It’s become the standard when booking a vacation — schedule your flight, then book a hotel. Choosing to book a hotel for your accommodations is so common that most travel websites give you the option to book your flight and your hotel at the same time. And while there are many incentives to booking a hotel room (free breakfast anyone?), the standard hotel room can get kind of boring, particularly if you travel often.
It’s time to mix things up. Whether you choose a house, a castle, or even a converted jail, thinking outside the box will reward you with a trip you’ll be talking about long after you return home. Take a look at some of our picks for unique places to stay on your next vacation.
Live like the locals and rent a house
It should be clear by now that we think that one of the best ways to experience a new location is to live like the locals. To really experience the local life, skip the hotel and rent a house or apartment outside of town. It may be convenient to stay at a hotel on Main Street, close to the popular attractions, but staying in town often limits you to seeing the area as a tourist. When you stay in the residential areas, you will have the opportunity to chat with your neighbors, visit the local grocery store, and explore the quaint little cafes that only the locals know about. From your standard 3-bedroom house in the suburbs to a penthouse apartment in Asia, there’s something to please everyone. Head to Airbnb or VRBO to get started.
Camp in style in a Yurt
If you want to be outdoors but aren’t sold on the idea of sleeping in the standard tent, consider a yurt. The yurt has been around for thousands of years, originally used in Mongolia. The structure has many key features including portability, a cloth roof, and circular shape. If you want peace and seclusion in the Colorado mountains, consider a yurt where you’ll have a fireplace, kitchen, and the ability to ski and hike to your heart’s desire. Looking to try a yurt but still have some of the luxuries you would find at a hotel? Try the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls where you will have a private bathroom, hardwood floors, and of course access to a luxurious spa.
Embrace your inner child in a treehouse
Sleeping in a treehouse is no longer just a childhood dream, it’s an adult reality. But unlike the treehouse of your childhood, these treehouses are not small constructions nestled in the backyard oak tree. Instead, some of the most luxurious treehouses feature amenities like jetted tubs, king size beds, balconies, and fireplaces.
If you want to relax and immerse yourself in nature check out this remote treehouse on the Big Island of Hawaii. The floor to ceiling windows will surround you with the lush greens of the island. If you are looking for something with more of a funky vibe, head to Canada and rent a tree sphere. Free Spirit Spheres offers the tree house experience with a more sophisticated touch. These houses feature a unique spherical design and are suspended by heavy duty cables. Choose one of the three designs and fall asleep to the sound of the outdoors.
Live like royalty in an ancient castle
If you’re traveling abroad, consider staying in a castle, because let’s be honest, who hasn’t dreamt of living like royalty at least once in their life? If you are looking for a truly magical experience, visit the Ashford Castle. Located in Ireland, this 800-year-old castle was once the home to the Guinness family. It now features 83 rooms, a world-class spa, and dining in its 16th-century wine cellars. Guests can enjoy a wide range of activities on the 350-acre estate. Take in a movie at The Cinema, enjoy a round of golf, or go ziplining.
Choose a lighthouse and fall asleep to the crashing waves
Is there really any more soothing sound to fall asleep to than crashing waves? Sure you can rent a hotel room that is kind of close to the beach and vaguely hear the waves in the distance, but if you really want to experience the coast, look into renting a lighthouse.
There are many options available. Stay at a bed and breakfast in renovated keepers quarters or be the keeper and take on duties like raising the flag, doing minor maintenance, and keeping a log. From atop the lighthouse, you will experience breathtaking panoramic views and see the ocean in a way many others do not. From Oregon to New York, it’s easy to find a lighthouse that will welcome you as a guest. Just be sure to plan ahead as room is limited and the experience is in high demand.
Spend the night behind bars
Did you know that prison hotels are a thing? In fact, you can find these unique renovations all across the globe. But these upgraded clinks are far from dingy cells, hard mattress, and questionable food. On the contrary. Take the Lawyer Suite at the Het Arresthuis just outside of Amsterdam. Chic decor, top of the line amenities, and onsite world-class dining will make you forget that this hotel once housed dangerous criminals.
Traveling down under? Do some time at The Old Mount Gambier Gaol in Australia. The high brick walls and bars throughout the building will give you a more authentic experience. Most rooms have been converted from actual jail cells. The rooms are small, as the original cells were, but they do come with additional amenities like electric blankets and private bathrooms. If you are looking for more space, book The Cottage or The Lodge, former homes to the warden and his staff. Don’t worry, this visit won’t stay on your record.
Experience tiny living in a capsule hotel
If you’ve ever seen the movie, Ready Player One, the look of a capsule hotel will be somewhat reminiscent to “the stacks.” Rooms are lined up, one next to another, one on top of the other. The capsule hotel is not your typical hotel room. It’s not really a room at all. Instead, guests stay in small pods, or capsules. Each capsule typically contains a bed, electrical outlets, and possibly a tv or alarm clock. There is usually a communal bathroom area and often a shared kitchen, living space, and sauna. The design is minimalistic, providing a simple, affordable option for travelers.
Capsule hotels originated in Japan. Today the hotels are found most prominently throughout Asia, but locations are beginning to show up in areas like the US and Russia. Though the same basic design stays consistent throughout most hotels, many capsules are being decked out in unique and fun designs. Book and Bed in Tokyo will make you feel like you are sleeping in the middle of a bookstore with each capsule situated behind shelves of books. The books are available for guests to purchase and each pod has its own reading light. The City Hub in Amsterdam goes for the futuristic feel with sleek colors, high speed internet, touch screens throughout, and it’s very own app to help users check in.
Keep in mind, a capsule may not be the best choice if you are claustrophobic, are traveling with a large group, or are carrying a lot of luggage. However, these hotels are great for solo travelers, business travelers, or lodgers looking for a quick, cheap place to stay.
Shake things up on your next stay. Choose an adventure above or find something of your own. Bundle up in an igloo, or resist the temptation to eat a house made out of chocolate. Get creative and have fun. Adventure can be had inside the lodging you choose, just as much as it can be outside your accommodations.