- I travel on a budget but refuse to stay in a hostel as I prioritize my privacy.
- In places like Spain, Hungary, and Bulgaria, I’ve stayed in great accommodations for a low price.
- I’ve cut costs by booking budget hotels and Airbnb rentals that come with resort amenities.
To me, exploring a destination is more important than staying in the best accommodation — after all, I’m there to discover a new place, not stay in a hotel.
That outlook has saved me hundreds on my travels across Europe. In the past two years, I’ve visited five countries — Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain, Latvia, and Poland — without breaking the bank.
Along the way, I’ve found that not being too picky about where I stay and booking vacation rentals have helped me save money.
I do, however, draw the line at hostels. Although hostels can be a great way to meet new people, and often in amazing locations, I personally don’t feel comfortable sharing my personal space with strangers. In my opinion, the low price tag isn’t worth the lack of privacy. And even though some hostels offer private rooms, I still prefer my own apartment or hotel room when I’m traveling.
Here are a few tips that have helped me save money on my recent travels.
Stay in budget chain hotels
When I visited Budapest, Hungary, in February 2022, I paid around $120 (or $30/night) for a four-night stay at EasyHotel, a budget hotel chain that has over 40 locations across Europe. As of July 2023, rooms at the hotel chain range from around $30 to $97 per night depending on the location, according to its website.
My room was small, but had everything I needed. There was a comfortable double bed and private bathroom, and the shower had soap. Most importantly, it was clean. The hotel’s location in Hungary’s city center was also convenient.
The only downside for me was the bright-orange wallpaper in my room — a marker of the hotel’s branding as part of the Easy group, which includes the budget airline EasyJet. The wallpaper didn’t bother me too much, though, as I spent the whole day exploring and only came back to my room to sleep.
Before booking through a hotel or resort, see if the property is on Airbnb
In September 2022, I visited Sozopol, a storybook-like town on the coast of southern Bulgaria. I wanted a more luxurious place to stay on this trip, but I wasn’t willing to pay for it.
I stayed at Santa Marina Holiday Village, which had five swimming pools, four restaurants, two wellness centers and tennis courts.
If I booked on the resort’s website directly, I would’ve had to pay around $157 per night for a studio apartment at the time of my search in August 2022. But a quick search for the same property on Airbnb led me to a similar studio apartment at the resort for $38 per night — a fraction of the cost I’d seen on the resort’s website.
Chatting to the owner of the apartment, he told me he bought the apartment at the resort and rents it out.
In Europe, Airbnb says on its website that it allows professional hosts — people who are part of a boutique hotel or property-management company — to list rental units on the vacation-rental site. It’s similar in the US, where Airbnb allows hospitality professionals to list spaces on the vacation-rental platform provided they have the appropriate business licenses and can legally manage the property and sell rooms to the public, according to its website.
Despite booking the studio on Airbnb, I still had access to all the amenities at the resort — and I saved $119 per night on my stay, spending my money on eating out instead.
Travel with other people to split costs
While I occasionally enjoy traveling solo, I’ve found it convenient to vacation with others to split accommodation costs.
For example, I recently went to Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s eight Canary Islands off northwestern Africa, with my boyfriend.
Since this was a beach vacation, I wanted to eat breakfast on a balcony with an ocean view — which I knew would come at a price, especially as we were going for nine nights.
I scrolled through hundreds of apartments on Airbnb, and settled in a gorgeous, one-bedroom apartment that was a five-minute walk to the beach. It also has the most stunning view of the ocean. Looking out of the window, I felt like I was gazing at a watercolor painting.
At the time of booking, it worked out to $774 in total, or $86 per night, which would have been a little pricey for me if I were traveling alone. Splitting the cost with my boyfriend, however, worked out well; that brought the total price down for each of us to $387 (or $43 per night), and fit my budget better.
I love traveling this way, as I get to prioritize activities and visit more countries while having my own space.