Saving on Vacation Housing

When I learned recently that my sister is moving to Florida, I was so excited that I almost peed my pants. After the screaming subsided, my sis asked what all the commotion was about, and I proceeded to respond incoherently, mumbling, laughing and hooting like a crazy person. She hung up.

I gathered my wits and called her back to explain: I'm so excited about taking my unborn baby to both see her in Florida and to ride all of the Disney World rides for a fraction of the cost (read: no hotel fees!). I might even make this dream-come-true an annual vacation destination, if my sister can tolerate me and the fam for a week or so per year.

This, of course, brought me to brainstorm ways that other families can save on vacation destination housing. Join me as I take a look at some cheap accommodation how-to's for any location!

Find Affordable Housing

First and foremost on the savings itinerary for any vacation is the housing costs. If you can luck out like I did, you could stay with family or friends for all of your vacay or for a portion of the trip. But if you're miles from a friendly face, here are a few other options that can help alleviate hotel costs:

  • Check Out Couch Surfing – Depending on the size of your travel group, CouchSurfing.org may be a wonderful option. The site allows you to befriend people in other locations in order to trade in-home hosting. So if you don't mind putting up a family from Italy for a week, you could crash at their home during your vacation.
  • Try Swapping Houses – Another option for free accommodations is to agree to house swap. Sites like HomeExchange.com can pair you up with a family looking to stay in your area while you visit theirs. During that week or so, you basically exchange homes; they live in yours while you live in theirs.
  • Go in Halfsies – If depending on the goodness of strangers isn't your thing, renting a home with a large group could save you some cash. This often works best for family reunions or vacations with friends because the more adults contributing to the cost of renting a vacation home, the cheaper the rental fee when split between you.
  • Book a Hostel – Hostels are very popular overseas, but they are also more common now in larger U.S. cities. The accommodations are very basic, and you will most likely share a bathroom with strangers. But the cost is a fraction of a hotel booking.
  • Try Out Half-Price Online Rentals – Websites like Priceline.com can get you great deals on hotel rooms if you're flexible. Sites like these work with hotels to help them book unused rooms at about half price, on average

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Personally, I haven't tried couch surfing or house swapping, but I'd love to do so. Sometime soon, perhaps. Splitting accommodation costs with family, booking a hostel and scoring deals through websites have all worked for me in the past, though. I hope some or all of these can work for you and your family as well.

Readers, if you have any other accommodation tips, we'd love to hear them!

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Anonymous's picture

Michelle wrote:

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 12:17 Comment #: 1

I've used Airbnb and that's great!

Anonymous's picture

Julie @ Freedom 48 wrote:

Wed, 05/02/2012 - 00:45 Comment #: 2

Couch surfing scares me - and I'd certainly never consider it if I had children in tow. I do enjoy staying in hostels though (private room with a shared bathroom), and we've opted to rent a cottage for a week here and there. $500 or less for a full week at a cottage is a good cheap vacation to me! (and the price doesn't increase if you have 4ppl instead of 2)

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 05/03/2012 - 01:59 Comment #: 3

Michelle, thanks for the tip!

Julie, I agree that couch surfing is not usually a great bet for families. Hostels aren't always family-friendly either. But cottages are very family-friendly and cash-friendly -- definitely will have to go the cottage route for vacays!

Anonymous's picture

Broke Professionals wrote:

Thu, 05/03/2012 - 20:00 Comment #: 4

My best friend (and her family) are going halfsies with me and my family when we go to the beach later this month. I'm thrilled that we'll be able to spend some time with them, but that's not the reason we're sharing a condo - we're doing it because it was way cheaper to get a 4bd/2bath place near the beach than two 2bd/1bath places!

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Mon, 05/07/2012 - 21:30 Comment #: 5

Have a great vacay, BP! Isn't it amazing how much of a price difference one large house is compared to two small ones?

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