Hotel Sacher, Vienna
For international visitors coming to Europe for the first time, the diversity of the countries, their geographies, attractions and accommodation can be dizzying. Even within local geographies, there is likely to be great variations in landscape and features - one minute a bustling ancient city and the next a family-friendly resort or a peaceful stretch of countryside. Not only does this guarantee a hugely absorbing and stimulating visitor experience, it also opens up plenty of opportunities for guest accommodation during a European trip.
The first thing to note about European accommodation, is that much of it can be booked online and prices will fluctuate according to time of year, demand and other factors. Often the advertised rate is the `rack rate` which can be negotiated down - and this is valuable in the more expensive parts of Europe. Use online resources to compare booking prices and speak to a travel agent for a full market search - they may have contacts and routes to better bookings than the average online user and will also be great sources of recommendations and experience. On top of this, haggle.
You may want to base your trip around a certain type of accommodation if you have a strong preference. For example, Bavarian castles are incredible slices of medieval life and some have been restored into sumptuous hotels where guests can stay and get a taste of the past. Golfing is very popular in Europe and the internationally renowned courses in Scotland have a range of top class hotels attached to them, often offering excellent food and spa facilities for non-golfing partners.
For those visiting towns and cities, try looking for chic little boutique hotels with an independent status, as these will offer a more unique feel than some of the larger international brands. Having said that, the quality of the well known hotel chains do make for a reassuringly consistent stay when travelling across locations and additional loyalty benefits may be on offer.
Seek out unusual accommodations too for a fun experience. Camping is very popular in Europe and great for groups or families. Many of the sites have superior facilities and supermarkets, bathrooms and electricity on site. Look for quirky alternatives such as teepees, yurts and gypsy caravans - very popular in the UK. Youth hostels are the classic choice for younger travellers, but also offer good quality budget accommodation for travelling groups and families and private rooms can be booked in many. Look too for barges and boats for something different!
Remember to do your research before booking anything - don`t necessarily look at travel sites either, unless you can be sure of their authenticity and impartiality of reviews. Better to ask around contacts - friends, family and colleagues for example.
Of course, the destination and weather will also influence your hotel accommodation of choice. An ice hotel may be appealing when wrapped in winter furs, for a cold vodka cocktail, but many of us will automatically plump for the luxuries of a private villa with pool in Spain, or an all-inclusive resort where food, entertainment and sports are laid on for a single group price - great for those wishing to make their holiday as stress free as possible and pay up front for the majority of costs.