Personal Finance

How To Live In A Hotel For Cheap

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 12 minute read

Every seasoned vacationer knows that housing is usually the second-biggest expenditure after flight. The good news for those on a tighter budget when traveling is that there are plenty of excellent substitutes for staying in a conventional hotel room.

You may save money for the experiences that mean most to you by being resourceful about where you stay and how much you pay. This includes hostels, volunteering, and camping. Keep reading to find out the benefits and drawbacks of unconventional lodging options in the USA and across the world.

Alternatives to Hotels to Save Money on Accommodations

  1. Hostels

You may be mistaken if you think of a hostel as a dirty, congested place to stay because of its name. Hostels today welcome guests of all ages, not only those under 25. You may picture a hostel with a dozen bunk beds in a common area, but many establishments also offer more luxurious private rooms, some of which even come with their own bathrooms. 

Hostels are typically cheaper than hotels due to the fact that they are not as opulent and provide fewer services. If you’re not too picky about amenities and would rather save money, a hostel could be the way to go.

It’s important to do your homework and study reviews with an eye for issues like the hostel’s atmosphere, noise levels, and cleanliness. Hostels.com and Hostelworld are great places to do just that, as you can easily compare the costs of a private room against a communal one. 

You might be pleasantly surprised at how much money you can save. If you’re going it alone or going to be in one spot for a time, a hostel is a great place to meet other travelers.

Tbilisi, Georgia, was our destination on a recent trip with my spouse. We slept in a private room with a private toilet at Fabrika, a former Soviet sewing factory turned into a trendy hostel with a lively, self-aware kitsch vibe. The building’s internal courtyard was always bustling with activity because of the presence of many eateries, a coffee shop, and two bars. 

It was a fantastic area to spend time at any hour of the day or night, and it was just a short distance from the city’s vibrant entertainment district, which would set you back approximately 40% more in a hotel. The hostel was great, especially when paired with the free set of foam earplugs they gave each guest.

Things to Remember

Although hostels no longer cater exclusively to students, you may find that younger travelers make up the bulk of your other guests. If you’re a light sleeper or you’ll be sleeping in a dorm room with a lot of people, you may want to bring earplugs or consider earplugs for the hostel.

Finally, think carefully about whether or not the potential drawbacks outweigh the potential benefits. It’s important to do your research before deciding on a hostel versus a hotel, as there are both excellent and subpar options out there.

  1. Websites for Home Rentals

Popular online marketplaces for renting out a private residence include Airbnb, HomeAway, and Vrbo. These platforms connect homeowners and landlords with potential guests using a booking calendar or similar mechanism. It is possible to avoid renting a house with terrible reviews by reading ratings left by previous guests and hosts on many of these sites.

Depending on your requirements and available funds, you can rent a single bed, a room with en suite facilities, or even an entire home or property. You will still be responsible for any local occupancy or hotel taxes, but you will enjoy the convenience of a kitchen and the opportunity to experience your place like a native, among other advantages.

These kinds of lodgings can be more cost-effective than hotel rooms, and if your hosts are around, you can get to know some intriguing locals.

Things To Remember

If you are traveling from a long distance or won’t have access to a phone or the internet, you should inquire about the host’s preferred method of check-in before arriving. In-person check-ins are far less stressful when you aren’t rushing and have a method to keep in touch with the other person beforehand.

It may be less of a headache to check in on your own, since some hosts (often those renting out a full home or apartment) just provide you with a key code or lockbox number.

Remember that you will be staying in someone else’s home, subject to their standards of cleanliness, regulations, and personal tastes. Rental homes aren’t the ideal choice if you’d rather have the security and discretion of a hotel with a front desk and a concierge.

  1. Couch Surfing

Web site Activation It has long been common practice to provide a stranger a free place to stay in one’s house, and couchsurfing merely codified this behavior. Couch surfing is an alternative lodging option to traditional hotel stays, in which guests spend the night at the private residence of a local resident in exchange for some form of free lodging, whether it is a spare bed, air mattress, or couch.

Your host is letting you stay at their property for free, so in return you owe them a favor in the form of a present, a dinner, or an English lesson. Couch surfing is a great method to save money on lodging, especially in cities like London, Paris, and Singapore, where hotel rooms may cost hundreds of dollars per night.

Things to Remember

However, not everyone should try couch surfing. It’s draining to have so little control over your environment and so much unpredictability concerning your nightly rest. Instead of making it your nightly plan for two weeks, it could be preferable to try it out once in a while.

As with other home-rental websites, keep in mind that you’ll be staying in someone else’s private residence. Finally, if you’re a solitary traveler rather than a couple or family, you’ll have an easier time arranging a couch surfing stay.

  1. Camping

There is more to camping than scouting. Camping is a terrific method to save money on lodging if you’re traveling to an area with high hotel rates or a shortage of available rooms. U.S. state and national parks typically charge less than $20 a night for a tent camping site without power, with higher rates for RV electric and sewer connections.

ReserveAmerica, which covers many U.S. state and national parks, or a fast Internet search for a private campsite in your target location will provide you with pricing and seasonal opening and closing dates.

The cost of a night at a campsite is typically far lower than that of a hotel, and guests also enjoy the added bonus of being immersed in nature. For the Fourth of July long weekend, a few years ago, my family had the idea of visiting Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, driving up the cost of lodging to unaffordable levels (even for cheap hotels and locations with mixed ratings).

Tent camping in a state park near Fort Niagara was considerably more affordable than staying in a Niagara Falls or Canadian hotel (about $20 per night for a non-electric tent pad), so we booked three nights and had a wonderful long weekend break for less than the cost of one night’s lodging.

Campsites were suitably separated from one another, and clean communal showers were available. It wasn’t the most plush hotel, but it got the job done and allowed us to go on a trip that would have been out of our price range otherwise. Consider borrowing a tent from a friend, buying a used one at a yard sale, or renting one from a sporting goods store like REI if you don’t have one.

You might want to apply to be a campsite host if you’re making your way across the United States in an RV and have lots of time on your adventure. Typically part-time, these seasonal positions require checking guests in, performing light maintenance and cleaning duties, and keeping the campsite (including the bathrooms and showers) clean.

Not everyone will enjoy working as a camp host, but if this seems like something you’d be interested in doing, you can find open opportunities on CoolWorks or through the Camp Host Jobs website.

Things to Remember

Due to the lack of extras, camping costs less money. Find out what kind of extras will be included in your stay. Do you have to carry your own water and use a pit toilet, or does the campground offer showers and running water?

It goes without saying that you should prepare for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions if you intend to spend the night under the stars. Finally, if possible, choose a campsite far away from other campers to avoid the distraction of loud neighbors.

  1. Cabin Rentals

Rent a cabin or other type of rustic lodging if sleeping on the ground is not an option for you. Booking a cabin at a domestic destination is easier than ever with the aid of sites like Glamping Hub.

It’s a decent compromise between roughing it in the wilderness and splurging on a hotel room for those who aren’t campers or don’t have the gear needed for the great outdoors.

Things to Remember

Depending on the cabin, you may need to provide your own linens and towels or receive daily turn-down service; therefore, it’s important to check the fine print and customer evaluations before booking.

  1. Dorms & Academic Housing

It is possible to save money on lodging by staying in a university dorm room during the summer or during the holiday season. It is becoming increasingly common for institutions to rent out unused dorm rooms to outside guests over the summer and other times when their students are not there.

This is more widespread in Europe and Australia, but if you’re on a tight budget or just want to relive your college days, it’s worth checking into wherever you visit.

If you want to know if this is a possibility at your location, you may check websites like UniversityRooms.com or conduct a simple online search. On the other hand, several institutions that offer hospitality management degrees have on-campus hotels where students may get practical experience.

Things To Remember

You may have trouble reserving a dorm room or other forms of academic accommodation if your trip falls in the midst of the semester, when most students are away from school. Especially in popular cities, they become bookable months in advance.

Since they are genuine dormitory rooms, they can be rather basic, which further reduces the price. They may have a private bathroom, or you’d have to wear your shower shoes and make the trek down the hall. Pack carefully and in advance.

  1. Housing for Religious Organizations

Visitors searching for a cheap place to stay or a location with more history and character than a generic hotel may find religious housing to be a good alternative. Visit Monastery Stays or do a web search for your travel destination to find nearby monasteries and convents.

Many people who choose religious life do so in order to live simply, thus the housing they provide isn’t likely to be very lavish. However, it is usually clean, quiet, and more affordable than alternatives.

I stayed in a nunnery in Italy a few years ago, and it was conveniently located right across the street from the Vatican’s east door. A double room with a private bathroom may be had there for less than 100 euros per night, far less than the hundreds of euros paid by more conventional hotels for the same proximity to the Vatican. The location was unbeatable, the apartments were barebones but spotless, and the calm and quiet were divine.

Things To Remember

Before making a reservation, be sure to read the fine print and find out if the monastery or abbey you wish to visit restricts visitation to male or female guests. If you reside with a certain family or group, you may be expected to observe certain quiet hours or go to church on a certain day.

  1. Overnight Transportation

Taking an overnight bus or train might save you time and money when traveling great distances. Saving a hotel night’s cost and avoiding wasting an entire vacation day on travel is a win-win.

Megabus, a low-cost bus service that operates throughout much of the East and Mid-Atlantic coasts of the United States, has multiple overnight journeys that arrive in their destination cities just as the sun is rising. When on an overnight train, a seat is sometimes much cheaper than a bunk or private room.

The London–Scotland sleeper trains are only one example of the many bus and railway lines that operate overnight around the world; the Indian subcontinent is also well served.

Things to Remember

Getting some shut-eye on a bus or rail trip can seem impossible, but if you’re well-prepared, you could be pleasantly surprised by how much rest you can get. Prepare for your trip by reading up on the area and packing a good eye mask, noise-canceling headphones, food, lots of entertainment, and maybe a little sleep aid like Melatonin or Tylenol PM.

If you’re concerned about the weather, make sure you’re dressed adequately and have something to cover yourself with, such as a blanket or light jacket. If you can save enough money and wake up somewhere fresh, even a bad night’s sleep can be worthwhile.

  1. Work for Your Accommodation

A farm stay or volunteer position might be a good option if you’re ready to trade your labor for a place to sleep.

The mission of WWOOF, which stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” is to “promote cultural and educational experiences” by connecting individuals from all over the world with organic farms, garden centers, and breweries. In exchange for your labor on a WWOOF farm, you will be provided with a place to stay at no cost. After the first membership payment of $25 per year is made, no more payments are required.

Have no desire to till the soil? Join another volunteer group if you can’t find one that works for you. These possibilities range in duration from a single night to several weeks or months. Visit sites like HelpStay and TCV to narrow down the available options at your location and to learn about the specifics of each commitment.

Things To Remember

The specifics of your volunteer experience will be determined by the group you choose to work with and the specifics of the position you take on, but be assured that you will be compensated in some way. It’s not free, and there’s a huge range in terms of luxury, seclusion, amenities, and what guests are asked to provide.

  1. Home Swapping

The notion of house exchange has gained popularity since the 2006 film “The Holiday” popularized it. With the emergence of House Exchange, the decades-old tradition of staying at someone’s home and occasionally having them stay in yours at the same time has surged in popularity and is now more feasible than ever.

The idea is straightforward: In exchange for free lodging, you look after someone else’s houseplants and pets. It’s a great way to save money (or get it for free) and get a taste of local life by staying in someone’s full house.

You should choose the home exchange arrangement that suits you best among the several available. For a more conventional swap, you may host another person or family at your house while they do the same for you. Guest houses, vacation rentals, and other non-primary residences are also options.

Things to Remember

Before agreeing to a conventional exchange, it’s wise to consider your comfort level with having complete strangers stay in your home. It’s one thing to be able to crash at someone’s abode for free, but it takes a special kind of person to welcome total strangers into their home.

A house swap is not without cost. To cover the costs of screening potential swap hosts and guests, most home-swapping websites charge users either a monthly or annual membership fee.

Last but not least, if you are concerned about your own or your goods’ security, you should only utilize a reputable service or website. Know what kind of insurance and safeguards you have in place in case anything out of the ordinary happens, and make sure the individual or family you’re exchanging with has been well vetted by asking questions and setting ground rules in advance.

Bottom Line

You can find a place to sleep and determine how much it will cost for your next trip by using your imagination. Using these guidelines and some creative thinking, you can escape the monotony of another costly hotel room.

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