CAMPING: $15-$40 per site
One of the tactics I’m using to cut costs is camping. Rule number one in camping is that it will never be glamorous. If you’re a heavy sleeper, don’t mind bugs/wildlife, and you’ve got the equipment it’s a completely viable option for low-cost accommodations. You can reserve for almost any camp site at reserveamerica.com, and most tent-only sites will set you back about $15-45. Splitting with a buddy keeps the costs well within a poor college student’s price range. But if any of that sounds highly unappetizing, I’d suggest coughing up the extra money for and AirBnB, hotel, hostel, or motel reservation.
COUCH SURFING: FREE
People ask me all the time about couchsurfing.com and whether or not it’s safe. I personally haven’t used the site’s services, but many of my traveling friends have. Apparently the experiences can be pretty hit-or-miss, but if you’re traveling with a friend and the reviews on a host seem good, it’s highly probably you’ll have a comfortable and (perhaps!) pleasant experience. Booking with couchsurfing.com is luckily low-risk monetarily and you can bail at any point and book a hotel last minute.
I do, however, HIGHLY recommend crashing on friend and family member’s couches. It’s an excellent opportunity to reconnect, it’s free, and they occasionally provide you with food. You’d honestly be surprised how many people are willing to help, and even more surprised by how many people will be offended if you don’t at least stop to say hi when you’re passing through town. But always be courteous.
-Leave a thankyou card when you leave
-Spend time with the person you are visiting unless they are otherwise engaged
-Don’t expect your host to be your personal tour guide, chef, and/or concierge
-Don’t leave your belongings out if you aren’t using them
-Offer to wash any sheets or towels you use (and sneak in some of your own laundry while you’re at it)
AIRBNB: $50-200 (per room)
AirBnB is an excellent option for saving money. It also allows the opportunity to earn money by referring your friends. For example, if you’re looking to book an AirBnB option and you plug in my code (www.airbnb.com/c/krocha110?s=8) you save $25 and since I referred you, I earn $25 after you take your first trip with AirBnB and $75 if you become a host. Pretty cool stuff. Just ignore my shameless plug. The #1 key to having a good experience with AirBnB is to READ THE REVIEWS. Many of the listings are for extra rooms in people’s homes so you will be cohabiting a space with someone. Make sure they are not an axe-murderer. Unless you’re into that…
HOSTELS: $15-45 per night (per person)
My love of hostels blossomed in Florence last summer at an incredible little place called MyFriends where the incredible owner Nadina gave my sister and I housemade wine, drew us a map of Florence’s best gelato establishments, upgraded us to a private room for free, and made us breakfast every morning. I worship the Hostelworld and HostelBookers communities for their reviews. Both sites have excellent apps which are fast, user-friendly, and accessible from your smartphone. I would recommend comparing prices with the hostel’s individual website because they sometimes run better prices by up to ten dollars.
Staying at a hostel is a very different experience from a hotel because more of the international traveling crowd gravitates towards these. They often have common rooms and the result is a much more personal and social experience. Once again, read the reviews and try to book places that come with wifi and breakfast.
LAST MINUTE SOLUTIONS:
In the event that everything has gone wrong, there are a few things you can do. First, I recommend stayful.com. It allows you to put in a bid on boutique hotels, and if you’re booking for the night-of chances are they’re willing to take you for a relatively reduced price. On average the hotel recommends bidding about $20 below the best online price. Just like AirBnB, Stayful has a pretty good referral program so if you use my code (https://stayful.com/invite/KelseyR83) both you and I get $25 off our next booking. You can find deals ranging from $80-300.
If that fails, go ahead an call the surrounding hotels. Cough up the extra money and spend the night in a soft warm bed. If everything went wrong, you probably need a good night of rest. Request a room with a bathtub and read something indulgent like Eat, Pray, Love.
Finally, if all the hotels are booked and you are left with no other options and you aren’t in a terribly unsafe area, look for a Walmart. The 24/7 establishment has food, functional bathrooms, and a parking lot. You’ll need to call ahead to the Walmart you’re planning to go to and ask the manager about that particular store’s overnight parking policy, but Walmart is a pretty traveler-friendly establishment. For more information on Walmart car-camping read this post on The Morning Fresh. I don’t know that Katie Boué girl, but she knows what she’s talking about.
A Note About Safety:
I’m all about risk-taking and living fearlessly, but I’m also a large advocate of living long. As in very long. As in I’d like to reach an age where my skin is leathered and I have more wrinkles in my face than a linen shirt can ever dream of having. This requires a certain degree of intelligence. Please do not camp in the middle of a hurricane. Do not sleep in your car if there is a flood warning. Don’t drive straight through a forest fire to get to your next location just because of a hotel booking. Money will always come and go, but you’ve only got one shot at this living thing. Don’t screw it up.