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As the holidays approach, destinations around the world are gearing up for the busiest time of the year, and prices on everything from flights to accommodation and food are getting ready to soar. It’s all well and good to advise that traveling during off season is the best way to score a cheaper vacation, though many travelers don’t actually have a choice, and especially for families with children, it’s impossible to avoid planning your travel over school holidays or during the Christmas and New Years break.

Though there are still a number of ways you can ensure a fabulous and affordable vacation even when traveling during peak season, and there are always ways to make your holiday dollars go further by thinking outside the box. Best accommodation for the holidays.

When it comes to travel, accommodation can easily make up the majority of your holiday costs, and your accommodation can make or break an entire holiday. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning on staying in a bungalow, a villa, a B&B or even a yurt; it’s important to make good decisions when it comes to planning your stay. To this end, use the following tips when booking holiday accommodation to guarantee a successful break.

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Choose Age Appropriate Accommodation

Before pulling out the credit card, and even before consulting reviews, it’s important to make sure that your shortlist is full of accommodation which is age appropriate, and is going to suit the break you’re after. The cheapest accommodation for instance may not be appropriate for your needs, and your requirements will vary largely on your preferences; for example, the age of your children if traveling with kids. Tips for cheap accommodation.

You might consider a B&B if traveling with an infant, as this can offer a more relaxed atmosphere than a hotel, especially if you can have breakfast served in your room. If your children are a bit older however it may be more manageable to look at booking an apartment or even a holiday house.

Having a kitchen is one of the biggest perks of booking an apartment or holiday home, and sometimes too you’ll find it’s possible to book a whole house for less than the price of a hotel room. Dining out can prove expensive and tiring for even those traveling without kids, so self catering options are always a real bonus when they occur. How to book cheap accommodation. 

Resorts are often a great option for those traveling with teenagers, as there are kids clubs and plenty of activities to keep all ages entertained. Resorts generally come with the option for all inclusive packages too, so combining all of your costs into one package deal could save you money on activities and food.

When forming a shortlist for holiday accommodation consider things like if separate bedrooms are ideal, if the hotel will provide extra bedding, if they charge for WiFi, and any other inclusions which suit your holiday needs.

Think Outside the Box

There are many ways you can think outside the box when it comes to securing accommodation during the holidays. Maybe you’ve decided that a conventional hotel isn’t for you. Perhaps you don’t have the means to cover holiday accommodation for a large family group.

Think outside the box and you’ll be surprised by how many options exist where accommodation is either ridiculously dirt cheap or even free.

Hospitality exchanges are one of the best forms of free accommodation, and the most common are via platforms like Couchsurfing where you stay with someone who lives where you’ll be. They put you up in their home and give you a free place to sleep, act as local tour guide and this means that you’re meeting new people and making new friends.

Sites like CouchsurfingGlobal Freeloaders, and Stay4Free can be a fantastic choice of holiday accommodation if you’re traveling alone and looking for some company. How to find free accommodation. 

Another brilliant way to organize accommodation for free is via a house-sitting gig or organizing a home exchange. Travelers who already own a home can sign onto platforms like Home Exchange and swap homes with a family from the other side of the world. It’s exactly the scenario from the movie “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz.

Or you can sign onto a site like Trusted Housesitters and apply to stay in someone’s house and watch their pets/plants while they’re away. You get a free place to stay and they know their house is being cared for while they’re away.

Security is one of the primary concerns among those who haven’t experienced a hospitality exchange, though sites that facilitate these programs have stringent security checks and measures of verification. Also, those who participate in these exchanges are like-minded so there’s very rarely any reason to be concerned. Cheap accommodation over Christmas holidays

Failing a hospitality exchange, consider staying in a monastery for accommodation which is a little further off the beaten path – this kind of accommodation is usually pretty basic with just a bed and a desk, and bread and butter for breakfast, though cost wise will start from around $50 per person for private accommodation or around half that for a dorm. Monasteries are very family friendly, and a budget friendly alternative to staying in a hostel is rowdy travelers aren’t your scene. Cheap holiday accommodation

Or alternatively you could consider a farm stay or a volunteer vacation as a unique way to source accommodation overseas. The cost of a farm stay will vary, however many average around $40 per night, and allow you to stay on a working farm with the opportunity to get involved if you wish.

Compare and Combine

Once you have a shortlist of a few different accommodation options which suit your needs, compare the different properties, remembering that price is not the only measurement for choosing a great place to stay.

Make sure that you’ve compared the amenities, any extra costs (like WiFi and parking), and the quality of service offered. And make sure you actually read traveler reviews.

Pull up reviews on sites like TripAdvisor to make better comparisons, though make sure that you’re prioritizing the advice from travelers who have similar interests and needs to you. Give weight to reasons like why they enjoyed their stay, instead of quickly skimming over the webpage to see that there is a 95% 5 star review rate. If you’re an off the beaten path kind of traveler and someone else enjoys all inclusive resorts, they’re going to have a very different perception of the experience to you. So actually read people’s reviews to find out why they enjoyed the property, and see if those reasons apply to you.

Combine as much as you can in terms of holiday packages, as many places include accommodation and tours in one. Consider booking an all inclusive if you’re after all you can eat food. These packages are normally discounted so you save money, though there’s also the convenience of having covered two reservations with one booking.

Book in Advance

It’s overstated, but it really is some of the best advice. Even though prices over the holidays can be higher than other points in the year, you can still get a much better price by booking in advance than you can if you leave it to the last minute. How far in advance to book accommodation

Usually it’s best to make reservations around 30-60 days in advance during peak season if you’re looking to secure the cheapest possible rates.

Booking online will often save you money too – some accommodation providers offer 5-10% discounts for online bookings as this means their reception staff are not swamped with calls while tending to in-house guests. Though online bookings are also fantastic for both convenience and security – they give you an instant confirmation and you haven’t had to hand over your credit card details over the phone.

Check Your Cancellation Policy

Quite a number of hotels will offer advanced discount rates, where the cost of accommodation will be much cheaper if you book 45 days in advance. Though generally with these bookings there is a strict no cancellation clause, so make sure you know the cancellation policies before clicking “Book Now”.

Waiving your right to cancellation is a fantastic way to secure cheaper rates, though it means you forfeit the whole accommodation fee should you have to change your dates.


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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.


  1. This is a great summary of how to deal with peak season traveling! I am personally all for house sitting and staying with a local family. This is the best way to get known the country, celebrations and habits. I think it also works to travel in advance and simply stay in a place long enough to pass the Christmas or Easter time, but I am aware that not many people are privileged to do this. I totally agree with advance booking – it is overstated but so TRUE!
    Agata recently posted…BBC Travel, you can do better than this!My Profile

    • Thanks Agata :)And definitely – house sitting and staying with a local family we’ve found have really made a holiday more immersive, and made for a much more memorable stay. We’ve found it’s always so much better to experience a destination as a local, so love hospitality exchanges for achieving this.

      Advanced booking was something I felt people should probably already know, though I’ve found that the simplest most straight forward advice is often the advice which needs to be continually stated :D!

      Happy travels!

  2. Booking in advance shouldn’t need to be said, but it’s the very first thing I look at when considering a destination. I know a lot of people jump on the budget airfare sales, but if you happen to be traveling during peak season or when a major event is happening in the destination finding accommodation can be quite stressful.

    Another good tip is if you do love booking through aggregators like Expedia or Booking, you can always contact the hotel directly and ask them to match or beat the rate. Often they are happy to do so because they pay such a high commission to be listed on aggregators. They might even throw in some additional perks like an upgrade if available or amenities.
    Jennifer recently posted…How To Travel Like James BondMy Profile

    • I agree – advanced booking is a very overstated piece of advice, though I’ve found that the most common sense tips are generally the ones which need repeating quite a bit :D!

      Great tip re contacting the hotel directly to beat the online price – usually I’ve found it’s around 5-10% that you can save doing that, which does add up if you’re staying for multiple nights or during peak season when the rates are high. Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  3. These are great tips, Megan. I’m considering going away for the holidays and it’s true that the prices really go up at this time of year so alternatives like HomeStay are always worth considering
    Suze – Luxury Columnist recently posted…What to See in the Scottish HighlandsMy Profile

    • Thanks Suze! I’ve found hospitality exchanges can be really great, and especially if you’re a sociable person and enjoy learning about different customs and cultures, it can be really unique and fun to stay with another family and join in their local customs for a holiday like Christmas 🙂

  4. The “Think Outside the Box” suggestions are very useful: home exchanging, couch surfing, and monasteries are unconventional yet affective options for cheap accommodations. Great post.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted…Top 7 Eco Attractions in IrelandMy Profile

    • Thanks Mary – I’ve found that a lot of people really aren’t aware of the broad range of options which are actually out there. And the more creative we can start thinking in our planning and sourcing of accommodation, the cheaper our travel can be 🙂

  5. Great tips. i especially like the one of being focused on age appropriate properties. I like ME, but the ME resort in Cabo is definitely for adults! I also like using online travel sites that have the reviews built in, so I don’t have to go back and forth with Trip Advisor.
    JodyR recently posted…A trick for making lipstick stay putMy Profile

    • Thanks Jodi – age appropriate properties really can make or break an experience – something a lot of people don’t really consider, though you don’t want to be stuck somewhere uncomfortable even if it was offered at a cheaper price.

      Online booking sites within built in reviews are fabulous for not having to navigate through other sites. And they generally have all the info you need to figure out if a resort is adults only, or friendly to kids 🙂

      Happy travels!

    • Absolutely Valen – no need to be alone during the holidays if you don’t want to. So many different hospitality exchanges with like minded people from all over the world, and the cultural differences you can experience during the holiday season can really make for a fascinating and memorable trip 🙂

      But yes, totally agree that resorts can also make for a fabulous break too!

  6. I especially liked the “Think Outside of the Box” category – I never knew that it was possible to stay in a Monastery before! We have done home exchanges previously, and those can work out very well (or not so well, if you read my linked blog post in commentluv :P)
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…Small World Story of Tapas, Home Exchange and our LibraryMy Profile

    • We stayed in a nunnery in Rome and it was a fantastic experience – something different for a change 🙂 It’s very basic accommodation, as are the meals, and we were actually there on a curfew (8pm they locked the doors), but really loved the experience and it was something cheap and unique.

      Will check out your blog post now – sorry to hear you’ve had some home exchanges which haven’t worked out so well 🙁

  7. Great tips Megan – especially the ones about staying in a B&B or self-catered accommodation if you have a kiddo. We’re in the process of booking a cabin getaway and having access to a kitchen is essential when you have a little wiggler who’s not able to eat out very easily or often.
    Miranda recently posted…Nostalgia and Inspiration for Cozy Cabin Time GetawaysMy Profile

    • Thanks Miranda – having access to a kitchen is definitely a huge relief on a vacation, and it’s so much less stressful eating this way than having to find restaurants or take-outs for every meal. Especially as you said when you’re with a kid.

      Have a wonderful time on your cabin getaway!

  8. Booking an accommodation in an unknown place is a big hassle.

    One need time and patience to do survey and get the best one booked.

    Your post is like a guide and will certainly help many people in getting the right accommodation rightfully.

    Thank for the share!!

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