In How to Save Money on Accommodations: Part I, I gave several ideas and things to consider when booking a place to stay. Here, I’m going to go into a little more detail with non-hotel accommodations.
While there are plenty of good things about staying hotels, I really prefer not to. I think they’re a little boring because they’re all the same. Some people love this predictability, but it’s not for me. Plus, you can usually spend less by staying somewhere that isn’t a hotel. There are three main places you can stay (besides with friends or other people at their houses, like on Couchsurfing) and they’re hostels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs.
Hostels get a bad rap, but I love them and have yet to experience a bad one. I rely on reviews to keep me out of the stereotypical gross hostels, and that plan has always worked so far. They will usually cost a fraction of what a hotel will, plus you can meet other travelers. A lot of times, they also have a more comfortable social space to relax in than a hotel would.
I know that a lot of you are probably blowing off the idea of hostels because of your age, but a lot of them are actually really family-friendly now. It’s true that I’ve been in hostels where at the age of 30, I was probably the oldest person, but I’ve also been in hostels with family groups and hostels with people over 60. If you fall into one of these categories, I’d check carefully read the description of a hostel and its reviews to figure out which ones would be best.
A couple of hostel examples:
I was staying with two friends in a hostel in Hangzhou, China. We had planned to do day trips into Shanghai, but ended up deciding to spend a night there. Since it was last-minute and we had already paid for several nights in our original hostel, we just paid for a second hostel in Shanghai for a night. With hotel prices, I would have hated that we were double-paying, but since we were staying in hostels, it wasn’t a problem.
In Japan, I had a 16-day stretch between being with friends where I was traveling solo. I spent several of those days with people who I met in my shared room, over breakfast, and in the common areas in the evenings. I still got lonely at times, but I would have gone crazy if I had been alone in a hotel for over two weeks!
Read more about my thoughts on hostels here.
Bed and Breakfasts
This is the classic way to stay in a homier setting. Where you’re going will really determine a lot when it comes to costs, but you can often save money and have a more comfortable, personalized stay by staying in a bed and breakfast.
A couple of bed and breakfast examples:
My first time out of North America was also my first experience with bed and breakfasts. When we went to Scotland in 2001, we stayed in B&Bs for the entire trip. It was a completely different experience than it would have been if we had stayed in all hotels. Even though I was too young to appreciate it, I know I got a better idea of Scottish life that way.
We stayed on the small Ohio island of Put-In Bay for a few nights several years ago after finding a cozy B&B just outside of the main town. The four of us had a large area to ourselves plus delicious homemade breakfasts every morning. We chatted with the owner had a relaxing backyard to hang out in. The B&B gave us a comfortable place to get away during a stressful time in life.
Airbnbs can be people’s actual homes or places that they’ve bought for the purpose of short-term renting. I love staying in them because you can often rent an entire apartment or house for less than the price of staying in a hotel and they’re not all the same like hotels are.
A couple of Airbnb examples:
For my niece’s second birthday, my family wanted to spend a night in Cincinnati and take her to the children’s museum. My sister found a beautiful, large, old home on Airbnb that we rented for the night. The entire house was roughly the same price as one hotel room would have been, and the seven of us comfortably fit in it. It’s so much nicer to stay in a house than a hotel when you’re with a small group!
For our first four nights in Italy, we stayed in an Airbnb in the mountains and got to meet some of the owner’s family. It felt like such an authentic experience, and the six of us got to spread out in three apartments, again paying less for all three apartments per night than we would have paid per hotel room.
When choosing a place, reviews should be your best friend. Pay close attention to them. If you haven’t tried Airbnb before and are thinking about using it, here’s my referral link, which will get you 15% off your first home booking (plus a credit for me, so if you use it, thanks!).
One thing to note about Airbnb is that while it has a lot of really great aspects, it’s also doing harm to some cities. It can be a way to meet local people and help them earn a little bit of money on the side, but when short-term rental companies own a large number of apartments in a city, they start to drive up housing prices for locals, among other issues. Do a quick search of Airbnb + city name (for example “Airbnb San Francisco”) to check out your destination before you book.
What are your experiences? Do you stay in any of these?