Accommodation can make quite significant dent in your budget. It usually takes at least 20% of your vacation/trip budget. Before you book, there are some things you should consider to make the most of your stay without overpaying.
Want to know what to look for, our tips for free accommodation and how to find the best deals? Then continue reading.
We’ll get you through many of our tips and tricks we use when we reserve accommodation so next time you’ll go on a trip, you can make smarter decisions about your bookings.
Tips how to save on accommodation and things to consider
One of the most important factors for consideration of your accommodation cost. Always ask yourself questions such as: How far from the airport is it? Do I save money on transport by staying close to the airport or center? How much does a taxi/public bus cost? How long does it take to get to local attractions? What is the price difference between offers?
Before you start searching, make sure you know what you’re looking for: Are you staying one night to catch an early bus next morning? You’ll want to stay near the bus station. Are you spending few days exploring the city? Consider staying just outside the city center which is usually still close to the center by foot and significantly cheaper.
When we visited Cusco in Peru, a very busy place all year long, we stayed in a nice bed & breakfast just outside of the center, away from the hustle and noise for the same price that a hostel room was in the center.
Sometimes it’s cheaper to stay on the outskirts of the city and use public transport or taxis. Check the location of the accommodation on google maps and use public transport tool to show you how to get to city center. Hostels and hotels usually have this mentioned on their website.
Length of stay and season
Length of your stay may impact your bill for accommodation. Cheapest hotels usually offer the same price for any day of the week. For longer stays, you can usually get discounts. Airbnb places offer percentage discounts for a longer stay that can go up to 50%.
Always go against the flow if you can. If travelers come there during the week, come on a weekend or the other way around.
Booking hotels off season is much easier, and sometimes even unnecessary, than during the season. You don’t even need to book your stay in advance. Just write down the address and check in as a walk in. It’s usually much cheaper and you can bargain if you’re staying for more than one night. Sometimes you can have the whole hotel for yourself. That happened to us many times during our trip through South America.
Sleeping in a transport
Another way how to save on travel accommodation is to sleep on trains, buses or planes. We always try to arrange longer distance transportation during night. Firstly, you’re not wasting a whole day just for moving from one place to another. Secondly, with the slight discomfort, you can save some money on hotels.
Especially ground transportation in many countries can offer great sleeping options. Some bus companies in Central and South America offer 180-degree reclining seats for little extra money. You save for a night in hostel/hotel and for a flight. We used this option several times while moving around Chile. The only thing you need to do is find what suits you.
Share room cost
Do you have a travel buddy? Double rooms are not always for double the price compared to a single bedroom. If you already travel with your other half, there is a great option how to get a better deal. Join up with another couple. Many places offer 2 queen size beds for 2 travelers but the bed is actually big enough for 2 people so the room can accommodate 4 people in total. If privacy is not your biggest concern your price per night can be half. This is a great option especially in North American hotels or motels.
Rent a camper car/ Sleep in a car
We love this option the most. Going on a road trip and sleeping in the car gives you so much freedom. Alter your car (best is a family car or 7-seater) into the best travel accommodation. If you cannot rebuild your car, you can rent one, a very popular option in New Zealand and Australia.
Camper car rental can be as little as 20$ per day but the average is around 80$. Best countries to use camper cars are Canada, US, Chile, New Zealand. As an example, it’s a great option for Hawaii Islands. You will need a car anyway because you can’t get to all popular spots by public transport. Why don’t use it for sleeping as well? The money you save on hotels can go towards transportation and activities. It gives you the freedom to stop and sleep anytime and (almost) anywhere.
Get value for your money
When you book your hotel, always check what exactly is included in the price. Nowadays hotels in most of the world have internet access or Wi-Fi included in the price. But many hotels in Europe still charge extra for this service.
Other things that you should check before you book are access to kitchen or kitchenette, breakfast included in the price, shared or private bathrooms (especially in hostels), pool etc. Read reviews if you have extra time but don’t make a decision only based only on reviews. They can be easily manipulated, therefore we don’t read them.
Types of accommodation
There are big chain hotels and then there are smaller family owned hotels. You probably know which one I’m going to talk about. Personally, I’d rather stay at a small hotel with kitchenette and a friendly spirit than stay at huge corporate hotels.
Choose based on your preferences. If you would like to prepare some of your meals, a smaller hotel with a kitchenette would be your choice. If you’re looking to have a pool or fitness center, then a bigger hotel would suit you the best.
Budget hotels/bed and breakfast
B&B is a cheaper alternative to hotels, where the level of service is usually lower than in hotels. Some may offer a place for cooking or breakfast included in the price. Bed and breakfasts are considerably cheaper and you get better value as a budget traveler than in hotels.
They are not places for dirty backpacker although they used to be known for cheap dorm type accommodation for young people. Almost every hostel offers private rooms, some are even family friendly and quiet. Hostels provide the widest variety of options. They provide a kitchen for cooking, some have swimming pools or even fitness. You have to choose which type is right for you. Hostels are more common in touristy places and city centers. Best thing hostels are for is connecting with fellow travelers. Some hostels organize budget friendly group tours.
Apartment/room rent with Airbnb
We love Airbnb and prefer this type of accommodation. People rent out a room or the whole apartment/house and customer’s experience is ranked with references. They are based on real people staying at that place (unlike websites like TripAdvisor which can be manipulated). If renting a room while owners live in the house, you can usually use the common area/living room, laundry and kitchen. Since people are renting out their own place, kitchens are well equipped which makes it very easy to cook there.
The primary purpose of this community is a cultural exchange. And as a perk, you have an option for staying at their house for free. You ask people who live in a place you would like to visit if they can host you and in exchange for providing you with accommodation, you can cook your host a dinner or invite them for beers. This type of accommodation is really developed in western countries or big cities of developing countries.
We joined a few years back and for a couple of years, we hosted people in our home. We met so many nice people who told us about their lives and travels which inspired us to travel. Later on the road, we’ve met people while being hosted in their homes. Locals are always best for insider information about a place you’re visiting and we made great friends through Couchsurfing. The community often have regular meet ups for drinks or sport activities, which makes it easier if you moved to a new city.
Housesitting means taking care of somebody’s property while they are away. You have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to have access to the database of people looking for house sitters. You ‘re usually required to take care of their pets, maybe lawn mowing, gardening and similar maintenance activities and you stay at their house for free. It’s a popular option for digital nomads and also traveling families. We haven’t used it yet but plan to do so. The best websites are housecarers or Trusted Housitters.
Best sites for booking accommodation
Booking.com – Is our number one choice for booking hotels. We used it the most during our travels. You can find here hotels, B&B, motels and hostels. Their listed properties are almost everywhere around the world and are one of the largest travel booking websites.Their customer service is outstanding and when we got stuck in Colombia in an overbooked hotel, they offered us a credit for the inconvenience.
Hosteworld – is great booking site for hostels and bed and breakfast. In general, hostels are cheaper than most properties on booking, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find cheaper or better value accommodation on booking.
Airbnb – for privacy and having a fully equipped kitchen, this is our preference for accommodation. You choose the location you would like to stay at and the website can filter out all the apartments or rooms in the area based on price preference. Then you choose what fits you most. If you’re not registered yet, sign up and get 40$ credit for your next stay.
Check out this list of airbnb alternatives as well.
What are your great ideas to save on accommodation?
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