When traveling in Europe on business or for pleasure, be sure to think outside the box when choosing a place to sleep. In addition to the standard hotels, there are Airbnb options from bare bones to resort-style properties fit for Beyonce.
You can nap in sleeping pods or on cots at many of the major airports, catch up on your zzzz’s at a hostel or in a dorm room. You can even reserve a bunk on many overnight ferries and trains.
Don’t laugh … student housing can be a great option
During a recent trip that had me jumping from Ireland to Wales to England and back to Ireland, I found myself “sleeping” (a term I will use loosely throughout this post) on a ferry, in student housing, at a Hilton, and, for the first time, at a hostel.
When I travel, I usually stay in Airbnbs as I tend to stay in one location for months at a time. However, when my cousin came to visit in June, we had “places to go and things to do” as the saying goes.
I met her at the Dublin Airport and we headed for our first stay at the Destiny Student’s Kavanaugh Court property on Gardiner Street. Within walking distance of downtown, these student residences offer budget accommodations with individual rooms that include private bathrooms and shared common spaces.
The Destiny Student properties have a range of amenities including a full kitchen, game rooms, vending machines, laundry facilities, and friendly employees that staffed the front desk — open 24 hours a day.
Kavanaugh Court is a brand-new, purpose-built facility with 357 rooms.
I was hesitant to stay in student housing, but the price was right and the location couldn’t be beat. I expected it to be more run-down and noisy, but the rooms were spotless and I didn’t have a single complaint. We stayed at the New Mill location later in the week and it was equally well-maintained.
My cousin picked up the tab at Kavanaugh Court, but New Mill was 50.40 euros per night.
Sleeping on the move
To save money on our second night of accommodation, we decided to take the overnight ferry to Wales as we were on our way to London to watch my daughter row in the Henley Women’s Regatta the next day.
The ferry was better than I expected, but we didn’t get much sleep. The ferries from Dublin to Holyhead do have cabins you can reserve for an additional fee, but our plan was to save money on “housing” wherever possible so we could use it for other things like transportation and eating at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants once we got to London.
The ferry was fairly empty, so we had one of the upper decks pretty much to ourselves. We put two cushioned chairs together and curled up for a cat nap. Arriving at Holyhead in the middle of the night, we quickly realized we wouldn’t be getting any more rest until we boarded the train to London four hours later.
We got several hours of fitful sleep as the train rocketed through the countryside.
That night’s lodging was a Day’s Inn near Stansted Airport. It was conveniently located, but I honestly don’t remember much more about it as I was exhausted from a lack of sleep the night before and a full day of walking around downtown London.
After the regatta, we headed back to Stansted and stayed at the hotel attached to the airport as we had an early start the next morning. Again, nothing special to report. Just your standard hotel, though they did have a nice breakfast buffet.
Destiny Student –1, Hilton – 0
My cousin and her husband are loyal HiltonHonors members at Hilton Hotels and she had enough points for a free night at one of their properties, so we used those for her final night in order to be close to the Dublin airport for her flight the next morning.
I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to the experience.
I have been traveling around Europe for almost two full years now, staying in Airbnbs, taking on housesitting assignments, and taking up temporary residence in the guest room at my daughter’s house in Germany whenever I’m able to be in the Schengen Area.
So a night at a Hilton? Luxury! Or so I thought.
We lugged our suitcases up to our room and down the hall. Opened the door to find a spacious room with complimentary bottles of water. So far, so good. Nice bathroom, clean floors, beautifully made beds.
No air conditioning.
Well, it existed. It was just broken.
We asked to be switched to another room and were brought a key. No offer of help with moving our luggage. No apology. Was that too much to expect from a brand that bills itself as a “global leader of hospitality?”
The second room was fine. We slept until our alarms went off for my cousin’s early morning flight back to the States. After dropping her off at the airport, I fully intended to go back and get some more sleep.
I waited for the return shuttle and when it finally showed up, it passed right by me without even slowing down. I called the hotel, explained the situation, and was told that I must not have been standing in the right place at the right time.
I assured the desk clerk that I had been there for 20 minutes prior to the time the shuttle was supposed to pick me up and I was definitely in the right place, standing under the sign for the Hilton when I saw it pass by. I tried to get information about when the next shuttle would arrive and was passed on to the manager by the hotel clerk, who didn’t even bother to cover the mouthpiece as he told his colleague I was being annoying.
Customer service: Destiny Student — 1, Hilton — 0.
It’s possible to get more than you pay for
I had to wait several days before returning to Germany, so I decided to try my luck with a hostel back in the Republic of Ireland.
With the help of Booking.com, I found the Jacobs Inn Hostel, which had a bathroom in each room and privacy curtains around each bunk.
As with the student housing, I expected a young, noisy crowd, especially since it was summer in Dublin and excitement about the World Cup was nearing fever pitch. Instead, I found people from a wide age range. Single travelers, student groups, and families all peacefully coexisted in a well-run establishment with a kitchen, TV room, common area, and rooftop lounge with a great view of Dublin.
The beds were comfortable and built on top of lockable storage bins for each person. The bathrooms were kept as clean as they could be in a dorm-like environment. And everyone was quiet and respectful.
Rates range from 31 euros per night for a spot in a 12-person dorm to 285 pounds for a private room for 10.
For the price, I’d stay there again.
I expected the moral of my story to be “You get what you pay for.” That wasn’t the case at all.
Of all the places I slept that week, I was most disappointed in the Hilton and most pleasantly surprised by our mid-range accommodations at the Destiny Student properties.
Traveling is an adventure and where you stay should be a part of that.
Think of it this way, if you have an average stay in a bland hotel, you won’t have a story to tell!
About the author: Beth Hoke rejoined the expat life after spending her childhood in Europe and the United States, then settling in Chicagoland to raise two daughters.
Now an empty nester, she is roaming Europe, armed with a TEFL certificate and an online position teaching English for EF.
Beth has been traveling around Europe for two years. She’s filed posts for Dispatches Europe from at least six countries including Italy, Germany, Croatia, and Madeira, Portugal.
You can see all her posts here.