You scored an unbelievable deal on your flight – or maybe you got to cash in some frequent flier miles – but there’s one part of your vacation that will still put a serious crimp in your budget: the hotel. No matter how much you save on other parts of your holiday, solving the all-too-important puzzle of where you’re sleeping can be a huge hurdle to traveling on a tight budget. But, just like flights, if you’re willing to give up the bells and whistles of luxury lodgings, you can save beaucoup bucks on your stay.
After years on the market, Couchsurfing remains the darling of the backpacker world, and for good reason. Locals offer up space in their homes to wandering souls at no cost, giving you the chance to save big on your vacation and truly get to know the culture. Stay safe by choosing hosts with complete profiles, plenty of pictures, positive reviews, and an official Couchsurfing verification. Even though there’s no charge for your stay, it’s good form to bring your host a small thank you gift, or to offer your host help with cooking and cleaning during your visit.
If you’re not too keen on sharing space, you can still find free accommodations by housesitting. There are a variety of housesitting websites online where you can offer your services to residents of your destination who are leaving town themselves. You’ll have to accept typical housesitting responsibilities like watering plants and caring for pets, but your hosts will get their property taken care of and you’ll get a free bed. It’s in your best interest to pay an annual fee on a site like Trusted Housesitters or House Carers, which will help prove to hosts that you’re a trustworthy traveler who’s committed to looking after their property, not just a freeloader.
Short Term Rentals
Sites like Airbnb offer a happy medium between traditional hotels and bumming a spot on somebody’s couch. You can book a shared room, a private room, or even a whole apartment for your trip. This is an ideal option for longer trips as Couchsurfing hosts aren’t always able to accommodate travelers for longer than a week. Couchsurfers are also less open to hosting couples or groups, so finding an inexpensive rental on Airbnb can also be a great way to stay with a local and your travel companions.
Hostels are no secret to the budget travel crowd, but don’t think it’s all 20-bed dorms filled with rave-hopping twenty-somethings. While many hostels do cater to a younger crowd, there are just as many that are open to travelers of all ages. Dorms are often the cheapest option, but several hostels also offer private rooms. The biggest bonus to a hostel stay isn’t just the dough you’ll save, it’s the extra amenities. You may be giving up frills like included towels, but most hostels create a very social atmosphere, and some even organize mixers, guided tours, and other ways for guests to enjoy time together, making them a good choice for solo travelers. Flexible about your destination? Sign up for Hostelworld’s e-newsletter, which highlights the best deals around the world.
Got your heart set on a traditional hotel room? Aggregate search engines like Kayak, Hotels.com, or Trivago can show you which hotels in your destination will give you the biggest bang for your buck. But to score even better deals, visit Stayful. Search for your city of choice and Stayful will show you top rated hotels and the best available online rate. The twist? You can make any offer you like on a room, and get an instant response. The hotel might accept, counter, or refuse your offer. Once you’ve got the deal you want, start packing!