Use Alternative Housing Arrangements and Save on Your Next Vacation

The family vacation is pricey.

According to Free Money Finance, in 2007, the average American spent $1,654 on their summer vacation.

If the vacation is a week long, that is approximately $236 a day, of which I am guessing accommodations are a large portion of the expense.  If you are a family of four, you may be able to stay in cheaper hotel accommodations, but if you have three or more children, hotel stays get to be tricky (and expensive) because most hotels will only sleep 4 to a room and want you to buy two rooms or a suite, both expensive options.

If you would like to minimize your expense for accommodations on your next vacation, there are several hotel alternatives.

Vacation Rentals By Owners (VRBOs)

These properties are rented out to vacationers, usually at a price cheaper than hotel rooms.

In addition, they are more spacious.

My family and I recently travelled to Chapel Hill, NC for my husband’s conference, and we found that suites to accommodate our family of 5 would cost on average $160 a night plus tax.  Instead, we rented a VRBO for $116 a night plus tax.  We stayed in a two bedroom condo that had a full kitchen complete with all the dishes necessary so we could cook.  It was 1,000 sq. feet and was much more spacious and quiet than any hotel I have ever stayed in.

However, use caution when booking a VRBO.

Wealth Informatics recently shared how to avoid VRBO scams, of which there are plenty.

Although our appliances were quite outdated in our rental condo (think a microwave from the ‘80s with a turn dial to set the cooking time), we had a nice stay.  The owner was attentive, and beyond the aesthetics, it was a good place to rent.  We used the website to find the condo; I liked that I could see pictures of the property and read other users’ reviews.

Home Exchanges

vacation beach chairs

An alternative housing arrangement for your vacation can help you save.

A home exchange allows you the opportunity to stay in someone else’s home while they stay in yours.  Some people also exchange their vehicles as part of the deal.

This is an excellent way to travel on a budget, as you often don’t have to pay anything to stay at the other person’s home while they stay in yours.  If you use a site such as to find the people you will exchange a home with, there is a fee of $9.95 a month to be a member of the site.

Of course, with this type of arrangement, you are also giving up a bit of your privacy, and you must sign detailed contracts stipulating all of the rules for your home so you don’t come back to a messy home or worse.

Still, many adventurous people exchange homes and save a great deal, especially when visiting large cities.

Family-friendly Hostels

Many people think of hostels as places for young people traveling on the cheap, but there are several around the world that also cater to families.

While a hostel will not offer luxurious accommodations, it does offer a basic shelter with bunk beds.

Family-friendly hostels allow the family to sleep together in the same private room.  Check ahead to see if the hostel you will be staying in supplies sheets.

A good place to begin your search is

Be advised that if your family stays in a hostel, you will be sharing a kitchen and often a bathroom.  You will also share common living quarters, so hostels are ideal for extraverts who enjoy interaction with others.

Local Farm

Agritourism is for people and families that would like to take a vacation in a rural area.

There are many different farms and ranches across the United States as well as in Europe offering agritourism.  You can choose the location that offers what you would like to do on your vacation—farming, hunting, fishing, horseback riding. 

These types of vacations are again good for people who want to get away from it all and who don’t mind interacting with others (as you may be interacting daily with the farmers or ranchers and their family).

This option is the least frugal of the four options, but accommodations usually include all meals and your entertainment (on the farm).  A good site to begin your search is


Traveling with a family, especially a larger family classified by today’s standards as 3 or more kids, definitely has its challenges.

However, there are alternative arrangements you can make beyond the standard hotel room to not only save some money, but also to have a new adventure.

Have you used alternative housing arrangements while on vacation?

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Published or updated May 8, 2013.


  1. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I vote for visiting friends and family and thus staying for free!

  2. Or you could take a vacation that has the lodging included. I am going on a 5 night cruise and the fare is going to cost less than most normal lodging would .

  3. We rented a condo when we travelled to DisneyWorld this January – it saved us so much money! And yes, the appliances were a little dated, but really, a 3 BR condo for our family of five plus my parents? We’d have needed 3 hotel rooms, and the restaurant meals alone would have cost as much as the condo did!

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