A simple fact about specialty travel: Gay people travel different from straight people. Gay and lesbian travelers usually like to meet other gays on the road, for reasons of security and comfort, if not to simply hang out with similar people. A booming hospitality industry has blossomed for this highly valued, double-income-no-kids market. In fact, luxury hotel chains like the W, Kimpton, Kempinski, and Intercontinental have gone out of their way to create gay and lesbian advertising campaigns to lure gay travelers to their properties. But for the frugal traveler, an old mainstay of the gay travel world is your best bet for cheap sleeps: the gay-owned B&B. They are ubiquitous, friendly, fun, and the best way to tap into the local gay community when traveling. And they can be half the price of a comparable hotel room.
But since gay B&Bs are small operations with limited advertising funds and are usually run out of people's homes, it's often hard to find out about them. But you'd be surprised how omnipresent gay B&Bs are--I've discovered some in spots like South Dakota and Arkansas, even Tijuana, Quito, and Latvia. A gay B&B in an out-of-the-way spot can often mean the difference between being completely on your own or meeting other gay people, travelers and locals alike.
Probably the most comprehensive site for digging up gay and lesbian B&Bs is Purple Roofs (purpleroofs.com). Here may be the only place you'll discover hard-to-find properties like the only lesbian guesthouse in India ($20 a night), or a gay-owned boutique hotel in the center of Marrakech starting at $35 a night, or a gay-owned B&B in Rio also for $35 a night. (Having said that, most of the listings are in North America.) And Purple Roofs is the only place that lists scads of gay B&B discounts under their Specials section--like 25 percent off room rates during low seasons, or 50 percent off of a third night stay.
Also check out Rainbow Destination's B&B directory site guesthouses.net. There aren't as many listings as Purple Roofs, and some are straight-owned and over $100 a night, but you can still dig up some great finds here--like the Inn at Coyote Mountain in Costa Rica, a luxurious and remote hacienda, for $99 a night; Or the 18-24 James in Cairns, Australia--a 26-room resort with pool, sauna, gym, and spa--starting at just $55 a night.
Two other gay B&B directory sites are sleepgay.com and gaybandb.com. The first is lists 86 international B&B's and the second site 100, but sleepgay.com gives prices and profiles of each property, while gaybandb.com simply links you to each B&B's web site directly. As for finding gay B&Bs in the U.K., try pinkuk.com/tourism/B_B.asp and for Australia and New Zealand try inthepink.com.au.
Beyond the B&B
Not a B&B person? No problem. You can easily do a home swap with other gay travelers as well--where you trade your domicile with another traveler for a period of time (or choose to host someone in return). Anything from studios to cabins to mansions all over the world are listed, and members simply set up arrangements between themselves as to when and what will be swapped, and best of all, you can home trade as much as you like for free once you've joined.
The most extensive gay home swapping network is the GFN Home Exchange Club (nearly 1,500 listings at gfn.digsville.com; $44.95 for a 1 year membership)--they guarantee you'll find a home exchange partner in one year, or the next year is free. Or try the well-established Mi Casa Su Casa (nearly 200 listings at gayhometrade.com; $60 for a 3 year membership), in business since 1992; or the UK-based Home Around the World (350 listings at homearoundtheworld.com; $70 for 1 year), which specializes in European homes and offers travel insurance, flight and hotel discounts, and online bulletin boards. Don't feel like forking over the membership fee? Two services--the excellent One World One Family (nearly 80 listings at oneworldonefamily.com) and the relatively new Gay Home Exchange (19 listings at gayhomexchange.com)--offer free memberships--but you get what you pay for in terms of quantity of listings.
Or you simply camp it up! Gay campgrounds and RV parks are multiplying like crazy around the world, and offer a down-home way to save money and socialize at the same time. Surf to Gay Campers (gaycampers.com) for over 100 listings in 12 countries of rural getaways where you can bring your own tent or stay in cabins for nominal fees. Gay Camp USA (campgayusa.com) lists over 75 gay and gay-friendly campsites across North America (and one in England), all for low rates, and some even offer work-exchange for camping on the property--now that's budget living!
If you don't like to go camping without your microwave, Rainbow RV (rainbowrv.com) is the largest GLBT RV/Camping club in North America. For a membership of $12.95 per year, you get discounts to select gay campgrounds, an online newsletter, a gay campground directory, and invitations to gay RV rallies and events. Also check out the California-based non-profit gay RV club Traveling Our Way (travelingourway.org), with 230 members and membership of $20 a year.
So be it B&B, home swap, camping, or in an RV, there is no reason gay travelers should have to pay anymore than anyone else to have a great vacation--you just need to know where to look.