Travel accommodation options beyond hotels and motels
Do you stay in hotels or motels when you travel? Have you considered other types of accommodations?
Hotels are readily available with cost and services ranging from low-cost and basic to supreme luxury. But there are also other options available to the traveller, some cheaper, some more expensive.
A condo or house rental offers space and privacy. Kitchen facilities save on the cost of meals, even if you only cook a small number of your own meals. My husband and I like the freedom of lazy mornings with coffee and our own breakfast. The occasional basic home-cooked meal is a refreshing break from restaurant food. Our rental in Nevis also offered incredible views of the ocean beyond a professionally designed garden. Sites to search for home rentals include Vacation Rentals by Owners, HomeAway, Owner Direct Vacation Rentals, and tripadvisor. Through AirBnB you rent houses or suites or rooms within host homes.
At one time, we owned a timeshare. In addition to stays at our home resort, we were able to trade our weeks with other resorts through membership in an exchange community. Our stay in an elegant apartment in a renovated manor house in the New Forest area of England was one of the most memorable. Timeshares are not for everyone, but they may be a good choice if you wish to travel frequently to the same location, and are flexible in vacation timing and location to take advantage of exchange opportunities.
Timeshare companies sometimes offer discounted rates to the public. In exchange for the discount, you usually need to spend half a day with a salesperson who will try to sell you a unit. We stayed three nights in Las Vegas on one of these offers. We spent one morning with a salesperson. After an expensive breakfast buffet, we embarked on a tour of the resort and an intense sales pitch session. It was an interesting experience, but one we’re unlikely to repeat.
We rented a motorhome to tour south-west England with my daughter and step-daughters. At the time, they ranged in age from four to ten. The motorhome, or caravan as it is usually called in England, allowed us flexibility and privacy. We travelled short distances each day. I arranged outings that included something of interest for the children and for the adults. We discovered quaint country pubs at lunch time.
The motorhome allowed us to go from place to place without lugging suitcases, packing and unpacking. We had breakfast and snacks in the unit and cooked the occasional dinner. Most of the caravan parks we stayed in had playgrounds or pools and room for the girls to run around and burn off energy. One park was a farmer’s field. The farmer took the children with him on his feeding round and gave the girls pony rides. Very few North Americans travelled this way. The people we met at the campgrounds were usually British families on their summer vacation. We also met a few people from other parts of Europe. We carried on a conversation with an Italian family, my oldest step-daughter acting as translator. The Italian family spoke no English. We spoke no Italian. They spoke French, giving my step-daughter opportunity to make use of her French immersion schooling.
The motorhome itself handled like a big truck, which occasionally made for challenging driving on narrow, winding, hilly roads, but my husband managed. Many memories were created on that trip.
Tent Campingis another option for summer weather travel. I am not a tent person and have never done this. If you are on the move and in a different spot each night, set up and take down could be onerous, but if you are staying in one spot for a few days, this can be a cheaper option than hotels.
My sister has done several successful house exchange vacations. You swap your house with someone who wishes to vacation in your home town, sometimes agreeing to also swap vehicles. My sister’s exchanges have all been with families in Europe. I hope to join her on one this summer in Barcelona. If you are comfortable having someone live in your house when you’re not there, and you live in an area with enough tourist appeal to interest potential exchanges, this can be an economical option. My sister’s latest exchange was made through Intervac. There are other home exchange websites to choose from.
House-sitting is another option. I’ve not done it and only recently learned about it. The terms often include pet-sitting. Following is a list of sites with house-sitting opportunities:
TrustedHousesitters.com, MindMyHouse.com, housecarers.com, Caretaker.org
I first stayed in a bed and breakfast in England years ago, when the rooms people opened up in their own homes were a more budget-friendly choice than pricey hotels. Bed and breakfasts are now popular in North America as well. They are often more expensive than budget hotels, but offer character and charm not present in other types of accommodation. We once stayed at a old farmhouse in rural Manitoba while attending a family reunion. The house was decorated with period furniture and we had access to a large yard with a beautiful garden.
Some of our most memorable vacations have been visiting family and friendsand staying in their homes. The visit was often the main purpose of the vacation, but we frequently toured the area as well.
All-inclusive resorts and cruises are vacation accommodations in a class of their own. All-inclusive resorts, usually in sun destinations, are great places to relax and feel pampered. Cruises provide luxury accommodation in one spot while you travel from port to port. What differentiates these accommodations from the others I’ve listed is that the accommodation is often the destination itself, not merely a place to stay as you explore the destination.
Lastly, coming back full-circle to hotel options, don’t overlook the small local hotels and inns. They may be economical alternatives to larger resorts or chains, and allow you to experience the local culture more fully.
What types of vacation accommodations do you recommend? Do you have any particular favourites?