You are living in an insanely awesome time to be alive and I hope you take full advantage of it.Here are my best tips for getting free or discounted accommodation to keep your travel budget just as happy as your wanderlustin’ heart.
- Stay outside the touristy city center
- Exchange work for acommadation
- Camp out
- Be open to hostels
- Travel during the shoulder seasons
- Book with sites that offer free cancellations
- Share an apartment
- Stay with friends and family
- Splurge on a Sunday
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1. Stay outside the touristy city center
When it comes to brushing your teeth and knocking out for the night, choosing somewhere outside of the major tourist hubs can save you a fat chunk of change.
You want to pick somewhere that is close enough to walk or catch cheap, public transportation to where the action is happening everyday.
Or stay in a nearby town if you can easily access affordable transportation into the city you want to explore.
Don’t blow your money on getting to and from your accommodation.
Be creative. Be thrifty.
Maybe you have heard of Couchsurfing but you’re not totally sure what it is…
Couchsurfing is a site that connects travelers and locals all over the world.
Many people open up their homes, usually their couches, to travelers looking for an authentic experience.
In other words: free accommodation and new friends!
You can search thousands of profiles of hosts in the city you are looking to explore.
Connect with like-minded locals by checking out their interests.
For example, maybe you come across a host profile of a woman who loves hiking, yoga, and coffee. I’m willing to bet she can give you the best recommendations for the local trails, studios, and cup of Joe in town! Who knows, maybe she will even join you!
Often times, hosts will show their traveling couchsleeper, I mean, couchsurfer around their town on the weekends (although it is not required).
Many hosts offer their couch and their time because they enjoy meeting open-minded folks from all over the world, love sharing their home town, want to practice their foreign language skills, and would love to make friends with travelers who can return the favor by hosting them in their home country.
Did I mention that all of this is free?
People with pets and gardens want to travel too!
Housesitting a win-win solution for a common problem.
I saved over $1,000 in accommodation by signing up for Trustedhousesitters while living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I watered some plants and took care of two super loving cats in exchange for a seriously sweet, modern apartment and a free motorbike.
Netflix, wifi, and all utilities included?
A fully equipped kitchen with washer on the balcony?
Why did it take me so long to start housesitting?!
After daydreaming and curiously peeping around this site for six months, I finally decided to sign up and I’m so glad that I did!
I figured that if I did a one week housesit, the cost of the membership would pay for itself. But it actually saved me way more than that!
I saved over 10X the amount of the membership on my first housesit.
This option is mostly recommended for long term travelers and digital nomads since it’s 95% likely that you will have some furry friends to look after while housesitting.
But there are plenty of weekend housesits if you don’t mind the extra responsibility of taking care of some puppers and kitty cats around the world in exchange for staying in someone’s fully equipped home.
This is not recommended for international travelers with only a week or two of travel time who want to hop city to city and mark off their checklist of “100 Top Things To Do In Awesome City Abroad.”.
Tip: There are also hundreds of housesits in the US if you are looking to explore a new potential city to call home!
If this sounds like the best thing in the world (because it actually is), then head over to TrustedHousesitters to create a profile and start browsing through hundreds of beautiful homes and fluffy friends that want to cuddle you.
4. Exchange work for accommodation
Volunteering is an incredible way to dive into the local community and have a very low-budget experience abroad.
Living with locals and other travelers is a great way to get an authentic experience within the culture, meet like-minded travel companions, and be instantly part of a rich community.
It’s also very easy on the wallet.
Here are some of the top work exchange sites for travelers looking to have an integrated experience, create a positive impact in the world, and keep the costs of their international travels low:
- Workaway– With over 37,000 hosts in 184 countries, there’s a perfect work exchange opportunity for everybody.
Want to help create youtube videos for a kitesurfing school in Morocco? Or teach yoga on the beach in Ecuador? Or learn how to grow a sustainable garden on a permaculture farm in India? Or help build an Iberian wolf sanctuary in Spain?
Whatever your skills are (be it photography, experience working with horses, creating art, social media marketing, speaking English ), someone out there in the world needs your help.
In exchange for your help, hosts offer free accommodation ranging from your own guesthouse to a bed in a room with other volunteers. They usually offer a few meals a day as well, but every work exchange is different.
Hosts and volunteers can leave reviews for each other for the community to see.
Profiles will include pictures, the type of work, and many hours of work per day or week volunteers will be expected to do.
This site is my top recommendation because there is so much variety to the type of work you can do. Many work exchange sites are primarily farm work and helping at hostels but this platform gives you the opportunity to let your talents shine all over the world!
I can and have gotten sucked into a time suck searching through this site on multiple occasions.
- WWOOF– WWOOF! Who’s a good girl?!
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. If you are interested in living and working on an organic farm, this could be the perfect cultural exchange for you.
Have an adventure far from home and do something good for planet.
Search farms from Alaska to Zimbabwe.
This is truly the epitome of eco and sustainable tourism.
Get your hands in the dirt. Cultivate an appreciation of where and how food arrives to your plate.
Learn skills, be a part of the magic that happens on an organic farm, and contribute towards something that offsets the fuel emissions of your flight. BAM!
- Help Exchange– another planet-friendly option for getting out of your routine, your bubble, and experiencing something totally different.
There are two types of memberships: free and premier. The free membership allows you to create a profile and hosts can contact you.
As a premier member, you can see their full listing of hosts and contact the ones that you’re interested in.
The premier membership fee is affordable for every budget ( a little over $20) and lasts two years.
5. Camp out
Skip the hostels and connect with the land.
This is definitely one of the cheapest and most nature-connected ways to travel.
If it is an extended trip, then I recommend bringing your own gear (given that it is light enough and compact enough to travel with). If it is only for a few nights on your trip, then I recommend looking into rentals.
Another option is to buy gear when you arrive (bonus points if you can find used gear) and resell it/donate it when you leave if it doesn’t fit within your luggage limits when flying back home.
Things to consider: hygiene, permits, and safety of your stuff.
How do I shower when I camp?
You can wash up at campgrounds for a small fee.
Where can I camp when traveling?
Every country/state will have different permit requirements. Just be sure to do your research before staking up your tent.
Is my stuff safe in my tent?
Long story short: no, not really. You could always put a lock on your tent. If you are camped out in a
6. Be open to hostels
So maybe you are over sharing a bunk with a drunken stranger in a room with five other people.
I don’t blame you.
Many hostels have private rooms available for prices that are much cheaper than hotels or Air BnB’s.
Hostels are great for meeting other travelers, nightly social events, booking tours, learning a little of the language from the staff, info on best prices for buses, and the like.
Many hostels also provide their guests a free simple breakfast. If a piece of toast, a banana, and a cup of coffee is enough to get you going, then you are set!
7. Book with sites that offers free cancellations
Life unfolds in funny ways and sometimes plans change.
Give yourself the option to do what you want, when you want and book with sites that give you the freedom to cancel and get your money back.
- Booking.com- great for booking apartments, hotels, and hostels with the option for full a refund.
8. Share an apartment
Apartments and vacations homes come with the comforts of home like a complete kitchen and washer.
They might even have a bicycle for you to use.
Save money on accommodation, save money on meals, and save money on laundry.
9. Stay with friends and family
You know when friends and family say, “Let me know if you ever want to come visit my awesome city! You have a place to stay!”
Well actually take them up on that!
I always warn people when they tell me this: “Be careful what you say because I will end up on your couch!”
10. Travel during the shoulder seasons
Traveling before or after the peak tourist season kicks off is the perfect time to travel.
Cheaper prices on accommodation, less crowds, and the weather isn’t too gnarly yet.
What’s there not to love?
Tip: Peak travel seasons usually include summer and holiday weekends in your hometown and your destination country. Do a little research to see if there are any national holidays or big festivals happening during your visit.
11. Splurge on a Sunday night
Hotels are booked with business travelers during the week and leisure vacationers Friday- Saturday.
Hotels aren’t typically popping’ on a Sunday night and hate having empty rooms.
If there is one night to splurge on a more luxurious room, check prices on for a Sunday night.
How have you saved money on accommodation? What’s your favorite way to travel on the cheap? Comment below!