As spring begins and plans for summer vacations and family getaways come into focus, the cost of hotels, airline tickets, transportation, and other travel services also start to rise as demand ramps up. If your travel goal is simply to relax and pay a premium for predictability, a standard experience, and ease of planning, sometimes these costs are more than worth it. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more of an adventure experience, meeting new friends and broadening cultural horizons, today’s shared economy in the travel space can provide heretofore unheard of opportunities to branch out and try something new, all while stretching your travel budget.
Consider services like Air BnB or VRBO.com, which allow travelers to rent homes, apartments, or other lodging directly from private owners for periods ranging from one night to months at a time. In locations where hotels are often in high demand or can be priced out of reach, renting a private residence or room can provide a much better value, while offering the opportunity to form a connection with a local. Clearly, such services do involve more risk, since service offerings are less standardized and to a certain degree transactions and expectations are based on an honor system.
Carter Pecce, an experienced Airbnb host with all-star reviews, suggests that the most important thing for the savvy traveler is to “Read reviews, read reviews, read reviews. Like hotels, a bad experience or unacceptable accommodation is not easy to remedy upon arrival. Many times these hosts are hospitality rookies.” On the other hand, if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar area and are looking for guidance about the surrounding area, “Hosts can be much more helpful than a hotel when it comes to suggestions on what to do and where to eat,” adds Carter. Don’t forget the overhead costs you’ll save by booking accommodations directly with a private party. This alone can allow for a much more high-end experience, or provide extra dollars to put toward other travel experiences.
Other shared economy type services exist for everything from transportation (Uber and Lyft) to tour guides (Vayable), to meals (EatWith), and all of these offer the opportunity to support local economies and save vacation dollars. Again, reviews are the best way to determine reputable providers, but with a little research, an open mind, and a sense of adventure, it’s possible to plan a vacation that provides a much richer experience of the chosen destination for a fraction of the usual cost.