Travel is an awesome experience. It broadens the mind. It gives you a doorway into new foods, sights, and sounds. And… it’s often thought of as very expensive.
It doesn’t have to be that way and here’s the truth: the only two big expenses associated with travel are getting there and staying there.
It’s possible to save a little on flights if you know what you’re doing but in an age of ultra-budget airlines, margins are pretty thin for carriers anyway. So, if you can’t make major savings on getting there, can you save $$$$ on staying there?
Yes! You can. Here’s what you need to know about finding cheap accommodation for your vacation:
Hospitality Exchanges Help You Stay For Free
This is often called “couch surfing”. It works like this. Some people agree to host a guest for free in exchange for company and conversation.
While that may sound a little creepy, it’s a tried and tested way not just of finding a place to sleep but also making new friends.
Make sure, however, that your host has filled out their profile and has a picture on the page. You also want them to be verified and have good reviews. Sadly, there are a few creeps out there in couch surfing land, but you can reduce your chances of getting exposed to them.
Darren and I can’t couch surf with the kids, but we know a lot of people who swear by it. Don’t take any silly risks and it should be great.
Hostels Cost A Lot Less Than Hotels
I know that “hostel” conjures up visions of dirty dives full of adolescents looking to get it on. It’s also fair to say there are some hostels that are still like this but most hostels have dramatically improved over the last few years and you ought to be able to find one that suits your needs in most destinations.
More and more chains are focusing on older travelers, who generally have more money and make less mess than younger travelers, the easiest way to work out what the vibe in any hostel will be is to check out their website and reviews.
They are usually safe, cheap and easy to access. If you do opt for a hostel – make sure to use any security facilities provided such as storage lockers and safes. It’s always better not to take risks.
My favorite place to arrange hostel accommodation through is Hostel World which is the world’s largest hostel directory.
Home Exchange Programs Can Be Great For Long Stays
The home exchange is a great idea and it often means a great deal for one party. That’s because people tend to swap homes based on what they need rather than what they cost. So if you have a 2 bedroom apartment in Louisville, Kentucky that’s what you should be able to swap for in Manhattan, New York.
However, if you go for a home exchange – you are committing to staying away for a certain length of time. You can’t just pack up and come home early.
Most people involved in home exchanges are decent upstanding folks and there’s nothing to worry about when taking part. However, we recommend that you have a neighbor or family member drop in on your guests every now and again to keep an eye on things and see if they need anything.
House-Sitting Can Work Too
Some folks swear by house sitting. I’ve always found it to be incredibly difficult to arrange a place and that people are stupidly demanding of their new “free tenants”. However, that’s different strokes for different folks, right?
If you’d like to take on somebody’s home when you go to a new place, then you’ll get free accommodation in exchange for chores and ensuring they don’t get burgled. Check out House Carers, Luxury House Sitting and Mind My House for leads.
Short-Term Apartment Rentals Are Often Cheaper Than Hotels
A short-term rental can be easy to find in some parts of the world. For example, in Thailand, it’s best just to show up and look for one on the ground. It will save you a bucket load of cash compared to a hotel and it will be much, much cheaper than AirBnB.
However, in other places, such as Europe – AirBnB will save you a lot compared to a hotel and it may be your only source of decent cheap rental. Many Europeans don’t do short-term lets at all, so looking on the ground will be a long, painful and often fruitless search to save a few bucks.
Stay On A Farm or At A Monastery
Farms are awesome if you want to do a little work in nature to get a discount on your room and board.
In my experience farms offer some of the finest accommodation and the best food you’ll ever experience and usually for a lot less money than a hotel will ask. Our kids love farms and the chance to learn about animals is a big bonus when we stay there.
Then finally, there’s always monasteries to get your costs right down. Now, unless you’re seriously becoming a monk or a nun – this won’t normally be free – but it will be low cost.
They are often surprisingly family friendly too. A bed for the night and some basic food will set you back a fair donation most of the time. Though some monasteries do now charge for their time.
You can find some nice places to say in monasteries at Monastery Stays.
So, there you have it. There are plenty of ways to cut down on accommodation costs while you travel. Do you know any that I’ve missed? I’d love to know in the comments below.