Traveling is one of the most freeing experiences we can have. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive. Between gas and plane tickets, food, entertainment, and the novelty drink you told yourself you wouldn’t buy, a week-long vacation can cost a year of savings – and that’s not even including the biggest budget-breaker: accommodations. Four things that you can do to find affordable accommodation wherever you travel to. A shortlist of affordable accommodation details.
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Whether you’re flying to a tropical island for a little “you time” or caught by a freeway shutdown on a 300-mile road trip, finding a place to stay is always a priority. Here are a few useful tips for finding affordable accommodations – no matter what your travel situation!
Use Your Network
Why look for cheap places to stay when you could find one for free!
Many people are surprised to discover just how big their network truly is. You might be surprised to find how far the people you know have spread out, too! Before you travel, put out feelers on social media – especially if you know someone who has lived in the places you want to go. Even if you don’t know someone personally who can put you up for a few days, you’re likely to find a friend who knows someone else in most major destinations.
If asking to take up space in someone’s living room makes you uncomfortable, consider offering to help with dishes, childcare, or cooking while you stay. Not only will you have a free place to stay, but the chance to strengthen friendships and create new ones.
Couch Surfing and Pad Crashing
Couch surfing is a phrase that, for a lot of people, has a negative connotation. This kind of surfing is a little different from its free-loading implication – and can turn your trip from expensive hotel stays into a uniquely local experience.
Websites like Couchsurfing.com and Hospitality Club can help you find reliable, safe places to stay for absolutely free. These kinds of accommodations are often far from luxurious – couches, small beds, and even floor space are very common – but what they lack in luxury they make up for in personality. Local hosts are often happy to show you the best places to go, food to eat, and things to do in the place you visit, including the “locals only” spots.
As with any time you meet strangers, there are some things you should do to make sure you stay safe when couch surfing.
• If possible, travel with someone else.
• Make sure your host has a profile picture, full description, and some form of identity verification through the website you use
• Talk with your host before you go – if anything seems off, just find another host!
Couch surfing, despite its lack of modern luxury, is a globally-popular way to find a place to stay – and it’s completely free!
Getting in Touch with the Great Outdoors
For many of us, simply being out in nature is the goal of travel. We look longingly at van-life blogs and wish we could sleep under the open stars. When traveling, the good news is that we can! Car camping is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to stay on the road – not to mention a great way to get away from screens and into the open air.
Some travelers are content enough to bust open the trunk of that hatchback, roll out our sleeping bag, and sleep in the backseat, others might not have the type of car – or the short stature – to make that happen. Still, a tent, sleeping bag, some pre-made food, and flashlight are often all you need for a quick overnighter. For a step up in luxury, you can opt for camp chairs, lanterns, and portable cookware – like these best portable charcoal grills here.
Finally, you need to find a place! Pretty much anywhere you go outside a city, you’ll find public land. While National Parks and State Parks typically have entrance fees and paid campsites, they also tend to have access to amenities and beautiful scenery. Other types of public land, like that, managed by the BLM and Forest Service, usually allow “dispersed” camping for free. You can find camping regulations online on the land manager’s website or at visitor’s centers in nearby towns. If public land is a little too wild, look around for a KOA or other private campgrounds in the area!
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Off the Beaten Path
And finally, we come to our last travel tip. Camping, hostels, couch-surfing, and networking are all great way to find affordable accommodation – but if unique experiences are what you seek, there are some even better choices.
Farm stays are an incredible way to experience everything from small community farms to huge ranching operations. Unlike a rural bed and breakfast, farm stays offer accommodations on working farms and ranches – often for much less than a B&B or hotel. For a little more taste of the farm life, you can check out WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). Instead of just staying there, WWOOFers actually work on the farms – no experience required.
Another type of housing off the beaten path is religious housing. Regardless of your personal faith, there are monasteries, religious guest houses, and retreats for all spiritual walks of life across the world in places like Italy, Jerusalem, and India.
Finally, homeowners have yet another option. Home exchanges are a great way to stay in a place that feels, well, homey! This can be a great option for travelers with pets and children, and a good tool for sharpening your hospitality skills. Websites like HomeExchange.com can help you find and make safe exchanges with people all over the world.
Do you have any experience traveling on a budget? Let us know below!
Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favorite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another of her passion is the ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy. She also writes for http://hikingmastery.com/.