“The sharing economy” hype has definitely gotten more people into the habit of snagging a ride with Uber or a vacation rental with AirBnB. The idea of people renting out a spare room or giving you a ride is nothing new though, of course, and you could argue that the real sharing economy was run by pioneers SERVAS, Hospitality Club, Global Freeloaders, and Couchsurfing. Now that last one is a for-profit corporation and the newer entrants are clearly scoring huge revenue growth numbers.
That doesn’t mean they don’t offer great opportunities for savings. It’s just that they’re now part of the mainstream. To get the kind of deals that will make people say, “You paid whaaaaatt?!” you might want to try some alternative strategies.
1) Renting a discounted suite from a hotel for a negotiated weekly/monthly rate.
Wheeling and dealing for a cheap long-term hotel stay is a strategy most are too timid to pursue. You see it in action a lot though if you read blogs from nomads traveling around the world but staying put for a while here and there. Andy from The Hobo Traveler often highlights rooms he has scored for a super cheap price just by negotiating patiently for a longer stay. When I interviewed him about traveling on the cheap in Africa he said, “Outside of big cities and resort areas, paying more than $10 or $15 a night for a basic hotel is absolutely getting ripped off. You can rent a room here for a whole month for $50 if you work on it.”
Higher up on the scale, my writer friend Ellen Barone once lived in the best suite in a nice colonial hotel in Granada, Nicaragua for what came out to about $20 a night, with breakfast. In her post about it she said, “the room was a palatial 1,400 square-feet with soaring ceilings, hand-painted tile floors and two king sized beds.” She found that a hotel does have some advantages over an apartment. “For less than the cost of a vacation rental, we enjoyed free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfasts, daily maid service and 24/7 security.”
2) Rent (or even buy) a discounted timeshare
You may think of yourself as the last person in the world who would go listed to a timeshare presentation and buy a week in one of those developments. If you skip all that and swoop in later though, you can find terrific rental deals when people aren’t able to use their time. A lot of people bought “fractional ownership” thinking they’d have more time on their hands than they did, especially those from the USA where the vacation deficit is in full effect. This also leads to some crazy cheap resale deals, where people are getting rid of their ownership just so they can get out of paying the annual fees.
I surfed around the Sell a Timeshare site and found a one-week rental in Las Vegas for just $200. It doesn’t say how many bedrooms, but even if it’s just a studio that’s far cheaper than even the cheapest hotel.
There’s a week at the Wyndham Ocean Walk beachfront place in Daytona Beach for $500. You can buy a timeshare in that building from one anxious seller for just $100. That’s not a typo—a hundred bucks to take it off their hands. Often this is someone who can’t use it anymore, or an estate sale meant to liquidate all obligations. If you lived inland in Florida or driving distance in Georgia or South Carolina, you’re basically getting a week’s vacation for the price of the annual maintenance cost. From what I could dig up in message boards, that ranges from $640 to $1,200 for most units in that complex. You can of course transfer points to other properties if you don’t want to go back to the same place each year.
3) Do a home exchange
A few weeks ago I joined a home exchange site and added my house in central Mexico. No takers yet, but I also haven’t reached out to anyone yet. Next summer I’m planning to spend at least a month in Europe with my family and if I can work out an exchange with someone, I can have a home base in Italy, Spain, or Greece where we live like a local for a little while.
If you own a vacation home or in our case, rent in the U.S. but own elsewhere, you can do a “non-simultaneous exchange.” You don’t have to be in each others’ houses at the same time. Either way, you’re getting a place to stay for nothing just by letting someone else stay in your empty house or apartment in return. Instead of being in a cramped hotel room and paying a week’s wages, you’re spending your money on food and fun instead.
How about you? What vacation rental strategies and AirBnB alternatives have you used to get a place to stay on the cheap?