If you’re planning an epic holiday and looking for some great hotel alternatives that are affordable, clean, and comfy, then I’m here to help!

Hotel rates in many destinations are no joke these days, and you’re not alone if you’re balking at the thought of spending hundreds of dollars for a night’s stay. 

I’ve stayed in plenty of alternative accommodations around the world and, though I’m not against splurging on a hotel room every now and then, I can honestly say I’ve never regretted booking unique and affordable lodging. In many instances, you’ll save money, live more like a local, and get a great memory out of it.

In this article, I’ll cover my top hotel alternatives for travelers. And while you’re here, be sure to bookmark my best tips for traveling on a budget.

Let’s dive in!

13 Affordable Hotel Alternatives for Travelers

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Whether you travel to its Mongolian homeland or book one in your nearest state park, staying in a yurt is one of the best alternatives to hotels on the market.

Sometimes referred to as “glamping”, although they’re not necessarily one and the same, yurts are essentially one-room circular structures that look much like a tent. The difference between a yurt and a tent though is that yurts are much more sturdy and are made to withstand more varying weather conditions.

Booking a yurt generally means access to an assembled bed, heating stove, and cooking supplies. Some of the fancier ones even have hot tubs, saunas, and more. You may have to bring sheets and food, but it’s much handier than traditional camping.

Nomadic tribes in Mongolia tend to move their yurts around, but you’ll find that many bookable ones in tourist destinations are more or less permanent.

A white round yurt with an intricate wooden door is in the Middle of a snowy Mongolian plain
(Photo Credit: Ash Hayes)

Luxury Tent Camps

Similar to the yurt experience is booking a stay in a luxury tent camp. If you love camping but don’t want to haul your supplies around the globe, then you’ll be pleased to hear that many destinations offer already-set-up campsites, often on the luxury side.

With this accommodation option, you’ll have the experience of sleeping in a tent, roasting marshmallows, cooking your own food, and having quick access to nature – just without the heavy lifting!

📚 Read More: 13 Essential Tips for Traveling with Makeup (+ my packing list!)

A luxury tent with a picnic table and stove sits on the edge of a beautiful lake

Dorms & Academic Housing

Staying in a dorm room is one of the best alternatives to hotels if you’re traveling to a music festival or conference. Often, festivals will have deals with local student dormitories for attendees to stay in, giving you a private room and a great way to save money.

You may have to share a bathroom, but academic housing is a great way to meet fellow festival or conference attendees and have a comfy place to sleep at night.

Red, Blue ,and green colored houses stand in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Capsule Hotels

Also known as a pod hotel, the concept of a capsule hotel originated in Japan and seeks to accommodate travelers wanting a comfy, private bed for the lowest price.

In this kind of hotel room, you’ll often only have a bed with a curtain or lockable door, and a common area to store your belongings. Amenities for capsule hotels do vary, but some of the nicer ones have restaurants, private baths, laundry, business areas, gamerooms, and more.

A unique capsule tower in Japan on a grey day
Nakagin Capsule Tower (Photo Credit: Sava Bobov)


If you plan on visiting a destination for more than a month, then booking a farm stay may be a solid hotel alternative. 

Farmstays are often exactly what they sound like – staying on a farm for free in exchange for work. These are especially popular in places like Australia and New Zealand, as young travelers often look to work for a while before continuing on their travels. Jobs on farm stays include animal tending, basic chores, and even photography.

I will caution though that not all farmstays are considered equal, and you’ll want to do your due diligence before you sign up. I know plenty of people who have ended up picking fruit on a farmstay and met amazing people and loved it, but nothing is one-size-fits all.

Farmstays can also be an excellent agritourism option for those who prefer to pay for their accommodation. With this, you’ll book yourself a room on a farm and get a peaceful retreat in exchange, often with community meals and activities on offer.

📚 Read More: The Cheapest Way to Book Flights? My (Totally Honest) Matt’s Flights Review

A cow munches on green grass at a farm site in Prince Edward Island Canada

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals have boomed in popularity over the past decade, and for good reason. Not only are vacation rentals almost always more economical than hotel rooms, but there are options to stay in an entire house, a private room, on a living room couch, and more.

I’ve stayed in vacation rentals in both North America and Europe, and have often found basic private rooms or a private studio apartment to be relatively cheap. But again, not every vacation rental is made equal. ALWAYS read the reviews of the property, and read the fine print in regards to extra taxes and fees.

Airbnb is one of the most popular vacation rental listing sites online, but VRBO and Booking.Com also have plenty of options.

Vacation rentals are popular alternatives to hotels. Photo of a bed with multiple pillows and a steeple outside the window

RV Parks

Whether you have your own RV or campervan or want to rent one, staying in an RV park makes for unique and affordable lodging. If you have your own setup, then booking at an RV park usually means showing up to the campground when there is a park ranger on duty, or booking in advance. There are also plenty of RV rental companies in most North American and European destinations.

Alternatively, plenty of destinations have already-set-up RV’s (some are super cute too) that operate like your standard rental. Many of these rentals won’t actually be able to take you anywhere, but are your standard basic private room that is a good cross between vacation rentals and camping.

A silver airstream with american licence plate is treated to a sunrise near mountains
(Photo Credit: Tyler Casey)


I mentioned luxury tent camps above, but there’s nothing to say that plain old tent camping is off the table when you travel. Many destinations have tenting equipment you can rent, or if you’re going on a road trip, then it’s no biggie to bring your gear along.

In this option, you can either book in advance at designated campgrounds, or stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) sites as you go. These BLM sites are often undesignated with no amenities, but they make for the cheapest hotel alternatives possible. 

👉 Pro Tip: Because of the pandemic, campgrounds tend to book out faster than ever before. If you don’t want to stay on BLM land, then I recommend booking in advance before you go.

Multiple lit-up tents in a redwood tenting ground at night
(Photo Credit: Tommy Lisbin)


Hostels are one of the most popular alternatives to hotels, no doubt because they’re affordable, social, and often come with comfy amenities.

And never fear… hostel stays are not the same experiences from the 70s that your parents warned you about. There are plenty of hostel types out there – ranging from luxury stays to more basic dorm room beds. They cater to budget travelers, but a more expensive bunk bed and even private rooms can be found.

Amenities often include free breakfast, free internet, excursions to national parks, laundry, game rooms, and more.

Further, there isn’t necessarily an age limit for staying in a hostel. Almost every hostel out there requires patrons to be at least 18 years old, but I’ve seen people from almost every decade of life booking beds.

These days I’m more prone to booking a private room than a dorm. It’s still cheaper than a hotel room, but can still be social and gives me privacy.

The hostel meeting room of a Prince Edward Island hostel. There is a kitchen, tables, and couches to lounge on.


If you have zero need for privacy and want to meet locals, Couchsurfing is essentially booking free accommodation at someone’s house. It doesn’t always involve a couch, sometimes you’ll get a private room, but these stays aren’t exactly known for their comfort.

That said, this is almost a surefire way to socialize abroad, and will significantly add to your vacation budget. 

Just please be sure to do your due diligence when booking a stay at someone’s house – especially if you’re a woman traveling alone. Recommendations are everything with couchsurfing, and while most people have excellent experiences, you want to avoid any bad apples.

A bed, two windows, and a mural in a small room.

House Sitting

House Sitting is exactly what it sounds like – looking after someone else’s house while they’re away traveling. This is an awesome way to stay in a full house or apartment for free, and you can even sign up your house to be housesat while your traveling (commonly known as House Swapping).

Being a house sitter does probably come with a few house rules of course (you’ll be staying with a private owner after all), but it is a cost-effective route that is great for living like a local. The most popular peer to peer rental site is Trusted Housesitters.

👉 Pro Tip: Staying in a rural or suburban area may mean you have to rent a car. I use Discover Cars for all of my car rental needs when I travel.

A beautiful blue house with a white picket fence on a sunny day

Religious Housing

Staying in religious housing can be a fun way to save on hotel rooms and get unique and affordable lodging while you’re at it. Religious housing usually means staying in a monastery or convent, and can include communal meals and a wide range of amenities.

These kinds of accommodations are very popular in Europe specifically, and while some have religious traditions happening at them, others are reformed or cater to the traveling crowd specifically. 

Either way, staying in religious housing can be an incredibly relaxing way to get every ounce out of your vacation budget and skirt the traditional hotel experience.

A monastery is a great hotel alternative in Italy
(Photo credit: Dan Hadar)

Boat Stay

Ever dreamed about staying on a boat? Then you’re in luck! Boats are often docked in the harbor whether or not their owners are staying in them, and they can be one of the most affordable lodging offered. Sure, you may not be able to actually go anywhere with the boat, but boat houses can be a memorable hotel alternative.

I recommend using boat stay search engines for this accommodation option specifically.

Staying on a boat can be a fun alternative to hotels. Here, a young couple hangs out in the front of the boat, while you can see their belongings in the foreground
(Photo Credit: Evrin Aydin)

FAQ’s About Hotel Alternatives

Where can I sleep other than a hotel?

Great hotel alternatives include hostels, super cheap apartment rentals, boat stays, organic farms, camping, and couchsurfing.

What is the cheapest form of lodging?

The cheapest form of lodging is either couchsurfing or camping. With either of these options, you can get short term room rentals and save big on your vacation budget.

Is a hotel cheaper than an Airbnb?

Hotels are often not cheaper than Airbnbs, although this is not a hard and fast rule. 

Why is it called a motel instead of a hotel?

Motels are similar to hotels, except they do not offer onsite bars and are usually only one or two levels with outside entrances.


Thanks for checking out my 13 alternatives to hotel rooms! I’m a firm believer that travel doesn’t have to break the bank, and finding alternative accommodation is a fabulous way to save your wallet on the road.

Happy travels!

Read More Travel Tips:

11 Things You’ll Learn From Working Abroad at a Hostel

The Essential Hostel Packing List

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