Traditional hotels, hostels, and resorts have been the standard form of accommodations for most travelers. When people travel, they have come to expect a specific roster of features and amenities that hotels have come to be known to offer, lest they earn the wrath of their guests. However, in the last few years, people have been getting creative with the accommodations that they choose to stay in as they travel. Whether it be from the need to save a few dollars or just a desire to experience a completely nontraditional environment and escape the normalcy of day-to-day life, alternative accommodations can have everything you want. Here are some ideas:
Home stays are the perfect kind of accommodations for mid- to long-term trips to places by budget-conscious backpackers. A home stay is more of a type of program. Usually, the price is all-inclusive and includes a bed (private room is not always the case), meals (usually 3 per day), and even immersion into the local culture and language; several hours of language study is often included in the package. Many volunteer opportunities will pair volunteers up with a home stay as recompense for the free work the guest is providing. Home stays are usually booked for weeks at a time. For more information on home stays, check out these great websites: HomestayWeb, Homestay Booking, and Greenheart Travel.
Couchsurfing is similar to the home stay programs, but there is not supposed to be either any financial or work-related obligation for the guest. A traveler interested in going for a few days to another city can search people offering their couch (not necessarily a couch; may be a room or a sleeping bag). Couchsurfing is another great way to travel; aside from it being free, the guest and the host will hopefully strike up a friendship, and both can become immersed a bit in the other’s culture. Read more about CouchSurfing HERE.
Rent Homes from Individuals
Renting homes from other people has become popular over the last few years. As the economy globally has been at a low, people with an apartment or house have turned to renting out their places when they are not using them. As for the guest, they benefit by often having a more local-feeling stay, as well as perhaps saving money compared to renting a room at a nearby hotel. Some great websites that offer these kinds of services are AirBnB, Wimdu, and roomorama.
Bed & Breakfasts
Bed & breakfasts, or B&B’s, are not so nontraditional, but they have lost some of their popularity in the last decade or so. What used to be a common form of accommodation, especially for couples and those seeking quiet solitude, have fallen off the radar. Bed and Breakfasts are simply homes that a proprietor have converted into accommodations for the public. Each room becomes a separate unit for rent. The breakfast part is the other neat thing about this form of overnight stay, since it is common for the host to include a family-style breakfast for all their guests. Typically, the breakfast is served at a specific time, and all guest are expected to sit around the table communally and participate. Some resources for searching for bed & breakfasts include bedandbreakfast.com, BBonline, and I Love Inns.
Home swapping is another new phenomenon quite similar to the Airbnb craze. However, instead of renting a place from someone else, the two parties would “swap” homes, facilitating a sort of vacation for both. A couple with an apartment in Paris might get in touch with a family with a country cottage in upstate New York, and the two could trade for a week or so and each benefit from the different environment, while not shelling out any money (unless one place is worth significantly more than the other). Some great resources for house swapping are are HomeLink, HomeExchange, or Intervac Home Exchange.
Farm stays are also similar to home stays, but the home is situated on a working farm or ranch. Ideal for city folk who need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the 24/7 fast-paced lifestyle, a farm stay offers free or cheap accommodations at a functioning farm or ranch in return for some muscle. Check out these websites for further info: DudeRanch.org, Agritourism.net, and FarmStay U.S.
Other Unusual Hotels and Alternative Accommodations
People have been getting creative in the last decade; there is virtually nothing that can’t be turned into some kind of overnight accommodation. From trees to re-purposed train cars and boats, here are some of the most unique accommodations that have sprouted all over the world:
Boatel – The Boatel is more than just hotels from boats; it is a floating art installation. There are 23 different “rooms” to rent, each with a different theme. It is located in Jamaica Bay in New York City, right near the runways of JFK International Airport.
Utter Inn – This Swedish room is situated in the middle of a lake and has sparse amenities and only two single beds. The neat part of this place is the fact that half of the room is located underwater.
TreeHotel – There are now many hotels that are tree houses, but this one is one of the most unique. Also situated in Sweden, the TreeHotel is several separate rooms with different themes located high above a forest.
For more unusual accommodations, perhaps in a lighthouse or cave visit Unusual Hotels of the World.