Homeless in Paris: alternatives to staying in hotels

http://img39.imageshack.us/img39/7541/10590776809080857.jpgReaders in their mid-30s and older probably remember British ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards from the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. He wasn't sponsored by anyone, he came in 56th out of 57 jumpers (and #57 was disqualified), and when it came to training, he did it on the cheap, staying in dorms, mental institutions and what have you so as to save money.

Perhaps we could all take a lesson from this as we think about taking a summer holiday this year. Most of us automatically think of booking a hotel room for our holidays, but there are other options, from the palatable (monasteries) to the scary (couch surfing with strangers, as a recent Twitchhiker did). Here are three alternatives to hotels that may suit those of us a bit less daring:

1. Stay with friends. This can make a vacation even better, as long as you know how to be a good house guest. You know the drill: clean up after yourself, don't be a bother, help pay for groceries (or at least offer to), and show up with a nice gift for your host(ess).

2. Swap homes with someone.
Home exchange/house swapping services such as 1stHomeExchange.com hook up vacationers with people in other places looking to trade homes for a little while. You can also try your luck on sites like Gumtree and Craigslist. Just be careful to avoid now-removed erotic services cold-blooded murderers.

3. Camp. OK, if you think of "camping" as staying in accommodations where they don't leave a mint on your pillow every night, then this option is probably not for you. But for many people, camping is a big part of the fun of vacationing. For sites in the UK, you can try KwikBreaks UK, and for sites in Western Europe, check out The e Camping Directory.

If nothing else, staying at "alternative" accommodations is more likely to give you plenty of great story material for when you get back and people ask you how your holiday went.

What do you think?

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