This guide will cover more budget (and sometimes pricier) alternatives to hotels. Each point will cover a hotel alternative, who it’s best for, and whether it’s better than staying in a hotel.
As someone who prefers budget traveling, I want to save the most money possible while traveling. Thus, I’ve compiled these resources to help you find alternatives to hotel rooms.
Each point will cover hotel recommendations on hotel alternatives, who they’re best for, and whether it’s a worthwhile alternative.
Keep reading and optimize your vacation budget.
Let’s get this show on the road.
18 Pricey & Affordable Alternatives to Hotels
Let’s compare most of the alternatives:
|House Sitting||Animal lovers|
|Friends’ Houses||Folks with friends|
|Home Swapping||Trusting homeowners|
|Volunteer for Accommodation||Volunteers & healthy people|
|Overnight Public Transportation||Exploring|
|Boat Homes||Boat lovers|
|Religious Housing||Learning about religions|
|Vacation Rentals||Apartment-like experience|
|Farm Stays||Learning about farms|
|Airline Suites||Rich people|
Throughout the following section, I’ll cover this information about various alternatives to hotel rooms:
- Who it’s best for
- A description of each alternate choice
- Amenities you’ll usually get
- Recommended search engines (or means to find the alternative)
Let’s find a place to stay.
1. Homestay: Best for Cultural Immersion
Homestays are when families or individuals offer a spare room or space on their couch for a traveler.
Often, you won’t have to pay for homestays. If you do, you’ll save more money than using other forms of accommodation. Because the information and experiences that your host can provide are invaluable. Moreover, hosts may cook your meals, saving you money on food.
Homestays are best for those who want a more authentic cultural experience when visiting a new place. Homestays will allow you to experience local food and learn how families go about their daily lives.
The best sites to find homestays with include:
- Homestay.com (most popular)
- Homestay programs for schools
- Hospitality Club
- Be Lodged
2. House Sitting: Best for Animal Lovers
If you love animals and don’t mind watching someone’s house while they’re on vacation, consider house sitting. Babysitting other people’s homes is a perfect way for frequent travelers and digital nomads to achieve travel savings while staying in premium accommodation.
You must prove that you’re a trustworthy individual when using these sites. Otherwise, who would trust you to babysit their home?
House sitting is the best alternative if you have a nurturing personality and love animals.
Here’s where you’ll find house sitting opportunities:
- Trusted Housesitters (most popular)
I don’t want to list prices, since they’ll likely change by the time you read this.
3. RV Rentals: Best for Motorhome Enthusiasts
Rent a recreational vehicle (RV) motor home or camper van. Take these homes on wheels to any RV campground and set up camp. From there, experience nature’s wonders while surrounding yourself with modern comforts like a refrigerator and indoor shower.
You’ll have to pay a daily, weekly, or monthly charge on top of a refundable security deposit and a preparation fee. Also, most motorhome rentals offer free unlimited roadside assistance.
RV rentals are best for you who love camping yet want comfort and amenities you’ll only find indoors. Like a warm(ish) shower
The following platforms will help you find RV sharing opportunities:
4. Camping or Glamping: Best for Nature Lovers
If you know how to survive the outdoors and want to stay by a beach, a river, a forest, or a desert, camp. Or, instead of staying in a rugged tent, stay in a more luxurious form of camping, glamorous camping, or glamping.
Glamping provides an outdoor experience and various amenities like indoor plumbing, beds, and electricity.
Like RV camping, you’ll love rent camping and glamping if you love experiencing everything the outdoors offers. Opt for glamping if you don’t want to drive a massive house on wheels nor deal with the discomfort and labor of tent camping.
Different types of tents people tend to stay in when glamping include:
- Igloo: homes made of snow; uncommon
- Yurt: inspired from accommodation used by those in Central Asia
- Wigwams & tipis: inspired by Native American housing
- Pod house: cabins shaped like giant pods
- Bubbles & domes: transparent tents to stargaze
- Safari tents & lodges: inspired by safari holiday experiences
- Champing: camping in churches
Here are sites where you’ll find camping and glamping spots:
- Hipcamp (most popular listing site)
- Local campgrounds
- Koa.com: glamping & camping campgrounds
- Recreation.gov: find campsites & passes throughout the U.S.
- Campspot: book cabins, RV sites, tent sites, & more
- Freecampsites.net: aggregated list of supposedly free camp sites
5. Friends’ Houses: Best for Social Butterflies
Staying at a friend’s house is best for those close to your friends. However, you’ll also want to ensure that you won’t impede upon a friend’s life while they’re doing the kind deed of letting you crash in their spare room or couch.
This hotel alternative will also save you the most money since. Usually, friends won’t charge you to stay at their place. However, you should give them a gift to show your appreciation.
6. Academic Lodging: Best for Students
As students leave their dorms for vacations, many universities, and colleges will open these dorms to travelers at an affordable rate. It allows you to save money while exploring a university from a student’s perspective.
Find university or college rooms available for travelers on a website like University-Rooms.com.
7. Home Swapping: Best for Homeowners
Like house sitting, you’ll usually have to pay a membership fee for a home swapping marketplace website. Home swaps are when you and an individual in another location swap homes for a set duration.
Swapping homes with other travelers saves you quite a lot of money if you travel a lot. However, you will need to be a trustworthy person and trust the people who are staying in your home.
House swapping is fantastic for you who want to live like locals on your terms. However, you will also want to ensure you won’t damage the house you’ve swapped.
Try to find house swapping opportunities on the following sites:
- Home Exchange
- Love Home Swap
8. Swap Skills for Accommodation: Best for Volunteers
Register for a work exchange site and volunteer in other countries in exchange for food and accommodation.
These sites will charge you a small fee. Also, find sites where you can trade other skills for a place to stay. Moreover, participating in these services doesn’t give you a work visa. Instead, you will have to enter your desired country on a tourist visa.
Working for accommodation exchange programs is best for those of you who don’t mind volunteering your time. And getting your hands dirty in exchange for food, housing, and cultural knowledge.
Sites that offer volunteer work for accommodation include:
- Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): focuses on organic farm work
- Help Exchange (Helpx.net): home care, administrative duties, & farming
- AuPair.com: care for babies
- WorkAway.info: similar to Helpx
- Service Civil International (Sci.ngo): similar to Helpx
- HelpStay.com: work at hostels, eco-villages, & more
9. Overnight Public Transportation: Best for Exploring
If you don’t mind sitting in one spot overnight without access to a shower or room to move around, you’ll probably like sleeping on public transportation that’s taking you somewhere overnight.
Sleeping on public transportation overnight will be best for anyone who doesn’t mind staying in one spot for long hours and being confined to tight quarters. While also being surrounded by others.
10. Timeshares: Best for Spending Money
Timeshares, or vacation ownership, are a commitment that you’re trapped in for the rest of your life where you pay maintenance fees to have annual trips to a specific resort. Vacation ownership come in two forms:
1. Right-to-use contract: otherwise known as a shared, leased contract, gives you the right to use the timeshare for “X” number of years. You will divide the use of your vacation ownership among other timeshare owners.
You can’t sell or rent your timeshare with this contract.
2. Shared deed contract: divides the timeshare property ownership between everyone who owns the timeshare. You and other owners must designate specific times when anyone can use the timeshare. Also, you have the right to transfer ownership.
Timeshares are good for you who want to vacation at a specific spot each year. However, owning a timeshare can often come with high interest rates. Also, if you have a medical issue for some reason, you must continue paying for certain contracts’ costs.
I don’t condone purchasing timeshares, nor do I consider them worthy investments. I included them on this list to inform you of your options.
11. Boat Homes: Best for Water Lovers
Think of renting a boat home-like renting an RV, except you’re on the water—and they’re much bigger. You’ll have full-sized kitchens, hot tubs, and other amenities the owners include.
Consider taking boating lessons before renting a floating home. While it’s not mandatory, it’ll help you with navigation. Also research the laws in the specific city, country, and region you’re visiting.
They may have laws that state the opposite of what I said.
If you rent a yacht, you must obtain qualifications from the American Sailing Association.
If you love being on the water, you’ll love sleeping in a floating home. It’s not cost-efficient, but it’ll give you a unique experience you’ll never find in a hotel.
Here are some good boat stay search engines:
- Boat Setter
- Boat Bound
- Beds on Board
12. Hostels: Best for Backpackers
Hostels are low-cost dormitory-style accommodations where the residents will share a kitchen, bathroom, and recreation room. Most of the time, the rooms will be single-sex. However, there may be instances where they have mixed dorms.
If you want more privacy, some hostels offer private rooms.
When staying at these low-cost venues, you will want to keep your wits about you. Because you could run into thieves or sketchy business owners.
Hostels are best for you who want to save a lot of money while traveling, meet new people, and are cautious.
Hostel search engines include:
- HostelWorld (most popular)
- Hostelling International
13. Couchsurfing: Most Affordable
Couchsurfing is when you temporarily stay in someone else’s home. Whether it’s a couch or a spare room. Couchsurfing is typically free but can be dangerous depending on your host.
Use the website Couchsurfing to find opportunities.
Remain cautious and prepare a gift for your host to show your gratitude for their generosity.
Couchsurfing is best for travelers who want to make friends and build a deeper connection with their destination.
14. Religious Housing: Best for Learning About Religions
Sometimes religious organizations will offer free or affordable lodging in temples, synagogues, or similar buildings. These come with certain strings attached. For instance, you obviously can’t have alcohol or parties.
Religious housing is ideal for you affiliated with the religion of the place you’re inquiring about. For instance, if you stay at a Taoist temple, you will have to practice Taoism.
15. Vacation Rentals: Best for Apartment-like Experience
Your experience with vacation rentals will vary depending on how much you want to pay. For example, you could have an affordable luxury hotel experience with an entire condo or beach house to yourself.
Or, you could reside in someone’s humble apartment.
Vacation rentals typically feature amenities like:
- Coffee makers
- Air conditioning
- Essentials like soap and toilet paper
You could either blend in with the locals, get a perspective on what it’s like to live in your destination or relax in luxury.
Vacation rentals are best for you who want more privacy, space, and cost savings. Unless it has ridiculous cleaning fees like many Airbnb listings. The average cost per night compared to the features you receive is much lower than a hotel room.
Popular vacation rental sites include:
|Vacation Rental Site||Description|
|Agoda||Best for travel in Asia|
|Plum Guide||High-end vacation rentals|
|Sonder||Mostly properties in Canada, U.S.A, Dubai, & some European countries|
|Booking.com||Includes villas, apartments, & more throughout 200 countries|
|Fairbnb||Funds community projects & doesn’t negatively impact local communities|
16. Home Rentals: Best for Comfort (Kind Of)
If you’re staying somewhere for a long time, consider finding short-term rentals. This saves you way more money than paying for a hotel or a vacation rental for a month. Moreover, you may find a fully-furnished home and skip paying for furniture and appliances.
Home rentals are best for you who intend on staying somewhere for a while.
17. Rent a Cabin: Best for an Authentic Experience
Renting a cabin is similar to renting any other vacation getaway, except that it gives you a different experience compared to temporarily staying in a condo or apartment.
It puts you in the middle of the woods among nature. Amenities typically offered include Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and more.
Cabin rentals are best for you who want to stay in the middle of the woods and have a unique experience that’s away from the city.
Find cabin rentals on these sites:
- Recreation.gov (U.S.A.)
18. Farm Stays: Best for Learning About Farms
This rustic or luxury accommodation is on a working farm or ranch. Find these through Airbnb or specialized sites like Farm Stay USA.
Anyway, farm stays offer families, couples, and individuals a unique vacation that allows you to learn about how farms work, animals to pet, or an opportunity to exchange your work for staying on their farm.
Farm stays are best for you who want to take part in agro-tourism and experience the daily life of a farmer.
Here are some popular sites for farm stays:
19. Airline Suites: Best for Airplane Lovers
In no way do airline suites save money. They’re reserved for those with deep wallets who want airborne luxury. Anyway, airline suites are hotels inside airplanes.
Most of them come with seats that transform into beds and fine dining. However, some will come with amenities and furniture like swivel chairs, a 32″ television, showers, and hot tubs.
Airline suites are best for you who have a lot of money—even close to the millions—to throw at somewhere to stay. Moreover, these suites offer catering, increased privacy, and various other luxurious add ons.
Other Hotel Alternatives
Other choices to consider include:
|B&Bs||Oftentimes family homes that offer accommodation & breakfast|
|Castle||Still hotels, but in castles|
|Inn||Exactly like hotels, but more affordable|
|Motel||A type of hotel designed for motorists|
|Guesthouse||Private home or room converted into lodging|
|Igloo||Dome-shaped shelter made of snow blocks|
|Treehouse||Shelter in a tree|
You likely won’t see many of these accommodation types. Except B&Bs—they’re everywhere. But they’re options to consider.
Downsides of Staying in a Hotel
Hotels have daily cleaning services and high standards (sometimes. If you’re reading this post, you likely want an alternative to stay in a hotel.
If you’re reading this for fun, you need some more convincing. Here are some other cons of staying in a hotel room:
- Not as many amenities: many hotels lack appliances like stove tops, air purifiers, and more
- Lack of indoor and outdoor space: they’re like studio apartments (but smaller)
- Not as much value: you’ll usually get more value from alternatives
- Doesn’t have much privacy: many hotel rooms have paper-thin walls
- Genetic: meaning that the hotel doesn’t offer a unique experience
In my experience, I’ve also had a lousy time at hotels because of the lack of air purification. Because of this pandemic, I hoped they’d have learned their lessons and added air filters to their HVAC systems.
A majority of hotels don’t even offer portable air purifier rentals. It would be a nice perk.
I’m rambling. I’ll still stay at a hotel once in a while, but you should consider these downsides before booking a room.
Read on to find frequently asked questions about hotel alternatives.
How Do Vacation Rentals Compare to Hotels in Terms of Comfort & Amenities?
Vacation rentals often emulate staying in an apartment, which gives many a taste of home. And they can live like the locals wherever they’re visiting.
What Is a Bed and Breakfast & How Does It Differ from a Hotel Stay?
A Bed and Breakfast (B&B) is usually a family home with rooms converted into accommodation that usually serve free breakfast. They differ because owners often live onsite in B&Bs, which means you can speak to and potentially befriend the owner.
What Are the Benefits of Staying in a Hostel as an Alternative to a Hotel?
Hostels are better than hotels for travelers on a budget who want to meet fellow travelers in community areas.
What Are the Most Popular Alternative Accommodation Options for Travelers?
The most popular accommodation options for travelers are hostels and vacation rentals.
Despite the number of amenities hotels offer, these options diversify where you stay to have varying experiences depending on your preference. Tailor your trip to your needs and expand your horizons.
Check out additional guides I wrote to help you plan your trips and save money.