This is not as popular in the USA as in other countries, however it does exist. In Australia, my friend has been doing it for years. Many times, your accommodation will be free to live in, but with the understanding that you will take care of it, keep it clean and often times take care of any pets that might be there. I tried this last summer with someone I knew, but did not have all the facts. Next time I will do a bit of research first and draw up in writing a clear understanding of what is expected.
The most recognized example of this is in the movie, City Slickers, where 3 city dudes vacation at a dude ranch in an attempt to recapture their youth. Today it is a popular vacation venue for people who live in urban settings and dream of the adventure of the wild west or the country.
Apartments and condos are great places to stay on vacations. Sometimes you can find some deals on reduced cost sites such as Expedia for that special place in the middle of town, or on the beach where you plan to spend your vacation. In Kona, Hawaii we were very fortunate to find our condo just beyond the black rocks of the beach and were able to see the sun set on the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Hotels are some of the most common accommodations for traveling and by far some of the most accessible. However hotels can be very expensive, especially during the peak season of travel and in places where the demand is high. Make sure that you book well in advance and, if possible, avoid seasons of high demand. In many cases by booking a hotel just a few blocks away from a beach or away from the tourist center, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars over your stay.
Bed and Breakfasts
By ThomasPusch - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10251206
This option should be reserved for those individuals who are interested in staying with other people and getting to know other cultures. Couchsurfing at https://www.couchsurfing.com explains how it works and how to get started. This is an international website that will guide you through the process. If you are like me, you may have had a totally different idea of what this type of accommodation works than what it actually entails. After watching the video on the site, I found that it is more of a people to people or a hospitality network that provides the traveler a way to get to make friends across the world!
Do you want to go budget and stay in a hostel or in a luxurious hotel? What are your options in various countries? Do you know that you have options such as staying over the ocean, in a tree, with local families, or even in castles? These are the options that can make the difference between going on a long trip or not being able to go on a trip at all.
Most of us like visiting other countries, but for me the best thing about traveling is making friends. Many have become like family to me and now, when I travel back to that country, I am more interested in spending time with them and experiencing their country through their eyes than just the traveling. However, not everyone is as fortunate, and I didn't begin traveling this way. In most cases each of us will have to decide what are our wants, needs, and what our pocketbook can accommodate, then sort through the many accommodations that are available to us.
Below you will find a list of the top accommodations available around the world with a brief write up of each one. Below each write up are a couple of websites that will either introduce you to this type of accommodation or provide a list for you to peruse.
If you want to travel within a country such as the USA for long periods of time, this is the way to go. Many people sell their houses, put everything they wish to keep in storage, and set out to see the country. And there is plenty to see. I would do it if I had a partner and was healthier. A caravan has everything in it that is needed for everyday life including a place to sleep. Often people who caravan just pull into a rest stop at the end of the day and spend the night there.
This is a great way to vacation virtually anywhere in the world. However, it is called something different in each country; for example Zimmer Frei, Privatzimmer, or Gästezimmer in Germany or Austria or Albergo, Locanda, and Pensione in Italy. Bed and Breakfasts are like their name, but sometimes do come without breakfast included. So make sure you check ahead of time. But if you can find one serving breakfast, it's a very convenient and cost effective way to start the day.
This is an accommodation type that made its way to the forefront of traveling partly due to the movie, The Holiday. When house swapping, one has to swap their home and most items in it with another person's home. This saves a considerable amount of money vacationing and allows one to feel "at home" when traveling. The down side is that if you are going to do this, you must tourist proof your home, which means storing all of your precious items while you are away.
Chalets are beautiful places to stay in on ski trips or if you are mountain climbing. I stayed in one after climbing up to Hochstein Hutte in Lienz, Austria with a group of students one afternoon. We had supper, drank beer and listened to a musician play Austrian music as our eyes became heavy. It was a very memorable experience with beautiful sights all around. Grant it, most people do not climb up a mountain side like we did, but take a vehicle instead.
Depending on where you are, chalets can be anything from the basics, to very posh. It's up to you to find the one that meets your needs.
Apartments and Condos
I have done this twice; once at 21 years of age and another at 32 upon going back to school for my teaching degree. It is a great way to see another country long term for a low price and get college credit for it as well. Trust me when I say there are many things that we can do when we are young that we can't when we finally have enough money and time to travel. Case in point... climbing to the top of mountains in Austria or hiking all day in Kadadu for another. So if you have the opportunity to do this, when you are young, take advantage of it. I promise, you won't be sorry!
These type of stays are often called home stays are usually free or charge minimal amounts of money to cover administrative costs of the website. In exchange, the person staying in the host's home is expected to open his or her home to others who wish to stay in their area. This saves on costs and promotes hospitality and understanding around the world through hosting.
Hosteling used to be used primarily by youth, at least when I was young. We stayed in youth hostels in Denmark and other countries in Europe. However, now hosteling includes options for all types of needs, including apartments for couples, dormitories and accommodations for singles. I loved our accommodations in Rudesheim, Germany, in a Castle/hostel in 1977. And our group hostel Paris in 2002 was just three blocks off of the subway. and included meals. The hostel that my friend and I stayed at in Hilo, Hawaii two years ago provided many options for excursions as well. If you aren't looking for exclusive accommodations, this is always a great way to save money!
Don't forget to do your own research for what you want. There is something for almost everyone, even if you want to have fish swimming by your window, such as the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa, in Ithaa, Maldives, or Jule's Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida.
Student Study Abroad
Vacation Homes and Villas
Many people love resorts and all inclusives, including myself. These accommodations are for people who like to have everything provided for them. I have stayed at two in the Dominican Republic. What I liked best about them was that we didn't have to drive anywhere by ourselves, because there were excursions provided for us to choose from, the food was included and drinks as well. It's was a safe way to travel and see the country where we were staying, as well as save money in the process.
By Alexey Potov - Noblige - Taken by Alexey Potov - Noblige, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20228684
Exotic or Unique Hotels or Apartments
I haven't volunteered oversees, but many of my friends have done so in Africa, Nepal and Haiti. Most of the time when volunteering, accommodations are provided to help defray costs. But while in these countries there may be a lot of work to do, there are often many opportunities to see the country as well. It is a win-win situation where you get more bang for your buck and you are giving back in the process.
Work Exchange or Volunteering
Vacation homes and villas are often used as a home away from home by the traveler and come in a wide variety of types and prices. Villas are usually homes in a suburban area, range from semi-detached doubles to urban homes and vary in styles according to where they are found. However some, in countries such as Italy, are homes with large estates built around a courtyard and can be found in country settings. Vacation homes are built for just that reason and because they are only used by a family during certain times of the year, are often rented out.
Resorts & All Inclusives
These are some of the most interesting places to stay by far! Staying in a tree house or castle is probably on the top of every traveler's dream list. I still dream of sleeping in a tree house some day, but I have stayed in a castle hostel on the Rhine. Check out The Giraffe Manor in Kenya (https://www.the safaricollection.com/properties/giraffe-manor/) if you like to be up close with the native wildlife or the Hotel Costa Verde, in Quepos, Costa Rica if you like airplanes.
If you are interested in the more exotic, here are a few websites to check out:
I have never camped by myself while traveling, but the two times I did were with groups. In 1988 I spent 3 days camping with a tour in Kakadu. This trip was amazing! Everything was provided, including the tents, food and transportation. The website, The Broke Backpacker, by Chris Lininger discusses everything from safety to how to do it. I suggest taking a look at this website if you are at all interested in doing this. I would not suggest camping alone, especially if you are in your senior years or in countries you are not familiar with as it is always good to have some protection. But if you are young, strong and adventurous, it can become the trip of a lifetime.