Jenn Miller is in her fifth year of full-time slow travel with her husband and four kids.They've cycled Europe & N.Africa, road tripped North and Central America, and are currently backpacking in Asia.You can follow their adventures at: http://www.edventureproject.com. ...Find out more!
Along with airfare, lodging is usually the most expensive part of any trip. Given the choice between a week at a five star resort or a month, perhaps longer, of self directed budget travel, for me, it’s a no brainer. Well into our fifth year of an open-ended world tour, with four kids, we’ve learned to get very creative in finding budget lodging that doesn’t feel like budget lodging. Here are five of our best kept secrets, that aren’t really secrets at all:
Agoda is a discount hotel site that specializes in selling off extra beds in everything from small family run two star places to swank five star resorts. It’s super easy to use: just type in your desired destination, with dates, and scroll through the list of options. It’s not unusual to score a room for up to 78% off of the rack rate price.
Our biggest success: A double room with a king sized bed, complete with fridge and an ocean view, right on the beach in Khao Lak, Thailand for $17 USD a night. With six of us, we got three rooms and stayed in luxury for less than typical hostel prices.
When we discovered that fully furnished houses could be rented, for a song, anywhere in the world we wanted to go, it revolutionized our travel. We’ve found the most authentic experiences to be those that involve living with the local population, getting off of the “hotel strip” and going deep instead of wide for a while. Holiday home rentals make this easy, and very affordable. FlipKey and Directline Holidays are two sites we’ve used, but there are many more; just google “holiday home rental” and you’ll see. The options are endless, from ultra-luxury villas to “local style” homes, you’ll find something within your budget if you spend some time looking. We’ve rented in Prague, Marseille, Hammam-Sousse, Tunisia, Guatemala, and all across the USA, to name a few.
Our biggest success: A waterfront property with a two bedroom house on over an acre of manicured tropical garden: our own coffee, lime, orange, avocado, banana, and orchids growing on the grounds. With a gardener to take care of it all and a night guard on the property we were well cared for. For us, this place was a splurge for six months of much needed R&R on Lago de Atitlan, in Guatemala. $850 USD per month= $28.30 per day=$4.72 per person per day. Not bad.
Couch surfing is no big secret. Lots of people do it and it’s become a wonderful way tomeet other travelers, save a buck and live like a local in cool places. Did you know there’s a similar site that is directed specifically at cyclists? If you’re contemplating a bike tour then you need to check out warmshowers.org. You’ll find thousands of warm and welcoming fellow cycle enthusiasts all over the world who are ready to host you and perhaps take a ride with you as well. We cycled Europe and North Africa for a year in 2008-2009 and we made some dear friends from the complete strangers that took us in (even with all the kids!)
Our biggest success: It’s a tie: We spent a week in London, UK and another week in Rome, Italy with two of the coolest couples who were completely game for taking in four kids and were actually sad to see us leave! Estimating conservatively, if we spent $200 a night on hotel rooms in these two cities (we need 3 rooms, remember?) then these folks saved us $2800 USD. That’s almost a month’s travel budget for us.
This is my new favourite service. Granted, we haven’t actually replied to one of the ads yet, but that’s only because we haven’t had one come up that fits our plans at the moment (they are few and far between in Asia.) Caretaker Gazette is a paid service that provides listings of all sorts of properties and job or volunteer opportunities around the world. You’ll find everything from one week house sitting and pet care gigs in the south of France, to year long care of exotic and remote properties in trade for lodging, to high end jobs caring for the homes of the ultra-rich. At $35 USD a year, it’s a bargain if you only use it once!
Ads that have recently caught my eye: House & dog sitting in Jaibalito, Guatemala (the pueblo two over from the one we lived on. Volunteer work in Iceland. Caring for a castle complex in France (living in the gardener’s cottage). House sitting in Australia.
This is obvious to longer term travelers but often scary to most people. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the best deals are not found on the internet. Those ads are geared toward the folks with a wad of cash to spend and two weeks to do it in. If you want a really great place to stay and you want to cut those online prices in half, or more, then show up in your desired location, crash at a cheap hostel for a week and pound the pavement. Ask restaurant and hotel owners, look for local bulletin boards, read the newspaper and Craig’s List classifieds for your area and rent a motorbike to spend a couple of days checking them out.
Our biggest success: Another tie: Just this week we’ve bagged a three bedroom house with a pool, within walking distance of the beach in Nai Yang, Thailand for $666 USD a month. That breaks down to $3.70 per person per day. In San Marcos, Guatemala, I found a backpacking friend the cutest little casita on an acre of avocado trees, with a stone wall for $75 USD a month.