How I Book Hotels

There is definitely a strategy to booking hotels and lodging when traveling abroad, specifically in Europe. I am sure that there are tons of tips and tricks, but this is what I do and it has seemed to work out really well. I have only travelled in groups of two and three, once with my sisters and twice with my fiancé. Typically, I prefer to stay in hotels, just for ease, but I have also used Airbnb and enjoyed my experience.

Before using any cite I always look into the best places in the city to stay. Whether that is in the city center or on the outskirts in a more residential area. Then, whichever site I use to book, I check the specific hotel to ensure that it is near a transit stop if this is something that is needed in the city. Having an entrance to metro right outside of your hotel is invaluable as it provides easy access to anywhere you want to go. I think it is important to read reviews on location, and the sites I use offer this.

I always begin with Booking.com. I find it easy to use and I like the available features. I search for the city with my tentative dates and number of guests. Once this populates I use filters to narrow down exactly what I want in terms of location, price, property, and review score. I always select options with free cancellation – this is the true beauty of booking.com. Because of this, I am able to book a residence that looks good while continuing to search. If something better pops up I can cancel my original reservation. I cannot count how many times I have done this. It is nice to have something booked ahead of time but I always want to have the option to change my mind if our dates change, or if a gem appears. Speaking of gems, I can say when it comes to hotels I am definitely not a hostel girl. I want my own room and my own bathroom, which is surprisingly a luxury in many places. The majority of places I have stayed in Europe have been above a review score of an 8 (very good) and under $100! Lodging has proven to be an easy way to save some money while staying somewhere nice.

While filtering on booking.com, I always cross reference with Trip Advisor as they have the most comprehensive reviews I have seen. With this I choose the city and dates as well, then I sort by “traveler ranked.” This will tell me the best hotels according to customer reviews. Trip Advisor is one of the most used sites for hotel reviews which creates a large base to pull information from. I like to check the top ten to see if any have great deals and if so I typically end up booking that. Trip Advisor also compares the rates from several hotel booking sites making it easy to see see where the best deal is. So far I have found Booking.com to be the cheapest or a competitively priced with other sites. Even if it is slightly more expensive I like to have everything in one place so I go with Booking.com over any other.

Booking hotels is actually one of my favorite parts of planning a trip; I find it so exciting to find a really nice hotel for a great place. I have been shocked at how amazing the places I have stayed are for under $100! My trips have been off season (fall and winter) so I don’t think prices are as high (except New Years, which has always needed a bigger budget). If I am going to a smaller city, or if the prices are not right, I will check Airbnb as well to see the available offerings– this is also useful with a larger party.

If anyone needs any help booking hotels let me know – I love it!

What I Did in Stockholm

Stockholm is a city on the water. At least, that’s how the Swedish describe it. Before I went I never would have thought that, but the islands that make up the city of Stockholm paint that picture so beautifully. For my fiancé (Hank) and I, it was a city of convenience that, in time, became so much more. In 2015 we flew to Sweden because it was the cheapest direct flight from Las Vegas; it was our gateway to Europe. We touched down on Sunday, December 27th with the invigorating and indescribable feeling one gets when setting foot in a new land for the first time. We chose Stockholm for the price tag and considered it a place to shake our jetlag before we started our first European journey. As I described in another post, Stockholm has become so much more. On my last journey to Europe we capped our trip here, partially due to the cheap flight, but also because we knew Stockholm was a place we wanted to see again.

Lodging

For both trips we stayed at Motel L, which is a bit off the beaten path. It’s located just outside the city center, but a transit stop right out front makes it an incredibly convenient place to stay. The price was great, which was what got us to initially book. We ended up loving the location because it is slightly suburban and gave us that “living there” feel, while at the same time serving our convenience needs. I would definitely recommend Motel L if you are willing to take transit, which requires only one line change.

not a bad view when you skip transit & walk back to the hotel

Food

The food in Stockholm is often very good, but can be very expensive. Being pricey is pretty much the norm when you travel to the Nordics. Despite this, every meal we ate was hearty and delicious. As mentioned in my last post, breakfast has become my favorite meal when abroad and Stockholm is no exception. There is a term in Swedish called “fika” which is essentially a coffee and pastry break during the day. This is highly regarded and never skipped. As tourists, we were happy to oblige as it provided the perfect break from the cold. For a meal or two each trip we got the quintessential dish of Swedish meatballs. I know there are many recommended places but we stumbled into Ostermalm Saluhall (an open air market of sorts) and settled down for dinner. This is a large dining commons, filled to the brim with food vendors and quickly became somewhere I highly recommend visiting. My true favorite food in Sweden is the candy; man I eat a lot of candy when I am there, bringing enough home to last me for months and months. My favorite candy is called Polly, “a chocolate covered foam drop, distilled with arrack.” I still have some from our last trip!

Things to do

Stockholm is brimming with things to do. Yet, it also has the vibe of a relaxed city. You don’t feel like you are wasting your time if you’re wandering around, even in the dead of winter. This is how we found many of our favorite views, parks, and sites. Wandering through the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan is an absolute must. But, I encourage wandering out of the main city, into some of the side streets and neighboring islands as the beauty and views are seemingly never ending.

Besides wandering (which is always highly encouraged) I had the opportunity to see and visit several sites. On the top of most lists I’ve read is the Vasa Museum, and for good reason. In the museum is a ship that sank in 1628 and was later pulled back up to the surface and preserved within the museum 333 years later. It is truly an impressive site (plus the café is great!). We also went to the castle and the Nordiska museet, which were worth visiting once. While I am not the biggest fan of modern art I thought the Moderna Museet a worthy visit, as the displays change frequently.

inside the Moderna Museet
the incredible Vasa Museum

As someone who loves to shop, Stockholm offers a surprisingly high variety of retail options. There are several streets that are lined with stores spread throughout the city. Any given street in the old town is lined with an incredible array of shops. But, in the island right by our hotel, I discovered another set of more hip shops that made for a fun few hours.

Stockholm has become one of my favorite cities. It is one of those places I think, “I could live here one day,” even if I know it’s not a realistic possibility. Sweden is an incredibly country and if you spend enough time in Stockholm you are able to witness some of the charm that keeps me coming back.