Top 10 Hotel Alternatives – Save Money With These Options

Finding hotel alternatives is one way we afford long term family travel.  We haven’t won the lottery yet, so we are always looking for ways to save money. Accommodation used to be a huge chunk of our budget. As we traveled around the world we learned a few tricks and discovered many hotel alternatives.

Whether you are headed out for long term travel, or just going for the weekend, I am sure you can find something here to keep a few more dollars in your pocket.

#1 Home Exchange

We swapped our home in New Zealand for one on this street in Spain:

home exchange
Home Exchange is probably the number one way we afforded our travels. It’s simple, we swap house and sometimes car with someone else. Aside from saving money, there is a hidden bonus to this hotel alternative: When we live in a home and in a community we get to participate in local culture and become a part of our own adventure, rather than just looking on as a tourist. Don’t miss our best tips for successful home exchange.

#2 Couch Surfing

Couch Surfing – The name sounds funny, but the concept is great.  People offer a no strings attached spot in their home, sometimes in a spare room, sometimes a spare apartment, sometimes on a couch.

#3 House Sitting

House Sitting is exactly what is sounds like, you live in someone’s home while they are away generally to care for their animals or plants. As far as hotel alternatives go, we are pretty excited about trying house sitting. We only recently learned about it from other travelers.

#4 Backpackers and Hostels

This castle was our view from our room window in a backpackers in Luxembourg, not bad for what I has always thought of as a poor student accommodation:

hotel alternatives

While the traditional backpackers have bunk/dorm rooms and shared bathrooms, we found many offer family rooms with private baths. There is nearly always a shared kitchen and lounge, so they are great for meeting other travelers.  Most of the Backpackers we have encountered were friendly and welcoming. The exception, I asked a question in Munich and was told I was probably too old to be staying there (they had family rooms, so who were they expecting?)

#5 Cabins at Campsites

We woke up to find this pony outside our cabin in New Zealand:

hotel alternatives

Here was a fun discovery, many campsites worldwide offer cabins or rooms with shared bathrooms. Like the backpackers we get the advantage of a shared kitchen and camaraderie of other family travelers.

#6 Take a Cruise

The ship we were sailing on is in the background:
hotel alternatives
The trick here: book late . . . really late. We took a Mediterranean cruise booked 6 days before embarkation for 74% off. They don’t like to sail with empty cabins, so this is when you get your best deals.  For less than the daily price of a hotel, we had accommodation, transportation, food and entertainment. Last minute works best if you are already in the city of embarkation.

#7  B&Bs

hotel alternatives
To me, the best thing about a B&B is meeting and talking with the owners, who so far we have always found to be friendly, interesting and full of local knowledge.

Photo Credit: The photo is of Royalton B&B in Vermont ©Evelyn Saenz 2012. Used with permission. All Right Reserved

#8 Religious Accommodations

monastery staysMany convents, monasteries, churches and temples open their doors for guests. Sometimes for free, often for a small to moderate fee. Sometimes there is a prayer requirement, but not always. Jerusalem has many, however they appear to be found throughout the world. Accommodation will be clean, yet plain. There may be rules and curfews. You can learn more about this at Monastery Stays.com.  (we haven’t tried this yet)

#9 Farmstays and WWOOF

horse ridingFarmstays and WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) are working holidays. In exchange for either free or more affordable accommodation, we help out with certain chores. However, many farmstays are becoming more tourist focused, so the rates will be more in line with other local options, but activities like horse riding might be included.

#10 Pitch A Tent

While it is a great way to save money, it’s not for me (I make exceptions in the desert). I have inherited my mother’s definition of roughing it: “any motels on the main strip.

One More Thought:

hotel alternatives

Unless otherwise noted all photos on this page ©Rhonda Albom 2012-2013. All Right Reserved.

What are your favorite hotel alternatives? Have you tried any of these?  Which ones worked well, which ones didn’t?

About Rhonda Albom

When I met my hubby he was looking for a traveling companion. Together we have moved to New Zealand and visited over 42 countries, most with our now teenage girls. Things rarely go as planned, and generally we have an amusing tale to tell. That's what Laugh Quotes is about - the fun side of our adventures and our expat life.

Comments

  1. I don’t have any alternative. Our boat? That’s about the only other place we stay if we aren’t traveling. If we are traveling we stay in hotels. I want my comfort.

    Have a terrific day. :)
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    • Good idea – If we still had a yacht, we would be staying on that as well! There is comfort in some of my alternatives, you might like a B&B – the rest require a bit of work or less comforts of home.

  2. Book late for cruises – that’s good to know!
    I knew about bed and breakfasts and student hostel accommodations from living in London. (And traveling there of course.) Much cheaper than hotels.

  3. Donna Saunders says:

    Great list. We are about to do our first home exchange. We decided to give it a try after you wrote about your one in Spain.

  4. Sounds like you found some great alternatives for places to stay.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com/2013/06/happy-birthday-judy.html

  5. Beth Gatman says:

    LOL- We love tent camping, a Bedouin tent would be awesome. You have so much fun. I said it before-adopt me please.

    • I do make exceptions for special things, but given the choice, I like walls. We did stay in a tent for some of our time in Morocco, but it was a pretty nice one.

  6. Great alternatives, and it worked out well that you already got to see a lot of Barcelona before your ship set sail. Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure. Let me know if you’re planning a hometown visit, as it would be fun to see you!

    • Sorry Julie, it seems we are just hitting the corners on our next travel – LA, Alaska, Washington DC, New York, Florida, Arizona and Vegas. It would have been fun to catch up with friends, this time it will be more about family.

  7. Lisa Ross says:

    The experiences you all have had blow me away. I look forward to hearing more

  8. Good tips Rhonda I’m looking forward to hearing about your new travel stories and photos :-)

    Have a fantabulosa week ;-)
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  9. Hi Rhonda .. great tips .. love the alternatives available .. and wondered how long you needed to book for each? Some must be overnight possibilities, other must be a month at a time I guess …

    … and I see you’re off in less than a week – enjoy … cheers Hilary

    • All can be any length of time. Home Exchanges and house sits tend to be a week to a few months (we did a 9 month home exchange last year). However, they are what ever you agree on. We once had a home exchange request for a weekend. The other options tend to be shorter.

  10. Never tried anything other than hotels– but these sound like nice tips.
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    • Maybe next time – there are lots of ways to save money on travel, but more importantly these options are fun and a great way to immerse yourself into a new culture.

  11. I’m a fan of cruises and B&Bs.

  12. These are all fantastic options… I should probably watch less horror movies tho. Because I could see something horrible going wrong in every scenario. But I’ll still go.. I’m weird like that!!

    Hugs!

    Valerie

  13. If you have planned your trip yourself, which means you have not decided to use a package from a travel agent, sometimes finding accommodation when you arrive is the best option.
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