5 Alternatives To Booking a Traditional Hotel

Over the past couple of years, online services for booking a room or entire private residence have become increasingly popular. The best part, it's become really easy. Several friends have used these services recently to great success (and a huge savings on lodging). Plus, if you have a spare room or plan on going out of town, it's a great way to sublet and make a little extra income on the side (and not waste the empty space while you're gone).

1. CouchSurfing: The first, or at least the first well-known, organized service of its kind and it's not-for-profit. Founded in 2003, CS's mission is to lower the overhead for travelers, allowing more people the opportunity to see the world. With folks signed up in over 230 countries and territories, hey use a reference, vouching, and verification system to ensure the safety of both its "surfers," and hosts. They're supported entirely by donations and through their fees for the verification background check. Each "surfing" experience costs CS only 24 cents in operating costs, so even small donations go a really long way.

2. AirBnB: With all their press lately, Airbnb is really taking off (pun intended)! Founded in 2008, they already have spaces available in 15,400 cities and 185 countries. Everything from a single bedroom to an apartment, posh villa or even an igloo, Airbnb's offerings run the gamut. Find a place to stay, or list your own room or apartment to let.

3. Tripping: Tripping takes couch surfing to the next level by offering a robust online community that includes the ability to "trip" or host, but also online one-on-one language exchange, meeting up for coffee or conversation, being a tour guide or having a potluck dinner with folks from around the world who live in your area. Tripping is currently in beta, but the idea is a great one and appears to be taking off quite nicely with Trippers already in over 100 countries.

4. Home Away: Home Away is a worldwide network of vacation rental properties with 560,000 properties in 145 countries. Targeted at less of the DIY traveler and definitely in the mid to higher price range.

5. MyFriendsHotel: Founded in 2008, the idea behind this service is to allow independent travelers to rent a property from like-minded hosts or to rent in an area specific to their personal interests. There is a reasonable $5 booking fee charged at the time of reservation.

Do you have an experiences with these or other similar services? Share them in the comments?

(Image: WildWhimsy on Etsy)