Finding the right type of travel accommodation can seem daunting at times.
This is because one of the biggest misconceptions around the world is that it’s fairly expensive to travel. A lot of luxury travel companies invest millions in advertising to sell this idea to the masses, but it’s simply not true.
When I made the decision to get rid of everything so I can travel and work online, I also thought travel was expensive. Come to find out it’s actually pretty easy and convenient to travel cheaply.
Not only that…
But there are all sorts of travelers out there in the world:
Backpackers, digital nomads, vacationers, and even students trying to live it up during their gap year.
We all speak a variety of different languages, have our own unique fashion sense, and have a vast array of personalities and backstories to draw from.
One thing we all have in common, however, is the need to find the right kind of travel accommodation that will suit our distinctive needs, tastes, and individual budgets.
The biggest expenses you’ll have when traveling are accommodation, food, and transportation.
Today, we’ll talk about how to find travel accommodation for any budget. Regardless of your style of travel, there is definitely something for everyone.
Ready to go?
Let’s dive right in!
Travel Accommodation Option#1: Hotels or Resorts
Depending on your location, hotels and resorts are generally the most expensive option available.
The ability to get room service, a relaxing massage, and have someone clean up after you can be appealing, but my preference will always be an extended stay Airbnb or serviced apartment.
If you’re looking for luxury travel, however, hotels are a fantastic way to stay. Although most hotels offer the comfort and convenience that some travelers seek, it really depends on the type of experience you’re looking for and the amenities offered.
Personally, I only stay in hotels or resorts when I’m on short trips. It allows me to really indulge so I can alleviate any stress. Who doesn’t like being catered to hand and foot for a few days?
I also prefer a laptop-friendly workspace, a decent gym, and a fast, reliable internet connection. You would think that those things come standard, but it’s not always the case.
It is possible to get a decent hotel at a reasonable price (like the one pictured above). Generally speaking though, if I want a hotel, I want comfort. If I’m looking to save money, I’d probably choose another option.
I usually stay in a hotel or resort if I’m in vacation mode or if I’m only staying in a city for a few days.
My Favorite Booking Sites for Hotels & Resorts:
Travel Accommodation Option #2: Short-term Rentals
Short-term rental sites allow for someone with available property or extra space in their home to rent out part or all of their place to someone in need of a place to stay for a period of time.
This type of travel accommodation is one of my favorite options because it’s so easy to book.
You also have so many choices with a variety of different amenities to select from in most cities. I’d say the most popular site for this is Airbnb, but there are a few others as well.
I usually book a short-term rental when I’m staying for 2 weeks or less or when a serviced apartment (we’ll talk about that next) isn’t an option. I really love the convenience of booking through these sites. It’s very simple to filter on most sites to find exactly what you need.
I usually book an entire place to myself. I look for a comfy spot that has high-speed internet, a gym, and that’s close to local attractions. Make sure you check the reviews, the host’s response time, and the refund or cancellation policy prior to booking.
There are different variations of cancellation policies set by the owner or manager of the property. Some are very strict and once you book, you can only receive the cleaning fee as a refund, whereas other policies are more flexible.
In fact, Airbnb actually has at least six types of cancellations hosts can choose from depending on the length of stay. Ensure you read all the fine print before you book.
Needless to say, I prefer this type of stay because it’s easy to make yourself at home and feel comfortable as opposed to feeling like you’re in a temporary spot that will end at some point. It really allows you to be present and enjoy your time.
This is also true of our next type of travel accommodation.
My Favorite Sites for Booking Short-term Rentals:
Option #3: Extended Stay or Serviced Apartment
A serviced apartment is basically a combination of a hotel and a short-term rental. You’ll get all the amenities that a hotel offers but you also get the privacy of booking on a site like Airbnb would give you. There are occasionally some bonus perks as well.
- Upgraded furniture
- Added security
- Pool, hot tub, and sauna
- Capability to make changes during your stay (new bed or computer desk, ability to decorate, etc.)
This is good for a number of reasons:
It really starts to feel like home. People get to know you by name. You’re privy to information shared by locals like the best places to eat, work, and hangout. There is no housekeeping to wake you up every morning. Although, you can request your room to be cleaned for a fee.
Serviced apartments are typically for travelers staying an extended period of time, except they are usually cheaper. I’ve stayed in a couple of cozy apartments and condos when staying in one of my favorite cities in the world; Chiang Mai, and I always feel right at home.
Extended stays can be similar to finding a traditional apartment though. In some instances, you may have to put down a month or two of rent plus a security deposit. When you do, you’ll have to enter a contract. Depending on your length of stay, you may be able to negotiate the price.
I’ve recommended some resources below, however, I have found it much easier to walk around and get information from the building directly. You can find deals that may not be available online and you may even save yourself some money.
The point is you have options.
To give you some perspective, a serviced apartment allows you to get service upon request. You can get your place cleaned, send out your dry cleaning, or even hire a personal chef or a driver in some cases (for a fee).
Based on your length of stay and location, it’s not always a convenient option. However, it’s certainly my preferred method of travel accommodation.
Short-term rentals and serviced apartments for extended stays make up about 85% of my bookings. All in all, it’s a matter of preference.
Let’s move on to a cheaper alternative…
My Favorite Resources for Booking Serviced Apartments:
- Furnished Quarters
- Facebook Groups (do a search)
- Local Classifieds Ads (craigslist or equivalent)
- Hire a (local) Real Estate Agent
Option #4. Hostels
For those of you looking for a budget-friendly option, I recommend staying in hostels.
What is a hostel?
A hostel is a dorm-style living situation in which you share the room and other facilities with your fellow travelers.
When I first started traveling, I stayed almost exclusively in hostels.
Well, there are a few reasons…
First of all, hostels are one of many forms of cheap accommodation. A hostel room can cost anywhere between $10 to $100 USD per night with private rooms being on the higher end.
Aside from a private room, you can reserve a 4-bed dorm, 6-bed dorm, 8-bed dorm, or more. The more beds in the room, the cheaper it is. You can also either get an all-male dorm, an all-female dorm, or a mixed dorm. I typically stay in a private room or a 4-bed mixed or all-male dorm (they wouldn’t let me in the female one ?).
Some hostels are quite social and it’s a great way to travel and mingle with other travelers. This is especially true if you’re a solo traveler who’s new to traveling. It allows you to get your feet wet and help you come to the realization that it’s not as scary as you think it is.
Most hostels also organize group trips and give you detailed information on local attractions. Some have bars, others don’t. All hostels generally have quiet hours in both the common areas and inside the dorm rooms. Most hostels should include free breakfast, but not all do.
Each hostel is different in what they offer. Make sure to check the reviews on the website prior to booking or call if you have questions.
A lot of people are hesitant to stay in a hostel for one reason or another. I think this is mostly due to how they’re portrayed in the media. I remember being really nervous during my first hostel stay. However, they really are a great way to travel solo and meet people. Once I realized that most travelers staying in hostels are solo travelers who feel the same way, it became easy to break the ice.
Hostels are not just for young people either. I have seen people in their early twenties into their late sixties. Hostels are for everyone!
Hostels are also pretty safe for the most part. I stayed in one hostel in Chiang Mai that really went above and beyond and it was truly a great experience.
Long story short:
If you’re looking for cheap accommodation and want to meet people, hostels are fantastic.
A lot of hostels will allow you to work for your accommodation. See if you can contact them ahead of time and volunteer your time in exchange for free room & board. Some of them will even have enough hours for you to pocket some extra money.
My Favorite Sites for Booking Hostels:
Option #5: Couchsurfing
If you’re looking for free travel accommodation, look no further than Couchsurfing sites or Hospitality exchanges.
So what is Couchsurfing?
Is it a new virtual reality watersports game where you use your couch as a surfboard?
Of course not! (although that would be awesome!)
Couchsurfing sites allow you to get free lodging with a local who lives wherever you’re traveling to. Sites like Couchsurfing as well as other similar sites allow for locals to use their couch, extra bedroom, or any other available space to host someone. Think of it as an Airbnb with a live-in host (but with none of the cost).
There are many perks that come along with this kind of accommodation:
- It’s free
- You can learn about the cultures and traditions from a bonafide local
- Discover the cities hidden gems and avoid tourist traps
- Swap travel & adventure stories (or make some new ones)
It’s always better to explore the city with someone who knows all the traditions of the country you’re visiting. Someone who can show you around and be your guide.
These sites are a good way to meet new people, have an adventure, learn a new language, foster a genuine cultural exchange, and see things you may have otherwise missed.
When I first discovered Couchsurfing, I was a bit skeptical. I had a number of questions:
- Is it safe?
- Are they gonna steal my stuff?
- Is some crazy person gonna turn me into a creepy lampshade?
Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of an over-exaggeration. The point is my concerns faded away after my first experience. I don’t Couchsurf too frequently these days, but I still highly recommend it for solo travelers looking to save some money and meet other people.
There are a few more things you need to know before booking…
Couchsurfing (and similar sites) require you to fill out a profile. Make sure your profile information is as detailed as possible. Add pictures, tell your travel story, describe your interests, and explain what brings you to the Couchsurfing community.
In order for you to start hosting or find a couch to surf, ensure that you have been verified. Do this by adding an address, phone number, government ID, and/or a credit card (for verification purposes).
This is done for safety reasons.
Getting verified isn’t mandatory, but I highly recommend it. This is more of a security thing. People are generally open-minded on this site, but if you can show that you have been verified, it allows them to feel safe and gives them even more peace of mind.
Obviously, it also makes sense to choose the right host (or guests if you’re hosting). Make sure their verified, have plenty of references, and if necessary, exchange information and get to know them. This should allow you to feel comfortable prior to the arrival date. For this reason, I don’t recommend doing last-minute stays unless you don’t have much of a choice.
Also, I tend to look for a social host that has no problem showing me around and is willing to hang out. Some people don’t mind hosting but aren’t as social or have limited time (but maybe you prefer that).
If you don’t get verified, then make sure to get a lot of references.
How do you get references?
Attend a Couchsurfing meetup (check the events page) or message and invite someone to hang out from the site. They also have a “hangout” function on the mobile app that is specifically designed for this. You can create or join a hangout where two or more people get together to do an activity.
It’s a common practice to leave each other a reference afterward. You can also ask friends to leave you a personal reference. A few positive references are enough to get you started.
In any case, use your judgment when selecting a host, but don’t be afraid to give Couchsurfing a try. It’s a great way to explore the world and walk away with some new friends.
My Favorite Sites for Couchsurfing:
Travel Accommodation Option # 6: Homestays
Homestays are a similar concept to Couchsurfing with a few exceptions.
First of all, in order to secure your accommodation, you just need to conduct a search on the website just like any other travel accommodation site.
In the listing, you’ll see pictures and descriptions of the property as well as the host family.
What is a host family?
Just like Couchsurfing, you’ll get assigned a host. On Homestay sites, however, they are referred to as a “Host Family.” This is due to the fact, that your host(s) can be a single host, a couple, or a family (potentially with your standard 2.5 kids, and a dog). It really varies from home to home.
Regardless of who you stay with, I think this is a great way to stay solely for the cultural experience. As I mentioned in the previous section, if you can get to know a local who can show you around, cook for you, teach you some of the language, and show you some of the cities’ hidden gems, it can make for a lifetime of friendship and memories.
The other difference is that, unlike Couchsurfing sites, Homestays come with a fee attached. They vary in price based on the location, what’s included, and the layout of the accommodation in which you’ll be staying. Some of them include a few meals, while others don’t. Make sure you work that out ahead of time so you can budget accordingly.
I personally love traveling like this. Given the right host, it can make for quite a unique experience. I tend to only use this type of accommodation on occasion. Perhaps a few days to a week out of every couple of months just to mix it up. Mostly because I prefer equal amounts of alone time or personal space as well as adventures with others and being social.
No matter what your preference is, I recommend giving homestays a try!
My Favorite Sites for Booking Homestays:
Travel Accommodation Option #7: House Sitting
Looking for another option for cheap (of FREE) travel accommodation?
If you’re looking to travel to a destination for at least two weeks, give housesitting a try.
It allows you to connect with a homeowner whose household needs care and attention while they’re away. Most of them (80%) require watching and caring for the owner’s pets. While others may just require cleaning and retrieving the mail or accepting deliveries (maybe also while watching their pets).
Here’s how it works:
You sign up for a housesitting site of your choice. Once approved, you can securely connect with homeowners looking for someone to watch their home while away or on vacation. If accepted, you’ll have to fulfill specific duties while you’re there.
The best part?
As long as you do your daily responsibilities, you’re covered! This allows you to have enough downtime to visit popular attractions, restaurants, and enjoy the allure of the destination your visiting.
There is typically an annual fee for a house sitting site ranging from $20-50 per year. Not bad considering some people housesit year-round so they can travel to other countries, save money for a deposit on their own home, or because they are retirees looking for a change of scenery.
Keep in mind, this is more of an option for the long-term traveler. Most people looking for a housesitter are going away for at least a few weeks to many months. Finding shorter trips are going to be rare. You’ll also need to spend time doing the required activities. So it makes sense to find longer stays when using housesitting as an option for accommodation. Especially if you’re visiting another country.
My Favorite Sites for Housesitting
Best Accommodation Resources for Traveling
Regardless of your preference for travel accommodation, you’ll likely need to book in advance. Here is a list of my favorite sites for finding the best deals and they’re the first place I check before I book:
- How to Travel the World on $50 a Day (Amazon affiliate)
No matter what your budget, style, or background, you can find the right accommodation that suits your needs. I highly recommend doing something a little different than you’re used to the next time you hit the road.
Hotels can be comfy and convenient but why not stretch your comfort zone a little and learn a new way to travel? Who knows, you might come to love it!
No more making excuses for yourself as far as why you can’t travel. Finding reasonable accommodation is as simple as doing some research and seeing what works best for you. Experience is the best teacher.
This is also true of other forms of traveling such as sightseeing, flights & transportation, food, and pretty much everything you can think of. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. It just takes a little bit of planning and preparation. Happy Travels!
Have something to add? I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below!