Cheap ways to vacation in some of the world’s costliest cities

08/03/2014 12:00 AM

08/02/2014 10:23 PM

The very young and the very old enjoy special privileges in travel. I’m not suggesting that the in-betweens are denied the same privileges, but I am referring to organizations that were designed to permit youngsters and seniors to pay radically reduced rates for their overnight accommodations when they travel.

Take the case of the world’s increasing supply of hostels, formerly known as “youth hostels.” Very few facilities in travel are as fast-growing as hostels. If you consult the major websites that describe the hostels available to travelers – HostelWorld.com, Hostels.com, HostelBookers.com, HostelZ.com and others – you will find that an astonishing number of new hostels have opened during the past several years, and even more are scheduled for future years.

In nearly all U.S. cities with populations of more than 200,000, and in all the major tourist cities of Europe, entrepreneurs have bought up old hotels and converted them into modern hostels charging as little as $25 to $30 a night for dorm accommodations and only slightly more for private rooms. Although these hostels have no maximum age requirement and accept people of all ages, their primary clientele are people younger than 30.

A typical new hostel? In super-expensive New York City, where average room rates are now $266 a night, the new Chelsea Jazz Hostel in the heart of Manhattan charges $35 a night per person in dorm rooms on weekdays, $40 to $45 a night on weekends. Those rates are considerably higher than those charged by hostels in other U.S. cities, but they are a godsend for people living on a budget in the Big Apple. Scan the various hostel websites listed above, and you’ll find even lower rates.

For seniors, the top cost-cutting facilities are two hospitality travel clubs that supply such older travelers with spare rooms in private homes – usually in the homes of empty-nesters who now have extra space to make available to guests. In existence from as far back as 1982, the two immensely successful clubs are EvergreenClub.com and AffordableTravelClub.net – be sure to access those exact addresses. Fiercely competitive and with thousands of members apiece, AffordableTravelClub claims to limit its members to people older than 40, while EvergreenClub imposes a minimum age of 50 (but both clubs obviously cater to an older group). Both charge yearly membership fees of either $65 (AffordableTravelClub) or $75 (EvergreenClub). And both require that travelers pay a small daily fee to their hosts ($20 for a single and $25 for a double for Evergreen members, slightly less for Affordable members) to offset the expenses (a big breakfast included in all stays, laundry, etc.) incurred by hosts.

Once you join either club, you then have access to electronic directories describing at great length the 2,000 households (for each club) in both the U.S. and overseas that will put you up for free (except for that small daily fee of $20-$25) in their homes. To join either club, members also must agree to occasionally accommodate other members in their own homes, again for no charge other than the nominal daily fee. In other words, members cannot simply be takers – they also must be givers.

It’s important to distinguish these two hospitality clubs from the altogether different home-exchange clubs in which members stay in another person’s home while the latter stays in their home. Members of Evergreen and Affordable need not time their visits to mesh with another’s vacation but can use their membership at any time when they travel.

The fact that Evergreen and Affordable have lasted so long, and with such evident success, is strong proof of how valuable their services are. For seniors over the age of 60, they provide an excellent means of virtually eliminating accommodations costs from their next trip.

Join the Discussion

The Wichita Eagle is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service