From my experience, I tend to spend little to no time in my room when I’m out exploring on vacation, hence the reason I skip the luxury hotels and suites. When I have stayed in swanky hotels, it’s always felt like a waste. Of course it’s nice to arrive at your room and be greeted with hot chocolate after skiing, and yes, concierge can really hook you with last minute reservations. But all in all, it’s not worth the ticket price. My goal is always to stay for less than $40 per night at the absolute most. This is over double what I’d be willing to pay in Asia or South America, but $40 only goes so far in European cities and in the United States.
Choosing Budget Accommodations
Below is a guide for choosing the right type of accommodations for your trip and for your destination. There are even ways to stay without spending a penny on lodging.
People sometimes act shocked when I tell them that I like to stay in hostels. This reaction comes from a few different factors; the terrifying movie where you get kidnapped in Eastern Europe, and the fact that they aren’t exactly prevalent within mainstream American culture. Surprisingly, hostels can afford a lot more bang for your buck compared to budget hotels. I’ve stayed in ones that range from basic to luxury, and everything in between.
Hostels are particularly ideal for solo travelers because they provide safety in numbers, dorms for socialization, helpful staff, kitchen capabilities, and can be extremely affordable. When I’m choosing a hostel, my primary concerns are location and security. Hostel World has always been my go to for browsing. Their platform is great because it provides ranking categories for reviews. For example, I can look and see the a hostel has 85% positive reviews, but their overall security ranking is only a 60%. Cleanliness and atmosphere are a bonus, not a keystone factor in determining whether or not I want to stay somewhere (location and security are what it’s all about).
Ah yes, the most innovative of all, a platform that lets people rent out extra apartments, bedrooms, and even couches. Airbnb is great for a lot of reasons. It can be used for last minute bookings or even far advance ones. As far as price goes, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. You can rent out a penthouse for $2000/night, or a beach bungalow for $20/night. It’s like if pinterest and hotels.com had a baby.. a really innovative and awesome baby. My advice is to obviously try and choose a host with great reviews. Pictures can be deceiving, and sometimes a deal can be too good to be true.
We rented a private room in Rincon, Puerto Rico for just $20/night. The people that we stayed with had just moved in within the last week, didn’t have wifi, or hot water. Did this bother us? Not at all. We expected something quirky for such a cheap price. Having the two of them as hosts really paid off because they let us stay an extra night in exchange for a bottle of rum!
Hotels/Bed and Breakfast’s
Hotels aren’t always the most expensive option. If you’re traveling with multiple people and don’t mind potentially sharing a bed, a hotel can prove to be significantly cheaper than a hostel and afford a lot more amenities. On my last trip to Europe, there were 3 of us. If a bunk in a hostel was over $35 per person, we’d weigh our options. $95 a night could buy us dorm accommodations for 3, or $90 could buy us a budget hotel room. Typically, for nearly the same price, we would be able to have a hotel room or stay at a Bed and Breakfast’s.
Sometimes you just have to weigh your options and go with your gut. If you just finished a full day of flying and traveling via trains, you probably want a restful nights sleep in the comforts of a private room. I love a private room because I can without a doubt have peace and quite, never have to share a bathroom, and don’t feel socially obligated to make small talk with fellow travelers.
Let me begin by saying, I am not entirely outdoorsy. I like having running water, electricity, and a reasonably controlled dry climate. Be that as it may, I love the idea of camping when I’m traveling. This is particularly true of places with mild/tropic climates. Camping allows you to immerse yourself in your surrounding and saves a TON of money. By camping, we were able to stay in Puerto Rico for 17 days, rather than 7.
If you’re thinking about camping as an option, you should make the investment and buy a quality tent. Go to an outfitter like REI rather than Walmart. You’ll want something light weight, waterproof, and with an actual warranty. Something nice may be double the money, but it’s well worth the investment.
How to stay for free
Staying for free is surprisingly easier than you think. Couchsurfing is a great option for travelers looking to stay for a short time period. It has it’s pros and cons, just like anything else. Couchsurfing is geared at the notion of social exchange. You stay in a far away land and culturally rub off on those around you, they in return give you a place to crash and possibly even breakfast. Instead of monetary exchange, the platform encourages social exchange.
Workaway is ideal for travelers looking to stay in one spot for a longer period of time. Most workaway’s require advanced planning, possibly a resume, and a minimum time commitment. I like the concept of workaway more than wwoofing because there’s more options for types of work: be a nanny for a few months in Paris, help out with sailboat repairs in Belize, run the front desk of a hostel in Peru, volunteer with kids in Ghana.