It’s likely your favorite destination is already on your mind.  But where to stay? Even hotels can be pretty pricey, but fortunately there are other options – places that have character and are affordable to boot. With a little research and a little bit of mapping out, you can hit on these criteria for some awesome travels.

So here are some great options for saving on lodging this summer:

1. Order In

One of the best ways to save money is on food. Prioritize finding a place with a kitchen and you can cook up your own grub and save a ton on food expenses in the process. HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb are all great ways to find just the digs (kitchen included) for your travel needs. The set-up is also such that you get a clear preview into the amenities and the area of your stay.

2. Home Swap

Timed right, home swaps are a great way to snag lodging while offering up your own home in exchange. Essentially, it’s like paying your mortgage or rent for another location – you won’t be paying costs for lodging in addition to the rent for an empty place while you’re gone.  I just did this last month and it saved me a week of hotel costs!

Check out Craigslist or other homeswap sites like Homes Around The World to see if anyone has posted a swap in a location you’d be interested in visiting. Since it is a service that connects to strangers, proceed with caution and make sure you feel entirely (entirely) comfortable with the the agreement you reach. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  And if you’re yearning for solace in quiet, friendly woods, check out this amazing cabin in Big Bear – just two hours from here.

3. Travel Companions

Similar to splitting a meal, bringing along a travel companion (preferable one you like to be around, whom you’re compatible with!) offsets the cost of a place to stay by 1/2.  And if you both like the same cuisine, meal-splitting is a great option too – not just for your wallet but your waistline, too.  It IS summer!

4. Couchsurfing.  What?

Once unthinkable, Couchsurfing has become mainstream. It’s akin to bumming off a night’s sleep on an open couch, it’s become much more as the network of hosts and surfers has expanded. Just like with a home swap, follow safety tips and be smart. While hosts are verified, it’s still a potential risk to enter into a stranger’s home. This is one instance where it’s best to have a strong sense of what to expect rather than just winging it entirely. Do your research and read the reviews. If you feel in any way unsure – better to be overly cautious.  And remember your host will be as skeptical of you as you may be of them, at first.

5. Network!

You’re already doing it on Facebook and LinkedIn, so why not apply our contemporary logic to travel? Many travel junkies have plenty of connections and you might have all the lodging resources you need once you’ve built up a network along your adventure.

With all the options out there, it really does payoff to research and experiment with the various ways to lodge on your next vacation. Take it from me, the adult survivor of a chain hotel employee parent, there ARE other options and half the fun is searching them out.

And while you’re enjoying your stay, wherever that may be, you’ll also enjoy the smart choices you’ve made and the money you’ve saved.

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