Frugal Friday – Travel Lodging

Hopefully, after last week’s suggestions about transportation, you found it much easier to make it to your desired destination without having to pay an arm and a leg (or any other body parts you’d rather not part with).  But getting there is only half the battle; unless your destination is within easy commuting distance of your home (and no matter where you live and how many great places are nearby, not every place you want to visit will be close to home), you’re going to need to find somewhere to stay while you are visiting.

Luckily, there are plenty of places that would love to have you over for a night or two (or three, seven, fourteen…).  Less luckily, many of the nicest hotels and other typical lodgings tend to be rather on the expensive side.  But have no fear; with a little bit of effort and a little bit of searching, you can find ways to keep your lodging costs at a minimum while you are enjoying your new surrounds.  Some of these ways include:

1. Participating in a Home Exchange: Why spend your vacation in a hotel when you can borrow someone’s home for the duration of your trip, and not pay them a dime for the opportunity?  That’s the idea behind home exchanges, where you live in my home for the duration of your trip, and I live in yours.  By not having to stay in a hotel, there’s the potential to cut a rather large expense off your travel bills.  Of course, doing an exchange properly requires a lot of advanced planning, so it doesn’t work for spur of the moment getaways.  There’s also the fact that there will be someone in your house while you’re away (as most exchanges work with you going to my house while I go to yours), but that shouldn’t be an issue if you have come to trust your exchange partner.

2. Consider Renting an Apartment or House For Your Trip: This might seem counter-intuitive; after all, shouldn’t a rental property cost more than a hotel?  But that’s not always the case; particularly in popular business travel areas, the cost of hotels can be quite high in comparison to renting a place for a week or two (as most business travelers just want to get there, take care of business, and leave).  Add in the advantages of having your own oven and other amenities that even high priced hotels don’t offer, and it can be a major money saver to go the rental route.

3. Travel (And Stay) With Friends or Family: Assuming you have some close enough friends (or family you can put up with for the duration of a vacation), traveling together to make a great deal of sense, particularly when it comes to lodging.  It makes some options like those listed above make more sense, as having a whole house might not be logical for just your family but would be reasonable for a larger group, and allows you to split up the costs associated with lodging (and food and other necessities) between more people.  Just be careful that you don’t end up accidentally spending more to accommodate more people on your trip.

4. Consider Staying in a Hostel: In the US, hostels have a bit of a bad rap, being associated with either hippies or the blood-soaked horror series of the same name.  But in reality, as opposed to film, hostels represent a good opportunity to stay somewhere both inexpensive and likely to contain knowledgeable locals or other travelers.  There’s also an increasing trend in parts of the world to refer to any inexpensive hotel as a ‘hostel’, so be sure to do your research and you’ll likely find something that fits your needs.

See? No horrible murders or brutal carnage at all.

5. Try Couch Surfing: Although it might sound like a new (and very odd) extreme sport, couch surfing actually refers to inviting people into your home to stay on their trips, and conversely, asking to stay with others when you travel.  By staying with other people in their homes, you can potentially save a great deal of money.  As with any sort of travel, caution is recommended, and you definitely want to clear your plans with a potential host before you go surfing (showing up with your entire extended family when you just mentioned yourself and perhaps a significant other is a no-no, for just one example).

6. Book In Advance: Sometimes, you just can’t avoid staying in a hotel.  Even if you do so, though, there are still ways that you can cut the costs and spend less than you would otherwise.  One major way is to book in advance.  Much as we discussed with planes and trains last week, booking in advance allows the hotels to plan ahead, and they usually help you out in turn by lowering the cost of your stay.  Book your hotel a few weeks ahead of time, at least, and you can save quite a bit on your hotel costs.

7. Join Hotel Rewards Program(s): Another way to help save on your hotel costs is by joining hotel rewards programs.  Much as with rewards programs for almost any other business (and what business doesn’t offer some type of rewards these days?), hotel rewards programs can offer free lodging, discounts, or other bonuses to repeated hotel guests.  The trouble of keeping up with the reward programs might seem to not be worth it, but when it can save you thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars during a lifetime of travel, it definitely should be considered.

How do you save on lodging when you vacation?  Has anyone reading this participating in a couch surfing or home exchange?  Are there any hostels left in the US?  Inquiring minds want to know!

2 Responses to Frugal Friday – Travel Lodging

  1. @Justin: Yeah, that would be what would hold me back, as well. No matter what you do to try to ensure that only someone reliable would stay with you, you never know if someone unsavory managed to slip through. Luckily, there are plenty of other options; couch surfing is a similar concept, for instance, but you’d still be there to keep an eye on things.

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