In my travels, I have stayed in many different types of accommodations. It really depends on the specific area and experience you are looking for. There are hotels and hostels, bed & breakfast and couch surfing, apartments and campsites, monasteries and motels. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. As a solo female traveler, there are some things to pay attention to.
Hotels: usually a more expensive option, this is traditional for holidays. There are some very luxurious chains and private resorts as well as some lower end ones that are borderline hostels or motels. This is ideal if you are looking for the nice extra touches and having a comfortable, private place to sleep and relax.
Hostels: a much cheaper option. These usually offer dorm-style beds, where you rent one bed in a room with possibly several other roommates that you likely have never met before. Most hostels offer a female-only room and some offer a choice of male-only or mixed/co-ed. I have always opted for female-only. It just feels safer. This is ideal if you are in an area specifically to see the area, and do not need a luxury accommodation. You simply need a bed and roof. They often include a simple breakfast, making this a VERY cheap choice. They can run under $30 USD in big cities for a bed and under $10 USD in smaller cities. I have even seen them for $2/night in some small cities.
They are really great as a young adult traveling, because you meet so many wonderful people! In Sorrento, I stayed in a luxury hostel called Seven Hostel where I stayed in a room with 10 girls from around the world! This ran me around $26 USD/night. It was right off the Circumvesuviana train stop, VERY easy to find even with difficult luggage. I made friends with an archaeology student, and we visited Herculaneum together. What a great way to see the site! A personal guide and friend! If anyone is interested in visiting Naples or the Campagna region, including Pompeii, I HIGHLY recommend this hostel!
Do not expect the standards of a hotel. You generally get a bunk bed or similar, and often are given sheets (if they even include sheets! check before you arrive!!) and you make your own bed. You are also expected to unmake your bed when you leave! This is not hard once you get over the shock of having to do it once. It is worth the $20+ you are saving just for someone to make your bed for you! The best place to find hostels and even book them is hostelworld. You do have to pay a deposite but it is not bad, plus they give you excellent reviews by other young travelers and tell you EXACTLY what is included or not (breakfast, linnens, towels, A/C, etc)
B&B: these vary significantly. They are pretty explanatory: they include a bed and breakfast in the morning. Some may have half board and offer other meals but this is rare or, generally, at extra cost. They are very relaxing compared to the chaos of some hotels. It is often similar to staying with someone’s grandmother. You are an honored guest in someone’s house! I LOVE bed and breakfasts. They are so sweet and personal. They vary in price depending on the area. They are sometimes cheaper than a hotel, usually more than a hostel. Sometimes they can be run similar to hostels for cheaper prices. It all depends. Some do not accept credit tho most do these days. These are nice because the patron generally goes out of their way to be hospitable in ways that a normal hotel simply cannot! In America and the UK these are the common forms of housing in smaller cities and rural areas if you want to avoid motels. Europe also has Agrotourism, which is similar but on a farm and less of a travel business.
Monasteries: this will require an entire post of its own! This is a form of travel accommodations that few Americans even know exist! Yet, it is one of the original forms of hospitality! Monasteries have always been know to house travelers for a small fee. Today is no exception! There are monasteries all over the world and they vary extensively. I can only speak of my experiences in Italy. This is truly an exceptional form of travel for a solo female! In Italy, they did not call monasteries for nuns “convents” so they were all monasteries. Some are designed almost as hotels while others are more holy houses with rooms available for rent. Some have strict rules but many are quite relaxed, though you should always be respectful, and dress appropriately, especially at check-in/out. They are more expensive than hostels usually but are typically cheaper than hotels, and offer an entirely different experience! If you travel to Italy, seriously consider monasteries, at least once, especially if you travel alone or with children! Nuns LOVE children! The absolute BEST way to make arrangements is on Monastery Stays. Unfortunately, as of now it only works with monasteries in Italy, but they do the booking for you in Italian and give you material in English for a seamless check-in! The packets they give you include wonderful directions and maps, that are really necessary if you end up in a small city like Assisi where you have no idea of street names. My experience was life-changing. The grounds were perfect for meditating and re-centering myself after a very hectic time traveling around Italy. I had a delicious Italian breakfast every morning with my place setting ready and a place card for me every morning! There was a curfew of 11 pm but this was fine, and I felt safe knowing that it was locked and secured after 11. Really the best way to see smaller cities if you are a single woman or have children!
What types of accommodations do you prefer? Where is the most interesting place you have spent the night?