The Trundler loves beautiful hotels, but they can be expensive and if you’re travelling on the budget of a mid-life nomad, you won’t be able to afford the lap of luxury every night of your trip.
Luckily there’s a whole world of other options currently available, especially as people around the globe have become so much more resourceful and open to sharing their homes, their cars and even their kitchen tables, for a reasonable fee.
So if you need a break, but can’t afford to pay top dollar or would simply prefer to hole up in an alternative holiday environment, then pack up your Trundlebag and take your pick from the choices below.
Stay in a Halls of Residence
When the students leave for the summer, thousands of rooms in halls of residence are empty, ready to be filled with tourists and visitors looking for affordable places to stay.
The rooms vary according to location and the type of building. Some halls are functional tower blocks, others resemble historic grand houses. Book an ensuite room for £50 a night or pay the lowest price of £35 a night if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom. A big cooked breakfast to see you through the day is often included in the room rate.
The Trundler frequently stays in the London School of Economics properties in London, whose rooms are clean and comfortable, while the locations are amazing.
Passfield House just off Gordon Square in Bloomsbury is particularly good and there’s a pretty garden where you can eat your breakfast feast. Carr-Saunders House in Fitzrovia, serves a fantastic breakfast buffet and the food hall has a terrace with a spectacular view of the Telecom Tower.
University halls are especially appealing to solo travellers, as there are many single rooms available, unlike in a hotel. Some even offer social events and breakfast is eaten at communal tables so there’s a chance to make friends too.
Many university halls are in wonderful buildings, making them lovely places to spend time. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to revel in the inspiring atmosphere of the Oxbridge Colleges, for example, this is your opportunity.
Prices for a single room from £25 to £55, including breakfast. For a full range of options see www.universityrooms.com
Enjoy the freedom of airbnb
Airbnb has blazed a trail for new ways to stay, undercutting hotel room rates by offering travellers the chance to rent accommodation from individual hosts, who may have everything from a spare room to a spare house to rent.
Both hosts and guests are vetted by airbnb first to ensure that everyone feels safe and happy. Initial contact is made through the site initially and they also collect the payment. This is an affordable, interesting way to travel, ideal for travellers who want their own space. Hosts will often offer local information and act as an informal guide to the area.
For Trundler Susan Henshall’s personal experience, see Trundler’s Tales.
Take the Ouch out of Couch
If you’re happy to sleep on a stranger’s sofa or in their spare room, this is a fantastic way to make new friends worldwide and travel on a tight budget. Couchsurfing will put you in touch with hosts who then invite you to stay in their homes for free.
There’s a choice of seven million members and the organisation also arranges social events and gatherings to help you find you feet in a foreign country.
You can become a host too, offering your space to other travellers or visitors. So dust down your three-piece suite, throw open the door and enjoy tapping into the laudable ethos of the site, which encourages global connections and friendship as well as being a cheap way to take a trip.
The word glamping has become part of our vocabulary. Basically it’s camping for people who don’t really like camping but want to enjoy all the pleasures of sleeping under canvas in an outdoor location, without having to suffer too much.
Many land-owners have jumped on the glamping bandwagon by pitching yurts and tipis on their fields and then charging city-dwellers desperate for some fresh air, a fortune to stay in them. Steer well clear of these greedy glamping providers and instead book a stay at The Wood Life, in Devon, a magical and authentic experience, which makes the great outdoors feel ten times better.
There’s just one large and comfortable tent in this idyllic broadleaved woodland (see photograph on home page) which in May is filled with bluebells. More of a well-made canvas dwelling, the sturdy tent sleeps six, sits on a wooden deck and feels like home, only in many ways better. Inside it’s stylish and very cosy without feeling claustrophobic. There are two bedrooms, one double, one twin plus a sofa bed. Cook in the extremely well-equipped kitchen or over the open outdoor fire which even has a Dutch oven for making casseroles.
The shower is wood-powered and easy to use, the toilet is self-composting. After a few days of peace at The Wood Life, you’ll wonder why you don’t just live there all the time, away from the world in this little piece of Devon heaven.
The owners are lovely, genuine and very helpful. You never get the feeling that they have jumped on the glamping gravy train. More that they really want to you to enjoy the delightful experience that they have created and its sublime location.
A four night break in September costs £350. www.thewoodlife.com
Swap your Home
This mutual exchange of homes usually happens at the same time, so you go to their place while they’re in yours. If your swapping holiday homes you can be more flexible.
You don’t have to pay anything, other than a registration fee to an official agency who will initially put you in contact with a potential swapper, choosing from destinations near and far.
This is the perfect way to find a comfortable vacation base in a similar style to your own home. Your fellow swappers normally offer lots of information on their home town and sometimes use of a car is included.
The guardianhomeexchange.co.uk is a reliable site with properties available worldwide.
As well as regular house exchanges, you can also find home-sitting, hospitality exchanges, where you host guests in your home and your hospitality is then reciprocated and non-simultaneous exchanges. Also see: thevacationexchange.com, exchangeaway.com, lovehomeswap.com, homebase-hols.com
See the world with Wimdu.com
A stylish and easy-to-use site which offers rooms and apartments worldwide at affordable prices. They offer over 300,000 places in over 100 countries. The properties are privately owned and include rooms in flats or houses, where you share with the owner or other tenants.
Wimdu is especially ideal if you’re looking for a city break and want a clean, comfortable room and the chance to self-cater, even if it’s just making your own breakfast.
Staying in a hostel can mean cheap and basic accommodation or it can mean affordable and stylish. There are millions of hostels all over the world and they provide a brilliant way to connect with other travellers, research your next step on the journey and have a fun and friendly holiday.
You don’t have to stay in a dorm as many have private rooms, some with private bathrooms. You’ll find great locations, interesting social programmes and useful guided tours of your destination. Many have kitchens, so you can save money on food. There are even community cupboards and shelves, where travellers leave behind groceries they didn’t finish, which saves you having to carry half bottles of olive oil in your trundlebag.
For a vast choice of properties see www.hostelworld.com or www.HostelRocket.com.
Or to enjoy the wonders of England and Wales, see www.yha.org.uk who offer private rooms as well as dorm beds. Many of their properties are housed in beautiful, historic buildings, which you can hire out in the winter months for a group trip or special occasion.
Continue the practise of undercutting the mainstream operators and travel with BlaBlaCar. This is a free service which members can use to contact one another to arrange a car share. Passengers and drivers must join first so you’re not getting getting or giving a lift to a stranger. You agree the terms of the journey – where, when, how much luggage, are pets allowed, is smoking permitted.
The driver and passengers split the cost of the petrol, making this a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly way to take a car journey. You may even really enjoy the ride and end up with another new friend. www.BlaBlaCar.com
Eat Out with Strangers
Take the sharing concept one step further and join eatwith.com, where cooks around the world open up their homes to serve delicious food at reasonable prices. Guests can bring their own alcohol and settle in to enjoy home-cooking and good company.
Eat, stay, leave, feeling full and happy after a fun night out without all the formality and potential disappointment of an overpriced restaurant.