Private AccommodationYou may picture it as renting an expensive industrial-chic apartment to yourself with a glass of wine in your hand. Although this is a good option, it can be somewhat boring.
Here is what we had in mind:
Short-term Rentals or House-sittingHow can you roam around in an empty house that you can call home for a week or two? Yes, you can have the whole apartment to yourself and your family for little money, along with a cozy home atmosphere and friendly neighbors. Locals rent out entire apartments while they’re traveling, and you can save a lot of money this way. This "mi casa es su casa" philosophy has spread like fire over the internet, and connecting hosts with their guests has never been easier.
You also have a free option called house-sitting or pet-sitting, which involves watering plants, collecting mail, and feeding and/or walking pets. If you’re interested, just make sure your information is up-to-date, then check your host's profile and references thoroughly before writing a personal email request. Now you can connect to people around the globe who need someone to look after their house or pets while they’re away. Check out Facebook groups or relevant real estate forums for options not advertised everywhere else.
Staying with LocalsSome locals also have spare rooms you could rent as you save money, learn a new language and get acquainted with a foreign culture and its people. It may even include a small breakfast or a cooked dinner and a conversation over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. More heartwarming experiences are shared this way, since open-minded people who open their hearts and doors to travelers are usually your fellow adventurers who know what it’s like to be in a foreign place with limited money and contacts.
Volunteer / Work-exchangeIf you feel uneasy playing the role of a freeloader, give something back to the community. Voluntourism is very popular these days - and why not? You get to help the locals (teaching a foreign language, organizing workshops, working) and you get to know your surrounding while doing it. So make sure you look up any organizations in your next destination country that offer these types of exchanges. If you’re more work-oriented, then go for “Work and Travel” jobs such as working on a cruise ship, becoming an au-pair, teaching yoga or joining the crowd of digital nomads traveling and working together. Don’t forget to rent out your apartment while you’re away.
Farm Stays are another great example. You get to do a bunch of outdoor activities and things that you wouldn’t otherwise do (like riding a tractor). Staying on a farm also means healthy organic food and home-cooked meals – which is always a plus.
If you want to experience something different, try a monastery stay. The accommodation and food are frugal, so don’t expect anything more than a simple bed and desk. But you’ll get new insights and have some peace and quiet – for free or for a small voluntary donation.
Five Star HotelsThese hotels offer the highest level of accommodations and services, and their prices guarantee a high degree of personal service. Although most five star hotels are large properties, sometimes the small independent (non-chain) properties offer an elegant intimacy that can’t be found anywhere else. The hotels are usually situated in very exclusive locations in suburban areas or the heart of downtown. They usually have enormous lobbies and rooms embellished with stylish furnishing and quality linens. Amenities often include: VCR′s, CD stereos, garden tubs or Jacuzzis, in-room video libraries, heated pools and more. Most hotels have up to three restaurants, all with exquisite menus. Room service is usually available 24 hours a day, along with Fitness Centers and valet and/or garage parking.
Four Star HotelsFour Star hotels are usually large, formal hotels with smart reception areas, front desk and bellhop services. Often located near shopping malls, dining areas and other major attractions. The level of service here is well above average, and the rooms are well lit and furnished. They usually have an elegant restaurant which sometimes offers continental breakfast and/or happy hour delicacies. Room service is usually available during most hours.
Three Star HotelsThese hotels usually offer more spacious accommodations that include well-appointed rooms and have decorated lobbies. The downside (or upside – depending on your needs) is that they’re often located near major expressways or business areas, convenient for shopping and moderate to high-priced attractions. The hotels have medium-sized restaurants that typically offer breakfast through dinner services. Room service might not be available though.
Bed-and-breakfastA hotel stay doesn’t have to be expensive; a good alternative would be a bed-and-breakfast (two star) hotel. What’s especially appealing is the esprit de corps atmosphere and an included basic meal. What you may find not so tempting, is sharing the bathroom across the hall and to-be-expected noise and lack of modern amenities such as Wi-Fi or cable TV (in some places).
GuesthousesAnother way to save on expenses is staying at guest houses and budget or boutique hotels. These are usually family-owned hotels with basic amenities, nothing too posh. What you may lack is the social interaction and camaraderie of hostels or Bed-and-breakfasts, but to each their own.
Discount offersWhat turns people away from big chain hotels are the dollar signs. But they tend to fall off during the off-season or against growing competition. If you’re not a fan of the peak tourist season and want some affordable accommodation, start searching for discount deals. Use booking engines like SuperCoucou, and take your time to compare prices and then place your order on the website.
Backpacker / youth hostelThis is an attractive option among the youth, but also increasingly for others with limited budgets who want to experience the social togetherness and mingling aspect of a hostel. Rooms and bathrooms are shared, which lowers the cost. What you should expect are army-style bunk beds, safety lockers for your belongings, and a standard toast and cereals breakfast. If you prefer your own space, many hostels also offer single or double rooms so book early to get the best price and check out the reviews, both positive and negative. A piece of advice: Don’t make bargains that aren’t worth it, such as opting for a no window room or no air conditioning. Never choose a location which is cheaper but not convenient otherwise.
University accommodationAcademic stays are another one of our favourites; during the semester break, you can rent student apartments and dormitories for a lower price. It may bring back some pleasant memories from your college life while also saving you a lot of money.
CampingIf you are free-spirited and open-minded, choose camping. Sometimes it’s much easier knowing that you can set up your accommodation for the night in just a couple of minutes. This way you’ll bypass check in/out policies and place your tent anywhere you please (well, almost anywhere).
CampgroundsCampgrounds are officially-approved camp sites, which you can contact beforehand to inquire about available camping spots and making reservations. These usually include improvised parking lots, picnic tables, utility hookups, shower facilities, outhouses, garbage cans, etc. Other suitable options are RV or caravan parks.
Wild campingCheck the camping policy of the country you’re traveling to. While it may be ok to set up your tent anywhere in some countries, in others you may be accused of wild camping and vagrancy. Still, if you look for places that are quiet and not frequented by many people, you could set up your tent and enjoy your privacy with a couple of stray dogs. If you really want to camp lightweight, we recommend you check the weather forecast first and buy a bivy sack which lets you enjoy the starry skies while sleeping outdoors, protected from bugs and insects.
Really cheap alternatives
Overnight transportationIf you really want to save money and are on a tight budget, there are some not-so-comfortable ways to spend as little money as possible. First, you have overnight transportation which requires planning your trip ahead of time and doing extensive research on your transportation. Considering that you may not want to pay for a mere layover, rather spend the night on a bus and wake up at your next destination. Bring a warm blanket, eye pads and ear plugs to fend off light and unwanted neighbours snoring.
Public places / airportThis isn’t a new idea, many people decide to sleep at stations or airport terminals, especially if they booked an early bus or plane on their last day. So paying for a room for a few hours isn’t an option, and with toilets, 24/7 convenience stores, and free Wi-Fi – what more could a person want? Just make sure you arrive a bit early to mark your spot before someone else claims it.