It’s no secret that I prefer airline miles over hotel points by a wide margin. Why? When I’m traveling, I enjoy staying in places that provide a more authentic experience.
Not that I don’t have hotel points; I do. And don’t get me wrong, I’d appreciate a stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme or the Hilton Bora Bora Resort as much as the next person.
But while those places are amazing in their own right, as a general rule of thumb I look for alternative accommodation options when traveling.
Here are 7 ways you can stay in a place that offers a more interesting experience than the typical chain hotel, while also saving a lot of money.
The media has given hostels a bad rap. If you think all hostels are cramped, smelly madhouses full of drunk backpackers, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Nowadays, they’re much more like unique, boutique hotels (try saying that 5 times fast).
In fact, hostels are among my favorite hotel alternatives because they have much more character. Each one is different and has its own quirks and personality, which makes them far more memorable than a concrete monolith emblazoned with some corporate logo.
The vibe is usually much more friendly and social, and the staff usually has a much more vested interest in your enjoyment since they are often the owners themselves.
While they’re a lot nicer than they used to be, don’t expect your hostel to be as luxurious as a hotel. You’ll likely share a bathroom with other travelers, as well as sleep in a room with several other people (though many hostels do offer private rooms for an additional cost).
We think these small tradeoffs are worth it, however, since hostels make it much easier to find new friends and meet locals than when you stay in a hotel.
To find hostels, we recommend searching Hostelworld.
Couchsurfing has exploded in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. Couchsurfing is about as authentic of a “local” travel experience as you can get!
The premise behind Couchsurfing is that you stay at a local’s house or apartment for free. That’s right, a stranger opens their home to another stranger…asking nothing in return but to learn from each other!
This may seem completely nuts to some of you (as it did to Heather when we first started doing it). But really, it’s an amazing experience for both people. I have “surfed’ and hosted, and the experience has been great each time.
Obviously, Couchsurfing has a high element of trust, both as the surfer (“I hope I’m not staying with some lunatic”) and as the host (“I hope I’m not hosting some lunatic”).
However, the Couchsurfing website has continued to add more and more safeguards each year to ensure that both parties can feel as comfortable as possible without having met in person.
Ready to start Couchsurfing? Visit Couchsurfing.org to set up your profile and find a place to stay.
3. House Sitting
House sitting is a great opportunity for people who are looking to stay in some amazing homes and properties for free. Yep, you read that right; for free!
The great thing about house sitting is that it can be for short-term vacations of 1 week or even year-long sabbaticals. It all depends on what you want!
House sitting is pretty straightforward. Many people who will be away from their home for an extended amount of time want someone to look after their place while they’re gone.
Sometimes this is because they have pets that they can’t bring with them, sometimes it’s because they want someone to look after their garden and yard, and sometimes it’s simply because they want someone to occupy their house while they are gone for safety reasons.
Whatever the reason, people will offer up their homes and properties for a house sit. In exchange for taking care of the animal(s), yard work, or whatever the owners want, the house sitter will be allowed to stay at the property free of charge.
To find your first house sit, sign up for an account at Trusted Housesitters. For tips on finding and making the most of your house sitting experience, check out our complete guide to house sitting.
4. Apartment or House Rentals
Renting an apartment or house is a superior alternative to staying in a hotel for several reasons:
- It Can Save You Money – You can usually find rentals much cheaper than hotels, especially if you are in a large group.
- Better Amenities – Apartment and house rentals typically have amenities that might not be available to you in a hotel, such as a kitchen or a washer and dryer.
- Free Internet and Parking – Apartment and house rentals usually won’t nickel and dime you for things like internet and/or parking. If the place has internet and parking, you’ll often be able to use it for free.
- Local Tips– If you get a chance to meet the owner of the place, they’ll often have some great advice on what to see and do in the area.
Renting places while traveling has become much more common recently. In almost every area I’ve looked, from Louisville, Kentucky to Munich, Germany, I’ve been able to find good rentals for a fraction of the price that I’d pay for a hotel.
Each time, I’ve been extremely happy to have a rental as a home base. Not only have the properties themselves been great, but so has the experience.
To find a short-term house or apartment rentals, I recommend starting with Airbnb. You can read reviews of the properties and owners, as well as see photos and descriptions of the amenities.
While the interface isn’t as fancy as Airbnb’s, I’ve also been able to find super cheap apartment rentals both in America and abroad through Craigslist. Just use your common sense and don’t get scammed, as Craigslist isn’t as regulated as Airbnb.
If renting an entire house or apartment is out of your budget, consider a homestay instead. In a homestay, a person lets you stay in a spare bedroom (or bed) of their house. Usually, this will be in exchange for a low nightly rate, though it’s also possible to find free homestays in exchange for volunteer work.
Keep in mind that your accommodation in a homestay will likely be basic. What homestays lack in fancy amenities, however, they make up for in the cultural experiences they provide.
If you’re learning a new language, for instance, homestays offer a level of immersion that’s difficult to get anywhere else. Plus, you’ll get a level of connection that you could never find in a hotel; you’re essentially part of the person’s family while you stay there.
To find homestays, start with Homestay.com.
6. Religious Housing
I found out about this option recently, and it’s pretty cool. Across many parts of the world, religious organizations will offer cheap (or even free) accommodation to travelers.
Now I’ll admit, this won’t be for everyone, and you’ll probably enjoy it more if you’re a member of the religion in question. Still, it’s a unique experience and a great way to get guidance if you’re traveling to visit religious sites.
The specifics of the accommodation vary based on the organization, but you can usually expect a bed and likely a free breakfast. In many ways, it’s a solemn, sober version of staying at a hostel.
If you’re looking for religious housing in Europe, we recommend searching on Monastery Stays. For other regions of the world, you’ll likely need to contact the organization you want to stay with directly.
Once you have the gear, camping is one of the cheapest hotel alternatives out there.
It’s certainly not for everyone. You have to be comfortable with sleeping outside and dealing with rudimentary (or nonexistent) bathroom facilities.
But assuming you don’t mind “roughing it” a bit, camping can provide a unique travel experience. It’s an especially good option if your goal is to see remote parts of a country or spend your vacation in nature.
And if camping in a tent sounds too rustic for you, you can also consider renting an RV or camper van. These options give you more protection from the elements, as well as amenities such as a fridge, stove, and bathroom (in some cases).
To find a place to camp on your next trip, we recommend these resources:
- Hipcamp – A site for finding campsites on private land in the United States. This is a great option if you don’t want to worry about competing with other travelers for a public campsite.
- AllStays – A helpful search engine for finding campsites of all kinds, ranging from National Parks to RV parks.
- RVshare – A site that lets you rent an RV from a private owner (it’s like the Airbnb of RVs).
I can’t count the number of awesome experiences and crazy adventures I’ve had by staying in hostels, Couchsurfing, or taking over someone’s apartment or house. These are the experiences I remember long after I’ve left a place and the backbone of why I enjoy traveling so much.
For your next trip, I encourage you to branch out and try one of the hotel alternatives on this list. You won’t regret it!
And now that you know how to save money on your accommodation, check out our guide to getting cheap flights for even further savings.
What are the alternatives of the hotel? ›
- Homestays. Homestays, through rental companies like Airbnb, have saturated the market in recent years. ...
- Home Exchanges. ...
- Couch Surfing. ...
- Hostels. ...
- Camping. ...
- Religious Housing. ...
- Academic Housing.
Hostels. Hostels are the most accessible cheap accommodation for budget travelers. Hostels have a variety of rooms that go from private to 30+ mixed bed bunks. The bigger the room, the more people you sleep with, and the cheaper the cost.What are alternative lodging properties? ›
When talking about alternative lodging we mean anything that's not hotels. This includes vacation rentals, guest houses, homes and apartments, villas – basically, everything else that doesn't fit under the umbrella of traditional, organized, short-term lodging.Is there anything cheaper than a hotel? ›
Apartment or House Rentals
It Can Save You Money – You can usually find rentals much cheaper than hotels, especially if you are in a large group. Better Amenities – Apartment and house rentals typically have amenities that might not be available to you in a hotel, such as a kitchen or a washer and dryer.
- Smart hotel technology. Incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into a property is something that excites guests. ...
- Sustainable hotels. ...
- Robot staff. ...
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. ...
- Unique brand experiences.
Best Month to Book Domestic Hotels (in the U.S.)
During the month of December, hotel bookings are 6% cheaper on average. The second cheapest month to book a hotel deal in March. Avoid October, as this is the most expensive time to book a hotel stateside.
Airbnbs are usually cheaper than hotels for longer stays and large groups, but they don't offer the same services. Sally French is a travel rewards expert who joined NerdWallet in 2020.Is it cheaper to stay longer in a hotel? ›
Because guests stay for a longer period of time, extended stay hotels typically offer discounted rates. They often feature a home-away-from-home style and will often be referred to as apartment hotels or serviced apartments.What are the 4 categories of lodging? ›
Lodging is done in a hotel, motel, hostel, inn or hostal, a private home (commercial, i.e. a bed and breakfast, a guest house, a vacation rental, or non-commercially, as in certain homestays or in the home of friends), in a tent, caravan/campervan (often on a campsite).What are the three types of lodging? ›
Lodging accommodations fall into 3 distinct categories: hotels, vacation rentals, or outdoor lodging.
How can I live in a hotel temporarily? ›
Hotels As Temporary Housing
Hotels are good for anyone who needs housing for just a few days. Payment is on a per-night basis and you can stay as long as you want, but the price usually isn't discounted. The price per week may be prohibitive since there is no weekly rate discount and amenities vary.
Spend Less for Better Accommodations
In fact, the price typically works out to be cheaper per person than hotels would cost. Some travelers have spent up to 33% less when booking a rental. Why? It comes down to the nightly rate.
Budget hotel is the lowest category of hotel that provides the rooms and meals at cheap cost.Do hotels get cheaper nearer the time? ›
Are hotels cheaper last minute, or are you better off booking them well in advance? Generally speaking, hotels are often cheaper last minute if there are still a significant number of rooms available. On the other hand, if the hotel is almost full then this will most likely result in inflated prices.What are the 3 C's in hospitality? ›
The key to finding opportunities to enhance the guest experience is to focus in on the things that guests secretly crave – the three C's: Communication, Convenience and Choice. Satisfy the guests needs for all three of these and you are on your way to greater differentiation and incremental revenues.What is the most fascinating trend in hospitality today? ›
- Chatbots. ...
- Virtual Reality Tours. ...
- Mobile Check-In Service. ...
- Local Experience. ...
- Healthy and Organic Food & Drinks. ...
- Sustainability. ...
Hospitality trend one – an experience in essentialism
One of the trends defining travel and hospitality in 2022 and beyond, is the new luxury consumer requiring a shift from wasteful extras such as sewing kits, slippers and leaflets.
Most travel agencies agree that the cheapest days to book hotels are Fridays and Saturdays. While these are the most expensive days for actually checking in and out, the best hotel rates are on the days when most people are traveling.What is the best day to purchase hotel rooms? ›
The best day of the week to book your hotel at the lowest rate is Monday for domestic travel and Tuesday for international travel, according to travel site Expedia.What is the cheapest day to check into a hotel? ›
Ideal Check-In Day
In general, Sunday is the least expensive day of the week to begin your stay at a hotel. In fact, settling in on a Sunday can save travelers up to 19% on overall room rates, compared to mid-week check-ins.
How much would it be a month to live in a hotel? ›
Cost to Live in a Hotel
At first, living in a hotel may seem expensive. For example, on average you spend $150 a night on hotels (which in 2022 gets you a pretty nice room if you use deal apps like Hotel Tonight). That would be $4500 a month, which is super expensive for most people.
Treat your Host's home like your own
Cleanliness: Guests should not leave the listing in a state that requires excessive or deep cleaning (ex: with moldy dishes, soiled carpets, stains from pets, etc.).
Typical Airbnb advantages over hotels include more space, better amenities, kitchens, lower cost, a washer & dryer, and much more. A vacation rental—whether a home, apartment, condo, boat, yurt, shared space, or other property—represents tremendous value, compared to hotels, for flexible, adventurous travel consumers.What is the 15 5 rule hotel? ›
15/5 rule: When a guest is within 15 feet their presence should be acknowledged through some means whether a smile or head nod. Similarly, when a guest is within 5 feet they should be greeted in an appropriate manner whether that be a “hello”, “good morning”, or “good evening.”What is the 72 hour rule in hotels? ›
Reservations must be cancelled seventy two (72 hours) hotel time, prior to your arrival date, in order to avoid a one (1) night full room cancellation fee. If reservations are cancelled less than 72 hours before the arrival date, you will may be charged the full room charge plus taxes.Can you permanently stay in a hotel? ›
You can live in some hotels indefinitely and for long periods of time which is essentially a permanent residence in some cases. As long as the hotel does not have restrictions on the duration of your stay, you should be able to remain there as long as you wish as a paying guest.What are the 7 sectors of the hospitality industry? ›
The hospitality industry is a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, food and drink service, event planning, theme parks, travel and tourism.What are the 7 components of tourism and hospitality industry? ›
- Accommodation and Lodging.
- Food and Beverage Services (F & B)
- Recreation and Entertainment.
- Convention & Event Management.
- Travel Services.
- Private Clubs.
the rooms division consists of the following departments: front office, reservations, housekeeping, concierge, guest services, security, and commu- nications.What is the difference between a hotel and an inn? ›
Hotels and inns are essentially the same, and both offer lodging for travellers. Where they tend to differ is in style, location, and cost. While hotels can come in all budgets we often think of hotels as a mid-range to luxury accommodation option. Inns, on the other hand, tend to be very basic and affordable.
What is a small hotel called? ›
An inn is usually much smaller than a standard or chain hotel. Often individually or family-owned, inns tend to offer a cozy, homey feel for their guests. Typically offering fewer in-room amenities than a larger hotel chain, you may find in-room coffee, Wi-Fi, or small breakfast options available at an inn.What is the difference between a hotel and motel? ›
Facilities & amenities: Motels sometimes don't have the kinds of amenities that you would find in accommodations for longer stays, while hotels often offer fitness centers, laundry rooms, laundry service, or swimming pools. Dining: Most motels don't have a restaurant or bar while many, though not all, hotels do.Can you buy a hotel room? ›
Residences sold at hotels are called condo hotels. Condo hotels have been a popular investment choice since the 1970s and are a convenient way to own a vacation home. In principle, condo hotels are simple: You buy a unit, use is for your short or long-term stays, and rent the unit when not in use.Can unmarried couple live in hotel? ›
Can unmarried couples stay in hotels in India? Yes. No law in the country denies an unmarried couple a stay in a hotel. However, checking-in a couple is at the discretion of the hotel owners / managers.How can I live in a free hotel? ›
- JOIN A HOTEL LOYALTY PROGRAM. ...
- BOOK YOUR STAY WITH HOTELS.COM. ...
- MAKE USE OF A BEST RATE GUARANTEE. ...
- MAKE USE OF A 'FREE NIGHT' HOTEL PROMOTION. ...
- COMPLAIN ABOUT A TROUBLING EXPERIENCE. ...
- JOIN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY. ...
- BOOST YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE.
- Chain hotels. The most common hotel type on this list, chain hotels make up tens of thousands of properties located throughout the world. ...
- Motels. ...
- Resorts. ...
- Inns. ...
- All-suites. ...
- Conference/convention center hotels. ...
- Extended stay hotels. ...
- Boutique hotels.
- Team Leader – Customer Service. ...
- Sales Representative. ...
- HR assistant. ...
- Tour Manager. ...
- General Manager for the Baking Business.
Besides these classifications hotels are often classified with the Star, Diamond or Crown system, depending on geographic location.What is a category 7 hotel? ›
Marriott's Category 7 properties range between 50,000 and 70,000 points per night; you will need to find an off-peak date to redeem a 50,000-point free night award. New York Marriott Marquis: No. 1 in the world and the U.S.What is the best room in a hotel called? ›
The most luxurious accommodation in a hotel is often called the presidential suite or royal suite.
What makes a hotel 4 or 5 star? ›
The difference between a 4 star hotel and 5 star hotel is the level of pampering and personalized staff attention that guests receive during their stay. While both offer on-site dining and activities, 5 star hotels take their experience above and beyond to make their facility something to brag about.How do you protect yourself when staying in a hotel? ›
- Stay at Hotels that Have Restricted Access. ...
- Ask for a Room Change When You Arrive. ...
- Don't Use Your First Name When Checking Into the Hotel. ...
- Test the Front Desk. ...
- Put the "Do Not Disturb" Sign on Your Door When You Leave Your Hotel Room. ...
- Try to Stay on Floors 4 Through 6.
It sounds obvious that the most basic reasons are because of bad management, poor location, dismissive customer service or unskilled marketing. The reasons could be a multitude, but above & beyond the most important thing is not staying accountable for the financial happenings in the hotel, leading to bumpy roads.What is the weakness of hotel? ›
Common weaknesses for hotels include budget limitations, lack of in-room technology, poor online reviews, lacking certain facilities, or an outdated website. Take a hard look at what your competitors do better than you, and areas that guests have flagged in negative feedback.What are the four 4 fields in hospitality industry? ›
- 1 Entertainment and recreation. This includes all businesses dedicated to providing an entertainment service. ...
- 2 Food and beverage (F&B) The food and beverage industry (F&B) industry is the largest sector within hospitality. ...
- 3 Lodging. ...
- 4 Travel and tourism.
- Using refillable dispensers for soaps, shampoos, and conditioners.
- Using washable cloth products and dishware instead of disposable ones.
- Using water filters instead of plastic bottles.
- Reducing and reusing supplies packaging materials.
- Reducing the number of paper products.
- Switching to LED lights.
Hospitality is an industry that includes restaurants, hotels, casinos, amusement parks, events, cruises, entertainment, and other tourism-related services.How do you categorize a 5-star hotel? ›
To attain a 5-star rating, a hotel must offer complimentary breakfast, a minibar, and free high-speed wireless internet. The room service menu should be the same as the menu in the main restaurant. Skilled staff should be on hand around the clock to care for guests' needs.What do you consider the three most important thing when looking for a hotel? ›
Instead of just looking at the cost, consider the overall value of the stay you'll be having. The hotel that offers the best total value of price, amenities, and location for your upcoming stay is the one you should book!