So…you’re going on a trip, and you don’t have much money? Perhaps I can help! You see, I’ve been traveling for years and it’s a rare treat when I have the money to stay at a 4-star hotel (or even a regular hotel, for that matter). Most of the time, I’m looking for deals. Since my travel budget is usually limited, I look for deals in all areas. Here are a few options that you might consider:
Not all hostels are for youth only, and many do offer private rooms that are still much more affordable than a hotel for a very reasonable price. The accommodations usually aren’t as luxurious as even a cheap hotel, but the beds are clean, there’s a shower, and most importantly, it’s somewhere to lay your head at night while you explore a new city. I’ve stayed at hostels where the other patrons are all ages (I’m over 30, myself), so don’t feel afraid to stay at a hostel at any age. There are hostels all over. Honestly, I find that by just googling ‘Hostel’ and ‘Location’ I end up finding a lot of options to choose from. One word of warning: not all hostels are created equal, so read the reviews before you book to make sure you’ll be comfortable when you get there. You’ll want to know if it gets really loud there, what’s included (sometimes you need to bring your own sheets and pillow, sometimes you don’t), if breakfast is included or not, whether or not the bathrooms are private. Find out all that stuff and decide if it sounds like a good place for you, then book.
If you’re social and willing to put yourself out there, Couch Surfing is a pretty cool community of travelers and hosts. How it works is hosts offer a space in their home. It could be a couch, a room, a loft, or even just an air mattress. Couch surfers can connect with hosts and ask to stay at their home…for free. Yes, it’s free. However, you are a guest in somebody’s home so it’s recommended you spend some time helping them out in some way. Maybe cook a nice meal for your host, bring them a small gift, or do some work around the house to help them out. Usually people who enjoy couch surfing (both hosts and surfers) are people who enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. If that’s you, this might be a good option. If you prefer to keep to yourself, I would suggest a different option.
Are you willing to do a little work while you’re traveling? If so, WWOOFing might be for you. What the heck is WWOOFing, you might ask? It stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Basically, you live with your host and are expected to join in and cooperate with the day to day activities on your farm (could be harvesting, planting, feeding animals, whatever the farm does). In most countries the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help-fair exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation. Sure, you work for a good chunk of the day, but the rest of the time is yours to explore, and the experience of working on a farm in another country is kind of unique. This is a great thing to do if you really want to extend your travels and spend a lot of time in a location without spending your life savings.
If you’re into roughing it a little, camping is a really cheap option if you own your own tent and sleeping bags (or can borrow some). Sure, you can camp at the beach or in national parks, but a lot of areas actually have nearby campsites. Even major cities often have campsites nearby, so it’s worth it to look into this option. If you’re camping in the United States, Reserve America is a good place to start your search for a campsite. In other countries, I find a quick Google search often returns many options. Keep in mind campsites can sometimes have different amenities included (some have showers, some don’t. Some have flush toilets, some don’t) so check ahead of time so you know how to best prepare. Also reservation and booking procedures can vary depending on where you’re going, so this option could take a little bit of research, but it’s a fun and inexpensive way to travel, so it’s worth the effort.
Ok. So maybe you don’t want to rough it too much, and you have a little bit more money to spend. You should know that you can often find vacation rental properties on sites like Airbnb and VacationRentals.com for cheaper than a hotel room, and they often include nice amenities like kitchens, which can save you even more money if you cook some of your own meals.This is the option my husband and I go with most often. I find that not only is it fun to “live like a local” and stay in a real neighborhood, but it’s also much more comfortable to get up in the morning, make myself some coffee and breakfast, pack some sandwiches for the day, and meander out. It saves me tremendous amounts of time and money that I would otherwise be spending at restaurants. I love restaurants as much as the next person, but sometimes you don’t want to eat every meal out, and it’s nice to have the comforts of home.
If you own your home and you live in a nice place that people might want to travel to, you can look into doing a home exchange.Basically how it works is that you list your home as available for home exchange. You can then interact with other users and work out a home exchange that works for you. Somebody gets to come enjoy your home on their vacation and you get to stay at somebody else’s house in exchange. Much like the vacation rental option, this allows you to stay in a real home in a real neighborhood with all the regular comforts of home. I’m not a homeowner but I know a few homeowners who do this and enjoy the experience.
It is exactly what it sounds like. With Homestay, you can book accommodations staying with a local in their home. Rates are always cheaper than a hotel, and you get to experience life as a local, with access to a local’s recommendations about what’s good in the area.
Short-Term Room Rentals
This is sort of a cross between a homestay and a vacation rental. Airbnb, 9flats.com, and other sites like them often have options to rent a room in somebody’s house or apartment and it’s much cheaper than a hotel room. The hosts earn a little extra money putting somebody up in their home, and you get to stay for cheap. A bonus is you have a local to ask for good local recommendations from. Only do this if you’re comfortable meeting new people and living in potentially close quarters with a stranger for a short time.
Have you ever used any of these options? What did you think? Do you have any additional tips for travelers looking to find affordable accommodation? I would love to hear about it in the comments.