LATER – my acronym for accommodation costs
It's so easy to see a cheap room rate and get really excited. Wow I'm staying in Barcelona for $30 a night! I'm so kick-arse!
What you need to remember is that accommodation costs are so much more than a nightly rate. You have to factor everything into that rate or you could end up spending much much more than you should.
Use my LATER scale to calculate an actual cost.
Location: A cheap room rate is great. It's not so great if its two trains and a bus ride away from the action. Consider why you are going to Barcelona, what you want to do there and factor the costs to and from your accommodation into the nightly rate. Not so cheap now is it? You might end up paying more but being within walking distance of everything you want to see.
Airport Access: A free airport shuttle could cover a few nights stay. The airport is often miles from the actual city. Pay $55 a night for the first night but you save $35 for the trip from the airport. Airport transfers can be expensive so think about that when you book your stay. Not a lot of cities have public transport from the airport & often taxi fares are set too. Free airport transfers can be hard to find and are usually scheduled and NOT on demand, but if might save you enough to get a nice comfy stay at the Motel instead of the hostel.
Tour Pickups: Day tours can be a big part of a travelers life. Being able to be picked up at your hotel because it's in the city area is priceless. Not only do you have to get into the city to be picked up (if they don't pickup outside a particular zone) you have to get into the city early & come home late. You can waste a lot of time trying to make public transport work (if its running that early) and its another cost. Consider it.
Ease of Access: Can you come and go as you please. Couchsurfing is great, however if the host family want to teach you to cook Korean BBQ on the only night you are there, how rude is it to say no. Do you have a key? Can you access your accommodation outside of their leisure time. I often see hosts on Couchsurfer make comments that you can only get into and out of the house when they are there. They don't know you and don't want you on your own while they are at work. That can put a huge limitation on your plans.
Reliability: Transport is one factor here. Access to your accommodation is another. Are you going to have to limit your night out because the last train leaves at 9.30. Are you going to be sitting on the stoop in the rain waiting for your host family to come home from a birthday dinner to get inside to go to bed. You need to consider how reliable these things will be. It's not just access to think about here either, I've had shonky motels charge my credit card again a few days after I've left claiming it was an honest mistake if you notice it, and I've even had accommodation charge my card for “supposed” damages that flat out didn't occur. I disputed the card charge and it was all good, however you need to think about what might happen if the place your staying isn't 100% reliable.