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Cheap Vacation Lodging: How to Save Money on Vacations

Updated on December 4, 2012

The purpose of a vacation is to get away from the day-to-day grind for a change of pace. That means more than a day trip, so you’ll need a play to stay. Accommodations are one of the most expensive parts of a vacation—the longer the vacation, the more expensive. How can you save money on vacation accommodations? Here are several ideas and tips. One size doesn’t fit everyone. You are certain to find something in this list that will work for you.

  • Go camping and enjoy the beauty of nature. If you don’t have the tent and other equipment, it can often be rented from camping outfitters. If a tent seems too rough, borrow a motorhome from someone you know. (Don’t even think about renting one; they’re expensive!) Many state and national parks have cabins that can be rented for a week or so. They’re generally on par with an inexpensive motel, but the clientele is entirely different and you can’t beat the convenience of being where the action is.

  • Stay at a “bed and breakfast.” They tend to be less expensive, more relaxed in pace, and each one filled with its own unique charm and character, often historical. Since they’re not in any affiliated chain like Hilton or Marriott, you do have to ask more questions about your prospective lodgings.
  • Somebody at work or church must have a timeshare unit that they don’t plan to use this year. There are always people wanting to “sell” their timeshare week, and that works out to be much cheaper than a hotel and much more comfortable, though you do need a car to get around, which you might not have needed otherwise.
  • Try a “house swap.” Believe it or not, there are people who live in a very exciting place you want to visit, but who think it would be quite the thing to spend the same period of time in your neighborhood.

Spartan accomodations

Tourist accommodations in Wahiba Sands, Oman.
Tourist accommodations in Wahiba Sands, Oman. | Source
  • If your vacation is something of a reunion where you’ve got a dozen or so people and need several rooms, rent a whole vacation house. It is not difficult to find these advertized near popular tourist attractions, near the beach with other condos or tucked away in some remote hills with beautiful views of the mountains. Divide the cost of this among everyone and it ends up being cheaper as well as providing the private atmosphere you need.
  • Stay in an inexpensive suite in a moderately-priced hotel or motel rather than a single room in a somewhat nicer place. This might be counterintuitive because the room price may be more expensive. Remember, you’re not just there for an eight-hour sleep and shower. You need to spread out and relax in between amusements.

    We went to a family wedding once and met relatives we hadn’t seen in years. The six of us adults counted enough beds in two rooms and unwisely thought that would work out just fine. One of those rooms should have been a suite so we could have had a “living room.” We spent half our time just trying to solve logistical problems on the porch in 95° F weather.
  • If you’re booking both airfare and hotel, see if you can get a package deal. These aren’t always advertized, so if you’ve narrowed down the alternatives, tell a travel agent what you want and see what they can come up with.
  • If you’re using a travel agent, be sure you understand each other—in writing is best. On one of our first trips as a married couple, the agent we dealt with knew that our stop in Hawaii was on a tight budget, so he made reservations for us at the “Holiday in Waikiki.” Now, this was on the phone, so read that phrase three times and listen to how it sounds before proceeding. When we got off the plane, we were surprised to find that the “Holiday Inn, Waikiki,” had no reservation listed in our name. They did have a room, however, at about three times what we’d been quoted for the Holiday in Waikiki. Since it was the middle of the night and we were dead tired, we took it and figured out later what had happened.


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