I mentioned in my last post that Mom Sparkler and I recently solidified wedding-week accommodations for my close family. And I know what you’re thinking, “Sparkler, didn’t you already block hotel rooms for your guests? What are you doing now? Adding more stuff to your plate???”
Well, the Sparkler fam always seems to be doing things differently. Mom is a bargain shopper at heart, and when it came to finding a place to stay in Chicago for the week, she wasn’t exactly down with booking 4 hotel rooms for my immediate family. So what is a gigantic Sparkler crew to do when they want to stay together (family time!) and not break the bank? Enter the world of alternative vacation-housing!
There are a lot of companies who cater to vacationers looking for a “home away from home” type of experience. It can be really fun (and save you a lot of money) if, say, you’re going to a destination wedding and want to split a place with 2 or 3 other couples. I feel guilty keeping this money-saving secret, so I thought I’d share my top 3 favorite sites to help you book this type of vacation:
The Sparkler family loves VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). Basically, the site brings together tons of homeowners around the globe who regularly rent out their vacation palaces (or apartments, or cabins, or beach houses).
Want to stay in an authentic Greek apartment, overlooking the Aegean Sea? Search VRBO by region, then country, then city… and, tada! Your dream rental appears! (And yes, they really have a bunch of Greek apartments… and mansions… for rent!).
Mom Sparkler always rents the same townhouse in Chi for big visits. The rental price for the wedding week is significantly lower than the price of 4 hotel rooms for that amount of time. And it sleeps 12-14 people… booyah!
Mom Sparkler = 1 Overpriced Chicago Hotels = 0
Goofing off in the VRBO townhouse last Easter
2. Air bnb
Airbnb is a little different. While VRBO tends to offer weekly rates and larger vacation homes, Air BNB offers nightly rates and unique places to stay. I mean REALLY unique:
And there’s also more opportunity to connect with people as you travel. Many of the hosts live on the rental property, or even in the same house. Some may rent out their living room couch to you.
Which brings me to my next favorite site…
The CouchSurfing experience is by FAR the most adventurous of the three I’ve talked about. They offer (the obvious) couches to crash on, rooms to take over, or even a coffee date in a new city. The best part?
Image via Fox News
Yep. Totally free. But (of course) use with caution, and make sure you get to know who you’re crashing with.
Sparkler Bro has CouchSurfed everywhere from Morocco to California to Portugal (just to name a few). If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact him… if you can find him. He’s somewhere in Spain at the moment, CouchSurfing his little heart out (as well as STUDYING and doing lots of schoolwork… right? ).
Sparkler bro and his Spanish buddy
So what do you think? Would you ever use one of these sites when traveling to a destination wedding? Any frequent Airbnb or CouchSurfing users out there? What was your experience like?