Want to find an alternative to hotels for your next trip? In the last couple of years, alternative forms of accommodation have become more popular as travelers seek new experiences.
There’s nothing wrong to stay at hotels or resorts, on the contrary, it can be very nice. They often offer all the amenities needed and luxuries for relaxing vacations. But it can also be a lot of fun to try something new on your next trip, even though it might seem unfamiliar at first.
The trend of renting apartments and homes has skyrocketed in the last couple of years thanks to services like Airbnb and HomeAway. But the options don’t end with renting homes, and there are some pretty interesting alternatives to hotels that I will share in this article.
If you want to travel like a local, a homestay experience is a great alternative to hotels. A homestay means that you’ll live with a local family and get the ultimate cultural experience. Be part of the traditions and learn more about their customs.
Get to know the family and emerge yourself in the everyday life of the country where you want to travel. Most of the time, the host family will cook traditional food where you’ll dine together.
Additionally, some hosts also offer guided tours where they will show you around and make sure that you get the best experience possible, including finding hidden gems.
I use Homestay.com to find homestays around the world and it’s great because you check reviews before you make a booking.
Airbnb & Home rentals
Whenever I stay longer than a couple of days at a destination, I will often rent apartments or houses via Airbnb. It’s a great platform with apartments and home rentals all over the world.
It’s an alternative to hotels where you get a home away from home. It’s great if you’re a digital nomad or need to get some work done, or just prefer to have larger space than regular hotel rooms offer.
Most Airbnb-rentals also offer guests access to a full kitchen where you can make breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is great for budget travelers and those that don’t want to eat out all the time.
In addition to home rentals, Airbnb also has unique listings such as tree houses, igloos, bungalows and much more. It’s also a great way of finding traditional houses. In Japan, Christine and I rented an apartment with a traditional tatami floor and Japanese furniture.
Housesitting and petsitting
Housesitting and petsitting is another fun alternative to hotels. If you’re not familiar with these accommodation types, housesitting basically means that you’ll “babysit” someone’s house while they are away from home.
Petsitting, on the other hand, means that you’ll babysit their pets while the owners go on vacation. It’s a trend that has been growing quite rapidly in recent years as more and more people discover this way of traveling.
The duration of the housesitting and petsitting might vary, and some might last 1-week or 2-weeks or even longer. The best part is that you’ll be staying there for free, and some owners even pay you to babysit their homes and pets as well.
Where to find housesitting and petsitting listings
Could you see yourself swapping your home with a stranger for a limited time? If you have a house or apartment, you can sign up at Home exchange and swap your home with other people.
If you’ve seen the famous movie “The Holiday” then you know that Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swapped homes in each other’s countries. It can be a lot of fun and will definitely give a different experience than if you’re staying at a hotel.
Websites where you can signup for home swaps
Stay for free with Couchsurfing. A concept where people share their sofas or spare room. The idea is that you’ll offer your couch or spare room in return when you’re at home.
However, this is not mandatory and you’re free to use Couchsurfing even though you don’t have any plans to offer your own couch in the future. It’s an interesting way to meet locals when traveling and one of the few free alternatives to hotels.
Did you know that old monasteries sometimes rent out their rooms? They are indeed very spartan, but you get a unique experience which is sometimes also cheaper. It’s pretty common with Monastery stays in Italy and you find available accommodation at Monasterystays.com.
In addition to monasteries, there are temples, ashrams, churches, and synagogues that offer cheap rooms all over the world. Bear in mind that most of these rooms aren’t listed online, and it’s a good idea to write on local forums and ask.
You’ve probably heard of hostels and they are often a much cheaper alternative to hotels. While hostels used to have a pretty bad reputation back in the days, there are many modern hostels that offer great standards with fewer amenities.
For example, you might have to share the toilet with other guests, and if you want to get really cheap rates per night, you can stay in a dormitory with multiple beds and guests.
Hostels are also great for meeting other travelers and it’s a great alternative to hotels for budget travelers.
Volunteering can be a great experience on its own and oftentimes, accommodation will be included in your stay in exchange for your help. Some places might charge a small fee that will go towards the funding of the volunteer project.
It’s a great way of giving back to those who aren’t as privileged in life. Just make sure that you choose a reputable volunteer program that doesn’t cause any harm to the locals or animals.
Camping is one of the old-school alternatives to hotels and can often get you natural travel experiences that aren’t possible to get otherwise. It’s definitely something special to sleep out in nature in a tent while hearing all the sounds.
Most countries have areas that are designated for camping, and some might allow free camping, such as Sweden and Norway. Picture yourself in a tent under the starry sky. It’s simple, raw and unforgettable.
If camping is too hardcore for you, there’s a relatively new alternative that might suit you better. It’s called Glamping, and it’s basically a more luxurious way of camping.
Most of the time, you’ll be staying in some kind of lodge and you’ll have far more amenities available compared to a regular campsite. Africa is a great destination for glamping as well as Latin America where there are many eco-lodges that offer glamping.
University / College
Staying at university or college is perhaps not the first thing you think of when you’re traveling abroad. But the fact is that many schools actually rent out some of their rooms between the summer and winter semesters.
Last but not least, make a farm stay and experience life in the countryside. If you like nature and animals, this is a great alternative to hotels where you get a free stay in exchange for some work at the farm.
Working isn’t always required, and some farms offer accommodation for a small sum as well. Additionally, you’ll often get locally produced food and homecooked meals.
What’s your favorite alternative to hotels? Leave a comment below!