This being a top-notch backpacker blog, and you being a reader of said swell blog, we're all quite up to speed on the phenomenon called couchsurfing, yes? And we're also aware that Couchsurfing.com isn't the only homestay/hospitality network under the sun. Some involve dues. Others have extensive application processes. Some have specified interests in promoting world peace and such, but they all sing the common tune of “crash at my place, roomie!”
So, if you're a budget-minded traveler wanting accommodation and local interaction abroad, which network barks up your tree?
Not to make the choice more difficult, but I just heard about another hospitality network option.
What is Crashpadder?
Crashpadder.com allows travelers (a.k.a. crashers) to “find cheap, comfortable accommodation in someone's home” while providing the hosts (a.k.a. padders) a chance to “earn a little extra cash by conveniently renting out their excess space.”
Born out of the recession age, this network allows just about anyone with legitimate cushioning to be a B&B owner, without the necessity of country home decor. Already, Crashpadder boosts over 1,000 rooms in London alone (starting at £20 per night) and more in 700 other cities worldwide. And with upcoming events like the World Cup and Olympic Games that inspire global travel hysteria, there's all the more reason for alternative options to overpriced hotels, fully-booked hostels, and even the free accommodations offered through networks such as Couchsurfing.
Why Pay When CS is Free?
I know many people use such services as Couchsurfing because they are free (aside from the simple exchange of a gift or a hospitable gesture). Therefore, some backpackers will find it preposterous that Crashpadder involves monetary transactions. Why pay when you can do the same thing for free?
The network's founder calls it “Couchsurfing for grown-ups.”
Some people worry about the safety of relying on a complete stranger for your accommodation, but through the use of credit cards for payment, it seems there's an increased level of verification (of both the crashers and padders) that at least assures those involved their new friend is an actual human being with a name and some credibility.
Not everyone is entirely comfortable sleeping on Little Susie's Hide-a-Bed, regardless of how stunning the company is. Because of the commercial nature of Crashpadder, over 95% of the rooms available are private double bedrooms that offer more privacy for the crasher. And though it's not a requirement for the site, most accommodations can be expected to have a higher standard than those that are offered for no charge.
For some, the addition of a little money into the equation could seem as though the experience is less about growing friendships or “owing one” to the host and more about finding refuge in a foreign city (as well as helping supplement the padder's income). Whether this is more appealing to you or not, it certainly has a different feel than Couchsurfing and could seem like a preferable option for, say, a business traveler. And there's nothing that states friendships and interaction can't be a part of the Crashpadder scenario just because dollars are present. It's still an incredible gesture to open your home to another citizen of the world.
Some Helpful Features
The staff at Crashpadder is focused on making it easier for people to find each other and utilize the network. Some notable features include:
The Host Calendar – enabling crashers to check the availability of a padder's pad.
PadderPoints – a reward system for involvement in the network that could result in a free night's stay.
Concierge Services – personalized service available to crashers who: are in groups of four or more, are looking for accommodations for more than a week, are going to multiple destinations…you get the picture.
The Bottom Line
I couldn't imagine my father rolling his suitcase along the deeply-rutted roads of Kampala en route to his Couchsurfing host's abode, but I could imagine him finding an intriguing couple in Cape Town that could house him while in town for a business convention. For those skeptical about the free-love lodging movement, Crashpadder.com offers a great opportunity for travelers and locals alike to reap the benefits of global friendships and authentic experiences.