Learn more about accommodation in the following countries.
Accommodation in North America is notoriously expensive, particularly in the more touristy areas where resorts and high end hotels are the norm. Once you're outside of the cities and beach communities, you can find some budget hotel choices, but most of these places are along the side of the interstate and are little more than a stop off point during a road trip. Near airports there are usually several hotel options as well. These can range from more expensive hotels that are targeted at business travelers to more affordable options for those people who just want somewhere cheap to sleep.
Throughout the region, particularly in the United States, most of the hotel industry is dominated by chain hotels such as the Marriott, the Sheraton, or low cost options like the Super 8. Chain hotels can be luxurious and high end, or they can be much more budget oriented. During road trips, when you pull over on the interstate, you're likely to stay in a chain hotel, as these are the most common immediately of the exit ramp.
In major cities, and some popular small towns, it's much easier to find locally owned, personalized hotels. These places usually have a little more charm, but they also tend to be a little more expensive.
Suggestions to Stay on Budget
Traveling in North America, particularly in the United States and Canada, can be quite expensive. Cities in particular have some of the most expensive hotel options and very few low cost choices. In Mexico, you'll find plenty of high end resorts lining the coastal areas, but there are a handful of reasonably priced places if you move a little away from the beach.
In the United States and Canada, locally owned hotels are often times more expensive than chain hotels. They offer more charm and character, but you'll likely pay a little more for them, while chain hotels are more prone to having special deals and discounts. The opposite is true in Mexico. You will likely get more bang for your buck if you stay at a local hotel in Mexico. The value is usually better, and the price is lower when compared to a chain hotel of equal quality.
In both the United States and Canada, if you're stopping along the interstate on a road trip, you can find very reasonable priced motels without any advanced reservations. In most other situations, you will likely get the best deal if you book well in advance. In larger cities or popular resort areas the prices usually creep up as the date approaches. The one exception to this is the very late, last minute deals that some hotels offer. Only rely on these if your trip is flexible.
North America is a great place to consider doing some couchsurfing if you're on a really tight budget. Accommodation can be an expensive part of any trip, so staying at a reduced price, or for free, can really help you cut down on costs. Also, with the limited number of hostels in most areas, couchsurfing offers a unique way to bring down the price of your trip. It can also make for a more interesting trip if you have someone who is familiar with the city and is willing to show you around and give you some insider's secrets and suggestions.
If you're going to be traveling a lot and would prefer staying at one brand of chain hotels, consider joining a rewards program. These sometimes offer great deals and discounts and as an reward member you'll usually be offered one of the better rooms. Do some research before you commit so you're getting the best deal for your travel style.
Also consider whether you travel during the week or on weekends. On road trips, most roadside motels increase their prices on Friday and Saturday nights. If you can schedule your trip during the week then you will save yourself some money. In some cities, where business travel is common, the opposite is true. Play around with dates and see when you will get the best deal for your money.
Types of Accommodation
In major cities throughout the region, you can find most kinds of accommodation, anything from guesthouses to hotels or bed and breakfasts. Unlike in Europe, where hostels are found in most cities and towns, both the United States and Canada have a shortage of these facilities. In the United States in particular, you will only find hostels in the largest cities that attract the most international travelers. New York and San Francisco probably have the largest selection of hostels.
A major tourist draw to North America is the impressive national park systems. To truly experience this, consider camping. You do have to provide your own tent and cooking equipment, but campsites usually come equipped with electricity and water. The campgrounds usually have bathrooms and hot showers as well. This can be a fun way to save some money and truly experience the natural landscape.
If you don't want to camp, but still want to visit the national parks, you'll usually have a nice selection of hotels near the park entrance. Another, more preferred option is to stay at a lodge within the park itself. The lodges are usually centrally located near the ranger stations. They may also have attached restaurants. Some lodges are quite luxurious, and equally as expensive, while others are more standard in quality and moderately priced. You will almost always pay a little more to stay within the park than you would to stay outside of it, so it is best to consider your prioritize.
Bed and breakfasts are most popular with couples who are looking for a romantic getaway. Most bed and breakfasts are located in an old, historical house that has been nicely furnished with period appropriate furniture. Most bed and breakfasts are locally owned and managed, and the breakfast is prepared by either the owners or an in-house chef. You'll usually find bed and breakfasts at either the beach or the mountains where the settings are beautiful and charming. If you're looking for a romantic escape then this is a popular option.
Choosing a Season
Traveling at the right time of year will save you a lot of money on accommodation. Consider where you're traveling regionally, and then strategically peak a time when hotels are likely to be in low demand. If you're going to Las Vegas, you want to avoid the major conference times during the fall and spring. Many hotels hike up their prices and fill their rooms with conference attendees. In Florida, it is best to avoid college spring break periods when the hotels fill up with a rowdy crowd of students. The holidays in New York can be very crowded, as many visitors head to the city so they can to visit Rockefeller Center. The northeast in general is a popular destination during the fall months when the leaves are changing. You can expect prices to be at their peak during these times. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, particularly during the Fourth of July weekend, it is best to avoid travel to either the beach or the mountains, as these are the peak periods. If at all possible, head to these destinations during the fall and spring months when students are still in school. Not only will it save you money, but it will also make for a more enjoyable holiday as the weather won't be as hot and the crowds will be much less. The same is true for most of the national parks throughout the area.
In Canada, most people avoid visiting during the winter months because the weather is uncomfortably cold. The exception to this is the ski areas where peak season is during the winter months. If you do decide to visit Canada during this time, you'll find the cities are actually quite beautiful when they are covered in ice and snow. It offers a unique time to visit the area when crowds are at a minimum and the holiday spirit is high. Summer is probably the most popular, and therefore, expensive time to visit the country. This is also the time when the weather is at its best.
In Mexico, hurricane season, during the fall months, is probably the cheapest time to visit the coastal areas. Even so, unless you have good travel insurance or make your reservations at the last minute, it is a gamble to plan your trip during these months. Hotel prices are low, but you run the risk of your entire trip being canceled. Spring break times are also best avoided, particularly in the Cancun and Cozumel areas. If you get outside of these cities you may find a hotel that does not cater to students and remains a good option, but unless you want to join the parties, the cities themselves are best avoided as they can be quite crowded and surprisingly expensive. Spring break for some schools starts as early as the beginning of March, so do take this into consideration.