). It was just renovated in June 2002 and was upgraded from a one star to a 3 star hotel (although I'd give it a 4 star rating). Very cool contemporary decorating and extremely clean. The owners, Serena and Michele, are extremely friendly and helpful in recommending restaurants, helping to reserve tickets, providing train/travel information, etc. We enjoyed Hotel Globus so much, we stayed in Florence an extra night. All this for an affordable price - with a great breakfast included. I would definitely stay there again.
Los Angeles, CA USA 10/31/02
finding rooms in Germany,France, Italy
Hostels?..we had the HI card, planning to use it lots. During the months of Sept and Oct., staying no more than 2 nights anywhere in Germany,France and Italy...was easy. We never used a hostel during our 3 wk stay. In fact, the one hostel we went to, said we were too old !!! We did not book ahead...just got into each town...went for a walk..and easilly found rooms..zimmers..chambres..cameras..that ranged between $35 -$70 euro a night for two..with breakfast included in most cases !!! Next time I would not bother with it. In fact in one small village in Cinque Terre (Italy), a little Italian woman came up to us in the street..with an offer of a room. I guess..walking down the cobble stone street..with backpacks, gave us away.The room was actually one in her home. Great experience !!
Morden, Manitoba Canada 10/20/02
Traveling with teenagers
There were 4 of us. I highly recommend reservations for a quad. Especially in Cinque Terre as there are not many rooms to accomodate 4. We took our kids...can't say I recommend this. We found we ended up waiting on them all the time (wouldn't get out of bed in the AM)...and feeding them...we have gone broke. Go alone..let them experience when they are old enough to appreciate..and our kids are good kids..really put a damper on our trip.
ca USA 10/17/02
Are hotels reservations necessary?
During our recent two week trip to Italy my husband and I had reservations for about half of the nights, but left the rest free. Personally, I'm inclined to book ahead (before leaving home)as I like to go directly to the hotel or B&B, freshen up, and then start exploring without delay. However, I have to admit we had little trouble finding places to stay traveling without reservations. We did take the first reasonable place available and did not hold out for the most charming possible. Also, it did take at least an hour or so to find a room. On two occasions, when we arrived in town later than expected, we had very good luck using the booking services we found at the information centers. My favorite spontaneous B&B find was Centro Storico, right in the center of Lucca. Also, I like the idea of calling just a day ahead, but between the language barrier and telephone problems, this has not worked out very well for me.
Eugene, OR USA 10/16/02
Are Hotel Reservations Necessary?
ROME: Arriving by train we were approached by an elderly man hawking hotel rooms. Suspicious at first, we quickly found him to be a ligitimate and kind old gent working hard to steer people to nearby hotels for commissions paid by the hotel. Our choice was the Hotel California Via Principe Amedeo, 39. [www.hotelcaliforniaroma.it] We got a better price than we'd seen from any guidebook, only 2 blocks from the train station, with a superbly helpful desk staff. Clean, comfortable room.
Minnetrista, MN USA 10/10/02
Spent 18 days in eastern Germany...not one hotel reservation. We were fine but bear in mind it was September and you don't find a lot of tourists in the out of the way places we visited.
Hotel Leveque: Oui!!! We will go back to Rue Cler again and again. Great morning venues for cafe creme and people watching. Close to so much.
Doug and Ann Pelton
Wenatchee, wa USA 10/07/02
Hotel in Paris
We stayed at the Hotel Leveque in Paris, which we found in your book, and just loved it. All were courteous and friendly and such a lovely location. Very centralized and reasonable priced. Thanks for the suggestion!
Tacoma, Wa USA 10/03/02
Beynac: Reserved 5 months prior via email; enroute via car from Arles, phone for late arrival. We were 3 hours later than hoped...Hotel Chateau and whole village locked up at 12:30 am!! Thought a 'night clerk' would be at Hotel. Slept in our car(Four in a Ford Focus...2 Star!!). Innkeeper charged us for the night because he waited until midnight. Live, travel and learn!
Wenatachee, WA USA 10/03/02
The overcrowded Cinque Terra
Just returned from Italy(5th trip since using Ricks suggestions. At the Cinque Terra I asked a restaurant owner why it seems so much busier than years before. His answer was German tourists and Rick Steves. How true! Everyone seemed to be carrying a Rick Steves book. I am glad that Rick put me onto the C.Terra in 1995 but the place is just not the same. Please Rick, find some other places before it is completely ruined!
Dallas, Or USA 10/02/02
Hotel Castex, Paris - lost secured reservation
Although we called to confirm our reservation we made a month earlier, and held with a credit card, upon arrival at 1pm, at Hotel Castex, we were told our room had been given away. Fortunately, after much pleading for help, the receptionist found us a room at the 7th Art Hotel nearby. Unfortunately, this nearly doubled our budgeted lodging bill. The 7th Art was friendly, clean, and very pleasant. I'll book there first on our next trip, and remember, there are no guarantees when travelling! I was sad, and surprized, to see this happen at such a hotel so highly recommended by R.S.
OH USA 10/01/02
reutte-- gasthaus zum schloxen
AFTER SEEING THE NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON REUTTE, HAD TO COMMENT THIS AREA MAY HAVE BEEN ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES-- STAYED AT THE GASTHAUS ZUM SCHLOXEN OUTSIDE REUTTE-- WONDERFUL PLACE, WORKING FARM, BUT HOTEL IS MODERN AND REALLY NICE-- QUIT AND PEACEFUL COUNTRYSIDE, PEOPLE WERE REALLY NICE WHO WORKED THERE -- my early am run allowed me to chat with the local gentleman herding his cows with his bicycle even though he spoke no english and i spoke no german( other than bier) --best part of staying here is it is virtually at the start of the carriage path from reutte to fussen probably an hour to hour and half hike, with no one else on the trail -- real culture shock to get to fussen and experience the crowds and traffic-- despite previous posting, i would always opt to stay away from the crowds
dallas, tx USA 09/26/02
WHAT TO DO IN LONDON WITHOUT A ROOM
IF you get stuck in London without a room, check out Belgrave Rd., it's a few blocks away from Victoria Station, off Eccleston Square. The entire street is one little white hotel after another, most of them are probably off the radar screen of the internet, guide books, etc. They'll probably be small rooms but adequate and inexpensive.
Bucks County, PA USA 09/24/02
Reviews of places we stayed
Just wanted to give my opinion on hotels Rick Steves recommends.
In Munich the Hotel Haberstock was in a perfect location. Just a block from the main train station, beautiful walk downtown. The room was a little smelly from the cleaners they used and it was only a bathtub and not a shower but it was a very clean room. Try getting one away from the street because it's noisy when your room is on the street. There's a bar directly across the street that is busy all night!
Rothenburg has the Hotel Gerberhaus. It's a short 7 minute walk to the middle of the walled city and wonderful. Clean, new, shower with water pressure, wonderful workers. This is a great hotel and I'd always recommend it.
Reutte was the Hotel Goldner Hirsch. The room smelled of smoke but was clean and the bath had a shower which if you can't tell I much prefer over a bathtub. I'd rather have stayed in Fussen because nobody seemed to know how to get to the ruins in Reutte. I asked 3 people and nobody was sure where to go to walk up to them even though you can see them from everywhere in town. Skip the town and stay near the castles.
Innsbruck is a stuffy town and I'd skip it. We stayed in Hotel Wiesses Kreuz and while it was clean and very nice, the bathtub just about killed me trying to get out of it! The toilet was in a seperate room and the light timer went off every 40 seconds. Were they trying to tell me something?
Salzburg was Hotel Bergland. It's a pretty long walk from downtown but okay if you are taking the train into town. I found it very clean, wonderful employees, excellent hotel. The shower was dangerous for me because I kept bumping the handle and the water would get very hot or cold instantly (my wife didn't have a problem) but it was a good room and hotel.
In Vienna was Schweizer Pension and this place was a little rough. It's a nightlife area and the hotel is on the 4th floor of a building. Sort of scary leaving in the early mornings with the doors locked but the room was very clean and the shower worked great.
Here's a hint. If you like a washcloth, take one
with you because none of these places had a washcloth in the room except
Hotel Gerberhaus had 1 for 2 people. Every one of these hotels was clean
so Rick Steves did a nice job in recommending them.
St. Louis, MO USA 09/23/02
We found that taking Rick's advice of calling a day ahead to make a
hotel reservation really helped take the headache and worry out of finding
an available room. It also prevents wasting sightseeing time by having to
run around in your destination city looking for a room. Even in the middle
of September, which isn't exactly high season, some places were booked up.
It was great to arrive in a town and know exactly where to go and that we
already had a reservation.
Knoxville, TN USA 09/23/02
Rome - Hotel Nardizzi - was very nice. Nice location, nice price, nice elevator, nice people. I will definately stay here again when I return to Rome.
Florence - Residence Bellevue - This hotel was my favorite place I stayed. It is small (6 rooms) and the owner Antonio was very friendly. The hotel just opened in the last few years so everything is new. The only drawback is the lack of an elevator, but considering all of the stairs you have to climb in Italy what is a few more flights?
Venice - Locanda Al Soffiador - a nice, inexpensive hotel (for venice) located on Murano. The rooms and the owners were very nice. If this hotel was located in Venice it would be perfect - and probably twice as expensive. The only drawback is the slow bus-boat you have to take between the islands. The last boat to the island is around 11 pm but the real problem is that you probably have to make a vaporetto transfer so you have to start planing your exit around 9:00 pm from Venice. Also, don't forget you are in Italy, so unless you are a strong swimmer or made friends with a water taxi driver I would not risk catching the last bus. If I owned the hotel I would create a multi language cheat sheet that showed the fastest ways to get from the main sites in Venice to the hotel.
Chambery - This site is not listed in Rick's guidebooks. I have a friend who lives here. (before I went to Europe I knew him only as the brother of one of my friends. I called him and he was nice enough to invite me to meet his family and have dinner.) Stayed at the City Hotel. This was the least expensive hotel we stayed at (though we may have gotten the "locals" price since my friend booked the hotel for me) and it was very nice.
Chamonix - Hotel de l'Arve - another nice hotel. We ran into a problem when we arrived at the hotel but the front desk handled the problem very professionally. The room we reserved was very nice: right above the river with a nice balcony.
Paris - Hotel Familia - located in the Latin Quarter.
Close to a metro stop and a short walk from the Notre Dame. This hotel
has normal size Paris rooms (small) and normal thickness Paris walls (thin).
They could charge a premium at this hotel for rooms on a TV-free floor.
If you book ahead make sure you tell them that you don't want breakfast.
(They will quote you a price that includes breakfast. If you don't turn
it down when you reserve you are stuck paying for it.) There is a great
shop right across the street with to-die-for croissants.
Perrysburg, OH USA 09/22/02
I have traveled through France, Spain, Italy and Germany several times without reservations and usually have no problem finding a good place, but there are exceptions. Research what is going on and when the hotels are usually busy (for example Rick Steves says there are lots of conventions in Paris in September.)
I arrived in Paris without reservations at the the beginning of the month and found accomodations fairly easily, but on the trip back through on the 19th, (this time with my family) we drove around all night looking for a room in all kinds of hotels (including the Formule 1's and B&Bs) and could not find one hotel room anywhere in the city...we even drove 170km out of the city both north and south and everything was completely full! We ended up sleeping in the car at a rest stop for 2 hours before going to the airport to catch our plane.
If I am worried about finding accomodations but
don't want to book far in advance because I don't know my itinerary yet,
I bring the contact info for several hotels in the areas I'm thinking
of traveling to and call the night before, or even that day to reserve.
It doesn't always work, but usually I can find something by calling just
that far ahead and then don't have to worry about it.
Federal Way, WA USA 09/21/02
We made reservations through the Internet, although we called/faxed the credit card numbers.
PARIS- Hotel Lyon-Mulhouse near the Bastille and convenient to Metro and buses. Anna was friendly and helpful
SWITZERLAND-BRIG-a really cute town that connects directly to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn and then to Venice. Note: Swiss train-BVZ to Zermatt does not honor Eurorail passes; but it is a very wonderful ride... Art Furrer Schlosshotel Garni(www.artfurrer.ch)-wonderful and helpful Marta Schneider
VENICE - We have to concur with those that had a BAD experience with Hotel Marin. Nadia does have an "attitude" but I guess since they have reasonable rates and a good location (San Croce), they can pretty much dictate how they act. Perhaps Rick and staff can help by looking at other reasonable hotels in that area. Venice is a wonderful place to get lost at night.
FLORENCE- stayed at Soggiorno Maggliani with wonderful and warm Cristina, mother, and great aunt; had a great experience of staying with them and location was incredible: above Internet cafe,shopping, Uffizi, Academia...
ROME---the Bee-Hive with Sylvie, Andrea, and Misha
were great...even saw the Christmas card from Rick & family...we bought
a 2 day "stop & go" pass and even went to the excavated city of Ostia
alameda, ca USA 09/21/02
Reservation - yes or no?
This was my first trip to Europe, so I was glad we had reservations for Barcelona (our 1st stop) and for Paris (our last stop). Although I'm a 52 year old female, I wanted a little adventure. What a blast to get off the all nighter train from Barcelona to Nice and be greeted by a stranger asking if we needed a room. My daughter and I stayed for 40 Euros a night and had a private bath. They even fed us breakfast upon our arrival. You could cook in their kitchen if you so desired. Not a 4 star, but what a view of the city from high atop the hill.
In Rome we were directed at the info center in the train station to a
B & B, 120 Euros (dbl.) private bath only half a block from Trevi Fountain.
It was 58 steps up to our room. Good thing I'm in shape.
NSB, FL USA 09/19/02
Nice, France hotels
We made a reservation via email at the Hotel Star (one of Rick's recommended hotels in Nice) and brought a copy of the confirmation to be safe. We were greeted by the two very rude owners who informed us that they do not honor American reservations. When shown the confirmation, which they had emailed us, they said very loudly that it means "nothing to us!" They then proceeded to ignore us in favor of the non-American customer behind us. We were aghast and left, but luckily we discovered the Hotel Clemenceau (another Rick favorite) where the staff was extremely helpful and courteous. Not only did we feel welcome but wanted as well. The rooms were lovely and a good value. In short, Hotel Clemenceau made our stay in Nice a pleasant one! Merci M. & Mme. Jean Lasserre!
Melissa and Erin
Eugene, OR USA 09/17/02
San Sebastian - No Help from Tourist Office
Arrived in San Sebastian in early August '02. Went to tourist office (not near the train station) and was handed a list of hotels with no help from the staff. The town was full and after many knocks on doors, left the town during a rain storm. So, reservations are a must here during August.
San Diego, Ca USA 09/04/02
Help! I am going to Italy, and have corresponded with 2 hotels in Rome by e-mail - per their preference. Both said they had a room, asked for my confirmation credit card #, and I gave it within hours of receiving their request. Now neither seem willing to return my e-mail to confirm that YES I have a room and they have confirmed it with the credit card. How am I supposed to know that when I get to Rome I will have a room if they won't respond - how do I get them to respond?? I've even sent a message in Italian so they know I'm trying hard.
Seattle, WA USA 08/20/02
To reserve in advance or not ?
Our family of four went to Europe for the first time in March/April 2002 (me, hubby and two teeage boys). London, Paris, Lugano (Switzerland) and Venice. I booked everything ahead of time through the internet, but reconfirmed by email 2 weeks before leaving.
I definitely think it's wise to have reservations for this time of year, as it's spring break for many European students and our trip included Easter weekend too. If you travel at off times, I think it's good to have reservatioins for your first night, then play it by ear. Our choices ranged from pretty good to great:
London - Kensington Manor: reasonable rates, a very cool but slightly worn room, great breakfast included, clean linens. My one complaint is that the bathrooms could have been more thoroughly cleaned. Good location though and very quiet! Nice staff.
Paris: this has been mentioned in this chat room: Hotel Muguet des Invalides. Absolutely great experience, fantastic location, reasonable rates (I hear they have gone up since.) Very nice staff.
Lugano: Hotel Carlton Villa Moritz: very nice, kind of pricey for our budget but maybe normal for this chi-chi area. Very charming and quiet, and very good restaurant. Breakfast included.
Venice: we spent the most on a hotel here, but I am glad I did! Hotel Violino d'Oro. Excellent location, very safe, charming and elegant. Breakfast included, and a very nice staff.
I would go back to any of these without hesitation.
But a warning: when only inquiring about rates over the internet, be sure
you make it clear you are not booking. One of the hotel search engines
wouldn't even quote without a credit card number, and though I never reserved
a room or got a confirmation number, my card was charged. BE CAREFUL!
CALIFORNIA USA 08/18/02
Renting an apartment in Amsterdam
On our vacation to Amsterdam, we rented an apartment from City Mundo and were very pleased with the accommodations. The have rentals available in Amsterdam from 3 to 21 days (citymundo.nl). We rented a 2 bedroom penthouse apartment for 2 weeks ($45 per person per night) and for the price of a room at many hotels, had the whole top floor of an 8 story building with some of the best views in Amsterdam.
One word of caution before you rent a Dutch apartment, they do not follow
the same guidelines or standards that you might expect from renting an
apartment in the U.S. That's not to say that it's worse or better - just
different. Once you set aside your American expectations, you'll have
a better experience.
Belleville, IL USA 08/18/02
Rome - Hotel Aberdeen great choice, air conditioned, clean, good management. Take Metro, to Republica exit.
Venice - Continental Hotel - outstanding (not in book). Take left from train station, continue past bridge, one block, it's on the right. Some rooms overlooking the Grand Canal. Clean, elegant rooms, great management. Great breakfast!
Venice - Don't stay at the Marin Hotel - Nadia rude, not airconditioned, terrible choice. Rick does a disservice to readers by putting this in his book. BAD Choice.
Florence - Pension Bretagna (in book) good choice,
room 31 especially, it has a view of an old tower.
portland, or USA 08/17/02
I agree that it depends on your style. For us, we were constantly on the move, and didn't want to waste any time looking for a room once we got to a city. In fact, within 20-30 minutes of arrival in any new city, we'd already checked in, left our bags, freshened up, and gotten information on the places we wanted to go! It was great to have the reservations! As far as hotels go - we especially liked Hotel Oceania in Rome and Hotel Leveque in Paris - the areas of the cities were perfect and the staff couldn't be beat!! We also loved our time at Hotel Maximillian in Reutte (although it's a bit of a walk to it if you don't have a car!). Special note to those with mold allergies - I had a severe reaction in Venice any time I got near the Rialto bridge but was fine near St. Mark's or other areas. Needless to say our hotel by the Rialto was not a good experience for me!
SD USA 08/13/02
My boyfriend and I recently returned home from a three week trip around Italy. We have much to share about a few of our hotel stays.
As recommended in the Rick Steves Guide Book, the Hotel Sole in Florence run by Anna is a wonderful treat! Anna runs a quaint and beautiful hotel located in a super convenient section of Florence close to all of the major tour sites.
Another special stay was at Hotel Minervetta in Sorrento. The hotel/restaurant is situated on a cliff that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. We had a beautiful room in which the sea view was second to none! The restaurant food was delicios and the hotel staff did their upmost to make our stay enjoyable.
Now, for the not so wonderful stay. Our one and
only hotel reservation was in Venice. We booked ahead as recommended in
the Rick Steves book to stay two nights at the Hotel Marin located on
Santa Croce. What a mistake! Nadia, the wife of Bruno who manages the
hotel treated us like dirt. Upon our arrival, she was rude. She could
not find our reservation and blamed us for it. Then, when we asked to
view our room, she threw a fit. She literally marched us up the hotel
stairs, muttering in Italain under her breath and led us to a room on
the third floor. She then opened the door, flung the key down onto a night
stand and slammed the door behind her. So much for a warm greeting in
Venice! Needless to say, we did not stay there a second night and found
a wonderful stay at the Albergo Angelo. This kind of cold reception from
Nadia really tainted our perception of Venice.
Manitoba, Canada, Canada 08/13/02
Are Hotel Reservations Needed
Just traveled through Italy for 1 month and used all of Ricks hotels and had confirmed reservations before I left home, I took my emailed confirmations with me and had no problems. I was real glad I had reservations because first off we are a family and next it would of made things more chaotic and confusing not having them. Also I really enjoyed contacted all the hotels and seeing their websites before I left; a lot of the fun of the trip is planning it before you even leave the your hometown. One more thing, I stayed at Hotel Oceania in Rome and it was very nice but they have new rooms and old rooms with a huge difference between the two but both are the same price, I was told that the new rooms were not triples so I could not have one, so request a new room. Hotel Silla in Florence was heavenly!
North Palm Beach, FL USA 08/10/02
ALWAYS book ahead for the following locations: Venice; Amsterdam; Cinque Terre (especially if you want a room with an ocean view or to stay in Vernazza); Florence. You'll be glad you called ahead! Most other big cities (London, Rome, etc. and anywhere in Switzerland) will have open rooms in abundance.
Dallas, TX USA 08/09/02
Yes and no?
Depending on your travel style and how set your schedule are do you need reservations. For Brugge this year reservations are a must if you know exactly when you are going to be there. We traveled this year with a set plan on where we wanted to go and do. But we left the hotels up to where we were when we needed one. The headache of finding a room in a foreign country with no one around who speaks American, (English is a different language;), especially when you're exhausted and can't find a hotel anywhere, made me wish sometimes I had made a couple reservations. However, when I did make a reservation into Copenhagen, they were canceled before I got there. Also in the end, looking back, the best nights, motels, and people were in towns that were 'sold out'. The flexibility to change your mind was nice also. You could go a little further or stop early. If you are not into the headache of looking for a room after 10 hours of riding and you know exactly where you want to stay and what hotel, book it as early as possible. If I go back and don't take a Rick Steve's tour, I will make reservations before I leave. I now know the places I want to see and where I want to stay.
Youngsville, NC USA 08/05/02
Reservations at Nardizzi meaningless
Traveling as a family of 3 and needing triple rooms, we always make reservations early. We recently found out that reservations do not always guarantee a room. July 21, we arrived at the Hotel Nardizzi in Rome with confirmed reservations, having provided credit card info and informed of 7:30 PM arrival. Upon arrival, our reservation was acknowledged but we were told that our room was at another hotel, a 3 star near the Spanish steps. Because I had read on this board of another person (11/24 posting) being sent to another hotel from the Nardizzi with bad results, I refused. Luck was with us - - we went one floor down to the Hotel Oceania and Stefano very kindly offered a double room into which he would move a third bed. The room was beautiful - a corner with view, great bath, and strong air conditioning. The Oceania is a gem - we made a reservation and stayed there a second time during our trip. We will continue to make reservations for future travel because we cannot always count on such great luck and kindness that we found at the Oceania.
Columbus, OH USA 08/02/02
No to Reservations
In general I do not want resevations. I will usually make resevations for the first and last nights of a trip or when in certain high demand areas such as Paris. I do a lot of planning ahead using Rick's books and the internet to know what is available where we are going and bring the reference material with us. We rent a car and drive just so that we can stay "loose". We just returned from a 4 week trip using this philosophy. I never would have planned on how long we actually spent at Het Loo Palace or the Open Air Museum in Arnhem. If we had advance resevations we would have had to cut our time short at these places. I definitely would not have planned on staying in Arcen and would have missed a wonderful B&B and small town (see my posting in New Back Doors).
Reading, PA USA 07/25/02
Are Hotel reservations nec?
Yes if travelling with a family
Edmonton, AB Canada 07/22/02
Barcelona - Make reservations, IN ADVANCE!
For Barcelona, make sure that you book a nice (expensive) hotel in advance. My husband and I stayed at a pension ba'hia on Las Ramblas, and it was so disgusting that we couldn't stand to be there. The price was the same as many lovely hotels we stayed in during our trip through Spain, but the internet website is quite deceiving about the quality of the property. We searched desperately for another room that day but couldn't find one for less than 285 Euros. This event caused us to leave Barcelona after only one day since we couldn't stand to be in our room, and couldn't find another one on short notice without paying an excrutiating premium. Barcelona will definitely be a splurge town for us next time in regards to hotel expenses, but we will most definitely book our rooms well in advance. Plan to spend over 100 a night for a nice room for two.
France, Switz, Italy--June 2002
Making reservations ahead of time is highly recommended for families... especially if you need two rooms. Hotels are heavily booked in the summertime, and you save quality time and your sanity not searching for an available hotel at the last minute and at highest prices. Book hotels online and mention Rick Steves' name for discounts.
Save yourself alot of frustration by DEFINITELY purchasing good city maps BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Do not rely only on Rick Steves' guide maps; as they are VAGUE, not drawn to scale, and do not supply complete information necessary to easily locate and walk to your hotel from the train stations. It's maddening to be lost and dragging your luggage through crowded city streets without the information you need, during a heat wave of 105 degrees!
Make laminated information cards (hotels, train/airlines, currency conversion, language etc.) for quick reference and use when communication is confusing with a clerk or taxi driver.
Convenient and Nice Hotel Recommendations: FRANCE ***Hotel D'Orsay, Paris - **Hotel Turenne, Colmar - SWITZERLAND ***Best Western Chalet Oberland, Interlaken (no air conditioning/usually not needed) - ITALY ****Hotel Metropole & Suisse, Lake Como - ***Palazzo Castiglioni-Relais B&B, Florence - ***Hotel Duomo, Siena - ***Hotel Minerva, Sorrento (excellent), ***Hotel Aberdeen, Rome (excellent).
The only accomodation we were not pleased with was ***Cā della Corte B&B, Venice (bleak location, 4th floor rooms with no elevator, marginal/not working swamp coolers, tiny bathrooms/showers, torn screens, and mosquitos). However, I must say that the people there were VERY NICE and greeted us warmly.
If you are a first-time visitor to Rome, we highly recommend booking
a walking tour with Through Eternity Cultural Association, www.througheternity.com.
It's totally worth the price time wise, information wise, and enjoyment
wise. Our guide was Claire from England, and she was EXCELLENT!
Estes Family of Five
Auburn, CA USA 07/01/02
Brugge, Haarlem,Bacharach,Zell, Reims, Brussels
We just returned from our trip and had reservations for most of the trip. I've traveled without them using Rick's book but find the time to stop and call distracting from our travel time. Our past two trips I've made our reservations on line and have had written confirmations that I carry with me. I call ahead to confirm if I have time, otherwise we know the risk and take our chance. Last trip we had one "lost" reservation in Italy, but this trip we had a 100% expecting us. Here is where we stayed:
Brugge: 2 nights our first choice B&B was booked and they referred us to their friends, Rita and Leo. The double room was $45 per night with breakfast. We shared a bath with one other room; not a problem (we had a sink in our room and there are two toilets available between the two rooms). Rita was so sweet and she delivers breakfast each morning to the room on a tray with fresh squeezed orange juice! The rooms are simple, clean and we enjoyed staying here. Rita doesn't have an online connection yet so we made the reservations through her friends: Paul and Roos Gheeraert from Rick's book firstname.lastname@example.org
Haarlem: 3 nights We stayed at the Hotel Joop; it was the most expensive place that we stayed on our trip and overall, the most disappointing. We climbed a lot of stairs to reach the apartment; carpet was badly stained but it was spacious. No problem there, just didn't have the value of our other locations. I wouldn't stay there next time.
Bacharach: 3 nights stayed at the Hotel Kranenturm; we were on the train tracks. They have new sound proof windows installed and they do help; I carry ear plugs and that is probably the best back up solution for this location. They have wonderful food and a hot and cold breakfast and are very kind.
Zell: 2 nights I have posted info on the board for B&B's. This location was the highlight of our trip: www.black-cat.de A beautiful, modern apartment with breakfast was the best value! I could have stayed here for a week.
Reims: 2 nights at the Grand Hotel Coontinental; professional hotel. Clean, very small room, we arrived late and they were expecting us and the hotel was easy to find.
Brussels: 2 nights at the Welcome Hotel. We had a good stay here. The
owners are very friendly. We travel exclusively by train from city to
city and it took us a while to find this hotel. We should have used the
subway which is so easy and right in front of the hotel.
Wilma Powell Stuart
Bay Minette, AL USA 06/29/02
In June of 2001, we had a splendid trip in Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland. All the places we booked ahead of time. All, but one place either confirmed with email or had me fax them and they faxed back. I say all but one (in St Goar, Germany)...that one did not require a fax nor email. The morning we were to stay there, I called from Rothenberg to confirm and even spelled my last name, but when we got there around 17:00, they had no record of our reservation and they were booked up! They did help find us another hotel. So the moral of the story is to get some confirmation on paper. As I said, the rest of you trip was great, thanks to Rick and his travel books.
Rochester, MN USA 06/28/02
should book ahead for Cinque Terre
Just one more message on Cinque Terre, unfortunately you really need to book ahead or throw yourself on the merci of the TI to find a local person with an apartment. We showed up mid-week last week and I was on the phone for several train stations into Monterosso al Mare and really learned the meaning of ĻcompletoĻ! So book ahead folks, the Cinque Terre is full of families with lots of teenage travelers diving from the rocks. But the Via del Amore is beautiful!!! Just do your homework ahead of time.
Corvallis, OR USA 06/28/02
Do Not stay at Tejo in Lisbon I did not like the way the Tejo in Lisbon handled our request for reservation, and when we did not have a reservation as we expected on our arrival, they were extremely unhelpful in finding another place. Choose another hotel if you can. There are less expensive places nearby that are just as good, and the desk clerks are much more helpful.
Portland, OR USA 06/24/02
Hotels in Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre (Vernazza)
I recommend the following places, most are small hotels/pensiones very reasonable, the next step up from a hostel if you are traveling as a couple or are older...
In VENICE, we found this place at the last minute, but I would definitely plan ahead, it is around $80/night, close to the train station and very nice & clean w/or w/o private bath (more $) Hotel Arcadia http://www.elmoro.com/arcadia/.
Next, in FLORENCE, you cannot beat Hotel Perseo, a stones throw from The Duomo w/multi-lingual staff, travel books, internet usage, and bottled water, beer and soda available for sale in the lobby. The one woman said she could call in a prescription if I needed it (I had strep throat!). GREAT LOCATION! nice staff! breakfast.. http://www.venere.com/it/firenze/perseo/ e-mail: email@example.com
In TUSCANY, we stayed at Fattoria Bassetto: http://www.backpackitaly.com/htm/about.htm It was more of a hostel but one side of this converted convent/winery has double rooms more b&b style. Really nice staff, relaxing, beautiful location. It is on a farm so expect some rustic-ness.
In CINQUE TERRE: YOU MUST STAY HERE!! Gianni Franzi Piazza Marconi, 1-19018
Tel 0187.821003 Fax 0187.812228 ($154 Euro for 3 nights) It is the BEST
location in VERNAZZA. GREAT VIEWS, shared bath but very clean, comfy,
etc.. It is a restaurant at the end of town near the water, go in the
bar, restaurant when you get there to find out where your room is.
Portland, OR USA 06/18/02
More thoughts on the Claverly--London
We, too, scoured Rick's (and others') guidebooks for a hotel deal in the notoriously expensive city of London and settled on the Claverly due in part to Rick's recommendation, but also due to the enticing and well-designed website. From initial inquiry to payment of the final bill, the staff at the Claverly were nothing but helpful--and even fun. My wife and I struck up a conversation with one of the front desk attendants and learned that he and some friends were embarking on a cross-country exploration of the United States for their own holiday. We were able to serve as guides, to a certain extent, for their trip!
It was hard to believe that such a well-appointed, friendly, and economical hotel could be found in the fashionable Royal Borough of Kensington and literally within sight of Harrods (our room was on the back of the hotel, which afforded us a view of the less glamorous alley entrance to the famous department store). Our mornings would begin in the basement dining room for a fantastic English breakfast (despite custom, we tipped our hard-working waitresses). We would then walk out the front door to the end of Beaufort Gardens, take a right on Brompton and walk a few hundred yards to the Knightsbridge Tube station and begin our day's adventure. We've recommended this hotel to friends and family who, frankly, didn't know better than to stay in someof the more expensive, but less authentic, London hotels. All those who stayed at the Claverly enjoyed it and vow to return, as do we.
To tie this back into the theme of the message board, we would recommend
making reservations if you decide to stay at this hotel. While we were
there, a few people decided to "pop in" and book a room, but were turned
away. This is not a last minute sort of place. Due to Rick's recommendation,
and, I'm sure, the recommendations of travellers who have stayed there,
the word is out on the Claverly. Still, for those looking to disappear
into London, the Claverly is not too Americanized. Perhaps one other American
couple was at the Claverly during our stay.
Charlotte, NC USA 06/17/02
Claverley Hotel in London
From some remarks I had read on various web sites I had concerns about The Claverley Hotel in London before I went there in May. I found the hotel to be quite nice, the staff to be exceedingly polite, and it definitely lived up to pictures posted on the web. It's in a quiet, convenient, and rather posh neighborhood. While sightseeing, I looked at other hotels and neighborhoods that had enthusiastic recommendations and much preferred The Claverley. And a remark on sightseeing: I enjoyed the venues, such as the Sloan Museum, Tate Modern, or V&A Museum, that were free or asked for a small donation. The Somerset House was quite a rip-off. I strongly suggest questioning the contents and size of the site before handing over $9, $10, or $18 (plus more $$ for a map, brochure, booklet, etc.), but if it's really important for you to say you went to "Famous Site" on Monday and to "Famous Palace" on Wednesday, then your money will be well spent in your mind, and that should be all you should care about.
Pasadena, CA USA 06/14/02
Places to stay in various cities
Here are a few suggestions that may, or may not be, in Rick's books for accomodations: Amsterdam - Hotel Prinsenhof is a terrific place to stay. Great rooms, great location, great breakfast. Contact them at www.hotelprinsenhof.com Paris- Hotel Muguet is a two star with reasonable rates just off the Rue Clere. Rooms are pristine and staff is very nice. Contact them at www.paris.org, go to hotels in the 7th eme. Geneva- Hotel Central is owned by a very nice couple in a great downtown location. Again, clean and reasonable. Cinque Terre- Mar-Mar provided us with our largest and most comfortable room of the trip, in Riomaggiore, for 60 Euros a night. Florence- Hotel Dani is most accomodating, with a wondeful host couple. Try to get a room on the inside since there is a pub across the street (Robin Hood's) that makes a considerable amount of noise until 2 a.m. Venice - Albergo Doni is terrific. Quiet, spacious, reasonable, great location, and sufficient breakfast. Plus the host, Gina, and her dog, Lucky, are a treat.
Grand Junction, CO USA 06/12/02
booking in advance
Just got back from 2 great weeks in Spain. We booked ahead using Rick's book (for the first time) and found his descriptions of the hotels we chose right on. I made all reservations by e-mail (very easy!) and we had no trouble at all when we got there. I would highly recommend pre-booking if you want the hotels of your choice. In Granada we had a great hotel, Hotel America, small, quaint and steps from the Alhambra, but you have to book months in advance, and I can say it was worth the pre-planning!
Colorado Springs, CO USA 06/10/02
Book ahead for Holland!
In august 2000 we went through Northern Europe by car. We drove directly from Prague to the Netherlands, which took us a day. Since we figured it would get a bit late before arriving in Amsterdam, we decided to stop over in Utrecht. The problem was that Utrecht only had one hostel, it turned out to be fully occupied, and the guy behind the counter was so stoned that he couldn't give us any advice. He giggled as we left...
From the two cars we called every one of the hostels in Amsterdam that were recommended in our guidebooks: all were full. So we gathered for a crisis meeting. Should we pay a lot of money or sleep in the cars? One of us decided to give in and go back to his girlfriend in Sweden - unfortunally he was one of the car owners. The rest of us, we were now six, squeezed into the other car with the idea to drive to the sea, make a fire on the beach, drink some beer and get something to eat and just wait ītil the night was over.
Even though it was very tight in the car, we were in good spirits. We stopped by at maybe four gas stations on the way to get some beer and something to eat, but it was always useless. We donīt really know the seaside of the Netherlands but, after some confusion, we ended up in Zandvoort.
This was a crazy place! A large kindergarten for upper-class Dutch drunk 23-year-olds. Lots of people in the streets, lots of expensive beer but no food whatsoever. In the end we found a McDonalds which was about to close - the only McDonalds's I've ever seen with 30-year-old snobs behind the counter. We went out of the party area and headed for the beach, which was supposed to be great. We drove around to pick out a nice spot, but without any luck... Everywhere there were fences and a sign, which said, "Keep out! Watch out for dogs and explosives!" Spotlights lit up the nice beach and guards patrolled. There was nowhere to get in and down to the water. We ended up sleeping in the car and on the slope behind the beach - cold and dark.
At seven AM we went on to Amsterdam. From a phone that smelled like someone had urinated on and that my friend had to hold a few inches from his face, we called "Durty Nelly's" hostel. There we were told that they recently had found landmines from WW2 in Zandvoort - this was the reason for our cold welcoming!
Durty Nelly's was also one of the worst hostels I've ever stayed
at, dirty, with bedbugs and Italians who smoked pot in their beds all
day. The day after I hooked up with an old travel-friend who has a nice
flat in Prinsengracht - it was lovely to stay with her, that's for
sure! So my advice is to book ahead if you want to stay in Amsterdam in
high season. Amsterdam is otherwise a place well worth a visit, but keep
out of the city-centre between the station and Singel. The Grachtenggordel
and suburbs are much nicer areas.
Planning is part of the fun
It is a lot of fun to plan your trip and make reservations in advance for at least part of the trip. What my husband and I are doing this time for our 21-day trip is being very planned for the first half which will be in Germany and pretty loose for the second part in Italy. This way we will have some security in the beggining when we'll have a car and then go anywhere we want by train and no plans. We have found some pretty good deals in family-run hotels in the black forest and the Romantic Road that I'm sure would not be available for last minute reservation. Planning is part of the fun!
My husband and I were traveling in Italy this past March, when I ended up in the hospital in Sorrento, and 5 days later, was transferred to a hospital in Naples. While in Sorrento, we met a family who owns two hotels there, and I would like to put in a little "plug" for them. The patriarch of the Family Colonna was a patient in the cardiac ICU while I was there, and when the family realized we were Americans who spoke very little Italian, they offered to help us in any way they could. They were incredibly helpful -- translating for us with doctors and nurses, and when I was tranferred to Naples, they moved my husband into one of their hotels, helped him figure out how to find me at the hugh university hospital, fed him dinner each night, and arranged a car to pick me up at the hospital and take us to the airport when we were finally able to leave 9 days later. For all that, they never charged us a cent!!! They are a wonderful family and I just wanted to share that with everybody who might be thinking of visiting Sorrento. Their hotels are called the Hotel Central and Hotel Cristina -- both 4 star hotels, which we usually avoid, preferring 3 star or less, but I have never met such kind and generous people and just wanted to pass that along! If you go there and meet Marco Colonna, tell him Kay and Sam Parsons from Sacramento, CA sent you!
Sacramento, CA USA 06/07/02
Hotels this trip
Just back from 3 1/2 weeks in Greece and Italy, had no reservations prior to going. Always found a room for a reasonable rate (Most was 90 Euro in Rome, average was 40 to 60 Euro, most were Db). We would call a day or two ahead to book or just show up. I would still suggest booking major cities, or a special hotel if you know your itenerary. We kept ours very loose, stayed longer in some areas, less in others.
IA USA 06/07/02
Barcelona hotels - reservations a must!
With a two weeks left before my trip to Spain took me to Barcelona, I started dialing up hotels to try to find a room. Thank goodness I didn't try to be spontaneous! It took me TEN tries to find a hotel that wasn't booked for those nights (and thank goodness I'd just changed my long distance plan to one that only cost ten cents per minute). Many of the hotels said you could call and check the day of, but when I was actually there I could see many of the hotels in the Barri Gotic had "completo" signs in the window and I had the dubious pleasure of watching less-fortunate souls turned away from my hostal (the Hotel Ingles -- just fine but less than soundproof). So DO make reservations in advance!
Tonnvane (remove "_" from email addy to write)
Seattle, WA USA 06/06/02
Making reservations via e-mail
Hi, When making e-mail reservations for hotels in Spain I used babblefish.com (it's free!) to translate the message into Spanish before I sent it. Several of the hotel clerks thanked me for doing so. It makes it easier and faster if they don't have to wait for the person who speaks English to come into work. It seems to work best if you speak a little bit of the language so you can read the message to see if it makes sense. Don't use contractions or slang as they don't translate properly. And no, I don't work for babblefish 8-). Regards, Lisa
MILL VALLEY, CA USA 06/03/02
Paris Hotel, Agriturismo in Italy
Just got back from a two week trip in Europe. Paris for 4 days, Tuscany for 5 and Venice area for 5. Made a hotel reservation 6 mos. ahead of time at Hotel Leveque. We had a room at the 5th floor. It faces the back. The room was clean and very adequate for the price (84Euros). Did notice in the wall that it is about 8-10Euros cheaper if you make your reservation via phone or fax rather than online. The staff were friendly and spoke English well. AC is coming in June. Location of this hotel makes it worthwhile to stay here. Rue Cler is fantastic. In Tuscany we stayed at Agriturismo Ponte. For one of the Villa apartments w/ two rooms, the charge was 90Euros for a night, but split with my sister and her husband we paid a total of 300Euros for 5 nights which included breakfast every morning. Great deal if traveling in a small group. This one was located west of Pienza. This type of accommodations are all over the area. These places are ran by families which reside either in one of the "apartments" or on another building nearby. I felt that being in this place gave us a feeling like we were really in a relaxed vacation rather than stressfull vacation in a heart of the city.
La Crosse, WI USA 05/30/02
I would just like to point out that if anyone comes across any terms and conditions in respect of cancelling hotel reservations in the UK, which appear to be 'unfair' it should be reported to the Office of Fair Trading. There is a website available for them.
London, UK 05/28/02
Trying to cancel reservations
After reading messages on this site and knowing I would also feel better to have reservations I proceeded to make a few before we left on our 3 week vacation this May. My recommendation (and plans for our next trip) would be: DON'T MAKE RESERVATIONS. Obviously this depends on where you go and at what time, but even a Rick recommended hotel in Italy was booked up one night and the next morning had rooms (you just need to call a day in advance). Yet when our travel plans were shuffled around slightly due to rain and I tried to cancel a day in advance at a reserved hotel in Venice (Hotel Fontana) they charged us fully for one night stay because I didn't give them 7 days notice. Then, even if you have reservations, as we did for Peter's Pension in Berlin, they can have you booked on a different day and you're still left without a room. If you are bent on reservations make sure that you can at least cancel them if you give a day or two notice in case your plans change (which they probably will). Some hotels seem a lot more flexible about this and are simply appreciative when you call in advance to cancel.
Edmonton, AB Canada 05/22/02
Paris Hotels in October
Just wanted to let everyone know that my husband and I tried 3 different Paris hotels for the first week in October before we found one with rooms available. So if you're looking for one of Rick's recommendations in the Rue Cler area, I highly recommend booking very early!
San Francisco, CA USA 05/22/02
i screwed up...
have your planning done in advance if you think it is no problem to pull off a last minute super airline deal to paris. that probably goes for any big international destination. i just booked a flight for myself and my 13 year old son to leave 1 june and have spent more than the price of the ticket trying to find a place to stay for about $60 euros per nite for 8 nites. i have gone thru internet room locators and guide book recommendations and everything comes back as booked up. i am beginning to think going thru these routes may be the wrong way to go as everyone is going thru the same channels. since this trip is not something i've been planning and saving up for, inexpensive accomodation is necessary. i guess i will find something before the plane touches down!
summit, ms USA 05/20/02
Reservations done for July! Whew!
My husband and I will be spending this July in France, Germany, and Italy. I've been having so much fun investigating hotels and making reservations online. I'm proud to say that nearly every night of our trip is booked - all with Rick Steve's hotels/pensions. Since I've booked around 2 months in advance, I got my first choice accommodation in nearly every case. From a 78 Euro place in Venice to a 28 Euro place in Colmar, France, I feel relieved to have this taken care of. I've printed out all my email correspondences and directions to each hotel and placed them in a folder. That way, I'll have documentation if my reservations fall through. I think making reservations in advance will save us time in the long run. Since we're travelling in the peak season, I think we'll save hours of time. I don't want to spend my vacation searching for rooms. Now, we can concentrate on the attractions and soaking up the atmosphere. I'll report back on this board when I return. Hopefully I'll still think booking ahead is the way to go! Thank goodness for email and for the opinions on this site :-)
Eugene, OR USA 05/09/02
One thing you might want to take advantage of if you wish to give your trip a little more spontenaity is the British Tourist Authority's program called Book-a-Bed-Ahead (BABA). How it works is like this: you're driving or taking the train around England -- you know you're going to be in the Lake District, but you're not sure exactly what day. Therefore, you haven't booked a room. But let's say it's Tuesday, and you know you're going to be in Keswick that night. So you stop in at the Tourist Info Center of the town you're in right now, and tell them you'd like a room in Keswick for that night. They'll call ahead to Keswick and book a room for you, based on your price range and specifications. That way, once you get to Keswick, you already have a room waiting for you. The fee is only a couple of pounds and well worth the service. I've used this before and have never been disappointed in the room. You can use it in London if you're leaving that day and want to find a room for the evening -- in fact, you can use it between countries. I booked a room in Llandudno, Wales while I was staying in Bath, England. As always, there are caveats -- if you stop and want a room at a highly popular seaside resort town during a holiday weekend, you're probably out of luck. And you'll have a much better selection to choose from if you book earlier in the day.
Cincinnati, OH USA 05/03/02
Zurich, Salzberg, Vienna
Just got back from Switzerland, Austria & Italy. Recommendations: Zurich: You definitely need reservations in advance. Rick Steves doesn't seem to like Zurich much (why?!?), but we found a great hotel near the old part of town: Hotel Tiefenau. Staff was friendly, rates reasonable, and location was great. By the way, we loved the old part of Zurich - one of the highlights of the trip! Salzberg: I can't say enough about the Hotel Elefant (I know, funky name, but has something to do with an elephant going through town in the 1500's). This hotel is right in the middle of the old town: nice rooms, perfect location, family run & friendly. We couldn't believe our luck. Venice: You definitely need reservations anytime of year here. We tried 15 hotels via the internet before we left that were completely booked. Out of desperation, I booked at the Locanda Barbarigo - on the recommendation from someone who wrote in to this forum. They were right - it was a jewel. Our room was gigantic, overlooked a canal, the staff was friendly, and it was a quiet location only about 5 minutes from St. Mark's Square. We'll definitely stay there again. All of the hotels (above) have websites on the Internet. In short, in April (not tourist season), reservations are needed in the tourist destination towns. We had no problem getting hotels elsewhere by just dropping in the same day.
Sacramento, CA USA 04/27/02
Paris hotel recommended
Heartily recommend the Grand Hotel des Balcons in Paris. Great location situated between Luxembourg Gardens and St. Germain. Easy walking distance from many sights. Comfortable rooms ($100 for a double). Even has an ICE MACHINE on the ground floor! Tel: 0146347850 E-mail: www.balcons.com
Austin, Tx USA 04/26/02
Just returned from Paris, Brugge, and Amsterdam. Rick Steve's guidebooks were very helpful, however just look about in Europe and see all the Americans with their Rick Steve guidebooks. So with this popularity we found most of the hotels recommended totally booked up. Book far far far in advance for Amsterdam and Brugge, I saw many a backpacking American wandering the late night streets for a hotel/hostel that wasn't full.
Chicago, , IL USA 04/23/02
I try to reserve a room in advance whenever I am getting off a plane. When I was living in London I took cheap flights most weekends in the summer and didn't have a lot of time to book (a week or less), but I always had a place booked when I landed. The only thing worse than hitting the street late on a weekend night is having to hit the TI in the morning looking for another room because you could only get one night. I called every listing in a few guidebooks on more than one occasion, Rick's listings are nearly always the first to fill. Do not hesitate to use a room finding service or TI if you are having trouble.
Anyone going to Paris should have a reservation, end of story. Once I flubbed faxing my info (after a phone call was made) and I showed up off the Eurostar in the Marais at my usual hotel at 6:30 on a Friday night with a friend and they did not have my reservation. It took all my room finding skills to come up with a place, we basically went to every hotel in the area asking if they has a room or if the knew of any place that did (en francais). Our last option was to get back on the Metro (which we should have done) and go to the sister hotel, call a room finding service and get back on the Metro, or hit a dodgey one star a block away. In general I find it better not to book on long trips or when I am focusing on outdoor activities.
Good idea to book a room when: high season, coming off long distance travel, getting in late at night, short trips (less that 3 weeks), set itineraries, special events.
No need to book a room: off season, open itineraries, traveling alone,
looking for good deals, off the beaten path, long trips
Chicago, IL USA 04/17/02
depends on who you're with. if you are travelling with kids, of course
reserve in advance and I suppose with the net, it make sense to do some
research & look for bargains. however, i remember years ago travelling the
south of france with my girlfriend, without any reservations and cruising
from town to town, spontaneiously deciding here is where we want to spend
the night. sure, you sometimes end up having to hunt for rooms for a while,
but what is life or travel without the exuberent thrill of the unknown?
Booking ahead provides Charm and Flexibility
For several years, when traveling off-season, I would only reserve a room for our first night or two. Now that we travel with our children during the summer I find that our trip is actually more enjoyable and even more flexible when we book rooms in advance. We can slowly drive from one spot to the next, taking the extra time to see sights along the way, without having to worry about getting to a town by 4:00 or whenever the TI closes. On one summer trip I decided to be more spontaneous and therefore left 2 nights open in what I thought would be off the beaten track kind of towns and ended up spending 2 hours each night looking for rooms. Also, now that even the most cozy of B & B's can be found on the web, I find that I have the luxury of "visiting" several webpages ahead of time and conversing via e-mail with owners. We have booked everything from rooms in an old castle to family run B & B's via the internet. BTW, these places were much more charming than the ones I ended up with after our 2 hour search!
Atlanta, GA USA 04/09/02
This is a warning to be careful when booking over the internet. Although I have never had any problems before, I feel that I have been burned by room service UK (www.room-service.co.uk). In an attempt to book a room in Barcelona for this coming summer, I tried to access a particular hotel website and this room-service uk link popped up. I gave them my credit card information to book a room. To my surprise I received in the mail a hotel voucher, informing me that I had been charged for 3 nights. Somthing else came up and I emailed the "service" to cancel the reservation and request to be credited for the 3 nights. The company wrote back to say that they would only credit me for 2 nights, that they would still charge me for one night because that is their policy, even if I gave them over 2 months notice. When I asked them where in their form it specifies that they charge for one night in the event of a cancellation, they would not answer; rather, they insist it is their policy and that is that. Although I intend to dispute this charge with my credit card company, it has been an awful inconvenience.
san francisco, ca USA 04/08/02
Finding hotels in Europe
For several trips to France and UK we have used books available in US from major hotel/motel chains that list their properties in Europe with a great deal of information including a photo, rates etc. We have never been disappointed and one trip was booked into nothing but Best Western properties in about 30 minutes or so over an 800 number and we received printed confirmations within a week. Call the big chains and ask if they have a Europe guide of their propertries. Most will mail to you free.
Houston, Tx USA 04/08/02
Make reservations(try to pay with credit card for easy refund/charge cancellation),
carry a copy of the confirmation/receipt with you, and still stop by a tourist
office for info on alternative hotels/hostels, whatever. This is especially
helpful when visiting countries where racial and gender discrimation is
CA USA 03/27/02
Just got back from 3 weeks in Italy and Paris and thought in March we'd have the place to ourselves...Don't count on that! Luckily we had Reservations for Venice and it was spectacular (skip Murano and Burano, takes up far too much time and the Glass blowing was far superior in Waterford,Ireland, and Burano is full of Chinese machine made lace.)but quite crowded with Italian and Chinese tourists. I checked out many of the hotels we had read about and the Hotel American was a delight. If you like peaceful sleep, anywhere in the Academia area of the Dorsoduro is perfect..it's also very near the Guggenheim and a 10 min walk to San Marco. The Rialto area is much more lively and touristy. We had no reservations for the small towns and the only problem seemed to be on Friday/Saturday nights. Vernazza on the Cinque Terre was filled with college breaking backpackers but we found a wonderful hilltop village just up the coast that only the Italians seem to visit with amazing views and great food. So, in summation when you first land and are tired and cranky...have reservations or when you just have to get into that room near Rue Cler that Rick raves about...have reservations but for the small towns don't arrive on a weekend and go exploring. P.S. the French were amazingly helpful and pleasant. Sights are great but the people often make the lasting impressions.
Boston, Ma USA 03/22/02
Hotel du Champ de Mars
My wife and I and two of our adult daughters just returned from a week in Paris March 18, 2002. We had a great trip! I made reservations for two rooms right after The first of the year and had I waited another week, we'd have been out of luck. While standing in the lobby waiting on everyone, I heard Francoise tell a caller the next vacancy was in October! We loved this hotel! Cute, clean and steps from Rue Cler and across the street from Cafe Du Marche. It is a 2-star and we have stayed at Hotel Londres Eiffel, a 3-star)in Oct. of 2000 and they are very much alike. Comments about rudeness are a puzzle, as we did not experience that at all. Perhaps, the fact that they don't smile as quickly and answer a little more to the point than Americans do has been mistaken as rudeness. We highly recommend this hotel at 72 Euros per night and love the area. As for reservations, having them takes the g out of gamble.
St. Louis, MO USA 03/22/02
for Paris, always reserve in advance
When my husband & I were planning our March 2002 France trip, we started contacting hotels in January. Almost all of Rick's recommended hotels in Paris were already booked up by then! This was off season -- I can only imagine how much worse it would have been in summer. Finally, we found that the Hotel Londres Eiffel had rooms. It's on Rick's secondary list for the Rue Cler area, & I'd give it a stronger recommendation than he does. It's perfectly charming & the owners are very helpful & friendly. We splurged for a top-floor room with a view of the Eiffel Tower (about $100/night) & felt it was *TOTALLY* worth it! The room was tiny, but comfortable, quiet, & well-appointed, & the view was incredibly romantic! I will always treasure the memory of going to sleep under the golden glow of la Tour lit at night.
San Jose, CA USA 03/21/02
Are Hotel Reservations Necessary?
After what happened to us as we were preparing to depart on our 20th wedding anniversary trip to Paris, I will never attempt to go there without reservations. We started planning for our May 2001 trip to Paris in August 2000. We booked a great apartment at a wonderful rate 9 months before our trip. Over those 9 months, we were in communication with the owner several times. Ten days before our departure, he suddenly realized that he had booked us for the wrong dates of our trip and that the dates we were going to be there were already booked. Needless to say we were quite upset because all of our plans had been made around the location we were to stay.
In our mad scramble, we finally located a hotel....Hotel de France Invalides
in the 7th arrondissement... and hoped for the best. It turned out better
than we could have ever hoped for. Wonderful 2 star hotel (should be a
3 we think) in a great neighborhood. There was a courteous staff who spoke
English, elevator, bar, and the golden dome of Napoleon's tomb was the
view from our room which was quite comfortable. Queen size bed, chair,
desk, nightstands and a mini-bar graced the clean room. Bathroom was small,
but adequate. Excellent shopping, bistros (one of which had a view of
the Eiffel Tower - also one of Rick's recommendations was only a couple
of blocks away), convenient ATMs, laundramat close by, and the Metro around
the corner and 2 blocks up. And all of this for approximately $72 a night.
They currently advertise a rate of 81 euros. You cannot beat this place
for all that it offers.
Virginia Beach, VA USA 03/10/02
Cherry Court Hotel, London
We made reservations for 80% of our trip but we knew our time prevented us from wandering. I must admit it saved on worry but lessened the adventure. If you are looking for a pleasant, clean and inexpensive accommodation in London, disregard Rick's comments about the Cherry Court Hotel in London. The Cherry Court Hotel is a charming older hotel conveniently located on a quiet street near all types of transportation. The rooms are cozy and pleasantly decorated. The beds were extremely clean...cleaner than some American 4 star hotels I've stayed in, and the older bathrooms were clean as well...and of course the rooms and hallways.
Quincy, MA USA 02/26/02
Reservations at Allogi Massetto in venice is a necessity and staying requires forgetting American standards.
Irvano is a european experience and will give you something to talk about
when you get back--every time we start with a non-intelligible discussion
of reservations-- always wrong, always overbooked-- but always a room
is available--(even irvano's bedroom is used if you are the last one there--she
sleeps in the kitchen). No fax- no e-mail--I would suggest a phone call
from someone who speaks Italian and verify what you reserved. Can be a
problem, but where else can you stay for ~$20 a person one block from
St Mark's square--- pigeon poop on the pillows is no extra charge.
dallas, tx USA 02/08/02
My husband and I have had several fun and spontaneous road trips through Europe without hotel reservations, like the time we spent a few days in Zurich, then drove to Milan for a few days, and then decided to spend a night in Innsbruck, Austria before heading home again. If you are headed to a major city without hotel reservations, check out the Information Office at the train station. All major train stations have one of these places, marked with a white letter "i" on a blue background. Just tell the clerk your price range, and they will make a few telephone calls and find you a room in town, free of charge. I wouldn't recomend traveling in Europe without reservations during peak season, or you might end up sleeping in the train station!
an American living in Europe
Bitburg, Germany 01/29/02
Netherlands - Haarlem
Going to Haarlem, Netherlands? Get your reservations now- I've been turned down at a couple of places I have tried for June. Ended up making reservations in Amsterdam instead.... There is a big festival of flowers this year...
To reserve or not to reserve..
Rule of Thumb: If you want the best value for your money and you are traveling between June and August in cities or touristed towns, always reserve your room. The best quality budget hotels book fast and will probably not have a room if you just show up. If you don't care what you end up with, or want to waste your time searching, don't reserve. Make your life/trip easier....
Houston, TX USA 01/09/02
I am in the process of checking Rue Cler hotel prices for a planned April trip. Hotel Leveque has just posted their new Euro prices and they have gone up quite a bit. In Oct/00 (high season) we paid 420 FRF for a DB. Now they are quoting 76 EUR low season and 84 EUR high season. Using the handy converter supplied at their website http://www.inter-resa.com/hotel/leveque/fr/prix.php# that translates into 498.5 and 551 FRF respectively. That's a 30% hike in just over a year. Hotel du Champ de Mars is still advertising a 430 FRF rate on their website for a DB. Check it out.
Vancouver, BC CAN 01/05/02
Contacted Hotel Steno in Monterosso al Mare, Italy in August of last year to make reservations for June of 2002: was told to call back in January 2002 as they do not take reservations that far in advance. Sooo, January 2, I sent an email asking for reservations again for June and was told," Sorry, all rooms full for those dates." You figure?!!
Asheville, , NC USA 01/02/02
We did not book any reservations when went to Scotland! Yes! We went in the off season and had no problems finding a place to stay. It is easier in the country to find lodging than in the big cities. Bring cash, as some B&B's do not take credit cards! Not having to be at any lodging facility at any certain time allowed us to be more flexible with our schedule of sight seeing.
Kansas City, MO USA 12/26/01
why does everyone think that they need rick's books to ensure that they have a place to stay? use your imagination, lots of guidebooks, and the internet, and you are bound to come up with a place that is full of charm, not americans. one of the best resources for the UK is "the best bed and breakfasts of england, scotland and wales". this book is invaluable. my husband and i went to scotland and found a b&b right on loch ness, a 16th century working farm with horses, sheep and chickens. we could see the loch and urqhuart castle from our room. fabulous!!! anyway, happy travels and remember that rick's books are a guide, NOT a bible.
nazareth, pa USA 12/01/01
If they move you. Don't go
Hotel Nardizzi - Rome We have a confirmed reservation at Hotel Nardizzi. When we arrived at 6pm, the heavy set clerk told us that there is No room available, however, there is room available in another 3 star hotel not too far away. A van had been arranged to pick us up. He promised it would be the same price at L200.000 with 10% discount if pay by cash. The hotel is located NE of Rome Termini train station. The hotel is about 2 blocks north of Policlinico subway station. We felt it was far from all the action and decided to check out the next day. The clerk told us the price for the room is L220000 and with 10% discount is L200000. We argued with the FD clerk and finally walked out of the hotel only paying L168000.
LONDON - Check out Laterooms.com
We found a room at 65 pounds with a full kitchen YES, with kitchenware, a living room and a large bedroom for 65 pounds at the 4 stars Dolphin Square Hotel not too far from the Victoria station.
PARIS - Hotel La Serre in Rue Cler
Due to train strike - Need to stay an extra night at Hotel Leveque. But they were fully booked. Per FD clerk suggestion, I make a reservation at the hotel across the street, Hotel La Serre. Later that evening found out that Hotel Leveque does have rm for me to stay the extra night. When I try to cancel my res. at Hotel la Serre, they refuse, stating hotel policy.
Denver, CO USA 11/24/01
In Arles, the rather pricey Arlatan Hotel did a bait & switch trick on our room. Also broken TV control, no soap in the bathroom, and very officious management. Next time would spend more time in Nimes, less or none in Arles.
Prescott, AZ USA 11/09/01
Hotel reservations are a must for less stressful travel -- especially during the 'high' season. We were very glad we had made reservations -- particularly in Venice. As we checked out of our hotel (Hotel Marin) and waited to head to the train station -- group after group of people came into the hotel inquiring about availability to no avail -- they were booked SOLID.
Rochester, NY USA 11/09/01
Definitely advise reservations. We stayed at Hotel Champ du Mars by Rue Cler & recommend it-comfortable albeit small rooms. The owners, Stephane is a nice & regular guy; his wife, Francoise seems to require a lot of deference. Hotel owners seem to get a little panicky when the existence of the Graffiti Wall is mentioned. This, of course, means feedback from guests, and they want it all to be good. What a great democratic mechanism this Graffiti wall is! On the road we had decent experiences with the Ibis hotel chain.
N. J. Pinney
Prescott, AZ USA 11/09/01
Reserve ahead for holidays
Reservations well in advance are a good idea for the following holidays in spring 2002--all Europe will be competing with you for hotel/hostel space: 2 weeks before & after Easter, March 31; Ascension Day, May 9 through the following weekend (in France May 8, VE Day, is also a holiday); Pentecost, May 19 (Sat-Mon). In Catholic countries Corpus Christi is May 29 (also in Germany, but not France). May 1 is a holiday everywhere. If these last 2 are close to a weekend, expect crowds then, too. Especially during Easter time (when all schools get at least 2 weeks off and some get a month), reserve 6-8 weeks in advance.
Mary from Oregon
This site is the Hotel finder for Rail Europe in conjunction with a travel agency called Avanti. The problem is I just had to pay $300 for cancelling hotel reservations 3 months in advance. Now to be fair this cancelation fee is told up front, but I just did not think I would be cancelling...so big mistake on my part...there are a bunch of really good hotel sites on the web and from now on I will only use those without this policy. My mistake, but since you will probably be going to Rail Europe for train tickets I wanted to warn anyone about my mistake with this site. If you go to Rail Europe site and click on hotel, you will get this site, so don't make the mistake I did.
Fairhope, AL USA 10/02/01
Make phone calls with your computer
I just figured out how to call hotels thru my computer. It's pretty slick! I called using this program and I talk thru the microphone that came with my computer. I called France for 8 cents a minute! This used to be a free service for local calls, now they are charging for local and have just added international. I found it's great for calling overseas. It's at www.net2phone.com. Good luck!
Roseville, MN USA 09/27/01
You CAN go without reservations
I just got back from a 4 week trip to Italy. Outside of a reservation the first 2 nights (so we could fly in and go right to a room), we travelled without. We just either wandered around until we found a place we liked or called places the night before we left. Now this does not guarantee a room in places like Cinque Terre. While Venice, Rome, Sorrento, Positano and Florence were fairly easy to find places, Cinque Terre was not. So we skipped Cinque Terre and climbed Vesuvius instead. This is the way I like to travel. If you don't mind altering your trip along the way, it's a great way to travel!
Raleigh, NC USA 09/26/01
It all depends on the time of year. I went in Sept to Nov. and April.
Both times we had no reservations and got nice rooms. What really matters
though is your comfort level of the "unplanned". If you hate the idea of
having to trudge through rainy streets, hungry, and tired just looking for
a room - any room - then you may want to consider getting at least a couple
night reservations per stop. If you go it 100% off the cuff, be prepared
to have to hop on the train to another city or town. You may get into a
room near the train station, but it won't be pretty. The only semi-bad experience
we had was in Paris in April. Stupid us decided to just blow into town w/o
a reservation. In 1987 you could lock up your things at the train station..
NO MORE!!! We thought we could stash our stuff and tour Paris for a room.
No dice. We wound up at a dive near Gare du Nord. They actually washed the
towels in gasoline! Nevertheless, if was still fun. We made the best of
it. The Hotel clerk was an African guy who wanted to know about America.
He spoke a little english, good German, and French. I speak a little German
and French. We wound up having a two hour conversation about "things" in
German, French, and English. My wife was flabergasted at the tri-lingual
fun going on downstairs. The biggest plus? Not only did we get to meet "regular" people, but we got free cable and saw Beverly Hill 90210 dubbed in French...!
Irvine, CA USA 09/09/01
I have traveled with out hotel reservations...it was touch and go the
first night in London..I flagged down a cab driver and told him what I wanted
and how much I was looking to spend...he hooked me up....Then I got out
of London and found Pubs/Inns a great place to stay..also the hotels on
the break areas on the motorways..while not much in the charm dept...are
a good bargain and charge by the room instead of the person(like many pubs
Tn USA 09/06/01
I traveled for the first time through the months of May and June. I
went to London, Belguim, France, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Slovenia. When
you are traveling spontaneously it seems like it almost works against you
to book ahead. It is better to check out the town and use your instincts
to find a place to stay that you feel will be safe. The only time we wished
we booked ahead was in Lake Como, Italy and that is because Rick's tour
had booked the place. We ended up staying in a closet of this 3* hotel that
had one bed. This room actually had a gunrack with a gun in it. It is better
to travel overnight or early morning. This way you can find a place, dump
your stuff and figure out what you want to see the next day. This also depends
on the accomodations that you want. It is alot easier to find expensive
hotels with availability than safe cheap hotels. Also, hostels don't check
you in after a certain time because they don't want to disturb those who
are sleeping by checking someone into their room at midnight.
St. Louis, MO USA 08/28/01
6 months before going to Paris, my husband made reservations for 3 double rooms at the Ile St. Louis Hotel. We had two confirmations. A week before leaving while making our itinerary we called the hotel to make sure we had listed the correct telephone number only to find out that they had cancelled our long-standing reservations and hadn't bothered to tell us! After many, many long hours of trying to locate available rooms without succes we contacted the St. Louis again and at the last minute, the St. Louis got us bookings at the Hotel Minerve.
While in Paris, we went to the Hotel Ille St. Louis and talked with the
manager as they had never returned our deposit on the rooms they cancelled.
I couldn't believe they did what they did and didn't even take the responsibility
of returning our money without our having to go over and have a face-to-face
conversation with them. The Hotel Ille St. Louis started off our wonderful
multi-generational family vacation as a nightmare. I don't know the answer
to hotel confirmations being actual confirmations. It certainly didn't
work for us in Paris! Again, we confirmed not once, but twice and they
even took our money and kept it after they cancelled us without ever notifying
Norman, OK USA 08/22/01
My daughter and I just returned from 70 days in Europe. Initially my thought was to just reserve our first nights in London, Athens and our final 5 nights in Paris. One month before our trip with an itinerary I felt really good about, I decided to book a room everywhere. With Rick's book and some places I just stumbled on, I booked our entire trip except for Prague, Sofia and 6 open nights before our arrival in Paris.
Every place met or exceeded our expectations and was excellent value for our small budget. We ended up staying at 30 different budget B & B's/hotels and the most we spent at any one was in London - 67 pounds/night. Of course, this eliminates any spontaneous change of plans, but is well balanced by the time saved when arriving in a strange city. Armed with directions to your hotel and an e-mail confirmation we literally saved hours not having to look for lodging each day. This may not work for everyone and it does mean hours and hours in advance planning. One also has to be experienced enough to put together a well planned itinerary!
At the end of our trip before Paris was for our "spontaneous" excursions.
While in Rome we stayed at Marco's Italian Bed and Breakfast and he recommended
a place at Cinque Terre. Marco called Signora Tomasina in Corniglia for
us -- we ended up staying there 5 nights in a gorgeous house overlooking
the sea. Our experience with pre-booking was marvelous and unbelievably
every place was just perfect!
Pinckneyville, IL USA 08/19/01
The adventure--looking for a place, exploring a new town--can be great fun (or really tiresome). We had both! Having a place to stay booked in advance was more relaxing. We enjoyed the variety, getting to experience both kinds of travel. Midweek we had no problem in the cities, weekends were harder, avoid arriving on Saturday nights!
Bottom line: do what suits your nature, design the kind of trip you want.
If you are gregarious and love talking in pubs, on trains, to taxi drivers
(wonderful sources of info), etc. then you can go anywhere and find a
place to stay. Having 'gaps' in your itinerary gives you a chance to explore
and be spontaneous in between fixed reservations. (Heed the advice about
traveling light.) The Law of Karma works here--be a good tourist and good
things will happen on your journeys! Safe travels!!
Yreka, CA USA 08/16/01
Spent 17 days in Italy in April. Here are a few thoughts on making reservations:
1. We booked a hotel in our first city (Rome) and in Venice about a month in advance of the trip. We did this via email. Confirmed the reservation (again via email) 1 week before the trip. This worked really well for us.
2. Spent 3 hours on the phone trying to find a room in the Cinque Terre! It was very frustrating, not to mention that it shot 3 hours of time we could have spent doing other things! The Cinque Terre has become over crowded and full of tourists. We ended up staying in Santa Margherita, which was a great town, by the way!
3. In general, we found a place to stay by calling a day or two ahead, but we usually had to spend 30 minutes to 1 hour on the phone making phone calls and we never got our first couple choices. I was surprised by this since we were travelling supposedly off season. In addition, we frequently had to go with a more expensive hotel (3 star.
4. The bottom line? If you aren't too concerned about where you want
to stay (location in the city, a particular hotel, price range, etc.)
call as you go. However, if you are going to a larger city (which are
usually more crowded) or want to be in a particular location in the city,
I would recommend booking well ahead of time.
Houston, TX USA 08/13/01
My wife, her mother and I were traveling to Europe a couple of years
ago. Since her mother was in her 70's, we did not want to take a chance
of not having a room in the cities we were visiting. My wife wanted to try
bed and breakfasts rather than hotels. I searched on the internet to find
a b&b in London. I found one with a pretty nice price but it had no pictures
on it's web page. I made a reservation and paid a deposit by travelers check
through the mail. When we finally found the place late at night, it was
terrible. If you make a reservation over the internet make sure there are
pictures so you can see what it looks like.
Arlington, Tx USA 08/11/01
Planning 3 week trip to Spain for October, 2001. Have booked all sleeping
accommodations by e-mail, a few by fax; responses/confirmation received.
I definitely recommend advance booking because several of Rick's recommendations,
and others', were already booked, based on feedback from hotels. Also, cancellation
policy is 48 hours to 7 days to preclude charge for a night's lodging!
Potomac, MD USA 08/06/01
We travel in shoulder season and usually make reservations on the internet a few months before leaving. (Europe is best in the fall, even with the shorter days, no crowds, its cheaper all around and there's nothing like a cozying up to a good german beer on a brisk fall evening. I know a lot of people like the flexibility of not making reservations, but here is why we do it:
1) If you write (e-mail) directly to a small family run hotel and are friendly and polite, they tend to reserve one of their nicer rooms for you (top floor, front side, view of the Belltower in Bruges, etc.).
2) Re-confirm about a week before departure, that way you are fresh in the hotel keepers mind. We mention where we are from, what the weather is like at home, how excited we are to come see their city, etc. Mention you particularily want to see some obscure corner of their city, or piece of art, or something - Europeans tend to be impressed when Americans take the time to dig deeper than the first level. When you meet them, they always smile and are happy to see you.
3) Its nice to be able to view the hotel online beforehand. While we
like to be as spontaneous as the next person(s), we've found that knowing
that your lodging is not a million miles from the train station, town
square, etc is nice. If you book early, you are assured of getting good,
reasonably priced accommodations in a good location - it makes the greatness
of European travel that much greater.
Salem, OR USA 07/31/01
Americans do not have a monopoly on ugliness. I have been calling many
places, searching for accomodations for Amsterdam this weekend. I initially
did not take personally the brusqueness from the parties answering the phone
at hotels. Time out had a nice write-up about Marcel van Woerkom, saying
he has renovated four rooms in his house and is "pleased to offer" tips
to his guests. When my boyfriend (he's English) and I called, the person
with whom we spoke, presumably Marcel, was very rude. As we anticipated
a late arrival, we asked if we could have a late check-in, to which he replied
he was not a hotel. When we asked for a room for 2 nights and politely asked
whether his quote of $200 (he quoted us in US dollars, we did not ask for
one in the same), he said it was per night, and said something to the effect
of "it's an expensive city, is it not?" After my boyfriend agreed, the man
hung up the phone. Perhaps he had a bad day. Although I agree it is horrible
when Americans act rudely and/or stupidly abroad, particularly if they insist
on everything being "the same as home," I find it equally offensive when
Europeans treat an English-speaking person rudely without provocation. Just
underscores that politeness is something learned and rude people will be
rude, regardless of his mother tongue.
San Franciscan in London with occasional travelling in Europe
When we stay in a hotel that we really like, we always note the room
number in our journal. The next time we want to return to the city with
the great hotel, we reserve asking for the room number or for a similiar
room. We have always gotten the room that we desire and the added benefit
is that we are identifying ourselves as repeat customers to the hotel of
our choice. This can sometimes be useful in securing reservations when the
hotel is in big demand.
San Diego, CA USA 07/23/01
We consider ourselves seasoned travelers and make reservations ahead
of time when we want to stay at a favorite hotel during our European travels
even though we travel in the off months (September/October). This last trip,
however, we did get caught: we were scheduled to take an early morning train
from Paris to Toulouse, France where we were to pick up our rental car.
Two days before the train trip we dropped in to the station to find out
which train station we would be leaving from (we had a Europass). We were
told that we needed to change our date of departure because there was to
be a train strike that day. Since we couldn't go a day late because of the
car rental and other related plans, we had to leave a day early but we decided
to give ourselves a half day in Paris and arrive in Toulouse in the evening
before picking up our car the next morning. Our train arrived at 10pm and
we figured that we'd try the hotel reservation desk at the station. Well,
there wasn't one so we were off walking. After trying every hotel within
10 blocks of the train station (we heard that some big conference was taking
place in town), we found a place with one room left for about $130 a night.
Figuring that they were trying to rip us off we tried a little bit further
down the road with no luck. We returned to the hotel, resigned to the fact
that we'd have to pay big-time for our short night's sleep. However, that
last room was rented by the time we returned and our only hope at that point
(it was now midnight) was to take a taxi to the outskirts of town and stay
in an equally expensive hotel that was part of this hotel's chain, and,
of course, pay for round trip taxi to boot! My advice is that if you plan
to arrive in a city or town later than 6pm, ALWAYS book ahead unless you
are travelling by car. We learned our lesson the hard way.
San Diego, CA USA 07/23/01
My husband and I just returned from three weeks in Europe. We flew
into Paris and with Rick's suggestion in his Paris Tour Book had reservations
at Hotel de France. When we arrived at the hotel, they claimed to have no
reservations for us. I had faxed and emailed them the necessary info weeks
earlier and even with paper work, they still claimed to never heard of us.
We were getting quite upset as, of course, our taxi had long gone, when
they finally said they would give us a room. It turned out to be noisy,
cramped and not the cleanest but at least a room, so I would be very careful
when booking this hotel. Thank goodness this was the only hotel problem
we had when traveling in 9 countries and in some having reservations and
Shreveport, LA USA 07/22/01
My family and I (there are 4 children, my husband and I and our two
mothers as well) just returned from a trip to London. We've been planning
our trip since February and have had reservations since that time for a
hotel called the White Leaf on Inverness Terrace. It looked like a nice
place from the pictures on the internet and was recommended by a booking
place used by our travel agent. When we got there, it was completely different
from what we expected. It was dirty and run down. What were we supposed
to do with 8 people needing a place to stay for 6 nights? We were able to
find rooms at the Hilton Metropole, but had to pay top dollar (or pound).
So, even while booking well in advance, you never know exactly what you'll
be getting. From now on, we'll only stay in hotels that we know.
Houston, Tx USA 07/17/01
Rick's book on Italy was our roadmap for our trip a couple of weeks
ago. We arrived in Rome, Italy, with no reservations. We took a cab to a
hotel he mentioned. They were full but he called to the next one in Rick's
book which was down the street and they took us. It was the Hotel Aberdeen
and the girl and her cousins mentioned in Rick's book were absolutely as
nice as he had said they would be. The accommodations were outstanding.
Our stay in Rome was made more pleasurable because of this wonderful hotel.
Winston, GA USA 07/15/01
Reservations don't guarantee a room. We just returned from 2 weeks in London.
Our visit started with a cancelled reservation at the Vancouver Studios
on Prince's Garden in the Notting Hill area. We reserved our room, 8 weeks
earlier, at the Vancouver on Rick's recommendation. Upon arrival, we were
informed our room was cancelled because of "reservation problems"...no other
explanation. We were taxied to a second hotel, a dreary 1-star hole, and
realized we had fallen for the old "bait and switch". Not a great trip starter.
We immediately began the search for another room. Found the Kensington Gardens
Hotel, just down the street from Vancouver Studies. Small rooms, but very
nice and the staff were so helpful. We couldn't stay there the whole trip,
because of availability, however they got us into the Phoenix Hotel, next
door, at a significant discount. We would highly recommend both the Kensington
Gardens and Phoenix Hotels. Stay away from the Vancouver Studios. I would
also recommend you have the names of 2 or 3 alternative hotels at the ready
so you can act quickly if you also find yourself roomless in London.
San Diego, CA USA 07/15/01
Not only are hotel reservations helpful at times, but reconfirming them
a few days before arrival, BY PHONE, can be very important. I recently
went on a trip to Austria and Switzerland with my mother and sister, and
stayed in Murren. Unfortunately our stay there got off to a rocky start
when, while signing the hotel register at the Edelweiss Hotel, I was informed
that our reservation for the second night or our stay had been cancelled
because of "overbooking." The reservation was made 4 months previously,
confirmed by credit card, and reconfirmed by me by email one month prior
to arrival. The hotel manager finally admitted that a group wanted to
stay there, and they simply cancelled part of our reservation without
contacting us. It was very upsetting. The manager asked if we would like
her to book us elsewhere in the village, and offered to book us at a hotel
next door that had a lower rating (2 star vs. 3 star), which again seemed
rather uncaring. I asked her to call the Hotel Jungfrau, which I remembered
from their web page, which she did. The Jungfrau has been purchased by
a new owner during the last year or so, and they welcomed us with some
of the best hospitality I have experienced in a long time. It turned out
that my mother's shoes were not adequate for walking in the area, and
the owner loaned my mother her own hiking shoes to use! I would not recommend
the Hotel Edelweiss because of this, of course. When I asked the manager
why she never contacted us about her dilemma in advance, she merely hung
her head. She eventually said that "good people like us" who keep their
reservations are hurt by those who don't. I commented that a hotel that
booked a whole groups without notifying those with reservations did the
hurting in this case.
Alexandria, VA USA 07/15/01
Definitely reserve! You don't want to waste half a day in each town
looking for a room. Then, when you find a room, they tell you that they
are full for tomorrow night (so you can stay only for tonight and tomorrow
you start the search all over again)! Two women at our hostel wanted to
stay on in Cinque Terre but had go because the hostel was booked & they
couldn't find any other affordable place. Some travelers say that no reservations
means freedom. If there's no room in town & you have to move on where's
Philadelphia,PA, PA USA 07/13/01
I just returned from 2 weeks in Italy. This was my 5th trip to Europe
and each time I see more Rick Steve's guidebooks. Several times we spoke
to people who reported having problems finding rooms in Rick's books.
This could be the price of success. In peak season I think you need reservations
more each year and always in big cities (Paris, Venice, etc.). Shoulder
and off season I think you can still get by without reservations. My advice
is research before you go then reserve where you think you need it (or
have your heart set on one hotel for that balcony view) and wing it the
rest of the time. Also factor in your willingness to risk ending up in
a less than perfect room (whatever perfect means to you). Finally consider
other guide books for hotels not in Rick's book. Sorry Rick, but you are
getting very popular and there are sometimes too many people chasing your
hotels. Rick's books are still hands down the best for cut out the fat
tell me what you liked (and didn't like) trips, especially for your first
trip to a country. This was my first trip to Italy and while I will return,
I know I saw the best each place I went. Thanks
Marblehead, MA USA 07/13/01
I just returned from Cinque Terre and getting rooms are a challange
this time of year(I usually travel in May,which is easy to get rooms).Anyway,I
went to the Net,the internet place in Monterossa,and talked to Enzo,who
knows every available apartment in town.I got a really cool apartment
for 50,000 L (about $25) per person.You can call Enzo forapartments .From
usa 011393357785085,from Europe 00393357785085,from Italy 03357785085.The
apartments are a lot nicer than hotels,and very clean.
Ada, mi USA
i went to france, spain, and italy for my three week lesson on how to
make reservations well in advance. we were a group of four... which complicates
room finding... luckily, i made reservations for rome, venice, and our
last three days which were in paris. unfortunately, we needed them for
every other day too! we arrived in paris and got our phone cards....all
gung ho.... i called 30 hotels...all booked. that's when i frantically
made night train reservations. similarly, for the second night we called
every hotel in ricks book for our midnight arrival in madrid the night
of a major soccer victory to find that only the hotel miami would wait
up for us (they were great there!!! great location and great people!)
the cinque terre....heaven takes reservations. we made our three days
before our arrival on a wednesday to find everything booked (except one
place which was wonderful.... ) we ended up paying 250 american for our
second night in venice... after we paid 12 apiece for the albergo guerratto...
whose owner Piero was so incredible)... make them! and make them at the
hotel lyon-mulhouse in paris, hotel miami in madrid (if you like padded
doors and incredible views of the grand via square), mario's guest houses
in riomaggiore (where every postcard had our balcony in it), the beehive
in rome, and albergo guerrato in venice! (all are rick recommended....way
to go rick!)
san jose, ca USA 07/10/01
When we got to Beauvias, France, where we were catching an early morning
Ryanair flight, we couldn't find a room. There was something going on
at the college there. A very nice man at a hotel made about 15 calls for
us, nothing. The airport closes at 11 p.m. there. Unlike the U.S., there
is no Wal-mart to get camping supplies at 8 P.M. We would have slept in
our rental car, except we had 2 kids with us. So we caught an evening
flight out. It cost us about 3 hundred dollars extra. I had tried to book
a room from the States, but could find nothing on the internet for that
city. I should have booked something when I got to Paris the week before.One
other time in France we had trouble finding a room, but we just drove
on to anothor town. In Ireland we used the tourist imformation service.
For 1 or 2 pounds they made several calls and found us real nice B&B's.
Our family of five just returned from a wonderful three+ week trip to
London, Bruges, Haarlem, Bavaria and Paris. We had reservations far in
advance for all but three nights - we decided to wing it while we had
a car in Bavaria and Salzburg to give ourselves some itinerary flexibility.
On the first of the three nights, we found a terrific two-room suite with
an alpine view, breakfast included for an excellent price - we were able
to negotiate a better rate for arriving on the late side. However, the
next two nights found us wasting a lot of time trying to find rooms. We
had hoped to stay in the same place for the two nights, but the place
we finally crashed at the first night didn't inspire us to stay a second.
We decided from now on, we'll make reservations. Maybe because we'd done
the research and planned an itinerary full of the things our family was
interested in doing, we didn't feel restricted when we had reservations
- we felt lucky!!
Aiken, SC USA 07/07/01
I just returned from France and Italy with my family of 5. We made reservations
in advance. Fortunately, we took with us our faxed confirmations received
from the hotels where we reserved rooms. On 2 occasions (Cinque Terre
and Bayeaux), the Hotelier had no record of us and had no room for us
when we arrived. When I showed them their faxed confirmation, the assisted
us to find other rooms. It was clear that without those copies of their
faxed room confirmations, they would not have helped us. This would have
been a real problem in the Cinque Terre area, as we were advised the entire
town of Monterosso was booked up. The moral is always to take those faxed
confirmations with you when you travel
bellevue, wa USA 07/06/01
I just came back from a five-week driving tour of Europe. I spent a
lot of time on the internet and in guide books before hand so that I was
able to book all our hotels five months before we left. Granted, this
means our itinerary wasn't quite as spontaneous as some would like. However,
we knew there would be beds to sleep in when we got there and we didn't
have to waste time looking for a TI and/or hotel. All our bookings were
made by internet or email ... and they all worked out beautifully. By
the way, even booking that far in advance, about a third of the hotels
I'd initially chosen were already booked -- and these were 1 - 3 star
family run hotels and B&Bs.
Toronto, ON CAN 07/04/01
My wife and I just returned from spending the month of June in France.
We only had hotel resevations for the 5 nights we spent in Paris. All
the other nights we were able to get a room in one of the hotels recommend
by Rick except in Arles. We obtained a room through the TI and it was
the only room we were disapointed with. Provence is an area I would recommend
Reading, PA USA 07/03/01
My family just got back from 10 days in Germany. We didn't make an itenerary
and didn't know where we would be day to day, so we didn't make one single
reservation. We went down the Romantic Road and then over to Salzburg
and back up to Frankfurt. We only had problems twice because we arrived
in the city too late. One of those times the room we found was at a woman's
house. She was renting her rooms out. She didn't speak on word of English.
It was interesting trying to communicate. We found a room every night
though. We had a great time flying by the seat of our pants.
Flowery Branch, GA USA 07/03/01
I was in Paris for the night of june 27, coming from London on the Chunnel.
I didn't think I would have problems reserving a room in a hostel the
monday before. What a mistake! All of the youth hostels were fully booked!
I know that sometimes they hold beds for the people who just happen to
show up, but I wasn't willing to take that risk. I ended up finding a
room and making a reservation, but it involved my calling home and getting
more phone numbers for hotels from my mother. Therefore, if you are at
all like me, and just feel more confortable with a place to stay before
you leave, I definitely recommend calling ahead at least a few days in
advance, especially in Paris or another big city where there are going
to be a lot of other tourists!
Hudson, OH USA 07/02/01
We have just returned from three weeks in Europe. We booked ahead for
the first half of the trip and then relied on the TI's and Rick's suggestions.
The TI in Vienna booked us into the Marc Aurel Hotel and it was great,
right near the Stephensplatz, close to the Subway, etc. I would highly
recommend it. The breakfast was so so, but the room was great. In Amsterdam,
we again relied on the TI and were booked into Hotel Omega. It was a joy,
so clean, and in the outlying area, but a half blook from the trams and
near the museums and Anne Frank House. The staff was a great help and
most friendly. Stay there you will like it, about $100. a night, but cheap
for what we had seen in Amsterdam.
We booked the Hotel de France by Internet before we left the states
for our stay in Paris. When we arrived at the hotel, they claimed to never
to have heard of us, despite internet transactions. After a nerve racking
delay, they finally found us a room, it was very tiny, on the noisy front
of the hotel but adequate. This was one of Steve's picks, so beware when
booking this hotel, you may or may not have a room when you get there.
It was the only hotel booked on the internet that we felt disappointed
Had a GREAT time in Italy. We reserved most of our rooms ahead of time
& were very glad we did. We booked hotels we found recommended in various
guidebooks (including Rick Steve's as well as Let's Go Italy, etc. ) We
also used the itwg sight which is VERY good & has lots of info. All of
the hotels we stayed in were clean & in the range of $84 -$ll0 per nt.
for 2. HOWEVER, most were somewhat noisy. This is just a warning to let
others know it is pretty common to experience more noise there than one
might be used to in MOST hotels in the U.S. It's just that the streets
are so narrow, the buildings so close together & a/c, even when it's available,
is usually not that powerful that the sound can cover the noise. But if
you are tolerant & understand it's just the way of the world there, you
will be much better off. (One of the best hotels we ever stayed in was
in San Juan,& even though we heard car alarms all night, we'd go back
there in a minute!)In Venice the charming lane outside our hotel was so
narrow, only pedestrians could go down it, but their talking, as well
as late night or early talking from people in the bldgs. across the lane
could get pretty disruptive at times. In Siena the hotel was fine, but
there were scooters passing until late into the night. With a limestone
bluff right across the st., this made the echo worse. In Positano things
were better. Our hotel was so charming & so was the proprietress! It was
our favorite & except for some loud talking & laughing on the terrace
til about l a.m. the first night, we were able to turn on the a/c & shut
the french doors & it was fairly quiet. In Rapallo we did not have a reservation
but stopped at a 4 star hotel that found us a 3 star hotel, a few yards
away, with a really georgeous view & balcony overlooking the harbor. We
could sit outside & watch people strolling down below. Only problem was,
again, the noise of countless scooters! These died down around 1 a.m.,
though. We actually had a quiet room about a block from the Bovisa Nord
train station in Milan in a very clean 3 star hotel on our last night.
The area didn't look too great & it was hard to find, but I had reserved
it from an internet cafe a couple of days earlier on the itwg sight. (Ravello
& Milan were the only hotels we didn't reserve prior to leaving the U.S.)
In my opinion, if you do your homework & reserve in advance, you will
save yourself much hunting around & stress. We witnessed the many faxes
pouring onto the floor of our hotel in Venice & saw people being turned
away both there & in Positano. I now understand why sometimes hotels just
can't answer all the faxes in a timely manner. Anyway, though at first
I was trying to leave "open nights" in our itinerary, I'm very glad we
mostly booked ahead & advise others to do so if they are traveling at
a popular time of year or want a particular hotel. Esp. if they do not
have lots of time to waste. And, unlike us, try to remember to ask for
a quiet room!
St. Louis, MO USA 06/30/01
Just got back from 3 weeks in Europe. We booked the Grand Hotel Leveque
in Paris and it was inexpensive, clean and in the center of the market
street. I would make sure your room faces the street side (which is pretty
noisy) because there is a cheese shop next door where they make the cheese
and the smell is really bad. The day desk clerk was not very helpfull
because she did not speak much English but the night clerk was great.
We booked about 4 months in advance. It was fully booked the days we were
St. Louis, MO USA 06/29/01
You can usually get away without reservations in the German speaking
countries because the airports and train stations have abundant information
and the people are helpful and many of them can (and will!) speak English.
This year (May), France and Italy were nightmares without reservations,
to the point where I quickly fled each country to recover in Switzerland.
At 10:30PM in the middle of a free outdoor R.E.M. concert next to the
cathedral in Cologne, the tourist office got me a $45 room at a delightful
high-class hotel two blocks away (the Savoy ... if they are not full,
they tell the TI and they discount their very nice rooms a whole bunch).
I don't think this would happen in France or Italy. Rick's hotel recommendations
have been great, most especially the Bristol in Munich (what a breakfast!),
the National in Bern, and the Lotschberg in Interlaken. Save money and
use the hall WC and shower at the National, they are large and nice and
spotlessly clean. The Pension Hargita in Vienna is a bargain, $26 to $32
per night depending on where they put me, great location, clean and comfortable,
climbing all the stairs was good exercise, and the Hungarian lady who
checked me in told me I MUST go to Budapest which I did and it was the
highlight of a trip full of highlights.
San Diego, CA USA 06/27/01
I have lived in Europe now for 15 years. I often take short trips and
I always call ahead. The main reason is to control costs. If you get to
a city and have to take what you can find, you can end up spending allot
Our trip was May 26 - June 16, 2001. I booked ahead in Rome (first stop), Siena, and Paris (the end). During the trip, I had no problems booking a few days in advance in Como, Gimmelwald, Bacharach, and Haarlem. We could have walked into Gimmelwald and Bacharach and found rooms.
However, be careful in Cinque Terre. We showed up after 18.00 on Friday,
June 1, and were ridiculed by some of the locals in Vernazza when we went
around asking for "affita camera." We managed to get a room at Hotel Venezia
in La Spezia (a nice option for
Scottsdale, AZ USA 06/19/01
I recommend booking before leaving the states, and if you are looking
for some comfort only use 4-plus-star hotels. As a sixty-year-old traveler,
having no creature comforts gets tiring after two weeks--private baths
don't always mean an enclosed shower stall, and lack of elevators can
be tough, so book carefully before leaving states!
Gig Harbor, Wa USA 06/16/01
Our family of 6 just returned from 3 weeks in Italy--Naples, Sicily and Rome. We used Rick's suggestions for hotels in Palermo, Naples and Rome and made reservations well in advance, six months ago. However suggestions for Sicily were few and far between in Rick's book. We did stay at the Hotel Moderno which was right in downtown Palermo; use ear plugs and you will be fine.
For the rest of our stay I made reservations through Sicily Hotels.com. This was a mistake. The hotel rooms had no charm and were leftovers from very large tour groups. The hotel staff members were often downright rude.
We were traveling in shoulder season, but even with 6 people I don't
think we really needed reservations anywhere. We found charming hotels
at the last minute outside of Taormina and in Enna. (Do not bypass Enna;
it was wonderful.) You must have a car to tour Sicily if you want to see
the little villages but you also must be able to drive like a Sicilian
which is no small accomplishment.
Tallahassee-, fl USA 06/11/01
We just returned from four weeks in Italy. We agree that there are many
travelers using the same guidebooks and that if you want great locations
you must reserve ahead--in some cases, way ahead. We were very pleased
with these RS hotels: Hotel Britannia (Rome), Hotel Locanda Ovidius(Venice),
and Hotel Silla (Florence).
Newtown, PA USA 06/01/01
Just got back from Italy, where we found Rick's hotel info to be right on. We only made reservations for Florence, and did that the day before we arrived.
We weren't the least bit picky about accommodations, and the most we paid per night was $50 US. This was in Venice.
In Florence, Cinque Terre, and Como, the rooms were all around $40 US. Mind you they were shared baths, but every place came out of Rick's book.
We met some people who couldn't find a room in Varenna and ended up
having to stay in Bellagio. In the Cinque Terre, where most of the places
are B&B, they want to SEE who they are renting to and if you make reservations,
they will usually say they are full, but in actuality there were plenty
of places available when we got there.
Seattle, WA USA 05/29/01
In most B&B's, the difference between "empty" and "fully booked" is
minimal and you don't want to miss the better places. So BOOK AHEAD.
Tel Aviv, Israel 05/28/01
My husband and I recently returned from Paris. If you want to stay at one of Rick's recommended hotels, you'll need reservations. The Grand Hotel Leveque and the Champs du Mars in the Rue Cler area are booked solid! You should book at least 3-4 months out if you have your heart set on staying at either of these hotels.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Leveque and will stay there again on our
next trip to Paris. It is only 3 or 4 blocks from the Eiffel Tower on
the bustling Rue Cler. The rooms are horribly small, but spotless. We
reserved a room with two twin beds pushed together to form a king-sized
bed. The room, including taxes, was only approximately $65 USD.
Joliet, IL USA 05/20/01
My husband and I spent the first two weeks of 12/00 in Spain. We had reservations for the first two nights. We had a hard time finding reservations for the remaining days, but with the help of our first hotel, Barcelona wasn't a problem. We ended up going to a travel agency for train/hotel reservations for the remaining days. It took a while but worked out. We had to book one hotel for 3 nights and were only using 2 as it was some a holiday weekend and the hotel would only book 3 nights in a row. The hotels were great but our average cost was about $110 per night.
We also spent time in 3/01 in Istanbul and Antalya, Turkey. Because of the previous experience in Spain I was hesitant to go without reservations. I booked everything over the net using hotelcentral.com. Read the directions carefully and don't be afraid to e-mail with questions. I did and always received answers before I booked anything. I was very skeptical as you have to print out a voucher to take with you for the hotel. You do not give your credit card to the hotel but are assigned a local travel agent. If you have ANY problems with the hotel you must contact the assigned agency, even if you're standing in the hotel lobby.
Well, we decided to take a chance and were very happy that we did. We
spent three nights in a 4-star hotel and seven nights in 5-star hotels
and our total cost was $662. They all included wonderful breakfasts and
five nights included an all-you-can-eat evening meal also. Turkey is cheaper
than most countries, and our experience was great.
River Falls, WI USA 05/17/01
We spent three weeks in Italy with Rick's books in hand. Our only diversion from the books was a night spent in Bologna on our way to Venice. With no hotel recommendations, we left the train station and began to walk. We found a delightful hotel in the town center with a most helpful staff. They made dinner reservations for us and it was great. Our breakfast the next morning was one of the best on our journey.
We also landed in Siena one night with no hotel reservation. Our car rental staff person recommended Hotel Minerva and we loved it. The view of the city was great, the staff helpful, and accessibility to transportation was fantastic. We took a day trip from there to Florence and it was easy and enjoyable aboard local buses.
We look forward to our next trip in two weeks to Paris, Germany, etc.
and will surely have Rick's books in tow.
Shreveport, LA USA 05/07/01
If you are traveling to Dublin on a Sunday, the Tourist Info is closed,
and so is BedFinders. Arrange from the tourist office from the town you
are in IF you are in Ireland (Wales TI's would not book for me). I had
a rough minute but I spotted a Dublin cab driver and he took me directly
to a B&B for Ģ30 per night.
Birch Bay, WA USA 04/30/01
The tourist office in Prague's main train station is very helpful. I
didn't have a reservation but they were able to set me up in a very basic,
yet very nice hotel called Hotel Amadeus. It didn't have a lot of people
staying there. It is in a residential area about 1 mile from the main
train station. It was definitely a very nice surprise.
Lake St. Louis, MO USA 04/29/01
I have found that if you have a car and are travelling in the countryside
in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria or Italy, you never have to make
a reservation. What you have to do is stumble upon a gorgeous small town,
go into a cafe or bar in the center square and just ask. Eventually you
will, without fail, find one if not several places to stay that are not
listed by the tourist offices and are both charming and cheap -- $15-$40.
It takes nerve to do it the first few times.
Copenhagen, DK 04/27/01
I reserved my room at the Hotel Marin in Venice a month ahead and that was only because all the other hotels I had wanted were booked (for April 20-27). I couldn't stand the angst of trying to find a room after getting here, regardless of the tips for last-minute B&B finding.
Ultimately, the hotel is good but NOISY and I cannot help but think
that I'd be more rested had I planned farther ahead and booked a hotel
with thicker walls that isn't right next to a municipal construction site.
Bellevue, WA USA 04/26/01
Because we had made reservations months ahead of time, we were locked into certain hotels around Ireland and Scotland -- and a few of them turned out to be places we would not have chosen if we'd seen them first.
We had decided to stay in hotels when possible, rather than guest bouses or B&Bs, because we assumed that hotels would have more reliable plumbing, electricity, services, and comforts -- but in fact, we found without exception that the B&Bs were far more comfortable and welcoming. For example, in some hotels (most notably the O'Kearney in Cashel, Ireland), the lingering stench of cigarettes was stomach-turning, both in the public areas and in some of the rooms. And at the Travel Lodge in Edinburgh, we encountered the only instance of disregard and rudeness on our entire trip.
By contrast, the family-operated B&Bs and guest houses were far nicer
in every case -- so my recommendation is not to tie yourself down in advance
if you can avoid it...and to favor B&Bs over hotels.
Dallas, TX USA 04/17/01
Suggest if you are going to Italy this year you make reservations ahead
if possible. When calling AutoEurope to make car rental reservations was
told by one of the agents that their bookings for cars in Italy are going
thorugh the roof...possibly because of the "hoof and mouth" thing. Apparently
many travelers are switching plans from England to Italy.
Paris in the off-season: reservations depend on where you are staying.
This past January, my husband and I decided to do a long weekend in Paris over the MLK holiday. We took the train in on Thursday afternoon and stayed at the Henri IV until Sunday morning. Now, this is not the fancy haute couture Ritz-like Henri IV everyone envisions. This Paris on the cheap! You better have reservations made long in advance. We paid 220FF ($32) to stay right smack in the middle of Paris on the Ile de la Cite about 100 meters from the Metro Pont Neuf stop.
I couldn't say it was wonderful, but it was clean and quiet, especially
since it faced in to the quiet courtyard. Breakfast wasn't anything to
speak of--1/4 of a baguette and tea/coffee. The showers were extra, had
inconvenient hours, and were located downstairs. But the room had a huge
sink partitioned off on its own for privacy. The water was hot and we
made do without too many problems. With our r/t trainfare from Germany,
Paris Visite cards, museum passes, kennel costs for our dogs, and our
hotel fare, we had a wonderful break for under $500. We had expected terrible
weather, but it was gorgeous. Freezing cold and in the 20s, but it didn't
rain. That's all that mattered. We did a lot, still experienced some crowds
around the tourist spots (Mona Lisa & Notre Dame), but nothing that would
be in comparison with summertime. If we did something again like this,
I would look into accommodations outside of the city that were a little
nicer, but this worked very well for our purposes.
Landstuhl, Germany 04/10/01
For Fussen, Germany, please make reservations if you travel mid-April
through the summer as there are many people there visiting Neuschwanstein
Castle, and the city is packed and hotels are full. However, we had no
problem in March just walking in. We travel with kids and I don't like
just showing and hoping a room will be available. Happy travels!
houston, tx USA 03/29/01
Make your reservations FAR in advance of a trip to Spain around Easter.
We are heading to Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla for the week after Easter
2001 (still almost a month away). Except for a few of the splurges, Rick's
recommendations (and Lonely Planet's) are already booked. I started 5-1/2
weeks in advance. "Todos hoteles completos!"
Mukilteo, WA USA 03/17/01
For Barcelona, Spain, definitely you should book ahead. We are going in
March and have called or checked online almost 20 hotels of all descriptions
and are getting completely shut out. Rick's opinions on finding a place
by calling just slightly in advance or day of arrival works in a lot of
places in Spain, but is totally not feasible in Barcelona.
san clemente, ca USA 02/26/01
My husband and I just returned from Italy (Milan, Florence, and Siena) in off-off-season mid-January. We had no problems getting rooms; however, the rooms weren't always as great as we would have hoped.
We used Rick Steves' guide and Let's Go. We never paid more than $80 for a room. Mid-trip we decided to reserve the night ahead, as it was very stressful to jump off a train and immediately start looking for a hotel. Some of the places we wanted to stay were booked, so we had to keep looking.
The upside of being so "free" is that you can check out the room and, if you don't like it, keep looking. You have no obligations.
The downside is that you spend 1-2 hours looking for a hotel room and frequently getting lost. (Italian streets, especially in cities like Florence and Siena, are almost impossible to navigate, as street names abruptly change and veer off in all sorts of interesting directions. A compass would be a good travel item!)
However, the downside of having a reservation is that you're stuck with a hotel room that you may not like. We stayed at the Albergo Bernini in Siena. While it's true that it had tremendous views (we sacrificed a bigger room for a room with a killer view), the bed wasn't that comfortable and, if you're sensitive to cats (as I am), you'll probably suffer an allergic reaction. (Hot tip: always inquire if that quaint B&B or hotel has a cat or dog IF you're allergic or sensitive to them.)
Another tip: Always ask--and then verify by having a map in front of you--how far the hotel is from the areas you intend to visit. We stayed at the Hotel Christina, a Florence B&B with nice rooms at $65/night and breakfast served in your room. They told us they were located an easy 10-15 minute walk from the Duomo. Well, it is and it isn't. After you've been on your feet for 8-10 hours, walking 15 minutes to get to your hotel can be exhausting, plus you have to factor in getting a little lost to and from the hotel.
Also, slightly out-of-the-way hotels often do not have much in the way of nightlife around them, so if you're looking for a little nightcap (or delicious chocolata) before bed, you're out of luck.
You should also ask if the hotel is on a quiet or busy street. The Hotel Christina advertises itself as being on a quiet residential street. While that is true, less than 25 yards away was an EXTREMELY busy thoroughfare that kept us up ALL night long. So much for sleep. Even my earplugs didn't work! In the end, we decided that paying a little more for convenience and comfort (e.g., no busy streets, decent beds) was worth it. Europe is no fun when you're exhausted every morning.
I can't speak for in-season travel, but I'd imagine that reservations,
at least the night before, would be very important, if at least for the
peace of mind you have when you step off the train. Also, in both Milan
and Siena (where we called ahead), we just left our name and that was
enough for them to hold our room.
Milwaukee, WI USA 01/24/01
Since we usually travel in off season I have never made reservations except for first and last nights. However, in the last year or two it seems even the normally quiet off season is busier, at least in Italy where we go most often. Florence is as crowded in November now as it used to be in May, June and September. And in some places (Sorrento, Taormina, Cinque Terre) more places seem to be closed during off season.
I suggest at least a check on the web with the hotels you may possibly
Charles M. Luther
Katy`TX, USA 01/18/01
No, reservations are not necessary in France in the summer. I found two Golf Hotels, one in Dijon area and one in Grenoble. The hotels ran for $99-109. If you want to catch up on your golfing or want to splurge in a nice hotel halfway through your trip then this is the place. The cafe serves great meals.There's a nice pool to cool down and a place to golf. It's a vacation within a vacation.
In the Dijon hotel our family got a suite. The breakfast was great and just being out in nature with a pool on site added to the experience.
All we did was go to the tourist office in both towns and ask for Le
Golf Hotel. The hotels are located close enough to the town yet in nature
on a National Route. There were lots of sunflowers on the properties.
Next time when I go to France I will definitely stay here. There are many
of them close to Paris and other cities.
Saratoga, CA USA 01/16/01
ABSOLUTELY YES IF YOU'RE HEADED TO BARCELONA! While I loved Spain and this unique/wonderful city, Barcelona is legions behind the rest of Europe in its tourist services/priorities. It's a gamble even with a hotel reservation. And this is especially true if you have a specific hotel that you wish to stay at--make a reservation and get the confirmation in writing.
Despite the hotel boom for the '92 Olympics, Barcelona seems to have few room vacancies and truly needs more if they want to keep tourists happy. While I traveled in late September's lower tourist season, this time of year packs the Barcelona hotels with a busy convention schedule.
I had reservations at Utell Int'l Suite Hotel made with AAA travel before I left the U.S. but wasn't thrilled with the property or location, and wanted to relax by a pool the first day to kill some jet lag. So I sought out some help at El Prat Aeropuerto's Tourist Information Office, where they said they made no reservations, & promptly slid a hotel list across the table, directing me to the pay phone bank. The airport also has a direct-line Booking Phone with some 120 hotels to choose from, and after calling 40-50 of them, I was told they were ALL full. I was also 1 of about 20 people who were waiting to use the 3 phones to book hotels, where I overheard several people say they didn't have a room and were relying on the TI office for help. Perhaps the train stations' TI offices are a little more helpful in that dept. but my time at El Prat was totally wasted, unfortunately.
Since I already had a room and was only looking to upgrade, I wasn't worried. But this was short-lived. At check-in, I was told that they had "inadvertently overbooked" and I no longer had a room, but that they would try to find me a room with one of their partner hotels & of equal quality.
While waiting in the lobby, I struck up a conversation with a group of British tourists who were fuming from the same experience.
A room with their partner hotel, the Barcelona Plaza Hotel, was found for me (even though I had JUST called them from the airport 30 minutes prior and was told they were full.) It worked out for the better as the hotel was in a prime location and had a killer view right on the Plaįa Espaņa...but the promise to cover the cab fare by the manager of the initial hotel was fiction. Oh, well. That's life as a Barcelona tourist--full of surprises!
Understanding Barcelona's hotel room shortage, I decided to--again--make reservations with a travel agency to get a room with an airport-area hotel to simplify my 7am departure a few weeks later. I confirmed this reservation twice during the interim and thought I was covered. Ha!
When I returned to the city after a driving tour, I was about to drop off my rental car to take a cab to the hotel...but something told me to call ahead to triple-check my reservations. Lucky I called! The clerk answered that no reservations existed for my name/dates, the confirmation# I had was of no significance and to top it off, they, too, were "completo." A desperate search for a room--ANY ROOM--using the airport's above-mentioned direct-line phone banks and my own calls to the hotels via pay phone yielded NOTHING.
Thankfully I was so slap-happy from driving so much that I didn't care. Luckily, I did find a room by driving south a few km's of El Prat and being a little lucky.
Don't get me wrong...I loved my trip to Spain and found almost all the people to be wonderful hosts. But Barcelona--while a magnificent and beautiful city--is very tourist UNfriendly. I can't tell you the countless tourists that were almost in tears at the airport when they couldn't find a room anywhere. Perhaps a trip to the Barri Gotic or the Eixample going door-to-door will net a room that isn't listed in the guide (they range from * to *****). Knowing what I know now, I would even go so far as to book 2 or 3 hotels early in advance just for back-up!
If you're in this hotel-less predicament, as mentioned there are a few
places down south of El Prat airport if you get shut out that aren't listed
anywhere in the "Barcelona Hotels" brochure available at the TI desk.
You may have to take a cab from El Prat or rent a car...but at least you
don't have to sleep at the airport. Keep in mind that the airport is NOT
close to the city (12 km away).
Littleton, CO USA 01/05/01
Our family of four just returned from Christmas hiking the Cinque Terre trails. Taking the advice of Mr. Steves, we 'just showed up' at the Vernazza train station in the evening without any reservations or idea of a place to stay. We were met by the owner of FrancaMaria rooms (Mr. Dimartino) who intercepted us and led us to a very nice 4-bed private apartment overlooking the harbor and central square (L40,000 per person per night, cash only).
There were one or more locals at the station every single evening looking for tourists to rent rooms to. Off-season is GREAT!
The town is everything I've heard it is! The only problem I can see
is that it's very small and could be quickly overwhelmed with tourists.
Town folk are quite friendly, but I could see some concerns about tourism
becoming too much of a good thing.
Ladera, CA USA 12/31/00
In Italy you either send in a fax to confirm what you called about or they cancel your reservation, like they did to us in Milan. Every place in Italy we talked to would not hold a room with a credit card number unless confirmed by a fax.
For about $100 a night you get the equivalent of an old Motel 6 room with a small bathroom/shower. We never had any problem with the staff stealing our stuff and the rooms were clean, but we had some scary experiences with lights shorting out, and hot water tended to go out quickly.
Some hotels advertised free breakfast but that turned out to be a capuccino
and a roll. Only the Hotel Porta Rosa in Florence had an all-you-could-eat
breakfast, a big room and a beautiful hotel. It was also $150 a night
for 2 people.
Ansbach, GER 12/24/00
[True, hotels are expensive in touristy parts of Italy. But I think you can do a little better that what you report. About faxes: yes, you need to confirm a reservation with a fax. If you don't get a response to a fax request, assume the answer is "no." Many Italian places fill up long in advance and they'd go broke responding to all the overflow requests. So they simply don't. --Rick]
We spent 18 days (Sept. and Oct.) traveling with Rick's books through Germany, Austria, Italy and France. We lived by his wonderful recommendations! We only made one reservation from the States - our first night - then called one or two days ahead for our next European city accommodations.
When we arrived in Paris, there were two major conventions in town. We had not called ahead, and it was extremely difficult to find a hotel by calling. We decided to take the Metro to St. Germain du Pres and walk. We found the most wonderful hotel - The Hotel Bonaparte - just off of St. Germain du Pres on Rue du Bonaparte. Excellent service and very affordable! They were booked for our third night, but found us accommodations at the Hotel Clement on Rue du Clement, a few blocks away, and this hotel was even less expensive and equally charming! We were so pleased.
I would like to take exception to one of Rick's hotel recommendations,
the Hotel Speronari in Milan. We were not impressed with hotel in the
least. It was VERY dirty and actually the most expensive place we stayed
during our entire visit. I would recommend that ETBD take it off their
list for next year's edition.
Just booked a trip over the Net to hotels recommended by Rick Steves.
I haven't made the trip yet, but after making a few previous trips without
reservations and having no problems, I am still glad to not be wasting
time looking for a place to stay. Looking was kind of fun when I was alone
and staying in hostels, but I think this time, when I'm with someone and
staying in hotels, reservations will be worth the time.
Charlotte, NC USA 11/05/00
In Germany, your advice on heading for the nearest tourist information
office (generally in a train station) worked great for us! Of course,
we were willing to pay $50-$70 per night, but had no trouble finding convenient,
Las , USA 10/18/00
Just returned from two weeks in Italy with another couple. We made reservations only for our arrival in Rome. We stepped off of the train in Florence and were approached by a young man with an offer of a room. He ended up giving us two wonderful rooms with private bath for $90 total! We stepped off the train in Vernazza and an old lady led us to two similar rooms for $80 total! In Venice, the train station was packed with people calling for booked rooms. We found a cool hippie Venetian who gave us two rooms on the Grand Canal for $80 total!
If you don't have reservations...don't fear. Dress nicely in the train
station and put on a look like you need a room. You will probably be approached.
Of course, don't follow these people alone, and don't forget to haggle
for a better price.
St. Augustine, FL USA 10/12/00
My husband and I spent September in the south of France, which by the way is a great time of year. We decided to go day by day wherever we wanted since we had a car. We never had trouble finding a place to stay. There were a number of famous chateaus that I wanted to stay in, and we only had trouble getting into one out of 10. We needed to reserve with a credit card only 2 or 3 times.
So if you want to go where you want, when you want, and stay as long
as you want, I recommend this method. We did have to pay more sometimes
when they only had one room left.
marysville, wa USA 10/11/00
Book ahead in Italy in the fall as it is still very high season for
tour groups. Places were heavily booked especially Venice, Florence, Rome,
Assisi, Cortona, etc. by tours from Germany, UK and Japan.
Peter K. MacLeod
Aylmer, QC, Canada, Canada 10/09/00
Make sure you have reservations in Amsterdam before you arrive - especially
if you are a budget traveler/hosteler or you are going to be in the city
over a weekend. If you do not have a room upon arrival, be prepared to
spend a half day standing in line in the tourist office, only to be booked
into a semi-expensive room in the 'burbs.
Atlanta, GA USA 09/29/00
My husband and I traveled for 3 weeks in Europe in July and only had reservation
in Paris. Because we had car in Switzerland, Austria and Italy, we found
it easy to stop when we were ready to, pick a likely place to stay, go
in and ask about prices and to see a room. We had good luck doing it this
way even in a busy summer.
San Anselmo, Calif., USA 09/26/00
Reservations are a good idea, but I found they really aren't necessary.
Don't give out your credit card number when you reserve, if you can help it. I called from the states to reserve a stay at a chateau in France, and was asked to fax the reservation with my credit card number. We arrived and told them that we wanted to pay with our debit card. They said that wasn't a problem. But they did end up duplicating the charge on my other credit card. I am still trying to get it taken off my bill.
The rest of our stays were mainly in Zimmers. They are great--most proprietors
don't understand English but that makes it interesting and fun, and we
saved a lot of money.
Raytown, mo USA 09/26/00
YES--and only stay at hotels/pensions that will fax you a reservation
confirmation. While in Barcelona in April, the entire city seemed to be
booked up. We were glad we booked early.
Seattle, WA USA 09/25/00
Even if you have a confirmed reservation from a hotel, made months in advance, it is wise to confirm by telephone. I neglected to do this for my hotel in Lugano, and when I showed up, the receptionist had no idea about my reservation. It was not until they discovered a clerical error that they realized they should have put my name in the reservations book for the night I arrived. Being the middle of September, everything was practically booked up in Lugano. Luckily I was able to obtain a room in a nearby three-star hotel for only 5SF more per night, and the first hotel provided me with free transportation to the new hotel to drop off my luggage (which I think was a nice gesture).
Anyway, always carry a written confirmation *and* call ahead the day before you arrive at the hotel to avoid any frustration and disappointment.
Another thing, if you anticipate you will arrive after 6 PM, call again
that day--preferably before you board an intercity train--to avoid cancellation
of your reservation. I did this, and it worked for me.
Foster City, CA USA 09/24/00
Munich: Hotel Uhland was a rude awakening when we arrived later than anticipated on the first day. We had a 3-night reservation, but didn't check in early enough so they gave away our room--even with credit card guarantee. Another couple were in the same boat that same night. It taught us the lesson that even with reservations and credit card guarantee you MUST call if you will arrive later than anticipated.
Berlin:Hotel Bogota was charming and quiet. We enjoyed our stay there
a lot, especially after the long walking tour.
Houston, TX USA 09/01/00
Maybe it made sense to show up without reservations before the Internet came along. Now, however, you can see pictures of nearly every hotel in Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, etc., and on some sites even read comments (positive and negative) from people who've stayed there. All you have to do is search under the city and "hotels" in your favorite search engine, and you'll find plenty of sites. There's no need to make expensive overseas calls now that there's e-mail. And you can also take along information on a couple of back-up hotels if you don't like the one you've booked once you get there.
I make hotel reservations when I go to Chicago, New Orleans or Austin.
I don't know why I wouldn't make them to go to Paris!
Houston, TX USA 08/29/00
Yes, we made reservations for every stop on our agenda. Our three-week
vacation was well-planned to make sure we'd have time to see everything
we wanted to. In a lot of places, other travelers without reservations
were BEGGING for rooms and being turned away. It is also a big comfort
to know you do have a destination to go to in a place you have never been!
Also, reserving ahead we often got better prices-and sometimes even 10%
off those for finding on internet, plus 5-10% for paying with cash!
nashville, tn USA 08/18/00
We have traveled for years and only had reservations for the first stay
and the last (if that), but in recent years it seem to have gotten harder.
We always travel in off season (October to May) but even then it seems
more crowded. I think you should call ahead (as Rick recommends) at least
the day before IF you are particular about where you stay, as we are.
Katy, TX USA 08/16/00
We traveled in Europe the last two weeks of May. Our travel style was fairly flexible but we were very happy to have made hotel reservations before leaving. I think the amount of time we saved as we arrived in each new city by not having to track down a hotel was great. Plus, we got to stay at some amazing hotels (Rick-recommended, all of them), some of which certainly would have been fully booked.
I think that this is all a matter of your personal travel style. If
you're comfortable going w/o advance reservations, then by all means do
it. But there is a tradeoff in time spent trying to figure out where to
stay and the uncertainty of not knowing where you'll be staying when you
arrive in a new city.
Irving, TX USA 08/14/00
Just returned from the Czech Republic, where we made reservations for
Prague but nowhere else. In Tabor, we simply showed up in the late afternoon,
and then asked them in the morning if they could help us to call the next
pension in Cesky Krumlov (a VERY popular tourist destination). If I definitely
want to stay at a specific place, or have been advised that I should book
ahead in a particular city, I'll make reservations. Otherwise, as long
as you're not too hung up on the tiny details of your accommodation, you
should be able to find something the same day without spending an entire
day looking. After all my travels in Europe, I've never ever been without
a bed (unless by choice)!
A note of caution about reservations: I always feel better having them,
but I did find that when I was forced to cancel my trip to England this
summer, one B&B (Janet Rawling's Marnic House, near Chipping Campden)
refused to return my $50 deposit, even with six weeks' advance notice
on the cancellation. While this was the only guest house out of 8 to hold
on to the deposit, it's best to be aware of these kinds of establishments
if there's any chance whatsoever that your plans might change.
South Bend, IN USA 07/26/00
I just returned from a six-week Europe excursion. Reservations would
have been nice in Rome, Venice, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Otherwise, call
the night before or show up before 8am. This worked well for me and I
only stayed in hotels for a couple of nights when there were absolutely
no hostels. Half the fun and adventure was finding a place to stay, although
it did stress me out sometimes.
Milwaukee, WI USA 07/26/00
I traveled Europe this past 2 months, and found that you really don't
need to make reservations...you'll always find a place to stay. What I
usually did was call a few places the day before I knew I would be arriving
and I always found a place. We even found a place in Amsterdam on the
day of the Holland Vs. France soccer championships when Amsterdam was
packed to its fullest. Don't get discouraged...you'll always find a place.
NY, NY USA 07/24/00
Just returned from London, Paris, and Florence. Everywhere there were frustrated tourists carrying Rick Steves' books who couldn't get into his recommended hotels. I booked all of ours last February and got into every one I wanted and wasted no time looking around for hotels.
The Vicarage in London was booked when I first contacted them (we needed a quad room) so I made a reservation elsewhere and kept calling the Vicarage. A room did open up and I was able to then make a switch my reservation to their hotel.
The hotel my teens enjoyed the most was the Albergo Olivedo in Varenna
on Lake Como. Old world charm and quaint, however, as the book says it
faces the ferry dock and they are noisy. Bring your earplugs. Booking
ahead, we were able to stay there on the first weekend in July when the
town has a festival, and from our hotel window saw the fireworks show
over the lake. Meals are included but could get boring if you were to
stay more than 2 nights. Laura was very friendly and called us by name
upon our arrival. If you want a room with a view, specify it in your fax.
San Jose, CA USA 07/17/00
Reservations are necessary, especially during holiday weekends (European countries have a lot of them).
Holy Week is a special problem. Rick's and other books say that Sevilla is difficult during Semana Santa, so I made plans to visit Sevilla before it started. However, it took nearly a half-day of calling to get a place (which I would have rather spent seeing more of Madrid) going through Rick's listings and most of Let's Go's listings. Another futile half day on the phone calling all the listings in both books for Grenada came up zilch and made us miss another half day of Madrid.
When we arrived at Sevilla (Thursday before Holy Week started), the lines at the Tourist Office were out the door and halfway down the street--I couldn't even get in to get a map. However, we spotted a travel agency down the street and homed on it like a thirsty camel heading for an oasis. They were able to fix us up; however, travel agencies book only in 3- and 4-star hotels, which meant the trip ended up quite a bit pricier than we had planned. Even the travel agency could not get us anything for Holy Thursday, which is when all Spain goes on vacation (Holy Thursday through Easter Monday).
The Algarve was also full (again, calls to Rick's listings, limited due to the fact I don't speak Portuguese, were totally unsuccessful).
Advice from the travel agent: book at least 6 weeks in advance when going to Spain and Portugal any time between two weeks before and two weeks after Holy Week, especially in the south. The same is true for other holidays that we Americans never think about, like May Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. So find out when those holidays are (the only guides I've found that list the holidays accurately are Lonely Planet's; Rick's books are woefully short in this regard), and remember that from late June through August all of Europe (plus visiting Australians, Canadians and Americans) is competing with you for accommodations.
Make your reservations from home before you go, unless you want to spend
your precious time in Europe standing in line at tourist offices or making
frantic phone calls. The alternative (if you have wheels) is to be prepared
to "camp wild" when you can't find anything. The picture has changed a
lot since my last trip 5 years ago, when one or two calls in the morning
would generally produce a hostel bed or hotel room for that evening. It
still works if you are careful to miss holidays and European school vacations,
but it's more difficult.
Mary from Oregon
In a half dozen trips a year I never have made a reservation, never
failed to find a room.
Insane Diego, CA 07/09/00
Just returned from a 3-wk trip. Could not find the Rick picks in Rouen
or Reims and both were jammed w/ traffic and people. If you know when
you're arriving (we didn't), reserve ahead and get specific directions
or a good map of area. We were extremely frustrated in Rouen and kept
encountering one-way streets, streets closed for construction, etc. and
were on our way out of town when we saw the Hotel Viking by the river.
Parking garage, nice room for only $55-$60, on busy street w/lots of traffic,
but only a few blocks from Joan of Arc church. All in all, Rick's books
made this a wonderful trip. Thanks!
Columbia, SC USA 06/24/00
We just returned from a 10-day trip to Germany and Italy. If you are going in the summer to well-touristed areas make reservations!
In Fussen, Germany there were no rooms left, so we stayed at Hotel Goldener Rose in Ruette, Austria--very nice, huge bath with tub and seperate shower. Austria is really a good value.
At the train station in Mestre the man who sold us the train ticket into Venice said, "I hope that you have a room reservation." We did, at Hotel Marin. They were booked up but I called about 10 days before and they had a cancellation. It was very friendly and clean. Take their recommendations for places to have dinner. I was also glad to be staying in a quieter part of Venice away from the crowds near St. Marks.
I really enjoyed not looking for rooms and all of Rick's recommendations
were central, clean, and turned out great!
Dallas, TX USA 06/22/00
Just came back from France and Italy. We had no problems calling same
I reserved all my hotels in advance. I can't imagine wasting travel
time looking for hotels. Plus, I got the good places before they were
Bloomington, IN USA 06/16/00
I recently went to Italy on my honeymoon and I return with one caution:
GET A FAXED CONFIRMATION. If you don't have a confirmation, you may or
may not have a reservation regardless of how many times you have phoned.
There were 3 hotels that did not send us confirmations and none of the
three was holding a room for us, causing considerable trouble. The absolute
worst treatment was at one of Rick's recommended hotels in Sorrento -
La Minervetta Pension. They had no reservation even though I had called
many times. While I was standing in the lobby figuring out what to do,
I made a reservation for the next night. The hotel took and recorded my
passport and I even signed the register, but when we returned the next
day, they had given the room away, saying they thought we weren't staying
(it did have a nice view, though, so I wish we could have stayed there).
Ft. Lauderdale, fl USA 06/08/00
Well, footloose and fancy free is great when you're 20 and spending the summer in Europe. At age 40-something, and husband's boss only lets him take two weeks at a time, I don't want to spend two seconds of my precious vacation searching for a hotel. And I DO want to be in the heart of things, while not spending a home equity loan to stay there.
I booked our May hotels in Rouen, Loire Valley, Fontainebleau, Versailles, and Paris in February. The France-Hotel-guide website was fantastic. What you see is truly what you get. We stayed at the Turrenne and the Muguet in Paris - both a hop/skip/jump from Rue Cler. I almost hate to say this on such a well-read site, but the Muguet was wonderful: a view of the Invalides Dome from our room, queen-size bed, shower (big) with enclosure that works. The cleanest room I have EVER stayed in, yet full of charm. Wonderful staff - made us reservations, etc. If you stay there, you will be thankful for this tip. Oh, a double cost about $83! It was our most expensive room on the trip.
While there, we saw many folks turned away due to no rooms available. Why spend your precious time in Paris trudging about looking for a room, when you can research from home (which is fun, too!) and have the pleasure of looking forward to your little home away from home?
BTW, a little French goes a LONG way in making French friends. Be polite,
and you'll get politeness in return.
Spokane, WA USA 06/04/00
As a parent of two girls, 11 and 16, I have found it a good thing to
have a reservation and have done pretty well going on line, reading books
Newton, MA USA 06/02/00
Personally, I would much, much rather spend time working on hotel reservations
from home, to avoid wasting time in the hot (even in April!) tourist office,
rather than enjoying the beautiful weather and sights of the city. In
April, I spent 1-1/2 hours at the tourist office in Amsterdam, only to
come away skunked. I needed to find 2 rooms for the next Thursday (this
was Friday). They normally only book for the next night or 2. Plus, some
large convention was coming to town, so no rooms were available.
Hopkins, MN USA 05/08/00
This morning I spent almost an hour, and I'm sure MUCH money, trying
to secure accommodations in Florence for the middle and end of June. If
you will be there at that time, DON'T WAIT, call NOW. . . there is a big
fashion exposition going on then and I called over 20 hotels -- including
many from Rick's Italy 2000, and several more -- before I finally found
something. "All booked up in whole city," was the consensus! Call now,
at least for your first night!
Houston, TX USA 05/06/00
Book ahead through the internet. A great web site for Bruges - www.bruges.be
- has lots of hotels & B&Bs listed and many of these have their own web
sites & e-mail addresses so you can get info & conveniently book on line.
Since it's pretty much cost free it can take the worry out of where to
Abbotsford BC Canada, 05/06/00
Just got off the phone trying to make reservations for Barcelona, Sitges,
Girona, Roses for mid- to late May. I had planned to just book my first
couple of nights and play it by ear since it wasn't peak season. Not so
sure that was a good idea! My first two choices (Jardi & Peninsular) were
booked in Barcelona for the entire month and most of June. I booked into
Dali. Sitges & Roses were okay. Girona has some type of flower event going
on and again, I couldn't get into my first two choices.
Glen Allen, VA USA 05/04/00
Just got back from 3 weeks in France, Spain, Morocco and the Netherlands. We had reservations for all but one night. I speak fluent Spanish, so I called Hotel Jardi in Barcelona a couple of months before we left to make a reservation. The guy was very friendly and we were all set for two nights with a balcony. I asked if I should also fax him and he said that I didn't need to do so.
Well, we showed up at the place and lo and behold they had no record of us. To quote Homer Simpson: "D'oh!" I asked them for a couple of other recommendations in the Gothic Quarter and was shut out at these as well. Starting to get worried about finding a place to stay, we stumbled across the Hotel Internacional on the Ramblas. The lobby looked pretty good and they had a room so we took it and wow, it was an absolute dump. It smelled terrible and was really dirty. Plus the Gothic quarter can be freaky at night. I looked out our window at 7:45 p.m. and saw a women shooting heroin in the back alley. After going outside I saw that the place convenantly left a palm tree in front of their one-star sign, so I couldn't see it when we first entered.
I was a dummy and should have gone first to the tourist office to arrange for a room, or should have asked to see the room before we took it. The next day we went to the tourist office in the Placa Cataluyna and they booked me a room at the St. Mortiz hotel, which is a typical business-class place and was a great splurge after our time in the dump.
Moral of the story: Get a faxed confirmation of your booking or be prepared
to be sold out upon arrival.
Portland, OR USA 05/01/00
In Italy, it's worth booking ahead. We were there for a month, beginning and ending our trip in Rome. The end of our trip coincided with Holy Week. We make advance reservations almost everywhere, but when we ran into an unacceptable hotel (Naples - Hotel Europeo) and inadequate bed (double instead of 2 twins at the Pensionne Panda in Rome) we were able to easily find alternate accommodations...though for more money in both cases. Even during Holy Week in Rome, we were able to switch hotels (at a price).
We also made two hotel reservations a day or two in advance (Siena &
Sorrento). Again, we paid more for these rooms than most of the pre-booked
rooms we had for the rest of the trip.
Menlo Park, CA USA 04/24/00
Normally, my husband & I travel together without reservations and have
had no trouble. An added benefit of booking once you're there is that
you can view the room before you commit to it. However, I'm going to Benelux
countries for 2 weeks in May by myself & most of my travel plans mean
I arrive late afternoon, so I decided to reserve in advance. Good thing,
too--I'm on my 3rd choice for Haarlem, and it took that many tries to
find a B&B in Brugge. The annual Procession of the Holy Blood is 1 June
in Brugge & the town seems to be booking up pretty quickly (at least the
budget/moderate places). Since I'm travelling on my own, I feel much more
comfortable knowing where I'm going & getting rid of my backpack asap.
Abbotsford, BC Canada, USA 04/10/00
If you're coming to Greece, hotel/room reservations are necessary for
sure from mid-July to approx. 20th August. Believe me, I live here, working
on the lovely Cycladic Island of Paros.
Naoussa, Paros, Greece 04/07/00
The past two years we have traveled Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland
and the Czech Republic and never had an advance reservation. When we got
tired or wanted to stay somewhere overnight we just found a room with
Linda L. Puwal
Columbus, MI USA 04/07/00
My wife and I had hotel reservations for about half of our trip. If doing it again, we would reserve hotels in all of the larger cities, for three reasons:
- When you arrive in a city, you want to spend your first few hours
getting oriented and enjoying a walking tour, not finding a room.
- I found it much easier to make calls and send faxes from home rather than a European town.
- In many of Rick's recommended hotels, it doesn't take all that many people to fill the place up. In peak season, or when Rick's tours are going, you might not get in at all.
That said, some of the smaller towns have so many cool little places
for rent, I am glad I wasn't bound to a hotel. Otherwise, I would recommend
Chicago, IL USA 04/03/00
My 15-year-old son and I spent the month of June in England, France
and Italy. The only "advance" reservation we had was for our first days
in London. We never made another reservation more than one or two days
before arriving in the next town. We always found a Rick-recommended hotel
available or the person found us a room at friends', relatives' or neighboors'
hotel. We moved around so freely I can't imagine being held to a schedule
ruled by reservations made months ago. If you have your heart set on a
certain hotel (the Alma Domus in Siena, for example), make your reservation
ahead. But what happens if you love Vernazza so much you just have to
stay another night? Relax, people, it's a vacation. If all else fails,
go the the T.I. booth or jump on an overnight train. Half of the fun during
our trip was knowing we had no responsibility and nowhere we had to be.
Isn't that part of the "backdoor philosophy?"
Hanford, CA USA 03/29/00
I have to agree with Johnny below. If you want to stay in Rick's recommendations--quaint, friendly, great-location hotels--make reservations months in advance. This is true, too, if you have requirements (big breakfast, WC and shower, multiple rooms). There are also additional benefits of doing this, since most have e-mail and/or fax: If you are driving and unsure of directions, you can ask in advance for details. Parking too can be assisted. Be it Venice or Paris or Prague, e-mail your needs and they will help, sometimes even with reduced rates with coupons. Also, again if driving, if routes are closed (e.g., when the Chamonix tunnel had the fire), e-mailing will help if you have to adjust your route. Many hotels and B&Bs will also help with dinner reservations or airport connections. Therefore, if you trust your hotel selection, especially Rick's picks, reserving ahead will also facilitate other aspects of your trip.
On our last trip we stayed at 9 of Rick's recommendations out of 10
locations (he does not cover Budapest). All were friendly, clean, wonderful
locations with the charisma and charm of the cities where they were located.
I cannot count how many times we were coming or going when these wonderful
places were saying to others, "I am sorry, we have no rooms available."
Mary Ann Beyer
Farmington Hills, Mi USA 03/28/00
Smart travelers make reservations in Rick's suggested hotels months in advance. Smart travelers fax their reservations in both English and the local language. Smart travelers request faxed confirmation from the hotel. Smart travlers realize they are taking chances following Ricks' advice to the letter IF they want to enjoy that European trip they have been saving for. (I have no patience for wandering around the cities of Europe with my bags and family in tow looking for a decent room).
Rick Steves recommends great hotels at great prices in nice parts of
town. His books are read by millions; millions more watch his show. Add
it up: make reservations if you want to stay in those charming/local hotels
No, you don't need to spend and arm and a leg for a night's sleep. There are clean, inexpensive chain hotels of the Motel 6/Super 8 variety that operate in several European countries. Try Clarion ($50-$55/night), and in France, Formula 1 ($25-$30 per night).
Basically, you get a room with a double bed and a bunk bed across the head of the double bed. Includes TV and a sink and table/desk, all built in. Disadvantage (personal taste) is that the toilet and shower were down the hall. If you get up in the middle of the night (or any other times), you must remember to bring your 6-digit computerized room code with you (printed on your room receipt/voucher). Otherwise, you will be locked out of the room. The room doors are always locked and only accessible to other than staff by the computer code you are assigned.
These hotels may not have around-the-clock desk staff. When desk staff
is absent, the main door is locked but there is a machine outside you
can use the make a reservation for the night using a credit card (kind
of like an ATM). Of course these hotels are located in clusters close
to freeways and major highways.
St. Paul, MN USA 03/20/00
No, reservations are not necessary, except if you want a specific hotel in a specific area. If you are willing to walk down the street or ask around you can always find another hotel that does have an opening.
The cab driver in Sorrento had a list in his car and a mobile phone. He called around and got something for us--a wonderful, reasonable room . But you do take your chances without reserving ahead, as we found out in Capri and Avebury. All the B&Bs in small-town Avebury, England were full one night and I had no transportation. The owner of a full B&B got me a ride with a friend to the next town and a room. But it was a wonderful adventure. Faulty Towers in Rome was full but they sent us to a wonderful hotel they knew of, for the same money.
We never had a problem finding a room. I tried to stay under $100 a
nite for two; many times it cost less. More expensive in the north.
Flower Mound, TX USA 03/11/00
Going during November we didn't think reservations were necessary. But
if you are arriving after 6 pm with a family of four I highly recommend
reservations. We arrived in Garmisch at about 7pm and started looking
for a hotel. It snowed earlier and we went walking until we found an expensive
hotel with one room; they said everything was booked up. Thinking that
was a ploy, we went on. I asked a local who spoke some English. He directed
us to what turned out to be a military resort. Back down the street we
walked with two tired kids to the expensive hotel--and the room was gone.
God was with us as I noticed the local man was walking ahead of us. He
was looking for a hotel for us. Many places were already closed for the
night. He finally found us a room. The next day we found out it was Ladies'
Day for the ski lift!!
Wetumpka, AL USA 03/05/00
Just back from 9 days in Italy--had reservations for the 1st 2 nights
in Florence, then winged it. No problems finding rooms in Pisa, Viareggio
(on a "carnival Sunday"), Monterosso, Venice, and Como. All were 3-star
hotels, but in the off-season, just about US$95 a night. Don't hesitate
to ask at information booths, especially near the bigger stops.
We went to France on December 30 and returned January 21. We found some
of the hotels Rick recommends in Honfleur, Albi, and Arles closed, with
owners off on their own holidays. We usually travel at this time of year
and don't make reservations except in Paris. We have had no problem getting
a room. This last year, our son, who speaks French, made us reservations
in Paris and when we arrived they had no record of it. In the future,
I think I would do a fax or letter back and forth to be sure. My sister
just returned from London and had booked a hotel on the Internet. When
they arrived, they had no record of them. In the future, they plan to
also contact the hotel themselves. The nice thing about no reservations
is the freedom to alter your schedule!
Nevada City, CA USA 03/04/00
The first time we went to Great Britain, in 1994, we made reservations for the first three nights in London, then found the rest of the rooms as we went along. Traveling in a family of 5, this meant spending quite a lot of time at tourist offices finding accommodations.
Last spring my mom & I went back; this time we made all our reservations
in advance. Now with the WWW it was a lot easier--sometimes we could even
see photos of the rooms, the proprietors, even their pets, before making
a commitment. True, it did limit our spontaneity and force us to keep
a pre-determined itinerary, but on the other hand, all that time we spent
looking for rooms could now be spent enjoying our trip.
Los Angeles, CA USA 03/02/00
Making advance reservations is a matter of personal preference. My wife
and I spent three weeks in Germany, Belgium and France last summer. We
reserved hotels far in advance with the aid of computer and were not disappointed.
With the exception of one hotel, everything went off without a hitch.
The errant hotel "lost" our reservation, but miraculously "found" another
room when we did not accept the excuse offered. Color us nonadventurous,
but we enjoyed every day and every hotel knowing that each night was not
going to be a question mark. We spent those hours that would have been
used in the room search enjoying what we came to do. (By the way, we also
rented a car for the entire trip--except Paris--and do not regret having
it because of the access it offered to spots that we would not otherwise
Seattle, WA USA 03/01/00
I was in London two weeks ago for the weekend, and landed at Gatwick
airport without a reservation. I went to the Thomas Cook desk at Gatwick
and told the agent I wanted a cheap B&B with my own shower. She made some
calls and found one for 30 pounds a night. What a great bargain, right?
Well, what I didn't ask (and unfortunately assumed) was about my own toilet.
When I saw the room I couldn't believe it. Of course I had no bathroom
(it was shared with everyone on the floor) and my shower stall was basically
a metal cabinet up against one of the walls. Since I was alone on this
trip, it wasn't that bad, but I would not stay in the same place with
my wife. Moral to this story: Do not take anything for granted while traveling.
I never have had reservation from '84 to '93, and just had a few frustrations
trying, as you all know waiting in line to get a room then hunting it down
can be frustrating. But the freedom was great, notice I used the word "was"
I'm sure with the computer era upon us this year and the coming years, even
getting a youth hostel or pension, b&b etc. will be harder & harder to acquire
with out reservations. I am going this summer with my sister, we are seniors,
and as much as I like to " wing it", I have already made my first week &
last days reservations. Not wanting to put her through the anxiety of not
knowing where we will sleep or the hassel of running around of looking for
it and the long lines at the train stations. As I plan the trip I will try
to make my reservations & get the transportation info I need to make her
first trip to Europe as comfortable as possible, and as enjoyable.
Beverly, NJ USA 02/27/00
I've never found reservations 100% necessary, but they can make life a
lot easier in the heart of the summer in Paris, London, Amsterdam etc.
as well as during large festivals like the Love Parade or Oktoberfest.
Vancouver, bc can 02/01/00
All first-timers should take a Rick Steves tour so they don't have to
worry about reservations. But if you can't or don't want to take a tour,
book all major cities two months in advance. We made reservations in London,
Paris, and outside of Venice (Mestre, which was a nightmare). In Amsterdam
we had no reservations. We walked into a mini-red light district (there
are several that aren't on maps) at midnight. Negotiated with a hotel
clerk and got a room up four steep flights in an attic. The next day I
got us a room in a little bar/hotel called "the Village." It wasn't in
any guidebooks and was the best room of the whole trip. But in general,
we spent way too much time figuring out where to stay. And unfortunately,
our best room was one we found by accident. If we could have gone Rick
Steves, we would have.
Great Falls, MT USA 01/24/00
In October of 1996 2 couples traveled for 3 weeks thru Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy with no advance reservations. We called a day ahead and had very few problems finding a room using Rick's books.
In May 1999 we traveled for 19 days in France. We reserved ahead for
Paris but called ahead a day at time the rest of the time. We ran into
weekend problems in Normandy and Arles as the French were celebrating
Ascension Day and Pentecost Day as four-day weekends. We found rooms but
had to drive a short distance. I would still wing it. (Incidentally, I
recommend Rick's book "Postcards from Europe"--great reading.)
Sheboygan, WiMa USA 01/15/00
Don't believe what you hear about the difficulty in getting a room on
Mont Saint-Michel in France. Granted this was in May 1994, but my wife
and I enjoyed a lovely, quiet night there after the one front gate was
shut after the hordes of tourists left for the day. As always, reservations
are advised, but take the chance. It's guaranteed to be a highlight of
your European trip!
Portland, OR USA 01/14/00
We went on a six-week Eurail trip around Europe this past August and Sept. Of course it depends on your personality, but I recommend reservations for a number of reasons. If you are at all fussy about the places you stay, but are still trying to stay within a budget, taking care of reservations ahead of time allows you to do your research, rank your choices, see what's available and weigh your options rather than booking a room because you're hot and tired and will take anything.
I found advance reservations to be both a time and money savings as well. Rather than arriving in a city you only have two days in, and having to spend an hour or two working out accommodations in the next one, you have it all worked out ahead of time.
Also, I recommend booking over fax or preferably--because it is free--e-mail.
Not all places have e-mail of course, but the Rick Steves books list a
number of addresses, I found the Frommers guides listed a number of addresses,
and by doing various web searches I was able to get addresses for some
of the hotels listed in the books that didn't include their e-mail addresses.
With e-mail you can ask for specifically the type of room you want (e.g.
2 beds, a/c, etc...) without getting flustered as you sometimes do on
the phone with someone when there are language barriers. You also have
written confirmation of the reservation when you show up. It saves money
because if you are already in Europe, those country-to-country calls can
Washington DC, USA 01/12/00
I think making plans in advance for Paris is definitely in order. I
was just there and was surprised to find that tourist information is no
longer available at train stations; everthing's been moved & centralized
to a tourist office on the Champs Elysees. Lugging my bags on the metro
to the center of town for help finding accommodations isn't my idea of
a good way to start a vacation. Also, general tourist information regarding
the rest of France (like wine tours) was next to impossible to come by;
the Champs Elysees office offered only Paris info, although it did have
a small desk for hotel reservations.
Atlanta, GA USA 01/04/00
I always secure my hotel rooms in advance. The very last thing I want
to spend valuable vacation time doing is looking for a suitable hotel
room. I swear by the Rick-recommended Hotel Castex in Paris. However,
I always secure my reservation via a phone call and fax a few months ahead
of time. I've stayed at the hotel in November '98 and November '99 at
the same time as one of the ETBD tours. While checking in or chatting
with one of the friendly front desk staff, I've seen many travelers turned
away because the hotel is full.
Los Angeles, CA USA 12/20/99
In Germany, from the last two weeks in Sept. until the end of Oct., get rooms in advance, as many conventions and wine festivals are going on. And I'm not kidding when I say this. My friend and I hopped on a train on a Friday and went to Koln, Germany just to find out the biggest international expo of the year was occurring that weekend and 10,000 people were coming to town. Get reservations anytime around Oktoberfest, too (it actually starts in September).
Anyhow, we left Koln and rode about one and a half hours to Wurzburg
to find out there was a jazz festival that weekend, and at 1:30AM, after
going to FOUR places, we got a room in a hotel. The next day we went to
Rothenburg and arrived there around 6-7pm. Again, we found out that there
was an event occurring, a medieval celebration--and NO rooms in town.
But, the nice hostess at Hotel Altfrankische Weinstube am Klosterhof called
around outside of town to find us accommodations. They also let us eat
there despite people having reservations and the place being packed.
Garner, NC USA 12/19/99
I recently returned from a four-month "business trip" to Germany. Every weekend we would head out, usually not knowing where we would end up. Over the entire summer, we ran into problems getting hotel rooms without reservations only twice. The first was in Paris during the French Open and the other was the same weekend in Amsterdam. Both times we just adjusted our "schedule" and stopped in places we might not have gone to in the first place...and still had a great (if not better) time.
I learned to remain flexible in your travels and take the setbacks in
stride and turn them into opportunities. Without a doubt my best experiences
were the ones that were either last-second decisions or results of original
plan changes. Europe is more than a few major destinations, it's a culture,
so if you remain open-minded and allow for last-second changes you will
find your own back doors like we did!
Monroe, MI USA 12/18/99
My wife and I and a friend spent two weeks touring the Netherlands,
Germany and Austria during prime season this summer (mid-August), with
only a few rooms booked in advance. We were glad to have reserved a B&B
for our arrival in Amsterdam and wish we had taken the advice to book
a room there for the last night of our trip. We didn't, and had horrible
problems finding a room at 8 p.m. We ended up paying through the nose
for a hotel room at the airport. I highly recommend reservations during
the summer in Amsterdam. Other than that, we always found comfortable,
clean, reasonable rooms, even when we arrived cold in a town after 6 p.m.
You can definitely wing it if you're willing to stay outside of the biggest
Charleston, WV USA 11/24/99
Making reservations is very much dependent on your personality. I am a
total Type A planner who usually makes reservations FAR in advance for
everything, so just picking up on a whim and hoping to find a decent place
to stay was more than I could handle. What I found worked best is, as
ETBD suggests, making reservations a few days to a week in advance. England
is very busy in the summer, but even in top tourist areas like Bath and
York, I had no problem reserving great, inexpensive B&Bs. I am glad to
have thrown caution to the wind (relatively speaking!) and tried this
approach- it was the most unforgettable summer ever!
Chicago, IL USA 11/18/99
In Rome, Fawlty Towers interested us after reading your book. We called and faxed and got reservations for a double room very early. I called a month out, then two weeks out, then day before arrival, and all was said to be fine. But when we got there, we heard, "Oh we are so sorry, we gave your room to somebody else" - without any satisfactory reason for this other than saying it was their error. They did offer a reservation at a "comparable" place. I was not impressed with these turn of events. I was just off a nine-hour flight and not in the best mood. I told them, "the least you can do is reimburse me for all my faxes and phone calls since you admit it was your mistake." The lady went away, and came back with a key to a room that "magically appeared." It was a pleasant place to stay. I just wish we didn't have the hassle about it. They have internet access available for a fee, and a pleasant terrace. I'd do it again if I could be sure there is any way to truly secure a room.
We also took Rick's suggestion of the Hotel Loreley in Sorrento -- what
a treat! It was the quickest check in ever; we walked in, gave them our
last name, and zip... up to the room went us and our stuff. A beautiful
view, the balcony (terrace really) was almost the size of the room. The
restaurant was top notch.
Houston, TX USA 11/10/99
Reservations for hotels are definitely needed in Paris, even in the "off-season" (October - March). We have just returned from 3 weeks in France, 2 of them in Paris and it is quite amazing to see lines forming for the Eiffel Tower elevators about 30 minutes before the ticket office opens. (I counted 5 tour buses late one evening!)
Anywhere else in France, you can find rooms as you go with no problems.
And the rates are often cheaper in the off season (but there are no seasonal
rates in Paris).
Richmond, CA USA 11/08/99
We wanted to stay along the Rhine the weekend of Sept. 11 and 12. It took three phone calls to finally find a place for one night in Bacharach. The German people also like to stay along the Rhine on weekends in September! The place we stayed was one of Rick's recommendations. All the guests were using Rick's book. While we were having dinner, the phone rang constantly with people wanting reservations. The answer was that there were no vacant rooms from St. Goar to Bingen. We also found out that Switzerland had a national holiday on September 13, so we revised our plans and went to Baden Baden instead.
Also, We didn't know we had to make reservations for the boats on the
Rhine, since we had a Euro Pass for the trains. Rick doesn't mention that.
Mary Lou Strausz
Cowiche, WA USA 11/03/99
Venice is just as crowded year round as everyone says. We arrived late
October around 5-6pm to find everything in Rick's book just about full.
We managed to get the last room at the Hotel Marin. Late October is indeed
the high water season, and everyone just climbs up on the picnic tables
and keeps going. San Marco square was full of water, and the pigeons were
all sitting on the restaurant chairs!
My wife and I just returned from a six week holiday in Europe. London was the only city we booked in advance, but next time, I will be sure to make reservations for weekend destinations. In Paris, we arrived on Friday and were only able to book one night so instead of running around with our backpacks, we took it and then I scouted Paris until I found a place we could book longer. It took about two and a half hours. We also saw many travelers turned away from the hotel we were staying at in Amsterdam on the weekend. They were told to look for places around the airport.
As for accommodations when you arrive, we would only recommend it if there are many places located in close proximity to each other. Usually we would take a cheap place near the rail station. We didn't always run to the phone and start making calls to the pensions and hotels. Sometimes we used booking services at the railway stations, but this too has drawbacks. In Salzburg, a man at the hotel booking office said he could only locate places way above the price we were willing to pay so we decided to find a place on our own. We found a nicely run pension five minutes away from the station and almost half the price the booking office quoted us. These office are convenient and cater to the travel wary tourist who just wants to get the tedious task of finding accommodation over and done with but remember you might not be getting the best deal.
Mike W. Griffin
Burnaby, BC Canada 11/02/99
We just returned from Spain (end of Sept.). We had not made reservations
and were able to find hotels everywhere we traveled. However, we had a
couple of scares. When we arrived in Seville by train, we asked at the
hotel information about lodging for the night. We were told there were
no hotels available in Seville. Same thing in Madrid. At Seville we asked
if there were any rooms nearby, and she found us a room. The next day
walking around Seville we stopped in a hotel and found a room. In Madrid,
after being told there were no hotels, we asked about hostels and were
referred to one with a vacancy. The point is, the people working at the
hotel information don't seem to volunteer other choices unless you ask.
Also, they don't have lists of all the hotels, so when they say no vacancies,
there may still be some.
Plain City, OH USA 10/25/99
I've learned to phone ahead for weekends and holidays; lots of the locals travel then too, not just us Americans! Also I would suggest reservations for any of those towns that are way out of the way, like when you have to take more than one train or form of transportation to get to the town. Examples are Halstatt, Austria and Gimmelwald, Switzerland--I would have hated to not find a room after travelling all that way, but Walter's was one of our absolutely favorite spots in Europe.
Don't get so hung up in Rick's books that you lose the adventurous spirit.
Sometimes we were sorry that we travelled so far just to find his out-of-the-way
places, because we would pass lots of other pensions closer to the train
station that probably would have been fine, but we never even looked at
them to see what they were like. Last but not least, check out the room
and the bedding before agreeing to a price. The times we just took a room
before doing this...we were always sorry! Rick Steve's books are still
the most enjoyable travel books to read and the best budget-minded! Keep
up the good work Rick & crew!
Fort Lauderdale, FL USA 10/23/99
We just returned from a long-planned trip to Britain. I love to leave
things as open as possible, but it's important to have the first couple
nights reserved. When you are just off the plane, it's not the time to
be worrying about where you will lay your head that night! We were traveling
with another couple, and at times had problems finding 2 rooms in the
same establishment, even in October. The TI's were really helpful, and
steered us to some great accommodations. If you plan to stay in London,
it's also important to book ahead--it can be a real problem at any time
of year. Rick's suggested accommodations there were all unavailable when
we checked several months before our Oct. trip. Many are following his
Wayne, PA USA 10/20/99
In big cities like Amsterdam and London, it is difficult to find rooms
on the weekends without reservations. I always travel in the off season,
so I assume that the same holds true for the summers. The best way to
find a room anywhere is to arrive in the morning before 9am and walk the
hotel/bed & breakfast areas. If you have a car and are having trouble
finding a room, just drive to the next small town.
Longmont, CO USA 10/19/99
My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Britain. We made reservations
for our first couple of nights and our last night. This worked well. We
always secured a place to stay as soon as we knew where we were going
to be next. Often our first choice would be booked up but in most cases
our 3rd or 4th choice was available. We also asked the full places if
there was any other place they could recommend.
Toronto, Canada 10/14/99
I'm not alone! Rick is too popular! Just returned from Italy, and EVERYWHERE
you listed was full at least a few days out. And when we did arrive, there
were a bunch of Americans with his book having the same problem. Great
way to meet people, but it's a lot more stressful than last year using
your book. Venice was the worst but we found a free agency that has all
hotels in their computer and you can reserve within your price range through
them. By the way, "footloose and fancy-free" can also mean "mosquito-infested
and gross bathrooms." (Venice is double $$ everywhere else in Italy. But
worth it because we got engaged there!)
Denver, CO USA 10/07/99
We too had an unfortunate experience at the Gerberhaus in Rothenburg
o.T. just last week. My co-worker and I were escorting a group of 14,
had made confirmed reservations months in advance, were carrying an e-mailed
confirmation of all our rooms, had paid a deposit, and had reconfirmed
our reservations again 2 days in advance of our arrival. The evening staff
was incredibly rude to us, and they assigned a room with one bed for 4
of us. When we persisted in German, they found 3 of us a room at a nearby
B&B. The moral of the story is that making a reservation does not guarantee
a traveler will have a room waiting at arrival.
Atlanta, GA USA 10/06/99
Our rule of thumb: book first and last nights absolutely. If going to a big city for a specific number of days, book ahead. If traveling through the countryside, don't book. BUT arrive in desired destination by 5-6 pm latest, and find a place to stay. The later we wait, the worse luck we've had. We've been doing this for years and it works. It worked like a charm on the Romantic Road, but we had problems in Italy last October. We usually travel in October and April.
I was told by some B&B owners in Scotland many years ago that the B&B
owners traditionally take THEIR holidays in October, so one reason rooms
may be scarce is that the places aren't open!
TX USA 10/04/99
I just returned from Europe and had had to rebook my entire trip in
4 hours because of the hurricane that closed Newark Airport in mid-September.
I set up my computer and sent faxes to ask for rooms and to confirm. It
worked like a charm and save us many hassles.
Livingston, NJ USA 10/01/99
We traveled from March 9-June 2. This has to be one of the best times
to travel. Room reservations are definitely not necessary except in Barcelona,
Florence, and any town that is having a big festival.
Mountain View, CA USA 09/29/99
In Barcelona in hotel reservations are VERY necessary. When we were
there in September everything was "completo" (full). We had to stay in
Pedrables, a nice neighborhood, but inconvenient. Call a month or so in
advance. Barcelona is the only place we had a problem.
Bethesda, MD USA 09/29/99
My husband and I spent two great weeks in Greece and Turkey in April/early
May 1998. We made reservations only in Athens and Istanbul, and were fine
without them elsewhere. We found great places to stay by inquiring with
local cafe proprietors; give them your price range, and they may even
call for you and make arrangements on the spot. In certain Turkish towns,
some inns are connected with carpet shops and they'll put a lot of pressure
on you to buy a carpet; if you're going to such a town, look through your
guidebook and pick a place that doesn't have a shop, heading there straightaway
once you get into town. People vying for your business at the bus station
will leave you alone if they think you have reservations elsewhere and
may even give you directions in how to get there.
Seattle, WA USA 09/22/99
We traveled footloose and fancy-free. We were always one day ahead in
our planning--we knew where we'd be the next day, but not much further
than that. I would make reservations in the morning for a hotel that night.
I enjoyed travelling that day knowing that wherever we ended up there
was a room waiting for us. The few times that we did not reserve ahead
we ended up paying more money than we needed to. So reserve 24hrs in advance,
save money, and have a great trip!
Burlington, VT USA 09/12/99
It was so easy to make the reservations from our computer. We faxed
the hotels we liked, using the fax #'s provided in Rick Steves' guidebooks,
and asked for availability. If we got what we wanted we refaxed the hotel
with our credit card number, and took the confirmations with us just in
case. No problems. Since we were faxing and not emailing there is no safety
issue. It usually took 2-3 minutes to complete the fax, so have an int'l.
calling plan if you want to make a lot of reservations. And make sure
your credit card doesn't add a fee for foreign purchases.
seattle, wa USA 09/06/99
I travelled for 4 months over the summer through southern and northern
Europe, Scandinavia and the UK, and made reservations from home for my
first 3 nights in Paris only. I'd usually spend a max of 10-15 minutes
in a phone booth the night before or early in the morning, when I was
looking for a place to stay. I never was without a bed though I sometimes
didn't get my first choice. In the UK (when I had a car) I tended to drive
a little and see what I could find...as some mornings I'd have no definite
plans on where I'd end up that evening. If you're taking this route, invest
in a B&B guide. It makes a big difference as it can get you out of trouble
when you're stuck for a bed, and you can head out of town in desperate
My husband and I just returned from 3 weeks in Europe (peak season).
Although I felt pressured to not make reservations and be more "adventurous,"
I am very glad that we did make them. I accept the fact that I am a planner
and I wanted to make the most of my 3 weeks. I didn't want to waste a
minute searching or worrying. Honestly, I don't know how it is any less
adventurous making reservations based on Rick's suggestions than taking
Rick's book and going into the city. Either way you don't really know
what you're getting until you get there. The adventure isn't finding a
room, it's what you find in the city. So all you planners, if you would
feel better, I say make those reservations and don't let anyone talk you
out of it! (P.S. Rick's recommendations were great!)
Lancaster, OH USA 08/24/99
Arranging hotel reservations in advance with a written confirmation
makes for a wonderful, relaxed experience. My wife and I flew into Frankfurt,
picked up a previously booked auto and drove 2,500 miles in two weeks.
The only real disappointment we had with our hotel(s)(in Germany) was
that the ones we chose advertised a/c, but we found out that was only
for convention rooms.
John H. Herby
Tampa, Fl. USA 08/21/99
I think whether or not you'll need reservations depends on a huge number of factors: season, weekday or weekend, special events in the city, whether or not you're on a long trip or a short one, etc. If you're traveling for several months, for example, having to spend half a day hunting for lodgings is much less of a bite out of your overall itinerary than it would be if you're traveling for only a couple of weeks.
Once in London in late September, I stayed at a B&B in Bloomsbury, along
Gower Street (where there are a ton of B&Bs). Although I'd made reservations,
I figured that in the shoulder season, things wouldn't be all that crowded.
At least when it came to the weekend, I was totally wrong! All the Gower
Street B&Bs had "hotel full" signs tacked on their doors, and I saw my
B&B turn away more dejected travelers...
Washington, DC USA 08/13/99
I am really glad we didn't make reservations. We never had any problems
finding rooms, even traveling during the peak season, July. Not having
reservations allowed us the freedom to change plans day-to-day and stay
longer when we were having fun.
Cleveland, OH USA 08/08/99
I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy
and we made advance reservations in some towns but not others. It was
unnecesary to make reservations even in mid-July, peak season. In Venice
we found plenty of available rooms - during a weekend, in the middle of
July. Rick's recommendations are good; most are 1-star hotels.
Littleton, CO USA 08/03/99
My boyfriend and I just returned from 30 days all around Europe, without
making one advance reservation. Three times we arrived in a new town late
in the evening and had to call around, and had no TI to fall back on,
but we still found fantastic, affordable places every time. This was during
July--peak season, and even during the theater festival in Avignon. We
had more fun not being pinned down, and ended up changing our planned
itinerary several times. I wouldn't make reservations.
Pleasant Hill, CA USA 07/30/99
We have just returned from 18 days in London, DisneyParis, Paris, Belgium
and Haarlem. We had reservations I made from home, some Rick's recommendations.
It was great--I never wasted a minute making frustrating phone calls.
There are a lot of Best Westerns and they let you cancel until 4pm if
something better turns up.
Midland, Mi USA 07/29/99
Reservations are absolutely NOT necessary - even in big cities. However at the insistence of my two companions we did reserve our first night in Prague--through the internet on the very day we left Detroit (in July '99). And we got an email confirmation two hours later!
People stand at train platforms seeking out backpackers and asking them if they need a place to stay. Sometimes it's their own place; sometimes they're an agent for someone else. By all means, when approached, take them up on the offer. And there are enough HI hostels, private (non-HI) hostels, pensions and small hotels, and campgrounds (many of which have bungalows) around so that reserving in advance is not necessary. Some train stations have a budget accommodation office, too.
Detroit, MI USA 07/28/99
Having travelled on the Continent, we were astonished as the ease of
finding accommodations in Ireland! Not only are they very well represented
on the Internet, but the B&B's and the Irish Tourist Board put out a fantastic
guide! It's the size of a small paperback, and includes rates, amenities,
directions, and even color pictures of the places. (Wish I could find
something similar for Germany.) And new B&B's are opening every day (literally),
all very nice and really reasonably priced, so we were able to find a
place in even the most popular areas and times. A lot of them do take
down their "shingles" from October to March or April, however.
Milwaukee, USA 07/26/99
I just returned from a 17-day trip through Scandinavia. It was a thrill
a minute. I took the advice of ETBD and made my reservations
from there about 1 to 2 days in advance, and had NO problem. I wouldn't
recommend this for you nervous types--it did take about 20 minutes to
find a room in Oslo the day I arrived there. I stayed in a variety of
pensions, hostels, and private homes. It made for a delightful trip. Are
reservations necessary? Not if you are willing to be flexible and adventurous.
Conyers, GA USA 07/25/99
In Europe, most towns are not far from each other so you can always
drive on 10 minutes to another town. Go to the tourist information office
and they can usually find lodging for you. These B&B's are inspected and
must meet certain requirements so they are usually much better than the
hotels. The 2 reservations we made before we left the US for London and
Paris were very disappointing. We usually stopped before 3 pm and found
lodging--no problems and were surprised at how lucky we were to get superior
San Antonio, TX USA 07/24/99
Following Rick's advice, my family and I arrived in Vernazza, Italy
on June 26th with high hopes of finding affordable and comfortable accommodations
for 3 nights. What we found was a town teeming with other Americans grasping
Rick's Italy tourbook who, like us, were totally out of luck. Nothing
was available; virtually everything between La Spezia and Genoa was sold
out. It may have been because the temps were in the 90's and many Italians
had headed for the shore, but we were sorely disappointed in having to
join hundreds of others on the trip back to La Spezia to get the car and
head to other venues. I'd never try for the Cinque Terre again without
a solid reservation in hand.
Simsbury, ct USA 07/19/99
I just returned from a week's touring in Andalucia, southern Spain,
following a business meeting at the Navy base in Rota. My friends on base
highly recommended I visit Paco's Travel Agency in Rota, and get "the
coupons." Paco subscribes to the Bancotel system - what a tremendous find!
Bancotel covers most of Spain and Portugal for hotel (and other services)
reservations. Most hotels (all 4-star) take 1 coupon, which costs about
$45 US. Paco called to make the reservations, and simply handed me the
coupons and the book of all listings. No penalty if you change your mind
- room is held till 8pm, and if you don't call or show, you just lose
your reservation. You may use the coupon at any other hotel in the system,
and make your own calls to reserve. I stayed in 3 hotels on this system,
in Sevilla, Granada and Ronda. Each would have cost much more had I booked
the room under any other system I'm aware of, or just walked in with no
reservation. See www.tnet.es/users/difran
Alexandria, VA USA 07/16/99
In France--Paris, Riviera (St. Raphael) and Aix-en-Provence--we had
no problems finding rooms at 2-star hotels during early July 1999. Great
places to fall back on are the Campanile and Ibis chains--modern, clean,
safe, parking, great lobbies, great breakfasts and evening dinners. They
don't give you that "old local charm" but our goal was seeing the sights
in the area and not sitting in our hotel room.
stillwater, mn USA 07/16/99
My "no vacancy" experience (only one during 3 months of travel) was
in Stockholm at the end of May. I arrived there on a Friday afternoon.
The TI did not have any hotel rooms, hostel beds, or private rooms. I
spent the night on the train back to Copenhagen. Live and learn... and
reserve in Stockholm.
Atlanta, GA USA 07/13/99
During our 2-month Eurail trip we made reservations ahead only a couple of times. We heard from other travellers that Oslo was packed with conventions (in June) and so called a couple of Rick's recommendations a day ahead from Copenhagen. Fortunately, Marius Meisfjord was able to put us up in a room which we shared with another couple. Once in Oslo we learned that every single hotel room, even the most expensive, was indeed full, and Marius even had a young man sleeping gratefully under his dining room table.
The only other place we had trouble was Barcelona (in May). The room-finding service at the train station said the city had been packed for two months with no letup in sight, but they found us a nice hotel a half hour away by train in the picturesque resort town of Sitges. We were delighted.
I would recommend always making reservations in Paris. We finally found
a room there after five or six calls, but it was depressing.
Union, WA USA 07/11/99
For big cities you may need reservations if you're looking for something
specific, but for the countryside (if you have access to transportation),
just go! We just got back from four weeks and I did reserve most of my
hotels (THE BEST was the Pagnelli in Venice--room #6 I think, "con vista,"
had incredible views). One thing we did, which might a bit pricey for
some but gave us a sense of adventure, was to book a cheapy hotel in our
main city--for instance Paris--then when we had the too-many-people city
blues, we rented a car and headed for the countryside and stayed in a
gorgeous hotel ON THE BEACH for even cheaper! The total cost for both
rooms was the same as if we had upgraded in Paris. Tthe best part was
leaving our bags behind, packing an overnight, and voila! we were Parisians
just trying to get out of the city for the weekend too! It was fun and
gave us the kickstart we needed to get into Paris when we got back. Have
Carlsbad, CA USA 07/10/99
It really depends on your M.O. for the trip. I was in Europe for six weeks this past spring, and had reservations for the beginning and end of the trip, but improvised in between...I really hate being tied down to a schedule. The result? Zero hassles at the beginning (Amsterdam during the Koninginnedag...*NO* vacancies anywhere) and the end (Paris). Had problems finding ANY vacancies in Cologne, Germany (May was heavy convention month--only 1 hostel had any vacancies), the Alsace region, and Verdun in France, so I had to stay elsewhere.
My verdict? If you're staying only a few weeks and you know exactly
what you want to see, make a reservation. Finding a place gets to be a
major hassle after the second or third full hotel. For an *extended* period
of time covering a lot of space, though, I'd wing it in the interest of
Napa, CA USA 07/02/99
I'd thought that Oktoberfest doesn't start until October, and got a plane ticket out of Munich September 19. Cruel reality check: Oktoberfest actually starts September 17. And during Oktoberfest, rooms, especially for weekends, GO FAST. It's already impossible to find any rooms in Munich for Oktoberfest weekends, even three months in advance. I've been faxing, emailing, and (out of panic) calling hotels, pensions, etc. without success. All of the suggested accomodations in Rick's Germany guide, as well as many I got off the internet, are completely booked up, or have jacked their rates up and/or added conditions (e.g., doubles at Pension Seibel are 270 DM/night, and you have to reserve for Fri, Sat, AND Sun on weekends). It's not so bad during the weekdays, however. There are some vacancies at airport hotels, as well (Arabella Sheration Airport Hotel has first-class doubles for 180DM on weekends). I managed to cobble together a solution via seeing the sights and overnighting in Fussen, but nevertheless an unpleasant experience, even before the trip has started.
On a related note, 4 months is not too soon to reserve rooms in Tuscany.
I'm traveling there in September as well, and many of the hotels in the
popular areas, e.g., Siena and San Gimignano, were booked up in May.
charlottesville, va USA 06/30/99
If you want the freedom to go when and where you want, don't make reservations except for in the large cities. My family and I just returned from a three-week trip to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. We made reservations for only our first and last nights. For the most part we had no trouble finding rooms; however in the larger cities, directly on the autobahn, we did experience slight problems. In Florence, every hotel was full. In Italy there are not hotels every two miles like there are in th U.S. We had to drive way out of town before we found a hotel. Off of the main roads it was a breeze to find a nice place.
In Austria we stayed in a very nice ski resort for three days. Since
it was off season we got a two-bedroom unit with a den and a kitchenette
for $105/night and we practically had the place to ourselves. This was
in a town called Itter, about 20 minutes from Innsbruck and about an hour
Pearland, TX USA 06/29/99
Yes, make reservations ahead of time. It is so much more relaxing. You
will save time on your trip not having to call and find a place to stay--Especially
in the summertime. If you are traveling in a group, last-minute reservations
are tough to find.
Huntington Beach, CA USA 06/26/99
My husband and I just returned from a one-month train trip through Europe. We stayed in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Goteborg (Sweden), Nancy (France), Rothenberg, Amsterdam, and Venice without having made reservations. In Stockholm and Amsterdam we stayed at recommendations from Rick's guide book. At the other places we found a place to stay through the tourist information offices at the train stations. Our one rule was to arrive by early afternoon so we would have plenty of time to find a place. In the worst-case scenario, with our Eurail pass we could always opt to take a night train somewhere. We did not need to do this, although we intentionally took night trains on several occasions. The one place we had no luck was Oslo, where a sign at the train station said "there are no rooms in Oslo," so we didn't even try, but went on to Goteborg.
Three and a half years ago we traveled by train for 18 days without
reservations and also had no problem. However, that was in October and
this time we traveled from mid-May to mid-June, both times not at the
height of the tourist season. Also, we were very flexible as to the accommodation;
basically we just wanted a clean bed, close to the train station if possible.
Reseda, CA USA 06/23/99
While I agree winter travel is the only way to go, I have incurred several
problems such as arriving in Hallstatt on the last train/boat of the day
only to find all the hostels closed. Several had 4 feet of new snow piled
against the doors. Just as I started giving serious consideration to building
an igloo, my wife noticed a light on in the Gasthof Zauner-Seewirt. The
owner treated us more like family than paying customers. Our dinner of
local fish was cooked to perfection. In my 63 years I've never seen a
room as clean as in the Gasthof Zauner. A double and 4 meals plus several
drinks were just a bit over $100. Considering it was the only act in town,
not a bad price. My mistake was not calling ahead. In the winter it's
Charles E. Dutcher
Ridgecrest, ca USA 06/20/99
We went to Germany/Austria in late April with only the first two nights
in Munich booked. We relied on the TI in Salzburg (near the airport) and
they found us the most wonderful hotel in the middle of a farming community
and with the Alps as a backdrop. The tour they booked even picked us up
and took us into Salzburg. We had a Sunday afternoon flight back to US
and stayed in Bacharach (much cheaper than Frankfurt) and took the 9:28
train into the airport. This was a very relaxing way to the airport before
heading home and we had plenty of time to shop duty-free and cash in our
VAT. All other nights we were able to find a place recommended by Rick
and asked the hotel we were leaving to call ahead for us and make our
reservation in German for us.
Barrington, NJ USA 06/17/99
I've travelled in Europe in the dead of winter (January) and heat of
summer (July) and have never had trouble finding an acceptable, usually
downright charming place to stay without reservations. If hotels are full,
look for "B&B" or "Zimmer Frei" signs. Or check with the local tourist
office. Some B&B's list only through them and don't hang out a sign. If
you must stay at a hotel, or want to use a city as a hub, best to reserve
ahead so as to not be disappointed.
We just returned from Dublin, and have a word of caution about reservations
there: Even though we had made reservations (1) at a B&B near Dublin (Saturday,
arrival day) and (2) in Dublin at a hotel, with credit card number to
secure our reservation, we were left scrambling because of overbookings
at both. And this was in May! So good luck to anyone trying to book or
obtain what they booked on any Saturday around Dublin! Otherwise, a fantastic
Calgary, AB Canada 06/14/99
I think it's great for some to travel where their whims take them, but
my wife and I just returned from two weeks in four countries, and in Rothenburg,
London (Victoria Station area) and particularly in Paris (Marais district)
we saw a sea of "Complete" and "Full" signs whereever we went. Every time
we came or went from our hotel we saw exhausted backpackers turned away
because they had no reservations. Some pleaded that they just needed a
place to lay down and asked for assistance in locating a place as they
had used up their options. We felt so sorry for them. We also like to
be spontaneous, but work hard on our itineraries, not to lock things down
but rather to maximize our opportunities. We used large cities as home
bases for lots of day trips. We took night trains whenever we could. Despite
our scheduled hotels we found time for a spur-of-the-moment seven hour
side trip to Baden-Baden where toured the casino, lost fifty bucks at
Roulette and took the cure at the Roman-Irish baths. Perhaps if we were
traveling for three months we would just go with the wind, but man, I
wouldn't trade places with the footloose for anything. And they probably
wouldn't trade places with me!
Sherman Oaks, CA USA 06/11/99
Normally, we stay where the mood takes us but if we're doing a circle
trip (i.e. starting & ending our trip at the same city) we reserve our
last night(s) with the place we've stayed at the first night(s). Anyway,
the added bonus is that we've left extra luggage, purchases, etc. at the
hotel's luggage storage so actually have less to pack with us on the rest
of our trip. This works particularly well if you're travelling to different
climate areas (i.e. England and then Greece). We've also left stuff at
an Istanbul hotel when touring the Agean & Med. coasts of Turkey.
Abbotsford, BC Canada, USA 06/04/99
Make reservations if possible, but also confirm them a few days in advance. The few nights we tried to find rooms without reservations were a complete headache. Unless you have no idea what your schedule is going to be, why waste time in a new city trying to find a place to drop your stuff?
We had reservations in writing at Hotel Gerberhaus in Rothenburg, but
they never wrote them in their book. We arrived on a holiday weekend.
Not only were they completely booked, but so was everone else in town.
They were extremely rude, and never once did we receive an apology or
an offer to help us find another room. During our four week trip, this
was the only time we had this problem.
Santa Barbara, CA USA 06/01/99
My wife and I traveled in November 1997 from Amsterdam to Paris and
throughout Switzerland, Austria and Italy making hotel reservations only
one day in advance and had no trouble at all. We used "Europe Through
the Back Door" guides exclusively and highly recommend them!
New Fairfield, CT USA 05/31/99
I would HIGHLY recommend having hotel reservations IN WRITING (or faxed) if you are headed to Barcelona. Despite the hotel boom for the Olympics, they need more hotels there. I even travelled in "low season", but Barcelona has a heavy convention business.
I had reservations before I left the U.S. but wasn't thrilled with the location, so sought out some help at El Prat's Tourist Information Office, where they promptly shoved a hotel list in my face and directed me to the pay phones. They also have a direct line Booking Phone with some 120 hotels to choose from and after calling 40-50 of them I was told they were all full.
And to top it off, once I gave up and decided to just go to the one I had reservations with, I found out they had 'inadvertantly' overbooked and I no longer had a room. After a couple conversations with other people in the lobby who were visibly irritated, I found out that 10 others had also been "accidently" overbooked. Thankfully, they 'found' me a room with their partner hotel (even though I had just called that same hotel from the airport and was told they were full) and it was in a prime location...so I came out ahead. I was aggravated that several hours were wasted in the process, though.
I loved my trip to Spain and found almost all the Spaniards to be wonderful hosts. But Barcelona--while a magnificent and beautiful city that is a unique slice in the cultural paella--is very tourist UNfriendly. I can't tell you the countless tourists that were almost in tears at airport when they couldn't find a room anywhere.
There are a few places down south from the airport if you get shut out that aren't listed in the "Barcelona Hotels" brochure available at the tourist info. desk. You may have to take a cab or rent a car...but at least you don't have to sleep in the airport. If anyone would like the name/tel.# of the motel I stayed at, e mail me. It wasn't much beyond a clean, cheap place to stay the night until my early flight the next day...but it was perfect.
If anyone's found Barcelona's situation to be improved, please let us
know--I don't want to paint the city with a critical brush if things have
changed for the better. Thank God the rest of Spain was a cinch!
Denver, CO USA 05/27/99
Definately make reservations for airport hotels, but otherwise wing
it - it adds to the experience. My husband and I, and 2 friends at times,
have travelled to europe for the last 15 years without reservations most
of the time. We have had occasional glitches, like driving around Granada,
Spain for 2 hours one October evening and finally finding a hotel at 11
pm...or trying to find a hotel near Malpensa Airport/Milan,Italy and ending
up 5 hours later in the lake region in a hotel in Arona. We are talking
off-season, late october, early november.
Broad Channel, NY USA 05/21/99
Even in Italy's big three tourist cities (Rome, Florence, Venice) I
never had trouble finding a room on the fly. Two techniques generally
serve pretty well. First, if you know where you want to sleep that night,
call ahead that morning. I did to get a great room in the center of Venice.
Otherwise, if you get to the hotel of your choice and they are full, ask
them if they know of somebody who has rooms. This pretty much never fails,
saves lots of walking around, and you get to know your hosts a little
Denver, CO USA 05/17/99
In Paris, get reservations. We just got back from a 2-week tour of France
and had absolutely no trouble finding rooms in Nice, Avignon, Grenoble,
Carcassonne, Caen, or Annecy, but got to Paris at the end of the trip
and were stumped by all the hotels on our list being full.
dallas, tx USA 05/17/99
Here's an alternative, worth researching and booking ahead: Check out
your Entertainment book - there are a lot of listings in Europe. I found
a hotel recommended by Rick in Paris (Hotel Rivoli Notre Dame - great
location). London, however, was much pricier, and since I traveled with
two teens I needed 2 rooms. I looked through my Entertainment book and
noted that there were several hotels in London at 50% off the rack (i.e.
highest) rate. We stayed at the Sheraton Park Lane on Picadilly. This
was a FANCY place - the lounge was filled with foreign businessmen on
their cellphones, while a harpist played background music. But I got a
two-room suite for 198 pounds. This is about $325 total - a lot of money,
but we stayed in elegance, when very middle-of-the-road rooms would have
cost $150 per room.
Don De Santis
Seattle, WA USA 05/14/99
I am currently on my first trip to Europe (alone), and it only took
one bad experience for me to figure out how important reservations (a
day or two in advance) really are. Even in slow seasons, conventions can
book all of, say, Munich. I still believe in being free to pick alternate
destinations, just call a day or two ahead to get a clean, budget room.
You won't be disappointed!
Los Angeles (but currently Haarlem), CA USA 05/14/99
When I travel with my sister, we typically mix it up a bit - we make
some reservations in places we really want to stay and then wing it for
other parts. I think that winging footloose and fancy free is a great
idea if you have the time to make some mistakes. But if you're only going
for a week like many people, having a bit of comfort that you have a place
to stay is priceless. For our experiences, winging it in Britain proved
to be the best experiences. Winging it in Spain and France was a disaster.
We returned 4 days ago from a trip to Holland and Belgium using rick's
1998 guidebook. As it was the height of tulip time, we booked all nights
ahead. We even had to split our stay in Amsterdam between 2 hotels for
3 nights each. As for making advance reservations, I always asked the
cancellation policy and as a result never felt we had no flexibility.
Most of the hotels we dealt with had a 12 to 24 hour cancellation policy.
The only problem was finding another room. But we eventually overcame
that problem as well and had a wonderful time.
Belmont, NC USA 05/04/99
I agree with the "it depends on the place & time & your personality". My experience is limited to Spain. On one of our trips, we spent 3 wks. there with another family. One of the husbands would just park himself at a cafe & say "come get me". The process totally stressed him.
We enjoyed not having to be somewhere just because we had reserved a room. We stayed in everything from Paradors to rooms upstairs in family homes. Each experience was wonderful. If you splurge on a couple of Paradors, you must have reservations.
Make sure you check the calendar for festivals. Stopped in Burgos because we read about their great festival in July--it was great fun but we literally got the last room in town & only because we had another hotel call ahead. It's also important to have rooms for the beginning 'cause you're tired, & at the end when you have to catch a plane.
The popularity of Rick's hotel picks means they're often full. 2 wks.
ago we stayed at the Hostal Toldano in Barcelona. We made reservations
via e-mail & fax 2 months ahead. At the last minute our adult son wanted
to join us. We had to squish 3 of us in a small double because they were
full up, & this was shoulder season. (P.S. The hotel owners were great,
very helpful, lots of street noise, but great location). This year we
went to Sevilla during Feria & rooms are double or triple the price &
gone 6 months in advance. (P.S. We enjoyed the fair, but didn't think
it was worth the inflated cost of lodging, Sevilla is great just by itself.)
Issaquah, WA USA 05/02/99
We travelled Italy on a day to day basis. Book ahead for weekends for
any city or town. But otherwise we had no problem calling the day before
for small towns and most cities. EXCEPT VENICE--call way ahead.
Seattle, WA USA 05/02/99
Can you sleep all night on a train station bench? If you can do this and be OK about it then forget about thinking ahead. Traveling alone in France, I spent the night in Pontorson, the closest town to Mont-Saint-Michel, sleeping outdoors on the bench because I didn't call ahead (small-town train stations often close for the night). Had I used the tourist information office I would have learned that this was the time of a fete - a religious French holiday. The Mont is a religious site and every hotel room was booked for the celebration. By the time I learned of the situation, there were no more outbound trains until the morning.
Fortunately, I had the company of two Japanese students who found themselves in the same situation. Traveling footloose and without an itinerary, I was somewhat prepared for an occasional glitch. But I made a note to myself that if I ever take anyone with me in my travels I'm definitely going to call ahead, especially to the small towns that have limited rail service.
The lesson for me was that I can never know what is going on in some
of these out-of-the-way places unless I do some sort of checking ahead.
Anyway, by noon the next day, there were plenty of rooms available and
I'll never forget rounding the corner in the bus and seeing my first glimpse
of the Mont.
Costa Mesa, CA USA 05/02/99
Last year my husband and I went to Great Britian for a month and took
Rick's advice to do it on our own. We left the states with only one reservation--for
our car. The ONLY other reservation we made was at the hotel we wanted
to stay in when we got to London. When we landed at Heathrow we had no
idea where we would lay our heads that night. I now advise anyone going
to Great Britian for the first time to travel like we did. We stayed in
the neatest places recommended by locals. Not one time did we ever have
trouble finding a room at a decent price. Not only did we get to meet
and know the people of Great Britian, but had the fun of discovery too.
Rick's way is the ONLY way to really get to know the people of other countries.
Chattanooga, Tn USA 04/30/99
Unless you are in the countryside, I would make reservations. Although the Fall has fewer tourists, the conventions are in full bloom. One year we had difficulty in France, Italy and Germany because of the conventions and the Oktoberfest.
We began planning for fall '99 in February. Already the hotel we wanted in Venice was booked (a Rick recommendation). In Budapest, they were not sure they could confirm our third night, and although we were confirmed in Vienna, they asked us to keep them informed if our plans changed since September was popular.
A lot depends on how particular you are. Since we try to keep it under
$100 for a double, this means between our preferences for location, price
and facilities, we need to make reservations--and make them early.
Farmington Hills, MI USA 04/26/99
My husband and I travel by bike. We stop in a village and find the tourist
bureau and ask about rooms in family homes (Zimmer, Chambre d'hote, etc.).
Since we never travel between July 15 and August 31, we never have a problem
finding lodging. Sometimes the rooms are in the country, but never very
far and we have the bikes to get there. The advantage of this is we can
keep our cost down to less than $60 per day per person (exclusive of any
necessary train travel). When we go to a city of any size, we phone ahead
for reservations to avoid unnecessary riding around in traffic.
Portland, OR USA 04/16/99
We traveled with Rick's Great Britain guidebook six years ago and never
reserved anything but always found places to stay. In March of this year
we began planning a spur-of-the-moment Easter trip to Paris. We knew we
would need six nights in one hotel, so we thought we'd better reserve
ahead, especially since we'd be traveling with our 14-month-old. Thank
goodness we did. It was nearly impossible to find a place to stay, even
almost a month ahead, and the first night we were in a terrible place
(Hotel l'Unesco), but at least it wasn't a park bench. On April 3, we
saw people sitting in lobbies hoping for a cancellation. Desk clerks told
us Paris begins to be jammed at Easter, and it continues through September.
I'd say "to reserve" in Paris.
San Jose, CA USA 04/12/99
My husband and I spent five weeks in France and Italy using Rick's itineraries
and advice. We had reservations where we flew in and out of, and Florence
and Venice. We called ahead for reservations one to two days in advance,
using Rick's phrase books if they didn't speak English. We had a fabulous
trip and didn't have reservation problems with two notable exceptions.
We got skunked in Cinque Terre and Siena, even after trying all ETBD and
Lonely Planet recommendations. We stayed in Santa Margherita Ligure (Rick's
advice), which is a short train ride from the Cinque Terre. We stayed
at the Hotel Nuova Riviera, where the owner led us to the hotel from the
train station when we were having trouble finding it. Great guy, great
place. It was easy getting to the Cinque Terre by train, and Santa Margherita
Ligure was a wonderful town. We stayed in Orvieto instead of Siena, in
the ugly, modern section. Very forgettable except for one excellent dinner.
I really regret not staying in these two great places, but all of Rick's
other advice was right on the money.
Silverdale, WA USA 04/10/99
On our East European vacation we never made a reservation and we always managed to find a room. If one travels during the off season, there are many rooms available in Prague [Praha], but reservations even for Youth Hostels are recommended for Vienna.
When my wife and I arrived at Prague's Holesovice Rail Station, we beat
off the hustlers with a firm "no thanks" and went to the accommodation
agencies, but none could help us with a Youth Hostel. We then went to
the AVE travel agency, which found us a double for CK 615, about US$17-18.
(Hotel Apollo, Kubisova 23, District 8. Directions: Take bus 102, 144,
or 175 from Holesovice Station to KE Stirce bus stop on Nad Sutkov, get
off and walk back to the intersection of Nad Sutkov and Trojska St., cross
both streets, to your left is a police station, walk down a short street
called U Vlachovky which leads you to Kubisova. Big breakfast included.)
Bill & Kate Freeman
San Diego, Ca USA 04/09/99
Get reservations for London if going over the Christmas holidays. It
is packed with Americans. The week after Easter is usually Spring Break
in Germany and Italy so Italy is crowded--get reservations. Or better
yet, go the next week. We did in 1997 and walked right into the Uffizi
and Accademia in Florence. We sometimes traveled with 2 or 3 families
and so needed reservations anywhere. But we also had fun on some trips
looking for places. But when running late one day we were very glad we
had a reservation in Venice. We called to let them know we were very late,
walked in at 1 AM, and they were ready for us and very friendly and quick.
We just handed them our passports and were asleep within 20 minutes. So
I guess reservations give you freedom to be late, but not the freedom
to not show up.
Ft. Campbell, KY USA 03/25/99
We know we'll probably have to make reservations when we travel with future kids, but for now, we happily go without and have never had a problem. In July '98, we spent 2 1/2 weeks in England/Ireland. The only reservation we ever made was in London. We enjoy the flexibility of moving around on a whim. We tend to change our itinerary on the fly, especially after talking to the locals. We always found great B&Bs and met the best people simply by driving around and picking out places by the way they looked. We stayed in a lot of small towns though, because we were traveling by car. And we frequently had to share a bathroom, but we didn't really care.
I would recommend reservations in the bigger cities, especially Dublin.
It's chaos there right now--very popular. It was so crowded last summer
you couldn't even walk down the sidewalks. We got fed up with the crowds
and ended up staying near the ferry at Dun Laoghaire where the sweetest
woman invited my husband into their private living area so he could watch
the Tour de France on EuroSport!
Lewis Center, OH USA 03/24/99
Admittedly limited to Scotland, my experience is that you can add flexibility
by relying on Tourist Information Centers (TICs), found in every locale.
Give them your specs and you get what you ask for, no problem. This is
essentially fee-free. Instead of being tied to a preconceived notion or
spending too much valuable time checking out "places", just deterimine
your basic itenerary, and when you arrive, check in with the the TIC.
You'll have the accommodations you ask for arranged instantaneously and
then can spend your time enjoying where you are.
columbus, oh USA 03/20/99
My wife and I followed Rick's UK tour route by car in 1998. I made every
B&B and hotel reservation with e-mail before leaving the USA. I found
the locations on the internet then used e-mail to inquire about availability
and make reservations. It works great.
Moraga, CA USA 03/20/99
We went Greek Island-hopping in the fall of 1996 and did not reserve ahead of time, and only had one problem at the end of our trip in Athens. It was election day in Greece and Athens was overrun with people and there were no rooms to be found anywhere. We did find a room eventually but after much stressful looking.
It was wonderful on the islands however. Many hotel owners greet the passengers as they arrive at the ferry terminal and you can inspect their rooms before committing. We found many wonderful spots that we otherwise would not have come across.
I would recommend reservations in large cities and if you are travelling
during the prime tourist season. Otherwise just wing it and have fun.
Toronto, Ontario Canada 03/17/99
I traveled in Scandinavia from in June & never made a reservation. We
tried to stay in hostels, but a few times we had no choice but to find
hotels. I had a couple anxious nights when I thought we were going to
have to sleep in the car, but we always managed to find something. We
always started by looking in Rick Steves' guidebook for private homes,
then hostels, then hotels because we were trying to keep costs down. Look
for hytts, rums, vandrahjems. I should have started looking earlier in
the day most of the time. Some of the Hostels close their ofcs at 6, so
you need to have the reservation before then, even if you arrive later.
It's not nearly as easy to find places as it is in the states.
tallahassee, fl USA 03/10/99
After a month trip and planning another one for this summer--make reservations!
It is well worth it to know that you have a place to stay when you get
off the train in a foreign city. Booking through Hosteling International
lets you prepay and not worry about your budget as much.
Urbana, IL USA 03/09/99
My boyfriend and I travelled in Italy last August. We mostly used Rick's
recommendations for places to stay. We called one day ahead for most of
the hotels and had no problems at all finding rooms, although once we
had to take a room without a toilet and shower in Venice but that was
a small price to pay--we decided that a day ahead was the way to go if
you wanted to maintain a fairly flexible itinerary.
Ashland , OR USA 03/07/99
We've done it both ways, but now I always reserve. Guess I'm getting too old for serendipity.
I actually enjoy the time I spend researching all the guidebooks and deciding how long to spend where and where to stay. That way I start enjoying my trip before we even leave. And sometimes a neat hotel listing has encouraged us to go somewhere we might not have gone. The Kranenturm Hotel in Bacharach, Germany, comes to mind.
It's so easy to fax now, and many hotels even have websites or e-mail
addresses, so we always reserve in advance. However, we never hesitate
to change our plans if something else looks good, but we always call and
cancel the first reservation.
My wife and I spent two and a half weeks in Europe with only two places
reserved. One was the first night we arrived and the other was at Walter's
(in Gimmelwald, Switzerland). His hotel is always packed with Rick's readers
and is small so it was a must to reserve a room. We did travel in Sept.
so I think it might have been easier because of the time of the year but
we never had a problem finding a place to stay whenever we needed to.
Los Gatos, Ca USA 02/14/99
When I was 18 years old, sleeping on sidewalks, soccer fields and in Churches
didn't faze me. Now, travelling with my wife and 10 year old son, we felt
it best to get reservations from start to finish on our last trip, which
was of 6 weeks duration. I was a bit leary of travelling this way as it
meant we were on a tight schedule, however the relief and lack of stress
of simply taking a tram or bus or whatever from the train station to our
pre booked room was worth it. We use Rick Steves, Frommer and Lonely Planet
and if 2 out of the 3 books mention a place, we write, fax or e-mail for
information and take it from there. In our last trip , we stayed in fabulous
rooms, hotels and B & B's, with an average daily room expense of $95.00
CDN for the 3 of us. This included splurges in Venice and Bath. So, for
those of you who are thinking reservations will cramp your style, think
again. It is the only way we will travel now. I would be happy to give
details and information of places we stayed with reservarions in London,
Haarlem, Copenhagen, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Venice, Rome, Siena, Paris
Victoria, BC CAN 02/08/99
I definitely try to make reservations when traveling. Last year my husband, his elderly parents and my brother-in-law took a 2 week vacation to Germany/Austria/Switzerland. We do not speak German and it was our first trip to Europe. I found it most helpful to have reservations as we needed three reasonably priced rooms in each place we stayed. The (all too many) times we had to find a place to sleep involved a hassle and time out from having fun. And we ended up staying in some of the worst places because we got tired of looking.
I think if it were just my husband and I traveling, we would only reserve
first and last nights. But with such a large group, I want reservations,
and I plan to have (most) of them when we return to Germany and Switzerland
New Orleans, LA USA 02/04/99
I agree with others who make their first stop (arrival) reservations
before they go. I'll also reserve my last night(s) before departure if
in a big city. One additional note: Look for big events happening in the
areas where you will be travelling. A big film or music festival could
have filled up the rooms in your destination area. You're likely to be
able to find a place anyway but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. If you
don't like these kinds of surprises, you can choose to book ahead.
Berkeley, CA USA 01/31/99
We made reservations for our first and last nights before we left the
US. Then we just called 1 or 2 days ahead for the rest of our 5 week trip.
At times we were a little stressed to find something, but we always did.
Plus this way gave us lots of flexibility.
Frank and Amanda
Minneapolis, MN USA 01/19/99
My wife and I found rooms in Italy at establishments listed in Rick's
Italy guidebook 100% of the time. In Florence we walked in (no reservations)
and had a beutiful room in a 500 year old building including frescoes
on our walls and ceiling. It was a little touch-and-go in Rome with only
one night reserved, but our kind host at the hotel promptly found additional
accomodations for us. In Venice, our fist choice hotel was full, but to
accomodate us they moved Grandma out of her apartment and let us have
the apartment for only L10,000 ($6) more than a Db!! If you can be flexible,
you will have no problems.
Mike & Kim Hardin
Placerville, CA USA 01/10/99
I relied on the TIs with no problem except in (of all places) Wurzburg
when I arrived at 9:00 p.m. Biggest victory was booking a room in Venice
on opening day of the '95 Biennale. Phone reservations were impossible.
I arrived early in the morning. Long lines and the room was expensive
($65!) but I was in town. By 2:00 the TI posted a sign: Venice is Full
One tip for finding a hotel in Venice: My husband and I arrived one
April at the Venice train station witout a hotel reservation. We walked
up to the 'hotel reservation assistance desk', gave the clerk our price
range, and were at our nice, clean, inexpensive hotel just around the
corner from St. Mark's in no time. Judging from other comments about Venice,
maybe we were just lucky, but it's worth a try. (Locanda-Albergo Piave,
Ruga Giuffa 4838/40, 30122 Venezia, Tel. 041-52.85.174. We paid $60.00/night.)
State College, PA USA 01/07/99
With the proviso that I'm talking about traveling off-season or during
the shoulder season, hotel reservations are worse than unnecessary - they're
just plain counterproductive. My best experiences in Europe weren't on
the agenda, in places I didn't know existed until I was in them. Once,
on the train from Paris to Barcelona, I looked out the window and saw
that we were making a (very brief) stop in this amazing town, vineyards
on terraced hills surrounding a small town with a harbor. I grabbed my
backpack and dived out the door, just as the train started to pull out.
If there's one thing I would say about traveling in Europe, it would be:
Never even hesitate for a fraction of a second to blow off your plans
if something else drifts by that smells like opportunity. There are agendas,
and there are cool experiences; if you miss the last week of your agenda,
well, you'll just have to go back next year. Too bad, huh?
Santa Monica, Ca. USA 01/06/99