5 Accommodation Options for Long-Term Travel
With so many things to keep in mind while planning a long-term trip, accommodation is simultaneously the most important and money-consuming thing to research. Since I travel frequently I know what to expect from different accommodation types and the average price I should pay for it. I also know that choosing the best accommodation can be a daunting task.
Since you are going to spend at least two or three nights there, it is important to make the list of accommodation as convenient and affordable as possible. While there are plenty of services like Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and house-sitting, there are a lot of misconceptions as well. In this post, I will name 5 accommodation options that I always keep in mind while traveling long term.
Stay in a Hostel
When I was about to travel long-term for the first time, I felt a bit overwhelmed about cooking meals in shared kitchens, living in dorms and booking my stay before arriving in a new city. At the same time, I knew that hostels offer a great opportunity for saving money. If I don’t like dorms, why not consider privates? That’s the way I was thinking.
Combining budget travel and travel hacking is one of the best ways to travel. This becomes even more true when searching for accommodation. Staying in hostels can prove to be useful while traveling solo to meet new friends and save a few extra bucks for traveling longer. Even if you’re not a student, travel in a group or with family hostels can offer an eventful experience.
The Hostel Association was established more than 100 years ago in Germany. It was an option for young people to travel cheaply. It also provided the opportunity to keep their stuff safe while exploring the area around. Modern hostels have abandoned many of the initial characteristics. There are very few hostels with age restrictions, so you can easily bump into a situation when retired tourists stay with the students.
Generally, there is no reason you should worry about your age. Of course, young people make up the largest group, but hostels are not only a common way to reduce costs but also a place to communicate for all age groups. All hostels have dorm rooms, some of them have shared kitchens, computer terminals, a bar or restaurant. This is a great place to meet and chat with other travelers!
But the other side of the coin is that some people don’t feel like sharing a room with strangers because no one knows their habits. However, the underlying trend is that more and more hostels provide private rooms aside from dorms. But they are practically the same price as hotels, you may reply! While this is generally true, there are some exceptions. Depending on a country and location hostel private rates can be lower than budget hotels and Airbnb. Consider your needs and preferences and check the booking options twice. This is the only way to get the best deals!
When I depart to a new city I always do a research on which hostel is best suited for avid partiers and which is for solo travelers. This is great when I need to avoid noise in the middle of the night. It takes minutes to get the full report. In addition, if you do not book your room in advance, you can wander through the city to pick the best hostel. You may want to check whether the hostel has lockers, free Wi-Fi or common area with a bar.
The price isn’t the only advantage of staying in a hostel. Shared kitchen offers a chance to reduce food expenses and make friends in a short span of time. Most hostels do not have TVs in dorms, but they usually are in common area. Some have bars and cafes that make meetings and communication between people a lot easier. These are the reasons why I love hostels and why I prefer staying there from time to time.
Traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to be a complete loner. It is just about the way you travel between cities. Those who prefer staying in a hotel usually do not tend to communicate with each other. Staying in a hostel implies day-to-day interaction even if you opt for private rooms. Where to get a decent coffee? Where to find best street food? Common areas are the places where everyone can communicate freely.
Another important feature of any hostel is its location. When hotel prices in major and touristy cities like Buenos Aires, London or Barcelona skyrocketing, there is always an option of finding a hostel that will offer more attractive prices.
That said, I like switching between hostels and hotels. While most hotels offer standard packages that we all know, I always make up a list of hostels to stay in when I travel long term. I remember a time when I joined a group of travelers on free walking tours and pub hopping. After attending these activities you just won’t want to miss the fun in future! Staying in a hostel is perhaps the easiest way to create your own global network of friends.
When it is Better to Stay in a Hotel
Sometimes we just need to rest and hide from prying eyes. Staying in a hotel can come in handy in this case. Usually not as affordable as hostels, some budget hotels may set the price close to hostel prices. Large hotels in major cities are usually business hotel chains.
While hostels and budget hotels tend to keep their prices in a fairly narrow range, prices in hotel chains do not change too much depending on the season. Large hotels can remain booked for months in a row, and almost empty for a week or two, between fairs, conferences or during vacations. This is the best time to save on accommodation.
This can occur in big cities like Milan, Hong Kong, and Sydney – where most of the rooms are booked for business. Unlike destinations like Venice or Miami where tourists are everywhere. Depending on the location and season you can face the situation when mid-range hotels set their price only a few Euros more than hostels! I bump into such situation when was picking accommodation in Milan.
There are some other cases when such price anomalies may arise. It’s a good idea to keep your eyes open and sign up for their newsletter. While some websites offer last minute deals there can be a trick. I was happy to book a cheap hotel in Brussels with travel aggregator, but my efforts resulted in its distant location. I ended up taking a taxi.
I’m an occasional couchsurfer since 2011 and can say it is one of the best ways to save money on the road. Especially if your host agrees to accommodate your long term stay. While Couchsurfing is rarely regarded as a long term accommodation option, I once had an experience of two-week stay with a great host in Austria.
How did I do it? I just asked him if I could stay for a bit longer time. Although an exception, some hosts may offer long term stay if you agree to pay for water and electricity for as long as you are there.
What do you need to get a long term accommodation with Couchsurfing? It may involve some research. Be very specific with picking your host. Send a request only if you sure it is a worthwhile venture. Make sure to read host profiles carefully and be as helpful as you can be! If you want to get a long term accommodation with Couchsurfing you have to contribute something to a household.
What If Something Goes Wrong?
You should definitely be prepared to find another host in case something goes wrong. Finding a host that is ready to offer long term accommodation can be a daunting task since you need to find it quickly. It may simply won’t work out. You can always ask your host if they know of anyone potentially able to offer you long term accommodation.
Another trick here is that you can also ask to be hosted several times. It may not actually correlate with long term accommodation but helps a lot in case you weren’t able to find the host you need.
In case you feel unsafe with your host there is no reason to stay there any longer. Politely explain that you should leave or just take French leave early in the morning. Make sure to share your experience with the community. Your negative reference will not be shared with your host.
Consider Renting an Apartment on Airbnb
Slow, leisurely, relaxed travel is the best way to stretch your budget further and avoid empty pockets ahead of time. It also gives you the chance to get an apartment or even an entire house for a time you need and actually delve into the culture of the country you are visiting.
With such websites as Airbnb, Wimdu, and 9flats you can get a proper accommodation for your long term trip. A rental is a nice compromise if you want to save money on hotels and not overly fond of hostels. Such apartments are way much quieter than hostels and you’ll get a chance to cook your own food, reducing food expenses on your long term trip. If you’re planning to rent an apartment or house for a few weeks or a month you can negotiate a lower daily rate with your host that can be compared to hostel rates.
Renting an apartment come in handy if you travel in a group. Not only you share the cost but also get a place to sleep away from hordes of travelers like in dorms. This is usually an incredible experience that will allow you to unpack your backpacks, get your own kitchen and personal space, and make you feel like the local. You will get the chance to compare prices in the nearby shops, bars, and restaurants. This is a great way to travel long term without spending tons of money. Renting an apartment is also great for traveling couples and families!
Become a House Sitter
Looking after someone’s house can be a relatively unexpected accommodation option for travelers during a long term trip. However, one of the most affordable options as well! The only thing you pay for is the annual fee, which varies from site to site. On MindMyHouse you can become a member for 20 USD per year to get access to a large network of home owners all over the world.
Trusted Housesitters offer free accommodation options worldwide in exchange for taking care of someone’s pets. Great way to save money if you love cats and dogs. It requires some responsibility to take care of pets, plants, and general maintenance. As you fill out a form you can contact any homeowner to negotiate a deal. Another interesting accommodation option for couples and families.
Why it is Better to Book Upon Arrival
A bit of economics first. Any hostel or hotel will only have as many beds and rooms as they need to offer their visitors during high season
The last time I visited Venice, I discovered that there are very few accommodation options most of the summer and during the carnival. Meanwhile, the rest of the year is the period when you can come to Venice in search of a decent accommodation option. Thus, you can book upon arrival if you know there will be no festivals or world events.
This is true for most touristy cities during off-season or shoulder season. By traveling this way you definitely get much more freedom rather than booking in advance. You can stay at any place for as long as you want without pre-booking. In addition, if you hit the road early there will always be enough time to wander around to find a place that really suits your needs.
When Should You Book in Advance
There are situations when it makes sense to book in advance.
If you reach your destination by plane (unlike those arriving by train or bus) there are some certain reasons why you should pre-book your accommodation option at least for one night.
You can unwittingly put yourself in a stressful situation if your flight arrives late at night and you have to urgently search for accommodation.
If your flight gets delayed you should know exactly where to go and where you accommodation option is.
Public holidays, Christmas Eve and New Year are the most obvious reasons to pre-book. Religious festivals can also be unpredictable. Easter, in fact, falls on different dates in different countries. So the Fasting, which lasts for 40 days before Easter is accompanied by a week of celebration like in Spain. Even if you are not going to book accommodation in advance, it makes sense to compare prices and get as much information as you can before you go.
5 Quick Tips on Accommodation
If you travel in a group, compare hostel and hotel prices for the destinations you need to get the difference in prices;
Check forums and travel blogs for reviews from travelers;
You can take any decision on the road, but planning in advance may limit your freedom;
Know your needs to make up a plan on whether you should book in advance or search for accommodation upon arrival;
Make up a list of holidays and festivals in the region you are planning to visit. Make sure to take it into account when finalizing your route.