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Affordable Family Travel: Ways to Save on Lodging

-Save Money with Alternative Styles of Lodging

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Villa Saint Exupery Gardens, Nice, France. Photo courtesy of Hostelbookers.com.

Family-friendly hostel, in Nice, France.

Photo courtesy of Hostelbookers.com.
Hotels can take a big bite out of the travel budget. Below are ten money-saving ideas - including some creative alternative types of lodging.

1. In Big Cities: Rent Apartments
Suppose you're dreaming of a family stay in London, Or New York, maybe tacked onto a business trip... Hotel prices can be a rude awakening.

Renting an apartment can be a better option in several ways. First: apartment rental is often more affordable than a hotel. Also, you'll get more space to spread out, plus the huge convenience of having your own kitchen and laundry; families can save considerable money by eating meals or snacks in your own kitchen (especially in a city like London, where even McDonald's ain't cheap.) Paris, Venice, New York-- same advice holds. Plus, kids love to have a home base, and a neighborhood to explore.

2. Rent a Vacation Home
Similarly, if you're visiting a popular vacation spot -- summer beach getaway, Caribbean island, Orlando -- you can rent a vacation home and enjoy multiple bedrooms, all the conveniences of home, and perhaps even a private pool and giant tv system. A number of good web sites let you view photos and peruse detailed descriptions of potential lodgings. Read more about vacation home rentals.

Often, the "villas" offered as vacation home rentals are large and deluxe, yet can still save money if you implement another another money-saving strategy...

3. Travel with Family or Friends
It's sometimes called "multi-household travel"-- whatever the words, more and more people are using vacation time to get together with extended family or friends.

Rent somewhere spacious and share it with another family, whether it's a tropical villa or a houseboat on Lake Powell. Orlando has great options for vacation home rentals, with 3-5 bedrooms and private pools- read more.

4. Airbnb
This rapidly-growing website connects individuals who have a space to rent with travelers seeking a place to stay. Accommodation could be as simple as spare room to rent, but more and more listings are for entire homes. Check out Brooklyn, for instance: lots of great homes for families to stay!

5. Do a Home Exchange
Home exchanges offer the chance to stay at your destination absolutely free. As with vacation home rentals, many web sites are available for home exchanges.

Granted, sometimes problems do occur, perhaps due to a mismatch in house-attitude: such as, when the Careful family swaps with the Carefree or the Careless. Nonetheless countless families have great experiences with home exchanges. If you think you're the right personality type, go for it. Be sure to establish a good connection with your exchanging family: use Skype, and meet in person if you can.

6. Rent Out Your Own House While You're Gone
It's a bother-- but renting out your house during an extended absence can cover plenty of travel costs. You might advertise in a local paper; or post a notice at a university. where visiting faculty often need a place to stay. Bonus: the renting family might look after pets and plants.

7. In Europe: Stay at Family Rooms in Hostels
Hostels have been changing: perhaps you still still picture dormitory-style rooms filled with backpackers, but many hostels these days have private rooms for families. Increasingly, rooms with private baths are available; but even if the bathrooms are shared, they're typically very clean and convenient. Family-friendly hostels have several advantages besides low price: they're friendly places, a nice feature when traveling with kids, and often they're housed in character buildings -- as in the photo above, showing a hostel in Nice, France, where families can book private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Often, breakfast is included with your room price and can be a friendly meal with fellow guests. Sometimes dinners are available, too. Read more about Family-Friendly Hostels.

In another trend, in some places-- such as Rome-- the word "hostel" is being widely applied to inexpensive hotels: a "hostel" may have a private bathroom, air conditioning, and the regular check-in procedures of a budget hotel.

8. Agritourism
Agritourism is basically a B&B-type arrangement that takes place at a farm, and can be a nice option for families with little kids who'll enjoy the chance to be around farm animals.

Because locations are rural, guests are likely to have a fair amount of personal interaction with hosts; the personal aspect of agritourism is one of its appealing features, for many guests.

Agritourism is probably most popular in Europe -- Italy, for instance, has hundreds of options-- but is growing in many countries including the US and Canada; for example, families can find some nice farm-stay choices in New England.

9. Home Stays
Home stays are another way to stay with a local family on a paying basis. Home stays are common in certain parts of the world: in Bali, for example, home stays are a common choice for visitors.

Usually rates are modest, and when you stay with a local family, you get not only a place to sleep, but you may also get an up-close look at another culture.

10. Hospitality Clubs: Stay with Local Hosts
With this style of travel, not only are you staying in a private home, you're also expected to socialize with your hosts.

The idea of staying with a family you've never met doesn't appeal to everyone. After all, you're taking a chance, hoping they'll be interesting, friendly folk...

But remember: they're taking the exact same chance on you! In fact, people who try this form of travel tend to describe their stays with local hosts in glowing terms.

An excellent example of a "hospitality club" is SERVAS , a remarkable network of hosts who offer each other 13,000 "open doors" around the world. Most hosts offer two nights accommodation and share evening meals, and many hosts welcome families. Servas' philosophy is to promote peace and understanding as visitors learn about their hosts' lives, interests, and concerns. More recently, Couchsurfing has emerged as a great way to stay with a local host, but Servas may be more useful to families.

11. Take alternative-style holidays
For example: take the kids off to a distant land to Wwoof-- to volunteer on an organic farm in France, Ireland, Japan, Israel, or many other countries around the world.

(Many other types of "Volunteer Vacations" are being offered by a burgeoning number of organizations, but caution: a lot of these organizations charge a hefty fee to arrange a week or two of "voluntourism". Check carefully how the trip is priced and how much of your fee is actually devoted to the local community.)

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