When you picture your dream trip, what do you see? Is it a white-sand beach with fantastic surfing, or a hiking and camping expedition up in snow-capped mountains, or maybe you see yourself exploring the streets of a foreign city? Whatever your ideal expedition, it's a sure bet that your daydream hasn't come with a full-fledged itinerary; you'll have to come up with that on your own.
When it comes to planning a big trip, it seems like the choices are endless. Picking your destination is just the beginning, and then it's choosing flights, where you'll stay and even how you plan on getting to and from the hotel. When you've got all of the big picture plans figured out, then it's time to think about all of the smaller daily activities that you might want to do.
While some travelers love planning their trip from start to finish, others would hire a travel agent in a heartbeat to avoid the process. Planning a trip -- especially an international one -- is a difficult task when you're trying to find the best of everything at a reasonable price.
For those of us on a strict budget (practically all of us), value becomes that much more important.
Hostels are high on the list of cheap overnight accommodations. They're classic hotspots for the young backpacker, eccentric older folks and occasionally whole families take advantage of the great rates. Despite their undeserved bad reputations, there are great hostels all over the world, some nicer than hotels, that offer a unique experience and a much better price.
If you're looking for a home-away-from-home rooming situation, you might want to try couch-surfing or home exchange. Though both of these deals require trust, as you will likely be staying in a stranger's home, there are numerous benefits. Typically these arrangements are free (though there are exceptions), you'll usually have access to a kitchen and you'll get a chance to see your destination through a local's perspective.
Less popular, but easily as cool and cost-effective are farm stays and monastery stays. Travel presents one opportunity after another for breaking out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Stay at one of these super cheap places on your next trip. Come out of your comfort zone, save some money and come back with a story that will make all those hotel-lovers jealous.
- Diana Gerstacker, The Active Times
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