Ask Kate: Affordable Accommodation that Isn’t Hostels

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Urqhart Castle, Scotland

This week, we have a question about long-term travel for people done with the hostel scene.

Hi Kate,

I am hoping to travel through England, Ireland, and Scotland this year around July-October, but with limited money.  My biggest cost will be accommodation.  I will be 53 years old, travelling alone, and not really wanting the backpacker lifestyle, but will if that’s the only way.

My question is, what would you recommend in the way of accommodation?

I can relate to this question.  As many wonderful memories as I have from staying hostels, the older I get, the more I realize I can’t do dorms for much longer.  I like having my privacy and my own space.

The good news is that hostels and backpacking are not the only way to travel on the cheap.  Here are some methods of accommodation that I recommend:

Short-term rentals.  This is one of the biggest travel trends of the last two years or so.  While short-term rentals have always been available in the form of apartment or villa rentals, the market is now allowing more people to rent out their own places.  You’ll find the greatest selection on Airbnb (and I’m giving away $25 off your first stay if you sign up through here!).

You can rent rooms in people’s homes — from crashing on a couch to having your own bedroom to even renting out the entire apartment — often at a fraction of the price of hotels, with far more conveniences.

HostelWorld.  Despite the name of the site, you can actually find much more than just hostels on here — like B&Bs, simple guesthouses, and other forms of nontraditional lodging.  There’s so much more than you think!

And keep in mind that not all hostels are wild party places for twenty-somethings.  Many hostels are quiet, have private and/or family rooms, and suit people of all ages.  I stayed in one hostel like that about a year ago.

Couchsurfing.  Don’t knock it just yet — Couchsurfing is incredibly diverse, and people of all ages are welcomed with open arms.  You can request a couch with a couple or someone close to your age.  And it’s not just for couches.  Like Airbnb, you could have a whole room to yourself.  For free!

There are more options that require more planning ahead, but are still great:

Home Exchange.  Did you see the movie The Holiday, when Kate Winslet swaps her cute English cottage for Cameron Diaz’s Hollywood mansion?  Just like that.  You swap homes, pets, cars, everything.  Start here.

Housesitting.  If you’re willing to take care of a property and, most often, a few furry creatures, consider housesitting.  My friends Dalene and Pete of Hecktic Travels have housesat all over the world and wrote an excellent guide to housesitting.

The world is full of ways to travel long-term on the cheap.  Have a great time in England, Ireland and Scotland!

Got a burning travel question?  Email your travel questions to kate [at] adventurouskate [dot com] with the subject “Ask Kate.”  Maybe next week yours will be used!

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17 thoughts on “Ask Kate: Affordable Accommodation that Isn’t Hostels”

  1. Youth Hostels have improved so much over recent years, many offering rooms for couples or singles, even en-suite. Costs are reasonable, look at their website. The photo is of Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, near Inverness ( haven’t stayed at YH here, but good location in a lively, vibrant city). I have stayed at Aviemore YH, less then 1 hour from Inverness by road or rail— excellent facilities, again in very good location.
    I am envious of your plans to travel. Can I strongly recommend Ullapool on 20th and 21st September 2013… Loopallu music festival. Magic atmosphere, Google for previous line-ups. YH will book up early, but right on the sea front, in centre of village.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out Kate! There are lots of options out there. Of course we love house-sitting, but we have had great experiences couch-surfing as well. I want to give WWOOFing a go too 🙂

  3. Scott Intagliata

    Another option which can work is to stay at a micro hotel — in the UK, the Easy Hotel chain (owned by Easy Jet) are clean, inexpensive, and always located in dynamic parts of town.

  4. Short-term apartment rental are my preferable option. I have visited Prague like that had have such a good experience.

  5. Helpx is also great for volunteer-based exchange opportunities! and.. well, there is always free accomodation if you are a pilgrim! 😉 For instance, Santiago’s way in Spain offers a wide range of free accomodations for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela every few km.
    Great post!

  6. Great suggestions!

    We travel as a couple, so we’re always looking for our own room with a private bath. If we’re staying somewhere for 3+ nights, we’ll look for a rental (since having a kitchen-or at least a hotplate and some utensils-helps save money on meals). Keep in mind that when renting from an individual you might be able to negotiate pricing, particularly if you’re going in off-season.

    We have recently done some housesitting/petsitting at 2 different spots. It worked out well, but it’s important to do your homework. We purchased Dalene & Pete Heck’s book, and would recommend it for anyone considering this lodging option–they give lots of great tips that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise!

  7. I like the idea of experimenting with couchsurfing and WOOFing, though also intrigued by the other options. There was a woman in her 70s or 80s in one of my hostels, who said she keeps choosing hostels not because of the cost, but for the experience.

  8. I’ve just spent a year housesitting and I wanted to point out that while it’s a great way to get free accommodation, it can be a HUGE commitment! In our current house sit we have a big German Shepherd to walk twice a day; she’s 10 years old so she needs to be let out for a pee every few hours, too. There’s also a cat who is a massive pussy (no pun intended), and he has to come in when it gets dark because if he stays out the other cats in the neighbourhood beat him up. Although that’s totally fine by us, it means we can’t really disappear for a whole day of sightseeing or whatever.

    Also, yesterday, the dog got part of a branch lodged between her top teeth after a rather vigorous chewing session. She was in a lot of distress trying to get it out herself. After coaxing her over, I had to pry her mouth open and stick my hand in there to get it out.

    So although it’s a great way to become part of the community and really see the world, I’d also say that if you’re faint hearted and don’t like dog drool, picking up poop, or having a cat meowing at you at 7am because he wants to go out, then you should probably stick to Kate’s other suggestions instead 😉

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