Cheap Travel Hacks for Students: Lodging

Hotels and lodging seem to be the biggest expense when planning a trip. Students now how expensive housing can get, but also know that they do not need room service and a view to sleep comfortably. Minimalism and compromise are the key to finding a cheap and comfortable place to stay.

Call your friends

Sometimes the best places to stay are with old and long lost friends, who can not only provide you with a place to rest your head at night but also with some unique “non-touristy” experiences.

For this tip you will have to reach back into your memory… and your Facebook. Even if you haven’t spoken for years, many potential hosts will welcome your enthusiasm.

Call up the people you wish you’d stayed in touch with, or those you want to start a new friendship with. Do not be self conscious, you’ll be surprised at how people love hosting guests and showing off their city.

Show your gratitude by buying dinner one night and letting your hosts join in the day’s activities, and of course always offer to host them if they ever come explore your neck of the woods.


Cody and I hiking with one of our favorite (recurring) hosts Lance, in Roanoke, Virginia. March 2015. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

Research hostels

It seems that there are quite a few hostel “horror stories” that every parent is required to tell their traveling college student. But fear not, if you do your research hostels can be just as safe as booking a hotel.

There are many different types of hostels and they are common in big cities especially. Hostels have been around for ages and are one of the oldest forms of lodging for travelers. Their affordability and convenience have kept them around for student and budgeted travelers to utilize till today.

Some hostels offer private rooms while others do not. Either way, a good hostel will be safe and clean. This is why research is crucial.

This humble lodging option can really save the budget of your trip and are great for short-term stays. A hostel can cost less than half much as a conventional hotel.

Not to mention the potential for meeting new travel friends, something that solo travelers should look for in their lodging experience. When it comes to exploring, the more the merrier!

Know your apps

We live in a world of technology and there are now apps for everything. Next time you need to find a cheap place to stay for a trip consider downloading and browsing through these “too good to be true” travel apps.


Airbnb can be a great way to find a well-priced room and to experience the location as a local would. However, this app does take some researching.

Be aware that there are a few Airbnb scams mixed in with all of the great options. When checking out an Airbnb profile watch out for blurry pictures, lack of reviews, and sketchy host bios. All of these are signs of a bad Airbnb.

Do not be discouraged though, just as being hosted by an old friend can expose you to unique experiences so can staying in an Airbnb.

Hotel Tonight

Hotels are always looking to make last-minute reservations, they do not like empty rooms. Apps like Hotel Tonight and others are dedicated to helping you find a last-minute room for a discounted price.

Be aware that this app does not work well when going to an event that crowds the location you want to explore. If rooms are already filled then there will be no discounts to be found.

Conventional hotel website apps

We’ve all heard the commercials telling us about the hotel-comparison websites such as Hotwire, Trivago, and These websites, sometimes clunky and overwhelming, have produced some pretty streamlined and easy-to-use apps.

Be aware that most, if not all, of these apps do not let you pick a specific hotel but rather lets you pick a price and then shows you the place you’ll be staying. The descriptions of the hotels do include a list of amenities and a general location of the hotel.

However, this can make for a great surprise when you end up picking a high-end hotel for a low-end price.


This cheap student travel post series will also feature a post about cheap-intriguing attractions and cheap-delicious food ideas. All of the tips combined might just make your memorable college-kid trip possible.


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