Travel on a Budget - The Art of Couchsurfing.com

the spot of joe travel

I've been planning for my first trip with the blog for the past week, making sure I have a place to stay every night and budgeting for gas. I noticed the work I'm putting into this and I figured, "Other people might need this information too!" So, readers, if you're thinking of how to travel on a budget, think no more! I am not an expert by any means, but I have some experience and I would like to share that with you.

You can find shelter for free when you travel!

Depending on your mode of travel (bike, car, plane) the largest expense of your trip would be shelter. If you're staying in a hotel (why would you? You're burning a hole in your wallet) the bill will be very high. For a business trip, or for a wealthy businessperson who has the money to spare, this is no problem. However for many people who travel, the thought of spending wads of money is deterring.

AirBnB helps this dilemma to a large extent. Great places with great hospitality and comfort are open for around $40/night in most cities. A hotel with competing comfort and hospitality would rack up to at least $200 for some of the places I've stayed at, especially the place in Toronto with the "Stay Awesome" keys.

But for those of us who are broke college students, or are just broke in general and need a way to travel and get out of our routine, couch surfing gives us this opportunity.

Normally couch surfing means calling up a friend and saying "Hey! I need to spend the night. Are you alright being used for 12 hours?" Which can get two people closer, but you don't want to mooch off your friends too often.

Couchsurfing.com gives you the ability to find couches to stay at, with hosts who often are passionate about showing travelers their town and meeting new people. There's no money involved, just communication and logistics. I even met one person in New Orleans who would bike his surfers around on a banana bike, and caused 3 people to move to New Orleans out of passion from the trip!

Many people travel and couchsurf. Look to them if you are worried about safety!

Some people question the safety, and for a solo female traveler I can understand the concern. In that case, stick with a host who's "verified" (meaning they paid money for the badge so others know they're legit) and has many positive reviews from other female surfers. And check out fellow WordPress blogger, Samantha in Transit, who wrote this article about her solo experience and why it's not such a big deal to travel solo, even for a single lady.

In this post I speak about a trip I took with a friend to Delaware, where we used Couch Surfing for the first time.

Here's the procedure:

  1. Make an account on the site
    1. You can connect it with Facebook to simplify the login process
    2. Upload some photos and some details about yourself
      1. Because people want to know who's sleeping in the room next door
      2. Put some details about your life, like an "About me" bio
      3. It makes the host comfortable, and more willing to accept your request
      4. (Optional but recommended long-term) Get verified
        1. Paying $20 for the credibility apparently pays off. I just got verified before this trip, and I can't say if it helps. I got 2 declines (including the bicycling guy from New Orleans,) one without even replying to me. After I got verified, I got two acceptances to replace them. Was it the verification? Who knows.
        2. It's been recommended to me by other couch surfers, including the guy who housed my friend and I in Delaware.
        3. (Recommended) Reach out to friends to review you!
          1. Just like #2, people want to know you're a cool person. Nothing eases people's minds that you won't murder them in their sleep with your journal pen than another human being saying you're fun.
          2. Find a host in the city you're visiting.
            1. This is obvious. If you don't think of this step, I can refer you to a Kindergarten home-schooling syllabus.
            2. Send a request!
              1. Self-Explanitory
              2. Hash out the logistics
                1. Once they accept your request, you both talk logistics until you figure out what's best for you both.
                2. BONUS - Buy them a small gift!
                  1. Chris and I bought our host a pipe. It was a nice pipe, and it wasn't very expensive. He said in his profile that he liked smoking, so we visited a gift shop in the afternoon when we were checking out Rehoboth Beach. It makes the stay a lot easier, and shows the host you care about giving back.

So there you have it! A great way to save money on traveling. I will be staying in friends' houses and couch surfing on CouchSurfing.com for my upcoming stay starting on August 17th. I'll have more information to write another couch surfing post for you guys!

Please contact me if you have experiences you want to share about couch surfing!

~Joe Buchoff