When you think of cheap accommodations, you probably envision a backpacker roaming around Southeast Asia. But budget-friendly accommodation isn’t only for the young, solo traveler. Here are some ways that you can find a bed in whatever country you choose to visit for as little as possible, no matter whether you’re fresh out of college or freshly retired.
If you get a shiver down your spine when you hear the word "hostel," you haven’t been to the right one. The word has always borne a connotation of filth and horror movies haven’t exactly romanticized the idea, but all of your preconceived notions about hostels might be entirely false. Even in places like Australia, where the dollar doesn’t go very far, you can find hostels for ten bucks, complete with tiki bars, swimming pools and free breakfast. And although the word "hostel" often follows the word "youth," you will often find travelers in the adjacent bunk who are middle-aged and beyond. If you are a little embarrassed to be 60 and staying in such an establishment, pay a couple extra bucks for a private room. After all, your accommodation in paradise should merely be a place to sleep and store your belongings. If you’re spending that much time in your hotel, you’re probably doing it wrong. Also, many hostels have websites, just like any other accommodation. Check reviews left by other travelers to weed out the bad apples and find the hostel that meets your needs.
What better way to experience a foreign culture than by staying with a local family? Did I mention that it’s totally free? So what is the downside? Well, you do probably have to sleep on a couch. And you do have to allow others to stay at your place, but hosting foreign travelers is half the fun! Plus, if you live in a suburban town without many foreign visitors, you can sign up and never act as host but still reap all the benefits when traveling abroad. It might seem a little sketchy, staying with complete strangers around the world, but you will contact them beforehand, scan all of their information and then make an educated decision whether they are the gracious hosts you’re looking for. Learn their customs and as much of their language as you can retain, and also enjoy their authentic cuisine when they cook dinner in the evenings. It would be wise to offer to pay for the cooking supplies, or at the very least, do the dishes. You can register your home on the official website of Couch Surfing.com.
If you’re looking for a serenely unique experience on your vacation, monasteries simply can’t be beat. While they’re not all free, most are extremely inexpensive and some only cost whatever donation you’re willing to pay. Eat the meals cooked by the monks and nuns and live their humble lifestyle. Skip the crowds at Vatican City, as your life at the monastery will have a much more profound impact on the way you view the world. There's even a service, Monastery Stays, that handles this type of vacation accommodation.
Just as its name suggests, this is where you swap homes with travelers from other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. By utilizing these programs, you can enjoy all the amenities of home--a laundry room, a full kitchen, a backyard--and pay nothing at all! Who wouldn’t want that? It is a daunting thought that a family of strangers will be staying in your house, too, but they are offering the same trust, so they most likely won’t be setting your couch on fire and selling your personal belongings. You can even send pictures and videos back and forth just to put your mind at ease.
Live Like a Farmer
This is a great one for solo travelers and for parents who want to show their children what life is like without a smart phone glued to their thumbs. While not entirely free, you can make significant cuts on your hotel budget by staying at a farm and teaching your kids the value of the simple life. Learn how to milk a cow, harvest crops or just enjoy a sunset without tweeting about it. And these guys aren’t Amish, so they do have a website to make them easier to find--Farm Stays.com.
When traveling to island and beach destinations, it doesn’t always pay to book your hotel in advance. Many places like Thailand and the Philippines have beachside huts for the same amount of money that you would likely pay for an appetizer at most restaurants. While they might not be as luxurious as The Plaza, they do come with private bathrooms, beds, ceiling fans, and most important, a better location than the five-star resort down the lane. Walk ten feet from your front door to the water and forget about the spa and room service.
Traveling with another family or two? Combine your travel budgets and stay together in a jungle or mountain cabin. Not only will you be able to save a few bucks, but your kids will all get to play and stay together. Not to mention, these all have their own laundry rooms and kitchens and will help you save some cash when it comes time to wash clothes or cook dinner.
Short Term Rentals
If you’re planning on staying at your destination for more than a week, you’re crazy if you’re staying in a hotel the entire time. Opt for a fully furnished apartment and save some cash. While not as cheap as a hostel, it’s exponentially cheaper than booking a hotel for a month. Plus, you get that "homey" feel versus the blandness of crowded lobbies and plainly-decorated hotel rooms.