Although it would be lovely to stay in $200 rooms each night, for us long-term travellers it’s just not feasible. (Unless you have a bank balance that looks a lot healthier than ours does.)
In fact, Dave and I have never paid that much for accommodation – I don’t think we’ve even spent more than $100 a night, ever! Oh, hang on our wedding night… I guess there are times you should make exceptions!
We probably average about US$20 a night at the moment on accommodation. Some nights we don’t even pay a cent.
I thought I’d give you an insight into five long-term accommodation options for those wanting to travel for more than a week at a time.
5 long-term travel accommodation options
House sitting is probably our favourite accommodation option. You get to live in a house, not a hotel, and experience a local area where often you’re the only tourist.
We also get to care for pets which we really love doing – although we realise that responsibility might not be for everyone.
We recently added up how much money we’ve saved from house sitting and it’s more than US$17,500! (That’s if you equate each night in our house sitting accommodation to a $100 night in a hotel room.)
If you’re travelling long-term, saving this amount of money is nothing to be sniffed at.
We use three main websites to find out house sitting assignments; Mind My House, Trusted Housesitters and House Carers. We’ve found that Mind My House and House Carers have been the most helpful in finding assignments so far.
You shouldn’t take house sitting lightly, however. You might be getting free accommodation but you’re staying in somebody’s prized home and looking after their loved pets.
We talk more about house sitting responsibilities here, in case you’re interested in learning more.
Some tips for house sitting:
- Create a video for your profile – this helps anyone looking for a house sitting get a sense of what you’re like straight away
- Ask for references – even if you haven’t house sat before, it’s great to get some friends to write some references vouching for your personality
- Include photos of you with pets – this shows you love animals (if you don’t love animals, you shouldn’t house sit as most of the time you’ll be caring for pets)
- Arrange a Skype call before your house sitting assignment begins – this helps both parties gain more confidence in the assignment
There are quite a few websites out there that allow you to arrange short term lets and homestays but we’ve found Airbnb to be the most useful.
If you want to rent an apartment or house short term, Airbnb will often be cheaper than a hotel and much more convenient because obviously the apartment or house will come with a kitchen – something that’s not available in a hotel.
You can also rent rooms in people’s homes and we’ve loved doing this for stays shorter than a week. Often the person you end up living with loves meeting new people and showing them the sights, or at least offering advice on what to see and do.
We’ve met some wonderful people through Airbnb and haven’t had any bad experiences with our stays.
Some tips for using Airbnb:
- Don’t book without speaking to the host first. We got burned doing this after we booked a $1,000 stay because Airbnb will hold the money on your card (and we didn’t use a credit card) and the host didn’t accept our booking. It took us more than two weeks to get the money back and it was a pain in the ass. But this can be avoided if you simply contact the host beforehand and ask them if their accommodation is available on the dates you want it. Do this even if there’s no booking in the calendar – there wasn’t for our booking and our host still didn’t accept
- Be considerate if staying in someone’s home. Clean up after yourself and even offer to cook dinner for them one night. Of course, this isn’t expected (often they’ll even cook for you!) but it’s a lovely way to break the ice and make a new friend
- Read the reviews. We always do this and I feel this is part of the reason why all of our Airbnb experiences have been so amazing
We’ve only done couchsurfing a few times but we’ve really enjoyed it. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s when you stay with someone and sleep on their couch (or in their guest room if you’re lucky!). Unlike Airbnb, you don’t pay to stay and couchsurfing is all about embracing a culture of sharing.
We met some wonderful people when we couchsurfed and if you’ve recently lost your faith in humanity this is the quickest way to restore it. It’ll amaze you just how kind and generous people are and how much they enjoy showing strangers around their home towns.
You can read more about our couchsurfing experiences here.
Some tips for couch surfing:
- Bring a gift from your home country. Some couch surfers are against this because they believe couch surfing isn’t about any form of payment, gifts or otherwise, but I always find that being thoughtful doesn’t hurt
- Once again, read the reviews… but keep an open mind if there’s something negative said about someone. There might have been a personality clash between two people which doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t stay with them
- Consider hosting couch surfers in return. Dave and I certainly plan to do this when we return to Australia so we can pay back the kindness to other strangers
- Be careful if you’re a single woman – we haven’t heard really bad horror stories but a few of our friends that are single women travelling on their own had some bad experiences with sleazy men. So just be a little careful of this and DON’T use couchsurfing like it’s a dating site.
Caravaning or camping
When we drove around North America for six months, we slept in our minivan most of the time. I guess this is neither caravaning nor camping (it’s probably in-between) but we found it was a great way to travel.
If you’re going on a long-term road trip, it doesn’t have to be expensive. We bought our van, sure – but for six months of travelling it was a lot cheaper than renting one.
We then purchased heavy-duty plastic storage boxes from Walmart, and an inflatable matress. Each night we’d take the chairs out of the van, lay the boxes out flat and pump up the matress – and we had a bed! All our things would be kept in the storage boxes to keep them strong as we slept.
Some tips for camping and caravaning:
- Sometimes it’s best not to plan and just where the road takes you. Places like Australia and the USA have books you can by that tell you where all the campsites are so you can just pick a spot nearby when you’re ready to camp
- We previously wrote some tips for camping which should help when you’re on the road
- This guest post we wrote for Pretraveller about advice for road-tripping through the USA is also helpful
- And this list of camping hacks from BuzzFeed rocks!
Ok, we must put in a disclosure here – we haven’t actually done any WWOOFing before. But we’ve heard it can be lots of fun and a great way to earn your keep as you stay in a place long-term.
WWOOFing stands for Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms and you have to pay a fee to use the service but it’ll place you in an area of your choice where you can work on a farm in exchange for accommodation and sometimes meals.
Each country has its own dedicated WWOOfing website and this is where your fees will go when you sign up to participate. But if you want to WWOOF in more than one country then you’ll have to pay multiple fees.
Tips for WWOOFing
- Make sure you know exactly what is expected of you and what you’ll get in return. It’s not slave labour so you don’t want to be worked to the bone, but at the same time you can’t expect to sit around on your butt all day and not pitch in
- Make sure you check whether you need a volunteer visa as some countries require these
- If you say you’re going to go, don’t pull out at the last minute and let the host down because they are probably relying on your helping hand
And there you have it – 5 long-term travel accommodation options.