How to Find Cheap Accommodation
No matter where you go, you need a place to sleep. Accommodation is a fixed cost that you always have to deal with. So, next to finding cheap flights, finding a cheap room is the best way to save. The less you spend on a place to stay, the more you can spend on other things. You can eat at a fancy restaurant, see more sights, or even stay longer on your vacation.
Some backpackers are comfortable sleeping on the ground or in a tree, but you don’t need to do that. Others think you need to pay a fortune to sleep in an expensive hotel. But why do that? You probably won’t spend all day in bed. Travel is about getting out and seeing the world.
So I’m here to tell you it’s possible to find cheap or even free accommodation. Here are the best ways to do it:
Obviously, the best way to get free accommodation is to stay at a friend or family member’s house. But most of the time you don’t know anyone where you’re staying. Don’t worry. You can still find a couch to crash on.
Couchsurfing is an amazing resource for saving money. Sign up on the website, search your location, and find a place to stay for free! Yes. Free. People on Couchsurfing know what it’s like to travel on a budget, so they open their doors freely.
Obviously this is a great option for inexpensive accommodation. But it’s also a great way to engage with local culture. The host often gives you tips on places to go and things to do. Sometimes they’ll take you to restaurants, bars, or even parties.
But I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking. Is it safe? You’re in a new city with a total stranger. How do you know they won’t kill you or steal your stuff? Don’t worry. Couchsurfing is aware of your concerns and does what it can to ensure security. There are several layers of verification, and guests can leave comments and ratings. That way you know you’re dealing with a real person.
So you feel absolutely comfortable, there are some details to look out for on Couchsurfing:
- Profile picture. A real person has a face. So it helps to see it.
- Completed profile. Make sure the host has completed their entire profile. It shows they are serious interested in the opportunity to offer free accommodation. If the profile is empty, just move on. It means they probably don’t use the site much.
- Reviews. You may not like the host, but you want to be sure they will give you a good experience. The more reviews, the more you can know about the host before staying with them.
- Verification. As I said, there are several verification processes. A host can be verified by other guests or with their mailing address and credit card. Not everyone goes through the full verification process. If the host has a bunch of positive reviews, they’re probably fine. But verification definitely is appreciated.
In the end, you’ll need to use your best judgment. I haven’t heard of any bad experiences with Couchsurfing. Maybe you’ll feel awkward staying in someone else’s home, but you can save hundreds of dollars. So it’s worth it.
Hostels are another great option for travelers on a budget. Not only are they cheap (usually $5-30 a night), but they also offer a lot of resources. Hostels usually have Wi-Fi, lockers, tour information, bars, and sometimes breakfast. Not only that but you have a great opportunity to talk to other travelers. They will give you advice on where to go and what to see. Maybe you’ll even make some friends.
The downside is that hostels are usually organized like dormitories. In most hostels I’ve stayed at, I shared a room with six to eight other travelers. It can be hard to fall asleep when you have people coming in and out of the room. Many hostels offer private rooms for one or two people. But you will need to pay more for them. And at that point, it’s better to just stay in an Airbnb.
Hostels also have a reputation for being only for “young people.” But you’ll find a lot of older travelers at hostels too. I think it really depends on the location. Beach locations with active nightlife will usually attract young partygoers. For example, I stayed with some party animals in Santorini. But when I went to Paris, I shared a room with an old Frenchman that liked to eat sardines and drink wine in his underwear.
You never know what you’re going to get, but hostels are a safe option for cheap accommodation. My favorite website for hostels is Hostelworld. I wouldn’t check anywhere else.
Airbnb is the perfect compromise between a hotel and a hostel. You get a place all to yourself, but you don’t need to pay a fortune for it. That’s why Airbnb is my go-to when I stay for a week. It’s quiet. It’s clean. You can come and go as you please. Also, you can get a home with a kitchen. That way you can reduce food costs by cooking for yourself.
Compared to hostels, Airbnbs are usually twice the price. But if you’re traveling as a couple or in a group, this might be the smartest option. You can share the space and the cost. In the end, you’ll be paying about the same as if you went to the hostel.
Everyone wants cheap accommodation. Free accommodation is even better. But what if instead of paying someone for accommodation, they paid you? Housesitting is a great way to live in a home and save money. Some great websites for this include: Luxury House Sitting, Mind My House, and House Carers.
I met an older woman in Napa, California that did housesitting for a living. So it’s definitely doable. But you need to remember two things. First, the homeowners probably want you to housesit because they will be on vacation for weeks or even months. Shorter stays are possible, but they aren’t always available. Second, housesitting is a job. You need to maintain the order and cleanliness of the home. That means chores. Oh, and you need to go through a verification process.
In any case, housesitting is an amazing option for cheap accommodation. In fact, from a financial perspective, it is the best option.
As I said before, free accommodation is even better than cheap accommodation. And you can get it if you collect points. There are many programs that allow you collect points, which you can redeem on free accommodation or flights. You can get a Hilton Surpass or Hilton Honors Business card to save for a free stay at a Hilton. You can get a United Airlines personal card to collect miles.
The point is you have options. But there is a catch: you need to spend money, to earn points. For frequent travelers and businessmen, this isn’t a problem. But for others, this seems unreachable. I’ve read about “travel hackers” that cycle cards around to abuse the system. Honestly, I don’t recommend it. It’s a lot to keep track of, and you’re really just pushing the cost into the future.
Instead, play the long game. Sooner or later, you will get rewards. Besides, I want you to have the mindset that you can always get more. Don’t settle. Some credit cards will give you double or even triple the points per purchase compared to a normal credit card. Hotel and flights memberships won’t give you results immediately. But eventually, you will get something.
My Favorite Resources
These tips are sure to save you a few bucks. But there are lots of resources that can help you save money. Why not pair your cheap accommodation with cheap flights? But for all my favorite accommodation resources, check out these sites: