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7 Hotel Alternatives That Will Stop You Going Back to Hotels

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Finding somewhere to stay when you are away from home can be a mixture of excitement and stress. On the one hand, there’s the idea of staying somewhere new and having a break, whether travelling for work or pleasure; on the other there’s the worry of finding somewhere nice that’s within budget.

While hotels have been the default option for decades, they can be expensive. Thankfully, there are plenty of hotel alternatives to suit everyone, from families to solo business travellers. Here, we’ve listed our seven favourite alternatives to hotels, for both long and short stays.

In a Rush? Key Takeaways

  • Hotels are not your only option for temporary accommodation
  • Plan and book well ahead to ensure the best savings
  • Consider your desired location (city centre or rural?) realistic budget (serviced apartments for luxury, hostels for budget stays) and size of accommodation (do you need an entire house or just a room?)

1. Serviced Apartments

If true luxury and quality service is desired, look no further than the serviced apartment. A mid- to long-term alternative accommodation to hotels, serviced apartments provide five-star hotel-like service and amenities for both single travellers and groups, alike.

While serviced apartments come in at the high end of the budget spectrum, the comfort, security and relaxed luxury are second-to-none. Sometimes called aparthotels, as a portmanteau between an apartment and a hotel, serviced apartments are expansive, private spaces that provide a true home-from-home for your stay.

With multiple rooms, including a fully fitted kitchen and separate living area, a serviced apartment is particularly suitable when the stay is extended beyond a few days. Living in a hotel beyond a few nights can be somewhat oppressive for many.

Despite the comfort of a hotel room itself, the smaller space and lack of kitchen can make travellers yearn for their own homes. By contrast, a serviced apartment provides a larger area that can easily accommodate guests, allow for personal meal preparation, and deliver the kind of relaxed comfort that soothes the mind.

Like a hotel, serviced apartments are focused on their individual guests’ needs. Many have concierge and security services for convenience and safety and all will have modern amenities, and be cleaned regularly to a high standard with regular housekeeping services.

Good for:
  • Business travellers looking for longer term accommodation
  • Guests looking for a luxury experience
  • Families visiting London for a quality time

Looking to Stay In A Serviced Apartment?


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2. Vacation Rentals

With the rise of Airbnb and VRBO, vacation rentals offer a huge range of options for travellers. Vacation rentals function by individual landlords offering their property for short term rental via one of the service sites. While Airbnb allows hosts to list any property, including flat shares and spare rooms in the host’s home, VRBO works on an entire premises basis, so only complete homes are available on their site.

As an alternative to a hotel, vacation rentals can provide a good budget alternative both in cities and across the country, however there are no guarantees of quality and care must be taken to fully research and read reviews.

The individual and unique nature of each vacation rental also means that care must be taken to ensure the booking is satisfactory. Parking, wifi, supplied bedding, nearby facilities and other factors should be checked before finalising.

Good for:
  • A huge range of options and locations
  • Budget to suit
  • Confident travellers

3. Bed and Breakfasts

Also called guesthouses, bed and breakfasts are family-run businesses where a larger home has been converted to provide private bedrooms as a hotel alternative. Typically with fewer than ten bedrooms on offer, B&Bs are small and cosy, but tend to offer little in terms of luxury.

Modern bed and breakfasts may provide en-suite facilities, but older ones typically have shared bathrooms. As the name suggests, breakfast is included, with a full English available (as well as uncooked fare like cereal and yoghurts) in the breakfast room each morning.

Though a budget option compared to higher quality hotels, B&Bs tend to be priced on a comparative level to chain hotels, such as Travelodge or Premier Inn. Their locations tend to be quite good, with city guesthouses readily available.

Due to their smaller family-business ethos, B&Bs are typically quite flexible, and offer both short- and long-term stays.

Good for:
  • Business travellers on a budget
  • Short stays in desirable locations
  • Weekend getaways

4. Hostels

Another budget option, hostels provide a reasonably priced, no frills bed for the night in a range of locations, including city centres. London has a wide range of hostels that offer good, cheap alternatives to hotels.

Although some hostels do have private bedrooms, and even en-suite bathrooms, the budget option is typically with dorm-style rooms where guests share space with others. While great for young adults travelling with a desire to meet others, hostels are typically unglamorous and lack privacy.

Good for:
  • Young adults travelling on a budget
  • People who wish to meet others and socialise
  • Inexpensive short city stays

5. Camping and Caravans

Grabbing a tent and going camping is often seen as “roughing it”, but with the growth of the glamping (glamorous camping) sector in recent years, plus a range of great budget caravan options, camping offers a strong alternative to hotels that can even be quite the luxury.

With accommodation that will house larger groups and families and sometimes a wide spread of facilities than can include swimming pools and on-site bars, your camping options are certainly varied.

At the bottom end, if you don’t mind trekking across the grass to the toilet block, and assuming you own your own tent, there are plenty of campsites across the UK that’ll let you stay for as little as £10 per night.

Caravan parks will often provide off-season discounts that are similarly priced for couples and smaller families and offer a far more comfortable stay. Stretching the budget, you’ll find glamping lodges with cosy wood stoves and sheepskin rugs that are perfect for a romantic getaway.

Camping and glamping options do suffer from being very seasonal, with many places (quite sensibly) closed over the winter, and it’s very hard to find good sites centrally located in cities, but if your trip is during the warm months, camping may be a perfect budget option.

Good for:
  • Budget travellers
  • Families
  • People seeking countryside and seaside locations

6. SpareRoom

Not all hotel alternatives are for short stays. If you are looking for long term temporary accommodation, one choice for extended stay alternative lodging is to find a flat or house share.

SpareRoom is a website dedicated to finding mid- to long-term accommodation in shared housing; ideal for students, single professionals or couples looking for housing in a crowded market.

While not suitable for short-term accommodation or families, SpareRoom offers an efficient service for city stays both in London and across the wider UK with a wide range of options for budget and facilities.

Good for:
  • Students looking for college or university accommodation
  • Professionals needing longer term stays
  • Contractors working away from home during the week

7. Home Swap

Stay in homes instead of hotels! For families looking for the ultimate low-budget option, sites like Home Exchange and Family Home Swaps offer a true alternative to hotels. 

The premise is simple; you register your family home on the site and arrange a mutually-agreeable swap with another family somewhere else. You get to stay in a fully-equipped (often right down to the toys) family home, while they do the same, coming to your home for their own exciting break.

Depending on the site, home swapping can cost zero. For some, there’s a registration fee and insurance options, for others, the entire experience is completely free. Of course, there are some caveats – you typically need to own your own home (landlords tend to frown on the idea), and you need to be comfortable with the idea of a family of strangers enjoying your house while you’re not there. Should that not be a problem, though, then home swapping offers a unique opportunity for short and mid-term stays worldwide.

Home exchanging does take some effort and travel needs to be organised well in advance plus, like vacation rentals, there are no guarantees regarding your destination. Research and good communication is essential.

Good for:
  • Families looking for an adventure
  • Homeowners with confidence
  • Low budget worldwide holidays

What Can You Do if You Don’t Have a Hotel?

One thing a hotel offers that is typically superior to most of the alternatives is its walk-in nature. If you find yourself unexpectedly in a city overnight with no plans, then hotels do provide a safe room for the night at no notice. Alternatives, though they may be kinder on the budget or a better long-term option, do typically require booking in advance.

Look to bed and breakfasts as one of the hotel alternatives that are equally willing to accommodate no-notice guests. Similarly, hostels can be good for backpackers or other solo travellers. If you do have some time, check sites such as Airbnb to see if there are any short-term options nearby that can be booked for that night.

But, when all else fails, short notice means you may find yourself in a hotel after all!

Choosing the Best Hotel Alternative

Location, budget and size. These three factors affect accommodation bookings more than anything else. Take the time to research the options that suit those three requirements and you will find a hotel alternative to suit. Perhaps this list has provided some extra inspiration for a unique holiday idea for the future, we certainly hope so.

Here at Sanctum, we offer the finest quality London serviced apartments – perfect for an enjoyable luxury stay in the capital. Contact us today for more information.

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