10 Cheap Alternatives to Hotels When Traveling

Some products in this article are from our partners. Read our Advertiser Discloser.

If you like to travel, you know that one of the biggest costs is finding a place to stay while you’re on vacation. For the longest time, I only stayed in a hotel.

Now, there are so many other alternatives to hotels that it is no longer my go-to option.

My wife and I love to travel. Every year we like to travel to someplace in the United States and every few years, we do an international trip. We also don’t have a ton of money.

For this reason, we have to be smart when it comes to the budget for our trips.

Cheapest Ways to Secure Lodging

Here are alternatives to hotels so that you can save money and have a great trip at the same time.

1. Vacation Rental

AirBnB home

One of the best experiences that we ever had was staying in an Airbnb in Paris. We felt like we were actually living there and were paying a fraction of the price when compared to staying at a hotel.

Other sites to find Vacation Rentals:

VRBO – Rent beach houses, cabins, condos. Has an 2.5 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

Related Post: 17 Best Vacation Rental Sites

2. RV Rental

Have you ever thought about renting an RV (Recreational Vehicle) instead of a hotel room? One of the cool things about staying in an RV is that your lodging goes wherever you want it to.

Outdoorsy is a site that functions kind of like the Airbnb of RV rental. The site matches RV owners with those who want to rent RVs.

You choose the RV you want to rent, book it and take your traveling hotel room wherever you want to take it.

Almost all vacation destinations have RV parks nearby where you can rent space and park. That way you can plan to be stationary when you want to be and on the move when you’re ready to hit your next destination.

3. Hostels

Although I have only stayed in a hostel once myself, my wife stayed at hostels numerous times as she traveled abroad during her college years. Hostels so cheap because you typically share a room with complete strangers.

If you are young and adventurous, then this might be a great option for you. If you are older, married, and/or like your privacy, then continue reading on.

Something worth noting is that most people think hostels are only found when traveling abroad. However, there are many hostels in the United States as well.

Check out HostelWorld to find one near your next vacation destination.

4. Couchsurfing

When I was just out of high school, I needed a place to stay temporarily. My friend Jason let me sleep on his couch for a few weeks and he didn’t even charge me rent.

This was a great option at the time since I didn’t have much money and was in a transitional period of life.

Turns out, years later this is actually a thing. People will couch surf and travel the world.

There is a site called Couch Surfing where you can find locals who are willing to let you literally crash on their couch. You can stay with locals in every country in the world.

Consider testing this in your local area first before going on vacation to make sure this is right for you.

Keep in mind that there is a rating system for you as the guest and for the person as the host. You can do all your research ahead of time before planning your trip.

5. Friends Place

I was reluctant to include this, as it seems so obvious, however, this was a huge saving for us when we went to Singapore. My wife went to college with a girl who happened to move to Singapore.

Because they were good friends, we decided to travel there specifically to see them and explore all that the island had to offer.

So when you are planning your vacation, it can make sense to plan it around where you have friends or family. In our case, we knew that our friends would only be in Singapore for a couple of years.

We went because the window of opportunity to visit them was very narrow. Even better, we had someone who knew the city and the culture. This made our trip an awesome time.

I think we did end up giving them some money for their hospitality. However, it was nothing compared to the cost of staying at a hotel.

Related Post: 17 Cheap Places to Travel

6. Academic Housing

Academic homes

While my friend Danny was taking summer classes at a university, his girlfriend worked as a summer staff member in one of the dorms that functioned as a hotel.

He was surprised by this because he was a student at the school and didn’t know about this option. It was not something that they advertised.

This particular university hosted summer events from hot air balloon festivals and Special Olympics to smaller events that may not necessarily have the budgets to have their events hosted at hotels.

You would be surprised to find out how many colleges and universities offer some form of temporary/hotel-like accommodations. They are ultra budget friendly and will take you back to your college days.

Some even include meals in the cafeteria, which is definitely an added bonus.

Here are a few sites that offer academic housing:

7. House Sitting

While still talking about my friend Danny (he’s single now and loves living the freedom lifestyle), he considers house sitting as a hobby.

His entire circle of friends calls him first when they need someone to watch their home and their pets. Plus, this is one of the legit ways to live rent-free.

He gets the mail, waters the plants, lets the dogs and cats out, and if he’s lucky they also give him the extra set of wheels to get around town. Even better, he often gets paid to do this.

In addition, when other friends have moved across the country, he has been a driver to help them move. Once they arrive at their new destination, he gets to relax, decompress, and hang out for a few days in a new city.

And lastly, they buy him a return airfare ticket as his compensation. Not a bad way to travel to other cities in the country on someone else’s dime.

From Phoenix, Danny has gotten the opportunity to go to Boston, San Antonio, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa.

Here are a couple of sites to visit regarding house sitting:

8. House Swapping

Have you ever wanted to go to Italy, Australia, or London? If so, this is definitely an option through home swapping.

This is one of the best options because it is nearly free and you get to experience your vacation spot as a local would on a daily basis.

Here is how it works:

  • You list your home available for people to swap with.
  • Then you search your desired location for someone that is willing to swap their home.
  • Then check out the reviews and availability for that home.
  • Reach out to that homeowner and offer to swap your home for theirs

It is as simple as that.

This is a new trend and I have not personally done this.

Check out the sites below for more answers to any questions you have about home-swapping.

9. Pitch a Tent

Although this might not be for everyone, this can definitely be the cheapest option, especially if you already own a tent.

Sometimes there are campgrounds and public parks near where you want to travel. The cost involved could be free or just whatever the campground fee is to pop a tent.

If you love the outdoors and most of or part of your trip revolves around hiking, backpacking, and appreciating the great outdoors, this may be worth serious consideration if you are on a budget.

10. Homestay

Homestay homepage

Do you want to stay at a local’s place? Without a friend in town, that is still a possibility with the help of Homestay.

The platform allows hosts to list their spare bedroom for a nightly rate. With over 33,000 homestays available in over 176 countries, you can likely find a secure place to stay through Homestay.

As a guest, you can check out what previous guests think of the experience. The availability of reviews gives the opportunity to avoid an uncomfortable setup. Once you arrive, you’ll find a helpful host on-site.

It’s worth noting that Homestay has earned 3.2 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot. That’s a solid score for this accommodation platform.


There are many options for cheap overnight accommodations. Each option has its pros and cons but they can all be cheaper than a hotel.

Whichever you choose, enjoy the experience while making memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Hi Deacon,

    I was looking for some information on travel hacking this morning when I came across your post. It has great stuff! However, I did come across a few dead links. Let me know if you want me to forward the short list that I jotted down for you.


    1. Hi Katie, thanks for the info. We’ll look into that.

  2. These are great options! Also, staying in an RV can be a great way to save money when traveling – aside from the initial cost of the RV, of course.

    1. An RV does sound like it could be a cheap option if you use it enough. I have a friend who lives out of an RV and it definitely is cheaper than if they were to rent a hotel everyday!

  3. We’re big fans of Airbnb. Even if it’s the same price as a hotel you get way more value. We’ve also done a lot of camping. We even packed a duffel bag with a tent, sleeping bag, and an air mattress when we flew out east.

  4. Adriana @MoneyJourney says:

    Visiting friends and family is by far the best way to save money on accommodations! Not only that, but you get to spend quality time with people you love, and that’s priceless.

    Second on my list is sleeping in a tent. I haven’t done it in years, but I miss camping a lot! I wonder if I’m still able to get comfy enough in a small tent as opposed to renting a room somewhere? 😀