The Journey is the Destination
How to Save Money on Accommodation
By Natalie Sisson, The Suitcase Entrepreneur
I often get asked where I actually stay, considering I’m always on the move. These days it’s a combination of booking hotels for short stays, staying in AirBnB places for 5 days or longer or renting longer-
Where possible, I’m keen to do more house and pet sitting, especially for several weeks or months (when I actually stay somewhere that long) and of course I have dear friends around the world who are happy to have me come stay from time to time (and I get to return the favor when I rent a place and invite them to stay).
Before you do anything, I suggest you open up a tab on your browser for TripAdvisor, which, in my opinion, is the most useful tool for any traveler because it gives you fantastic information about cities, countries, hotels, food, accommodation and activities.
You can use this to cross-
1. Budget Option: Couchsurfing
If you’re on a budget or are young and carefree, then Couchsurfing is a great option for you. This service allows you to stay with hosts around the world for free.
In return for staying with them, all that’s usually required is to buy them a drink, a meal or to offer to clean up. With more than 1 million users in 70,000 cities, this service is big, and the word on the street is that, unless you’re a regular user with lots of positive reviews, it is getting harder to be able to find a couch, as hosts are getting picky.
Just so you know, I have never actually couchsurfed, although I did sign up to the service 2 years ago. I reached out to a few hosts but never heard back, so I booked my own accommodation. Here’s a word from Agness Walewinder from etramping.com:
“Couchsurfing is a great way of exploring places on a budget without spending a lot of money on accommodation. Moreover, you can
meet amazing people who can look after you and show you around the city.
It’s a great alternative for solo travellers not to feel lonely or for those who are looking for new friendship and fun. For me,
Couchsurfing offers a chance to see the places from a local’s perspective. I often ask my hosts to show me areas seldom visited by tourists,
tell me some stories about their city and make me feel at home.”
2. Strategic Budget Friendly Option: House sitting
House sitting is essentially free accommodation, whereby you offer to look after a person’s house while they go away.
Sometimes you are required to maintain the place (like the garden) or even look after their pets. This can be for just a week, several months, or even a year or more….
I’m tending towards this great option more and more, especially as I want to spend more time in fewer places (housesitting assignments are often several weeks or months) and actually spend time in a real home so I feel settled and less transient Plus, as a single female with an online business who can work from anywhere, who loves dogs and cats and is house proud, I’m like the perfect candidate to house sit!
You do usually need to register on a reputable site for a small annual fee and have some references to show you’re trustworthy. While there are many people looking to have house sitters, it’s a longer process to be accepted and make the arrangements, so this option does require some planning.
Try MindMyHouse.com with a $20 membership, or housesitworld.com or trustedhousesitters.com. I recently found an amazing offer in Guatemala to live in a lovely house with incredible views over a volcanic lake, right next to a yoga retreat and looking after two cats who just needed cuddles at night. You could only get there by boat access, and could hire a private Spanish tutor for $5 per hour; plus, it had super fast Internet. Pretty perfect to me!
3. Affordable Option: AirBnB
AirBnB came from travelers not wanting to stay in hotels when visiting new destinations, or pay hotel prices but still stay in some pretty lovely places. For people with their own houses or apartments, or renters, it allows them to put up a listing and earn money for having people stay – either for a night or two or longer term.
If you sign up to the service you can choose to book a whole place, or a room or even share a room. You can also post your own listing(s). AirBnB take their fee and this is usually included in the price.
It’s spawned a whole new ecosystem of mini businesses, as some people do this full time now by receiving a constant stream of revenue from people staying. Plus, the system is ever improving to provide solid and real reviews from people who’ve stayed where you’re looking at booking. Those listing provide photos, descriptions and maps plus availability.
So far I’ve had nothing but great experiences, including a great apartment in NYC for around $100 per night, one in London for a similar price and a whole house to sleep 6 entrepreneurs for an upcoming trip to Portland.
Not only that, but you get people listing boats, tree houses and even former planes that have been turned into accommodation.
4. Discounted Platforms: Agoda and Booking
While there are a ton of services that help you find accommodation at hotels, motels and hostels for less than going direct, I prefer Agoda.com and Booking.com as aggregators (much like Skyscanner.net) of all your options by price, location and availability.
You often get some great deals and heavy discounts if you’re prepared to shop around or book in advance. Agoda is actually owned by Priceline, which is the site where you can get great last minute deals.
I recently booked at the Hyatt in Hiroshima, Japan for around $100 per night for a 5 star twin room which was worth a lot more than that; but that was the price Agoda quoted and I booked at the right time.
These sites also allow you to start earning points that you can apply to future bookings, as does Expedia. The more often you book through them, the more rewards points you earn that will turn into a free night or two at some point.
Make sure you use your rewards-
5. Rewards Programs
Many hotels and accommodation chains offer up their own rewards systems like Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriot Rewards. Just by booking in and showing loyalty to them, you earn points that turn into free accommodation, upgrades or perks like wine on arrival, breakfasts and business lounge access.
Of course, there are always so many options to choose from to save money when traveling for business (or pleasure) but my suggestions and recommendations above should save you time and money figuring it out yourself.
6. Strategic Option: Home Exchange
If you own a property, who says you have to actually stay in it? Why not use it as leverage to swap properties with other homeowners and live in different cities and areas around the world.
As Hannah Alford over at loveplaywork.com says:
“Home exchanging allows us to stay in other people’s homes all round the world for free. We would be paying our mortgage on our
apartment anyway, so this system lets us ‘trade up’ for weeks or months at a time without paying extra costs. Most times you can also
exchange cars so you don’t even have to pay car hire either.
It works best for us to stay in homes because it’s easier to run our business like this rather than staying in hotels. There are so many
listings to choose from that we also always end up staying in amazing places: riverside lodges, high rise luxury apartments, beach side
cottages, pool villas, ski resorts!”
Find a system and solution that works for you and know that you have flexibility and a wide range of options from budget to premium depending on your needs and finances. It’s all an adventure and one you should enjoy no matter what!