Attention Accomodation Queens! If you are thinking about hitting London for this once in a lifetime summer – and it’s not too late – and you fancy globocation that offers more than the charmless indifference of a hotel holiday stay – just so passe! – then it’s time to look for alternatives. And there are plenty.
Thanks to a billion and one global corporations that have sprung up all over the world, finding great deals on quirky globocations ranging from home exchange, to flat-share and couch surfing, or ‘crash-padding’, in any city or country, has never been easier.
This year home exchange is all the rage as a reported 23% of Londoners plan to escape the Olympic madness and head south. And with many looking for sports-loving Aussies to occupy spare rooms, studies, garden sheds, chimneys and any other space they can fill, centrally located accommodation at affordable prices are a plenty.
If you’re looking for the most effective way to stay and play abroad, consider these options.
Option 1. Flat Swap
Get online and find your perfect match, and then, it’s just a matter of leaving time to pack up your home, and the family heirlooms, in preparation for your guests to enjoy. Meanwhile they will do the same in preparation for your visit. Just like the film starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, In Her Shoes… (good topic for a blog, hehehe).
The Good: It’s fairly foolproof since you’ve both got the same thing at stake, i.e. your home!
The Bad: It could take forever and a day to find the perfect match and if the tenants suddenly cancel, it will be a double whammy on your travel plans.
Option 2: Flat-Sharing
Sharing a flat or home with the owner occupier is the way forward in terms of choice, since everyone with a modicum of spare space is doing it (even me, and you can find out more about that in the ‘offers’ section.)
The deal typically includes Bed & Breakfast, plus shared use of kitchen and sitting rooms along with all utilities: TV, Wi-Fi, stereo, fridge, cooking utensils, and sometimes, a cat. If you’re lucky you might get your own ensuite bathroom, otherwise it’s a shared bathroom. You will need to pre-book and pay in advance.
The Good: It’s cheaper and more personal than a hotel and you get to enjoy all the creature comforts. Plus, so long as you do your user review research properly, you will end up with a lovely enthusiastic host who will be happy to show you around the neighbourhood and give you all the tips. That’s why it’s especialy great for solo travellers. Having a ready-made friend in the shape of your host is a bonus. That’s the loneliness taken care of then. Tick!
The Bad: It’s not very pleasant if there’s a personality clash. Or, if the bedrooms are too close together. And the walls are too thin and… oh never mind!
The Websites: http://www.airbnb.com and airbnb.crashpadder.com
Option 3: Couch-surfing
Couch surfing offers the most flexibility since you can book in advance or book on the hop. It’s casual, cheeky and a bit of fun – but definitely not for the faint hearted! Favoured mainly by students and backpackers, the couch-surfing option doesn’t allow very many creature comforts, in other words, it’s pretty basic but, it does afford more privacy than a 10 room dorm.
Keep in mind that since you’re sharing with those who generally require the use of their sofa, they are within their rights to ask you to be packed up and out of the way, except for those times when you’re sleeping. So not very relaxing then. It is however, perfect if you plan on spending the minimum time at home and the maximum amount of time out partying.
The Good: It’s cheap, cheerful and you can generally negotiate the price and length of stay on the hop.
The Bad: It’s an informal agreement so you’re not covered if say, you accidently burn the flat down. Plus, if the couch is not cleaned religiously, you may find you spend the night fighting off dust mites. If that’s not what you had in mind for your sexy-time European summer, then it’s not for you!
The Websites airbnb.crashpadder.com; http://www.couchsurfing
Each of these websites operate on a user-review based policy, that means if someone trashes your flat, or heaven forbid, you trash theirs, you can be sure that every potential tenant or landlord that does an online search for the rest of forever, will know about it.
If you are considering a home exchange or flat swap, read the small print clearly, be on top of the T & C’s. And remember…
Treat your exchange home as you would like yours to be treated
Be respectful, courteous and pleasant to your hosts
If you damage something, fess up right away – far less traumatic than having your faux-pas go viral!
Click on this link for a current UK overview and guideline of what you should expect to pay as published by the Guardian. Check availability before you get too excited though, the properties at the cheap end of the scale are snapped up like crazy