If you love to travel but are having difficulty finding a way to pay for that trip to Europe, consider some alternative lodging options. Not only will these unconventional options save you a few bucks, but you’re bound to end up with some amazing stories in the process, since everyone else stays at hotels … but YOU were far more resourceful.
Convents and Monasteries
In Italy there are over 400 convents and monasteries located in both metropolitan cities and in the countryside, all of which offer incredible savings. Many cost as little as $40 dollars a night, while some ask only for a voluntary donation or assistance on the grounds in lieu of a room charge. This is a great way to save money while enjoying the beauty of historic — really historic — buildings.
Convents and Monastery resources
- You can find more information in “The Guide to Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries” by Eileen Barish.
- Monasteries of Italy, Monastery Stays, and Monastery Hotels are some online resources worth checking out.
- If you’re interested in monasteries, but NOT interested in Italy, there are a number of other countries with monastery options.
Staying on a working farm is very popular in Britain, France, Spain and Italy and can offer savings along with a unique cultural experience. In addition, this vacation will work your muscles, too, so you’ll actually come home fitter than when you left!
Farm stay resources
- Budget Travel has a nice primer on the subject.
- GoNomad has a thorough roundup (with contact information) for numerous farm stay opportunities.
- Reid’s Guides also has an excellent roundup of farm stay options.
- Agritourism.net leads you directly to the home pages of those farms offering rooms for rent.
Don’t rent a room; stay in a house! If you’re willing to offer your home to someone else to stay in, you can have access to thousands of listings, which can include homes, motorhomes — even boats — in dozens of European countries.
Home exchange resources
- For $9.95 per month you can become a member of the Home Exchange Network. This program enables people to swap homes at an agreed-upon date and stay for free.
- International Home Exchange is another option to consider.
Couchsurfing is a network that connects travelers who host each other in their homes. This allows for a more social experience, since you’re hanging out in someone’s home with them. There is no cost, and the database can match you up by interest as well as by location.
Hospitality exchange resources
- Couchsurfing is hands-down the leader in this lodging option.
- However, the Times Online has a nice explanation of the process and lists several alternatives to this already alternative lodging style.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to immerse yourself deeply in a foreign culture, there are many programs that allow you to volunteer your time in exchange for free accommodations.
- Europe Up Close has a nice overview of the process and some suggested organizations.
- Transitions Abroad hosts numerous “volunteer reports” so you can learn what the experience is truly like.
- United Planet lists volunteer options by destination and by duration of stay.
- Workaway.info is a database that lists a variety of volunteer opportunities in over 24 European countries, in a range of fields.
If you have a strong interest in organic farming, then there are several options for you. In exchange for lodging, guests are expected to help work on the farm. On the face of it, “work on the farm” doesn’t sound like a vacation, but spending some time outside with animals in a rural setting seems pretty idyllic to us.
Organic farming resources
- WWOOF offers opportunities in over 24 European countries.
- Help Exchange offers farm stay options in Europe and elsewhere.
OK, so hostels may not be all that unconventional any more, but a lot of people are still nervous about or unfamiliar with them. Understand this: Hostels are no longer geared just to the student traveler or the drunk English stag party. You can find hostels that cater to families and even some that offer private rooms with private bath.
- You can find 3000 independent hostels listed at Hostel Europe.
- Hostels.com, European Hostels, and Lonely Planet all have hostel suggestions neatly organized by destination.
- If you’re feeling discriminating, check Europe’s Famous Hostels for suggestions.
- Rick Steves is a fan of hosteling, and offers numerous tips on how to have success with hostels.
- If you do want to get crazy, consider some of these top party hostels.
Remember: a trip to Europe isn’t about staying in certain hotels. A trip to Europe is about exploring the destination.
What better way to really explore a destination than to get outside a conventional hotel and experience something new, unusual … and just a little foreign?