I’ve got a big cross-country trip coming up in about two weeks (which you may have read about here) that I’m really excited about. For cost saving purposes, the group that I’m going with will be splitting up and staying with host homes almost every night of our 15-day trip. It’s no secret that housing can be one of the most costly expenses while on vacation, and staying at host homes, or trying programs like couchsurfing, are great options.
While staying with a host is a great way to save money, it provides a completely different travel experience than if you were to stay in hotel or hostel. In order to help you decide if the host home route is the one for you, I’ve compiled several tips and guidelines to outline the ‘host home experience’ based on my own travels.
This one should be a no-brainer. There probably won’t be any maid service coming in to clean up after you, and nobody wants to open up their home to someone just to have them completely wreck their house. You should aim to leave your room/couch/space nicer than it was when you got there. When we stay with host homes, we always make sure to at least make the bed before we leave.
Unless it was discussed beforehand, don’t plan on being fed, doing laundry or being pampered. Now, a lot of the host homes that we have stayed with have offered these amenities, but it’s better to go in with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised. If you are planning to pack light and wash clothes along the way, be sure that you have money in your budget to visit a Laundromat. The same goes with meals, (another no-brainer) be sure that you have enough money in your budget to feed yourself for the duration of your trip.
You are staying in someone else’s home so don’t forget about that. Obviously, many people have different customs, beliefs, attitudes and outlooks, some of which you might not completely agree with. However, it’s important to remember that you are a guest, and unless something is harmful to you, being respectful and understanding is going to make your time at their home the most pleasant.
Stay in contact! The world is pretty small after all, and the more people you know, the better! In today’s world, almost everyone has a social media profile, so it’s easier than ever to reach out. Liking someone’s Facebook page or following them on Twitter is a small gesture that can go a long way.
This is one thing that is often overlooked while comparing the pros and cons of using a host home. Many people join programs like couch surfing and offer their homes to travelers in order to meet new people. More often than not, your host will want to get to know you, and sometimes show you around their town. Be ready to change your itinerary and be flexible in order to accommodate your host. If you are open to it, you might just find brand new adventures that you never expected, and that you will remember for a long time. However, If you are looking for a private vacation, a hotel might be a better option for you.
This tip is optional, though I’ve always found that it is a nice touch. Our group makes a point of leaving a thank you note at all of the places that we stay, just to show our appreciation. In the past we’ve left notes with our addresses and have received Christmas cards and ‘just because’ letters from old host homes. This is a great way to be remembered positively if your host happens to have a lot of guests come through, which can be helpful if you enjoyed your stay and plan to visit the area again.
Finally, and most importantly, be safe. Make sure that you do research before you jet off to stay in a stranger’s home. When possible, I suggest traveling with a partner if you are going to an unfamiliar area. It’s usually pretty easy to find your host on social media before you meet them in person, and sites like couchsurfing allow you to read reviews. Don’t be afraid to call ahead and talk to your host, or Skype them. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for references from people who have stayed with your host and to call them. Remember that It’s important to listen to your gut; if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Always remember to tell someone where you are going to be, and know how to contact the authorities from where you are staying.
I hope that these tips and guidelines were helpful to you and that you choose the best traveling option for you, and your budget!