You saved up for the perfect vacation only to find nearly half going towards hotel and flight. That is a series of misguided information and basic planning. The truth is, accommodation can be super cheap with a little creativity. Hotels are not the only option, you know? There are plenty of cheap alternatives to hotels – many I will be discussing in this post!
Where Can I Stay For Cheap?
When I say cheap, I really mean I have high’ish standards but no money to spend haha.
Does anyone else feel that way or just me?
I don’t want bed bugs and disease but I also don’t need nightly turndown service. Part of my reason for being able to afford travel is that I got clever and resourceful when it comes to booking accommodation.
So, this question is tough because there is a huge range of what people consider cheap. For me, cheap between $15-25 per night per person. Given that, I wrote this article with that budget amount in mind.
As you read know that all of these places can fall within that range.
Psst. . . Looking for more budget travel tips? Check out my Cent$ of Adventure series.
Unexpected Travel Expenses You Forget to Budget For
How Much Should I Budget for Vacation? (Travel Budget Breakdown)
5 Creative & Cheap Alternatives To Hotels
This guide is going to share a few creative places you can stay as a substitute for hotels. This will, in turn, save you money and enhance the overall travel experience in some way.
Either you will learn budget travel is not for you, or it will completely open your eyes to how inexpensive traveling the world can be.
Good or bad you will certainly walk away with memories.
1. Stay in a Dorm
Many universities rent out their dorms during the summer break for very low prices. It is surprising how many world-renowned universities do it. *cough Oxford*
That’s right, you can stay on the beautiful Oxford campus, or shall I say Hogwarts. The only downside is that many of the days would put you at the high end of your budget around 36 British Pounds per night. This would only work if you’re splitting the rate multiple ways.
Remember, this is only an example. There are tons of college campuses that open their dorms to travelers during school breaks.
All you have to do is find a school, call the housing department and inquire about summer rental rates. Private universities are the best.
Just make sure to bring sleeping essentials (I.e. Towels, sheets, etc.)
2. Roll Out Your Sleeping Bags and Pitch a Tent
Camping is an experience all on its own which can be done pretty much anywhere. Plus it’s a great way to get in touch with nature.
Camping the Ring Road in Iceland, sleeping in the Alps, or gazing out at the stars in Thailand. The list goes on and on.
Camping provides an inexpensive alternative and gives a rewarding experience in return. Make sure to research and stay in camping designated areas.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Iceland Road Trip: 7-Day Itinerary Through the Land of Fire & Ice
3. Couch Surfing
To be honest, I did not like the idea of couch surfing when I first heard about it. Something about sleeping a stranger’s home seemed a little un-comforting.
However, with the birth of Airbnb and sleeping in countless hostels while backpacking Europe, I realized couch surfing is no different.
Most couch surfing hosts are travelers themselves who like to pay it forward. In actuality, it’s travelers meeting travelers. The best part is, it’s FREE!
Couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travelers. Use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travelers.
They do a great job of connecting the community from all around the world and constantly sharing safety tips for travelers. This is an especially great option for solo travelers, and in rare cases, two people. I say rarely from personal experience. I rarely hear about two travelers snagging free lodging on Couchsurfing.
4. Home Exchange
Did you ever see the movie The Holiday? Two people from different countries swapped houses for a few weeks. The good news is this house swap idea exists and its called Home Exchange.
Their whole saying is, “Travel Anywhere. Live Like A Local. Stay For Free”. Home Exchange is a trusted company with thousands of locations all around the world.
It’s really simple how it works. Similar to Airbnb you list your home on their platform. The only difference is you exchange homes as payment rather than cash. Once your home is listed, you look for homes in destinations that interest you and send exchange requests.
It’s free to use but if you want unlimited exchanges, Home Exchange offers a premium membership for $150 per year. That wouldn’t be a bad deal if you travel often. $150 for lodging for the entire year! Not bad. Not bad.
There are tons of volunteer programs out there offering free accommodation to their volunteers. Workaway is a popular one located in over 155 countries.
Not only are you giving back, but getting free accommodation. Such a humbling experience to give back and meet people from all over the world. Easily the most authentic trip one can have in their life.
Go Overseas is a great place to start this journey. You can search thousands of volunteer abroad opportunities all from one search engine.
Volunteering options might require longer time commitments that appeal to long-term travelers. If you have a dream to spend a year traveling the world, volunteering is a great start toward making that dream a reality and for a fraction of the cost.
In some cases, hostels can feel no different from hotels. It’s worth mentioning though because there are still a bunch of you who have no desire to stay in hostels for fear of being kidnapped – I don’t know honestly.
What I do know is that you are potentially leaving money and new friendships on the table by not considering hostels as a lodging option. Hostels are still a top choice for cheap hotel alternatives depending on where and what time of year.
My first time in London I stayed in a hostel in Westminster for $15/night. That got us near a tube stop, free breakfast, and new friends.
My favorite place to book hostels is hostelworld.com or hotelscombined.com. Hostelworld is a little better because they are solely geared toward hostels, but I’ve been able to snag some last-minute spots on Hotels Combined that were not available on Hostelworld. Typically, I check both but almost always go with Hostelworld.
So there you have it. A few creative approaches to finding cheap hotel alternatives. As always, I hope this helped. Cheap travel is 100% possible but it does require a little research and creative approaches. Cutting lodging expenses by 1,2,3 times is going to help you reach your goals faster and/or keep you traveling longer. Be sure to check out my others guides for budgeting tips, as well as, budget-friendly destinations.
Psst. . . Still Not Sold? Check out some of my hotel reviews.
Hotel Napoleon Memphis: Downtown’s Newest Hotel Near Beale Street
The Most Luxurious Bed & Breakfast in the Heart of Chicago
What are some ways you saved money on lodging? Share your tips in the comments below!
This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you purchase through these links, which helps me keep my lights on and order pizza from Dominos! I am extremely grateful. Thank you.
Did you find this post helpful? Let others know and PIN!
Bucket List Budget
Snag your FREE Bucket List Budget and Travel Planner. This planner includes: travel budget breakdown, savings tracker, checklists, and itinerary templates.
My sister has stayed in a dorm while traveling with my nephew’s basketball team. It was close to where she needed to go for his games and had fun while she was there. I have couch surfed on quite a few occasions and had a blast with those I was staying with. I have not been camping in years, and cannot wait to do this with our family if we travel to an amusement park that has this option available.
I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed couch surfing. Such a great experience!
I really like the idea of Home Exchanges and Volunteering. My vet has done home exchanges all over the US and Europe. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a Vet to come and stay with your home and pets! I will definitely check out Workaway.
OMG I would love that. I have three dogs so a Vet would make me so comfortable and stress free to leave them at home.
I didn’t realize that staying at a dorm was an option but that is very good to know! My husband is not a huge fan of camping but he will have to do it with the fam someday. Really great suggestions – we’ve been wanting to travel but want to stretch our dollar out as much as possible.
I understand the importance of stretching the dollar. Make every penny count and check out a dorm or camp site next time.
I have not heard of the dorm room idea. I had no idea that some universities would rent out dorm rooms during the summer. I like the other ideas, too, but the dorm room one is my favorite suggestion.
I didn’t know about the dorms for the longest time until I took summer school one year. My university was renting out dorms and I’ve always looked into it ever since.
These are great ideas to save money while traveling. We don’t have too many options right now as we have two young kids, but I would have definitely done some of these on your list while I was young and single! Home exchange is such a good idea, I would feel safe doing it.
Home exchange would be great for your family. You’re still in a home with all the essentials.
We love to travel and visit different places. We also like to snag good deals and spend as little as possible whenever we can. With that said, I don’t know that I would be able to do some of these, especially couch-surfing!
These are amazing. I have heard a lot about couch surfing, but I get intimidated by the security issues. Camping is a great way and I think staying in dorms in really good too.
I was nervous of couch surfing too, but after staying in so many hostels, you kind of get used to sleeping around strangers. I felt completely safe.
The Holiday!!! That is one of my all-time favourite movies!!! I remember wanting to look into a home exchange after I saw that movie…a plus would be if someone was there that looked like Jude Law, lol!
Right?! I wouldn’t mind sharing a home with Jude Law for a few days haha.
I love the idea of home exchange but it makes me so nervous! What if you get an absolute crazy? We have done AirBnb before and it wasn’t too bad I just need to get over it! It makes it so much easier to travel for sure. Great tips!
I generally try book with established people who have trusted ratings. I haven’t had any problems yet.
awesome ideas.. i love it.. i will definitely try of this!!
oh yay! Thanks for reading
this is awesome! great tips!!