PUBLISHED: Dec 27, 2013 8:00 AM
Why do travelers automatically think of hotel rooms when booking a trip? Most people (raises hand) automatically think of plush hotel rooms in central locations when thinking of a “room away from home.” It is true that for some people staying in a hotel is their only means of lodging. I can proudly proclaim I no longer belong to this group. Keep in mind; this can be costly if you are trying to stay in the hippest or most centrally located places. Why spend so much money to stay in a small room with very little to offer, especially if you’ve taken advice from pieces like Ballin’ on a Budget and How Start a Travel Fund to save money? There are plenty of other ways to be well connected and comfortable when traveling. Try something different:
Rent an apartment
If you are traveling with two or more people (children especially), look into renting an apartment. It might be beneficial to have your own space. Most places are fully furnished with all the amenities you’ll need to feel at home and comfortable while away from home. The best apartment I have rented was in Rome. I was there for five days and loved having a quiet place to return to after walking all day. If you are traveling with kids, this will give them space to play without interrupting the room next door — just make sure the walls aren’t paper thin. Lastly, renting an apartment can be more cost effective than staying at a hotel. A room can cost hundreds of dollars a night, an apartment can cost the same or less for a week’s stay. Airbnb and Homeaway are my go to sites. Both of these sites allow you to rent apartments or houses from owners. You can pick what part of town you desire to stay in and what amenities are important to you. Most require a deposit, but as long as you’re not writing poetry on the walls in red lipstick, you’ll get that back.
This is for the more adventurous and, often times, solo traveler. Couch surfing works by putting you in contact with hosts in cities all around the globe. These hosts are gracious (or crazy?) enough to open their homes to travelers. Some literally have a couch for you to sleep on or even a room where you’d have to share with other travelers. I have a friend from Majorca that used Couchsurfing in Cambodia. The host had eight other travelers staying in their home at the same time. Meal time was his absolute favorite part of the trip. The same friend couch surfed in Florence, Italy and ended up with an amazing view of the countryside all to himself. Another friend found a fellow New Yorker living in Prague to stay with for a few weeks after she learned to teach English.
You can experience the culture of the host and other travelers this way. You meet people who have great experiences to share. Of course, use caution. Like I said, this is usually for hardcore travelers (and men). While it is a great way to save money and experience different things, make sure you know enough about the host before booking. You might walk away with a lifelong friend.
When you think of hostels, do you picture grungy backpackers and groups of fresh graduates? Or the plot from a horror movie? Hostels are usually full of young travelers who are in cities for short periods of time or are on a very tight budget. Some hostels offer private rooms with bathrooms. Rooms can be quite cheap and very scarce. Do not expect great views, plush beds, or Jacuzzi baths. Hostels.com allows users to search hostels internationally. They also use a rating system so you can see what other travelers are saying about places. This is a great way to meet other young travelers and expats. You may save money, but be careful with your belongings if you end up sharing a room.
While these are only three different ways to lodge, there are plenty more. Think about what is important to you when traveling and where you are visiting. Do you mind sleeping in the same room as seven other people? Do you prefer to cook your own meals, instead of eating three meals out daily in tourist traps? Next time you get the itch to travel, think about exploring other ways of rooming instead of shelling out hundreds for a hotel.
If you prefer hotels, then we’ve got you covered. Check out Finding the Perfect Hotel.