9 Cheap (or Free) Travel Accommodations

Hostels, house swaps, and couch surfing are a few ways to save.

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Accommodations can be one of the most costly travel expenses. It is difficult to get a decent hotel for less than $100 a night, especially if you are traveling during the summer months or holidays. So how can you avoid expensive hotels and find a place to stay that's cheap or even free? Here are nine accommodation alternatives to consider for your next trip.

Stay at a monastery. This is a bit out of the box, but if you are headed to a largely Catholic country, you might want to consider saving money on accommodations by staying at a monastery. Some monasteries will offer travelers their own room and a shared bathroom for less than $50 per night.

[See Can I Afford a House, Car, or Vacation?]

Housesit. Homeowners (and pet owners) are always looking for people to keep an eye on their homes and pets while they are away, so consider looking into house sitting while you travel. Sites like HouseCarers.com can help you find homeowners in countries around the world who are looking for someone to watch their house while they travel. The best part is that you can also earn money.

Hostels. This is a popular choice among college students looking to save money on travel expenses. Hostels.com boasts more than 34,000 hostel listings and can help you find the right hostel for your trip. For less than $20 a night, looking into staying at a hostel for your next trip may just be worth it.

Crash with friends. If you are headed to a destination where you know someone, consider shooting them an email or giving them a call to see if they would be open to having you stay with them for a few nights. Offer to let them crash with you if they are ever in your neck of the woods so that they can save money on accommodations should they travel to your hometown.

[See 10 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2011.]

House swap. Do you live in a location that people like to visit? If so, consider doing a house swap. Sites such as HomeExchange.com can help you find people who are willing to participate in a house swap. Just be sure to lock up all your valuables and important documents before you make the swap.

Couchsurf. If you are traveling on your own and don’t mind sleeping on couches, you might want to look into couchsurfing. CouchSurfing connects travelers with people who are willing to let a stranger crash on their couch for a few nights for free. Not only do you get a free place to rest your head for the night, but you also get a built-in tour guide (again, for free) who is familiar with the city you are visiting. If you enjoy the experience, you can let fellow travelers come crash on your couch once you get home.

Rent a home or condo. Are you traveling in a group? Instead of getting a hotel room, consider renting a home or a condo to cut down on accommodation costs. Sites like VRBO can help you find great deals on vacation rentals. For example, you can get an ocean-view home in Kauai that sleeps six people for $355 per night. You would need at least two rooms to accommodate that many people at a hotel, and it would cost you twice as much.

Rent a room. Instead of renting a hotel room, consider renting a room in someone's house for a few nights. Sites like iStopOver can help you find people who are looking to rent a room in their apartment or home (or even rent out their entire apartment or home) to travelers for a cheaper price than hotels charge. Servicing cities all over the world, this is definitely an option worth looking into.

[See How to be a Savvy Coupon Clipper.]

Camp. This is by far the cheapest option available. If you are really into roughing it, bring your tent and camp. Or, consider renting an RV if you are going on a road trip. If you rent from a company like Cruise America, you can save up to 50 percent off the price you would pay staying in a hotel.

Ashley Jacobs is a finance writer for Wise Bread--a consumer resource dedicated to helping people find the top personal finance blogs and the best credit card guide.