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Lower Your Travel Costs Using the “Sharing Economy”

See how the new trend of sharing and borrowing homes, cars and more can help you save money on your next trip.

You may have read about the sharing economy, a term referring to services that let people do everything from rent out spare rooms (Airbnb) to share their Wi-Fi (Fon) to offer help with errands (TaskRabbit). The idea behind this trend: We don’t fully use everything we own, so why not make it available to others for a reasonable price when we’re not using it?

Although some services are already household names, others are new and quietly growing. Many of these are tailor-made for travelers. Here are 4 ways you can take advantage of the sharing economy to save on your next vacation.

1. Rent vacation accommodations.

Airbnb is the most well-known of the online services that allow homeowners to rent out their apartments, homes, cabins or spare rooms. The site boasts more than 1.5 million listings in 190 countries.

Staying in a private home or cabin can be cheaper than booking a hotel room or bed-and-breakfast—but it’s not a parallel experience, especially if you’re staying in a private home with your hosts. Consider your needs carefully, do your online research, and connect with the hosts before you book.
Other options for renting empty homes, condos or cabins include VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner), HomeAway and FlipKey.

Looking for an even less expensive alternative? Consider setting up your tent or parking your RV in someone’s backyard anywhere in the world through Camp in My Garden.

2. Trade homes with another traveler.

One great way to reduce lodging expenses when you travel is to swap homes with someone who is traveling at the same time. You both get a place to stay—and neither home sits empty. This is a particularly viable option if you travel at popular times of the year.

There are numerous websites devoted to connecting travelers interested in trading homes. Companies such as the International Home Exchange Network charge an annual fee, but members usually swap residences for free. Similar services include Home Exchange, Love Home Swap and HomeLink Home Exchange.

3. Get rides around town.

Beyond taxis, you can get around many cities using ride-share services such as Uber, Lyft or Sidecar. Or you can rent a privately owned car through services such as RelayRides and Getaround.

Prefer to travel on two wheels? In San Francisco, you can join Scoot and pay by the half-hour or the day to use a scooter, or you can rent a bike through Spinlister, which also allows private owners to rent out their paddleboards and snowboards.

Some cities offer car-sharing services, such as Zipcar and car2go, that let members use cars by the hour or even by the minute. Locate and reserve a vehicle using one of their smartphone apps, pick up your car and go. 

4. Find someone to take care of your home and pets.

Once you’ve booked a place to stay and figured out transportation, make sure your home and pets will be taken care of, too.

House and pet sitters are available through member sites such as TrustedHousesitters, House Sitters America and MindMyHouse. These sites facilitate free pet care for travelers and free lodgings for house sitters, but they charge membership fees for the sitters and sometimes for the homeowners as well.

DogVacay offers more than 20,000 trusted (and insured) pet sitters in North America who can care for your dogs in their homes. Prices may not always be lower than those at some boarding kennels, but your pets will enjoy much more personal care.

Things to consider before diving into the sharing economy:
The sharing economy is still a relatively young concept, and what you see online is not always what you get. Do your research and ask questions until you’re confident in a service you’re considering. Fortunately, reputable services have online rating and review systems that let people on both sides of transactions post comments about their experiences. Plus, these sites carry insurance for when things go awry.

Interested in other out-of-the-ordinary travel options? Learn how unique lodgings such as nunneries and farms can help you save money and add charm to your next vacation.


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