Traveling With Kids | Couch Surfing

by , posted on August 1st, 2014 in Traveling With Kids

couch surfing

verb informal
gerund or present participle couchsurfing

1. stay temporarily in a series of other people’s homes, typically making use of improvised sleeping arrangements.

Last summer, while visiting Canada, I ran into an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in ages. While catching up on each other’s lives, we shared our mutual love of traveling—it doesn’t take me very long to broach that subject.

That’s when my friend enthusiastically told me about his all-time favorite travel accommodation: Couch Surfing. He told me all about his couch-surfing experiences in NYC and Western Canada and how he has made some life-long friends with the “surfers” he hosted in his own home.

Couch-surfing is a free social website that started in 2004 that allows people to “travel like a local, stay in someone’s home and experience the world in a way money can’t buy.” The network boasts over six million members in 100,000 cities worldwide.

I had heard of couch-surfing before and even visited their website, but I always thought it was for the younger backpacking crowd. I didn’t think many hosts out there would willingly accept families—especially, one with three kids. But, after chatting with my friend and re-visiting the site I realized it can be very family-friendly. There is even a Family Welcome Group with almost 100,000 members.

Any of you traveling families out there will appreciate how much more affordable and accessible couch-surfing would make a family trip away. Apart from the financial benefits of couch-surfing, is the fact that you can immerse yourself with locals who can help you integrate in the culture and give you insider tips/information. That is absolutely invaluable.

Of course, one of the first concerns that comes to mind is safety. At least for me. Luckily, the site has a strong review system put into place. It lets you read about the experiences of past couch-surfers and their hosts. One bad review ruins a host’s reputation and they don’t last long on the site.

The site also recommends you have lots of contact beforehand with your potential host regarding your expectations, daily schedule and how much contact there will be between you.

Obviously couch-surfing isn’t for everybody (we still haven’t decided if it’s for us) but I love the fact that it is all about making connections while traveling and sharing your space, knowledge and time with fellow travelers.

Have any of you ever couch-surfed? Is it something you would be willing to try or offer to fellow travelers?

Check out the site’s Family Tips and Video. Read about one family’s personal experiences and tips about couch-surfing here.

StumbleUponFacebookTwitterShare it!


6 Responses to “Traveling With Kids | Couch Surfing”

  1. Lisa Garcia Says:

    August 1st, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    There’s something rather “icky” about the idea of couch-surfing. I don’t care how perfect a family seems on paper or over the internet, they’re still strangers. And I’m naturally suspicious of families that are overly eager to be hosts. This is just one persons opinion, but I think “couch surfing” is an experience your family can live without…

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    But tell us how you really feel Lisa ;)

    I have to say, after traveling as much as I have, I don’t think this would ever play well in the US. Culturally, I think we’re too inclined to think the worst; stranger danger and all that. I know I fall into that category myself. And in fairness to us, I just recently discovered that we lead the world in serial killers, so… yeah, I’d say we have reason to be a cautious people.

    For me though, I’d have no problem staying with someone I’ve developed a relationship online (our most recent family trip was with a family I met through a message board years and years ago), and some of my best friendships first started online, so in a sense I get it. I’m still hoping to crash at Jillian’s one of these days!

    But yeah, I still worry about ax murderers though.* Maybe I’ve just seen too many scary movies or watched too much Nancy Grace. ha!

    *I realized it might have sounded like I thought Jillian could be an ax murderer. Just to clarify, I totally do not think Jillian would kill me in my sleep. But I WOULD check the house for axes on my arrival. You know, just to be sure…


    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Oh, but I do find this whole thing fascinating! And I bet it’d do well in other countries. Especially ones that have a hostel culture.

    Jillian In Italy Reply:

    I realise couch surfing is not for everyone but if a family has financial constraints but love to travel it could be a great option for them.

    Plus, the fact that there is a good review system put in place makes it easy to really get an idea of what kind of people they are. When we did house swaps in the past we always skyped with our fellow swappers which was ideal to get to know them a little better as well.

    And Jen, I’m sitting here typing this with my vast collection of axes next to me. Can’t wait to host you guys in Italy ;)

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    hahaha! I agree that it’s a fascinating approach to travel for those with financial constraints.

  2. Jennifer Cooper Says:

    August 4th, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    More discussion on the facebook page here:

    I like how Sally likens it to a B & B.

« previous  |  next »