The East High student body might have been on to something when they sang, “We’re all in this together.”
The concept of a ‘sharing economy’ has taken center stage in the wake of tough economic times. Arguably, the travel industry has seen the biggest shift of its systems to a more collectivized marketplace. Consumers seem to be tired of impersonal travel corporations that cause them to scavenge like vultures for the tiniest of discounts- so they’re jumping onboard the sharing bandwagon.
And there to receive consumers are multiple startups, all started by travelers, for travelers, that stress the connection all travelers share when they interact with each other. Some of the most notable companies to do this are:
Vacation rentals are nothing new, but Airbnb’s fresh take on them is one of the reasons why this San Francisco company is so successful. Uniquely, Airbnb focuses not only on the space you wish to rent, but also the host from whom you will be renting. It helps foster personal connections with the guests and the host, and as a result, the destination. Each host can create a profile and list spaces (from shared rooms, private rooms, and entire places) to rent. Prospective guests see pictures, locations, description, reviews from past guests, and multiple stats about the host themselves. There’s also Roomorama as an alternative, as well as Onefinestay for upgraded spaces.
Couchsurfing is like Airbnb for the backpacker, the truly adventurous, or usually both. Here the emphasis is on staying with hosts in their own homes in destinations around the globe. This further roots guests in the culture and locality of the places they visit. Guests fill out a short survey of their upcoming travel information, and Couchsurfing matches them to a host based on their preferences. This is truly a service for those who want to dive into the deep end of immersive travel. Other options include literally setting up a tent in someone’s backyard with Camp In My Garden.
For those sick of smelly taxis and grumpy drivers, Uber places you in a car with a local resident. You just tell Uber where you need to go and they notify a registered driver in your area, who then picks you up and drops you off at your destination. And the best part is, you pay through Uber in advance- so you don’t have to worry about the meter running. While Uber fares aren’t much more competitive than taxi fares, you get a more relaxing experience with a friendly driver who can tell you all about your destination. You can also share cars with Lyft and Sidecar, both of which work similar to Uber.
Members leave their cars at the airport when they go on vacation, you rent them when you go on vacation. With free insurance, extras, and some of the best rates around, renting from FlightCar is great when you don’t want to deal with rental car companies. Hosting with them is great too, with free parking, car washes, and a cut of the money paid if your car happens to be rented while you’re gone. Everybody wins. Hubber and JustShareIt are also good picks for car rentals.
Spinlister definitely wins the award for “Most Hipster Sharing Economy Company,” because all they rent out are bikes, surfboards, snowboards, and skis. For destinations where you’d rather pedal your way around, Spinlister gives you listings of equipment as well as host profiles and stats. It’s a lot like Airbnb- but for stuff you can’t sleep on. For other non-car vehicles, GetMyBoat offers watercraft.
Even food hasn’t been spared from the sharing economy. EatWith allows you to pick dining experiences in a given destination, all of which are cooked, served, and enjoyed in the home of a local resident. Online menus, pictures, and host bios give you an idea of what’s in store, and if you’re satisfied you can request a date for the meal. Once the host accepts, you make a suggested donation, give them your party size, and you’re in! The real treat is getting to eat a real home-cooked meal alongside with the person who cooked it for you. Foodies can also try Feastly, which provides a range of experiences, or Cookening, which combines the food, the host, and the space to showcase unique meals.
The sharing economy is growing extremely quickly, and with luck we might all be sleeping in other people’s homes, driving other people’s cars, and eating other people’s meals on our next adventures. This type of travel accomplishes something that a big name company simply can’t: authentic local essence. That’s what makes people so eager to share.