My husband and I are huge advocates of sharing economy travel. In my opinion, the sharing economy has made travel a lot more affordable and accessible for families.
When I was a kid, travel was planned with guidebooks. We booked hotel rooms. And we took taxis to get to where we needed to go. But these days, when we travel we crowd-source reviews of travel companies to use. We book rooms in someone’s home. And we get rides from people who are not taxi drivers. The sharing economy has truly changed how many of us travel.
This post was updated on April 17, 2020.
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Basic information about the sharing economy
If you aren’t sure what the sharing economy is, here’s a quick primer. Most people define the sharing economy as a socio-economic system in which human, physical, and intellectual resources are shared. In a sense, it’s a model built around the sharing of skills, things, and even opinions. Within the context of daily life, this can range from Rover for dog-sitting or Care.com for child care, to putting your used items for sale on eBay.
Over the years, the sharing economy has exploded, especially in the area of travel. However, it isn’t without its critics. Those who criticize the sharing economy are quick to point out the lack of safety and privacy with sharing economy services. And for home sharing platforms like Airbnb, critics are quick to point out how an increase in available Airbnb properties correlates with increases in housing prices for locals.
You can read more about the pros and cons of the sharing economy in the book, Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy.
Sharing economy travel tips for families
For travel, the sharing economy has opened doors for people to offer their resources to travelers. At the same time, it’s made it a lot more affordable for people to visit a new destination or try a new experience.
If you’re looking for ways to get your family out into the world, it’s now easier than ever to do it without having to spend an arm and a leg. Here are a few of my sharing economy travel tips for family travel.
Do some sharing economy travel planning
When planning travel, I often turn to crowd-sourcing for ideas of where to stay. I first came across the sharing economy travel website, TripAdvisor in 2009. TripAdvisor provides travelers with a forum to post reviews about hotels they’ve stayed at, attractions they’ve visited, or even restaurants they’ve eaten at.
What I love about TripAdvisor is that for the most part, you’ll get real opinions about what a particular hotel is like, rather than curated testimonials that you find on hotel websites. This has really made travel planning easier for me, as I will often turn to TripAdvisor to get ideas of hotels I would want to stay at in a particular destination. (Note, TripAdvisor has since become a lot more commercial, but they continue to rely on user-reviews, so I still consider it as part of the sharing economy).
A similar site (and app) we like is Yelp, which also relies heavily on user reviews. Especially when we are on the road, it’s easy to pull up a destination on Yelp and search for a popular restaurant to have a nice dinner.
Lodging options within the sharing economy
Besides airplane tickets and food, lodging is by far one of the biggest expenses when it comes to family travel. In the past, families would have to rely on hotels to fill their accommodation needs. Now, there are a variety of alternative methods of lodging available to families. Our favorite sharing economy travel site for lodging that we often use is AirBnb.
We’ve been using AirBnb since 2009, and have developed some great Airbnb tips from using it over the years. What we like about AirBnb is that it gives our family a chance to have a taste of what it feels like to live in another country. Since most of the AirBnb rentals that we book are private homes or apartments, we end up staying in mostly residential areas. This gives us a more local experience than we would have had staying at a hotel. We’ve used Airbnb in the US, Canada, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Italy, France, and have had positive experiences in all those places.
Free or almost free accommodations
Another popular option for lodging for families is house sitting. This is particularly helpful for families doing long term travel. When we were in Indonesia, we met a family traveling from England to Australia who found house sitting gigs through sites like HouseCarers and Trusted Housesitters (you can get 25% off your Trusted Housesitters membership with my referral link!). Many of these sites have annual fees to use their services, but when you compare that to what you would have spend in booking accommodations, it’s actually a bargain.
Other options to try are house swapping or Couchsurfing as a family. Again, I haven’t used these options, so I can’t vouch for how great they would be for families, but you can read about one family’s experiences using Couchsurfing on the No Back Home blog.
Transportation options with ride sharing
I love using public transportation when I travel. But sometimes with kids, it can be more convenient (and cheaper) to pack everyone in a car and go somewhere. In some destinations, taxis can sometimes be hard to find.
In those cases, we often turn to one of our favorite sharing economy travel apps, Uber. It’s surprisingly active in a lot of major cities around the world. And in places where Uber doesn’t exist, local ride sharing services, like Grab, exist to help locals get from one place to another.
If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet heard of Uber (or its contemporary, Lyft), it’s a transportation service that lets you book a ride and pay for it all through the app. At the same time, if you have a car and some free time, you can sign up to become an Uber driver. Essentially you’re offering your car and services to travelers.
If you’re looking for a car rental instead, services like Turo lets you do that for a fraction of the price of a regular car rental company. Turo allows car owners the ability to rent out their vehicles to travelers. It gives them a chance to earn money on the side while providing a service to people who need it. In a sense, it’s a win-win situation! I’ve been renting out my car on Turo for several years. I used it once when I went camping with on a camping trip with my son.
Taking advantage of sharing economy travel sites
In my opinion, the sharing economy has really changed the way we travel. In a way, it has helped to bring travel to more people. This allows them to take advantage of services and experiences that may not have been accessible to them previously. This is one of the reasons why I love travel. It gives people a chance to try something different. Travel exposes them to new cultures and new people.
The services I list above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are other sharing economy travel related services like WithLocals that are out there on the travel market. We just haven’t had a chance to try them yet. Have you benefited from the sharing economy on your travels? Share your experiences in the comments!
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