Getting away and searching for the best hotel alternatives? Explore this guide for low-cost accommodations that aren’t just hotels or Airbnbs!
Hotels have become notoriously expensive. Unfortunately, Airbnb seems to be headed in the same direction. However, finding accommodation is an important step when planning a travel itinerary. Alternatively, If you’re traveling with a bit more budget you can explore luxury short-term accommodation, services like UnderTheDoormat offer a more luxury option when compared to typical Airbnb, or hotels.
Budget travelers and backpackers appear to have fewer options when finding a place to stay, but don’t fret! There are still tons of cool and unique accommodations out there to discover.
Perhaps you’re looking for a place to have an all-in-one experience or just a bed for the night. From hostels to housesitting, this guide will help you decide what hotel alternative is suitable for you and your budget!
But first, what’s the problem with Hotels?
There are several downsides to living in a hotel. For one, hotels can be expensive, especially if you’re staying for an extended period. Additionally, hotel rooms can often lack the comforts of home. On top, they can feel impersonal and lack the privacy and space you would have in your home.
Hotels can also be noisy, especially if you’re staying in a busy area near the elevator or ice machine. This can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult, which can be frustrating for travelers.
Another downside to living in a hotel is the lack of control over the environment. You may not be able to control the temperature of your room or the amount of light that comes in, which can be uncomfortable.
Additionally, hotels can sometimes be crowded and lack personal touches. This can make them feel impersonal and uninviting, which can be disappointing for travelers who are looking for a comfortable and home-like experience.
Overall, while hotels can be convenient, they can also have several downsides that make them less desirable for travelers.
Which are the best hotel alternatives?
This is a great Airbnb alternative for travelers who don’t mind spending a bit on accommodation but would still like to save wherever possible. Homestay is a website where families can post spare rooms they have to offer travelers at a discounted price.
In addition, the nice thing about Homestay is that you feel a sense of security living close to other people. Many homestays offer a private room in homey surroundings. Which is especially nice for solo travelers. And it’s a great way to immerse yourself in another culture too.
You can search for a homestay in your destination city and choose from a multitude of hosts.
Most options are cheaper than an Airbnb but range from $50 to $150 per night, depending on the location.
- One of the safest budget-friendly options
- Private room in a home
- Options in many countries around the world
- A unique way to be immersed in a new culture
- Costs can add up for extended stays
2. House Sitting
If you love to travel and you love pets of all kinds, house sitting is a great option to look into.
TrustedHousesitters pairs travelers and pet owners to give travelers free accommodations in exchange for pet sitting. It’s an excellent alternative to Airbnb, giving you the same comforts of home while on the road.
Sign up on the website and create your profile. If you can get a few good reviews from past pet-sitting gigs, this can help boost your profile. However, it can be challenging to land your first gig so that you can get a review but don’t give up, everybody started somewhere.
Then simply pay the sign-up fee, and search for available sits! The sign-up fees range from $169-$339 for sitters, with price tiers for added features like video calls, support, and insurance.
- Similar to an Airbnb without the cost!
- Spend quality time with animals
- Great for North America, Europe, and Australia
- Suitable for longer stays (3 days+)
- Pet sitting is unpaid
- Yearly sign-up fee, with extra costs for additional support
- Getting accepted by pet owners isn’t guaranteed each time
- Challenging to land your first pet-sitting gig without a review
- Limited options in Central/South America, Africa, and Asia
Hostels are the go-to and one of the best hotel alternatives for most travelers. Staying in a hostel is a great way to meet fellow travelers, and there’s an abundance of hostels to choose from in almost every part of the world. If debating whether to choose a hotel or a hostel, then learn about the differences.
Hostelworld is the most popular website when it comes to finding unique and budget-friendly hostels all over the world. It is also the absolut best way to find your next hostel to stay at.
Type in your destination and dates and see a list of available hostels. On top, you can search by area using the map function and read reviews from other travelers.
Organize by price to get the best deal on accommodations, and once you’ve booked, you can view who else will be staying there on the exact dates!
Hostels offer cheap accommodation, but some travelers don’t feel comfortable sleeping in mixed dorms, making hostel life tricky. So if hygiene and privacy are a major priority, then the hostel vibe may not be for you. However, most hostels also offer private rooms which is a great solution to this problem.
If it’s your first time staying in a Hostel, you might want to check out some of the hostel etiquettes you might not know about! Also, a good thing is always to travel with a good travel bag to keep you safe from theft.
- Great cheap hotel alternatives
- Lots of trendy and unique hostels
- Best way to meet other travelers
- Lots of options in all parts of the world
- Great for short or long stays
- Can be unhygienic
- Lack of privacy
4. Couch Surfing
What better way to backpack around the world on a budget than staying somewhere for free? Couchsurfing is a website that connects travelers through free accommodation!
Just sign up on their website and browse thousands of hosts worldwide who will let you stay on their couch for free. There’s a yearly fee of $17.99 or a monthly fee of $2.99
Couch surfing is one of the best hotel alternatives if you’re into making exciting connections with locals who are eager to share their homes and city with you! It is a great option for those who which to stay within their vacation budget.
You can filter by host info by looking at verified status, references, gender, and more. Plus you can connect with other travelers at your destination through the hangouts option or by creating a group!
- Great way to meet locals and share travel stories
- Accommodations are free
- Opportunity to see a city from a locals perspective
- Can be unsafe for women or marginalized travelers
- Not ideal if you enjoy your own space
5. Home Exchange
HomeExchange is another website that offers cheap alternatives in terms of where to stay. Instead of having to look for home rentals, you can look into who is interested in swapping homes during a vacation.
To get started you simply need to create a profile and tell about yourself and your own home. After that you look for houses in the area you are interested in visiting and send an Exchange Request.
HomeExchange provides a guarantee and insurance for your home so you can even travel with peace of mind.
Just sign up and browse over 100,000 homes. There is an annual membership fee of $175 for unlimited use.
- Great way to stay in homey surroundings
- Easy to save money on accommodation
- Cool way to connect with new people and communities
- Annual membership fee
- Can seem unsettling to have strangers living in your home
Does the idea of connecting to the country you visit appeal to you? One great way to do that is through Workaway.
Workaway connects travelers with locals who need volunteer help. You can volunteer a few hours of your day in many different ways, from planting a garden to running the front desk of a hostel. There are plenty of ways to put your skills to good use!
This is one of the best hotel alternatives if you’re willing to stay in one place for at least a week or longer. Most hosts prefer to have volunteers who can stay on and help once they’ve learned the ropes.
There is an annual fee of $49 to sign up with Workaway. In exchange for your help, you’re given a room, and usually, you’ll be provided free meals with a local family. This is the best opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture!
- Connect with the local culture in an authentic way
- Experience the local cuisine
- Help out with your unique skillset
- Great in all countries
- Yearly fee of $49
- Some hosts don’t include meals
- Requires planning ahead
- Hosts usually request a one-week minimum stay
You might be wondering what exactly WWOOF is. It hasn’t got anything to do with dogs! WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
You can tap into a vast network of organizations in different countries for a yearly fee of $40 for singles or $65 for a joint membership. Be sure to always check work visa requirements, even if you’re only volunteering.
WWOOF connects travelers who want to volunteer at local organic farms. If you don’t mind planting a few vegetables in exchange for free accommodations and food, this is an excellent opportunity for you.
Join a country-specific WWOOF organization through its website and sign up to find farming opportunities in that country. Check out this in-depth review on WOOFing for more details.
- Save money in more expensive countries
- Eat healthy local food
- Help out local organic farms
- Annual membership fee
- May require a work visa, depending on the country
8. Backyard Camping
Don’t mind staying in a tent to save a few bucks? It’s easier than ever to stay in a tent – in someone’s backyard!
Homecamper is a great website where hosts can list tents or other structures on their property, and travelers can search and book budget-friendly accommodations! In terms of hotel alternatives, this is one of the cheapest.
Most sites require you to bring your own tent, but some include a tent or other impermanent structure like an RV, Teepee, Yurt, or cabin.
Although there are Homecamper destinations all over the world, the best options are in North America and Europe. Homecamper isn’t recommended for East Asia and Africa.
- Unique accommodations
- Cheaper alternative to Homestays
- More private than hostels
- Limited options outside of North America and Europe
- Not suitable for East Asia and Africa
9. Free Camping
Want to save even more money? If you’re willing to bring your tent, then this is the best of all the hotel alternatives for you! Freecamsites is a crowd-sourced network of listings where users have camped for free.
Using the map, you can find posts about potential free campsites with instructions on how to get there and recent comments from campers who’ve stayed at the site. Who knows, maybe you get to stay in some of the best East Coast national parks completely for free.
Although this option is free, you need to use your best judgment when camping in unfamiliar areas. In addition, know that staying at campsites can also provide a great opportunity to make money on the road.
- Completely free accommodation
- Concerns regarding potential safety risks
- Crowd-sourcing may not be accurate, listings could be outdated
If you can, stay with friends/family!
I don’t think putting this on the list is fair because it’s not often you’ll get the option to stay with friends and family. However, if you have friends and family living in the immediate area you’ll be visiting, this alternative may be the best!
For several reasons, staying with friends or family can be a great alternative to a hotel. For one, it can be a cost-effective option. Rather than paying for a hotel room, you can stay with friends or family for free or at a reduced rate. This can be especially helpful if you’re traveling on a budget.
They can also provide a more home-like experience! Rather than staying in a sterile and impersonal hotel room, you can enjoy the comfort and familiarity of someone’s home. This can make your trip feel more personal and enjoyable.
Additionally, staying with people you know who have lived in the place you’re traveling to can be a great way to experience local hospitality and get to know the area better. Your hosts can provide insider tips and recommendations on things to do and see in the area, which can enhance your trip.
Lastly, staying with friends or family can be a great way to strengthen relationships and create lasting memories. You can spend quality time together and make new memories that will last a lifetime.
Overall, while staying with friends or family may not be suitable for everyone, it can be a great option for those looking for a more affordable and home-like alternative to a hotel.
Make sure to bring a small gift as a show of appreciation!
A final note on the best hotel alternatives for you
It’s always best to use your judgment and honor your comfort level when choosing where to stay abroad. Not all accommodation alternatives are suitable for everyone. On top, remember to always travel with good travel insurance.
Whether you choose a homestay, hostel, or campsite, you’ll save money for future travels with any of these budget-friendly hotel alternatives. Even if you feel like Hotels are still the best option for you, it’s great to know that these options exist so you’ll be able to plan your next few trips with these accommodation options in mind!
About the author:
Yu-Wei is the marketing lead at Pilot, a social trip planning app that helps you discover and build travel itineraries with friends, connecting you to resources everywhere. Aside from work, He likes to spend his time outdoors visiting parks and conservatories!
BEST TRAVEL RESOURCES
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT: Not sure how to get the best and cheapest flights? I always use Skyscanner for the best deals. The best tip is to be flexible with dates and destinations if you want the cheapest options.
Alternatively, for frequent travelers, get a membership with Wayaway and receive a cashback on cheap flights and hotels every time you book! Via the link, you even get a 10% discount on your membership.
BOOK GREAT ACCOMMODATION: Booking great accommodation is not difficult but it sucks paying too much. Use Booking.com for the greatest hotel deals and Hostelworld for amazing hostel stays. Alternatively, you can sign up for Worldpackers to get FREE accommodation in exchange for your work.
BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE: Traveling without insurance is a mistake that you don’t want to make - trust me I’ve tried. I’d suggest SafetyWing as they offer great and flexible policies - especially if you are traveling for a long time or a digital nomad. World Nomads is another great insurance with extensive coverage.
NEED HELP WITH YOUR VISA? Figuring out how and when you need a visa can be a bit of a jungle. iVisa is a very handy and user-friendly service.
HAS YOUR EU FLIGHT BEEN DISRUPTED? Use AirHelp as a service to get flight compensation on your European flights in case your flight was delayed, canceled, or disrupted in other ways. More often than not you are actually entitled to compensation.