Sleep like a superhero
Step 4 – Accommodation hacking
Now that you have booked the flight, you need a place to sleep.
There are many options when it comes to finding a place to stay and there is really no right or wrong way to choosing them.
It all depends on what you are looking for, and, your budget, and what kind of experience you desire. I have tried them all, and this is what I’ve learnt so far.
I’ll list the accommodation options with four distinctive categories so you can choose the option that suits you best. The categories are the following:
Hotels & resorts (Expensive)
This option is usually for travelers who can afford higher prices and don’t mind paying extra for more comfort. Generally, if you are traveling for long periods of times and you are on a tight budget, this option is off the chart.
Call the hotel
When you book a hotel room, do it from the hotel’s own website, or even better, call and book a room by phone. Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30 percent for online booking sites.
So if you offer them 20 percent less than the online price, you and the hotel can get a better deal.
Don’t call the hotel
Don’t call between 9am and 1pm with some special request. Most likely, the front desk agent is busy dealing with guests and she can’t wait to get you off the phone.
Negotiate. Ask for an upgrade, or a discount, but not in front of other guests.
Do so especially with privately owned hotels. They are more likely to satisfy your request because they will have a smaller guest base and have less room to negotiate.
It is in the hotel’s interest to make your stay as pleasant as possible, so take advantage of this and ask for what you want.
When asking for something, it works best to be polite and honest. Don’t be pushy or a jerk. It won’t get you far.
Speak like a human, behave like one too
When speaking to a front-desk agent, keeping eye contact, smiling and being a little patient can take you far.
She is making a lot more decisions than you think. The front desk agent knows the best rooms and can make your stay more comfortable.
Often times a little gratuity can also be helpful, if you tip her let’s say 10$, 20$ and say:
“This is for you, I appreciate your help” you are more likely to get what you want and possible more.
In other words, show gratitude, be courteous and respectful.
Wi-fi on the bill? It doesn’t matter
Based on my previous experiences, it’s a lot easier for the front desk agent to remove Wi-Fi charges from your bill at checkout than to agree to waive them in advance.
If you took care of the front desk agents as I said above and established a respectful relationship, they could help you with this too.
Location is pricey
When you book a hotel, check its location. You can save more money if you avoid well-known brands or hotels that are on main streets or very close to famous sights.
Spy on the hotel before booking
On top of that, use Google Street View to find the best room locations. A nice little trick to get your surroundings right and a sneak peek of what you could expect.
Ask for clean sheets
Always request clean linens when you check in.
Hotels in most cases wash the sheets every day, but blankets often only get washed once a week.
And the bedspreads?
If there’s no visible stain, in some places it could be once a month.
Tip the staff
Take care of the housekeepers. Most of them have minimum wage. If you treat them well, and tip them too, they are more likely to take better care of you too.
Get free stuff from hotels
Even if you don’t want to get a room, in most places you can still use some of the hotel’s facilities. Some common examples are: gyms, spas, pools, getting a massage, and so on.
Are you lost and in need of a map? Go to a 4-5 star hotel reception and they’ll give you one.
They have plenty of them for their guests and if you ask politely and smile, you’ll get one.
Need to send an important fax because you lost your passport?
Ask the front desk agent to use the fax machine, most likely she won’t charge you for it.
Need to make an important phone call?
Need a taxi, a pen and paper, a soap?
You should know what to do by now.
Remember that it is their policy to greet guests and make them feel comfortable. If you are kind and ask, it’ll be hard for them to say no.
If you can’t afford to stay in hotels, I still suggest you to book a night or two during your travels.
Every once in a while, it’s good to properly rest, recharge your batteries, enjoy some relaxation and get pampered.
This option works best if you are traveling through some cheaper countries, because you can get very beautiful rooms and even suites for very affordable prices.
Guesthouses, motels, B&B (Budget)
Motel on the road
Motels are cheaper versions of hotels. The quality is lower but they can be affordable places, especially when you are on the road.
I recommend this option for travelers on the go. When you are on a road trip for example, choosing a motel is cheaper than a hotel and more comfortable than sleeping in your car.
You can book most of them on the spot. Ask if they offer discounted rates. Again, the trick here is to always ask for a little more and see if you can get away with it.
Very few people ask for anything. If you smile and are genuinely nice you are far ahead of the crowd.
Guesthouses and B&B’s can offer you a cozier type of environment. Depending on where you are, these can be a great option that offer a comfortable place where you can sleep and have breakfast included.
Some of them also offers lunch for an extra cost. Before you accept either of them, do a test run.
Wait for the next day and see what people are eating. If it looks like a good deal, go back to the front desk and add the breakfast or lunch.
If not, congratulations, you saved some cash and your stomach will thank you for the choice you made.
Go get yourself a fresh mango…
Short term rentals (Budget)
Short term rentals like Airbnb and people’s apartments are some of my favorite places to stay, you can book a room or an entire place for yourself.
They provide freedom, privacy and can be extremely comfortable. Plus you have amenities similar to a hotel and one amenity that most don’t, a kitchen where you can cook your own meals and save money on food.
The more people the better
If you are traveling in groups this is a great option. You can share the costs between your friends and enjoy a private space with them.
Stay with the owner
If you can’t afford an entire apartment, you can always book a room and share the apartment with the owner.
This is a great way to get to know somebody local who can help you get started and provide you with useful tips.
Meet up first
If you are already in town and found an apartment you want to stay in, instead of booking it from the website, contact the owner and ask her if you can meet her first.
Websites charge for short term rentals and add extra fees to you and the owner every time you make a booking. So if you meet in person, you both can get a better deal avoiding the website fees.
Hostels can be a great option to travel on the cheap. There are plenty of options everywhere you go and they can offer you a quick and simple solution to your accommodation problems.
Hostels can give you various options, from single rooms to dormitory, where you share your space with other travelers like you.
Generally, this option is recommended for young travelers or people who don’t mind sharing space with other people. If you use the hostel just as a place to sleep, because you spend most of your time outdoors, it can be a great option for you.
Bring earplugs and an eye mask
For a proper superhero outfit make sure you bring some earplugs and an eye mask too, because some hostels can be noisy. Some people don’t care about switching the light on in the middle of the night. Thanks for that dude!
Don’t be afraid to interact
Hostels give you the opportunity to meet and interact with fellow travelers and can help you make friends on the go. I met some amazing people during my travels and some of them are still good friends or travel companions.
Hostels are the natural environment for parties, finding city tours and recreational group activities. If you are into that, they are the place for you.
I would usually book a hostel for my first days in a new place, just to get an idea of what the destination offers me.
After that, I tend to do some further research on the location to either find a more long-term and stable option or I will simply rebook a similar room at the hostel I am staying at.
Make a deal with the owner
If you want to get a better deal in a hostel, ask to help and offer some kind of service to the hostel.
For example, ask to work there, do some cleaning, and simply offer to help out in exchange of a discounted rate or even free rent.
Camping is an option for the more adventurous ones. It can be a fun experience. Some travelers love it. Some people hate it.
Obviously, depending on what kind of equipment you have it can be a little uncomfortable, especially if you do it for very long periods of times.
I have met some very organized camping lovers around the world with super spacious tents, comfy mattresses and gear that can make your camping experience as excellent as possible.
Camping doesn’t need to be stressful nor painful. If it is done right, with the right people in the right places, like national parks, deserts, mountains and so on, it can be a very gratifying experience for your mind and for your spirit.
What you can find
Camping sites are generally very cheap and cover the basic needs, from showers to eating & picnic areas. Some even have more advanced amenities such as: bungalows, common areas for recreational activities, barbecues, mini-supermarkets, bars and even small family restaurants.
Sometimes, depending on where you are, they offer hiking and boat tours, and can provide you with gears to rent for your sporty activities. From bicycles to quads and so on, the choices can be vast. This is great way to try activities you otherwise never could.
Guerilla camping (Free)
Guerilla camping means that you camp wherever your heart desires. I definitely recommend this option for people who can easily adapt, are adventurous, don’t mind taking risks and who love to sleep under the stars.
Hide & seek
Be very respectful and avoid people’s property. Imagine if you woke up in the middle of the night to find a man sleeping in your backyard! Would you like that?
Ask the locals
Always ask local people for nice spots to camp. They will be willing to help and be proud to tell the story of this heroic traveler they met once, you.
Don’t camp in cities and towns. First of all, it isn’t fun. You want to experience nature and not the gutters. Plus it is riskier. The police or other people can bother you. Walk out of the city a little, find a quiet place and camp there.
Avoid main train & bus stations, they usually are unsafe at night and become gathering places for trouble makers, you are better off somewhere else.
Go to parks, forests, beaches and find discreet places to put your tent up, so it won’t be easily seen.
Make sure you check the areas you want to go camping at least during the day. Even if just to get a sense of the vibes to feel if it could be a safe place to camp at night.
If it is cool, camp there for the night. You can then hide your backpack and tent there, and come back the following night without carrying your stuff during the day.
Stay in school & go to church
Search for schools, playgrounds and churches, those places are empty at night and generally very safe, you can leave early in the morning without anybody noticing.
Climb on a roof and sleep there. Preferably not on private houses. You can usually sneak a night or two without getting into trouble.
A more extreme option can also be squatting, which means you find an abandoned house and move in. This option can be riskier but who am I to tell you what to do!
Clean up your mess
Wherever you decide to camp or sleep make sure you keep it clean and leave it in good condition. The place doesn’t belong to so it’s important to show some respect and gratitude.
I camped for free on sandy beaches, deserts, mountains, volcanoes, people’s gardens (if they didn’t mind) abandoned houses, on the side of the road and I even put my tent up in a cemetery! Be creative, and be safe.
House sitting (Free)
Even better than short term rentals is becoming a house sitter. This option is free, apart from the small annual fee you need to pay to become a member of some house sitting websites. (the full list, is in the downloadable worksheet)
Live for free
The pros of being a house sitter are numerous. You can live for free in somebody else’s house when they are away and have the luxury to use all the household amenities.
On the other hand, you will have to go through a selection process and you need to provide references and take care of the house.
Sometimes you will be asked to do some work, clean the garden or fix a few things now and then.
Stay in one place
This type of accommodation can tie you to a place for a longer period of time. So it is advisable for travelers that go a little slower and don’t mind being in one place for a little longer than a few days.
Another option is also house swapping. You sign up to the numerous membership sites, (I have listed the most important in the downloadable GUIDE KIT) and find a family to swap your house with during your travels.
This is not entirely free, but it is a great option for people who are comfortable sharing their house and live in somebody else’s house while traveling.
Create an irresistible profile
You should treat house sitting and swapping the same as any other job. Make sure you’re trustworthy and have a complete and fully updated profile on the membership websites.
Include all the relevant information about yourself. A charming description of you, the skills and experiences you have, along with photos and references.
When applying for a house sitting and or swapping, show eagerness, enthusiasm and honesty.
Sleep with friends, strangers & monks (Cheap – Free)
Oh.. Gross! I don’t mean in that way, unless you want to. I meant to stay with your friends or ask local people if you can stay at their places. This tip is overlooked, but it is powerful.
Keep in touch
Stay in touch with your friends and make new ones online. Join forums, communities, Meetups, groups and look for people who share similar interests as you. Connect with them and build an honest relationship with them.
Be genuine and treat other people the same way you’d like to be treated. If you are nice and sincere, you can ask them if you can crash at their place for a couple of days at some point. Remember, it is their personal space so don’t feel rejected if they say no. You have plenty of other options!
Give, before you take
Don’t just reach somebody when you need something, keep in touch and be interested in what they do.
Talk to strangers, send messages to your friends every once in a while, so when you ask for something they will be more willing to help you.
Don’t be afraid to ask, and if you visit some friends, people you met online or local people, bring them a little gift, make your stay interesting for them too.
Help out, clean the house, take them out for dinner or drinks, cook, do the grocery shopping, do some lap dance, or simply entertain them with your travel story.
If people are interested in you and in your travel they will enjoy your company and you will have a place to stay for free.
Homestay is also another option. This happens when families rent a spare bedroom for some extra income. It is good for them and it is good for you to get a feel of what it is like to live with others from another culture. The world will get a little cozier and it will help you blend with the local culture.
Don’t be afraid if you don’t speak the language. Draw pictures, mime, be creative. I spent a few months around Asia drawing all the things I wanted to say and communicating using hand gestures.
SPOILER: I am Italian so I am genetically imbued with hand gestures…
Find a monk
Stay in a monastery.
You will probably have just a bed and a desk, but that’s all you need. You’ll also get some meals, which is a plus.
Some monasteries or temples ask for money, others for donations, while others are simply free. When in doubt… Ask.
One word of advice. You need to trust your instincts and always be clear about what you want and what you are willing to give in return.
If you are in doubt or the situation doesn’t feel right, thank the person and go somewhere else to sleep.
Couchsurfing & Global freeloaders (Free)
Couchsurfing is a community of like-minded people who have an incredible philosophy of traveling. Surfers are a network of people who are willing to open up their homes and hearts to frugal travelers, as well as be those travelers when they are not hosting guests.
You will need to become a member of the site and create a profile and after that you will be able to discover and connect with other travelers like you. The website has thousands of members from around the world and potentially offer you the chance to never pay for accommodation when you travel ever again.
Once you become a member, you will have also access to local groups and Meetups, which are great places for you to meet fellow travelers, get a sense of what the community is about and start making some friends on your trip.
The site prides itself on referrals and having only high quality members. It has a comprehensive program in place to ensure the safety of both traveler and host.
I have collected a guide on how to learn Couchsurfing in the GUIDE KIT, feel free to download it and discover more about this fantastic way of traveling.
As always, use some cautions and follow your instincts. The majority of people on Couchsurfing are genuine and very nice, but it is good practice to select your host properly.
Remember, Couchsurfing is not about sleeping for free, but it is about connecting people around the world. When you do it, make sure to be a great guest; help out, bring gifts to the hosts, make your stay is special for them too.
As well as Couchsurfing, Global freeloaders is also a community that works in a similar fashion. The main difference is that you will be requested to host as well as travel within 6 months. So keep that in mind.
Become a super-volunteer (Free)
The WWOOFing association stands for World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms and it is a great website that connects you with farmers around the world.
You gotta do some work
Depending on the farmer availability you might be required to work at the farm. In exchange, you will be entitled to get a place to sleep and on some occasions food will be included too.
There are plenty of opportunities in organic farms, gardens, businesses, ranches, lodges, where you can exchange your services for accommodations, food, and training.
There is work for any kind of hero
Required services include basic garden and farm maintenance, as well as cooking, teaching, caring for children, and handy work. There is usually some work suitable for anybody willing to adopt this lifestyle.
Become a member
You will be required to apply for a membership to gain access to all the listings and offers, but the prices are very low and well worth the try.
Plus, you will meet amazing people who can recommend you other places and connect you with other travelers and working opportunities.
Servas is another great resource. It is a non-profit non-denominational non-ethnic organization of good-will and cultural exchanges. It’s been around for at least 50 years, and is recognized by the United Nations.
In addition to being a network to connect people and places, volunteers around the world work in relief camps and advocate for peace through various projects.
You need to go through a series of interviews to be accepted. This makes sure that the quality of the members remains high. But after that, you will have access to discover hosting opportunities.
You are also required to pay a membership fee, which varies from country to country.
It is free to join and internet-based. It appears to be the Servas of the online world. It is kept “safe” through a series of passport checks and online feedback systems with checks and balances.
You can sign up for a membership account for a small fee and have access to a classified database of people looking for caretakers in exchange for free-rent living.
The opportunities vary widely in scope from ranch hands, to organic farm workers, campground hosting, motel management, nursing for the elderly, to just plain house sitting.
Some are even paying opportunities, while others are simply work-trade arrangements for accommodation. Others yet will supply an additional stipend depending on your experience and the work entailed.
Sleep while you travel (Free – Ticket price)
You read that right. Sleep while you travel. When your next destination requires you to travel for long hours, choose overnight tickets instead of daily ones so you can sleep on trains, planes, buses and so on.
Save money, plus have a ticket
You save money on accommodation and avoid traveling during the day when it is better to enjoy wandering around your destination.
Check your possessions
Lock your bag and keep it close to you, secure your valuables to yourself, choose a seat that gives you some leg room and don’t forget to bring with you ear plugs, eye-mask, water and something warm.
Sleep in public places
Sleep in airports. They are very safe and if you have a sleeping bag you can sleep on the floor in some comfort.
Make sure you find a quieter area, again, bring ear plugs, eye-mask, water and warm clothes for the night. Keep your valuable possession close to you and make sure you use the airport wi-fi, it could be handy.
Sneak in the lounge
If you want some extra luxury at the airport, buy the cheapest business class or first class ticket you can find at the airport to whatever destination.
Those types of tickets are generally fully refundable.
The trick is simple.
Use the ticket to access the lounge, then return the ticket before the time to get a refund expires.
This can be a little dangerous, so it is definitely recommended to risk takers.
Cheats (Cheap – Free)
If you are a student, you can get your university to pay for your travel.
Ask if there are student exchange programs at your school or university. You might be entitled to apply for a 6 month or 1 year student exchange to live in another country with a local family or to study abroad.
Take that opportunity and thank me later. It’s great to spend some time abroad and fully immerse yourself in another culture and it’s a lot of fun too.
A branch overseas?
The same applies to people who want to leverage their work or company.
Is there a branch overseas? Get transferred there.
Can you attend meetings, conferences around the world in behalf of your company?
Fly for free while you work
If you are that resourceful, you can get a job as a steward or flight attendant and travel the world at the airline expenses. The options are almost endless, I’m just saying..
Wow! I am patting myself on the back for the extensive list of resources and tips regarding accommodation and cheap ways to sleep while you travel.
I hope this helped you understand that you simply have no excuses for not traveling and if you are not too needy and don’t mind a little adventure, there are plenty of ways to find cheap accommodation while you travel.
Exercise 06: Choose your accommodation
Check out the websites from the GUIDE KIT resources section
Become a member of the sites you prefer
Start interacting with people who can offer you a place to stay for your adventure
Objective: The purpose of this exercise is, once again, to take real action and show a total commitment to your adventure. Once you sign up to some of the websites I listed, you will be able to interact with active communities of travelers like you and get the spirit of what it is like to travel. You are not alone and the travel world welcome you.
The next chapter is about health, travel insurance and vaccinations and some things you should take care of before going on your adventure.