DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: My wife and I love to travel, but hotel costs eat up our budget so fast we can’t stay as long, or go as often as we’d like to. I’ve heard that there are various alternative lodging options that offer free or low-cost accommodations to seniors. What can you tell us about this? — Retired Travelers

DEAR RETIRED: It’s true! You can save lots of money when you travel by skipping pricey hotels and opting for an alternative form of lodging. Here are some different options to consider.

One way to get free accommodations when you travel is by swapping homes with someone who’s interested in visiting the area where you live. To make a swap, you’ll need to join an online home exchange service where you can list your home, and get access to thousands of other listings. Then you simply email the owners of houses or apartments you’re interested in — or they email you — and you make arrangements. Most home exchange sites like homeexchange.com, digsville.com, intervacusa.com charge membership fees ranging from $45 to $100, or try craigslist.org which offers a house-swap section for free.

If you’re willing to undertake a few household chores another way to get free lodging here in the U.S. and abroad is by house sitting. You live in someone else’s home while they’re away for a long weekend or even a few months. And in exchange for the free accommodations, you take care of certain responsibilities such as their pets, lawn, mail, etc. To find these opportunities try sites like caretaker.org, housecarers.com, housesittersamerica.com and sabbaticalhomes.com — they all charge a small membership fee.

If you like staying in bed-and-breakfasts and have a spare bedroom yourself, consider the Evergreen Club (evergreenclub.com) or the Affordable Travel Club (affordabletravelclub.net). These are bed-and-breakfast clubs for older travelers that offer inexpensive lodging in the spare bedroom of other club members, or they may stay with you when they’re on the road. You pay a modest gratuity of between $10 and $20 per night, with breakfast. And the clubs charge membership fees of $60 to $80 per year.

Staying at a hostel is another inexpensive option to consider. While hostels have historically offered shared dormitory and bathroom accommodations with other guests, many hostels today are offering private rooms, swimming pools, hot tubs, free Internet, along with kitchens that guests can use to cook their own food. To search, see hostels.com and hostelworld.com.

If you’re planning on visiting a big city in the U.S. or foreign country for a week or more, renting a fully furnished apartment can save you the expense of a hotel and eating out every meal.

Short-term apartment rentals are available through managed property brokers and individual owners. To search visit roomorama.com or craigslist.org and click on “vacation rentals.” Or go to any online search engine and type in your destination city plus short-term apartments (for example “New York short-term apartments”).

If you’re traveling with your kids or grandkids you can save money by renting a house or condo versus multiple hotel rooms. Most properties rent by the week or month. To find these options try sites like pickpackgo.com, homeaway.com, zonder.com, rentalo.com, vrbo.com and craigslist.org. For resort destinations, check at resortquest.com. And for time share rentals see myresortnetwork.com and redweek.com. Or go to google.com and type in the place you want to visit followed by “vacation rentals.”

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 

— Hometown Content