7 alternative European accommodation options

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

Farm Stays
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.

Home Exchange
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

Hospitality Exchange
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.

Volunteer resources

  • 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.

Organic Farming

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.

Hostel resources


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?

Three great hotel deals in NYC this winter

It’s getting cold in New York City and as the temps drop so do prices for the city’s hotels. Across Manhattan, you’ll find deep discounts and deals, plus added perks and freebies. Here are three fantastic hotel finds for winter.

The Upper West Side’s Moroccan-themed Marrakech Hotel is offering rates starting at $99 per night, which is 20% off the normal rate. Guests will also receive two complimentary tickets to the Top of the Rock. The deal is valid January 4 to February 28 with a two-night stay. To book online, use the Deal1.

Three GEM Hotels locations (SoHo, Chelsea and Midtown West) are offering a rate of $129 per night in January and February. Blackout dates are January 22 to 25, January 30 to February 5 and February 13 to 14.

Rates at The Portland Square Hotel, in Times Square, are just $129 per night for a queen guestroom. That’s a savings of 20% off the regular rate. Guests will also receive two tickets to the Discovery Channel’s Titanic Exhibition. As with the Marrakech Hotel deal, the rate at The Portland Square Hotel is valid January 4 to February 28 with a two-night stay and the promo code Deal1.

United rolls out Travel Options promo with giveaways at three US airports

Travelers at the Denver, Washington Dulles and San Francisco Airports got a special surprise today. United Airlines opened its Travel Options by United Spin the Wheel booths at the three hubs, offering flyers the chance to win some pretty cool prizes.

Those who spin the wheel receive freebies for use on future flights, like an upgrade to Economy Plus, Premier Line access at the security checkpoint and at the boarding gate, or a Red Carpet Club pass. After a closer look at the wheel, it seems like spinners have the best odds of landing on “Economy Plus”, which, depending on the flight, can cost anywhere from $9 to over $100. Those who aren’t so lucky don’t walk away empty-handed though. Other prizes include water bottles, puzzle books, or decks of cards.

If you missed the booths today, you’ll still get your chance to spin the prize wheel. The booths will be at the Denver, Washington Dulles and San Francisco airports until October 5th, when they’ll be moved to a few yet-to-be-announced airports around the country. The booths made their debut earlier this summer at the Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles International Airports.

Score Chicago deals and freebies with BrokeHipster.com

Okay, the name induces a slight eye roll – I’m not broke and I’m certainly no hipster, I just love a bargain – but the premise behind one of Chicago’s best new websites is pretty awesome. BrokeHipster collects all the top upcoming deals, from happy-hour specials and dining discounts to promotional parties and boutique sales, and puts them all in one place.

On any given day some of the freebies and cheapies might include: a promo party with an hour of free cocktails, a free tequila tasting, free museum admission, $2 beers or $1 burgers. The deals are all around in Chicago, and especially in this slumping economy, every bar, restaurant and store is looking for more ways to pull in customers with enticing offers.

If you find a stellar deal, just remember that BrokeHipster doesn’t create the deals, it just eliminates the legwork for budget travelers and frugal locals by putting the information together. It’s always wise to check directly with the establishment to verify that the deal is offered. There’s no cure for the heartache caused by the $1 burger that wasn’t.