Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Informal Lodgings

A friend just sent me a story from CNN.com about hotel prices and how to get the best ones. It is no secret if you have travelled at all recently that hotel prices everywhere are rising. Even simple chain motels in small cities in the U.S. Northeast are charging $100 or more for rooms, not including tax.

There is a way to beat the high cost of hotels, though, if you are intrepid. You can tap the informal
lodging market, the one that is composed of private individuals who rent out rooms in their homes or apartments. Yes, you can use sites such as www.airbnb.com, but there is another way that may work even if you don't use the Internet.

My cousin Pat sometimes finds private rooms on his travels through the Upper Midwest by inquiring at the local hospital or Catholic Church. People who have a family member in hospital may need inexpensive places to stay if the patient is there for a long course of treatment. At the pastor at a Catholic or other church may know about people, often widows, who rent out rooms to make ends meet.

One of my favourite writers, Natalie Goldberg, says in one of her books that if she needs to find a good restaurant or a cheap place to stay in a new town, she often asks at the local bookstore. Of course, with the demise of bookstores everywhere, this may not be so easy to do now.

I myself found a room this way a long time ago in Bressanone/Brixen, Italy. I asked a young boy if he knew of any rooms for rent, and he led me on a long trek up the mountain to his own home, where I rented a room from his parents for a couple of weeks.

Informal lodging probably works best in small towns and rural areas--don't count on it in big cities. And be sure to use your common sense. If you think that your host might be a modern version of the owner of the Bates Motel in Psycho, keep moving.


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