Thursday, January 31, 2008
7 News Features: Couch Crashers
People around the world are opening their doors and letting perfect strangers camp out on the couch,. Seems hard to believe, but, as Seven's Shireen Sandoval tells us, Couch Crashing is the latest way travelers can save a few bucks.
WSVN -- London, Paris and Rome, who doesn't want to globe trot around the world, but, for some, the cost of hotel rooms can be too much for the budget.
Don't put your dream trip on hold just yet. With the click of your mouse you can sleep for free. James O'Laithesa is visiting the U.S. from Ireland. He's not checking into expensive hotels. He's crashing on people's couches.
James O'Laithesa: "At first I was kind of apprehensive about it. A friend had told me about it, and she had a great experience."
James is part of a new Internet phenomenon called couchsurfing.com.
Couch Crasher: "I went to Europe for a year."
The site has 330,000 members and reaches from Phoenix to Fiji, Manhattan to Mongolia, even Antarctica.
Couch Crasher: "Toronto, Montreal and Boston so far."
The site allows people to connect with available sofas through a network of friends.
Couch Crasher: "I started emailing people to the places I was going and looking through the profiles and seeing who I would connect with."
Members can either ask for a couch to crash on or offer up a spot to sleep.
Couch Crasher: "Technically, I've been couch surfing for two years. My mother is 60 years old, and she's on couch surfing, and she's actually surfing with us."
Fort Lauderdale is James' first couch surfing destination, and he couldn't believe his eyes when he walked into this home.
James O'Laithesa: "I thought it was a hotel. The room itself is huge, it's got its own bathroom. I was like, 'Where's the couch?'"
Rick Murphy has hosted nearly two dozen couch crashers.
Rick Murphy: "Everything is free, so it's pretty much like running a bed and breakfast without charging for it."
He says the benefits are worth every penny he spends.
Rick Murphy: "The friends that we have made in France and England, in Germany and Austria and Canada and, of course, across the United States has been amazing."
Shereen Sandoval: "Now, keep in mind, the site doesn't offer background or security checks, but it does allow members to post guest and host reviews on its site, and, for safety's sake, you should read them."
Rick Murphy: "You are safer if you go with someone who has lots of feedback."
Of course, the quality of the couch isn't ranked, so don't expect a mint on your pillow. Unless of course, you get to stay at Rick's place.
James O'Laithesa: "This one's going to be hard to beat."
James' next stop is a couch in New York. He says he likes staying with a local who can tell him the hot spots to visit.
James O'Laithesa: "I would recommend this for everyone."