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The Best in Cheap Lodging
Options for the Budget Traveler
There's no need to spend a lot of money for lodging when you travel. There are a lot of fun, and even free ways to stay overnight in a new place. Here are some of my favorite choices for low cost lodging and accomodation:
- Airbnb Stay in a local's own home, whether an extra room, couch, or sofabed, Airbnb has plenty of options. Headquartered in San Francisco, but working internationally, Airbnb stands for "Air Bed and Breakfast" and is the hippest thing in travel. It works very easily for both the traveler and the host. Hosts list a description of their spare bedroom, extra bed, couch, or what-have-you on the site, and include pics and testimonials from other travelers who have stayed a night. Travelers can search the site for the room that meets their requirements both in money and in style. There are a wide range of choices ~ for the more adventurous you can go with dirt cheap (and I mean dirt), for those requiring a more luxurious environment, there is plenty on Airbnb not to sneeze at. The money is handled through the site and Airbnb customer service is fast and helpful. Prior to making any arrangements, both participants get to see each other's profiles and can vet each other through the site and with direct communication.
The best part of Airbnb can be the people you'll meet. Having a local on hand can help you find the best hotspots in town, or get tips on where the good parking is, or what's happening in town.
For hosts, Airbnb is a great way to make some spare money and to meet people from all over the world. For anyone, it's a fun and potentially cheap way to travel.
- Couchsurfing Take away the monetary aspect of traveling and add in an international community of like-minded free-spirited international travelers, and you're left with a wonderful site called couchsurfing. In order to participate fully in couch surfing, you actually have to have a couch or room to offer, since your days of free lodging in other's homes gets balanced by allowing others to stay with you. Couch surfing tends to attract the younger, more adventurous crowd, or at least the young at heart, but don't be worried ~ it's a great community and definitely one of the best way to stay in a foreign country, particularly if you're trying to learn the language. Besides, it's great fun to meet people from all over the world and share in a real and vibrant community of international adventurers.
- Hosteling is also popular with the young and adventurous, and can be a great and cheap way to stay in popular destinations. Most hostels require that you be under a certain age, a student, or from a different country, but certainly not all, and certainly not in off season. Hosteling is also a great way to meet fellow travelers and the prices can be very cheap. While prices vary and you'll likely share a room and stay on a bunk bed, it's all part of the fun and adventure that is traveling. Remember, as with any traveling, you'll want to protect your valuables or just not bring them with you. You can call ahead and see if the hostel offers lockers, which most do. My experiences in hostels has been fun, each one being unique and having different things to offer.
- Rent or live in an RV If you have the funds to purchase or rent an RV, traveling in one can be a great option. You'll be able to enjoy the comforts of home for every leg of your trip. You can stay for free at Walmart parking lots or pay to stay at an RV park. RV park prices can vary, and the quality can vary too. If you decide to go this route you should do your research, not just on which RV to use, but on where you'll be staying throughout your trip. There are a lot of online RV communities you can take part in.
Another, rather unusual way to travel is to get a national 24 hour gym membership and travel with a van or comfortable SUV. You can sleep in your large vehicle by night and visit the gym for your showers (and workouts). Then go and see all you'd like to see at your destination and move on to the next adventure. While obviously there are risks involved traveling in this way, with proper foresight and precautions, the right spirit might find this a great way to see America (and get in shape).
- Backpacking Now, for the very adventurous. Backpacking can definitely be the cheapest and most carefree way to travel, but can include a lot of headaches and the potential for danger. If you're interested in backpacking, I'd encourage you to do as much research before you travel as you can, and take a buddy with you. You'll want to know about public transit, where you can camp, what type of backpack you need, and what to do in an emergency, to say the least. You could also combine backpacking with stays at fellow couch surfers' residences, to give you the occasional creature comforts for your trip. But done correctly (safely!) backpacking can be a fun way to see the world.
- Hotels Not every night at the same hotel is the same price. Do a bit of research and be flexible with which days you're staying, and you can often stay much cheaper than you thought. Since prices can vary so much, you'll have to figure this one out on your own by doing internet searches and calling ahead. You can also find deals when you combine your flight, car rental, and hotel stay in one package, although you might have to do a bit of hunting to truly find a lower price.
While traveling is known for being expensive, it certainly does not have to be if you're willing to step out of your comfort zone and spend time staying with locals and getting to know them. It's a great way to meet knew people and friends, and another resource for you in an unknown locale. Being part of a traveling community connects you to the larger world, one of the best benefits of traveling ~ and can save you money in the long run.