Cheap Sleeping! Couch Surfing, AirBnB and Crash Padding As You Travel

Budget Travel, Featured, Staying There, Websites and Blogs — By on June 23, 2010 at 6:00 am

by Adrienne Supino
Special to Lost Girls World

I love to travel, but as a young professional in an entry-level job I’m not exactly flying first class and chilling at trendy hotel bars while I wait to check into my deluxe penthouse suite! Fortunately for me and most travelers on a budget, there are more affordable accommodation options available–and we can access them in seconds with the click of a mouse . Here are just a few ways to sleep on the cheap in your destination:

Couchsurfing.org: Everyone has their own travel “style” and their own goals in mind when they pack their bags and take off. For those of us who enjoy the camaraderie typically found in the hostel common area (and are looking for the opportunity to hang out with some locals or other fellow foreigners) check out couchsurfing.org.

You can join this non-profit networking site–which brings together travelers from over 230 countries and territories–for free. As a member of the network, you can create your own profile and participate as a host with a bed to spare, a couchsurfer (aka, a guest looking to stay in these hosts’ homes), or simply as someone willing to meet up for a drink with others traveling or living in your area. Though it was originally developed to help connect hosts and couchsurfers and facilitate cultural exchanges, the site also arranges a number of activities and events in cities all over the world.

The main goal of hosting is to encourage cross-cultural interactions, so hosts don’t charge surfers for their stay. Because the experience isn’t money driven (and because some may be a little bit weirded out about crashing with strangers) hosts and surfers usually select each other carefully to ensure that the encounter will be mutually beneficial and safe.

Couchsurfing.org was designed to help members make informed decisions about who they are letting into their lives and their homes. By browsing profiles, members can find other travelers who share common interests or common friends. They can check out each others references (members can permanently post positive or negative comments that on each other’s profiles) and can also see who has made the small donation to verify his or her identity and location to the network. These features have contributed to over 4.3 million positive couchsurfing.org experiences–accounting for over 99 percent of all CS member reported experiences!

Crashpadder.com and AirBnB.com Now, suppose you’re taking your next big trip to see your favorite band play that sold out concert in London. You’d probably love to to find a place to sleep nearby so you can hit up after-party–but you don’t want  to spend a fortune on a hotel room. If so, crashpadder.com or airbnb.com may be just the websites you’re looking for.  On both sites you can peruse descriptions, pictures, and the comments posted about spare bedrooms or apartments offered up for extremely low rates in a particular city or neighborhood that interests you.  If you wanted to get even more specific check out the “events” feature on crashpadder.com to see the available pads close to that concert or show that you’re planning on going to!

Airbnb.com and crashpadder.com are free to join and only charge small fees to book or rent (airbnb.com tacks on a 6-12% commission to the price set by the host or renter, and crashpadder.com adds on a £3 booking fee). You can communicate with your prospective renter/host, book, and pay for your room or apartment through both websites in order to protect the privacy of you and your host. Working solely through the sites also helps to prevent fraud and scams because they hold control over when the payment is released to the renter.

More than just offering cheap places to sleep, both sites provide a wealth of information and great sets of tools to help guests find the perfect place to stay. Are you a photographer or do you like yoga? Join the photography, yoga or one of the many other groups set up on either site and see who offering a room may share your common interests. Browse crashpadder.com’s Lifestream feature and look at the latest rentals or click on the Featured Citiessection and find a homestay or apartment for your next business trip. Crashpadder.com even offers a “concierge service” to help groups of 3 or more guests or guests wanting to spend 7 or more nights in a city in their search!

So whether you’re spending your nights alone on a local’s couch or with 6 friends in that loft apartment next to the theater district, you can rest assured that there are plenty of ways to find places for travelers on a tight budget to sleep.

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    9 Comments

  • ayngelina says:

    Nice post, I hadnt heard of the second two. There is also a new site vying to compete with Couchsurfing. I think they are Uk based and they say they are different and better but I dont really see much diffence.

  • bethany says:

    Cool! I had never heard of the last 2 but they sound really interesting. I am definitely going to check them out. Thanks! beth

  • I have to say that after reading the title this post was a major let down!

    On a serious note though, couch surfing is something I’ll be considering on my trip next year.

    Alternatives would be to scour House Sitting websites such as http://www.mindmyhouse.com, or do a bit of Woofing: http://www.wwoof.org. I can’t vouch for either of these sites as I’ve not done either, I just think they both sound very interesting and I’ve heard good things about them.

  • Ali says:

    Thanks, this is really helpful. Couch surfing not only helps you cut down expenses but also enables you to mix with the locals to experience local cultures and ways of life. I’d like to suggest http://volunteerstays.com/. The site offers some great opportunities for couch surfing.

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