Is it really possible to travel on a budget? Well of course, that depends on your budget. Seriously though, it never hurts to stretch your travel dollar; and the best way to do that is to rein in those ever-escalating lodging costs. The good news is, it’s still possible to find lodging that’s both affordable and accessible.

Hosteling for Everyone

First stop—hostelling; an idea which first gained popularity in the 1970s as an inexpensive way for young people to see the world. Today hostels are open to travelers of all ages, and many hostels are nicely accessible.
For example Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, which is located south of San Francisco, charges just $20 for a dorm bed and $55 for a family room. Housed in the former lighthouse keeper’s quarters, this hostel includes the accessible Dolphin Dorm, which features good pathway access and a very spacious shower room with a roll-in shower. As an added bonus, if you go during the winter, you can sit outside and watch the migrating gray whales in the Pacific Ocean.

And then there’s the Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel, which offers a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, at a very affordable price. Says manager Rick Young, “We sought input from a number of local disability organizations during the construction of our accessible ´wing. It took a little longer, but it was well worth the effort.” The accessible wing features a barrier-free kitchen, a bathroom with a roll-in shower and two dorm rooms. It’s very nicely done, and a bargain at only $23 per person.

Accessible hostels are not limited to the US; in fact, I’ve also found them in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Access varies from hostel to hostel, so contact each property directly for detailed access information. For more information, visit the Hosteling International website.

Hit the Y

The YMCA is another budget lodging option that’s often overlooked by disabled travelers. Although sometimes grouped with hostels, the thing that sets the Y apart is the availability of on-site recreational facilities at most locations. Most Ys have swimming pools and some even have weight rooms.

Although access varies from site to site, the properties that offer accessible rooms also usually have access to their recreational facilities. For example, the Salisbury YMCA in Hong Kong not only has four accessible guest rooms, but it also has wheelchair-access to one of their swimming pools. Visit the YMCA website to search their on-line directory of properties; then inquire directly with each property to determine their level of access.

Budget Hotels

On the more traditional side, many hotel chains, such as Microtel and Motel 6 offer accessible rooms at very reasonable rates. Microtel gets the highest marks for consistent access, as all Microtel properties are constructed from the ground up with access in mind. Motel 6 also offers good access in their newly constructed (post ADA) properties. Best bet is to look for Motel 6 properties constructed after 1992, as some of their remodeled properties have access obstacles.

And if your travels take you across the Big Pond, you can’t beat Premiere Travel Inns for access and value in the United Kingdom. They’re not luxury properties, but they are clean, affordable and accessible. Rates start at a very affordable $91.

Thinking Outside of the Box

For a zero cost lodging bill, consider a home exchange. The principles behind home exchanging are pretty simple. The idea is to find somebody with a lifestyle similar to yours, in another part of the country or world; and then simply exchange homes with each other during your vacation. The big benefit of home exchanging is that you each pocket the money you would have otherwise spent on lodging arrangements. As an added bonus, most home exchangers also exchange tourism information about their local areas.

Unfortunately, most home exchange directories don’t list accessible homes; however the Institute on Independent Living in Stockholm has a great bulletin board filled with accessible options. There’s no charge to view or post a listing, and this helpful resource keeps growing. A list of accessible vacation rentals is also contained on the website.

If you enjoy the great outdoors, consider renting a yurt on your next vacation. Although yurts are available at state and regional parks across the country, the most affordable and accessible ones I’ve found are located in Oregon. These permanent domed structures have plywood floors, framed doors, electricity and skylights. Accessible yurts with ramped entrances and wide doorways are priced at just $27 to $30 per night. Advance reservations are a must; and make sure and specify that you need an accessible yurt when you call.

Last but not least, for a 50 percent discount at National Park campgrounds across the US, get your America the Beautiful Access Pass. It’s available at all National Park entrances, to any US resident with a permanent disability. The pass also provides free admission to all US national parks; and best of all, the price is right—it’s free.

Photography by Charles Pannell

If You Go

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel: (650) 879-0633 |
Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel: (415) 771-7277 |
Hosteling International:
Microtel: (800) 771-7171 |
Motel 6: (800) 466-8356 |
Premiere Travel Inns:
Oregon Yurts: (800) 452-5687 |
America the Beautiful Access Pass: