Last updated on January 24th, 2020 at 12:55 am
Discover 33 different ways to save money on vacation accommodations, including nine ways you can enjoy free overnight stays.
33 Ways To Save Money On Travel Accommodations
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Yes, there are ways to pay nothing out of pocket for vacation stays. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of flexibility.
1. Find Free Camping Sites
You don’t have to have an RV or tent to take advantage of free camping spaces. You can turn your vehicle into a cozy sleeping space for two —we did this to our van.
Here is our favorite app for finding free camping
Allstays has both a website and a paid app (for iPhone users only). I highly recommend that you pay for the app. I have had the app on my phone for the past two years and it paid for itself the first time I used it and more. Plus, it is a convenient way not just to find free parking spaces, but RV friendly gas stations and places with big enough parking lots to park in while you go shopping or eat a meal.
This app doesn’t list just free campsites in wilderness areas but also camping friendly Walmarts, rest areas, and other businesses that will let you park for free. Often these free spots will have reviews that will give you more information about the free site.
If you don’t want to pay for the Allstays app here are some other free campsite apps that you can use for free:
I don’t have much experience using these free apps because I use Allstays pretty much exclusively to find my husband and I free campsites, but I have heard other travelers recommend them on their YouTube channels.
There is also the website freecampsites.net. Some people love it, but I find it hard to navigate.
2. Stay With Family Or Friends
Combine a trip to catch up with friends and family with a few days of exploring their area on your own too. Just make sure you are willing to return the favor–and a little thank you gift is always appreciated.
3. Stay With A Local
I must admit the idea of staying with a stranger is outside of my comfort zone, but I have read about people who do this all the time and have remained 100% unharmed when they have.
So if you are an extrovert and love the idea of mingling with the locals in their own homes, you might want to consider these groups listed below and enjoy free accommodation.
TalkTalkbnb–must be willing to spend time allowing the host to practice your language with you.
WarmShowers–Only for cyclists on a cycling trip.
4. Cash In Credit Reward Points
My husband and I recently started paying for most of our daily expenses with the United Explorer Miles Plus card. With each dollar we spend, we collect 1 mile. It is a better use of points to use what we earn on flights, but that isn’t so with every point rewards credit card out there, some are made just for hotels.
Please only consider this tip if you pay your credit card statement in full all the time.
5. Cash In Loyalty Program Points
Many hotel chains offer a loyalty program. Usually, you have to stay a certain amount of nights, and then in return, you get a free night. This night may or may not be 100% free, as some programs require you to pay a small processing free. These processing fees are usually less than $10, though, so that is still pretty close to free.
If you tend to stay at whatever hotel is the cheapest, sign up for the Hotels.com loyalty program and get a free hotel stay after every ten nights booked through their site or app (you do need to pay taxes and fees).
6. Refer Friends To Accommodation Websites You Love
Some companies offer referral programs where they reward their customers for referring their friends. Two accommodation companies that do this include:
HipCamp–enter my referral code VICTORIAHOE8BCE and save $10 on your first booking (Hipcamp offers much more than campsites, they offer many unique accommodations)
7. Exchange Your House With Family Or Friends
Spark up a conversation with the cousin that lives across the country from you at the next family reunion and see if perhaps their family would want to spend time in your town while you spend time in theirs. You could start the trip with a day or two of overlap at either their house or yours so that you get some time to catch up with each other before you start your vacations.
8. Volunteer To House Sit For Family And Friends
Did you hear that your aunt and uncle who live in a different state are taking a week-long vacation and are wondering what to do with their dog and home while they are gone? Volunteer to pet and house sit for them and explore the area.
9. Cash In For Hotel Chain Gift Cards Earned Through Doing Things You Already Do For Free
Point reward programs and apps are my favorite ways to earn a few gift cards each month for things I need. It is so simple to earn gift cards, too, as these programs offer ways to earn points that I was at one time doing for free, like searching the web, shopping online, buying groceries using coupons, and more.
Swagbucks–A website that has over 20 different ways to earn points offers gift cards to Hotels.com.
FetchRewards–An app that pays you in points when you upload grocery receipts offers gift cards to Airbnb and Hotels.com (use my referral code: RE9FU to receive a sign-up bonus).
If You Want To Travel Long term, Consider These Memberships
These groups below all charge an annual fee for membership. If you are only going on a short vacation, you won’t be able to recoup the cost of membership, but if you are going to be traveling for a month or longer, paying the membership fees could save you a lot of money on accommodation
10. Join A Volunteer Agency
Volunteer in exchange for free room and board. These agencies should give you plenty of time off to explore the area as well.
11. Join A House Sitting Agency
Sometimes you might be asked just to take care of the house, but other times, these house sitting jobs could include pet sitting, caring for plants, and perhaps even some lawn upkeep. In return for your work, you get an entire house to yourself.
12. Join A House Exchange Program
If you have a home in a trendy area, this could be a great way to receive accommodations for just the cost of the membership fee to the exchange program and the effort of cleaning up your home for guests before you leave.
Love Home Swap
Home For Swap
13. Join A Discounted Camping Program
Passport America: 50% off select private campgrounds.
Boondockers Welcome: Join a network of people that will let you park your RV on their property.
Harvest Host: Members get to stay at farms and wineries with only the need to purchase an item or two as a thank you from the business that hosts.
National Park Senior Pass: 50% off at federal campsites.
Less Expensive Alternatives To Hotels
Hotels are not your only option should you not want to seek out a free option, nor do you want to pay for a membership.
14. Pay For A Campsite
My family has enjoyed beautiful campsites for as low as $16 a night, although most campsites we stay at average $30 a night.
Privately Owned Campgrounds
National Park Campgrounds
Airbnb -yep, they offer campsites too.
15. Stay In A Hostel
Most hostels don’t offer private rooms; usually, you share a room with several others–kind of like you did in college. When I looked into them for this post, I found rooms for as little as $11 US dollars a night per person, so you do get pretty cheap accommodation if you are willing to share a room.
I have heard that people sometimes worry about the cleanliness of the bedding at hostels if that is you, consider packing a sleep sack. It won’t take up that much room in your bag and it will offer you peace of mind that you are sleeping in clean sheets.
16. Rent A Privately Owned Room or House
Through popular sites and apps like Airbnb and VRBO, you can book various types of accommodation from a private room to a whole house. Our family of five finds this option to be cheaper than a hotel room–we tend to book condos as they usually cost less than single-family homes.
17. In Summer, See If Universities In Your Area Offer Accommodation
My sister’s wedding was in the summertime in a large city with two universities. These universities turned at least one of their dorm buildings into a hotel during the summer months when the need for student housing was lower. Our family was able to rent a room (at that time there were just 3 of us) for significantly less than a hotel room in the area.
I found a website called UniversityRooms that helps people find and book a university dorm room. If you don’t see the university you want to stay at listed there, try calling the university and asking if they offer such a service as most don’t advertise.
18. If You Are 50 Or Older, Consider Joining The Evergreen Club
If you are over 50 and love bed and breakfasts, you might consider joining evergreenclub.com. You do have to be willing to host people in your own home to be part of the group as well as pay a yearly membership fee. When you use the service, you need to pay the host a small gratuity fee, but it is far less than any hotel room, and you get breakfast.
How To Reduce The Cost Of Hotels
19. Use Hotels.com, Priceline, Orbits Etc.
When we can’t find an Airbnb for a reasonable price in the area we are staying in; we use Hotels.com to book a hotel. As members of their rewards program, we get a free one-night hotel stay with every ten stays (a small fee does apply). There are, of course, many other similar websites that offer great deals, but with the Hotels.com rewards program, we tend to try their site first.
20. Use Trivago
A great way to figure out if Hotels.com or the hotel booking site of your choice really does have the best prices in the area you are staying in is to hop over to Trivago. Trivago compares hotel deals from over 400 booking sites.
21. Check The Hotel Website
It might surprise you to hear, but sometimes the lowest price for a hotel is on the hotel website itself. Several times after checking at discount booking sites, I have opened up a new tab and gone directly to the hotel website itself and saved $10 to $15 on the price of the room.
22. Call The Hotel Directly
If the price at the hotel website isn’t lower than the booking sites, try calling the hotel directly. Tell them what price the website is quoting you and ask if they might be able to give you a better deal.
23. Walk-Up To The Front Desk
If you are staying in an area where you know there will be several good hotels to choose from, you can try this method that worked for us when we were making a cross-continent move and didn’t know what city would we would end up in each night.
We would stop for the night at an exit with several hotels. We would walk into the chain that we knew should be in our price range, a few hours past standard check-in time and ask them for their rates — if we thought the quote was higher than we usually pay, we would say “never mind we will try across the street.” I would say at least 80% of the time the desk clerk would call us back to the front desk before we got more than a few steps toward the front door saying “let me make a call and see if I can get the price lowered” and the price usually dropped anywhere from $20 to as much as $30 a night.
24. Try Daily Deal Sites
Daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social have a “hotel & accommodations” section. Typically these deals are for hotels that either have a water park or are located in a trendy tourist destination. But if that is what you are looking for, then these deals are worth checking out.
We used these deals a few times when our children were little to visit an indoor water park hotel during winter. One caution we would give from our experience with these deals is to read all the fine print before you buy as they may have blackout dates.
25. Buy Gift Cards For Hotels At A Reduced Rate
If you are a member of Swagbucks, scroll down the home page on your laptop, and you will see a “buy gift cards” under “redeem you SB” click on it, and you will be sent to MyGiftCards Plus click on the “travel” tab there. You will find that you can purchase gift cards for Airbnb and Hotels.com in various denominations and earn a percent back in SB points, which you can then use to receive gift cards (perhaps for the restaurant you want to eat at while traveling).
If a points program isn’t your thing, check out Raise where you can buy e-gift cards and physical gift cards a discount.
26. Stay More Than One Night In The Same Place
If you are planning to take a week off and explore a few areas in the same region, you can save money by renting one place and doing a bit more driving than switching places each night.
We have found that privately owned accommodations like those rented through Airbnb, VRBO, or others often offer a weekly rate that works out to a significantly cheaper per night rate than just renting the place for one night.
Hotels with kitchen suites have also been known to offer a better deal per night to guests that are staying more than one night.
27. Avoid Weekends
Weekday nights tend to be cheaper than weekend nights, so if you can travel mid-week instead of the weekend, this can work to your financial advantage.
28. Travel During The Shoulder Season
The shoulder season is when the area you are traveling to is not at its peak for travelers weather-wise, but it isn’t quite off-season weather yet. This way, you still get pretty decent weather, but you save money on accommodations and avoid crowds.
29. Use Cash back Programs
If you book hotels online, using a cash back program to earn a bit back on your purchase is a breeze thanks to browser extension tools. Two companies I use are Rakuten and Mr. Rebates. Why two? Because often one will offer a cash back deal and the other one won’t or one will provide a higher cash back deal than the other–so variety saves me even more money.
If you tend to book accommodations through your smartphone, you are going to want to sign-up for Ibotta and then download their app. When you want to book a hotel, go to the travel section inside the Ibotta app and see if where you want to book your hotel is offered if it is click through to that app through Ibotta to activate your Ibotta cash back deal.
30. Use Honey For Promo Codes
I like the savings I get from cash back sites, but I love it when I can use a promo code–instant savings, no waiting.
Honey is my favorite website for finding promo codes. I have their web browser tool installed on Google Chrome. Whenever there is a code available at the site I am shopping at the tool turns from grey to orange. During checkout, all I have to do is click on the icon and click apply code–it does the rest for me.
31. Check To See If Are A Member Of A Group That Qualifies For A Discount
During checkout at hotel chains, you will often see an area that says something like “are you a ______member?” And if you click yes, you may be asked to either enter your membership number right then and there or to show it at check-in. When you do, you will receive a discount.
32. Bundle Your Vacation
If you use booking sites like Expedia, you can sometimes save money when you book your flight, hotel, and car rental all at once.
33. If Booking Last Minute, Try These Apps
I have not used these apps yet, but I have heard that Hotel Tonight and Last Minute Travel offer great deals to those that are booking their hotel last minute. I have scrolled around the apps, and to me, it seemed like these apps are best used when you are visiting larger cities.
I hope these 33 ways to save money on travel accommodations help you and whoever you are traveling with save money on your next adventure.
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POSTS TO HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE FOR LESS
Want to know how we afford to travel so often? It is because we have developed thrifty living principles that allow us to live a full life for less money. You can learn exactly what those economical living principles are when you read my book Thrifty & Thriving: More Life For Less Money. You can stop dreaming about travel and start traveling when you apply the 40 thrifty living principles shared in this book.