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Hotel Alternatives: Save Money When Traveling

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This is a guest post from Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to his RSS feed.

Hotel Alternatives: Save Money When TravelingWhen we go on vacation, we book a hotel. We are sort of taught that’s where you stay. By instinct we book a hotel. We go online, shake our head at the high price, and book it anyways, wishing there was a better way.

Well, there are a lot of better ways. The problem is that most aren’t advertised because they don’t have the marketing budgets that hotels have. On your next trip, consider these four alternatives:

Bed and breakfasts

Bed and breakfasts are a good alternative to hotels. You’ll get treated just as nice (if not better), you get breakfast, a smaller and more intimate setting, and the hosts who will take care of you.

B&B’s are usually owned by a family or couple and not some big corporation. The quality of service is usually a lot better and the prices a lot cheaper. Moreover, unlike hotels, they usually provide free internet.

You can find B&Bs on this website.

Apartment rentals

If you are with a family or a large group of people, renting an apartment is a much better choice than staying at a hotel. In NYC, the average price of a hotel is $250 dollars/night, but yyou can find apartments that sleep up to 5 for $200 dollars.

If you are with a big group, a hotel is not worth it. The rooms will be far too expensive. Rent an apartment. Or a beach house. Or a condo. Just skip the hotel. I highly recommend Home Away. They have the biggest inventory and best prices.


Couchsurfing is a website that connects travelers with locals who are willing to give them a place to stay for free. You can stay with families, couples, or single people. Many hosts allow families or couples to stay with them.

I stayed with a lovely family in Denmark, a student in Oxford, and a nice lady in Athens. Members are verified by other users, the company, or people who have stayed with them. It’s very safe. Alternatives to Couchsurfing are Hospitality Club and Global Freeloaders.


When people think of hostels, they think of dirty dorm rooms, bacteria infested showers, dirty kitchens, and smelly young people. But hostels have grown up a lot since the 60s.

Now, you can imagine them as mini-hotels. While you can still find dorm rooms, you can also find private rooms and double rooms. Moreover, most have free breakfast, free Internet, computer terminals, offer free tours, and have a kitchen.

While in NYC, I stayed in my own room with private bathroom, wi-fi, TV, and turn down service for $90 USD per night. All of which was right near Central Park. That’s a lot cheaper than any hotel in the area.

For hostels, I like to use Hostelbookers since they have no booking fee.

Just say “no” to hotels

The bottom line is that accommodations don’t have to cost a lot of money. I never stay in hotels. They’re simply too expensive. Instead, I use one of the options above.

These alternatives cut my accommodation budget in half or (sometimes) to zero. That’s money that stays in my pocket and can be used to see the sights, buy dinner, buy beer, or pay for a plane ticket. I have much better things to do than give hotels my money, and I bet you do too.

Published on September 1st, 2010 - 23 Comments
Filed under: Frugality,Travel

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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. The only one of these that I’ve done is a B&B and, honestly, I wasn’t a fan. I guess I prefer anonymity over being a “guest” in what is effectively a stranger’s house. But that’s just me. Of course, if I was traveling overseas, I might look at it differently, as there’s no better way to get to know a culture than by getting to know the people.

    Comment by Nickel — Sep 1st 2010 @ 9:56 am
  2. What if you have to attend a conference in a city for a few days? what are you going to do? book a BnB 30 miles out, and then have to arrange some kind of transportation to the conference?

    You need to meet with some new clients, what are you going to tell them? meet me at my Hostel/BnB/ couch? so we can go over the details of this deal? dosn’t seem very professional.

    You’re on vacation, and you’ve met someone, same thing – would you want to take them back to your Bnb/Hostel/couch?

    To totally discount hotels seems like painting with a very broad brush.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 10:15 am
  3. I like the idea of home away. I’m not sure I would rent my place, but have heard great things about renting vacation homes while away. I have also heard great things about Vacation Rentals by Owner. The site is VRBO dot com.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 10:52 am
  4. I love B&Bs … but we stay in them when we want to splurge. I’ve never seen one for even the same price as a hotel or motel in areas we’ve traveled to.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 10:57 am
  5. And you should add camping to the list!

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 10:58 am
  6. Stayed at a B&B in Rome – was fantastic. We had our own room and breakfast was brought to our room each morning. I liked that it was more personal and quaint than a hotel – I would definitely do it again the next time we go overseas. In Sorrento, Italy, we stayed in a 4 star hotel that was not much more expensive than the apartments or B&Bs there (we haggled – yes, you can still haggle with hotels! The B&Bs in Italy, not so much. B&B owners in Italy were not at all receptive to haggling.) – although I admit, it felt very weird for me to be spoiled and pampered in a 4-star hotel! (I highley recommend Hotel Bristol in Sorrento!! No B&B or apartment had a balcony with the view of Mt Vesuvius and the “harbors” of Sorrento like our room did!) I would love to go back with a group of friends and rent an apartment, even if it means losing the spectacular view 🙁 With more than 2 people, an apartment would definitely be more cost effective.

    To say hotels are too expensive is a generalization that may end up costing YOU money! Don’t write off hotels on this ASSumption – you can still find some good deals that even include a great breakfast! We did this past July!

    couch surfing? way too weird for me!

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 10:58 am
  7. ahem *highly*

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 11:04 am
  8. We have rented apartments and houses many times. I don’t ever remember having had a problem. I prefer it to hotels especially if I am traveling with the entire family.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 1:20 pm
  9. I stayed in B&B’s when I took a vacation to Ireland several years ago. It worked great. The cost of B&B’s there was pretty practical especially considering the included breakfast. However I did not stay in B&B’s in Dublin as those are usually booked solid and harder to get. The quality of the accommodations was a bit random though. When I’ve looked at B&B’s in the USA they seemed higher priced and less of a value.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 4:11 pm
  10. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Andrew and Floridian, , I’m not totally discounting hotels, I’m simply saying there are alternatives to them. That being said I’ve seen business travelers in hostels. They have private rooms and some of them are really nice. I stayed at one in New Zealand whose rooms were as nice as a budget hotel.

    But yes, hotels can be right sometimes but you shouldn’t overlook the alternatives.

    Thanks for the comments!

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2010 @ 9:43 pm
  11. Well, the whole “Just say NO to hotels” bit made it sound like you have a severe aversion, or silly grudge against hotels in general – especially with the use of the word “never” and the emphasis you placed on “never.” And then the generalization that all hotels are too expensive. The post was alright until that point – then it just sounded dumb (sorry). Reword that one header and paragraph, and then you’ve got a half way decent post with advice others are more likely to take.

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 2nd 2010 @ 8:30 am
  12. Floridian: To be fair to Matt, I added that subheading during the editorial process.

    Comment by Nickel — Sep 2nd 2010 @ 10:01 am
  13. I rented an apartment with two friends in Budapest around New Years Eve for a week. Best decision ever! It ended up costing us roughly $260 each. We each had our own bedroom, I had a private en suite bathroom, the other bigger room had a shower in it and a balcony and for the smaller room, the toilet was next door. We had a full kitchen and living room with a balcony just off of the main drag (Andrassy Ut), 5 minutes walking distance to Okotgon sq. If you’re staying somewhere for a week or more or with several people, get an apartment!

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