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5 ways to save money on accommodation in North America

5 ways to save money on accommodation in North America

The most expensive part of any travel adventure is usually accommodation expenses and these can easily kill a traveler’s budget before you know it.

Accommodation has accounted for a whopping 40% of our spending on our trip so far!

Despite this large number, the two of us are always looking out for great deals and have booked the best-value accommodation we could find in every city we’ve visited. Imagine how much higher this figure would be if we were only staying in nice hotels!

If you’re visiting North America, here are 5 great ways you can save money on your lodging – these websites have literally saved us thousands of dollars over the past 2 months!

Priceline

Priceline.comThe first few weeks of our trip were well-organized and we had accommodation booked in advance. However, we’ve needed flexibility over the last few weeks and Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” feature has saved us a lot of money on last-minute hotels.

Enter your city and dates, choose an area, select a hotel star level and then name your own price. Use the forums at BetterBidding.com to see a history of winning bids to ensure you don’t pay too much!

Best deal so far: We got a room at the 4-star Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach for $46/night plus taxes and fees. Talk about awesome!

Airbnb

Airbnb.comAirbnb has been our favorite accommodation option so far and we’ve used it wherever possible. Not only is it cheaper than hotels, you also get a whole lot more bang for your buck!

We’ve stayed at Airbnb accommodation in Honolulu, Maui, San Francisco, Beverly Hills and now New York City. Most have their own kitchens and you get the benefit of living like a local in these cities, allowing you to find hidden gems like these Queen Anne cottages in San Francisco.

Best deal so far: Our very own apartment in Honolulu for $75/night with spectacular sunset views of the Pacific Ocean. Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Shopping Center were both within walking distance.

Hotwire

Hotwire.comHotwire’s premise is that after you type in the city and dates of your stay, they present you with a list of available hotels. However like Priceline, they don’t give you the name of the hotel in advance!

You can only see the description, the hotel amenities and its approximate location. This allows hotels to fill unsold rooms without competing against their regular retail sales and can save you up to 50% off.

Again – the forums at BetterBidding.com gives you a list of Hotwire Hotels that you can compare the amenities with so that you can usually identify where you’re staying.

Best deal so far: We’ve only used Hotwire once for The Holiday Inn in Chicago, which was $110/night plus taxes and fees. Not an outstanding deal but still more than 50% off the published rate!

Hostels

HostelbookersDue to the car culture in North America and cheap motels being plentiful, hostels are generally only found in major cities. When it’s been cost-effective, we’ve stayed in hostels which offer much cheaper accommodation than hotels and have features budget travelers want like free breakfast, free wireless internet and more.

Best deal so far: The hostels in North America haven’t been cheap but we’ve scored private rooms (with shared bathrooms) in Seattle and Chicago for less than $100/night.

CouchSurfing

CouchsurfingCouchSurfing is many budget traveler’s best friend – not only can you get free accommodation, you also have the opportunity to make new friends, get a real local’s experience and see things that you otherwise wouldn’t have in the city you’re visiting.

Unfortunately we haven’t used CouchSurfing on our North American journey so far but check out this excellent guest post for all the benefits of CouchSurfing and why it’s a great accommodation option.

Do you know of any other ways to save money on accommodation in North America? Share them in the comments.

11 Comments

  1. Posted October 4, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    We’re huge Airbnb fans. Nothing like having your own kitchen… :)
    Technosyncratic recently posted..A Day in the Life of a Housesitter

    • Posted October 5, 2011 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      Definitely agree! We should’ve added housesitting to this list too after reading your latest post… :)

    • Mahesh
      Posted January 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      Airbnb is one of my favorite vacation rental booking sites. I have also traveled with great discounts from some other sites like Wimdu but when it is about customer satisfaction, Airbnb is better than all other rental booking sites.

  2. Posted October 5, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    I agree that suite aggregators such as Airbnb make for some really affordable accommodations in great areas, and I often look under “suite rentals” to find excess inventory from developers or timeshare owners for some US deals.

    Cheers, Tee
    Tee recently posted..Costa Rica Hosts World Rafting Championship

    • Posted October 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Airbnb is fantastic and there are many other sites out there offering apartment rentals and the like. We’ve found that Airbnb is by far the easiest though, on other sites you don’t get the same protection and a lot of our emails went unanswered.

  3. Posted October 5, 2011 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Since returning from my RTW trip I’ve been doing a lot of local/U.S. trips. While I have yet to use Airbnb I have CouchSurfed in a few different places the U.S. and I’ve had nothing but great experiences! I’m looking forward to giving airbnb a shot sooner or later.
    Ryan @ PauseTheMomen recently posted..DC Road Trip Part 4 – Sightseeing in Washington DC!

    • Posted October 5, 2011 at 3:28 am | Permalink

      That’s great to hear! We would’ve loved to have tried CouchSurfing here but everything was too last minute to organize anything.

  4. Posted October 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    My sister and I went the motel route while we were roadtripping. We tried to stick to hotels/motels in the Choice brand so we could also earn some points for the future. We spent, on average, probably about $80 per night for rooms with 2 beds. Not bad, considering we were splitting the costs.
    Amanda recently posted..Best Blogs of the Month – September, 2011

    • Posted October 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Not bad at all. Definitely easy to go with motels when you’ve got a car (and you also don’t pay the ridiculous fees that some hotels try to charge you to self-park!).

  5. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised you guys haven’t been couchsurfing! That’s my favorite way to travel in the U.S. Total cost = $0, and you also get the knowledge and advice of a local to give you tips and ideas for things to see nearby. I think once you start, you will be hooked on it.
    Scott – QuirkyTravel recently posted..New York City neighborhoods worth checking out

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      We were too flexible to organize couches for surfing, particularly in convenient locations. But you’re totally right about getting the advice of a local – we’re going to write a post about that in the coming months and why you should always get away from the main tourist areas.

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