When you’re booking a trip, do you automatically search for a hotel and ignore the other options for travel lodgings? Have you given them a fleeting thought and then dismissed them because you don’t know enough about them, or simply feel they don’t offer the best for a trip, in the same ways as a hotel? Hotels are a great choice but there are options for travel lodgings that can give you a whole different experience and also, maybe even bring a destination closer to you because it becomes more affordable.
Couchsurfing has become one of the more adventurous options for travel lodgings in recent years. Since its 2004 inception, CouchSurfing.com has developed into a significant large-scale network of trusting strangers. What started out as a nonprofit, with a simple goal of connecting travelers with hosts, has evolved into an open travel community of cultural exchange, a social network which engages thousands of connections every single day, and offers to its community home stays, meetings and events all over the world. The site has grown to more than three million community members who live for cultural exchange. But the initial simple intent remains: providing the poorest of travelers a free pillow upon which to lay their weary heads. And, often, a friendship too.
Another of the viable options for travel lodgings on the cheap, communal camping has taken Europe by storm. From France to Italy to Switzerland, hippy-type communes have cropped up across the countrysides of these tourist countries, making budget travel an option even at the height of tourist seasons. These camp sites often provide a tent, a shower, and a dining hall at the unbeatable price of 15€ (~$20) per couple. Apart from couchsurfing, camping is, at the drop of a dime, the cheapest way to travel.
Though hostel prices, the world over, have been on the rise in recent years, a stay at a hostel continues to be one of the significantly cheaper options for travel lodgings than a hotel stay. With mixed dorm, single-sex dorm, or even a private room, hostels provide travellers with modest amenities and a bed to lie in. For those who plan to spend their time out exploring the town, rather than holed up in their rooms, hostels offer safety, a great group dynamic, clean sheets, a hot shower, and often a well-rounded FREE breakfast.
A cross between couchsurfing and a vacation rental, Airbnb.com and similar sites have broken out as the best of both worlds, offering you a personal cultural exchange and a local lodging you pay for. Airbnb allows hosts to put up for grabs an available couch, private room or entire apartment. Rental periods can last from a single day to months at a time, and prices range anywhere from $10 a day to $1000. Similar to couchsurfing, staying with an airbnb host can be a great cultural experience, but with the added gratuity of paying the host for their generosity.
Airbnb provides vacation rentals, as do many other sites, like Tripadvisor or HomeAway. Often the prices are equivalent to the rental of a regular home for any length of time. During peak tourist season, these prices can sky rocket, so if you’re of middling wealth, it’s best to take advantage of vacation rentals during off-peak seasons. Stay in a Greek villa for a few months in springtime or rent an apartment in Prague for the fall. Whatever the case, vacation rentals provide the added security of a contract, the privacy of your own home, and a more local feel than any hotel might.
Looking to go somewhere for a few weeks or months, and are open to exchanging your own vacated home? Want to emulate Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet in The Holiday? Home swaps are becoming increasingly popular, with sites like Homeswapper.com and Houseexchange.org making headway the world over, offering brilliant alternatives to hotels. These sites match up tenants who’d like to move to a certain locale and offer them ways to connect to make it happen. Great for a holiday exchange or a tentative (permanent) move, home swapping may just be right for you and your budget.
Always wanted to play like you’re a Disney Princess or a Hogwarts’ student? For a pretty penny, privileged guests can do just that by holidaying at a luxurious castle accommodation, such as Amberley Castle in England, Craig-y-nos Castle (the Haunted Castle) in Wales, or Culcreuch Castle in Scotland. All castle lodgings offer a decadent lifestyle, historical atmosphere, and a sense of ungodly extravagance you’ll experience nowhere else.
What do you think? Will you stick to hotels or will you consider any of these options for travel lodgings for your next trip or in the future?
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