Whether you’re looking for a traditional hotel experience or a more adventurous solution, we’ve got your shoestring travel needs covered. I recently spoke with Budget Travel magazine for their top lodging picks for less than $70 per night.
When it comes to hotel chains, prices vary by season but especially by destination. You’d be hard pressed to find a $70 hotel room in any major metropolitan area. But in smaller cities like Montgomery, Alabama; Albany, New York or other places where there’s a surplus of hotel rooms – like Atlantic City or Las Vegas – the $70 or even $60 hotel room does exist at popular budget hotel chains.
“My to favorite budget hotel chains are Sleep Inn and Best Western because they’re incredibly clean,” says Laura Michonski, executive digital editor of Budget Travel. “They’ve both invested an enormous amount of money in renovating their properties, and they’re pretty ubiquitous.”
Sleep Inn prioritizes guest comfort, offering perks like free tooth brushes and hair dryers you can borrow for the forgetful traveler. They also provide a continental breakfast in the morning. Best Western also offers a complimentary breakfast and boasts free Wi-Fi.
For pricier destinations, like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, find deals on flash sales websites, even some mobile applications. Download the app HotelTonight to your phone to search for last-minute deals in a number of cities across the country. “It’s a really great bargain,” says Michonski. “In New York, you won’t find hotels for as low as $70 a night but I have seen rates go as low as $109 a night and that is unheard of.
She says Hotwire is another favorite site for its “opaque booking,” where you can specify the desired region and rating of your hotel. The drawback is that you won’t see the actual name of the hotel until you book.
Hostels and Couchsurfing
In addition to budget hotels, there are also hostels, which average about $50 a night across the country. But if you’re looking for practically free lodging, there are some options. Find free places to crash on CouchSurfing.org, a popular lodging site that’s turned into a 2.2 million-member network. “Couchsurfing is a program that connects travelers to local residents with either a couch or a bedroom…there’s s a lot of trust involved, but many people love it because it’s a great cultural exchange,” says Michonski.
Rent From a Host
For more of a hotel experience, websites like Airbnb and Roomorama connect travelers with hosts who are willing to rent out their places, usually when they’re out of town themselves. “It’s great because you get a full kitchen,” says Michonski. “You can save money. You don’t have to go out to eat every night. And you also get a lot more space than you would for a hotel, frequently for less money than you’d pay for a hotel.”
Yet another way to travel domestically and abroad on a budget is to consider a work exchange for room and board. WWOOF.org is a network of about 1,600 organic farms and gardens that let you stay and eat for free in exchange for about four hours worth of labor. Out of many work exchange programs, Michonski says WWOOF is the best known. “ You only work half a day, a pretty reasonable time to work, so it still gives you time to explore your destination,” she says.
Glam It Up
“Glamping”, or glamorous camping, is not exactly known for its frugal approach to travel, but some options might be less expensive than you think. There are numerous pre-pitched tents, teepees, yurts, fire shelters, cabins and cottages available for free from the state parks and national forest service. Think of it as camping but with a few more amenities.
“Camping is another great option for travelers. This is especially true in Europe where they have tons of shelters like yurts and cabins for a very low price. This is not exactly roughing it either and you can find these in public lands and parks across this country too,” says Michonski.
For example, in Pennsylvania, you can find a rustic cabin for just 25-$60 per night. Or on the California coast, weekend rates for a tented bungalow for three starts at $115. A company called ConTENTment Camping will outfit your entire vacation by delivering a spacious tent and furniture for you, all set up, for just $60 a night for a two-person tent. KOAs across the nation also offer cabins and cottages, for $60 to $150 per night.
What’s the best lodging deal you ever scored? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, using the hashtag #FinFit.