Finding a roof over your head, especially when you’re traveling to a place for the first time, can be tricky. Sometimes, you get impulsive and make some instant plans to hop on a train, without worrying about accommodation. I remember trying to catch a few winks holed up at the airport on a frigid New Year’s Eve in Budapest. In my defense, my stay in Hungary extended by a day and I couldn’t find any decent hotel to coop up for the night. But had I persisted with the multiple options for accommodation, I could have crashed somewhere.
With all that frenzy around traveling, the options for accommodation are quite numerous. Since the advent of the internet, getting a temporary roof over your head isn’t a tough ask. Depending on your style and needs, you get to choose from a variety ranging between sleeping on a couch to renting out swanky apartments that open out to swimming pools.
The Basic Budgetary Hostels
Hostels are budget residences often shared among two to twenty people, depending on the type of hostel dorms you choose. If you’re traveling light and looking for just a bed in the night, dorms are a perfect fit. With dorms, you don’t get privacy, but you’d have a chance to interact with people who come from different corners of the world. I once stayed in a dorm in the city of Porto (Portugal) where I shared a room with a Fado musical group. It was a fun evening with them practicing notes in the room.
Whatever your choices, the sheer number of hostels on the landscape ensures that there is something for everyone. As opposed to the popular belief that hostels are places for the hippies and the youth to crash, hostels these days also offer single and double rooms for couples. Plus, most of them will provide you with a kitchen where you can cook your own food and also are WiFi enabled in the atriums.
• Hostelworld is one of the best websites to find a hostel in almost any location on the map. YHA and Hostelling International are two more options you could look at.
• Its review system is highly reliable and the ratings gear your decision.
• Hostels are safe and if you aren’t a stickler for privacy, there is nothing to worry about.
• Hostels are flexible enough to provide you with private rooms for a slight upgrade (still cheaper than most hotels).
• If you are a solo traveler and don’t wish to spend a hefty amount of accommodation, then look no further. Hostels are your thing.
Rent Room, no Not in a Hotel: Apartment Rentals
Rentals are the swankier versions of hostels. They provide you with hotel-like amenities coupled with the privacy but aren’t as expensive as a regular hotel. Rentals are the perfect bridges between hotels and hostels. For one, you have the option to rent from a plethora of choices, again depending on your requirement. Let’s say you’re traveling for business. Surely a hostel would be too clamorous for you but you still don’t want to go for an expensive hotel. Or, you’re taking your entire family along for a peaceful retreat. You’d be needing the kitchen, the washing machine, and other provisions an apartment must offer, but you’d still want the personal feeling associated with home while you’re away from your own. Under such situations, apartment rentals provide value for your money.
• Airbnb, Wimdu, and HouseTrip are some of the good rental websites but if everything is too confusing, just go for Airbnb.
• Look for apartments with the best reviews. Only people who’d have stayed there would have reviewed it and these reviews can be highly reliable.
• Verified users with pictures are an added advantage, especially in case you’re planning to take your family along.
Sleep on Someone’s Couch: Couch Surfing
Couch surfing offers you what none of the other options can offer: the company of and precious travel advice from locals. In the recent years, couch surfing has gained much popularity because of its many positives. To start with, couch surfing is absolutely free and you’d only need to pay some cleaning and maintenance fee to the host during your stay. Couch surfing is an option if you are hopping between cities, looking to travel cheaply. Websites like Couchsurfing require hosts to go through rigorous verifications and thus can be trusted for safety.
• If you’re traveling solo, every once in a while, you’d want to sail away from the safe harbors of hotels and hostels and couch surf. It makes for a great experience.
• Couch surfing may be entirely free but the experiences and local insights that your hosts will offer are bound to make your stay priceless.
• To be safe, always look for a completely filled out and verified profile with positive reviews.
• Apart from Couchsurfing itself, Global Freeloaders and Hospitality Club are good couchsurfing websites.
A Home Completely to Yourself: House Sitting and Home Exchanges
Yes! That’s a thing. Not many people know of this, but you can be away from your home and someone will still be taking care of your place in exchange for a roof over their head! Home exchanges are exactly what they sound like. You sign up for a community located in your travel destination and you swap houses with them. While you take care of their house, they’ll be taking care of yours. It is a mutual agreement of trust between two parties and the mediator website will carry out various verifications for this.
If you can’t find someone to swap accommodations with, you can look for someone who’d be going out during the same time as you would be staying in their city or area. These people offer you a portion of their home in exchange for taking care of their house, garden, and maybe even pets when they are away. Fellow travelers to each other’s rescue!
• Mind My House and House Carers are two of the popular house sitting websites. Home Exchange is a very famous home exchange website, thanks to its appearance in the movie, “The Holiday”.
• You’d be living like a local in a foreign land, complete with a house and its amenities and the trust is mutual so there is hardly any room for fear. Again, verification will help you here.
Finally, if all else fails and you absolutely cannot settle for anything else than a good ol’ hotel, that’s fine. Just be sure to get the best available deals and maximum possible discount for the best possible room you can find in your budget. Use Kayak to get notified for alerts for a drop in hotel prices. Compare hotel prices using Trivago or Hotel Price Bot. Use coupons from coupon websites to get discounts and cash back. Use airline points to secure discounts. Look out for canceled rooms to secure last minute bookings on Cancelon and Roomer. Also, book well in advance so that you have a lot of options to choose from.
Travelling is an experience and like every other experience, you’d want to sit back at the end of the day and cherish all those memories you’ve made. A home away from home is definitely what you need and as unexplored adventures await you with open arms, it also offers you a host of options to rest your head. The question is, where would you want to go?