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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Don't Waste $$ on Your Next Hotel Room

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Don't Waste $$ on Your Next Hotel Room

Are you sorely in need of a vacation but just don't want to give out your hard earned cash right now? With the holidays coming up, you'd rather save up a bit, so you can buy a few gifts here and there. But...you'd really like to take a long weekend...or even a short weekend at this point, to get some well deserved R&R. If you have a sense of adventure or even a sense of trying something different, here's a way to do it from next to nothing, to a few dollars and some spare change! How about skipping the hotel room this time?

Let's start with a destination close by. Hit the internet and google tourist attractions in your area. You can also call your nearby chamber of commerce. Is there anything famous or see-worthy in your area? Is there some kind of seasonal festival or event coming up? Now, I'm not talking in your direct town or city...I'm talking at least a few hundred miles out...you want to be able to really relax, and being at home "on vacation" usually ends up with those chores and misguided or half baked projects beckoning you to a point where your vacation ends before it even begins.

So, now you've googled, and you've found a place that could be interesting and worthwhile. You also have a date in mind, or if you are flexible, a set of dates. Now here is where it gets interesting. Here are some options you may not have considered...or even known about.

Option #1. You are going to enter the world of "Couch Surfing". You may already be a couch surfer and not even know it. Perhaps you couch surfed at a relative's house once. Now you are going to do it at a stranger's house who is willing and happy to have you come visit. See the websites below to find others who are willing to give up their spare room, couch (and sometimes even floor), all for free. Some even go as far as filling in as your personal tour guide and chef!

Not quite at that level of freedom yet? I admit, if you have a slew of kids in tow, it might not be the best option. So let's go on to the next level.

Option #2. Did you know that there are hostels world-wide, even here in the US that are low frills but high value? Now, don't get jaded here. This isn't just for young folks. If you don't mind low frills, backpack or no backpack, and don't mind sharing bedrooms and possibly bathrooms, why don't you give it a try? My brother, who works for one of the airlines, regularly uses hostels, and I am always in awe of the prices he pays to stay at these places. Now granted, some are on the dumpy side (so read reviews online), but who can say they stayed in a castle for next to nothing (yes, in Europe) or in a small motel in his own room, with a bathroom and clean sheets for about as much as you pay for two McDonald's Value Meals? Yes, he can...and so can you. There are some real hidden gems here.  UPDATE:  Now Hostelworld has MANY private rooms with bath for only a FRACTION of the cost of a regular hotel room.  I've stayed at quite a few, and you get such value for your money!  I also like that they have reviews....a huge plus!


Option #3. In addition to hostels, you can sometimes stay at a local college or religious retreat. Now, colleges mostly offer this nifty idea in the summer, but you can sometimes find a college that has extra rooms at other times during the year. To find religious retreats in your area, call the chamber of commerce or a few of the local churches.

Option #4. How about exchanging a home with someone? This endeavor will probably involve airfare. Read my article on finding the best deal. If you have a friend or even a friend of a friend who works for an airline, don't be shy about asking if they can help you. Airline workers get a set number of companion passes each year, which they can't carry over to the next year. October and November are good times to ask these people if they would be willing to give you a set of their passes. Now, these tickets are NOT free, but they are VERY lowcost. Do realize you will be flying stand-by, so you need that person to check "behind the scenes" on the flights to make sure they are "wide open" as they say. You want to have somewhat of a guarantee as to the availability of seats on that plane. If you travel during the down season, you'll have a better chance of getting on. This will also probably be your only chance to fly First Class without paying for it. Dress nice and book "stand by" for First Class, and you'll most likely get it (unless you're traveling to Florida on United...no First Class on Ted...bummer).

Anyway, back to home exchanges. Check the sites below to read more about the concept. You basically switch homes with someone for a set timeframe...what's yours is mine. It's not as scary as it sounds, and you'd be surprised at the number of folks who want to come to your hometown! I know a few people myself who are addicted to this!

Are you saying...naaawww...I don't want anyone in my stuff or stealing my stuff. Well, it's surpising how many people will not be interested in your stuff and remember, you are surrounded by their stuff! And if there is something you are really stressing about, just take it out of your house and put it somewhere else for the duration. Really, you'd be surprised what "not a big deal" it is.

Option #5. Still here...guess those options didn't work out. How about about paying someone to rent our their vacation home or even their other home or even their main home while they are out? If my grandmom hadn't lived in Chicago on my last trip, I would've gotten one of those downtown condos for a fraction of what a hotel room costs downtown. You also get the added benefit of hob-knobbing with the locals and being part of the scene. You may even get a sympathetic neighbor who will show you around...under the auspices of watching out for their neighbor, but hey...you are benefiting from it nicely, so who cares? Check these sites below.


Option #6. Okay, just not up for the adventure, are you. Well, there is one more option a step below searching the deals online at the run-of-the-mill sites, such as Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline, to name a few. Many times you can benefit greatly with last minute deals. These hotel rooms and flights will go unsold, so this is the last chance the vendors can get rid of them...and many times, they will be sold for anywhere from 30-80% off retail! It's worth it to check these out in the weeks before you want to head out. On some of these sites, you can even choose trips the day before you head out!

  • Check the travel section of your newspaper; sometimes last minute deals are listed there
  • Call the resort you have in mind (know what their regular prices are beforehand) and ask if they have any last minute deal for this weekend or even tonight (you'd be surprised what can come out of that conversation); you can also have a back up room booked at a local cheap motel if you already made other travel plans to this location
  • Call a bed and breakfast that week or even that morning; they are sometimes more flexible than major chains in bargaining down the rate, just to go without an empty room is worth it to them
Hopefully, you've come away with some tools to help you find that next best vacation, even if it is only for a few days. Please do share your ideas, and let me know if you are able to book any nice deals from using any of the sites above! Happy hunting!

Read this article and many others on personal finance at the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article came just in time! I never thought of these options before! Your blog is great and please keep up the great articles!
Thankx,
Nanette

November 2, 2007 at 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought hostels were for young kids. I didn't know about this. I found one in the area we want to visit this summer. Thank-yu very much.

November 3, 2007 at 6:12 PM  
Anonymous My15000DollarYear said...

I've used hostels in the past. I don't like the idea of sharing the room with strangers, but many hostels do have private rooms and that's what I've normally used. Some are really nice (I spent a week in Berlin in a hostel that was originally a factory. The place was AMAZING and I only paid $28 a night, breakfast included).

November 5, 2007 at 5:33 PM  

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