How to Find Cheap (or Free!) Places to Crash on Vacation
Why waste your vacation dollars on pricey hotel rooms when there are cheaper – and sometimes free – alternatives?
Step 1: Network If you don't know anyone in the area you plan to visit, send a mass email to friends and loved ones asking if they do, and if that person would let you crash on their couch. Or spread the word yourself using social-networking sites like Facebook.
TIP: Take advantage of websites devoted to connecting travelers with people willing to put them up for free, like "couchsurfing.com":http://couchsurfing.com or "globalfreeloaders.com":http://globalfreeloaders.com. Just remember, if you take this route, exercise caution.
Step 2: Do a home swap If you'd rather not stay with a stranger, or have one in your home, arrange an apartment or house swap so they're in your place while you crash at theirs. Of course, this is easier if you live in or near a popular travel destination.
Step 3: Book rooms in hostels Book rooms in hostels. Contrary to popular belief, most accept visitors of all ages.
Step 4: Crash in a convent If you're visiting Europe, check with tourism boards about inexpensive rooms to rent in convents and monasteries.
TIP: Italy boasts the most church-related accommodations.
Step 5: Go back to school Check with local universities; many rent their dorm rooms to travelers during the summer, no age limit involved.
Step 6: Catch some z's on buses and trains Plan your itinerary around overnight bus and train trips to save the price of a hotel room.
Step 7: Be a pod person Be a pod person. Many major cities now have so-called pod hotels -- places that rent a teeny room for a tiny price.
FACT: According to one survey, a complimentary breakfast is the most important amenity to travelers when picking a hotel, followed by a swimming pool.