So you're leaving town for a trip of a lifetime, a desperately needed week in the sun or you're nicking off work early on a Friday for a sneaky weekend away. While hotels, with their comfy beds, room service and pay TV channels are undoubtedly great, there are alternatives that offer more than a freshly laundered towel, pillow mint and "free" mini shampoos.*
Enter the world of home stays, house swaps and "couch surfing" that offers travellers a different, varied and (sometimes) cheaper accommodation option for stays all over the world. Options range from a spare bed in someone's inner-city abode, an entire home to yourself or if that's not enough for you, a Fijian Island.
Whether it's for the convenience of having your own kitchen, you're seeking a "live like the locals" experience, or you're heading away with a group here are some options to get you started. I'd love to hear more finds, so please share them in the comment space below.
*You'll have to ask your host if pillow mints and mini shampoos are provided
Payment for your stay is made up front to airbnb (who charge a moderate booking fee) who then transfers it to your host the day you check in. Once your booking has been confirmed you are free to contact your host and make arrangements for check in.
Tips: Always make contact with your host first to check availability and final rate. Some include a cleaning fee that is not listed in the base price and many advertise their space on similar sites, so airbnb may not always have the most up to date information. Finally, it's good etiquette to leave a review of the accommodation once you arrive home.
Couchsurfing.com Couchsurfing.com is an extensive network of travellers seeking or offering a bed, couch or even space on the floor to spend a night or two or more. Space is offered for free and operates very much on the great sense of community the site and its founders have established. A couch can be found anywhere in the world, including the big cities and small regional locations.
For those who may be wary of staying with a stranger, positive reviews and couch-surfer verified badges will put your mind at ease. Hosts are also very open to connecting with you prior to your arrival or, if seeking a bed at shorter notice, meeting up for a coffee before a final decision is made.
All users (whether surfer or host) create a profile that outlines a bit about who you are, your experience with couch surfing and other bits and pieces and from there you can easily advertise your space or that you are seeking a space.
Tip: Note that couch surfing is very much for the "people person" within you.
One fine stay offers homes of special interest, significance or luxury (and often all three) in and around London. Claiming to be an "unhotel" (yes, that means it's someone's home but you still get the "free" toiletries and other hotel goodies) the homes all possess a "wow" factor and many are architecturally unique or have an "interesting owner" (often an artist, writer or designer) who gives their house a unique, quirky or extra special feel.
In short, any of the properties offered on this site will make your stay in London extra amazing and even breaking up your day up with 5 minutes of browsing will pander to your interior design and architectural interests.
Tip: The site has imminent plans to spread the onefinestay.com concept beyond London. Yay!