When traveling a big expense can be your accommodations. Let me help save you money with my tips on how to find a travel accommodation on a budget. Everyone’s budget is different so I’ve touched on a few different avenues for choosing a travel accommodation.
As value-conscious travelers, we already consider the budget, location, and availability when searching for accommodations. However, budget means many different things for everyone. My budget might be $200 a night while another person’s might be $50 a night. Some people splurge on accommodations and cut corners on dining out or travel activities. There is no right or wrong when looking for travel accommodations.
No matter your need or want for travel these tips for finding accommodation on a budget will help you.
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Before booking your accommodation
Research travel restrictions
Travel restrictions are always changing for each country at the drop of a hat. Before traveling it’s always important to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can also check your local government advisory, and that of your intended travel destination for regular updates in case anything changes. Not every place shares the same restrictions, so if you’re moving from country to country, you’ll want to ensure you’re up to date with the different restrictions for each.
Consider a Staycation
If you’re traveling for leisure – why not stay close to home to save even more money? Try being a tourist in your own town and experience seeing it through new eyes. Or consider jumping on the train or bus to somewhere nearby and stay in budget accommodation. Again, as said above, everyone’s budget is different.
It’s lovely gallivanting across the world to discover new cultures and that’s something we can all look forward to in the future. However, sometimes the main purpose of our trip is to escape the stresses of everyday life and this can be done very easily in your hometown. If you’ve seen everything your own hometown has to offer, hop a few cities over to see what they offer.
Buy Travel Insurance
You should already have travel insurance for any upcoming trips. There was a time I thought travel insurance was a joke, but after losing money a few times due to matters I couldn’t control, I changed my mind. For a few extra bucks it’s better to be safe, than out the money.
We also recommend booking any trip on a credit card (if you have one) for a backup option if you need to claim money back, and always check for a cancellation policy for wherever you book.
Check the Safety Protocols for each Accommodation
The CDC says that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you do travel, they recommend renting a house or cabin with people from your household. When traveling overnight there are steps you can take to minimize your risks.
- Choose online or contactless options for making a reservation, checking in, accessing your room, and making payments
- Ask about the accommodation provider’s cleaning policies and if the staff are required to wear masks before you book
- Check for other prevention practices such as plexiglass barriers and social distancing signage
- Wear a mask in common areas
- Avoid areas where you may come in close contact with other people
- Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Hopefully, most websites will have a section dedicated section to answering these questions, but on occasion, you may have to reach out and ask yourself. These are all concerns that may still be relevant in the following years, so don’t forget to check before you make a booking.
The Safe Travel Barometer can help make this easier by providing an overview of whether hotels provide thermal screening, require face masks, provide hand sanitizer, and disinfect rooms. In addition to hotels, you can also search for safety information on airlines, airports, and other activities.
Where to Find a Travel Accommodation
Free camping and RV sites
It’s no surprise that camping would be a cheap accommodation. However, as living a nomad life and travel becomes more popular the price of RV parks goes up. Many campgrounds are cheap and some are even free.
Many countries around the world offer free wilderness camping such as Norway, Sweden, Kyrgyzstan, Scotland, Iceland, Estonia, Finland, Mongolia, and Turkey. Other countries may have designated free camping spots.
In the US, you can search on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and in Australia, you can use the WikiCamps app. Camping in national parks will often have a nightly fee attached however it’s a small price to pay to experience the wonder of being close to nature.
Renting or buying/owning an RV (also known as a camper van) is another affordable accommodation alternative. Not only will you have your own set of wheels, but also a bed and cooking implements. The type of RV that you rent or own, will influence the kind of site that you need (powered or unpowered). So, we recommend reading our guide on how to plan the perfect RV trip.
Hipcamp for Glamping, Camping, and Cabins
Another way to search for camping and RV options is on a site called Hipcamp. Their listings don’t stop there – expanding to caravan parks, cabins, and glamping across all 50 US States as well as in Australia. The concept is similar to Airbnb, where landowners can list their properties and welcome guests.
Campers have the opportunity to escape the city to reconnect with nature in a more sustainable and safe way. When searching for accommodation, you can filter by including pricing, amenities, accessibility, and terrain. Hipcamp has safety standards for hosts based on the latest recommendations from the CDC in the U.S. and the Australian Government Department of Health.
Booking.com for Self-contained Apartments
Booking.com has been my go-to for travel accommodation on a budget while traveling. It’s easy to use and usually has a flexible change and cancellation policy. You can accrue points as part of your “Genius” membership for discounts, upgrades, and perks like complimentary breakfast.
Now Booking.com has a COVID-19 support page including their cancellation policy if it relates to the virus. When searching for a travel accommodation, you can also use filters for budget and apartments with kitchens for self-contained options with reduced risk of contact with others.
VRBO for Weekly and Monthly Stays
Looking to get away for a longer stay and want all the accommodations you have at home, but yet away from home? VRBO is a great choice for this type of travel accommodation.
Here are my tips for choosing a VRBO
- Select self-contained
- Use filters for kitchen, washing machine, & WiFi
- Check the cancellation policy
- Read reviews
- Book weekly or monthly stays for big discounts
- Self-check-in for contactless arrival
By reading references left by previous guests, you can get a better idea of the owners and the property. As with any website, check for additional fees before booking. There is always a contact button so you can email the owner and ask questions if you have any.
Originally written in 2015 and updated in 2021.
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