Skip the Hotel: Cheaper Places to Stay on Vacation

March 31, 2014

 In a move that was completely out of my normal money-spending pattern (i.e. don’t spend on anything that can’t logically be deemed a necessity), I recently booked a trip to Europe. The price tag is still giving me heart palpitations, but I plan on being diligent about saving wherever possible.

In addition to the anxiety-inducing cost for flights and transportation, accommodations come with their own lofty price tag. Thankfully, past experience and travel-savvy friends have steered me in much more budget-friendly direction – away from hotels and towards more creative options.

If you’re thinking of jet setting anytime soon, make sure you check some of these out.

Short Term Rentals or Vacation Rentals

Since I am traveling with three other people and the cost of getting at least two hotel rooms each night can be pricey to say the least, we are going the apartment rental route instead. A few of the stops had rentals that equaled out to less than $50 per person per night – significantly less than the hotel we already booked for another stop.

And these are not off-the-beaten-path studio apartments, these are smack dab in the middle of the city 2-3 bedroom apartments. Plus side? There’s a kitchen which equates to less spent on meals out.

Check out these websites:


Hostels have gotten a bad rap in recent years (I’m sure the horror film “Hostel” didn’t help), but they aren’t all dirty holes in the wall where you have to shack up with strangers and battle bedbugs at night. In fact, some hostels offer the option of getting a private room that would equal out to be less than a hotel.

With a little bit of research, I found several hostels in my city of choice (in this case Barcelona, Spain), for around $50 for a 3 bed private room (shared bathroom), or around $30 for a dorm style room with shared occupants. It all depends on where your level of comfort lies.

Check out these websites:

Home Exchange

There are a few different ways to do a home exchange. You can literally swap homes with someone and travel at the same time, or, if you happen to have more than one home you can have them stay in your other home and you can travel to theirs at a different time, or vice versa (this is a non-simultaneous exchange).

While some sites charge a membership fee (around $10 to over $150 for the year), if you can make it work, home exchanges can drop your travel budget drastically. But be aware – your house may be hard to exchange if you don’t live in a desirable travel location.

Check out these sites:

Religious Stays

These accommodations are a little bit harder to track down, but if you’re traveling somewhere like Italy (or several places in Europe for that matter) where there’s an abundance of monasteries, you’ll be able to find something. The rooms may be basic, but many are significantly less expensive than a hotel. (This article even talks about one monastery with breathtaking views that simply asked for donations.)

Check out these sites:

Academic Housing

If you’re willing to temporarily venture back to your college days, you may want to consider academic housing.

You’ll likely have to be traveling during the school’s vacation periods, but if you’re interested in visiting a college town or a town with a college a short distance away, this is a great option. And, if long term travel is what you’re looking for, some rooms rent for as much as 3 months.

If you can’t find information on a specific college, you can always call them directly to see if they rent out rooms to tourists.

Check out this site:

Also make sure to check the website of the school you’d like to stay at.

Have you opted for non-traditional accommodations on a recent trip? How did it turn out?