If you’ve decided on a more independent holiday in Europe, either driving yourself or travelling by train, rather than a fully escorted coach tour, you’ll need to make your accommodation arrangements. Whilst some travellers prefer to take the less organised approach, I would always recommend pre-booking as much of your accommodation before you go as possible. This not only means you will have a confirmed bed for the night but it can also save time and money.
If you’ve pre-paid for your accommodation, you won’t be in for any rude shocks due to currency fluctuations or accommodation in your price range being unavailable. After all, if you've allowed a couple of hundred dollars per night for accommodation, having to pay double that due to a festival or major event being held in the town, could really put a strain on your finances.
So, what style of accommodation is best? Well it all depends on your budget and your own personal preference, of course, but below is a brief summary of the different accommodation types available.
Camping and on-site cabins and mobile homes
Camping is not the style of accommodation that many Aussies would consider as ‘normal’ for a European holiday, however camping is extremely popular in Europe and the facilities available are excellent. If you’re prepared to take a tent and camping equipment with you, or purchase them on arrival in Europe, there are a vast number of camping grounds to choose from.
Alternatively, you can go for the ‘luxury’ camping option with a company that specialises in this style of holiday. These companies set up their mobile homes (on-site vans/cabins) at various holiday parks throughout Europe. Mobile homes are fully self-contained, including shower and toilet, and all you have to bring is your food and bedding. With more than 150 parks in 13 European countries, there are plenty of locations to choose from.
Self-catering apartments, gîtes (the French word for a self-catering cottage or house), cottages and villas are another great accommodation option in Europe. Many rural gîtes, cottages and villas are centuries old and have been lovingly restored to offer guests a typical experience of life in a European village. Lots of Italian villas (and some cottages and gîtes in other countries, particularly southern France) have private swimming pools.
Apartments are usually city-based but many don’t offer car parking, so they are more suitable for train travellers. Cottages, gîtes and villas are generally located in rural towns or villages (or just outside), so a car is necessary to get around.
Renting a cottage, gîte, villa or apartment for a week or two is a fantastic way to really live like a local. In rural villages, chances are you’ll see the same locals at the bakery each morning, or at the market buying their daily supplies, and by the end of your stay you’ll be greeted with a friendly wave and a smile and maybe even an attempt at conversation.
Hiring a motorhome gives you the flexibility to travel where you want, when you want and saves you the need to find accommodation everywhere you go. With your ‘home’ on wheels, you can stop wherever you please. ‘Free camping’ is legal and common at roadside stops in some countries but Europe is also home to thousands of excellent camping grounds that welcome motorhomes.
The advantages of renting a motorhome include the ability to cook your own meals and not having to pack and unpack each time you move to a new location. Some of the disadvantages are the confined space that everyone has to share and the need to drive a large, sometimes cumbersome, vehicle through narrow streets that date back to Medieval times, and around twisty mountain passes. Depending on where you plan to travel in Europe, and the duration of your trip, you might find a motorhome is the perfect means of transport and accommodation for you.
There are hotels to suit every budget everywhere you look in Europe. You’ll be familiar with many of the hotel chains we see in Australia including Hilton, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis, but there are also a huge number of privately owned and operated hotels. Many hotels in Europe offer rates including breakfast, and ‘half-board’ (dinner and breakfast), and these can be good value. Newer hotels tend to provide tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge in their rooms but some older style hotels do not, so if you like the option to make a cuppa in your room, check in advance as to what facilities are available.
Most hotels in the UK and Europe will only accommodate a maximum of three people per room so if you are travelling with two or more children, more often than not, you’ll need to book two hotel rooms. Always check if family rooms are available, but don’t assume they will be.
Hostels have typically attracted the backpacking traveller who’s prepared to share a dormitory and communal kitchen and bathroom facilities but these days many hostels are attracting a much broader clientele. Introducing twin and double rooms, as well as family rooms in some cases, means that you don’t need to share a room with multiple strangers if you choose to stay in a hostel. Generally speaking, hostels have fairly basic rooms and shared facilities which means lower nightly rates.
Bed and Breakfasts
Bed and Breakfasts are commonly associated with England and there are literally thousands of B&B’s in the UK alone. A B&B is basically an inn, country hotel or private home that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast for an inclusive price. The French version of a B&B is known as a Chambres d’Hote and in German speaking countries you'll hear them referred to as Pensions. B&B’s are a great way to meet the locals as your hosts live on-site.
For a completely different and unique place to stay, why not consider a monastery stay? Many monasteries and convents rent out rooms to overnight guests. Accommodation is normally quite basic but many rooms have private bathrooms and rates often include breakfast. If you are prepared to adhere to nightly curfews (monasteries are often locked up for the night around 10pm), a monastery could be a cost-effective accommodation option. Monastery stays are available in many European countries including Italy, Austria and Switzerland.
If you’d like to get close to nature and experience genuine, old-fashioned hospitality, you might consider choosing a farm stay for your holiday accommodation. Farm stay accommodation is part of a real working farm and you’ll be encouraged to be part of the family for your stay. Many of the registered farms are home to young families so if you are travelling with kids, your children will have the chance to meet and play with other children. Many countries in Europe offer farm stays - Austria alone has over 3,400 registered members of “Farm Holidays”.
So, there you have it. There are so many accommodation options to choose from, there is definitely something to suit every budget. Browse the Holidays to Europe accommodation directory for a range of (mainly) Australian-owned accommodation in Europe.
And speaking of budgets, check out my blog on tips for budgeting for your European holiday so you can make your trip to Europe a reality.
You can read more planning and packing tips for your European holiday here >>
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Should you choose to make a booking via any of the above links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.