Budget travel is not just for students; there are lots of ways to travel in Europe on a budget without staying in a dorm or hostel. Here are just a few ways to stay free on your next Europe vacation.
One of the newest ideas is called Couch-Surfing. As stated on their website, “Couch Surfing” seeks to develop international networks of people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.
It is a casual arrangement whereby you join the couch-surfing organization, upload your profile, picture and interests. You can then seek out other couch surfers in the towns where you wish to travel and set up a home-stay with them. You may, of course, meet people who might want to stay with you at some future point. But then, why not?
On a similar vein is Hospitality Club. Their website claims that “Our aim is to bring people together – hosts and guests, travelers and locals.” Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are traveling – be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. Joining is free, takes just a minute and everyone is welcome. Hospitality Club members can look at each other’s profiles, send messages and post comments about their experience on the website.”
Another website I just discovered is BeLodged, which offers free accommodations worldwide. They say: “It works based on the principle of “visiting mutual friends”. You join and become a member of the belodged.com community. As a host you offer other members free accommodations. Since everyone else is doing the same, you may request accommodations with anyone else. Wherever and whenever, private and free.”
There are several reputable firms that help to arrange home exchanges. We have a few friends who have done this and were extremely pleased with the results.
With Home Exchange companies, there is usually a minimal sign-up fee, but there is no charge for the home exchange itself. As with the previous websites, you put your profile on the site and state where you want to travel, the time frame and your lodging needs. People across the world do the same and with specific searches, one can find a good match for a home exchange during a certain time frame. The email exchanges with your possible home exchange partners help you determine whether or not you can both be totally comfortable with the exchange. With these exchanges, you typically exchange cars and sometimes you can exchange pet duties as well!
On their first home exchange, our friends were careful to put their valuables away and they took down their best paintings. They were embarrassed to find that their home exchange partners had a much more grand home than their own, and the owners had removed nothing. They have done many exchanges since then and have decided to leave their valuables on display. They have never had a problem.
A few reputable companies to consider for a home exchange are Intervac (the one my friends use), and Home Exchange, which was featured in the movie “The Holiday“. There are lots more of these companies out there, just be sure to read the fine print and engage in lots of interaction with your exchange partner prior to the home swap.