Cheap Hotels 101

Finding that home away from home shouldn't be a struggle - or a serious drain on your travel budget. From adventure lodges to hostels to homestays, we give you the goods on the best ways to find online hotel rooms for a steal
The Insider's Guide

We know how it was in the heady old days… Finding a cheap place to crash simply came down to picking up the appropriate Lonely Planet or Let’s Go, finding the hotel in your price range, and starting to dial. Now, with an enormous amount of information out there in magazines, guidebooks, on the Web, even via PDA downloads (not to mention the dizzying variety of the types of lodging available), finding that ideal base camp may make you long for home sweet home before you even leave. What follows is a bare-bones guide to distilling the voluminous info at your fingertips, collected with the sole intention of helping you find the best, least-expensive lodging there is. Follow our lead and you'll be catching Zs on beautiful beds all across the globe.

It's a wild, wild world out there, and there's an accommodation in almost every locale that caters to every flavor, passion, urge, and impulse you can imagine, from a deep-sea scuba platform-cum-hotel in Florida to remote huts in the Canadian Rockies to swank boutique hotels in New York City's trendiest hoods. If you feel at a loss as to what type of accommodation you want (or need), use your overall desire as a guide. Do you view your hotel as simply an inexpensive place to crash and not much more? Then the local Motel 6 nearest the trailhead or put-in will give you that, and cable TV to boot. Yearning for low-cost options with a high social quotient? Aim for hostels or hospitality exchanges. Prefer a hotel that’s a destination in itself? You’ve got loads of options.

Adventure and eco lodges cater to the active set, the accommodation typically embedded in its natural surroundings, from desert rock to rainforest to mangrove swamp, with rates that typically include on- and off-site activities like hiking, horseback riding, or cross-country skiing. But the frugal traveler still longing for lodging nestled in the outdoors can dodge the higher-priced adventure lodges by camping (definitely the lowest-cost option, and often the most exhilarating--try waking up with sunrise on the Aussie Outback--no resort can offer a better view), or explore options available from state- and national-park systems. You won't get five-star meals, free bike rentals, or in-room massages, but most have remarkably well-kept, refreshingly inexpensive lodging like huts, cabins, and yurts smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. There’s even a chance of scoring primo real estate smack-dab at the center of things. The Stone Hut, for example, sits atop Vermont's largest mountain in Stowe Mountain Resort'a massive, no-frills cabin built in 1936 owned and rented out by Vermont State Parks for a song, with nothing but an early wake-up standing between you and first tracks on the slopes. But if you go this route, act soon—these great deals typically get booked well in advance.

Spa properties float on the other end of the spectrum, merging orgiastic outdoor scenery with a higher price tag and a variety of wellness treatments, like massage, seaweed wraps, and whatever Madonna's latest obsession might be—alongside more time-tested treatments like the decades-old hot springs at West Virginia's Greenbrier. Boutique hotels, meanwhile, cater to their client’s hip personality, with prices well below the four- and five-star hotels. Think hip furniture, brash use of color, prime locales, and trendy lobby or rooftop bars. Then there's the high-end hotels and all-inclusive resorts , which come with all the expected amenities—as well as luxe treatment for your pets.

Regardless of the type of lodging, there's still a bucketload of ways to save cash. Read on...

Published: 16 Jun 2005 | Last Updated: 13 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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