19 Alternatives to Hotels

I may make commissions from purchases made through some links. Read here for more information.

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.

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 staying 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 stovetops, 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.

But nope.

A majority of hotels don’t even offer portable air purifier rentals. It would be a nice perk.

Anyway. I’m rambling. I’ll still stay at a hotel once in a while, but you should consider these downsides before booking a room.

19 Pricey and Affordable Alternatives to Hotels

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 you a place to stay.

1. Homestay: Best for Cultural Immersion

One of the most affordable and enriching experiences you’ll have during a trip is homestays. These 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. However, if you do have to pay, you’ll save more money than using other forms of accommodation. Why? Because the information and experiences that your host can provide are invaluable. Moreover, they 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. Moreover, homestays will allow you to experience local food and learn how families go about their daily lives.

2. House Sitting: Best for Animal Lovers

If you love animals and don’t mind watching someone’s house while they’re on vacation, I have an opportunity for you. You can sign up for a house sitting marketplace website like Trusted Housesitters and pay an annual fee for unlimited house sits.

Babysitting other people’s homes is a perfect way for frequent travelers and digital nomads to achieve travel savings while staying in premium accommodation and exploring a new culture.

However, 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.

3. RV Rentals: Best for Motorhome Enthusiasts

Instead of camping in a tent or staying in a cabin, you can experience the outdoors by renting a recreational vehicle (RV) or motorhome. You can take these homes on wheels to any RV campground and set up camp.

From there, you can experience nature’s wonders while surrounding yourself with modern comforts like a refrigerator and indoor shower.

You can find RV rentals on motorhome marketplace sites like Outdoorsy. Each RV comes with whatever amenities the owner includes. Regarding costs, 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 a change of pace. In addition, you’ll likely want to experience the outdoors in comfort.

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, in a forest, or in a desert, you’ll want to camp. Or, instead of staying in a rugged tent, you could stay in a more luxurious form of camping, glamorous camping, or glamping.

Glamping gives you an outdoor experience and various amenities like indoor plumbing, beds, and electricity.

Similar to RV camping, you’ll love rent camping and glamping if you love experiencing everything the outdoors has to offer. However, if you don’t want to drive a massive house on wheels nor deal with the discomfort and labor that comes with tent camping, you can always opt for glamping.

5. Friends’ Houses: Best for Social Butterflies

It’s not the most original form of accommodation; however, if you have a friend in the destination that you’re visiting, consider asking them if you can stay with them for a bit while you’re abroad.

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 will want to 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.

You can find university or college rooms available for travelers on a website like University-Rooms.com.

Student housing is best for students who can’t afford other means of accommodation. Moreover, they’re great for you who want to know what it feels like to go to a particular college.

7. Home Swapping: Best for Homeowners

Like house sitting, you’ll usually have to pay a membership fee for a home swapping marketplace website. However, this gives you unlimited stays. Anyway, 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.

One of the most trustworthy house swapping websites is Home Exchange.

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.

8. Swap Skills for Accommodation: Best for Volunteers

You can register for a volunteer marketplace site like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and volunteer for farmers in other countries in exchange for food and accommodation.

Usually, these sites will charge you a small fee, so keep that in mind. Also, you can find sites where you can trade other skills for a place to stay. Moreover, participating in WWOOF or any similar 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.

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.

You could sleep on a long train or overnight bus ride until you reach your destination.

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 ownerships, 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 ownerships come in two forms:

Right-to-use contract: otherwise known as a shared, leased contract, gives you the right to use the timeshare for “X” number of years. Moreover, you will divide the use of your vacation ownership among other timeshare owners. Also, with this contract, you can’t sell or rent your timeshare.

Shared deed contract: divides the timeshare property ownership between everyone who owns the timeshare. With this contract, you and other owners must designate specific times when anyone can use the timeshare. Also, you have the right to transfer ownership with this contract.

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.

Keep in mind that I don’t condone purchasing timeshares, nor do I consider them worthy investments. However, I included them on this list to inform you of your options.

11. Boat Homes: Best for Water Lovers

You can think of renting a boat home-like renting an RV, except you’re on the water—and they’re much bigger. With these forms of accommodation, you’ll have full-sized kitchens, hot tubs, and other amenities the owners include.

However, you may want to consider taking boating lessons before renting a floating home. While it’s not mandatory, it’ll help you with navigation. Conversely, you will want to research the laws in the specific city, country, and region you’re visiting because 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.

You can use a site like VRBO to rent houseboats.

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.

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 enough to protect yourself in the event of staying in a sketchy hostel.

13. Couchsurfing: Most Affordable

Couchsurfing is when you temporarily stay in someone else’s home and make use of whatever sleeping situations they provide. Whether it’s a couch or a spare room. Couchsurfing is typically free but can be dangerous depending on your host.

To find places where you can stay in someone else’s home, you can use the website Couchsurfing. However, you will want to 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. However, 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.

Either way, vacation rentals typically feature amenities like:

  • WiFi
  • Coffee makers
  • Air conditioning
  • Essentials like soap and toilet paper

Depending on what type of vacation rental you rent, you could even enjoy premium amenities like a jacuzzi, ethernet internet connectivity, and dishwashers.

So, 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.

Keep in mind that Airbnb isn’t your only option for vacation rentals. Some alternatives to Airbnb include VRBO, Plum Guide, and Agoda.

Vacation rentals are best for you who want more privacy, space, and cost savings. The average cost per night compared to the features you receive is much lower than a hotel room.

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 could 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, and it tends to come with amenities typically offered in vacation rentals like WiFi, air conditioning, and more.

You can rent cabins on VRBO, Airbnb, and other getaway websites.

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.

18. Farm Stays: Best for Learning About Farms

This rustic or luxury accommodation is on a working farm or ranch. You can 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 agritourism and experience the daily life of a farmer.

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.

person standing on top of Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan City, Taiwan

About Tee

Tee began first experienced the wonders of traveling when visiting Vietnam. Afterward, he went crazy and ventured to at least… More about Tee