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Accommodation can be expensive for solo travelers. Along with airfare, it’s likely to be one of the largest items in your travel budget.
Fortunately, there are some alternatives that can help keep your costs down. Whether you want peace and quiet at the end of the day or social interaction with other travelers, there are options for you.
Here is a short list of the best accommodation for solo travelers with links to helpful sources for more information.
Hotels for Solo Travelers
I love a great hotel, but I don’t have a great big budget. All the same, if I’m paying it for it, I want a comfortable stay.
You may have to do some looking, but more hotels are offering single rooms today than ever before, though it’s more common in Europe than North America. The rooms can sometimes (though not always) be very small, but you will still have access to all the amenities the hotel offers.
Pod Hotels have single rooms with locations in New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. London has a chain called Z Hotels with single rooms in 10 different locations around the city.
Sometimes “single room” means a single bed. Sometimes, you can choose a double or queen. The key is to read the fine print so you know what you’re getting for your money.
There are also benefits offered by some hotels that can offset some of your other costs, such as free breakfast or parking. I have stayed at hotels that included things such as free afternoon tea, which meant I didn’t have to pay for lunch; free coffee delivered to my room anytime I asked for it; free bottled water, fruit, or a bagged breakfast to take with me as I headed out exploring for the day; or free snacks around the clock in the lobby. I have even stayed at a hotel where I was given a phone number I could call so that once I was ready to head back to my hotel at the end of the day, a shuttle bus would come and pick me up from wherever I ended up. In a town with no real public transportation options, that was a significant savings over taking taxis.
We’ve got some great suggestions for London, most of which Janice or I have personally stayed at, in Best Places to Stay in London: Accommodation for Solo Travelers.
Hostels: Travel Solo and Social
I have never stayed in a hostel, but Janice loves them, as do many of our readers. They're inexpensive, social, simple, usually centrally located or in spectacular locations, and very clean. They almost always have kitchens and lockers so you can save money on food and keep your things safe.
Hostels come in every style and size. There are dorms exclusively for women and those that are mixed. There are some with private rooms – single, double, or family-sized – and some with dorms with four or more (or many more) beds, bunks, or pods. Some appeal to families and quiet people while others are party places. To get a sense of what it’s like to stay in a hostel, read Sleeping with Strangers: The Hostel Experience.
House-Sitting Accommodation for Solo Travelers
House-sitting involves an exchange of services: you get a place to stay and the owner of the home gets someone to take care of their property, things, and sometimes pets or livestock. Sometimes house-sitting opportunities come to you by word of mouth. I once took care of a dog and a house belonging to friends while they traveled in Namibia, and developed these 16 Tips for Successful Solo House-Sitting. I enjoyed being in one place for a month, meeting local people, having a big house all to myself, and exploring the area at leisure.
Others join one of a number of services which act as a forum to help homeowners and house-sitters find one another. It’s not as straightforward as you might think, and there are a lot of factors to consider, but for some people, it’s a perfect fit. To find out more, check out this article which includes tips for both parties as well as links to a number of house-sitting websites where you can find available opportunities: House Sitting Tips for House Sitters and Home Owners.
A homestay is your opportunity to live with a local for a period of time. If you travel because you love meeting people from different cultures, then Homestay may be right for you.
They offer short and longer stay options, and some have a minimum stay which might be attractive to people wanting to have a home base from which to explore a destination slowly. When you're not traveling you can open your own home as a homestay, meet people from around your country or around the world and make money that you can save for your own travels. For more information, read Save Money / Make Money: The Homestay Option.
Home exchanging (also known as house-swapping) is trading your home with that of another traveler. You stay in their home while they stay in yours, essentially rendering your accommodation costs for your trip nonexistent. You can find someone through your own contacts, or sign up for one of the home exchange websites, such as Home Exchange or Homelink. The cost for an annual membership runs from US$100.00-$150.00, and the sites provide lots of tips to make your exchange a successful one.
You might not immediately think of this as an accommodation option, but one of the things I enjoyed most about my first river cruise was the fact that we visited so many different towns and cities without ever having to pack up, move to another accommodation, and unpack again.
On a river cruise, your hotel moves with you! It makes for a more relaxing, less harried, very convenient trip. You can see photos of my room and an overview of my trip down the Seine in Paris to Normandy: A River Cruise in Photos.
More and more cruise companies are offering single cabins and/or reducing or waiving the single supplement for solo travelers. There are almost always some on the Deals Page on our website, but you can also check out the list of winners in this year’s Solo Travel Awards to find companies that cater to those of us who travel alone.
Bed & Breakfasts: Great Accommodation for Solo Travelers
Janice and I have stayed in Bed & Breakfasts in the UK, Canada, and the US. Each one is different from the next and each has its own unique character.
They can range from homey to very luxurious and offer the added benefit of meeting fellow travelers as well as the local hosts. Some of them provide quite extravagant breakfasts as well, or even dinner for an extra cost. You can find them on sites such as booking.com (here’s one I stayed at in Corning, New York) or on the websites of B&B associations, such as bedandbreakfast.com.
Couchsurfing Might Be an Option
We don’t hear as much about Couchsurfing these days. Originally, it was meant to be just what it sounds like: if you had a couch or spare bed to share, you could open your home to a traveler and if you were a traveler, you could search for a sofa in the destination you were visiting. The philosophy was not so much about free accommodation as it was about building meaningful connections among a global community of travelers.
These days, it seems to be used at least as much as a way to meet locals, to attend a meet-up or have a coffee with a fellow couchsurfer, learn about their city and culture, and pick up tips for exploring the destination.
I consulted the Solo Travel Society to hear from people who had used Couchsurfing recently and received mixed reviews. Everyone was in agreement about one thing, though – to have a successful experience, you really need to do your homework when choosing a guest or a host. To that end, we have some good tips to help you Practice Safe Couchsurfing.