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Sicily - Winging Hotels vs. Pre-Booking

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Nov 16th, 2014, 08:00 AM
  #1
AMV
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Sicily - Winging Hotels vs. Pre-Booking

Hello, fellow travelers.. Heading to Sicily for 2 weeks in mid-May 15 with car. DH has proposed not pre-booking hotels (except first and last night) and just winging it. We don't need posh resorts. Open to B&B or humble hotels. How important will air conditioning be at that time of year? How likely will it be we will be shut out of quality accommodations?
Thanks all.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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AMV - winging it was certainly the way we used to travel when they were just two of us and we weren't that fussy. We even did it in Italy in mid-summer, which I'm not sure that I'd attempt now.

i wouldn't have thought that you'd need AC in May and as you say that B&Bs will do, unless you want to stay at the one that they used for Inspector Montalbano's beach-side apartment, I'd have thought that you'd be fine finding somewhere.

A bigger problem may be finding places with parking, especially if you want to stay in towns/cities. Leaving a hire car overnight in a public car park in Sicily does not strike me as a good start to a restful night's sleep.

BTW, I've pressed the triangle on the previous poster.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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You won't need AC in May unless there's an extraordinary heat wave.

If you're visiting Palermo I would book a hotel there as you don't want to spend your day driving around an unfamiliar city, finding parking, and walking around looking for a place to stay.

Have a list of hotels or pensions so you can contact them to save time driving/walking around. With a list you'll know what the rates are and what the rooms look like.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 08:55 AM
  #4
Dai
 
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We are a big fan of winging it in the shoulder season. We bring a list of hotels/B&B's and a list of restaurants for each town we think we may visit. Sometimes the day before we will call ahead and book (if the reviews are great) but usually we book only for one night, that way if we find that we don't like the town, or we don't like the room, it's not a big deal to stay one night. On the other hand if we LOVE the room/town, we tell our host that we want to stay a few nights.

Many times we will arrive, ask to see a room or sometimes two (from the list) and decide what we want to do. Other times we'll arrive, go to the tourist info and ask them about accommodations. We have been in spots where we're ready to carry on and have been urged to check out another town that was off our radar. That is what makes it an adventure.

Mid May should not be any problem traveling this way in Sicily unless of course there happens to be some big convention or major holiday that is taking place that I am unaware of. We were in Sicily the first two weeks of October and had no problem except in Taormina where it took us awhile to make a decision. We love traveling this way.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 09:15 AM
  #5
AMV
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This is all very encouraging feedback. In fact, we are not considering going to Palermo this time around. Looking more at Syracuse/Ortigia area as well as Piazza Amerina and Agrigento areas. We're flying in and out of Catania so will probably pre-book the night of arrival and before departure. Good map suggestions appreciated.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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<< Good map suggestions appreciated. >>

Michelin
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Nov 16th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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there is a recent Sicily thread with a very good recommendation for a hotel in Ortigya - I'll try to find it for you.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 11:45 AM
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I almost always wing it everywhere I go and have yet to have to sleep on a park bench. I would not hesitate to wing it on Sicily.

I'm actually surprised at the comments you've got so far. My experience on this forum is that the majority of posters are afraid to wing anything.

Map with links http://www.bestofsicily.com/roadmap.htm

Another using Google Map which will get you as detailed a map as you could ever need.
http://www.sicilian.net/maps/
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Nov 16th, 2014, 12:59 PM
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AMV
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Super helpful responses. Much appreciated.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 02:13 PM
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AMV,

I visited mid-April to mid-May 2013. I like to plan ahead because for me it's part of the fun and anticipation. My personal theory is that I would rather not spend precious vacation time hunting down a place to stay, and I realize that is just my preference.

If I was retired and had unlimited travel time and money, I would wing it off-season.

I will say that of the places I stayed, most were full as far as I could tell. A couple were not, as I visited Scopello off-season and the Baroque town of Scicli which is not on most tourists' radar.

I was so very, very pleased with my choices (9 out of 10 different lodgings, one was bad) that I was happy I planned ahead so I could stay there. I am not a 5* traveler or fussy, but I did really love my choices.

If you are not hitting the big May 1 holiday, you will probably be OK in the destinations you mention.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 02:15 PM
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One other reason I like to plan my lodging ahead is that I'm only navigating to one place, not trying to get to multiple places in the city traffic on tiny streets. Most places in Italy are small, so you might have to try a few before finding a room, maybe not.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 05:44 PM
  #12
kja
 
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I traveled to Sicily in early May of 2007. I had pre-booked well in advance, and most of the places I stayed were fully booked before I got there -- but then, I was looking for those little places that are well-located, well-reviewed, and reasonably affordable. If those things aren't critical to you, pre-booking might not be necessary.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 08:00 PM
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"I was looking for those little places that are well-located, well-reviewed, and reasonably affordable. If those things aren't critical to you, pre-booking might not be necessary."

Then again, if it were critical to you to find little places that are well-located, well-reviewed and reasonably affordable, pre-booking might not be necessary. It never has been to me and I don't want places that are poorly located, badly reviewed and unaffordable.

Amazing how some people think winging it precludes having criteria the same as anyone else and assume they can't get what they want if they do have criteria they prefer.
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Nov 16th, 2014, 08:27 PM
  #14
kja
 
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I guess I would feel differently about "winging it" if doing so hadn't led me to some truly appalling options -- the choice between filthy rooms, rooms I couldn't afford, or moving on even though very late in the day. If you can afford to pay whatever it takes (in money and time) to secure safe, clean lodging, or are willing to move on no matter the hour, then go for it!

BTW, the comments that I have offered are specific to Sicily -- in places with a glut of tourist lodging, like much of China, I also see advantages to just showing up and bargaining.
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Nov 17th, 2014, 07:58 AM
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The plural of anecdote is not data kja. I can honestly say that I have only once ended up in a room I would rather not have had to settle for. That was in the UK, specifically in Dover where from what I could see, most 'hotels' were less than satisfactory. Comes from a captive market planning to get on an early morning ferry I guess. Next time around I stayed near Canterbury and just got up a bit earlier to drive to the ferry terminal.

There will always be exceptions to any general rule of thumb. However, in decades of winging it all the time when travelling, I've had one bad exception. My anecdotal evidence or your anecdotal evidence do not prove anything. But just as you can say that generally speaking you had 9 good hotels out of 10 when booking ahead, I can say I had 9 good hotels out of 10 when winging it.

I've had more good experiences by far when winging it, in finding places that I would probably never have come across on booking sites.

For example, have a look at this place which is a 16th century chateau. I found it purely by chance while driving. Only after I had found it did I find out they are in fact online with Sawday's. Alistair Sawday's being a website that most travellers wouldn't even know to look at.
http://www.sawdays.co.uk/france/pica...la-quincy#back

They rent one room in the octagonal turret in the left of the photo in the link above. Breakfast (and dinner if you wish) are served in the 'Orangerie'. Booking.com don't even list it.

Some people prefer to pre-book while others like me prefer to wing it. But for anyone to say that winging it involves more risk of any kind than pre-booking, my experience says otherwise. You got a bad room by your own admission, when pre-booking. I got a bad room by winging it once.

The real difference to me is that when you pre-book things you are then tied to an itinerary. Yes, you can change your plans but it gets complicated and therefore, most people don't make changes and often don't even consider that they could make a change. When you wing it, there is nothing to change. You move on or not as you please.

What I find funny is that one of the biggest things about travel is the escape from everyday schedules and the freedom to go where you want. Why then people would decide to immediately SELF-IMPOSE a schedule and give up that freedom is something I find hard to understand other than that they are doing what they have been conditioned to do. Impose a schedule on their life.
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Nov 17th, 2014, 08:42 AM
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Add me to those who say at least get your first place booked. We traveled in March and the places in Catania in our budget were full.

That was in 2002 FWIW. I don't believe we even emailed at that point. And the computer makes winging it much easier.

Current Sicily travelers, please correct me but I think tourism is even more popular today so winging it might not be quite so easy.

When (year/month) did you find that turret, Sojourntraveller? Looks incredible.
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Nov 17th, 2014, 08:48 AM
  #17
Dai
 
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In support of winging it, here is just one tale that comes to mind: I remember thinking that we would love Lipari. Everyone here on Fodors loved it. We got there and were stunned by the high nightly rates at the two B&B's that I looked at (2nd week of October). We ended up in a sad room (the place was rated high on TA) with one lonesome bulb hanging from the middle of the room. The worst part was that everyone we encountered at their wonderful museum, at a restaurant, at a market, were really surly. It was weird. As a result, we left after one night and made our way to a sister hotel on Vulcano (sister hotel of a place we LOVED in Taormina).

So many people had warned us that Vulcano "puzza" ("stinks" because of the sulfur) but my husband asked me if the hotel chain would ever choose to own a hotel where it always stinks. We got to Vulcano, called the hotel, they came and got us, and it was AWESOME! Black sand beach, great value, friendly people, had the island to ourselves, etc. The best part was that we weren't happy in Lipari and weren't stuck there for three nights due to paying in advance, and we departed for a location which was much better suited for us. Vulcano was not on our radar, but it was great.

Conversely, on several occasions we have arrived saying we will stay one or two nights, see the room and state that we'd love to stay 3 nights, or 5 nights. In Peschici a 2 night stay turned into 5 nights because I had caught a bad cold and didn't feel like moving on.

We didn't schedule anything while in Matera and luckily while chatting with our B&B host, he ended up planning the best day ever of our vacation for us.

In Scotland, we cut Portree by one night, skipped Inverness altogether. Added a couple of nights to Edinburgh. The freedom of traveling this way works so well for us.

There are so many more examples I can offer. You never get locked in when you are winging it---you just leave.
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Nov 17th, 2014, 09:47 AM
  #18
 
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"Alistair Sawday's being a website that most travellers wouldn't even know to look at."

Inaccurate generalization. I have used Sawday on occasion. And these days I tend to pre-book. It is certainly possible to pre-book and change plans on the fly, I have done so on my current trip.

I agree that AC is likely to be unnecessary at the beginning of May, but I would probably want it at the end of the month.
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