Cheap Hotels 101
If you're flexible, adventurous, and don't mind staying put for a few days while traveling, try staying in a stranger's house -- pre-arranged, of course. Once the sole domain of retirees and professors on sabbatical, home exchanges have recently become popular for regular travelers as well. That's good news: Now there are tons of homes and exchange programs to choose from. Start by perusing programs, like Homelink International (www.homelink.org), Intervacus (www.intervacus.com), and Homeexchange.com, which provide free previews of listings. Digsville (www.digsville.com) has a particularly user-friendly site -- postings include advice on activities in the area and detailed information about the exchangers. Participating in exchanges requires the legwork of arranging timing and details (synch schedules, getting the keys, dropping them off, etc.) and youll likely have to pay a membership fee of $50 to $75, but those are small prices to pay for living like a local.,/p
You can get free digs with hospitality exchanges, but don't think the whole point is the accommodations. Hospitality exchanges, different from home exchanges in that the homes inhabitants are there to host you, are generally about the experience of living with a local. Servas, a non-profit aiming to promote peace through travel exchanges (www.servas.org), claims a network of more than 14,000 homes in 135 countries. Travelers (and hosts) must go through an application process and pay a small fee, but if you want to immerse yourself in your choice destination, the experience is nonpareil. There are also a few less formal options as well, like free-membership Couch Surfing Project (www.couchsurfing.com) and Global Freeloaders (www.globalfreeloaders.com), both aimed at a youngish demographic.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication