Senior Travel – How Seniors Can Find Free Accommodations
Senior Travel – How Seniors Can Find Free Accommodations
Free accommodation for seniors isn’t some gimmick. It’s also not a special deal offered by some travel agency with strings attached. The fact is that seniors can get free accommodations in many countries around the world through various clubs and organizations.
What started out as something organized for young travelers, quickly turned into a global phenomenon with people of all ages using free accommodations and seniors began joining these clubs as travelers and hosts.
Free Accommodation for Seniors – Organizations that Provide Free Places to Sleep
Here are organizations where seniors can find places to stay for free. The best ones you can also filter your choices through age, sex, and other options.
CouchSurfing – http://www.couchsurfing.org
So, what exactly is CouchSurfing?
CouchSurfing.org started in 2004 to allow travelers closer contact with locals around the world. According to their website, “Since 2004, members have been using our system to come together for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experiences.”
When seniors sign up for CouchSurfing.org, they can search for couches (people providing a free place for them to crash out), or they and/or they can provide couches for other travelers. First of all, let me say that the main objective to Couchsurfing shouldn’t be to find a free place to sleep. It should be about learning about other cultures up close, and gaining valuable information about your destination. Local people will give you insights and tips about places to see that a hotel might not know about. In addition, your host will not usually have any financial interests about the places they recommend, unlike a hotel.
If you go to a travel agency and ask for information about a country, they’ll give you general information from a package tourist’s point of view. They try to get you to specific destinations, and then to stay with hotels, restaurants and tours that they have an association with (which means they make a good commission every time you book at those places). At my last count, there were over five million registered CouchSurfers in every country throughout the world! So, technically, you can find
CouchSurfing hosts in just about any destination you want to go, and find free places to stay.
Although it can be done, I would discourage you to use CouchSurfing every day. Sometimes, it’s also nice to stay at cheap hostels, guest houses and cheap hotels. My daughter and I have recently started CouchSurfing and have had great experiences thus far. However, we mix it with staying in hostels and other accommodations.
Is CouchSurfing Safe
Generally speaking, CouchSurfing is very safe. CouchSurfing.org has a verification system for those traveler’s or hosts who want to know more about the person that they are staying with, or whom they are hosting.
Verification Check – First, there is a verification check. Those members who want to be verified need to use their credit, or debit card and pay a small fee for verification. Then, a postcard is sent to your physical address with a verification code on it. You will then need to visit CouchSurfing.org and type in that verification code. That’s it. You are now a verified member of CouchSurfing.org.
References – When you stay at a CouchSurfing member’s home, or apartment, you later write a short note on your host’s profile to tell them about your stay. You tell other members if your stay was pleasant, and if you had a good host, or not. Your host will do the same thing for you, and your reputation will quickly grow.
Vouching – This is done between two members that know each other more. Let’s say you were traveling with another member for a month, had a great time and built up trust between each other. You then vouch for them, and they could vouch for you. It is best to give out vouches sparingly because when you vouch for a person, and they later get a bad reference from another member, it doesn’t look good for your word.
Learn About Scams – As with anything, there are some worthless individuals who try to scam any system. CouchSurfing.org keeps members up-to-date on such individuals who might be out there trying to scam a host, or traveler.
We are just getting started with CouchSurfing but have never had any problems. It is a perfect way to learn as much as you can about that city, town, or country in record time.
Remember, when you stay with a host in those countries, they usually know a lot more than a travel agency, or even someone who has written a guidebook on the subject, because they live in that location every day. Soak up their knowledge, and make sure you give them tips on places they might want to travel to, and you have already been.
Don’t Be a Freeloader
Just because, your stay is free, don’t use your host as a free hotel. Remember to be courteous, and don’t ask for food, or other items. If a host gives you a meal, thank them for it. Better yet, why not offer to cook the host a typical meal from your country, if you are in a foreign one? You should also help to wash the dishes, and clean up after you eat.
Special Tip: What I do is offer my skills for a day. I’m very good with using a computer, and if they have questions about using a program, or other technical questions about their computer, I help them with it.
Also, I’ve taught English as a Second Language for over 20 years. I have already stayed at a house where someone was studying English. So, I just offered to give them a free English conversation class for an hour, or more. I can also help with their kids English assignments from school if they have children.
I find this a good trade off because private English lessons are not cheap. So, I feel that I have given something in return for free lodging.
Whatever your skill is, see if you can put it to use as your hosts home. Tell them about yourself and your country. You should try to socialize and not a loner. If you are the type that likes to be always to yourself, CouchSurfing might not be the option for you. It might be better if you just stayed in hostels, or hotels.
Another Advantage to CouchSurfing
Let’s say that you are planning to spend more time in one location (weeks, or months). Your host can probably be very helpful in finding people who are renting an apartment, or room. They might know places, or they can refer you to someone who does. Again, this is much cheaper and less time consuming than looking through newspapers and asking around. This is especially true in countries that speak a different language than yours.
CouchSurfing.org is the most popular type of free accommodation service, but it’s not the only player in town. Here are some alternatives:
Global Freeloaders – http://www.globalfreeloaders.com – This is similar to CouchSurfing.org. The biggest difference is that if you join, they expect you to host someone within 6 months. If that’s not possible, you should not use this service. This isn’t practical for someone who is planning on traveling for a year, or two.
Hospitality Club – http://www.hospitalityclub.org – This is one of the oldest organizations for free accommodation and cultural exchange. It was founded around 2000 and has grown to millions of registered members. Sign up is simple, and just read the FAQ page, and once you are accepted, start looking for hosts. Click here:
To see the number of countries and members that are available.
The Twitter Method
Twitter – Twitter needs no introduction. However, for those who have been without a computer, or have lived on another planet the past year, Twitter is a social network and mini-blogging community.
One man traveled around the world by only accepting the kindness of strangers who offered a place to stay. He did this for a charity, but what is stopping you from doing it for budget traveling?
Join Twitter, and list your interest for travel. Start following other travelers and find travelers to follow you. When the time is right, announce what countries you are planning to travel to. Start searching through Twitter for people in those countries where you could stay a few days.
You can inquire about cheap places to stay and hope someone will invite you to stay at their house for a day, or you can just ask who has an extra couch or floor where you can crash for a night. You will often find that there are people who not only have a couch, but they will have a possible bed, too.
Since I taught English as a Second Language for many years, I often barter my teaching skills for a place to sleep when possible. I know it’s possible to stay for free at many homes, but it’s much better to offer something useful for the people you stay with.
Maybe you don’t teach English, but you can pass along other skills. If you’re a photographer, take photos that you can later send, or digital photos that you can automatically put on someone’s computer, or print out. If you have good computer skills, maybe you can help someone build a web site. If you an SEO expert, you can help others increase their search engine rankings. As a senior citizen, you’ve developed many skills throughout your years. Now they can come in handy.
There are many things you can give your host in return for a free place to stay. I once stayed with a Korean family for one month in Mexico. Their son was studying for a Spelling Bee competition, and once the family knew I was an English teacher, they let me stay for a month, and even paid for their son’s lessons!
In addition to Twitter, you can also use other social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, ICQ, and similar sites. The reality is there are enough people out there on these sites that you should be able to find people who will offer you a night at their place, or at least show you around the city.
Live in Your Car or Van
This is a Yahoo Newsgroup that shows members how to convert their vehicles into places to live. I love this idea, but I haven’t tried it, yet. It’s next on my “Things I’ve got to do list.”
It’s amazing that I’ve spent over 30 years traveling, and never tried this. This has got to be cheaper than traveling on buses and planes. Plus, you never need a place to sleep, because you’re traveling with a free room! If there was a form of traveling that I would like to try, it is this.
Why not combine this approach with CouchSurfing? Instead of sleeping in your host’s house, you sleep in your van or RV and park it on their property, or on the street in front of their property?
Then, maybe your host will invite you in for a meal at their home, or a hot shower. This allows you to communicate and interact with your host, but still gives you and your host more privacy. It also allows you to park your van, or RV in a safe and legal place.
Free Accommodation for Seniors – Conclusion
Organizations, such as those listed above, offer more ways for seniors to see the world. It also gives seniors a chance to get to know local people and save some money, too.
Organizations like CouchSurfing.org and others are just the beginning. If you wait long enough, someone will start an organization that is exclusively for senior citizens. However, until then, you should try one of these organizations because there are already a good number of seniors who are participating.