Kissing Traditional Hotels Goodbye

I’ve never understood why some people travel to see the world and spend more time in their hotel room than actually seeing said world. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never wanted to spend too much money on accommodations – because I want to see so little of it.

For me, as long as it’s safe and clean and in a good location, I’m good to go. I usually do what I refer to as, “the-not-too-ghetto-hostel-thing”, which could be described as half hostel, half hotel.

I think my days of dorm hostels with the flurry of noises and smells from who-knows-who are over. On the other hand, I’m not ready for the fancy schmancy resort either – not because I wouldn’t like that sort of thing; I guess I just don’t care about it since I’d rather spend my time and money on things to see and do.

Nowadays, it’s nice to know that there are a ton of alternative accommodations out there, which won’t break the bank and doesn’t mean you’ll end up sleepin’ with the fishes either. So to help you wade through some of the options, here are some traditional hotel alternatives that are worth taking a look at: 


Hostels have a long way. Basically, the youth hostel is not so ‘youth’ anymore. Thank. The. Lord. No longer must they entail a creepy dorm experience where you’re hurdled in like cattle and forced to sleep side by side with a gang of bed bugs and every 18-year old drunk numskull with a passport and a backpack (unless of course you want to….). You can get private or semi-private rooms, and you can most certainly find ones without a bar and massage parlour attached. There are also an array of environmental hostels that boast sustainable practices or sometimes cater to NGO professionals and development workers.

How do you find a place in the sea of options to choose from? I recommend Hostelworld which is definitely the ol’ standby of websites to help you select a hostel based on all the standard deats along with pictures and a rating compiled by other reviewers.

Other go-to sites that I always check out are TripAdvisor which allows for the coveted tripadvisor travelers’ choice rankings and tons of online reviews and photos. I think most people take it seriously and I’ve always tried to return the favour by writing reviews of places I’ve stayed at for other travellers to use. Sometimes you got to take the advice with a grain of salt though…if I read one more bad hotel review because of “poor wifi” when staying in a jungle hut or “too many mosquitoes and humidity” when referring to the beach OUTSIDE of the hostel, I’ll lose it. However, all in all the process is simple and helpful.

There is also Hostelling International which has its own sustainability charter that ensures the hostels registered with it adhere to eco-friendly practices, for those that care about staying at a place that cares too. Makes sense to me.


Short-term Renting is all the rage right now and understandably so. I was always reluctant to use services like Airbnb because I tend to travel solo and the idea of staying in someone’s house while they are there kinda freaked me out. However, I tried it for the first time not long ago with a friend, and it was a great experience. We had a nice clean room in a cute house in Quebec City, blocks from all of the action and probably half the price as a mid-range hotel in the area. It took a bit of getting used to the fact that I was in someone else’s house and could still make myself at home; however, now that I’ve done it, I will be ready to tackle it on my own in the future.


House-sitting opportunities via MindMyHouse or TrustedHousesitters is another new trend in travel accommodation which I’ve heard great things about and am dying to try. Aside from an annual fee (typically 30$ – 50$), you basically get to stay somewhere for free (or virtually free) just to take care of someone’s beloved family pet. The terms of each offer may differ but they usually consist of walking a dog a few times a day while its owners are on vacay – sounds pretty reasonable and doable. There is of course a vetting process upon registration to ensure you are not a serial killer, but it looks legit and beneficial for both parties (if you’re not in fact, a serial killer).

If you peruse the sites you can see what offers are available at a particular destination. The only drawback is that you are bound to the place, which may not be ideal for those who want to take full day trips or spontaneous overnight adventures. However, I think it could be great if you’re looking for solace or are intent on exploring a particular city. I picture myself someday soon in an Italian villa secluded with my  thoughts and my laptop, a bottle of wine by my side and Fido at my feet overlooking the nearby vineyard or ocean. Sigh…a girl can dream…can’t she?


Work Exchange programs are also increasing in popularity because they allow you to have a unique cultural experience with a local family in exchange for work. You basically volunteer for a few hours a day and in exchange, get food and accommodations. Sites like HelpX and Workaway seem to cater to budget travelers, culture enthusiasts and language learners who are looking for a local experience you certainly won’t get staying at the Best Western.

If anyone has tried any of these options or are looking into it, please let me know! It’ll be great to get a review as I plan for my summer travel blitz abroad and am looking into using a few of them myself. Happy travels and sweet dreams!

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  • Alex nereuta March 2, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    So helpful, thanks! I’m curious to know if you need special insurance when you house sit for someone with a pet, in case the pet bites / injures you or vice versa….for example, if you lose the pet or it dies on your watch???

    • Maia Williamson March 3, 2015 at 12:19 am

      In your case…you might want to get some 😉

  • Smritilekha C March 3, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Well, what about “Home-Stay”???

    • Maia Williamson March 3, 2015 at 4:45 am

      Yes! Homestays are a great option! I guess that’s kind of under the work exchange umbrella….without all the work though. lol. There are so many others too. Camping and the newly-coined “Glamping”, academic dorm stays. The list goes on… I like the idea of all of them over hotels, to be honest.