7 Creative Accommodation Options for Budget Travelers


Traveling on a budget is not impossible. Sometimes you just have to get creative with where you sleep! Budget accommodation options abound, if you know where to look for them.

Hotel and hostel costs are likely some of your highest expenses while backpacking. But did you know there are several other options available to you?

Don’t let costly accommodation options put a crimp in your travels! Explore the options outside the (white-walled) box.

Creative accommodation options on a budget

1. Convents or monasteries

Since the time of Saint Benedict, monks and nuns have practiced hospitality. Staying in a monastery might not be your first thought, but some convents and monasteries offer basic hotel-like accommodations. Others offer a bed in a special guest quarters within the monastic order.

Expect no-frill accommodations, crucifixes over the beds (see pic) and, in some cases, communal bathrooms. Meals may or may not be included.

2. Universities

Some universities rent out unoccupied dorm rooms, especially during summer and winter breaks. Depending on the school and city, you might stay in a medieval residence hall, a skyscraper or an ivy-covered brick hall.

Expect a private room, a single-sized bed and a shared bathroom.

Creative accommodation options while traveling.

3. Hostels

Popular with backpackers and college students, hostels run the gamut from multi-bunk rooms and shared facilities to private rooms with en suite baths. Rates are typically low and commensurate to level of privacy.

Expect lockers, curfews, and lockouts (hours when guests are not allowed inside). Book well in advance, especially in the summer months. This is a particularly appealing option for solo travelers as it’s a great way to meet fellow adventurers!

4. House swapping

Although Cameron and Kate made it look like a breeze in The Holiday, house swapping is not for the faint of heart. This option works best if you’re able to plan in advance and be flexible with dates and locations.

Also, you have to be fine with strangers living in your home and using your stuff.

Research the many online services and find a reputable one to join. List your home, identify a swap and reach out!

Some of our favorite sites include HomeExchange.com but you can also house swap on HouseSwap.com and WorkAway.com.

Try to get a feel for the other homeowner through email exchanges or phone calls.

Clarify everything in writing including household tasks such as mail and pet care and parameters such as use of vehicles. Take a careful look at the reviews, maps, street views, etc.

And remember: a romance with a Jude Law-like stranger is not guaranteed!

5. Vacation rentals/self-catering

This is handy if you don’t want to offer up your home to a stranger but want to stay in someone else’s. Here again, research, research, research!

Read reviews, look carefully at the photos, maps and street views. Ask questions.

Make sure you understand the deposit terms, cleaning responsibilities, additional fees, expectations and what is included.

Lastly, do some online research to see if there has been recent noise about the legality of vacation rentals in certain cities (in particular, Paris and New York City have cracked down).

Creative accommodation options for the budget traveler

6. Rent a room

Be a temporary roommate and move into an occupied apartment or home. Oftentimes people who offer up their spare bedrooms need some extra cash and are appreciative of renters.

This is a great way to see how the locals live and make new friends. Again, read reviews, ask questions and get a full understanding of the rules and the space.

7. Try Couchsurfing

If you’re more adventurous and not picky about where you rest your head, be a couchsurfer or provide room and board in exchange for labor. These options are great for low-maintenance travelers who are open to new experiences.

What is your favorite type of affordable accommodation? Have you had positive or negative experiences?


About Author

Dawn first became hooked on traveling while studying abroad in London. Who knew how easy it was to hop on a plane, train or boat and emerge in another country! Since then, she has traveled as much as possible and loves how each destination alters her understanding of life. Read her expat exploits on shootandscrawl.com, view her photos on dawnspaulding.com and follow her on twitter @shootandscrawl. Based out of: Luxembourg City and New York City


  1. The convent/Monastery one is interesting because I know Buddhist temples in Asia also have accommodations and serves meal , but needs prior arrangement.

    I stayed at couple different schools before. You get to try dorm food, talk to students and peek into classes =)

    Good suggestions!

    • Hi Annie, thanks for reading. I’m glad to hear you’re already exploring these more creative options and appreciating the opportunity to integrate!

    • Hi Stephanie, Thanks for reading and yes, believe it or not, convents are perfect in terms of affordability, safety and location (notice I did not say luxury), especially in places like France and Italy.

  2. I dithered for ages about stopping off in Amsterdam on the way home to the UK for my annuak visit. By the time I decided I wanted to there were no deals left. Unwilling to pay a fortune for a hotel I checked out the airbnb site and found a fabulous room right in the museum quarter.

    Airbnb is a bit like couchsurfing except you pay and have a bed for certain. It was a unique experience and much cheaper than anything else on offer,

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