Accommodation choices for travelers of any budget come with such a vast amount of choices in 2015. When I first went travelling in 2009 (ahhhhhh. God. Age is creeping upon me, as I wrote about last week!), I had no idea what to expect… and a mixture of hotels and hostels is what I settled for. The next year when I backpacked in Australia, we stayed in hostels only, and when I returned to Australia again a few years later, we stayed in a camper van for the majority of our trip!
But what other options are there? Being a travel blogger, it’s kind of my job to know about alternative accommodation, and I’m always surprised when people don’t know about companies and organisations that I thought were just as well known as regular hotels. I’ve got nothing against hostels, but if you’re travelling for more than a few weeks, I’m sure every traveller can understand the sentiment that hanging around with other travellers can get very, very tedious. Week 10, and you’d rather hang out by yourself then have to answer yet another spiel of questions on where you’ve been, what you’ve done, where you’re from, what you’re going to do next – blahblahblahBLAH. Having your own space for a few days away from the bubble of the backpacking lifestyle is a welcome break at times, and actually gets you to interact with locals depending on where you go, which is always a plus to an authentic experience of a destination.
So, without further ado, here’s four alternatives to hotels and hostels.
If you don’t know about Airbnb, where have you been for the past couple of years?! Since its inception in 2008, the site now boasts listings in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. So, chances are, wherever you’re going there’s going to be an Airbnb listing. The concept is pretty simple: if you have a spare space in your studio, apartment, house or mansion, you can list it on the site. People looking for accommodation can book directly online, send you a message with any questions, and that’s it. They pay Airbnb, who then transfer the money to the owner once the trip is over. Simple!
Booking your accommodation with Airbnb has so many benefits; mainly that you get to stay in a real local’s house, and experience something that a hotel can never give you. Often the hosts are super friendly and keen to give you information about the area, which is another great point. I’ve already booked three Airbnb apartments for my time in South America, and aside from them being local, they’re also awesome, hands down beating the aforementioned travellers spiel that you’ll no doubt end up with in yet another hostel. Oh, and here’s the beautiful place I stayed in whilst in Berlin!
If you’ve never tried Airbnb before, I implore you to do so. And, to motivate you even more, you can get €23 or $25 off your first booking if you sign up from this link. You’re welcome.
Homestay is a relatively new company, founded in 2013 in Dublin. It’s another great concept that connects people around the world. The idea is, like Airbnb, you search for available accommodation wherever you going, read their profile, check out photographs of the place they’re offering, and book! The difference with Homestay is that you actually spend your time in the home of people whilst they are there. Only book this if this is really what you want. You should want to stay with a family and spend time with them, as that’s what they’ve listed their homes on the site for! This is not a hotel, this is an experience. And a pretty cool one, at that!
Couchsurfing is one of the best ideas in travel I’ve ever heard of. The founders are passionate about people from all walks of life being able to travel easily, safely and freely, and boom. Couchsurfing was born. The idea is that if you have a spare room or spare couch (clue is in the name), you list your place online and people request to stay with you! If you’re busy, no worries, if you just don’t want to, again, there is no obligation to accept someone’s stay.
What makes Couchsurfing so great is that it’s 100%, completely free. No money is allowed to exchange hands between the guests and the hosts – though buying your hosts at least a beer or two is just polite, really. Me and my boyfriend actually hosted a couple from Canada last year when they were in Amsterdam, and had such a good weekend with them! They were super chilled, had a lot of cool stories from their travels, and were no imposition upon our life in Dam at all. In fact, it was nice to meet some new faces.
Like Airbnb, Couchsurfing gives you an entirely different perspective of a destination. You’re staying with people who actually live there, for one, so right off the bat you have a more realistic view of life there. I think a lot of people are a bit apprehensive to try Couchsurfing, but if you’re an amicable person who likes to meet other people, there’s no better way to travel!
Okay, so Groupon isn’t exactly an accommodation site – or an accommodation site at all, really – but they have SO many great offers and deals on experiences that you may never have thought about. For example, whilst searching for something vaguely exciting and romantic at the same time for my anniversary next week, I used Groupon to try and find something different to the usual. Though many were a bit out of my budget (I’m not usually so cheap… I’m going travelling in a month’s time!) there were some awesome options, including little tiny lodges in the Belgian Ardennes, a teepee and spa experience in Germany, and a Castle in Luxembourg.
Although if you’re on a teeny, tiny budget then Groupon probably won’t be your best bet, if you’re willing to splash out a little and do some research, then you could end up with much more unique experiences than just doing it yourself!
There are so many other ways to book accommodation than just heading over to the big, mass search sites, or even just booking it as a package with your holiday. Have you ever tried something a bit out of the ordinary? Tell me about it!