Written by Amy Masters
Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
When travelling, it's easy to flock toward hotels that are known and trusted, but are they the best value for your money? Having rented properties in six Canadian provinces & one U.S. state when travelling — both short and longer term — I've grown to be a huge advocate for alternative accommodations that offer more value than a hotel. Here are some tips based on my experiences:
Choose an Entire Apartment, House or Condo
I say this for two reasons. The first is that while I've never tried shared accommodations while travelling, I don't want to put myself in a situation where our sleep schedules aren't the same, our lifestyle choices clash, etc.
When talking to my friend Matt McGuire about one of his hostel experiences, he mentioned that one of his bunkmates kept slamming a locker and crinkling plastic bags at 4 a.m. – something that would be challenging when you're hoping for a good night's sleep.
The second reason is that I find it comforting to know that I have a place of my own to relax in after a long day of sightseeing.
Food & Kitchen Access
Save money by cooking rather than eating out. Read the property details carefully though – some accommodations only offer a kitchenette with a hot plate and mini-fridge, which might not be suitable for a larger group. Everywhere I've stayed had dishes, pots/pans, utensils, etc., and some had starter food items (e.g. cooking oil, spices, cereal, milk, etc.) while others had full fridges I was welcome to. Some properties in warmer climates even have fruit trees or a garden. My favourite stay so far had a breakfast picnic basket delivered on our doorstep in the morning!
Spend less time and money on commuting by picking a location that's close to the action. There are residential pockets in most neighbourhoods, making it easy to rent a space just about anywhere.
WiFi & Internet Access
No one wants to come home with an expensive roaming bill. Find a place with secure WiFi and use it to download maps and info before heading out the door.
Love the outdoors? Check out properties that provide a mountain or water view, access to a backyard or a rooftop patio, a BBQ or outdoor water sports like canoeing.
Other places I've stayed had video game consoles, pianos, cable TV, a hot tub and other ways to unwind. A friend of mine, Olivier Cantin, stayed in a hostel in Australia where he had access to board games during his stay, and when Matt stayed in a hostel during his trip to Japan, he organized a costume night out with other hostel guests.
Enjoy a good book before bed? I've stayed in places that had walls of books, so many that I'd never get through them all during my trip.
Some dedicated hosts will offer to be your tour guide or help with your trip planning. Most of the places I've stayed at had brochures or booklets with suggestions for dining, attractions and commuting.
When it comes to saving on travel, be sure to ask around. The experienced travellers in your life will likely have all sorts of tips and tricks.