Budget Travel 101: 8 Ways To Save on Accommodations Abroad
Travel is becoming more and more accessible to all (at least in the Western world). However, the bulk of the costs are still spent on flights and accommodation.
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Flights can be exchanged for other transport options, such as taking a roadtrip. Unless you never sleep however, you will always need a place to rest at night. Whether that be an actual bed or simply a car seat is up to you, of course.
Should you opt for the former, here are 8 great ways to save on accommodations abroad:
#1: Pick the Right Neighborhood
It’s amazing how much of a difference a neighborhood can make. Cheaphotels.org just released their most recent Budget Hotel Report, in which they compared 2 and 2.5 star hotels in the 30 most popular travel destinations in the United States.
The results revealed significant differences in rates. In New York’s Times Square area, budget hotels averaged $225 a night while Long Island averaged only $135. Budget hotels in L.A.’s top beach cities – Santa Monica and Marina del Rey – averaged $175 while L.A.’s Downtown district offered rates of just $90 a night. The same is true for most of the U.S. cities in the report and will likely be true in whichever city you travel.
Thus, when you are looking at accommodations, check not only the price, but a map, too. Weigh the location against the rate and consider how much time you will spend in the hotel versus traveling to the sites you want to see. Also, be sure to see whether the neighborhood is safe.
Last but not least, by staying in a less popular neighborhood, you may learn more about the local culture than by staying in the city centre!
#2: Share a Room
For budget travelers, this is a popular option and may seem more than obvious. Hostels are the most common option, and can be found all over the world from such booking agents as HostelBookers.com
A trick to find even more affordable options is to search in the target language. Did you know that in Spain, hostels are known as “albergues” or “hostales”? Just making a few changes in spelling can yield different results and prices. In Brazil, a pousada may be offering both shared and private rooms. This is the case with the El Misti Hostel & Pousada in BÃºzios, Brazil, for example. Similarly, in Argentina, the mountain huts, also called refugios, will offer shared accommodation. Thus, when you search, don’t discard places that may not initially seem to offer shared accommodation just because they don’t carry the name “hostel”.
Renting an apartment may initially appear to cost the same as a hotel, or perhaps even more. But when doing so, you need to take into account other factors.
Apartments, unlike most hotels, usually come with a full-equipped kitchen as well as other amenities, such as WiFi. Just about every traveler knows that dining out can become expensive. These “hidden” costs can easily be eliminated if you stock up on food to eat in. Whether that includes breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner is up to you.
Why not compromise and try the local foods at a nice restaurant once in a while, and having breakfast at home, for example? Getting milk and cereal for several people is always cheaper than eating that expensive croissant every morning at the local Parisian café.
Arrangeyourvacation.com, for example, posts short-term rentals worldwide. You can browse by city, number of beds, etc. If you’re specifically looking for beach rentals, check out Oceanfront Hotels; they list beachfront rentals both in the U.S. and beyond.
In addition, depending on your destination, you can look into student residences, too. Trinity College in Dublin, for example, turns its normal student accommodation into housing for travelers during the summer. Not only can you choose rooms or suites that have bathrooms, kitchens and WiFi, but you also get access to the gym and pool. And you’re in a wonderful area. What more could you ask for?
#4: Become a Repeat Customer
When people get to know you, they treat you differently. If you’re a person that likes traveling to the same places every once in a while, this is ideal for you.
The first time you arrive at a ho(s)tel, you may not know that you’ll be coming back. But it is always in your best interest to be friendly with the staff and if possible, even make friends with them. (Note that frequently, this will be easier in hostels than hotels. In the latter, be a bit more formal and ask for a business card if you do connect.) By making friends with the owners and telling them you liked the place, they may remember you the next time you book. And hopefully, give you a discount, too!
Another way is to become part of a “points” program offered by large international and national chains, such as the Hilton or Marriott. Usually, the staff or hotel emails will alert you to such offers, but if not, ask upon check-in for special deals.
#5: Book with a Local Operator
Everybody checks Expedia.org. But did you know that in Spain, you can score great deals for worldwide travel using Atrapalo.com? The website, though it is available in English, is not well-known to those outside Spain.
The same is true for many local and country-specific tour operators that may offer better deals than the international ones. If you are able to understand more than one language, you can also sign up for Groupon in that particular language. The German version, for example, offers different deals than the English one, and you might find yourself with a great deal on a hotel in Berlin or a spa treatment in Munich.
Another option is to stay within the U.S. instead of traveling abroad. Check VisitUSA.com for travel tips and planning as they have advice for each and every state!
#6: Travel During Shoulder Season
Another tip that may appear obvious to some. But while most travelers know that deals plummet in the low season, the key is finding precisely these deals. BudgetTravel.com offers a good overview of some shoulder season destinations. If your preferred destination isn’t included, a way to find out when to go is to Google “when to go + [destination in question]”. This will yield the high season. Now your task is to pick a time in between.
Thanks to the internet, we have a wealth of information at our hands and can make comparisons without leaving the house. For flights, people use FareCompare.com.
For hotels, check out TripAdvisor.com. Here, you can not only read reviews of the hotel in question. In addition, the site will let you plug in your desired travel dates and then compare them on several sites.
#8: Camp, CouchSurf, etc.
Last but not least, there are ways to stay entirely for free (or very low costs). Camping will fall in to the category of the latter. Couchsurfing, in contrast, is known for being free, although a gift to the host will be appreciated. If you are looking for further ways to travel and stay for free, Nora Dunn’s previously published article is a great place to start!