[Series] How to Travel for Less: Accommodation

14 Jan

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Today’s post will cover ideas on how YOU can save money on your accommodations while traveling. Some of the ideas below may seem like obvious choices, but there are a few that may surprise you (OMG I hope there are a few surprises!). If I’ve missed something, PLEASE include it in the comments. The best part about blogging is the interaction I have with my readers, as well as the interaction my readers have with each other.

There is more to accommodations than the debate between hostels and hotels. I know! It’s a revolutionary thought. We can actually travel and not stay in hostels or hotels. We can also travel and find ways to stay with hostels and hotels at discounted rates!

Are you still here? Did you pass out from the shock of the above statement? Grab a paper bag, sit down, fill a spoon with some Nutella, and keep reading!

CouchSurfing

Have you heard of couchsurfing? CouchSurfing allows travellers to connect with hosts who have a couch, floor space, or extra bed available. The trick with couchsurfing is to read reviews and choose carefully. These are complete strangers. Most travellers have had fabulous experiences (and made life-long friendships) with couchsurfing. Hosts will generally show you around, or give you tips on cool things to do. Registration is FREE (although a donation is encouraged).

Housesitting

Housesitting is a great way to see the world, and score FREE accommodation. Housesitting gigs are more for travellers who enjoy slow travel, an contact with locals. The trick is finding decent (and reliable) housesitting websites. Similar to work exchange websites, housesitting websites require a membership fee. Once again, when you weigh the fee against the number of FREE nights, it is totally worth it.

I asked a couple of blogging friends about the housesitting websites they use and trust, and both of them recommended the same website, TrustedHousesitters.com (THS). THS offers 3, 6, and 12 months memberships, and has housesitting gigs for all over the world. If you want to give housesitting a try, check them out. And as a special treat use the promo code ‘married’ to receive a 25% discount on your membership, courtesy of my friends Warren & Betsy Talbot from Married with Luggage.

Rent an Apartment

If you’re planning to travel slowly, renting an apartment for a couple months, and using it as a homebase, can be a lot cheaper than staying in a hostel or guesthouse. The trick is to weigh the cost of the apartment and utilities, against the cost of your preferred hostel/guesthouse. Something else to remember is that apartments require deposits. This may suck when you sign the lease, but think of the happy dance you’ll do when you get that money back at the end of the lease! FREE MONEY! Okay, not really…

Another option is short-term (less than a month) apartment stays vs hotel stays. There are several websites where apartment owners list either a room, or their entire apartment for rent. Generally you can rent them either by the night, or by the week, and at times it’s cheaper to go this route, rather than staying at a Guesthouse/Hotel. Some websites to check out are: GowithOh, Homeaway, and Wimdu (there are several others. If you want a complete list, let me know)

Overnight Buses/Trains

Remember in the transportation post, how I talked about taking an overnight bus or train can be cheaper than travelling mid-day? Well there is  more to it than a cheaper ticket, there is the fact that you also gain a night of FREE accommodation. You were already buying a ticket, right?! The trick with overnight buses/trains is to keep valuables safe, wear comfy (warm) clothing, bring a travel pillow, and some snacks.

Reduced Hotel Rates

Believe it or not, hotel rates are not always set in stone. Before checking in it’s a good idea to ask about discount rates that are available. If you happen to visit during the low season, this could mean a considerable discount. Another option is to join hotel rewards programs, and keep an eye on sales. I’m a Starwood (Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin) preferred guest, and when they offer birthday rates (your room rate is the last two digits of the year you were born!), or $100 room sales, I look to see if I can work a stay into an upcoming trip.

Hostel Work Exchange

Believe it or not, there are ways you can save money at hostels, without compromising and finding yourself in a dive. One of the most popular ways is working for your accommodation. Hostels/Guesthouses usually operate on a low budget, which means they may be open to having YOU do work for them in exchange for FREE accommodation. Usually you’ll receive 3 FREE nights in exchange for 8 hours of work (which is usually housekeeping).

How do you know if a hostel offers this program? Ask (I’ll be doing this the entire month of April in Playa del Carmen, Mexico)! When you arrive at the hostel, ask to speak with the manager and inquire about working for free accommodation. Pitch what you’re willing to do for them. If you’re web design or social media savvy, perhaps you can make a deal to improve the hostel’s website and social media, in exchange for a Free bed. The possibilities are endless.

Work Exchange Programs

Another way to stay for FREE in exchange for work is to sign-up for work exchange websites, surf their opportunities  contact hosts, and make arrangements. The following websites offer work exchange programs on farms, with B&Bs, hostels, lodges, ranches, and even boats! Be forewarned though. The jobs may blow chunks! Choose wisely.

HelpX - this website offers a FREE membership, which gives you very limited access. If you want full access you’ll have to pay $29 USD every two years. HelpX has work exchange on organic and non-organic farms, ranches, B&Bs, backpacker hostels, and lodges around the globe.

WWOOF – this is probably one of the more widely known work exchange websites. WWOOF connects volunteers with organic farms, and has programs in several countries around the world. The hitch to this program is that each country requires a membership, which means you’re paying a fee for every country you register with. That being said, when you compare that to FREE accommodation, it’s really not a lot of money.

Workaway – this work exchange website  has a baseline of 5 hours of work each day, 5 days a week. For this you receive food and accommodations. The cost for joining Workaway is 22 Euros every two years.

Work on a Cruise Ship!

Do you really want to work on a cruise ship? Well, if it involves seeing the world, staying for FREE, and making a lot of money, maybe you should consider it! I’ve never worked on a cruise ship, but I know a few people who have. This type of job offers FREE food and accommodation, and allows you to travel and explore new places. It’s a win-win. Derek Earl of WanderEarl has done this, and written an eBook on how YOU can do the same thing. Pop by his website and take a look. I believe the eBook costs $25USD, which is not bad considering how much cash you can make.

Did you read Saturday’s post, How to Travel for Less: Transportation? If you haven’t, get on that! There are some good ideas in there – if I do say so myself.

4 Responses to “[Series] How to Travel for Less: Accommodation”

  1. Nicholle Olores January 14, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Thank you so much for the tips on how to travel with less accommodation.
    That is really a good idea to have a housesitting or somewhat like renting an apartment a day before you travel.

  2. www.travelwithkevinandruth.com January 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    We have used Couchsurfing quite a bit over this past year and have had nothing but great experiences. We prefer it to a hotel as you learn so much more about the area, the people and the culture. In fact we used it just over a week ago and will be again next week. We have also housesat a number of times and found it a great way to see the area and have a home base.

    Can’t say that we would enjoy traveling at night in a train or bus unless the savings were VERY substantial. One, we wouldn’t get a good sleep and two you would miss all the countryside scenery which for us is part of the reason we travel.

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