How does renting a luxurious Moroccan mansion for $10 per person, per night sound?
Or perhaps a house on the Tuscan countryside for the same price as a two-star hotel?
Maybe even staying smack in the middle of Paris for free?
So, my post on how to travel for less than $55 a day to this day is my most popular post. I was reading it today and realised that I could have written a more comprehensive guide on how to save money on travel accommodation. Always one of the, if not the biggest expense of travelling, there’s more to cheap accommodation than three-star hotels. Unlike the olden days (read: the 90’s), you no longer have to begrudgingly stay in a Hilton from lack of choice. Sure, you have a minibar, but you’ll be too broke to use it! Here, I’ll show you how to save money on travel accommodation so you can actually enjoy your destination without going into your overdraft.
Delete Your History/Cookies
This is always the first thing I do when booking a trip. Websites store your search data and when you come back, they know you’re more likely to book as a repeat visitor, and they’ll charge you more. One moment, a hostel will be £20/night, and I refresh the website and it doubles! Always clear your history and cookies so you start fresh and you’ll find the prices in their true, uninflated glory. This also applies to airfare costs.
Stay Somewhere with a Kitchen
If you’re in a Western country, eating out for every meal, every day’s going to be expensive. If you get an Airbnb, you can save a bit by getting a place with a kitchen. For example, a burger will cost you £24/$30 in Norway, but you can prepare a meal in your kitchen for a third of the cost. Sure, still cooking on vacation can be an inconvenience, I saved £38/$50 on 4 days in London by cooking breakfast. For comparison, I went to Porto, Portugal for £30/$40 round trip from Edinburgh. That money can also get you an extra night, a day trip, or a few nice souvenirs.
Try and travel off-season! In most places, that’s the summer, except for perpetually warm places like the Maldives where peak season may be December-April. We went to Croatia right before tourist season and we were able to get an apartment by the sea for £11/$15 per night, per person. However, if you travel to say, Rome in July, you’re going to have no luck finding anything below £100/$130 a night. In general, travelling during peak season is far more expensive in every way including accommodation, food, and activities. Also, weekends are always the most expensive when finding accommodation. If you can travel on the weekdays, you can find hotels, Airbnb’s, etc. for much cheaper.
If you don’t already know what Airbnb is, this website allows you to rent actual homes or rooms from locals. Even if I have money to spend on hotels I prefer Airbnb. They allow you to live like a local and they help you to really get a feel of the city, outside of the touristy squares. Why stay at a Four Seasons when you can get a bungalow with a private beach in Phuket, Thailand for £30/$40 a night? Or maybe a private sunlit apartment overlooking Mauerpark in Berlin for £38/$50 a night? Overall, you get way more bang for your buck. If you use it for the first time, use my referral here to get £25/$33 in travel credit, and I’ll get £15/$19!
Hostels ($5-30 a night) (£3-23/night)
Despite what everyone thinks, staying in a hostel is not like the horror movie. And no, you won’t get, as someone once told me “drugged in your sleep.” Millions of young, budget travellers stay in hostels every year, and they’ve been just fine! Also, so many hostels are much more than just beds; many offer free breakfast, social spaces, and organised trips/activities. If you’re a solo traveller, hostels are great social hubs and can help you make some new friends. And sometimes, you don’t want a massive space to worry about and you just want a bed. After 16-hour days of walking around Tokyo, I knew I wanted a bed and no other distractions. And for such a cheap price, it’s not a bad deal.
This website allows you to find someone’s home to crash on their couch….for free. I’ve personally never used it, but I know friends who’ve used it have had positive experiences. Obviously, you need to be more careful with this one, so only stay with verified hosts who have their information on there. Each verified host has a screening, which includes a background check. Hundreds of thousands use it every year, and that number continues to grow. This is great if you’re just not willing to spend any money, or if all other accommodation options are too expensive.
Booking Websites (varies)
Expedia, booking.com, you name it. There are so many websites where if you sign up, you can get deals up to 50% off. Expedia saved my life in Japan, where I forgot to book accommodation. I booked a super cheap, yet quality hostel the day before I arrived for £20/$27 a night. Also for a few dollars more, you can cancel if anything happens. On a prospective trip to Nice that never happened, I was looking for accommodation and I found the same hotel on there that was almost half as much as it was on their website. I usually use these websites if it’s super last minute, or it’s somewhere where every other type of accommodation is ridiculously expensive *side-eyes to Portofino, Italy.*
This is actually two points. One, travel with friends! This helps greatly reduce the cost of accommodation. I’m currently looking at a trip to Morocco with 6 friends, and we’d be able to get a massive mansion in Marrakesh for $10/£8 a night, per person. The more friends, the cheaper the accommodation, the more you can spend on
tequila shots seeing the city.
Second, if you have friends in your destination, stay with them!!!!! On my past two trips to Barcelona and Prague, I stayed with a friend on each trip, and I know I’ve saved hundreds of pounds. And on top of that, you’ll get the local guide to a city that you can’t get from any tourist map.
Wild/Car Camping (free)
On our Croatian road trip, we camped in our rental car in parking lots for four nights before we got our apartment. Although Croatia’s pretty cheap, we easily saved over $100 (£75) each, funnelling that money toward more important things, like clam risotto and cheap beer. But for real, check the camping/car-sleeping laws of whatever country you go to. In (extremely expensive) regions like Scandinavia, you can camp anywhere you want with no limits. There’s nowhere where camping is fully illegal, but not everyone is as carefree as Scandinavia, so just inform yourself before camping. When in doubt, parking lots in the car are the way to go!
All of these tips and tricks have helped me save tons of money, but I’m always looking for more ways to save so I can travel even more! Do you have any money-saving ways I didn’t mention here? Like you guys, I’m always learning so don’t hesitate to leave a comment below if I missed anything!