The first time I traveled to Korea, I was just seventeen years old and fresh out of high school, taking a graduate trip with some of my classmates. For many of us, it was our first time travelling without adult supervision; besides that, it was also a first for some of us to travel overseas during winter, and would be our first exposure to cold weather.
Looking back at it now, years later, it remains a beautiful memory; just kids having fun after the biggest exam of our life, discovering Seoul without a care in the world and bonding through preparing for our trip and doing everything by ourselves. The events and things that happened on the trip would eventually become some of the reasons why I chose to study in Korea, a decision I have not regretted since. It was my first introduction to this country, which I now reside in and have a great love and respect for.
Here are a few tips and things we did while searching for our accomodation at the time, as literal kids who were planning a trip for the first time and managed to have a satisfactory and amazing one.
Come up with a budget + Match it to your needs
The first thing we did as students with no money of their own was set a budget for accomodation. How much were we willing to pay for the whole trip? It dictated our choices a lot, as we didn’t have the luxury of staying at a nice hotel we couldn’t afford. We had a list of things we wanted for the place we would pick, however, including that we should all be together in one living space, if possible, but stay in separate rooms by gender (there were an even split of boys and girls on the trip). We also wanted a place that would be easy to access via public transportation, would be convenient to get to from the airport, and would have a restroom that was all for our private use.
Search on multiple platforms
We searched on every single platform we knew of: HotelsConnected, Expedia, you name it. Because of our budget, however, we eventually realized we couldn’t afford a hotel and did the bulk of our searching on Airbnb, where prices were much more diverse. It also helped greatly to document every promising place we saw by noting down the area it was located in, the price per night and the link to the online listing, so we could share it amongst ourselves easily and keep a record to look back onto if we needed it.
Reach out to plenty of hosts
As the refrain goes: If you never ask, you’ll never receive. Though Airbnb is pretty transparent and the details of each listing is typically readily available on the website, our parents needed reassurance that we would be staying in a safe place, so we contacted many of our hosts and chatted with them to gauge how they would be and whether the place had anything we should be worried about in advance. Some of the hosts were very friendly, while others were curt and blunt – we decided to steer away from those listings. Though it is admittedly too little to judge them off of, we decided to be extra careful, just in case.
Make your choice well in advance
We realized early on that the closer we got to the date, the lesser listings would be available. We also planned the trip right after our (very important) examinations, so we were aware that we would probably be too busy studying to plan later on. As soon as we found a place that everyone was happy with and that fulfilled all our particular needs, we paid for our stay immediately. This was probably 8 months before the trip happened, and as our stay was perfect and nothing went wrong, it was probably the right decision for us to make at the time.
Bonus: Book your accommodation first!
The best thing to do to maximize your budget would probably be to monitor flight prices and accommodation prices at the same time, but instead of paying for the flight in advance, it is often more prudent to secure accommodation first. By locking in the dates through securing a place to stay over a certain period, it becomes way easier to search for flight tickets. Also, if you book far enough in advance, flight tickets don’t really have that much of a day-to-day price difference, while availability for accommodation can be really tricky to get right if you try to match it to your flight schedule.
Though a lot of these may sound like a no-brainer to seasoned travelers, it was a steep learning curve for our small band of teenagers who were about to embark on their first adventure alone. We needed to be responsible and look out for ourselves every step of the way, hence the caution we exercised at every step in the process of searching for accommodation. Years later, though I’m way more practiced in the art of planning trips by myself now, I still find myself following this (very basic) process as it makes things easier for me, and still serves me very well by helping me secure fantastic accommodation that completes all of my trips.