When you’re travelling and need a place to stay, hotels are a great solution.
They’re convenient, you can find one almost anywhere, and they can be a pampered retreat from real life (wouldn’t it be nice if someone made your bed every day?).
But they can also be quite pricey and even run-of-the-mill. So, why should they be your only option?
Well, they’re not. By using these three organizations, you can mix things up and find some excellent and unique accommodations—for a fraction of the price of a hotel. (And in some cases, even for free!) Before booking your next trip—or staycation—check out these sites.
If you’re looking for the perfect long stay accommodation to suit your specific needs, then L’barza Apartments in the best position to assist.
Airbnb puts a modern spin on the old custom of taking boarders in. But you don’t have to stay in the homes of random folks off the street—rather, Airbnb matches hosts and guests by using profiles, detailed descriptions, and references, so everyone is comfortable and protected.
Accommodations through Airbnb can range from a cozy room in the host’s house, a tent in their backyard, a treehouse, a yacht, a loft, or a five-bedroom villa on the Mediterranean Sea. In almost every destination worldwide, you can find accommodations on the cheap (prices start around $25 per night), or splurge on decadent digs (still for a fraction of what you would pay a hotel).
Aside from saving hundreds of dollars in lodging expenses, I’ve enjoyed my Airbnb stays for the extra human touches: bicycles to borrow, recommendations from the property owner on places to explore and restaurants to try, a kitchen to prepare some meals in, and great conversations with interesting hosts from around the globe.
While Airbnb usually guarantees you your own space—be it a private bedroom or an entire villa—CouchSurfing will allow you to get more, well, cozy with your hosts. Read: you crash with a stranger.
Okay, it’s a little safer than that. Couch Surfing is based on a community of travel enthusiasts who want to open their homes up to others. That’s why you can go camping at an eco-community in Costa Rica, stay in a flat in London, or park it on a ritzy couch in Palm Springs, for absolutely nothing.
Guests and hosts alike create profiles on the Couch Surfing website, including reviews from previous surfers, allowing both sides to learn a bit about and carefully screen each other. You can also specify what types of guests and hosts you’re comfortable with, such as singles, families, men, women, and specific age ranges. Finally, the site offers a verification system, so you can be assured that the people really are who they say they are.
The site isn’t entirely free—the community frowns on freeloaders who do all the surfing and none of the hosting—so be prepared to reciprocate. Yes, it sounds a little sketchy at first, but if you use common sense when choosing your hosts and guests, it can lead to a cheaper trip and the opportunity to meet fascinating people across the world.
Couchsurfing has exploded in popularity over the past few years, and for a good reason. Couchsurfing is about as authentic of “local” travel experience as you can get!
The premise behind Couchsurfing is that you stay at a local’s house or apartment for free. That’s right, and a stranger opens their home to another stranger asking nothing in return but to learn from each other!
This may seem completely nuts to some of you (as it did to Heather when we first started doing it). But really, it’s an amazing experience for both people. I have “surfed’ and hosted, and the experience has been great each time.
Couchsurfing has a high element of trust, both as the surfer (“I hope I’m not staying with some lunatic”) and as the host (“I hope I’m not hosting some lunatic”).
However, the Couchsurfing website has continued to add more and more safeguards each year to ensure that both parties can feel as comfortable as possible without having met in person.
Ready to start Couchsurfing? Visit Couchsurfing.org to set up your profile and find a place to stay.
Mind My House
If you’re looking for a private vacation and are willing to spend a bit of money and effort, house sitting can be the perfect answer. Websites like Mind My House matches house sitters with homeowners who are itching to travel. It’s up to you to email the prospective homeowner and convince them that you’re the right one for the job, which is where that extra effort comes in. You’ll also need to pay $20 for the opportunity to explore the homes up for grabs and the utilities during your stay.
If it’s going to be something you want to do more than once, consider how you can make yourself a more desirable house sitter. Some sitters go out of their way to get excellent referrals—cleaning the home, stocking the freezer with baked goods, and leaving the pets very happy.
But despite the extra effort, you’ll get staying in a house (by yourself) for next to nothing. And with lengths of stay anywhere from a week to months on end, it’s perfect for if you really want to explore a destination without breaking the bank.
You can find cozy, convenient places to stay for $50, $20, or even for free, in destinations around the world—as long as you know where to look. Aside from airfare, lodging is typically the expense that takes the biggest bite out of a vacation budget. But there’s no need to rack up hotel stays for $100 to $200 a night or more. If you’re willing to consider alternatives to hotels, you could pay a fraction of that price—or nothing at all.
Whether you are staying with us for one night or a longer period, your health and well-being is our priority and L’barza Services Apartments is ready to help with any questions.
Short-Term Room Rentals
This is a popular and ever-growing trend in the travel world—a cross between vacation rentals and homestays. Using websites like Airbnb, Homestay, and 9flats, you can rent a room in someone’s house, a cottage, or a private studio apartment for low nightly rates—it’s not uncommon to see prices under $50 per night. It’s a way for hosts to open up their homes and make a little extra money while giving travellers a great deal and a local’ s-eye view of a destination.
Apartment or House Rentals
Renting an apartment or house is a superior alternative to staying in a hotel for several reasons:
- It Can Save You Money – You can usually find rentals much cheaper than hotels, especially if you are in a large group.
- Better Amenities – Apartment and house rentals typically have amenities that might not be available to you in a hotel, such as a kitchen or a washer and dryer.
- Free Internet and Parking – Apartment and house rentals usually won’t nickel and dime you for things like internet and/or parking. If the place has internet and parking, you’ll often be able to use it for free.
- Local Tips – If you get a chance to meet the owner of the place, they’ll often have some great advice on what to see and do in the area.
Renting places while travelling has become much more common recently. In almost every area I’ve looked, from Louisville, Kentucky to Munich, Germany, I’ve been able to find good rentals for a fraction of the price that I’d pay for a hotel.
Each time, I’ve been extremely happy to have a rental as a home base. Not only have the properties themselves been great, but so has the experience.
To find a short-term house or apartment rentals, I recommend starting with Airbnb. You can read reviews of the properties and owners, as well as see photos and descriptions of the amenities.
While the interface isn’t as fancy as Airbnb’s, I’ve also been able to find super cheap apartment rentals both in America and abroad through Craigslist. Just use your common sense and don’t get scammed, as Craigslist isn’t as regulated as Airbnb.
Depending on where you’re travelling, there may be affordable lodging offered by religious organizations, such as convents and monasteries in Italy (check out Monastery Stays), or Christian or Jewish guesthouses in Jerusalem. An internet search or a visit to the local tourist board’s website can help you find these options.
I found out about this option recently, and it’s pretty cool. Across many parts of the world, religious organizations will offer cheap (or even free) accommodation to travellers.
Now I’ll admit, this won’t be for everyone, and you’ll probably enjoy it more if you’re a member of the religion in question. Still, it’s a unique experience and a great way to get guidance if you’re travelling to visit religious sites.
The specifics of the accommodation vary based on the organization, but you can usually expect a bed and likely a free breakfast. In many ways, it’s a solemn, sober version of staying at a hostel.
If you’re looking for religious housing in Europe, we recommend searching on Monastery Stays. For other regions of the world, you’ll likely need to contact the organization you want to stay with directly.
Though they’re commonly known as “youth” hostels, these can be an excellent hotel alternative for budget travellers of any age. Even if you’re not up for the cheapest option—a bed in a shared dorm—you can often get a basic private room at a hostel for significantly less than the cost of a low-end hotel.
The media has given hostels a bad rap. If you think all hostels are cramped, smelly madhouses full of drunk backpackers, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Nowadays, they’re much more like unique, boutique hotels (try saying that five times fast).
Hostels are among my favourite hotel alternatives because they have much more character. Each one is different and has its quirks and personality, which makes them far more memorable than a concrete monolith emblazoned with some corporate logo.
The vibe is usually much more friendly and social, and the staff usually has a much more vested interest in your enjoyment since they are often the owners themselves.
While they’re a lot nicer than they used to be, don’t expect your hostel to be as luxurious as a hotel. You’ll likely share a bathroom with other travellers, as well as sleep in a room with several other people (though many hostels do offer private rooms for an additional cost).
We think these small tradeoffs are worth it, however, since hostels make it much easier to find new friends and meet locals than when you stay in a hotel.
To find hostels, we recommend searching Hostelworld.
Interested in Short term Accommodation in Shepparton? L’barza Apartments is your destination! Our apartments are modern, self-sufficient and located in an excellent area in Shepparton.
House sitting is a great opportunity for people who are looking to stay in some amazing homes and properties for free. Yep, you read that right; for free!
The great thing about house sitting is that it can be for short-term vacations of 1 week or even year-long sabbaticals. It all depends on what you want!
House sitting is pretty straightforward. Many people who will be away from their home for an extended amount of time want someone to look after their place while they’re gone.
Sometimes this is because they have pets that they can’t bring with them, sometimes it’s because they want someone to look after their garden and yard, and sometimes it’s simply because they want someone to occupy their house while they are gone for safety reasons.
Whatever the reason, people will offer up their homes and properties for a house sit. In exchange for taking care of the animal(s), yard work, or whatever the owners want, the house sitter will be allowed to stay at the property free of charge.
To find your first house sit, sign up for an account at Trusted Housesitters. For tips on finding and making the most of your house sitting experience, check out our complete guide to house sitting.
Sleeping in someone’s spare bedroom, or on a living room couch, is by far one of the cheapest ways to travel. In many cases, it’s free, and it’s also a great way to meet locals. You can organize a homestay through long-established hospitality networks like Servas International, or check out sites like Couchsurfing. For more information, see our guide to homestays and farm stays.
If renting an entire house or apartment is out of your budget, consider a homestay instead. In a homestay, a person lets you stay in a spare bedroom (or bed) of their house. Usually, this will be in exchange for a low nightly rate, though it’s also possible to find free homestays in exchange for volunteer work.
Keep in mind that your accommodation in a homestay will likely be basic. What homestays lack in fancy amenities, however, they make up for in the cultural experiences they provide.
If you’re learning a new language, for instance, homestays offer a level of immersion that’s difficult to get anywhere else. Plus, you’ll get a level of connection that you could never find in a hotel; you’re essentially part of the person’s family while you stay there.
To find homestays, start with Homestay.com.
A Paris apartment, a villa in the Caribbean, a log cabin in Vermont vacation rentals offer unique and affordable lodging around the globe. Because they tend to be more spacious than hotel rooms, they’re a particularly good bargain for families and groups who can divvy up the cost. And having your own kitchen can save you big bucks on restaurants. Sites to try to include TripAdvisor and HomeAway. And make sure to read up about whether vacation rentals are right for you.
While maybe not as easy to do for short-stays, if you’re planning on a trip that involves staying in one area overnight for several nights in a row, vacation rental properties may be a great option. We prefer renting a home or condo instead of staying in a hotel room when possible, as it oftentimes provides more space, can be cheaper, allows for eating in vs. having to eat every meal out (an often cheaper and healthier option), and it’s, well, “homey”. A few examples of vacation rental sites that have a lot of inventory are VRBO.com, HomeAway.com, and CyberRentals.com (the three sites are owned by the same company but appear to have different inventory), as well as FlipKey.com (owned by TripAdvisor.com).
24-hour Subway or Starbucks
This is probably the cheapest solution – simply go and order a sandwich or coffee every hour or so, and you’ll be set. I would extend this to doing the same at a Burger King or McDonald’s too, but those tend to be a bit sketchier and night compared to a Subway or a Starbucks.
Rent a Car for the Night
Renting a car instead of a hotel room is probably the best idea if you are coming into town via an airport. However, even if you are taking a bus or train, you can still typically get to an airport pretty easily and rent the car there. While the most expensive of the options at about $50-$100 this is probably the best solution since you’ll have both privacy and security. Simply park it in a well-lit parking spot such as a 24-hour Walmart for instance. That way you can also get food and use the restroom if you need it.
When students go home for the summer, many colleges and universities open their dorms to visitors. Expect very affordable but very basic accommodations (bathrooms may be down the hall, for example). There are few central databases of these type of lodgings—UniversityRooms is one to try—but it’s worth calling a few local campuses directly to see if anything might be available during your trip. Your destination’s tourist board may also be able to help.
B&Bs with Shared Bathrooms
Bed-and-breakfasts can often save you money over hotel rooms, especially if you’re willing to use a bathroom down the hall. And it may be less inconvenient than you think: Sometimes the room you’re supposed to share a bathroom with might not even be booked—giving you the facilities all to yourself.
From rural B&Bs to working ranches and cattle farms, this type of stay can cover a wide range of accommodations—and you don’t necessarily have to be willing to milk a cow to take advantage of it. Farmstays are particularly popular in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Learn more about homestays and farm stays.
Sleeping under the stars can be a magical experience, and it’s one of the cheapest options on this list, especially if you cook your meals over a campfire instead of eating in restaurants every night. And don’t worry, you can opt for cabins or luxury tent camps (i.e., glamping) if you’d rather not be slapping mosquitoes away all night.
Once you have the gear, camping is one of the cheapest hotel alternatives out there.
It’s certainly not for everyone. You have to be comfortable with sleeping outside and dealing with rudimentary (or nonexistent) bathroom facilities.
But assuming you don’t mind “roughing it” a bit, camping can provide a unique travel experience. It’s an especially good option if your goal is to see remote parts of a country or spend your vacation in nature.
And if camping in a tent sounds too rustic for you, you can also consider renting an RV or camper van. These options give you more protection from the elements, as well as amenities such as a fridge, stove, and bathroom (in some cases).
To find a place to camp on your next trip, we recommend these resources:
- Hipcamp – A site for finding campsites on private land in the United States. This is a great option if you don’t want to worry about competing with other travellers for a public campsite.
- AllStays – A helpful search engine for finding campsites of all kinds, ranging from National Parks to RV parks.
- RVshare – A site that lets you rent an RV from a private owner (it’s like the Airbnb of RVs).
Swapping houses with another traveller is an ideal way to enjoy the comforts of home while travelling, and it’s practically free. To become a member of a home exchange network, you’ll typically pay an annual fee that costs about as much as a night in a hotel room, so after the first couple of nights of your vacation, your membership has paid for itself and then some. Learn more in SmarterTravel how-to guide to home exchanges.
And if you’re still looking for more lodging options besides a hotel room — that may or may not be cheaper — here are a few other suggestions:
As we mentioned above, CraigsList has been providing a platform for awhile now for people looking to rent out a room or their home — from one night stays to several months. We came across a website that makes it easy to search CraigsList for rentals (and for purchases) using a Google map mashup. The website is HousingMaps.com, and while it doesn’t show every rental listed on CraigsList (they have to be listed in the correct format for this website to find it), it still has a lot of listings for the major cities it covers.
I can’t count the number of awesome experiences and crazy adventures I’ve had by staying in hostels, Couchsurfing, or taking over someone’s apartment or house. These are the experiences I remember long after I’ve left a place and the backbone of why I enjoy travelling so much.
For your next trip, I encourage you to branch out and try one of the hotel alternatives on this list. You won’t regret it!