The type of accommodation that you choose for your travels can affect almost every aspect of your trip - from your level of comfort to the amount of money you spend. There are many factors that go into choosing a place to stay. The location of the accommodation is one of the most important things to consider, but also important is the atmosphere of the place. Some hostels and guesthouses are more social than others. Some places sell themselves as "party hostels" while others offer a more quiet and mellow atmosphere. Many long term travelers prioritize cost when choosing accommodation, and in many parts of the world, hostels are the cheapest places to stay. Backpackers in particular flock to hostels, but there are actually many budget accommodation options to consider. In some countries, guesthouses are more common, and actually cheaper than hostels. If you're traveling with a companion you may also find private rooms in budget hotels to be about the same price as a private room in a hostel. Think about your priorities and interests when you decide where to stay.
Hostels are the most obvious budget accommodation option, particularly for young or long term travelers. Hostels usually offer both dorms and private rooms and many have shared bathrooms, which help keep the costs down. In many places, a private room in a hostel is comparable in price to a private room in a budget hotel, but a hostel often offers a kitchen, common areas, and a more social atmosphere. The quality of hostels can vary dramatically, so it's important to read reviews before you choose a place. Also research what is included in the price of the room. Many hostels provide bed linens, but some do not. Wi-fi is often available for free as well, but it is best to confirm that the connection is strong if you're depending on having access to the internet. Sometimes wi-fi is only available in the common areas as well.
Hostels range in style from "party hostels" to quieter and more mellow hostels. Some provide breakfast (or even dinner) and travel services or organized activities may be available for guests. These social activities offer great opportunities to meet fellow travelers.
In many parts of the world, guesthouses are very affordable and more common than hostels. In lower cost areas such as Southeast Asia or India, you'll find no shortage of guesthouses that are reasonably priced and of decent quality. In many countries, traditional hostels are hard to come by, and guesthouses make a great alternative. Guesthouses usually have private rooms and some may have dorms as well. In many places, guesthouses are locally owned so they offer a great option if you want to make sure your money contributes to the local economy. Many guesthouses are small in size with basic rooms. Some may have a common area where you can meet other travelers, but many do not. Depending on the guesthouse, breakfast may be available and wi-fi may be included in the price of the room.
In countries like the United States, where hostels aren't very common, motels are often the cheapest option available. Many motels are located just of the interstate, but they can also be found in cities as well. Motels are usually very basic with a television, a queen or full sized bed, and a private bathroom. Many times a basic breakfast is included in the price of the room (cereal, toast, juice, and fruit). Motels do not usually have any common space and they don't have a particularly social environment. If you're hoping to meet other travelers, a hostel or camping is likely your better option.
In less urban environments camping is the cheapest way to travel. In some places, travelers rent or purchase RVs that they use to get around. Tent camping is also very common, but it's important to make note of the weather when you plan your trip. Many campgrounds offer bathroom facilities and showers (some for an additional fee).
For the truly budget-minded, couchsurfing is an option. There are websites available that connect travelers to hosts who will let visitors crash at their place. It is always best to read reviews before agreeing to a couchsurfing situation.