CouchSurfing and Other Lodging Alternatives

Man sleeping in airport

[zgr_pro]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

Finding a place to sleep while traveling can be tricky for the budget conscious traveler. Finding that line between clean and cheap has inspired some pretty interesting sleeping arrangements over my years of wandering aimlessly from country to country. After crashing everywhere from subways in Germany, abandoned school buses in Alaska (don’t ask), and on the side of the road in Israel, I’ve explored a vast array of lodging options (or lack thereof). Here are some of my top picks for those of us who would love to stay at the five star hotel on the beach, but usually just end up passed out directly on the beach hoping the cops don’t ask us to move.

Backpacker
Bring a tent and you’ll always be assured of having a place to sleep when the going gets tough or the hotels get expensive. Up until recently, it was considered socially unacceptable to pitch a tent in the middle of a major metropolitan area, but with the occupy protests, sleeping on a roundabout in the middle of say…Tel Aviv…won’t raise nearly as many eyebrows as it used to. Just saying. Otherwise, do a quick scan of backpacker hostels. Many of them (Kampala for example) have places near the hotel where you can pitch a tent for a small fee. You’ll also have access to showers.

Airport
Who would willingly sleep in an airport? Me. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually more reasonable than you would expect. They’re warm, dry, and safe. It’s not an ideal place to sleep, but in a pinch, it’s a lot better than the street or the subway station (kind of drafty in there).

Train
Kill two birds with one stone and grab an overnight train to your next destination. They’re fun, convenient, and allow you to maximize your travel time. However, if you’re not going to get your own sleeping car then make sure to secure your luggage with a Venturesafe 32L. It’s shockingly easy to lose your luggage on a train. Keep an eye out.

CouchSurfing
Branding itself as the world’s largest travel community, CouchSurfing.com puts travelers in contact with locals who are willing to offer anything from advice to a place to crash for the night. As with any online social network, there’s always a certain amount of risk in committing yourself to staying with someone you’ve never met before, but that’s the adventure of it. Make sure to have a back-up plan and enough money to stay at a hostel should plans with your host fall through. Other than that, sign up and browse away. If you’re a little nervous about staying with someone you’ve never met, then consider trying it with a friend. Can’t go wrong with the safety in numbers theory.

House Swap
If you’ve got a pretty sweet apartment and are looking for a great way to experience a city as a local then consider a house or apartment swap. It’s not as terrifying as it sounds and has the appeal of enabling you to slip into someone else’s life for a week or two. Want to experience Paris like a Parisian? Then consider swapping an apartment with one. Admittedly this works better if you live in San Francisco or New York as opposed to Topeka, Kansas…but you never know. Nothing against Topeka. Just saying it’s probably not high on the destination list of most world travelers.

By Nikki Hodgson

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