Moving along on my list of topics I said I'd cover about vacationing....frugally and simply (or fairly frugally and fairly simply since the MOST frugal and simple would be to sit at home in the cold and dark).
So, I've tried hotel/motels...some are a fairly good deal. Some are not.
I've tried vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owner), not bad. Prices go as high or low as you want.
And the DC trip was through airbnb.com. Again, price range is quite wide.
3 of us shared a 2 bedroom apartment in DC, with full kitchen, one full bath, and a washer dryer (nice ones, not those crap stacking ones with a top loading washer), breakfast foods included for about 35-40$/each per night. That was really good.
Here's a link to the place if you're curious:
The beds were great. Pam (Hi Pam) got the couch so she'll have to give us a ruling on that. It was very private and no steps other than the front porch. It is in a working class neighborhood in DC. The Metro stop is literally yards from the front door. You can see the place when you get off the Metro. 4 stops to the Mall. So, we didn't feel we spent too much time or money on transportation.
Having the washer/dryer meant we could pack with only a small carryon that fit under the seat in front of us. The airlines sometimes require you to check the roller bags these days with the overloaded flights. That doesn't cost you money, but it does cost you time waiting for the bag. I personally don't want to pay to check a bag so the washer facilitates that savings.
By staying in a working class neighborhood rather than at trendier or more "nightlife" type area, we also got a less expensive place.
With airbnb.com much of your experience depends on your host so read the reviews and communicate with the host before committing. The host, Wayne, was awesome! Good directions and suggestions. He encouraged us to take a bus to the national cathedral rather than the metro. Even cheaper AND it's like getting a free tour of DC. Some people might not care for the bus as the poor people take the bus along with everyone else, but we didn't mind at all.
What you don't get with airbnb: a round the clock concierge, linen service, a cookie-cutter-predictable-chain-hotel experience, reward points, etc.
When I've managed to get excellent prices on hotels/motels, it's largely been in "mom-n-pop" type places. They don't have advertising and often don't have websites so there is some risk. But isn't life full of risk?
One of my favorite cheapy hotel/motel experiences was at Paul's Motor Inn in Victoria BC
This was several years ago and I cannot vouch for their current conditions. The room was clean and quiet (due to the cinder block walls...those don't transmit much sound). The onsite restaurant hadn't been redecorated, or restaffed, since the 1970s. If you like vintage you'd love it. If you like modern and exotic then probably not for you. The place came with parking. Since I drove there and it costs to park in the city, free parking is important savings for me at a motel/hotel.
In Seattle I generally stay at the Travelodge University. It's not the cheapest, but the location is good, the price is very good for the location, free parking, and there are some 1 and 2 bedroom apartments with full kitchens. These cost a bit more than the regular rooms but I'm usually able to recoup much of the difference by having 1 or 2 meals a day in the hotel.
I no longer go so far as to sleep in the car to save money. I have a job and find that sleeping inside with a toilet and shower available is way better and worth the money these days.