In 2018 I spent 119 nights outside of my home. That's nearly a third of my year spent at 65 unique places to stay, including hotels, hostels, airbnbs, resorts, guesthouses, boats, tubes, treehouses... the list goes on. Reflecting back on the year there were quite a few places that have wormed their way into my heart. My homes away from home. The places that kept me inspired, refreshed, and fulfilled.

I've always felt that where you stay when you travel provides the foundation for the rest of your trip. Staying somewhere that makes you uncomfortable or doesn't meet your expectations builds up a sense of stress that will follow you to that beautiful beach or bustling city. Somewhere safe and clean will provide a blank canvas for your other travel experiences to build upon. But what I've learned this year is that a great place doesn't even require a distinction from the rest of your trip. It fits naturally into the scenery you've come to see, and blurs the line between where you explore during the day and where you fall asleep at night. Great places aren't always the most expensive or the most luxurious. They're simply the ones that fit your specific style of traveling the most. The ones that meet the needs you didn't even realize you had. So, based on my personal travels in Asia this past year I've attempted to identify which places exceeded my expectations across nine different categories. I hope you'll find it helpful in identifying not only some great places to stay, but also what's important to you when you travel.

Best Urban Lodging

We're looking for... a centrally located base for exploring the city, which also captures the culture, charm, and identity of the surrounding streets.

Lloyd's Inn in Singapore   Starting at $125/Night

Photo by The Innbox

Why we like it: Lloyd's Inn is like a microcosm of the city-state of Singapore: modern concrete blocks housing efficiently planned spaces, all juxtaposed by lush green nature. They even send you to a local kopitiam for breakfast! The hotel is centrally located walking distance from all the shopping on Orchard Road, which is where you'll also find the nearest subway station. Read the full review.

Runner Ups: Lao Poet Hotel in Vientiane and Hotel 1 in Busan

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Best Rustic Lodging

We're looking for... inspiring escapes that get you as close as possible to the untouched, natural world... with just the right amount of amnenities.

The Birdhouse El Nido in Palawan, The Philippines   Starting at $125/Night

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Why we like it: Treehouse-themed lodgings are becoming a dime a dozen but most fall into the trap of being either far too artificial or having far too few amenities to make the experience actually enjoyable. Birdhouse manages to get it just right, with luxurious tents and decent bathrooms that are embedded right into the lush trees of El Nido. The view doesn't hurt either. Read the full review.

Runner Ups: Bearlin Bungalow in Vang Vieng and Le Pirate Boatel in Labuan Bajo

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Best Lodging Under $100/Night

We're looking for... the most bang for your buck. Unique experiences and fantastic service that feel like it should cost a lot more than a single Benny.

The Aviary Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia   Starting at $73/Night

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Why we like it: The Aviary Hotel isn't a huge resort but it packs all the amenities of one into a boutique format. There's a stunning pool and plenty of dining choices: a restaurant, a cafe, and a rooftop cocktail bar to boot. The location is close enough to the action in Siem Reap without being directly in the thick of the nightlife, but what truly helped it cinch the top spot in this category is the five-star service of the staff. Read the full review.

Runner Ups: Le Pirate Beach Club in Nusa Ceningan and Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm in Pai

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Best Hostel or Shared Space

We're looking for... spaces that, though they may be shared with strangers, still offer a dignified amount of privacy, enjoyable common areas to stretch out or socialize in, and a nightly rate that's more than kind on the budget.

Furano Hostel in Furano, Japan   Starting at $31/Person

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Runner Ups: The Millennials Shibuya in Tokyo and Cara Cara Inn in Bali

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Best Guesthouse or Airbnb

We're looking for... spaces that feel like home sweet home even when you're somewhere new. With hands-on hosts that respect boundaries while also making you feel like part of the family.

Francoile in Naoshima, Japan   Starting at $78/Person

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Why we like it: While the bed and breakfast game is usually dominated by retirement-age couples, Francoile is like a little glimpse into the future of what guesthouses designed by the millennial generation might be like. Built and operated by a lovely young couple that used to be television set designers in Tokyo, the style yet minimal furnishings feel at home with the art on Naoshima, and it's such a joy to chat with the friendly hosts and hear about their own travel experiences.

Runner Ups: Tida House in Hokkaido and Stayktion in Chiang Rai

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Best Resort

We're looking for... spaces that have it all: stunning natural surroundings, aspirational rooms you wish you lived in, treat-your-self amenities, and actual good food. Basically, a place so dope that you won't even feel any FOMO if you spent the entire day in bed.

Le Pirate Beach Club in Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia   Starting at $48/Night

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Why we like it: Le Pirate Beach Club may not classify itself as a resort, but I'm considering it one and I think it's the perfect "resort" for people like me who are resort skeptics. It's not ostentatious, in fact the tiny bare beach shacks which serve as your room are downright humble. Yet the seaside location and the kidney-shaped pool which overlooks it feels luxurious, and the intimate size of the property makes it seem quite exclusive, even at the accessible price of $50/night. We spent a whole day chilling and eating snacks by the pool after a disasterous excursion and had zero regrets.

Runner Ups: Z9 Resort in Kanchanaburi and Treehouse Villas in Koh Yao Noi

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Best Breakfast

We're looking for... a broad range of offerings that are made to order (or at least seem like they are). Food so good that you don't mind missing out on one meal outside of your hotel.

Satri House in Luang Prabang, Laos   Starting at $174/Night

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Why we like it: Not only are the pan au chocolates baked fresh every morning, you can order as many of them as you want (along with croissants and other baked goods) and they're served with a trio of homemade jams. That's just the appetizer to your morning meal. The rest of Satri House's menu is composed of a curated mix of restaurant-quality western and Lao dishes (but honestly don't sleep on the Lao offerings). My favorites were the noodle dishes and this one egg-y crepe served with northern sausage. Throughout a three-night stay I never got bored of eating breakfast at the hotel's lovely restaurant which overlooks a Lotus pond, where the flowers are in full bloom every morning. Read more about Satri House.

Runner Ups: Mimatsuso Ryokan and Chocolate Box in Hua Hin

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Best Bathroom

We're looking for... it's a bit self explanatory, no? Privacy, cleanliness and comfort are a must, but a touch of luxury sets one apart from the pack.

Treehouse Villas in Koh Yao Noi, Thailand   Starting at $550/Night (or a LOT of credit card points)

Photo by The Innbox

Why we like it: The bathrooms at Treehouse Villas are smartly laid out, wrapping around and behind the bedroom. As you walk through it you first encounter the dramatic bathtub (unfortunately not ideal for two people, but that can be forgiven) followed by the spacious master-bedroom style sinks, open shower area, enclosed toilet room, a vanity, and finally the spacious closet area. The bathroom offers just the right amount of privacy while letting in optimum amounts of light. The place is practically sun-drenched!

Runner Ups: SALA Phuket in Phuket and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

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Best Place We Stayed in 2018

We're looking for... the best of the best. A place that shines in all of the above categories, is flexible enough to work for different types of travelers, and provides the most value for its nightly rate. The place that we can't wait to return to.

Hotel 1 in Busan, South Korea   Starting at $77/Night

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Why we like it: Hotel 1 is not the most opulent or visually inspiring place I've stayed this year, but somehow it just checks a lot of boxes for me. It's the perfect storm of affordability, design, amenities, and location. First of all, there are so many different room tiers for different budgets. There are rooms ideal for solo travelers, for groups, for cozy couples, or besties who want to treat themselves. The location couldn't be better as the hotel sits right on quieter Gwangan Beach but provides a beautiful view of bustling Haeundae Beach and it's surrounding skyscrapers. It's also a lot closer to many of the nature and cultural sights in Busan than most of the hotels in Haeundae, such as Taejongdae Park, Jagalchi Fish Market, and Gamcheon Cultural Village. The marble-themed interior is unlike any hotel I've ever stayed in, and somehow works so well with the surrounding blues of the sea and sky outside. Read the full review to see why I love this place so much.

Best Place We Visited in 2018

Busan, South Korea

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Why we like it: I suppose it's only fitting that my favorite hotel happens to be located in my favorite place I visited this year. To be honest, I'm not sure how much of my fondness is because of Busan's unique character or because I honestly had no expectations when I traveled there, and all of my recommendations for what to do came from two different South Korean friends who've spent considerable time there. I chose to go to Busan because I thought it'd be nice to see more of South Korea outside of Seoul and I found myself gradually falling in love with the seaside town. Even though it was kind of chilly in April, we were blessed with cerulean waters and bright blue skies. The city was easy to navigate by public transit, and I liked that it was small enough that we could explore at a leisurely pace and still feel like we weren't missing out on anything. There was a perfect mix of food, beautiful nature, and unique cultural sights, which is typically what I look for when I travel. I recognize the irony in that my high praise may raise expectations for this low-key city, but if you're looking for a place to unwind from the hustle and bustle of Seoul, Busan is a two and a half hour train ride worth taking.

Runner Ups: Labuan Bajo, Indonesia and Khao Sok, Thailand

Photos by The Innbox