The biggest decision we will make after we decide what destination to visit is HOUSING. It will most likely take the biggest chunk out of your travel budget and can also make or break your vacation. Have you ever stayed at a five star resort that was under construction or have an AirBnb nightmare story? There are many other options out there that people are not considering, but that can save them big money. Here are five alternative housing options that you can look into:
1) Monasteries: You do not have to be religious or into spirituality to stay at a monastery. There are many around the world that have been welcoming travelers. In some of these places, you can volunteer to serve food or help with chores in exchange for a free stay. It does not matter what your background is, there is a monastery waiting for you to discover its serene and peaceful welcome. Staying at a monastery is cheaper than a hotel or short-term rental and will provide the safety that you want. Monasteries come in all shapes and for all budgets. From the luxurious and pristine to the basic and rugged–surely you can find one that suits your needs and travel style.
For a list of monasteries that you can stay in The United States:
For a list of monasteries that you can stay in Europe:
The best part about monasteries is that they offer a wonderful alternative to hotels and resorts. Usually, they offer organic food and it is already a given that it will provide you a serene environment. In addition, many are budget friendly, offer an ideal location, while being clean and safe. Spirituality and religion may not be your calling, but this unique experience will give you a glimpse of their lifestyle while saving you big bucks on your next getaway.
2) Yoga Retreats: It seems yoga retreats are popping up all over the place at exuberant prices. For those of you looking for the spiritual side of life, there are also yoga retreats all around the world that will offer you everything that you need during your personal retreat. You do not have to pay thousands of dollars on a spiritual getaway. From the mountains in Costa Rica to the scenic Thailand beaches, these retreats can go for thousands of dollars. However, a yoga retreat is not a new concept that has suddenly bombarded on the internet. On the contrary, if this is the kind of experience that you are searching, there are many around the world and they are FREE. Yes—they do not charge you in exchange that you help with chores. It may seem trendy to attend that getaway with a self-help guru or popular blogger, but the truth is that they are there for you to attend free of cost. Please be aware that this is a serious practice so do not attend a 10 day silence retreat if you are not going to take it seriously.
3) Castles Perhaps you have never considered this option but it may provide the tranquility that you need on your vacation. Housing options can be more creative than a hotel. For example, you can stay in this beautiful castle in Salzburg. I saw many artist apartments there for rent. Who wouldn’t love the experience of staying in Hohensalzburg Castle that dates back as early as the 1460’s?
4) Work Exchange/Hostels: Working in exchange for free housing and board has become a trend on many websites. However, as someone that has been down that road—you DO need to do your research. There are a lot of websites looking for a free employee and this exchange is not always worth it. For example, if someone wants you to volunteer five to six hours a day, six days a week in exchange for a dorm room in Thailand that is only $7 USD a night—you are better off spending that money. On the other hand, if you are staying at a quaint Bed and Breakfast in the South of France with meals and a private bedroom and you only have to put in hours at the front desk five days a week at your leisure—this is a great and fair exchange. Do your research and make sure you find the work in exchange for accommodations experience that works for you. In some cases, hostels DO have private bedrooms and a fabulous FREE breakfast like this one below in Bangkok. Some hostel experiences are fabulous if you research carefully and read the reviews before booking.
5) House-Sitting/Pet sitting: Another trend in the travel industry is house-sitting. In the past, travelers had to hire their next door neighbors to watch out for the dog and/or cat while they were away on vacation. At the end they would come back and give some money in exchange. Nowadays, there are so many travelers willing to do this work in exchange for free accommodations. It is a win/win situation for both the traveler and the house-owners. Do your research carefully as well. Make sure that you meet in person if possible or Skype before allowing someone to stay in your home or before you accept a pet sitting gig. It is not unusual for pet owners to forget to tell you that their dog is hostile or for homeowners to come back to a filthy home. It is important to communicate as much as possible before this exchange of services for accommodation becomes possible. There are house-sits in the most expensive cities around the world and landing one is your ticket to explore the destination as a local. Do you want to be a Venetian for a while? You can as a house-sitter and not pay a penny for the experience.
Final Tips On Securing Housing before leaving home?
- Consider your budget and personality. As a pet lover, house-sitting may be the best option for you. There are numerous websites that you can subscribe to that offer the connection between home-owners and pet-sitters.
- Research your destination and make sure that your budget aligns realistically with the experience that you want. For example, $40 USD a night may not be a lot to get a decent hotel in Paris, but it will get you fantastic accommodations in Thailand.
- Check and read reviews from multiple websites. It may seem tempting to book the first hotel with raving reviews but do compare with other sites. Wonderful places to stay normally have outstanding reviews all across the board and on different travel sites. Although it may seem time consuming, this is your vacation. A little bit of effort can go a long way to get the best experience for your buck.