As budgets get tighter, more and more travelers are looking for ways to cut costs when visiting a new city. “Sharecations” are just one way of cutting expenses and getting to see a new area through the eyes of a local. But is it for you?
Because lodging is one of the biggest expenses in any travel budget, numerous programs have popped up to try to ease that burden. Websites like couchsurfing.org and easynest.com offer low cost options for those travelers who are comfortable rooming with strangers.
For instance, as CNET’s Kara Tsuboi points out in the video interview, easynest.com matches strangers with hotel rooms in a given city. Since hotel rooms are based on double occupancy, the site offers to match solo travelers who are interested in sharing the cost of a room. They recommend travelers make contact before the trip, and review social media before accepting a roommate assignment. The service was started by people who have been traveling the world, and know the advantages of meeting new people and enjoying better accommodations at a cheaper price.
I’ll be honest, I’m not ready to share close accommodations with strangers. Even couch surfing makes me nervous, although I suppose their rating system would allow a user to choose only hosts with previous and positive experience. I’m just a little too wary as a single female traveler to go that route. But maybe that will change for me as the services become better known. I’ve certainly shared train compartments overnight with strangers without much concern—though I was traveling with friends and probably thought that I had safety in numbers.
One way to combat the fear of unease of staying with strangers is to use a platform like Friends of Friends Travel. Basically, the platform enables you to connect with your friends and their friends in various destinations around the world. They offer coffee dates, a place to stash your bags, a tour of the city, or places to stay. You get local perspective, but also a little bit more peace of mind.
My favorite of the latest wave of platforms is Voulez Vous Diner. People post the type of dinner they would like to host and the cost of attending on the site. Then hungry travelers eager to meet new people can join the feast. Hosts and guests are registered on the platform and basic email, phone numbers, Facebook accounts, etc are checked for accuracy, and there is a policy of reporting “bad” behavior, so the site does make some effort toward addressing safety concerns. Overall, it’s a great alternative to restaurant dining and the more exclusive (and expensive) supper clubs.
Whether you’ve jumped into sharecations with both feet, or just started to dip your toe in, you’ll notice that more and more options are available to you every day. Be sure to watch all of CNET’s Kara Tsuboi report for details on the latest options. And happy traveling!