Cheap Travel Trick #5

When it comes to getting the best value for your nightly accommodations, location is key.

I’m often prone to falling into the trap that gets many budget travelers: when choosing sleeping accommodations, I consider only the up-front cost. But there are other costs associated with the place you sleep that you might not have calculated. So I’m here to present you with a paradox: you may be able to save money (and get better value) by choosing accommodations in a convenient location.

If you're looking for the best value, consider paying a little extra accommodations in the middle of the action.

First, I’ll start with the obvious: If you stay close to the action, you’ll save on transportation costs. If you stay on the outskirts of a city, you’ll be paying extra to get where you want to be each day. If you have a car, you’ll need to consider the cost of gas and parking (which can be $30 or more for prime spots in some cities). Of course, if you need to rent a car for all this back-and-forth, you’ll be paying even more. Opting to take public transportation will likely save you some money, but you can still expect to pay extra, and you can also expect the cost to increase the further away you are from the city center.

Now, let’s talk about something that is often overlooked by penny-pinching travelers: value. For the best experience, travelers should take into account less tangible costs, like the time it takes commuting back and forth. If you’re wasting an hour or two in the car or on the train every day, you’re losing precious sightseeing time.

If you’re staying in a city, you’ll probably lose some time each day walking or on public transportation, because not all the places you want to see will be neatly clustered together for your convenience. But riding the metro or walking down the street are much more enjoyable experiences than navigating the morning rush on the highway into town.

When considering value, you should also consider the value of your experience in a more central location. You don’t have to stay on Times Square to get the most out of your stay in New York, but sleeping in any of the city’s unique neighborhoods will give you a more memorable experience than a budget hotel just off the highway. Consider this: you could spend your evening strolling the city streets or listening to live music, or you could be stuck in a car or on the train headed back to your featureless hotel. Do you want to wake up and grab a pastry at the bakery next door, or have another uninspired continental breakfast.

Also consider the convenience of the location. Is it near public transportation? I’ll pay extra for a place that is within a 10-minute walk of a bus stop or metro station. Are you near restaurants or a pharmacy?

Budget travelers should consider a few big questions before choosing accommodations. Is the money you save on a place further away worth the additional time and money you’ll have to invest by commuting each day? And, how can your accommodations enhance your experience?

I wouldn’t spend $300 just to sleep next door to the Eiffel Tower, but I would pay an extra $10 or $20 for a hostel or budget hotel in neighborhood that is quintessentially Parisian and close to the metro. You’ll need to use your discretion and find your own limits – whether you’ll pay a little or a lot extra for these conveniences – but if you haven’t been considering them, you definitely should.

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Author:Meghan Erkkinen

I'm a 26-year-old freelance writer and world traveler. Follow me on Twitter @meghanerkkinen.

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