A common misconception about traveling is that your only options are either a luxury hotel or a super cheap dorm/guest house. After 3,281 days on the road — I have stayed in all sorts of accommodations across the world and each one is its own memorable experience. The truth is, there are plenty of accommodations available for budgets of all sizes and travelers of all kinds (solo, couples, families, etc.) I’m sharing all of my best advice with you here, so let’s dive in!
Tier #1: Couchsurfing
Did you know that you can get free accommodation through Couchsurfing? This platform connects local people around the world who have an empty couch, a room, or a bed to spare with travelers who need a place to stay. It is totally and completely FREE—there are never charges of any kind (in fact, the platform expressly forbids it!)
There are benefits for travelers and locals. Travelers get a free place to stay, and you can network with other travelers. Locals get a cultural exchange and the chance to hang out and show you around. Most of the time, you make good friends! I still talk to some CouchSurfing hosts, and I’d be happy to return the favor if they ever visited me in Arizona.
(There is a minimal membership fee to help keep the platform online. This fee varies from country to country, but it’s just $2.39/month or $14.29/year for US-based users.)
Tier #2: Hostels
Hostels are basically dormitories where you share a room with other travelers, usually with bunk beds, ranging from four to thirty-person rooms. The price of staying in a hostel ranges from $3 a night to $40-$50 a night (depending on the location.)
If you’re looking to try out a hostel, use Hostelworld! This is a great website to find all different kinds of hostels worldwide. Start by going to the website and making an account. Next, type in the city you are going to, and Hostelworld will show you all the hostels in that area. You can look at reviews, look at pictures, and do your own research into these hostels to decide the best option for you. I often look for hostels with lockers that have A/C. Wifi can be a nice benefit too, especially if you don’t have a travel hotspot like the Solis Wifi Hotspot that I use all over the world.
There are several advantages to staying in hostels! Hostels are great for a social life. If you are looking to meet people, if you want to party, or if you are a solo traveler looking to make random friends from around the world, hostels may be a good choice for you. In addition, they often have bars, restaurants, lounges, cafes, and clubs on site.
Hostels are a great way to save money and meet new friends! It’s a great place to meet people who share your interests and want to meet other travelers. You can befriend people from all over the world who are excited to explore the city with you, share travel tips, and talk about their own cultures and homes. I’ve met people in hostels who became friends for life, so I definitely recommend trying out the hostel life at least once!
Some things to consider when sleeping in hostels:
Where are you going to lock up your stuff?
Most hostels worldwide have dedicated lockers where you can use your own lock (with a combination code or key.) Unfortunately, it’s not wise to leave your stuff out in the open, so make sure you take advantage of those free lockers! Bring a bigger lock for the lockers and small locks for your bag.
What are their amenities?
Is there a complimentary breakfast? What kind of breakfast do they offer? What about WiFi, is it free? Do they have a strong wifi connection? It’s always good to check and see if they have a kitchen where you can store your stuff (which is almost always yes.) Also, check how many people share a bathroom. Make sure you read the reviews to find out. HostelWorld also offers filters to more easily search for key amenities, so that’s a great resource as well.
Tier #3: Hotels & Guest houses
For hotels and/or guest houses, the most reliable platform I’ve found is Booking.com. What I love about Booking.com is that you can book a place to stay without needing to put in your credit card information. Another major plus is that they offer free cancellation up until the day before your trip. This is great if you’re not sure if you will get the visa you need to enter a country or if your plans might change—you can cancel more “last minute” than other platforms allow.
Things to consider when using Booking.com:
My biggest tip—always read the reviews! See how many stars a guest gives on average and what comments they made. Did they have issues with the wifi or any problems with cleanliness? Was the front desk connected and accessible 24 hours a day? Was the parking expensive?
Next, check the amenities. Does the room have a television and a refrigerator? Do they offer good wifi? Where is it located? Do you have access to a metro? What time does the metro close? Do they have a laundry service? Do they have a free airport shuttle service? All of these are good questions to ask before you book so that you can be sure you’re getting everything you need out of your chosen accommodations.
You can also book hotels through travel.drewbinsky.com!
Tier #4: AIRBNB
Airbnb gives you the opportunity to “live like a local.” It can be super cool, especially when traveling internationally, to get a taste of how the locals live by staying in an apartment complex in a new city or country. People from around the world list their living spaces on Airbnb (whether that be a vacation home in Florida or an apartment in NYC, a tiny house in Scandinavia, or a treehouse in Costa Rica.) You rent from them, they give you the keys, and you sleep at their place! You get the chance to literally “live like a local.”
Sometimes, you can rent just a room, which is usually cheaper. Other times you can rent the entire place to yourself, which is especially helpful if you are traveling with more than one person.
Best Tip for AIRBNB: Ask the host for a discount.
Start by figuring out where you want to go and then decide how much you want to spend. Then go to your web browser and open up ten tabs, each with a different Airbnb listing. Use the “contact host” button and reach out to each Airbnb host. Message them and introduce yourself, tell them about your interest in their property, and just ask for discounts (15% off, for example).
Out of ten Airbnb hosts you ask, at least one or two hosts will say yes. Take the cheapest offer or counter back with them and continue to try to negotiate. This trick works for me almost 100% of the time, and I’ve gotten as much as half off the listed price!
Bonus: Get a Free Place by Pet Sitting
You can always try out Trusted Housesitters! Pet owners worldwide often leave their homes to travel and don’t want to board their pets in unfamiliar places. Instead, they want someone to come and stay at their house and take care of their pets (dogs, cats, lizards, bunnies, even horses!) Using the Trusted Housesitters website, you can look around the world and find places to stay for free, and often they are even really nice apartments and houses! All you have to do is take care of the pet: feed it, take it for a walk, whatever the owner asks you to do.
Trusted Housesitters has a yearly membership ($129/year), but everything is free after that! Neither the sitter nor the pet owner pays for the exchange. This is a great way to “stay like a local” for free!
General things to think about when you are Booking Accommodation:
Tip #1: Location matters (but probably not in the way you think.)
If you have a smaller budget, don’t make the mistake of looking for accommodations near the main city centers or the attractions. Instead, look into alternate options 20, 30, or even 40 minutes away that are close to a metro station, bus station, or train station so that you can easily access the city (click here if you need help learning how to navigate a new city!) This tip will save you money, as accommodations are typically much cheaper the further you get away from the main attractions of the city center.
Tip #2: Stay more than three nights.
Staying more than three nights is usually better because hotels offer special deals for longer stays. If you book for just one night, you’re often getting the worst deal! Sometimes the platform you’re booking on has the discounts built in; for instance, if you stay more than three nights, sometimes they will offer the fourth night for free.
Tip #3: Be flexible when booking accommodations.
If you can, just like when booking your flights, try to make your travel plans flexible. Avoid booking during holidays or busy seasons, and try to stay in the middle of the week to save money!
Accommodations don’t have to be that expensive! Think outside the box, and make it a game—it’s one you can always win, as you can always find something that will fit your plans and your budget.