Here's a few ways to find cheap accommodation and save money when looking for places to stay when traveling long term.
One of the biggest costs when traveling is finding a place to stay. Everyone wants to find the best deal on accommodation, but sometimes it can be hard to know where to start looking.
How to choose the best travel accommodation depends on a number of factors. Are you looking for budget travel accommodation, or comfort? Do you want to meet the locals, or camp out under the stars?
In addition the type of traveler you are and how you like to travel will also have an impact on what sort of accommodation you're looking for.
These travel hacks for finding a cheap vacation rental are geared more towards budget travelers who tend to travel long term. However, many of the ideas can be adapted for those looking for a more comfortable place to stay on a shorter vacation.
Travel Accommodations Tips
Each travel hack mentioned on this guide I've used at some stage as a solo traveler, traveling as a couple, and traveling in a group.
On a recent 3 month island hopping trip around the Dodecanese in Greece (2022), traveling as a couple cost us only 40 Euros a day each. As you can see, keeping accommodation costs down is possible, no matter how you travel.
Tips for finding affordable places to stay when traveling
- Research the area you want to visit and find out what is available for accommodation. There are travel websites that offer great reviews of hotels in all price ranges, so it's a good idea to read through these before booking anything!
- Join Facebook groups dedicated to the area you want to travel. You might find private rooms and vacation rentals that aren't listed anywhere else.
- Consider staying at hostels if you're traveling alone or with friends who don't mind sharing rooms
- Consider staying in a private room with a shared bathroom
- Look for accommodations that are close to public transportation
- Book your accommodation before you arrive to avoid paying more money on site
- Find out what the local currency is and exchange some of your own money ahead of time
- Be flexible about where you want to go, as it may be cheaper than where you originally wanted to stay
- Look for travel packages that offer discounted accommodations, airfare, and transportation to one location
- Book early – some sites offer discounts on rooms if you book before a certain date
- Check out all the amenities offered by each hotel or resort so you can make an informed decision about what suits your needs best.
- Consider using Airbnb for your next trip
- Ask friends and family if they know of any vacancies in their homes or apartments
- Go to a hotel's website and sign up for their loyalty program to earn points that can be redeemed for free nights at the property
- Look into renting out an entire home – this is often cheaper than booking individual rooms on Airbnb
- Compare prices between hotels, hostels, bed & breakfasts, motels and other accommodations to find the best deal possible
- Travel off-season when rates are typically lower than during the peak summer months
- Take advantage of price drops by checking websites regularly for deals on cheap flights, train tickets, car rentals or tours
- Consider self catering accommodation with kitchen facilities so you can save money by preparing your own meals
Related: Cheapest Greek islands to go to
How To Choose The Best Travel Accommodation For You
I should start by saying that the internet has revolutionised the travel industry. Never before have people like you and I had access to so much information.
We can research far off exotic destinations, and follow people's trips around the world on travel blogs. We can read dining reviews, and bring up endless lists of things to see and do. And we can also find the best travel accommodation anywhere in the world.
Perhaps being able to do this has revolutionised the industry more than anything else.
What was once the preserve of travel agents, has been thrown wide open. It has truly given power to the people.
It enables us to choose from a whole range of travel accommodation, most of which we can book online. (Not all of it can be of course, but we can still find information on places to stay in even deepest, darkest Peru!).
The internet has probably expanded the number of categories there are when it comes to travel accommodation as well.
Below, I try to list all the categories, together with a description. I hope this will help you choose the best travel accommodation suitable for you.
The list starts with what I believe to be the budget options, and finishes with the more expensive.
1. Wild Camping
Wild camping is obviously the true budget choice when it comes to accommodation! You basically set your tent up overnight in a field out of the way, and pack it away again as the sun comes up. Free accommodation!
I wrote a more in-depth article about it here – How to Wild Camp. This type of travel accommodation is best suited to adventurous types, who don't mind roughing it. I am one of them!
Not sure what gear you'll need to go wild camping the first time? Check out my guide to wild camping essentials.
This can be a great way to meet the locals, and get a deeper insight into a new country. As the name might suggest, more often than not, you end up sleeping on a couch.
Some hosts do have spare rooms with beds though. This is another free way to stay as you travel, although it is good etiquette to present your host with some form of gift.
Treat them to a meal, buy them a bottle of wine. No one likes a leech!
Couchsurfing was probably at its most exciting and innovating 5 or 6 years ago. Now, it can be a struggle to find a couch in some of the more popular places to visit.
Where I currently live in Athens though, the community is very strong and active. There are even weekend hikes and trips planned by some members.
If you are thinking of couchsurfing in Athens, you might want to ask to be a member of this facebook group – Athens Couch Meetings: event planning and social activities in Athens.
This is the best travel accommodation for people who are social, want a deeper cultural insight, and don't mind kipping on a couch!
3. Work for your stay
This is the best travel accommodation for people who are happy to work in exchange for board. You might even learn a few things along the way!
By working for half a day (4 hours), a host will generally provide you with a place to sleep, and 3 meals a day.
Most of these types of accommodation are out in rural areas. The work takes place on smallholdings, or family owned farms.
There are a number of organisations such as Helpx and WWOOF, who help match hosts with volunteers. This can be a great experience. You get to learn about different lifestyles and cultures. Your fellow volunteers can be very interesting too!
This is the best travel accommodation for people who travel with their own transport.
It is not that it is impossible to use campsites if you are a regular backpacker. It's just a lot easier if you are bicycle touring, driving, or have a motorhome.
Campsites tend to be a few miles away from the centre of major towns or cities, so having your own transport is more convenient.
Prices vary from country to country, as do the range of facilities on offer. I have stayed at great campsites for $5 a night, which included hot showers, a camp kitchen, and somewhere to charge my electrical gadgets.
I have also stayed in shocking places for $20 a night, which have had virtually no facilities at all!
Related: Camping Instagram Captions
Time was, that a hostel would be my first choice of accommodation when travelling. They used to be cheap, and it was a good way to meet people.
Times have unfortunately changed.
Prices for dorms in some cities and countries are actually more expensive than the cheaper hotels charge for a single room!
The social aspect has also disappeared. These days, people are more interested in facebook and their iPhones than talking to each other.
Still, this is sometimes the best travel accommodation for people travelling by themselves. And good things do still happen.
In one hostel in Mexico, there was a lady celebrating her 67th birthday. She bought Margaritas for everyone, and this photo shows yours truly as the barman! (Taken during my cycling trip from Alaska to Argentina).
6. Room and Home Rentals
This is an entirely new genre of travel accommodation, which has really only appeared in the last few years.
Now, it is possible to rent a room or even an entire house from a private individual for a few days, a week, or even longer.
This provides much of the benefits of being immersed in local culture that couchsurfing provides. It also retains an element of privacy.
Some of the places you can rent are amazing as well. In my opinion, this is the best travel accommodation choice for couples looking to avoid pricey hotels, and have a home away from home.
They can even act as inspiration on how to decorate your own home when you return from a vacation! There are a number of ways to book accommodation like this online, with the most popular being AirBnB.
Hotels are still the best travel accommodation for many people. Whilst it will never be a home away from home, there are hotels available to suit all budgets.
For some people, it will only ever be a place to crash at night. For others, staying in a 5 star hotel is one of the most important aspects of their holiday.
Again, the internet has made life easy when it comes to finding a hotel. Reviews are available on sites such as TripAdvisor, and many hotels have their own websites you can book through.
There are also centralised booking platforms such as Booking.com where you can search for hotels, and compare prices.
Which of the above is the best travel accommodation for you? I would love to read what you have to say. Please leave a comment below.
You might also like to read:
- Sur BnB Guide: Where to stay in Big Sur Hotels, AirBnB, Camping
- How to afford to travel around the world – Tips and Tricks
- Where to stay in Kimolos: Best Areas, Hotels, and Accommodation
- Where to stay in Naxos Greece: Best Areas, Villages and Beaches
- Places to stay in Mykonos – Hotels in Mykonos Town and Beach Resorts
- Armchair Travel: How To Virtually Explore The World