Last Updated on 03/07/2021 by Edy Ragnoli
10 options that can help you save your money now and in the future.
Everyone loves to go on holiday and visit new places. During decades of travel, I experienced myself how much money accommodation can cost, next to the flight.
I know how frustrating it is when you have to use the majority of your budget for the hotel room. You have to give up on – or limit deeply – the real reason for your trip: visiting the beautiful places you can find all around the world and experiencing the local culture, heritage, and landscapes.
As a nomad myself, I had to find a solution to overcome this constraint. Eventually, I managed to do even better. I found 10 possible solutions, 10 ways that can help you save good money in travel accommodation. Now, I’d like to share my knowledge and experience with you giving some money-saving tips that allowed me to enjoy my journey in full.
Cheap Accommodation #1: Hospitality Exchanges
This is probably the cheapest accommodation solution you can ever find: it’s free and offers many other advantages. Have you ever been hosted at one of your friends’ houses and done the same with them? How many of you have made friends or found a partner in another city, country or even continent and managed to stay at their house during the holiday?
This is what we call the hospitality exchange. You save money and also create a connection with local people, habits, and places. This is one of the richest travel experiences you can have and it’s worth all the time and effort spent in searching the right exchange option.
Don’t you know anyone to share your accommodation with? Here’s the solution I found. Hospitality exchange communities specifically built for the purpose.
The first on my list is Couchsurfing.com. This is a wide global community that started with a few students in Iceland in 2004 and reached 14 million members in over 200,000 cities all around the world where they organize thousands of events regularly. It always offers a chance to do something with someone and the price is just happiness.
To keep safe, I follow these simple steps. 1) I Join the community, 2) I search for verified members, 3) I identify those with pictures and a filled-out profile, and 4) I make sure they received good reviews from other users. I can now make a safer choice.
There are also some alternatives.
Global Freeloaders. The concept is the same, but the website looks quite out of date.
Hospitality Club. This is another old-style website. Anyway, it claims to have 328,000+ members located in 207 countries.
WarmShowers. This is a growing community for bicycle tourists. It was founded in 1993, but they kept the website updated with a modern design.
Cheap Accommodation #2: Home Exchange
Over the years, I've been constantly active in finding the most convenient yet comfortable way of accommodation during my holiday, either alone or with my family or best friends.
While hospitality exchange is my first choice, especially if I'm alone, there are moments when I may prefer other solutions. This is the case for home exchange programs. Of course, I need to own a house.
The process is quite simple. You join a program and community, list your property and search for the best accommodation other travellers like you decided to swap. What’s better and more comfortable than a whole house to stay in without spending a cent? This solution is based on trust, but in a community made of like-minded people, I think this won’t be a problem at all and I’m going to explain why by revealing the programs I choose and that make me feel safe and protected.
Let’s start with a few self-explanatory numbers. 400,000 are the homes where you can relax, eat, sleep, and have fun. 187 are the countries covered around the globe to explore the planet for free. What place do you prefer? A big city like London, a paradise island like The Caribbean, a town rich in culture, history, art, and food like Rome? I feel limitless with such choices.
The only cost is the $150 annual membership fee. Where do you think you can rent a house for 365 days a year at this little price? When you become a HomeExchange member, you can swap your home as many times as you want. For me, a dream come true.
The icing on the cake? Their GuestPoint System. Normally, you can go to a home if its owner comes to yours. But, with this system, you earn points just for hosting someone. You can then use these points to choose whatever destination you like.
Can you feel safe? My reply is yes. Like on Couchsurfing, HomeExchange users are verified and get reviews. Moreover, you can communicate with the owners before anything happens. Last but not least, the membership offers cancellation protection plus property damage coverage up to £1,000,000.
Like HomeExchange.com, LoveHomeSwap allows you to list your property and swap it with the members of the community. It has three membership plans with different benefits, depending on which plan you choose, plus a Points Swap System and car swap. It’s cheaper than HomeExchange and offers a 2-week trial. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you would like to save more money and try out the LoveHomeSwap.com service for free.
Let’s talk a bit about the Cons. Unlike the former, you don’t receive a damage coverage, although industry experts state there are rare complaints about theft or damage. They suggest, anyway, to make sure your insurance policy covers any related damages either to your house or car (better safe than sorry).
Cheap Accommodation #3: House Sitting & Pet Sitting
Let’s assume you don’t have a house to swap or accommodation to share or simply don’t like the idea. What else can you do to go on holiday and ‘find shelter’ for free? If you are a caring person and/or animal lover, house sitting and pet sitting can be your holy grail. In exchange for watching/cleaning someone’s home or taking care of their pets, you get free accommodation for the time requested by the owner. Online communities can help you with that.
My first suggestion is to find free accommodation through TrustedHousesitters. For a small membership fee, you can become a sitter, an owner, or both. I find TrustedHousesitters a lovely way to make my holiday memorable while the owners can keep their house and pets safe and protected while away.
As a sitter, you must pass through some verification steps before being eligible, but it’s definitely worth the effort. When you use TrustedHousesitters, you can read the user's references and reviews, then browse the houses listed (and their location all over the world) along with the sweet animals you will pet. The limit? Just your care. This is a truly unique and unforgettable travel experience, isn't it? Just try it and judge by yourself!
Other houses and pet sitting websites are:
Mind My House: this is probably the cheapest solution for sitters but has fewer listings.
House Carers: this alternative offers a limited free plan as well that allows you to receive house sit opportunities and get noticed as a sitter. But once you are ready to apply, you will need a paid membership.
Luxury House Sitting: the website design is a bit outdated, but it features a useful map where you can immediately spot the house sit opportunities worldwide.
Cheap Accommodation #4: Wild Camping & Campgrounds
After days, months or even years spent constantly under stress in chaotic cities running here and there for the daily needs, who doesn't desire relaxing moments when your only problem is ‘not having problems'? I'm talking about camping where there's just you and nature, you and your loved ones. And what if you can do that totally for free even forever?
Yes, we can do camping without spending a dime. Don't expect any amenity there, but what you get will be your ultimate experience. These are places you don't find so easily and require a lot of experience and search. But when you never give up, you eventually get rewarded.
Do you like and/or live in North America? This guy did a compelling job in finding the free wild camps in the US and Canada and created an amazing guide that teaches you what to do, how, and where to find them.
For those who prefer to pamper themselves a bit in equipped camps, this is a website where you can find, check, and book campgrounds around Europe.
Cheap Accommodation #5: Hostels
Hostels are all about sharing things and experiences. But if you think they are unsafe, dirty, or too minimal, things changed and now they offer more comfort than you may think such as Wi-Fi, lockers, and towels. They are still not luxury and more basic than a hotel, but if you are on a budget and more interested in enjoying the travel experience, social aspects, and places all around, you probably are the type of traveller who doesn’t see luxury as an important thing, do you?
So, when I’d like to cut costs but without giving up on rich experience, I search the hostel with the right features on Hostelworld. Despite what people generally think (or thought in the past), you can have plenty of choices in terms of services offered.
Although hostels can be simple and budget-friendly, you can find either dorm-like rooms or small/single rooms ideal for those who prefer more privacy but also look for socialization opportunities. Rooms and bathrooms are shared as well as the kitchen (but it’s probably something positive, especially if you are a solo traveller and believes friends can always be just around the corner).
Some hostels may sell meals too or even offer it for free on certain occasions (if you make a reservation in advance). In some places, you can also allow you to book an entire room to accommodate groups so that you can stay with someone you know rather than with strangers.
So, visit Hostelworld, browse the website, and look at the numerous listings. You can end up spending even as little as $5 per night. But despite that, hostels listed there have high reviews regardless of the price tag.
Cheap Accommodation #6: Local Guest Houses
Guesthouses are a kind of hotel-like lodging but with a big difference: it's a private home converted in accommodation for visitors and, last but not least, it's cheaper but full of facilities. In some locations, a guest house is the only lodging you can find, but it doesn't mean it's a hut. On the contrary, it's usually nice and comfortable, and offers great advantages besides the price:
- special care from the owners (they sometimes live in a separate building within the property);
- good homemade food prepared by yourself or the owner (or it's staff)
- quiet place.
Thanks to the large choice, I often use booking.com. Either I travel to Europe, Australia, Indonesia, or Chile (just to mention a few), I can find nice deals. As a plus, a large number of users and reviews help me a lot in choosing the right guesthouse. As I’m a registered client, they always offer me discounts that tempt me to book even now. At the moment I write, for example, I can rent a double room in Southern Vietnam for just €5 on booking.com.
Cheap Accommodation #7: Apartment Rental
Renting an apartment can sometimes mean getting the comfort of a furnished hotel room at half of the price (and with a functional kitchen to save additional money). You can live like locals and have complete freedom (especially if you have a car). Not to mention the contact and possible interaction with the owner if he/she serves you breakfast.
During our stay in Ireland, for instance, my friend and I practically visited the whole island staying in modern big, warm yet cheap houses (€35/day for several weeks – paid cash at the end). Sometimes we entertained with the local family and enjoyed their travel tips and recommendations. What’s better than locals to reveal the secrets of the place?
Where can you find the best rental opportunities? When I want to go on holiday and feel like at home, I visit these two international websites. You can book a stay everywhere and forget any problem.
Last time I travelled, I rented an apartment, but there are times when I need smaller places such as a room or part of the house. On Airbnb, you can book sophisticated or simple yet modern spaces at the price of lunch without giving up in comfort. And since the number of B&B out there is so huge, it’s very easy to find and book the perfect stay for your itinerary.
When you wish to broaden your research and find much more lodging, you can use Wimdu which is a kind of vertical search engine that helps you discover the best accommodation deals all over the Web, either apartments, studios, lofts, villas with pool, or cottages.
Cheap Accommodation #8: Farm
Farmstay is the perfect option for travellers and families who want to experience the countryside and enjoy contact with fresh food, and air, animals, and stars. You can participate in farming activities and relax in all kinds of accommodation, from rustic to luxury and from tents to farmhouses.
Farmstays can be everywhere and you can easily search for the best accommodation online. Every location in the world offers its unique farm and countryside activities and experience. You just need to search for the right destination and you can start from these websites.
Farm Stay Planet: find your preferred location in any place all over the world, from North America to Asia passing through Europe.
Farm Stay UK: enjoy the farm and the historical British atmosphere while doing mountain biking, cycling, golf, walking, animal feeding, visits at museums and galleries.
Farm Stay US: experience the authentic American farm and ranch life: milk a cow, collect eggs, participate in workshops, harvest food, ride a horse, or help with chores.
Farm Stay Australia: experience rural life by camping, caravan or comfortable accommodation while enjoying the unforgettable wilderness of Australia (milk cows, feed ‘chooks’, watch chickens hatching, shear sheep, saddle a pony, explore the nature, try fishing and birdwatching, take astonishing photos, toast marshmallows, etc.).
Cheap Accommodation #9: Monastery
Hospitality in monasteries is an ancient tradition that started centuries ago. Monks, friars, and nuns have been offering refuge and help to pilgrims and travellers for so long time. Monasteries and convents are now a wonderful place to spend your time alone, with friends or your family. You will enjoy peace, love, pray, and a spiritual atmosphere that will deepen your travel experience. You will see the world through different eyes or find back something you’ve lost deep down.
When you start your journey from a monastery passing through the peculiar universe around it, you end up discovering another you, another Earth, and another way to connect with people and nature. Monastery stay is basic, with humble rooms, simple food, and sometimes a curfew. Nevertheless, some accommodations may offer you more amenities and services spending some ten bucks or just what you can (even nothing). For example, in this 5 monastery stays near Rome you can enjoy good food, spectacular sitting, and heavenly moments.
A good starting point to search a monastery, discover their price and facilities, and eventually book a room is Monastery Stays. You will be surprised how many locations you can find for an experience that have already changed the lives of many travellers. Try it to believe it.
Cheap Accommodation #10: Volunteer / Work Exchange
Another fantastic way to get free accommodation is through cultural exchange, working holidays, volunteering abroad. So in exchange for work, you can stay in places with amazing nature, culture, people, beaches, and food.
You’re not alone in this search and some online communities can help you find the best destination.
WWOOF: its mission is to bring people to a more sustainable life. Just choose your destination worldwide, join the right group for you, find the host, travel, and have fun.
WorkAway: 50,000+ opportunities in more than 170 countries around the world.
HelpX: the website is a bit outdated, but it offers travel insurance too. It’s worth a look.
Bonus Cheap Accommodation Tip: Collect Points!
Don't you like the previous options but still would like free accommodation? Another way is collecting points for free hotel stays using hotel rewards credit cards. The best ones offer a high welcome bonus, several additional perks, the flexibility to use the points with other hotel brands, and generous bonus rewards when you purchase a stay at the hotels or other complementary services.
The drawback can be a substantial annual fee, but what you receive is often much higher than what you spend. But don’t worry, there are also some cards without an annual fee.
For more information on choosing the best travel credit card, visit this article with all my tips.
My Favorite Accommodation Resources
Now that you know all my tricks in finding the best and cheapest accommodation in every corner of the planet, you can join the club of ‘clever travellers’ who maximise their travel experience without focusing too much on expensive ‘luxury castles and royal palaces’. Anyway, among all the resources I’ve used and discovered during my life, these are my favourites.
What kind of travel do you prefer? What’s the best accommodation you’ve ever found during your trips? Share your suggestions and experience. Let's make our lives better together.