Frugal Vacation Planning: 7 Cheap Hotel Alternatives

By Ronald Kimmons. May 7th 2016

The purpose of a vacation is to have a great time and relax from the stress that comes during the rest of the year. However, sometimes, it can be hard to relax when you are constantly concerned about trying not to spend too much on food, lodging and travel expenses – things that can be notoriously pricey for vacationers. In areas with many tourist attractions, lodging alone can easily cost hundreds of dollars per night – even for moderately furnished rooms. However, for the adventurous and the inventive, there are alternatives to the high-cost hotel experience. Read on to find out about seven cheap hotel alternatives that you can use as part of your frugal vacation planning.


One of the most common ways to save on accommodation expenses while traveling is by staying at hostels. A hostel is a budget-oriented accommodation provider. Typically, when you stay in a hostel, you rent a bed in a room full of beds instead of an entire room. The room in which you stay may or may not be single-sex. You also have to share the bathroom and may have to help clean it as well. You may be able to find the right hostels for you by booking through a website that specializes in hostel listings.

Couch Surfing

An alternative that is even cheaper and simpler than staying at a hostel is couch surfing. This is a relatively new Internet-enabled practice that consists of a network of homeowners who are willing to let strangers come and stay with them for a short period, sleeping on the couch or a spare bed. Various couch surfing networks exist on the Internet allowing travelers to find hosts in the areas they intend to visit. Most of these networks require hosts to provide their accommodations for free: if guests want to pay something for their stay, they are required to pay with services such as cooking a meal or cleaning a bathroom. Some such services mix connections with homeowners, hostels and low-price hotels.

Some may be fearful about staying in the home of a complete stranger, but remember that legitimate couch surfing networks verify the identities of both host and guest. They also have detailed listings that provide multiple listings for a particular locale from which guests can pick.

Home Exchange

It is a simple fact that when you are off on your vacation, your home is standing empty. The same is true for other prospective vacationers. For this reason, to save money, some people simply trade homes when they go on vacation. Just as with hostels and couch surfing, home exchange opportunities can be found through Internet networks. Unlike hostels and couch surfing, home exchange opportunities have more of a tendency of lasting multiple days or even weeks.


Convents are communities of monks or nuns that live together often in an environment similar to that of a student dormitory. Some such convents try to earn money by offering low-cost accommodation to travelers. This is particularly true in Europe. If you take advantage of such accommodation opportunities, you may end up getting a private room for a fraction of what a hotel room would cost. However, spaces are usually limited and they may fill up quickly even in non-peak seasons.

College And University Dormitories

Believe it or not, many college and universities around the world rent out their dormitories to vacationers and other travelers for reasonable fees. This is most common among small, private schools. Some such schools actually list their dormitories online, but most do not. Do not be deterred by a lack of a listing. Many such locations are open to the idea of renting out their dormitories – especially during the summer months. However, do not expect the same treatment that you would get at a hotel. Even though you will probably have access to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry areas, you will probably have to bring your own towels, utensils etc.


For the adventurous, campgrounds offer some of the most reasonable accommodations available. Of course, you will probably need to bring a tent – or at least a hammock – but you can cook outside, and at certain places, a small fee can give you access to public showers. In some cases, you may even be able to “camp” in a cabin for much less than what a hotel would cost. Even without a designated campground or a cabin, in more remote areas, you may be able to simply throw up a tent or a hammock and sleep. This may not be the safest or most comfortable course of action, but if you are looking for affordable adventure, it is definitely worth considering.

Apartment Rentals

While renting a furnished apartment is never cheap, if you are intending to stay in a particular area for several days or weeks, it is usually cheaper than staying at a hotel and it usually provides you with more space as well. Various real estate sites all over the world connect prospective renters with landlords. If the daily rate for a particular apartment seems high, try to contact the person who listed it to see if you can get a discount for an extended stay.

In addition to these options, there are also other options such as sleeping in your car, taking an RV etc. Being inventive and finding interesting ways of saving money on your trip can be an adventure in itself. Just try to be open-minded and stay safe.


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