Outside of flights, accommodation is usually the next big travel expense. Luckily, it's quite easy to get free or cheap accommodation.
- Hotel Deals: Getting a sweet deal on a hotel is actually really easy, especially if you are in the United States. Simply head over to Priceline or Hotwire and bid on rooms. When you know your dates, just head to Better Bidding
first to see what similar people bid on and won at. Use that as your
baseline. I used this method to get a hotel room in Times Square, New
York during Christmas for $85 USD per night. (That is a huge bargain!)
And, just like with airlines, many hotel branded credit cards offer huge sign-up bonuses, which can get you lots of points to redeem for free accommodation. There are also non-credit card promotions that can get you some points, too.
- Stay with Locals, Stay for Free: Use Couchsurfing or similar sites like Global Freeloaders, and Hospitality Club (who merged with another site called Servas) to find a local who is willing to host you during your visit to their city. You'll get a free place to stay (sometimes a bed, a couch, or an air mattress), a local who can help show you around, and the chance to learn a bit about the local culture. It's a much better way to learn about a city than staying at a hotel. I am a particular fan of Couchsurfing and have used it often.
- Work for Your Accommodation: Many hostels around the world will let you work there in exchange for free room and board. All you do is clean a few hours in the morning, and you get the rest of the day to yourself. Hostels are usually thought of as places for singles to party but there are variety of hostels out there for all people and all ages. Don't be afraid to look into this just because you "aren't in college anymore."
If working for a hostel isn't your idea of a good time, then consider
house-sitting. In exchange for watching and cleaning someone's home
while they are away, you'll get a place to stay in the area you are
visiting. Good house-sitting sites include:
Mind My House
Luxury House Sitting
- Go Camp in a Garden: The concept is simple: people offer their gardens for you to camp in. You can search for suitable sites by place, and they range from the basic "here's a spot for the night" to the more glamorous that offer full access to the house. The offerings are mostly in the UK. There are a few spots dotting the rest of the world, but most locations are in the British Isles. It's growing in popularity around Europe. Check it out at: Camp in my Garden.
One of the most popular ways people get free accommodation is to work
for it. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a global
organization that connects travelers, foodies, agriculturalists, or
anyone really that wants to work on organic farms that need laborers. In
exchange for working on the farm a few hours a day, you get your meals
provided and a place to stay. Sometimes I've heard of people getting
paid if they stay long-term, but generally they don't. I think this is
most popular in New Zealand and Australia, but you can find farms
anywhere in the world. (For example, I had friends work in a winery in
Visit WWOOF for more information.