Who doesn’t love staying at a good hotel? There’s room service, giant cushy beds with too many pillows, mini-bars, bathrobes, and free toiletries. Oh, and let’s not forget about not having to clean up! Having a stay in a hotel is sometimes just as much a holiday as getting out to the beach or sightseeing, but it’s not the only accommodation option out there.
If you want to switch things for your next trip, or more likely you need to because of a tight travel budget, here are several hotel alternatives where you can kick up your feet:
Homestays, through rental companies like Airbnb, have saturated the market in recent years. Depending on where you want to stay, they can range from rooms being offfered to rent by residents looking to make extra money, apartments owned and managed by companies specifically for homestay rentals, or both. Using a homestay for a vacation or holiday is a great way to have elements from a home atmosphere, like a kitchen and laundry, during your trip. They also usually offer better deals on extended stays.
Home exchanges are like homestays, but instead of paying for your lodging, you’re trading for a place to stay with your own home. They’re basically when you and another homeowner swap domiciles for a nearly free travel housing experience. Other than fees to join a home exchange network, you can save big bucks by trading homes when traveling since you won’t have to pay a nightly fee and most of the comforts of home are available. It’s a low-cost hotel alternative that allows for local immersion and unique experiences.
Couch surfing is also like using a homestay, but usually free. This hotel alternative is just like bunking up with a friend, stay with a local in some places by sleeping on their couch for free in a couch-surfing situation. Its popularity has also exploded in recent years, and for those that are willing to trust the process, both the traveler and the host can have a great experience. With sites like couchsurfing.com, you can connect with people who want to open their homes to travelers just for authentic cultural interactions. You can sleep on the couch of an open-minded resident and see how locals really live, but don’t forget to bring a small thank you gift for opening up their home to you. Couch surfing on a trip is a low-cost method for immersion in local culture that immediately puts you in touch with people who know the destination like no other.
The classic hotel alternative, hostels have long been famous for make traveling affordable. They’re great for solo travelers and backpackers. But are especially perfect for young adult travelers since they usually have a more social setting. Staying in hostels allows you to meet others and make new friends from all over the world, because you’re sleeping in the same room with them. There’s no other way to get close to someone so quickly! Hostels are affordable lodging for travelers looking to stay somewhere with a social nature.
Camping is more of a potential alternative to hotels than most people might think. Private campgrounds, national parks, and nature reserves might all be places where you can pitch a tent. There are even areas near big cities like Paris where you can find camping as an option. And there’s nothing quite like getting to know a place than starting your day when the sun rises and the birds start singing. Camping is an obvious low-cost hotel alternative, but it also gives visitors a different perspective of a destination.
For an unusual and memorable stay, you should consider bunking up in a monastery, synagogue, or convent instead of a hotel. For a nominal price, several religiously affiliated organizations offer cheap or even free housing for travelers. While it’s a hotel alternative that’s not located everywhere, sleeping at an ancient monastery or in another religious group’s facility is similar to hostel stays in that you are usually given a bed and a breakfast. Each stay will be unique to the organization and location, but it’s an alternative to a night at a hotel that’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable and noteworthy part of any trip. You may be required to follow rules to stay there, like not having alcohol on the premises, so check ahead of time. Staying at religious housing is a one-of-a-kind experience.
If you want to temporarily live like a college student and save some money. Some colleges and universities rent out their unused housing and dorms as low-cost hotel alternatives for travelers. Dorms are typically pretty basic, and you might have a shared bathroom down the hall, but the upside is it’s a fairly unused resource so when school is not in session it likely won’t be hard to book a room. Also, the areas around colleges are notorious hubs for affordable restaurants and bars, so staying in university housing means you might be right next door to local hotspots to try. Academic housing can be a cost-effective hotel alternative in a prime location, but only times when classes aren’t in session…so don’t count on staying in academic housing when traveling on cheap flights in September.
What are your preferred hotel alternatives when you travel? Have you stayed in any of these, or others we failed to mention? Tell us about it in the comments!