Monday, August 26, 2013

Cheap or free accommodations when you're on the road

Home Stays

There are a lot of sites that have popped up in recent years that allow travelers to find wiling hosts to let them stay for free in their homes.  Of course, the onus is on you to do your research and communicate with the other person to be sure it is a situation in which you will feel comfortable -- and always trust your gut!  But these sites tend to have really strong review sections, so you can see what other people though of your host before you stay with them.  Definitely, then, do your part and review your host when you leave to help others -- and consider offering your own couch someday!

Global Freeloaders 

Hospitality Club
Couchsurfing (I have had a great experience with Couchsurfing, by the way, and it is one of the most-used sites out there, so there are a ton of reviews!) Check out this page as well for tips on how to use Couchsurfing in less conventional ways.
Home Exchange (there is a $50 annual fee, but they oversee 50,000 home exchanges a year. Arthur Frommer himself says he has never heard a bad word about this site.)


House SittingThese are some sites that hook travelers up with people who need house-sitters. I haven't tried it myself, but as long as you are going to be careful and respectful, and get a chance to meet the homeowner, I think it is a really great idea.

Mind My House
House Carers
Luxury House Sitting

For other vacation rentals, check out these sites (these are for rentals by the owner, not a third party):

Homeaway
Vrbo


Hostels

There are also some great hostels out there, and some new sites cropping up every day to help you find them:

Cheapo Stay
Hostels.com
Hostel World
Hostel Bookers

Airbnb helps you find cheap accommodations across hostels, hotels, homestays, etc.  I start my search here.  Wimdu is the European competitor for Airbnb, so if you'll be in Europe, this is also a great starting point. Keep in mind that cities with a lot of tourists will likely have real estate agents that focus on vacation rentals - not the most budget-friendly perhaps, but they assume liability if something goes wrong. Plus, they are really knowledgeable about the local area.

A lot of hostels will house you in exchange for working a bit for them. Check out a few tips on making the most of this arrangement.

And remember...

The moment you live like a resident, in an apartment/houseshare/something-that's-not-a-hotel, other costs lessen as well.  You can shop in grocery stores if you have a kitchen, and you can use the transportation that the locals use to get around, not hotel shuttles or expensive taxis (depending where you are).  It's a different experience altogether, and certainly cheaper!

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