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Alternative Accommodation

3 Alternative Hostel Accommodation

Swap, Sit or Surf!

Where you’re going to lay your head whilst travelling is something that is usually determined by your budget and your travel style. Not everyone wants to spend their career break doing a whistle stop tour of the world. What’s more, if you are going to be working abroad you may not want to be living out of a suitcase in a backpacker hostel, but that doesn’t mean you’re only options are expensive hotels either. Below are three alternatives worth considering.

1 - House Swapping

"Avoid associated Estate Agent fees, and save on your own accommodation whilst you travel."

If you’re a homeowner and planning a career break or sabbatical, house-swapping could prove to be a lucrative alternative to renting your home out whilst you’re away. Not only are you able to avoid any associated Estate Agent fees should you choose to rent your property out, but you will also save on your own accommodation costs whilst you travel. What’s more it immediately takes you off the tourist trail and sets you down in a real neighborhood.

What's required?
The two main requirements are that you be willing to spend at least a few weeks in one place and that you have a decent house in a potentially desirable location. Most swaps are arranged six months or more in advance, so it’s worth bearing this in mind as you plan your trip.

House swapping first hit our screens in romantic comedy The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet who use home-exchange.com to change their lives as they trade homes between Los Angeles and England. Hollywood aside, many people have turned to house swapping as a means to facilitate travel. One such couple are Love Play Work (www.loveplaywork.com) duo Hannah and Chris and you can read their inspiring story on House Swapping.

2 - House Sitting

House sitting is where you live in a person's home for an agreed period of time while they are away rent-free in exchange for taking care of their property and do any household jobs needed such as pet care, general maintenance, forwarding mail etc. House sitting jobs take place all over the world and can be either a short term stay of a weekend or up to a year or longer.

Why house sit?
House sitting via sites like Mind My House (www.mindmyhouse.com) is free, except for an annual membership fee £11. You also don’t have to be a homeowner yourself as is the case with house swapping and it too allows you to veer off the tourist track and live like a local. But there is a catch, well sort of; it usually helps if you like pets as many of the listings involve looking after the homeowners dog or cat, which depending on your plans could be too much of a commitment.

3 - Couchsurfing

couchsurfing.org

While the term "couchsurfing" loosely refers simply to staying with hosts while you travel, most people associate the concept with Couchsurfing.org - a social site to help budget travelers meet hosts in different countries.

What is couchsurfing all about?
The idea behind couchsurfing is to leverage the hospitality of friendly people around the world who open their homes to travelers for free. Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org) now has more than 5 million members in 246 countries around the world!

Colleen Sollars, spokesperson for couchsurfing.org told us, “Couchsurfing has always been driven by a mission to connect people across regional and national boundaries in order to create a global community. Surfing and hosting are at the core of the Couchsurfing experience, but couchsurfers also host meetups in cities across the world and create activities each week through the system. I think, more than anything, Couchsurfing is taking off in popularity because the site gives people a way to connect with locals to have a more interesting experiences when they travel.

“Trust is what makes members eager to invite people into their homes and create connections that would otherwise be impossible. Experiences gained through Couchsurfing have a profound impact on everyone who participates, and it's precisely because of this that travelers are drawn to the community.

“Travelers come to use Couchsurfing for a free place to stay, and they stay because it's an awesome way to explore!”

What are the benefits?
"Couchsurfing will provide you with a deeper insight on a destination beyond what guidebooks give."

Aside from the obvious benefit of saving a serious amount of cash, couchsurfing can enhance your trip far beyond simple accommodation. A good host will show you the sights, offer advice on where to go, and will provide you a deeper insight on a destination beyond what guidebooks give. Another often-overlooked benefit of couchsurfing is the fact that you may have access to a kitchen. Grocery shopping and cooking meals at "home" are cheaper and healthier alternatives to eating out every day as travellers often do.

You can read about what it’s really like to couchsurf in our interviews with Michaela Grill and Gilxs Wendes.

Contributor: Colleen Sollars

Advice from Colleen Sollars

Colleen Sollars works for Couchsurfing and has hosted, organised and surfed with a number of people in Canada, Indonesia, Thailand, France, Italy, Turkey, U.K., Mexico among others and loves bringing people together! Contact Colleen either through Twitter @colleeniebean or on Google+.