Alternative Accommodations (or "Hotel Rooms are not for Everyone!")

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We all have different budgets when it comes to travel, and different areas where we are prepared to scrimp or splurge for the best possible travel experience. Generally, the cost of a trip can be split into four key spending areas: transportation, meals, accommodation and activities.

Personally, I don’t care how narrow or wide my airplane seat is, so long as I’ve paid the least possible money for it. But once I’ve arrived at my destination, I don’t like to scrimp on my meals, or miss out on a great activity because I didn’t budget for it. The one area where my spending is inconsistent is accommodation. There are times when I’m lured into paying for the romance of a boutique hotel, and other times when a simple hostel bed suits my needs the best. While I’ve heard some people say their hotel bed is just that – a place to sleep – and no sleep should be lost over choosing it, I’ve found that wherever I choose to stay does become a part of the adventure.

A recent trip to New York City saw me spending an inordinate amount of time choosing accommodation. My travel partner and I had saved up for this trip and were prepared to spend four days sampling the city’s incredible array of restaurants, museums, shopping and nightlife. I didn’t want a $300/night hotel room to take away from our fun money! But I also didn’t want to stay far from the action, with a train ride out to Jersey as the culmination of every day.
Just as I was about to book a room at the not-terribly-imaginative-but-centrally-located-and-affordable-YMCA, I stumbled upon an accommodation site I’d never seen before: www.airbnb.com.

A warning: for those of you, like me, who are mildly addicted to trip planning and hotel research, this will only feed your addiction. Airbnb opens a door to a whole new world of accommodation options. Offering places to sleep in 165 countries, Airbnb lets you stay as a local in a new city, by acting as a conduit between people with apartments to let and travelers looking for an alternative to the standard hotel room.

Suddenly, I was no longer confined to picking a hotel in a tourist-oriented neighbourhood. I could stay in the East Village, in Park Slope, the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village...for less than the cost of a room in a hostel. I ended up picking a studio apartment near St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, and my partner and I felt like bona fide New Yorkers as we walked up the steps to our brownstone at the end of every day. It sure beat a commute to New Jersey.
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