We ran into some suprises on our first trip to Europe, especially when it came to booking hotels. Unlike American counterparts, room sizes and amenities in Europe may vary more than you think.
Wel’ll look at the must-know details of European accommodations
- European hotel rooms can be smaller with different bed sizes, like double beds being two twins.
- Not all hotels have air conditioning or elevators, and bathrooms often include bidets.
- Don’t expect in – room appliances like irons and coffee makers; bring adapters for outlets.
What to Expect in European Hotels
#1: Finding rooms for a family of four
The first thing we discovered was finding a hotel room for a family of four in Europe takes some planning.
They’re not nearly as common as in the United States. Many times in the U.S. we just book a room and assume there will be plenty of room. In most of Europe, this strategy won’t work very well.
An Example Search
For this article, we did a search on Booking.com for 2 people in Rome, Italy for 5 nights in July.
We limited the price to $300 per night.
The result: 539 hotel properties were available.
Adjusting that search to 2 adults and 2 children lowered the total down to only 179 hotels. This is 6 months out too. But check out our second point on air conditioning to see how much lower this goes!
One recommendation is to either book through Booking.com, or book a VRBO or Airbnb for longer stays. We recommend Booking.com because the search automaticly adjusts for larger families, including search results for more than one room or family rooms.
#2 Smaller Rooms
Space is often tighter than what you’re used to back home. European hotel rooms often come in smaller sizes compared to what you might be used to in the US. Historic buildings and city layouts lead to less space for hotels.
The rooms are much smaller in big European tourist cities. We once found one of the few last minute rooms for four in Paris that had air conditioning, to find there was only room for one of us to walk around the beds at a time!
#3 Air conditioning
Staying cool in European hotels is a bit different from what you’re used to. Not all places come with air conditioning, especially in older buildings.
You’ll also notice people in Europe don’t use air conditioning as much in general. Everywhere you go, you’ll find restaurants and public buildings with windows open. It seemed like we were the only ones that minded the heat on our first trip!
The air conditioning in the older buildings that do have air conditioning is also not as effecient. Our first stay in Paris was in 2019 as one of the worst heat waves was beginning. The temperature was well over 90 degrees faranheit (30 celcius). And although we found a hotel with air conditioning, it only cooled it off to about 85 farainheit in the room.
Our Search Example
Remember our search example above, where we found 179 hotels in Rome in July suitable for a family of four? If we add in air conditioning to our search, it takes the available hotels down to 160. So a big decrease from the number we started at originally! Book early, we were pretty limited in what was available when we booked last minute for our June trip.
If air conditioning is important look for modern or higher-end hotels. American branded hotels are more likely to have ammenties that cater to U.S. travellers also. These are brands like Hilton, InterContintental, and Marriott.
Otherwise, you might want to pack a small fan!
#4 passport at check in
You’ll need to show your passport at check-in. This is a must-do in European hotels, thanks to EU rules.
Same with VRBOs and Airbnbs, we normally need to send copies of our passports. The first time we had to look it up to make sure we werent getting scammed.
#5 Elevators (Small or None at All!)
Many hotels in Europe are set in historic buildings. These old buildings often don’t have space for large elevators, or elevators at all.
If you find one, it will probably be smaller than what you’re used to back home. We found this sort of creepy looking elevator in Paris, which was big enough to hold two people and one suitcase. We elected to take the stairs!
Check out the one we found on our Italy vacation, below. After staying at two other hotels that didn’t have elevators, we were just happy to see this tiny elevator!
The elevator was installed in the open next to the stairs. It barely fit all our suitcases that were packed for a month long trip, then moved comically slow up four flights of stairs. It was so slow the kids ran up the stairs and back down again before it was halfway up to our room.
But better than carrying the suitcases up four flights of stairs! So consider adding an elevator filter to your search if you’re staying somewhere tall.
#6 floor one vs zero
In the U.S.,as you probably know the first floor is the ground floor. So when you walk into a hotel and get your key for room 101, you just walk down the hall to your room. But Europe does things different when it comes to numbering floors.
The ground floor in European hotels is level 0. So, if you’re looking for room 101 in Europe, — you need to go upstairs!
#7 Beds (twin vs full)
European hotels surprise Americans with their bed arrangements. You won’t normally see Queen or King beds in Europe, but instead you’ll see double beds.
Double beds might be two twins pushed together, or one larger bed.
And then there’s also single beds: note that ‘single’ usually means smaller than a twin size in the states. Double check the room descriptions or photos online before booking.
#8 In-room appliances
European hotel rooms often have different common appliances you might expect. Don’t count on a clothes iron or an alarm clock everywhere you go.
Coffee makers and microwaves are rare finds in European rooms as well. Which is fine, often find the espresso machines in the room, which make great tasting drinks! In fact, you found find the typical American drip coffee hardly anywhere in Europe. Most coffee drinks are espresso based.
Instead of an espresso machine, you may also find an electric kettle, with instant coffee packets.
#9 outlets and Adapters
Your electronics won’t plug in directly to European outlets. Before you fly, pick up a converter or two. We’ve had good success with adapters similar to the ones above.
The USB adapters in these let you plug multiple devices into one outlet. Which is helpful since hotel rooms across Europe usually also have fewer sockets than what you might be used to back home.
European hotel bathrooms are also different, many feature a bidet.
Showers are similar, but with handheld shower heads with a button to turn the handheld part on and off.
Toilets in Europe have two flush buttons—one big button gives a forceful flush while the smaller one is for lighter use. ‘
#11 Towels and washcloths
Now we get to the one change we still can’t get used to: You’ll probably find that washcloths aren’t provided at all! We usually ask for washcloths at each hotel, but often they’re confused on what we’re asking for, especially with a language barrier!
Don’t expect fresh towels every single day either. Many European hotels encourage eco-friendliness, so they hang up used towels to dry for reuse.
But like our American branded hotel advice above, some accommodations still offer the American towel experience you’re used to.
When we can’t get washcloths at a European hotel, we just remember cultural differences are what make trips memorable!
#12 good breakfasts
Now our favorite part of European hotels: A hearty morning meal! Expect fresh bread, cheeses, and cold cuts, alongside your coffee or tea. The breakfast is usually much higher quality than at American hotels.
When booking a hotel in Europe, you can add on the breakfast during the checkout proccess for not much more. We almost always select breakfast when booking a European hotel!
Pack your adapters and look for a hotel with air conditioning, and have a great trip!