In 2010, I traveled to London, England with the intent of living and working there. I had previously lived in London on a Working Holiday Visa in 2004 and I was looking to repeat the experience.
Packing for this trip was what led me to discover minimalism, so I only had a carry-on and another small bag to lug around.
It was a good thing to since things didn’t exactly go as planned and I ended up leaving after only six weeks. During that time, I changed accommodations a whopping five times!
So while I didn’t get what I had hoped out of my London experience, I did have some adventures in various forms of low-cost travel accommodations.
staying with friends
For the first leg of my journey, I stayed with my friend, Lisa. This was the most economical part of my trip as Lisa let me stay with her for free. I took her out to dinner one night, but that hardly compensated for my ten day stay in a really nice flat near Chelsea!
Staying with friends is a great option when traveling. However, I always ask my friends how many days I can stay and if they want any monetary compensation. I also buy my own food (most of the time). I don’t think any of us want to take advantage of our friends’ kindness. Plus, we want to be invited back!
From Lisa’s flat, I moved on to a female-only backpackers hostel for a few nights. I booked a twin share, and during that time, I had two different roommates. There was no kitchen, so I had to spend more money on eating out. While I didn’t enjoy this hostel very much – too many slamming doors – I really liked the convenient location of London Bridge and being so close to the Thames.
Aside: This is when I discovered fruit toast. I ate a lot of fruit toast on that trip. Man, I loved that fruit toast!
I needed to save money, so I wanted to stay somewhere that had a kitchen. Which led me to spending a couple of weeks at a long-term hostel in Kilburn. Now that location definitely left something to be desired.
I shared a room with five other girls. It was an interesting mix. At one point, a woman in her early 60s stayed with us. I remember two of my roommates being upset that she was staying there. They thought she was “too old.” I was 33 at the time, but looked younger, so I asked them if I was too old. They stopped complaining.
I ended up really getting along with this older lady. She had some fascinating stories! It made me realize that no matter what your age or your financial situation, you can always find a way to travel.
Long-term hostels are great because they generally have a kitchen and lounge. This hostel also had some free breakfast foods, so that saved me money. And it was social – without the “party” vibe of a short-term hostel – so I made some friends while I was there.
While I liked the people at the long-term hostel, I wanted my own room. So I found a room on Crashpadder (now part of Airbnb). The ad said it was located in Fulham. I thought: Fab! I finally get to live in Rebecca Bloomwood’s neighborhood! It was really off-off-Fulham. But I had a nice, clean room in a cool loft owned by a writer of a comedy show. I stayed there for a week.
It was during this time that I decided to leave London earlier than expected. So for my last few days, I wanted my own space without worrying about disturbing someone with my comings and goings.
My final few days in London were spent at the easyHotel located in Earls Court. If you’re not familiar with the easyHotel chain, they have very, very small rooms. Basically a bed, a few feet of floor space and a teeny-tiny cabin-style bathroom. But it’s private, no sharing. Also, the earlier you book, the less you pay. I didn’t book early, so I paid more, but it was still much cheaper than staying at a regular hotel.
I chose a room without a window to save some money. It was a little claustrophobic towards the end, but I would definitely book it again . . . except I’d get the window option next time. It would be hard for two people to stay in the smallest rooms, but it’s perfect for the solo traveler.
other travel accommodations
There are so many ways to be able to afford traveling without having to book a fancy hotel.
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the options available.
Where there’s a travel will, there’s a travel way!