|This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on July 15, 2008.|
The internet is a great place to hit up for travel advice, and as airline ticket prices skyrocket with fuel surcharges, saving some coin on accommodation could be a way to keep your travel on budget.
I slept on the couch last night.
My son was kicking me off the edge of our bed. So I trundled down the stairs and curled up with a cozy blanket and a cushion and hung my ankles over the armrest.
It doesn’t sound very comfortable, but it was the best sleep I’ve had all week. You can keep your W and your Four Seasons, and your Fairmont – I’m choosing the couch.
If you don’t mind the couch, check out Couchsurfing.org, a website connecting travelers in need of accommodation with hosts with room to spare. More than 600 000 couchsurfers are registered from more than 44 000 cities.
But, as with anything, you’ve got to have your wits about you. As Laura recently wrote on her blog, From Sparkly to Single, some of the hosts can have other things on their mind.
“I had made arrangements about a month ago to stay with this guy named Angel who I met through Couchsurfing. I was supposed to stay with him for five days,” she writes.
“In between meeting me and dropping me, we managed to flirt up a storm at the tapas bar and he kissed me in the car. I was like, seriously? No. I want a nap and a shower.”
The silver haired set is really taking to travel as they hit retirement and they’re flocking to the web to make it affordable.
Georges and Sandra Leroux are empty nesters who are members at EvergreenClub.com. The site allows the Lerouxs to operate as a do-it-yourselfi bed and breakfast where they offer the rooms in their South Surrey home that used to be used by their children.
The site is $75 a year to join and each host is requested to charge $15 per night and provide breakfast.
It’s a break even hosting opportunity and Georges and Sandy have used the service to stay in Las Vegas and have hosted many couples in their home.
For those with extra homes, not just extra rooms, a full property exchange is a way to see the world as the locals do.
Chuck and Steph Newell are retired realtors with properties in Kelowna, Pender Island and France and first heard about home exchanges 20 years ago.
“When we first looked into the program you were provided with a weighty catalogue of homes complete with names and addresses and it was all done by written correspondence,” the couple says via email.
Things are much easier now with the internet as all the connections can be made through Homelink.org.
It can get a little tight to make exchanges sometimes, because you not only have to arrange to be on vacation and visiting as the same time as your co-hosts, but you’ll also need to find someone from a destination you’ll want to visit.
It gets easier, however, in a city like Vancouver where owners have multiple properties.
“Interestingly there are many people that have more than one home and offer non simultaneous exchanges so you could have access to a small apartment in Sidney Australia or a holiday home on the Gulf Islands.”
It takes a special type of person to do a home swap, say the Newells.
“You have to be willing to have someone use your things and your bed so if you can’t handle that stick to hotels.”
But if you have relatives in Edmonton and want to trade for a place in France, they have a deal for you.
“We have family in Edmonton with cats that we are allergic to so we can offer our place in the South of France in exchange for suburban Edmonton.”
Whether you have a house, a room or a couch to offer, hit up the web and make connections to save on your next vacation.