Your Ultimate Guide To Accommodation When Travelling

Truth be told, I find myself staring at a map of Europe almost every day, zooming in and out, planning routes, and googling flights, before reality eventually catches up with me and I end up closing all the tabs. Once the idea to start travelling enters your head it is hard to ignore.

If you’re even just a bit little like me, and you too daydream about exploring the big wide world waiting just beyond your bedroom window, this guide is for you. 

When planning a trip, one of the first things to figure out is accommodation, yet with around seven different categories to choose from, there are a few things you should consider first: 

  1. Your budget
    • Your budget is definitely one of the most important things. Determine how much money you’re able to spend. How many days/weeks/months you’re planning to travel for and how much money you approximately spend on food each day.
    • Factor in if there are any activities that you want to do on the way, and of course calculate how much money you’d need for transportation.
    • Then calculate how much money you’ve got left over, and how much you’re able to spend on accommodation per night.
    • If you find that the types of accommodation available for your budget are not ones you’d be interested in booking, go back and adjust your travel time. 
  2. Your preferred style of travel
    • It might be that you’re planning a camping trip, maybe you’re looking to be as flexible as possible, or maybe you’re feeling adventurous. Take some time to figure out how you want to travel, and what you expect from the trip. 
  3. Your time frame
    • This ties into the style of travel – are you looking to just spend a week or two somewhere with a beach, or are you planning a year-long backpacking trip?
    • Are you planning to spend a couple nights at each location, or would you consider staying somewhere for several months?
  4. The location
    • Of course, whether you’re looking to camp in the countryside is quite different to spending a night in Manhattan, but the region is just as important. While hotels are usually quite expensive in most of Europe, hotels in other parts of the world are quite affordable. 
  5. Solo or with friends?
    • Whether you’re a solo traveller or you’re with a group of friends obviously changes a lot, but it also impacts your budget. Even though your budget stays the same, travelling with other people will potentially allow you to rent a flat for a week, rather than paying for single hostel beds. 

Remember that travelling doesn’t have to be expensive. I have friends who have only left the country once or twice telling me that travelling simply isn’t an option for them, money-wise. Yet I know that it is. 

I have spent summers faking a smile for eight hours straight working in retail, or have been yelled at by customers at Legoland who were unsatisfied with the pizza they got – to afford travelling. Some of my friends have a steady income, but maybe what they’d need is just some motivation, and a guide like this, to show them that travelling is possible, regardless of your income. 

There are around seven main accommodation categories to choose from, each unique in what they offer and who they would be a good fit for. 

Find out what each type of accommodation brings to the table, how and where to book it, and what things to look out for. 

Hospitality Stay

Budget: low
Time frame: flexible

A hospitality stay is essentially what we all know as ‘couchsurfing’: it’s perfect if you have a small budget and are trying to immerse yourself in the culture of the place you’re visiting. 

Essentially – like the name suggests – you sleep on someone’s couch or (if you’re lucky) in someone’s spare room. If you’re like me and you forget to book a hostel in Sydney around Christmas time, you might also end up on someone’s air mattress on the floor. 

Even though my back hurt for two weeks straight, I am still glad that I chose that air mattress over a £100/night room. The owner of the mattress not only showed me Sydney through a local’s eyes, but he took me on trips up and down the coast, showing me the most beautiful beaches that I most likely would have missed otherwise. Never underestimate local knowledge. 

Where to find a host: couchsurfing, trustroots, stay4free, globalfreeloaders, or hospitalityclub

Tips: Only stay with people who have reviews, and make sure you facetime them beforehand to make sure they’re who they say they are. 

Volunteer and Work Exchange

Budget: low
Time frame: depends, but usually a minimum of 4 weeks

If you’re available for at least a month and you’re maybe also looking to do some good, volunteering or a work exchange might be the right fit for you. 

Both options can include anything from taking care of children or painting and renovating a house, to working on a farm or in a hostel. Usually, most places offering work exchange are looking for someone to stay for a minimum of four weeks, but that entirely depends on the host. Similarly, most hosts require you to work for 5 hours a day with 1-2 days off per week in exchange for free accommodation, but that too can vary. 

Even though working during your holiday might not sound ideal, there are some great places looking for volunteers: you can find hotels nestled in-between mountains, olive farms with pools in Tuscany, or you can (like me) end up in a hostel by the beach at the Côte d’Azur. 

Sometimes, you can also find people looking for crew members for their boats, but keep in mind that that offers little flexibility, and that the work is usually quite exhausting – but it definitely has the potential to be the one trip you’ll end up telling your grandchildren about. 

Where to find a host: WorkAway, HelpX, Wwoof, Farmstays International, Farmstays US, Farm Stay Camping Australia, or Find a crew for working on a boat

Tips: Again, make sure you always check for reviews and call your host first. Also, be sure to hatch out the details of your deal before arriving – i.e. will you get compensated for extra hours, will your host provide food, etc. 

House Sitting

Budget: low 
Time frame: depends, but usually 2+ weeks

Honestly, house sitting sounds like a dream. Essentially, you’re taking care of someone else’s house while they’re away – that might include cleaning the place, taking care of a pet, or just watering the plants. 

Usually, most house owners require you to stay for a minimum of two weeks, but there are also places that need a house sitter for several months – and some houses can be quite luxurious as well. 

Where to find a house owner: mindmyhouse, housecarers, luxuryhousesitting, or trustedhousesitters

Tips: You might spot a pattern here, because: check the reviews and call the owner before arriving. Also, make sure you take photos of the house on the day of your arrival to protect yourself against any wrongful claims. 

Camping

Budget: low – medium
Time frame: flexible

There are a few different ways to go camping – you can either camp in a tent (wild camping or on a campsite), you can rent a campervan, or you could rent a van on a campsite, simply for accommodation. 

Campsites can be great – many offer volleyball pitches, some even a pool, and they’re all perfect for meeting people. With everyone sitting on the little benches in front of their van or in front of their tent entrance, it is so easy to meet new people and end up playing games all night. And – speaking from experience – campsites are also ideal for a little holiday fling. 

Tips: If you’re planning to go wild-camping, make sure you always check the country’s regulations first, as it’s not allowed everywhere. 

Pro tip: Keep your food away from your tent.

Hostels

Budget: low – medium
Time frame: flexible

We all know the stereotypes: hostels are dirty, hostels are noisy, and the people staying in hostels are creepy. Here’s a spoiler: none of this is true. Yes, you might be witness to the occasional (or not so occasional) love-making in the bunk below you, or – yes, really – in the bed next to you without any covers, and maybe there will also be a really cute guy in your room who just might end up smoking crack at night. But overall, hostels are great, I promise you. 

Hostels are perfect for meeting people – not only do some even come with hammocks and a pool, but even just saying “hi” when entering a room will leave you with at least two new best friends. 

Where to book hostels: Hostelworld, booking

Tips: I usually don’t go for a hostel with less than 8 stars on Hostelworld, and make sure the hostels offer free lockers (bring your own lock). 

Airbnbs

Budget: medium – high
Time frame: flexible

We all know Airbnbs – they’re essentially a mixture between a hotel and a hostel: they offer privacy and pretty rooms, but come without any services. 

Even if your budget is low – medium, if you’re travelling with a group of friends, renting an Airbnb for a few nights might end up being cheaper than booking several hostel beds, so it is worth checking out. Some hosts will even leave local guides in your accommodation or extra information about the area to make you feel more at home.

Where to book: Airbnb

Tips: Again, read through the reviews, call the owner beforehand, and make sure you always have a way of contacting them. 

Hotels

Budget: high
Time frame: flexible

We are all familiar with hotels, so there isn’t a lot to explain. Make sure you take your location into account: a hotel in South-East Asia during low season might be around the same price as a hostel in Europe, so make sure to do your research. 

Where to book: Expedia, Priceline, Travelpony (US), or Agoda (great for Asia)

Remember that travelling doesn’t have to be expensive (though it certainly can be if you want it to). With so many options out there, take a look at the various websites, and find a type of accommodation that works for you. 

Happy travelling!

Words by Samira Rauner

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