We're back from Vegas, resuming a slower paced, blur-free life. Here it is, the end of January, and we're feeling way behind in our efforts to get travel mapped out for 2012. We're just starting to make progress brainstorming the outline of possible itineraries. One thing looks fairly certain. No Europe.
For a lot of years now, we've resisted traveling to Europe.
Why? Well, try this experiment for the answer... Click over to your favorite hotel booking search engine. Pop in, say, Rome along with some randomly selected dates. Click the "submit" button. Wait for the results while enjoying this picture of the Coliseum in Rome:
Now that you've seen your search results, picked yourself up off the ground, rubbed your eyes and confirmed that the high prices are in fact true, you know why we've – for the most part – chosen to head to other destinations. We love it over there, but our US dollar does not do too well against the Euro. In general, it's not a great travel investment when you consider what you can do/see in other parts of the world for the same amount of money.
But the truth is, I only said resisted Europe. We've actually been to that part of the world a few times in the last several years. While planning something budget-friendly nearly kills us every time we go, we consistently manage to stretch our dollars as far as possible. You can enjoy a budget trip Europe. Of course, staying in hostels and visiting out-of-the-way places is a smart idea. But what if you want to visit the biggies – (London, Paris, Rome, etc.), and a hostel, room, apartment isn't in the cards for you?
Our biggest deal-finding coup during our recent travels through Europe came in Rome. Because we were piecing things together last minute and our dates were unsure, we had an especially challenging time finding something suitable in the Eternal City, where prices for a decent hotel (and oftentimes awful ones, too) are typically sky high.
We knew our search was over when, after a lot of of hard work, we found a room at Hotel Capitolium for only $76.
Yes, it's true – $76 a night. Is it a full-on "luxury" accommodation? No. But it turned out to be a remarkable find of solid quality. It's a tiny hotel (7 rooms, I think) and it's actually part of an apartment building. Constructing mini-hotels within apartment buildings is becoming common in Rome, we learned. It had its glitches but, all told, worked very well for us.
Discoveries like this often fall below the radar because they aren't large properties and they aren't amenity rich (which captures attention and star ratings). Think about it though. It's Rome. You don't need stuff to do in the hotel. Extra bells and whistles are superfluous. You simply need the basics – done well.
The base rate included free wi-fi and breakfast – both mesh nicely with our typical day and keep us from getting add-on-fee induced headaches. Have a look at this uncharacteristic-for-Rome courtyard view that we had. No street noise and sleepless nights for us.
So, if you're heading to Rome, we've done the work for you. Book this place. If you're heading elsewhere in Europe, check into apartments or give Priceline's Name Your Own Price a shot (we rarely have a bad experience). Before making any decision, though, do plenty of research. Any smart traveler does loads and loads of it.
Do not settle for high, valueless hotel prices. Similarly, don't settle for budget prices that leave you scared to crawl into the bed.
Three cheers for budget luxury. Well, almost luxury.