Leaving next week for 3 weeks in Amsterdam/Paris and other yet to be decided destinations in France. The reason for going to Europe is for 15 yr old adolescent to experience other peoples/cultures. In the past I've not planned anything and do fine. But I've never travelled with such a young person and the responsibilities that could entail. We've got the Benelux-France 5 day rail pass and the hot, high season to deal with. I feel I have to reserve all accomdations ahead of time. Is this best? What would happen if we just showed up? Do the info centre's at rail stations ALWAYS have last minute places to stay? What would happen if there is "no place in the inn" so to speak? (Or if the only availability is $150/300 USD night)Right now it looks like spending $50/USD per person per night is what has been available for the past month. I'm trying to decide whether to do hotel (average $100 for 2/per nite) or hostels (average $40-60 pp/per night). Hostels (ideally) are places to connect with others more easily. It may be true that hotels are more comfortable (clean, private) but then after reading so many different traveller's feedbacks I'm not sure if budget hotels are any more comfortable/clean. I'd like to do hospitality, freeloaders, etc. but it seems possibly risky because of the young person I am travelling with. I was unaware of how very expensive it is to travel right now in Europe (coming from US) and thus have to borrow the funds to do this trip which is not my style. Is it essential to reserve before hand? And in particular would the budget hotel choice help at least for keeping the stress level down while travelling? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Since you'll be travelling in the middle of high season, I'd strongly recommend you to reserve ahead. It might already be too late for most hotels and hostels, so you'll want to try to get the best rate still available.
I have said it before on this forum, July and August are peak season in all of Europe. All of the European schools are on a 4 to 8/9 week holiday, so families travel in this period. European families usually book their summer holidays (hotels and flights) around January/February/March, because in March, hotels start filling up, especially in the typical holiday countries, like France, Spain and Italy.
About the choice between hostels and hotels, the hotel rates you mention are not very high : 100 $ a night, for 2 persons. This is about 79 € (xe.com) and the rates of most hotels are 40-50 € per night per person, especially in high season. If you have a car, you might want to look for Formule 1-hotels, which are basic hotels with good prices per night per room (23-30 €), but they are usually further away from the center. Or other Accor hotels.
The rates per night per person in hostels are from 18 to 30 €.
Good luck !
Well, of course it's better for peace of mind to book in advance in France at this time of the year but except for towns holding a special event, you should be able to find a place in an hotel when you arrive in a town. Formule1 is a good solution but the hostels are quite basic : shower and toilets being shared. Some other budget hotels have private shower and toilet and are a bit more comfy for a few euros more : villages hotel are quite good but not so common : http://www.villages-hotel.com/ usually 34 € for 1 and 5 € per other person. Breakfast 4,50 €. There is also : ETAP HOTEL http://www.etaphotel.com/etaphotel/index.html - Mister Bed : http://www.misterbed.fr/lsf/lsfinstit/index.html , B& B : http://www.hotel-bb.com/, Premiere classe : https://www.envergure.fr/pclassefr.html , 1er prix ... You can book in advance with your credit card and cancel your room the day you were supposed to arrive - usually before 7 pm.
They are usually in the suburbs but some of them are in town - Etap hotel especially.
I don't think you'll find much help for accommodation in railway stations, you'll have to head for the first "Office de Tourisme" or "Syndicat d'initiative"