Airbnb is an amazing site where people from around the world can rent out their home, apartment, cottage, room, etc. The options available for rent are incredible, from uptown lofts to countryside villas. The prices range from the cost of a fast food meal to the cost of a new car, there are prices to fit any budget travel or high end vacation. I used this site several times when backpacking through Europe with two friends and we had a great time. They were some of our cheapest stays, but also some of our most memorable.
- We were able to rent two rooms outside of Manchester in an old, stone house located next to a canal owned by a feisty Canadian who taught belly dancing lessons and travelled to Egypt (or somewhere exotic) several times a year.
- We rented a studio apartment to ourselves on the outskirts of Paris for roughly $16 per person/night which was near a bakery and large, outdoor market.
- In Venice, we rented a room inside a large converted home, where we met the sweetest German couple who took us under their wings. They had bikes there we could use to ride to the market and beach. It is beautiful!
- We also used it to find a new bed and breakfast in Rome where we met the most adorable Italian who made us espresso and pointed us in the direction of the best tiramisu ever made.
Needless to say, there are a variety of rental opportunities and they are definitely worth it. Each listing also has comments from previous renters so you can see how well it is liked/disliked.
Even if hostels don’t sound like your thing or if you are wary of them I would advise at least taking a gander. There are definitely some hostels where I would refuse to stay the night, but there are also very nice options similar to bed and breakfasts. When people think of hostels, they usually imagine a large room crowded with dirty, smelly people. This is sometimes correct. However, many hostels have small room options, sometimes just for two people. Many hostels are also offering free breakfasts, maps, city walks, and comfortable lounge areas. They can be great place to meet people from around the world and even sight see together. When booking a hostel, I would definitely recommend reading the comments sections and the ratings given to the hostel. This will tell you if it is worth the value or whether it is better to pay a little more and get a nicer lodging. Some hostels I would recommend are:
- Amsterdam: Shelter City Hostel and Shelter Jordan Hostel
- Edinburgh: Castle Rock Hostel
- Florence: Ostello del Chianti
- Ghent, Belguim: Ecohostel (located on a boat which was fun)
Transportation, Food, and Sites
I would also recommend to fly during the off season which runs from September to April, not including holidays. You can usually save a pretty penny when travelling during these months, plus it will be less crowded at your destination, which is always a plus. To save money once you arrive I suggest mimicking the locals whenever possible. Travel as though do, eat what they eat, shop where they shop, and see what they recommend. Always ask the front desk where you are staying for tips and ideas – even ask where they like to go and eat.
Helpx is a volunteering website and is not for everybody. If you are wanting a purely relaxing vacation, to escape and read a book on the beach for a week, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you want to meet people from another country, learn from their culture, embrace community, and deeply explore a region, you might be interested in this. Helpx is a website where people around the globe post what they need help doing. From farming, construction, cooking, cleaning, painting, etc. They list what they need done, how many people they are accepting, and the time range they are seeking. Some people need help only during certain times of the year and others request a minimum stay period. You work for twenty hours a week, room and board is provided (unless stated otherwise), and the rest of the time you are free to do whatever you wish.
- I helped a woman in Normandy, France for two months cleaning her guest homes and helping around the house. In turn I had a lovely room to stay in out in the country, she loved to cook delicious meals, and I was able to travel around with some of her guest. I had a great time getting to know the area, meet new people, learn to cook, and I spent only $5 USD.
This is another volunteer program, but is only open for U.S. citizens. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines and it is a wonderful experience. I not only get to work in my field of interest, but I get to live in a beautiful place, integrate into a culture very different than my own, live with a host family, and travel around to different parts of the country and also neighboring countries. I am learning a new language, eating delicious foods, and experiencing what it means to live abroad and not just travel abroad. There is a world of difference and it is quite the journey.
- As a volunteer I receive a stipend to cover basic needs, I earn two vacations days a month, get a resettlement allowance once returning to the U.S., and have one year of non-competitive job opportunities with the federal government at the end of my service. Plus I am eligible for lifetime education scholarships. Not a bad deal, right?
I hope some of these tips help in planning your next travel adventure. It you have any tips or ideas to add please comment below!