Procrastinate and find the best places to stay in Europe

Gaia surf house.
With a little planning and flexibility, this, too, can be your front yard. Photo: Airbnb

The good news? As things stand currently, the American dollar is strong and the Euro is not. So it’s the perfect summer to splurge on a trip to Europe. The bad news? If you haven’t nailed down your Euro lodging yet, you’re out of luck at hotels at many hot spots across the pond.

But there’s a silver lining: In many cities and towns, Airbnb and its brethren are still available, even in desirable locales like Rome and Venice, and they’re less expensive and roomier than traditional lodging options, so there’s plenty of space for your outdoor gear.

Procrastinating isn’t always bad.

Start with hotels

Even though you’ve waited and most hotels are booked, call anyway. They'll often recommend another spot.

Read the reviews

Repeat: Read. The. Reviews.

Whether you're going hostel, hotel or owner-operated digs, read the reviews. And tread lightly if there aren't many. One bad review among the bunch, but the place is still speaking to you? "If there’s a bad review, you can ask the owner about it," says Nancy Averett, a journalist who spent a year abroad with her family.

If you're going during peak travel season, plan as far in advance as possible. "I was able to find places in Paris in peak times — July/August and New Year's week — by planning maybe two months ahead," said Averett.

Trust your gut

Ask questions before you book.

See something that doesn't look right in the pictures? Ask. Confused by something in one of the photos? Ask. Even if it’s an odd question, like the size of a particular bed.

"The French have something they consider a double bed, but it’s more like an extra-wide single,” says Averett. "My daughters, middle-school age, had a hard time sleeping in that, as one kept falling out…so it’s good to ask for detail.”

Be specific

Search for the whole apartment/whole house if you don’t want the hostel-esque experience of sharing your digs (and beer) with a bunch of strangers.

Gaia surf house backyard.
The backyard at the Gaia Surfhouse in Porto, Portugal. Photo: Airbnb

Check all the sites

Sites like Airbnb, VRBO, homeaway.com and Flipkey are great sources.

“Sadly, there’s no single good aggregator for all the sites,” says John Rosenthal, a veteran travel writer and contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler.

Don't rule out old-school solutions

"Check with local rental agencies as well. They can give you the lowdown on the area and which neighborhoods are best for visitors," says Rosenthal.

Spontaneity is possible

"Planning things last minute can be done," says Valerie Lewis, a journalist who is currently backpacking through Europe. "With Europe and larger cities, hotels and hostels will fill up on the weekends. You also have to be aware of the European summer festival schedule, as that has been difficult to plan my trip around."

Hostels aren’t always the least expensive route

Even if you're on a budget, check out Airbnb and its competitors Sharing a space is often very inexpensive. And in some instances renting out an entire apartment is less than a hostel.

Check out Flipkey

It sometimes has options not listed on Airbnb. Due diligence is important, though, because they "do not validate identities like its competitor," says Lewis.

Be flexible

If nothing's available on your desired dates, check out what's going on in that locale and be ready to change your itinerary or pay through the nose. Because if there's a special event, finding lodging is akin to snagging a room in Palm Springs during Coachella: difficult and very expensive.

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