If your spirit of adventure is larger than your travel budget, these money-saving tips might just put your next vacation within reach.
1. Swap homes with other vacationers If you prefer to mingle with locals rather than other tourists, look into a home exchange vacation. One couple spent their eight-week honeymoon touring Europe without ever staying in a hotel; instead, they stayed in private homes while their European hosts stayed in their New York City apartment. Sound risky? Maybe—but tens of thousands of people have exchanged homes since 1950s. For an annual membership fee (usually around $50), home exchange clubs help members arrange exchanges, as well as offering tips to make exchange go smoothly. According to ExchangeHomes.com, a home exchange can cut travel costs by as much as half. More importantly, though, a home exchange vacation makes it possible for you to live like locals, and perhaps make some life-long friends.
2. Rely on hospitality of others In a slight twist on home exchange idea, look into joining a hospitality club that will hook you up with people willing to host you on your next vacation. The largest hospitality club has more than 23,000 members in 148 countries. Membership is usually free, although members are asked to provide hospitality to others (on a voluntary basis) in return sometime in future. In addition to saving money, staying with others is a great way to meet locals who can give an insider’s perspective on your destination.
3. Stay in a monastery or convent Monasteries and convents have a long tradition of providing hospitality to travelers. Aside from being a lot more interesting (and affordable) than local Holiday Inn, a monastery can be a great place to explore your spiritual landscape. Many monasteries and convents ask for a donation of $40 to $80 per night; others only ask for a free-will offering. In addition to simple accommodations, monasteries and convents often offer their guests simple meals as well as opportunities to participate in daily prayer and work. Reservations may be required in advance. You can research this vacation idea by looking up individual monasteries or convents online. Or get a guidebook such as “Europe's Monastery and Convent Guesthouses: A Pilgrim's Travel Guide” or “Sanctuaries: The Complete United States: A Guide to Lodgings in Monasteries, Abbeys, and Retreats.”
4. Win a free vacation Nothing in life is free, old adage goes, but vacations many companies are giving away as part of promotional sweepstakes and contests come close. True, odds of winning a free vacation are remote, but if you’ve ever played lottery, you may as well spend a few minutes searching web for “vacation contest” and related terms. The only cost of entering will probably be time it takes to fill out online entry forms. (Be forewarned, though, that providing your e-mail address virtually guarantees unsolicited e-mail in future.)