I'm a pretty low-maintenance traveler. I'm happy if my room is pest and burglar free and has a reasonably comfortable bed. I don't need nice decorations, fancy linens or granite in the kitchen.
My wife, on the other hand, is a different story. It isn't that she's high maintenance; she just has a lower tolerance for certain things than I do.
For example, she is interested in things like linen thread count, scenic views, natural light and a mold-free bathroom.
None of those are outrageous requests, but they highlight the importance of knowing what you value in accommodations and being realistic about your expectations for lodging as you travel.
After all, your room for the night is your home away from home -- and staying below your comfort level for a number of nights in a row can make the travel experience downright miserable.
Fortunately, there are affordable options that can meet all but the most stringent standards.
Old Reliable: Hotels
Traditionally, travelers have stayed in hotels, and for good reason. They are the default; a safe and reliable place to stay. Reviews are abundant, complete with pictures, so you generally know exactly what you're getting. Hotels can also offer greater convenience, as many are located near all of a city's main attractions.
But hotels are expensive! Even if you are able to get a hotel room for $75 a night, that is $2,250 a month just for lodging! And while hotels offer plenty of services, why pay the premium price if you don't plan to use all of them?
You might stay at a hotel for a couple of nights here and there on your journey, but the reality is there are much cheaper places to stay when traveling the world for months at a time.
Alternative Lodging Choice #1: Apartment Rentals
Typically, if you rent an apartment for a month or more, you will pay about half the price of the normal nightly rate at a hotel.
Not only do apartment rentals typically have a cheaper nightly rate, the added kitchen will likely cut your eating expenses in half. As an added perk, the most affordable apartments are in less touristy areas of town that can give you a better idea of how local people live. Spending some extra time in one location allows you to really get to know a culture.
Some great places to search for apartment rentals are Homeaway, Wimdu, Abetterstay, Rentalo and Roomorama. If you can speak the local language and negotiate directly with apartment owners you're likely to score even cheaper rates.
Alternative Lodging Choice #2: Hostels
If you thought apartments offered great value, hostels are an even more economical accommodation choice. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “I don't want to stay in a hostel. I don't want to share a room with sweaty, dreadlocked, potheads. Besides, I've seen that movie and it creeps me out.”
If you are in this camp, you likely have never stayed in a hostel. Yes, in hostels you live with others in a common room. And yes, there are hostels that cater to partiers. But overall, many hostels provide safe, clean and affordable lodging.
Hostels generally provide a common kitchen area for those who'd like to cook their own meals, and offer a place to sleep for as little as a third of the price of a hotel room in a similar part of town.
And for a little extra money, many hostels offer private rooms giving you the community of a hostel with the privacy of a hotel -- without the high cost.
Alternative Lodging Choice #3: The Free Accommodations
If apartments and hostels are still out of price range, how about free accommodations? There are several routes you can take that will give you a place to stay without costing a cent.
Couch Surfing: Couch Surfing is a community of people throughout the world who open their homes to travelers. It's free and a great way to meet someone who is passionate about their city. Members are vetted for safety, so you don't have to worry about being stuck with an axe murderer. You can read more about couch surfing at couchsurfing.org.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): How would you like to try your hand at organic farming in exchange for room and board? World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) has opportunities all over the world to do just that. Visit the WWOOF website to find out more.
House Sitting: If you are responsible and clean, house-sitting may be a good alternative for you. There are people all over the world who choose to hire house sitters when they travel rather than leave their homes unattended. In exchange for a place to stay, you typically have to take care of the home and possibly plants or animals, but you can't beat the price! For the price of a small membership fee (usually between $20 and $60 annually), you can apply for house sitting opportunities in hundreds of places around the world at HouseCarers, MindMyHouse and TrustedHouseSitters.
The Investing Answer: Accommodations don't have to break the bank when you're traveling the world. Figure out what you value most in lodging -- whether that be privacy, cost, luxury or convenience -- and then pick places that meet those requirements at the best possible price. The less picky you are in where you stay, the less you'll have to pay. But just remember, you're traveling the world, and your experience -- no matter what you choose -- is likely to be one you'll never forget.
In case you've missed the first three installments in this series on preparing for a year of travel, we’ve looked at: How to save for your trip, how to make money while you're living abroad and how to fly on a budget -- all topics that we hope will allow you to travel the world in an affordable, hassle-free and enjoyable way.