Hitchhiking America: Surfing Couches In Seattle
Accommodation is one of the biggest fixed costs travelers have and reducing that cost can lead to big savings! I’m sure many backpackers would sleep in a barn if it was the cheapest accommodation they could find!
No matter what your accommodation tastes may be, one thing everyone has in common is that no one wants to pay a fortune for it. In fact, one of the best ways to take a cheap holiday is to cut down on accommodation costs. Since you have to stay somewhere every night, reducing this expense can save you a lot of money off the total cost of your trip. Next to finding a cheap flight, finding free or inexpensive lodging will have the biggest impact on your budget.
Luckily, there are a number of ways travelers can find a decent place to stay without forking over their entire vacation fund:
When I am looking for a Couchsurfing host, I use the following criteria:
- There has to be a picture with the profile. This just shows me that it’s a real person.
- The profile has to be filled out – It shows they are interested and involved. Most people aren’t going to spend the time to fill this out if they aren’t going to be comfortable with strangers in their home. If someone hasn’t bothered to fill out the profile, they probably don’t use the site and I simply move on.
- They should have reviews – If other people have stayed with or have at least traveled with the host and had a good experience, you and your stuff will probably be fine. You might not get along with the host but at least you know they aren’t a creep. The more positive reviews, the better.
- Verification helps – Couchsurfing offers different levels of verification. People can be verified by other travelers, with a mailing address, or with a credit card. Knowing that a person has been verified reduces the likelihood that they are going to be a crazy psycho killer. However, if someone isn’t verified but has a lot of reviews, that’s O.K. with me.
Hostels are another option for budget travelers. In hostels, rooms are dormitory-style with all the facilities shared. Many people think of hostels as a “young thing” and are not interested in sleeping in a dormitory. Yet people do not often realize that many hostels offer small rooms, singles, and doubles designed for solo travelers or couples. I have met people in hostels in their 50s and 60s. The myth they are dirty, gross places to stay designed for young people is wrong. Many hostels offer more amenities than hotels, the new ones are really clean, and as young people expect more comfort, hostels are cleaning up their ways. These aren’t the hostels you see in movies.
Another good way to get cheap accommodation is a home exchange program. This probably works best for older travelers who already own.
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home. These programs have been around for a long time but are growing in popularity due to good marketing and word-of-mouth on the Internet. Home exchanges are just like they sound — for a set amount of time, you swap homes with a family from another country. It’s a great way to live cheaply abroad.
Most people don’t do this because they worry about security — but remember that the other family is trusting you with their home, too. Si
tes that facilitate home exchanges usually have various levels of verification and security similar to Couchsurfing. Families talk to each other over phone and e-mail, and there’s no commitment if you find that it’s not right for you. Most people who do this are like-minded, so the chances of something going wrong are slim. Moreover, the family sends a few people to check up on you when you arrive. You can get all the comforts of home (hotwater, laundry, etc.) while in another city, without paying for it.
For more information on home exchange, check out Home Exchange. This website was featured in the movie “The Holiday,” which did a lot to alleviate people’s fears over home exchange and bring this travel option into the mainstream. Some of the other home exchange websites are: Seniors Home Exchange, IHEN, and Home for Exchange.
Short Term Rentals
Similar to home exchanges, rentals allow people to stay in furnished apartments while traveling. These apartments can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and provide many more amenities. They are great if you plan to spend a week or more in one place. You’ll get all the comforts of home without spending a fortune.
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