Finding decent budget accommodations in metropolises with space constraints like New York or Paris can be one of the biggest challenges of traveling on a limited budget. Here’s what we look for:
1. Cleanliness (in the ways that matter to us)
We know we can put up with a lot if the hotel is spic and span, and also that we’ll never feel comfortable if it is not. Read review sites carefully and stay away from places that have consistent complaints about bugs or cleaning. But read with a discerning eye. Some reviewers will give the worst ratings for cleanliness, but then their only complaint in the accompanying review was that the towels weren’t changed every day. As long as we have clean towels and linens to start with, it doesn’t make that much difference to us whether housekeeping makes up our room each day. (It actually feels more efficient not to. After all, no one cleans up after us at home.)
A building and/or furniture showing a bit of age won’t disturb us too much, as long as the bed linens and bathroom are clean and the room is well-vacuumed prior to our arrival.
2. Location with good metro-access
You don’t need to be in the heart of the city if your hotel is steps away from public transportation. Being a little bit out from the main hotel areas also gives you the opportunity to explore the less touristy parts of the city. Sure, a view can be nice, but you’re likely to spend most of the time in your room after dark with your eyes closed. As long as we can get to all the places we want to see and don’t have to walk more than 3 blocks to the nearest Metro stop, we actually prefer to be a bit outside the city center. (Editor’s note: Make sure the city you use this strategy for is known for its good public transportation, a la New York or Paris.)
3. Price, including freebies and extras
So, from here you take all the places with excellent cleanliness and good transportation access and choose the cheapest one. Just make sure you are comparing apples to apples. For example, my husband prefers a room with an en suite bathroom. That eliminates many of the least expensive options (but he’s worth it). Some room rates come with breakfast, which can be a good value, or hotels may have an additional breakfast charge that you’ll have to weigh. In Scandinavia, we find the hotel breakfasts to be hearty enough to get us to dinner time and worth adding to our room charge at any cost. Our favorite hotel in Paris offers an optional breakfast for 7 or 8 euros per person, but there is a crepe stand right out the front door that will feed us a more delicious breakfast for half the cost.