Let’s be honest with each other, as you read upgrd.com and other websites you must think, “WOW these guys are always traveling and sure do spend a lot of money on Airfare and Hotels!”
Here at Upgrd, We review where we go and many of you live vicariously through us. Yet despite this, many of our trips and our hotel redemptions or paid nights are at a price point that is way too high for the average reader. When I started my traveling at the age of 18, there was no way I was staying in a Ritz (still haven’t) or even a Hilton or a Marriott. Even now when I travel, I only stay in such places when my work is paying for it (rarely), so this means I have to find less expensive travel options. So for those of you who want to see the world, but can’t afford the higher end American style hotels when abroad this article is for you!
Hostels/Locally Own hotels
When traveling, especially in Asia and Latin America, the cheapest hotels are homestays and locally owned and operated hotels. I’ve stayed in comfortable hotels with all the basic amenities including cable tv, hot water, and AC, in the center of everything for as little as $5 a night per person. In Asia and Latin America there are HUNDREDS of hotels all over, in both beach resorts and cities that can be booked by just walking in; best part is it’s almost NEVER a problem nor full! The only time I’ve had a hard time finding a room was in Ko Samui, Thailand on Christmas, but after about 30 minutes of looking we found a place across the street from the beach that slept 3 people for only $40 bucks! For being in a MAJOR tourist destination on a major western holiday this was a bargain! Also, the best part about local hotels is they will always show you the rooms first before you decide if you want to stay, so you’re never disappointed. Furthermore, many locally owned hotels will hold your items when you go search other places, in hopes that you’ll come back and stay with them. In all my travels, this is what I’ve normally done. Also don’t forget that when staying at a hostel, many offer private rooms so if you don’t want to be in a dorm you can still have privacy and your own bathroom.
If you’re looking for Hostels and locally own hotels, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books normally offer a good list of cheap and local hotels. They will point you to the right part of town where the locally owned hotels and hostels are located and then you can begin your search by strolling through the streets. If you’re in more of a hurry, you might want to prearrange something. For that I recommend:
For European Travel check out
Hostels and Small Locally own hotels: eurocheapo.com
Hostels Only: europeanhostels.com
Traveling Asia, Check out:
Hotels, Hostels, locally own places, and Big Names hotels http://www.asiarooms.com/
Hotels & flights powered by Travelocity: zuji.com
Flights and Hotels across China: Ctrip.com
Consider a Condo
Recently, while traveling to SE Asia, I journeyed with a group of 5 people. Clearly most hotel rooms do not sleep more than 4 people, so splitting a hotel room between us was not an option. Further, most hotel rooms at brand name places had a price point between $150-$300 a night per room. Local hotel rooms were cheaper and the 5 of us could have easily stayed in a hostel or locally owned place for about $40 a night total (Borneo is a bit more expensive than other parts of SE Asia). However, as we started to look some more we found that 3 bedroom, 2 bath Condos in Kota Kinabalu rented for only $50-$100 a night depending on how fancy they were. Not only would this mean we could actually sleep 12 people in the condo, it meant we’d have multiple bathrooms, a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, access to pool larger than an Olympic size pool, a fitness center and more! Sure, not every condo has all of the extra amenities, but most do offer housekeeping and all the basic services of a home! We scored and ended up with an amazing ocean view condo for only $60 a night! Home rentals are definately the way to go when traveling in a group or with your family!
To book a condo or a homestay for your next vacation check out:
Short term & Longer Term Vacation Homes and Condos: Homeaway.com
Stay With A Local!
For those of you who prefer to go local and get to know the sites as a local instead of a tourist then Couchsurfing is for you! I joined Couchsurfing many years ago and have stayed with locals all over the world from Indonesia to Australia, from Bulgaria to Argentina, and just about everywhere in-between. No clue what CS is? Check out my profile so you can have a better idea!
I’ve also hosted a slew of travelers from all over the world as they’ve made their way across the USA and every experience has been different but also amazing in its own way! It’s a great way to get to see the world from a different perspective and it doesn’t matter if you’re hosting or traveling!
Sometimes your host has an extra bedroom, sometimes it’s a mat on the floor, other times it’s really a couch. However, each person lays out their “living situation” in their profile so you won’t be surprised; not to mention people review each other and reviews cannot be deleted! You never have to worry that you’re going to stay with someone crazy, because if they are crazy, someone surely would have said something on their wall! The best part about couch surfing is you can talk with a local about what to see and do and what to skip, they tend to show you or point you to local bars, activities and spots that aren’t in the guide books! It’s truly getting immersed in the local culture. Not to mention, since I’ve started Couchsurfing I’ve made amazing friendships all over the world and always look forward to crossing paths with old friends on future trips! And yes it has happened!
Finally, if cheap hotels, hostels, Couchsurfing, or Condo rentals are not for you, do your homework and shop around. You could always name your own price on Priceline or check out the other big sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, Hotels.com. You’d be surprised; prices will vary between websites so always do your homework before booking. And if all else fails, there’s always the smart phone app Hotels Tonight and if you use rhoran1 as a promo code you’ll get $25 off your booking!