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By Kathryn Pins
You’ve got a long list of places you want to visit, but like anyone, you have a limited budget. In addition to saving money on your flight, one way to stretch your vacation budget further is to get creative about where you stay. You have many lodging options that offer their own perks, including some cheap alternatives to hotels. We break down how to make your vacation less expensive and more enjoyable.
Airbnb and VRBO are two rapidly growing services. Why? Because you can easily shop for vacation homes that make a trip feel, well, like home. Benefits of getting a vacation home rental include a complete kitchen, a unique location and having everyone in one space. Depending on the size of the home, you may be able to find your own private space, but you’re also able to come together for dinner or a card game on a rainy day.
Shop around for options on Airbnb and VRBO, and maximize the space and bedrooms in your vacation rental home. When you use all the available beds, you can also maximize your savings by splitting the bill. Come prepared with toiletries, so you won’t have to make an expensive run when you get there. Take advantage of the home’s features such as a full kitchen to save money on meals by eating in.
Many people picture sharing a grungy room with 15 strangers when they think of staying at a hostel. But, with a little research, you can find some fantastic places to stay. Hostels are often located in the heart of the city’s action, and some offer single bedrooms. If you are looking to mingle with other travelers, there are common areas, tours and activities hosted by the hostel. Research your options on a site like Hostel World, which has hundreds of reviews that will tell you more about the hostel, including if it’s quiet.
For the most part, hostels can be one of your best cheap alternatives to hotels, even when you spring for a single room. To get an even cheaper and quieter room, try traveling during the off-season. Using a site like Hostel World is a great way to rack up reward points and research hostels based on price, location, amenities and more.
A hotel has amenities that can make your stay more enjoyable and, frankly, easier, with workout rooms, concierge services or even a stocked bathroom. Hotels are great if you are traveling with a small group or if you’re with big group but you want your own space. Hotels are traditionally safe and will honor your reservation. Plus, it’s easy to rack up reward points for additional perks or a free night.
There are many ways to get your hotel rooms on the cheap. First, try traveling to cheaper alternatives to popular vacation spots. Once you pick a destination, compare deals on sites like Kayak, Expedia, Priceline or Hotel Tonight. Sign up for a rewards program, like those offered by hotel chains or Hotels.com, which lets you book different chains and collect points. (Pro tip: earn even more points by using a rewards credit card!) Also, see if you can venture to a different neighborhood, so you can expand your horizons and stretch your budget even further. Finally, consider booking a hotel that offers free breakfast to save time and money in the morning.
For the bold, there’s couch surfing. This is usually for solo travelers looking to mingle and spend very little money. Why would someone stay on a stranger’s couch? When traveling to a brand new place, you can get a better understanding of the culture and get the scoop on the best local spots. You will meet and stay with locals who often take out their guests on a tour of the city.
You need to be a member of the couch surfing community to “surf.” Couch surfing is free to “book,” and you’re highly encouraged to list your couch as well. Before couch surfing, you’ll need to read profiles carefully and only surf with people that have great reviews. It’s definitely not for everyone, but people who do it regularly say they really enjoy the community.
Looking for other ways to maximize your travel budget? Here are some more tips:
Kathryn Pins is a marketing content specialist at Alliant. She’s passionate about finding and communicating meaningful financial information with Money Mentor readers. Kathryn is a saver who gets more excited about certificates and her Roth IRA than shopping. When she does spend her earnings, it’s on furthering her education, travel, unique experiences, and loved ones.