I love a five-star resort as much as the next yuppie, but some of my most memorable vacations did not come with a front-desk clerk and a “do not disturb” sign.
In the summer of 1982, I stayed with a host family as part of my Virginia Tech study abroad program. Michael and Carole Geerts welcomed me into their two-story brick house in Brighton, England, while I went off to study English literature at Brighton Polytechnic. Carole, a caterer, would pack my lunch full of unusual goodies: a Nutella sandwich, crisps (aka potato chips) and Penguin-brand candy bars. Michael, a banker, would fill my fist full of francs for a trip across the English Channel to buy wine in France. At night my roommate Becky and I would raid the Geerts’ bookshelves and delight in finding Monty Python books.
A new slide show on Bing Travel looks at various ways to “upgrade” from a hotel to an opportunity to stay with the locals. Want to immerse yourself in local culture? Consider sleeping in a fully furnished vacation rental or a monastery, or on a family’s extra couch or a cheese farm. You’ll save money, too. The 60-year-old Servas organization encourages the exchange of worldviews rather than currency, and Couchsurfing.org allows you stay with people who simply enjoy hosting others without ever having to return the favor.
Have you enjoyed a free or inexpensive stay as an alternative to hotels? Share your experiences with other travelers in the comments section.