Travel is expensive, no doubt about that. From airfare to hotel packages, dining out to souvenirs, a vacation can set you back thousands of dollars. Sometimes that added financial stress can even negate the relaxation of time away from home. But while many Americans have been opting for staycations to save money, there are a few ways you can travel on the cheap. Since one of the biggest expenses of vacationing is finding a place to stay, here are a few travel share websites that can help you keep lodging costs down.
Airbnb.com, aka “Air Bed and Breakfast,” is a great resource to search community-wide for a guest room or even whole living unit to rent out for a short period of time. You can search by geographic location, price, accommodation style, and more, and pick from available renters. The prices are typically lower than a hotel, and you can narrow your search to fit your price range. You can also find someone to rent your place while you’re gone, to save some extra money!
Couch surfing has gone digital. Free to register, you can join this community of more than 6 million people and find a willing host in nearly every place you look. You can offer your own home as a place to stay, or even just bring a small token of appreciation, in exchange for free lodging and hospitality in plenty of cities and even countries outside the U.S. Oftentimes your host may serve as a great, unofficial tour guide, and the Couchsurfing.org network is strong. Meet new people, learn about their lives, escape the ordinary, and do it all over again next weekend.
This is a similar concept to Couchsurf, but instead of staying with your host, you swap. You can list your own home, match with someone else in a different place, and trade for the set amount of time. It’s mutually agreed on, and like many similar sites, there are mechanisms for members to verify the authenticity and reputation of renters.
If you’re looking for a little more exotic, faraway destination, and willing to get your hands dirty, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms offers a great opportunity for the adventurous traveler. For a nominal signup fee, you join an organization that grants you access to farmers across the world, willing to feed and house you in exchange for a little help on the farm. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in a culture, and see a new place from the eyes of a local. And you can eat fresh, organic food you helped grow yourself—pretty sweet deal.
Omprakash is a website that collates affordable volunteer opportunities across the world, and tells you just how much it will cost. You may be teaching English for a week in Nepal, or helping coordinate a soup kitchen in Uganda, with lodging and food included for just a few dollars a day. Most opportunities have flexible timeframes and allow you time to explore your destination, another great way to really learn a place from an insider’s point of view.
While volunteering abroad may not be the same as sipping daiquiris on a beach, and living in a relative stranger’s spare room doesn’t really qualify as a four-star hotel, when you’re traveling on a budget, you have to get a little creative. And whether you’re giving of yourself or meeting new people, you’ll come back with more perspective, and less financial stress, a total win-win situation.