Mangers are not an option.
August 27, 2010 3:29 AM   Subscribe

Is CouchSurfing during the holiday season asking for trouble?

My lease in Current European City ends at the end of November. My student housing in Different European City doesn't begin until January 6th. The obvious solution would be to return to Mom's house--but, alas that is thousands of miles and an eleven-hour plane ride away.

To while the time away, I've decided I want to attempt to eff around Europe for that span of time. I have some friends in Germany I could stay with around Christmas/New Year's, but the entire month between November and January would be too much of an imposition. I also don't mind springing for an extra-sketchy, extra cheap hostel for a few nights in between CouchSurfers, but a hostel for one month is somewhat expensive.

How difficult is it to get a couch in late-November/early-December? My plan was to start in Paris, get to London, and maybe try to swing through Edinburgh.

[On that note, rest assured that I don't view CouchSurfing as just cheap travel. I enjoy interacting with hosts as much as traveling itself.]
posted by apophenia to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
As a couchsurfing and SERVAS host, I'd say you'd be fine. But get contacting people early. If I get a request a month or so in advance I'm usually able to say "yes!", but a lot of couchsurfers contact me saying "can I stay next week?" or even "can I stay tomorrow?" and by that time I'm usually busy.

Note that hosts in capital cities often get more requests - if you're more flexible about destination, you can see more of the countries you're visiting and you might be more likely to get a bed.
posted by handee at 4:11 AM on August 27, 2010

Give it a try! People are insanely gracious and I am shocked time and again by my couchsurfing hosts.
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 5:02 AM on August 27, 2010

I haven't been a couch-surfer on a major holiday myself, but I've hosted on Thanksgiving (got to have an American holiday in Japan!), and I know I would host unless I actually had family at my house. I would think you're more likely to just get a bed/space if they're busy with holiday stuff, but I've found that anyone who will let a stranger stay in there house for free is pretty damn generous to start with.

I agree with ashtabula ask early and you should be fine. Good luck!
posted by aggienfo at 5:13 AM on August 27, 2010

I would find it more pleasant to have someone stay during the holidays (if I wasn't insanely busy) just because I've got time off - instead of someone staying mid-week when i have work in the morning. But if they wanted good odds of finding me available, yes, ask at least a few weeks in advance and check in again a week beforehand. Have fun :)
posted by lizbunny at 6:27 AM on August 27, 2010

I think you'd be fine in late November into December - I mean, who's going to be all, "OMG couchsurfing in the same month as a holiday? RUDE!!!" Having a place to go for the time around actual Christmas and New Years is a good thing.

The worst that could happen would be that you'd find it harder to get a place due to hosts being busier than usual or having other guests. Maybe have a little cash as backup to find a hostel if you need to - but then that's sound advice anytime. That week after New Years, to me, seems like it'd be the hardest time to find a couchsurfing host. Maybe that should be hostel time.
posted by Sara C. at 6:37 AM on August 27, 2010

I always turn down couchsurfers around holidays because I have plans myself. That said, not everyone will. You can always give it a try, send out requests a month early and see what you find. The number of couches available might be smaller due to the holidays but by starting early, being gracious, reading profiles and sending personalized requests you should be able to find something. If nothing pans out you can always get a hostel bed to bridge the gap.

I also agree with handee about looking outside big cities. Hosts in the countryside won't get many requests and it could be nice to spend time somewhere you might not otherwise see, especially if you're just biding your time. Day-to-day costs in smaller towns should be less than big cities as well.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:22 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have personal experience, but a good friend of mine Couchsurfed for a couple of months around October-January (spending a few weeks with me in Spain/Morocco in November) in Western Europe and had a fantastic time, and never was without a place to stay. He did try to arrange some things in advance, and had a few friends to stop in with, and flexibility with cheap intra-European flights was important, but overall it was a fantastic trip for him. I'm sure it will be for you as well!
posted by booknerd at 8:23 AM on August 27, 2010

Reasons to try:
- Not everyone celebrates the same holidays you do
- Some people (especially Europeans) live closer to their extended families than a lot of US families seem to
- Some people, and a staggering number in CS, are foreigners themselves, often students, and will also be bumming around for the holidays
- I have had hosts that will meet me briefly and leave me alone after that
- A lot of people will put in the profile that they'll be away, so you won't waste your time

Do start early, be persistent, and perhaps try to target your host in terms of demographics. Be flexible to staying in the near-suburbs instead of the city center (Paris, in particular, is shockingly small, and many of the suburbs are really very close).

That said, do be content for a lot of effing around because a lot of the entertainment and shops will be sluggish/closed.

Feel free to get in touch if you want to talk about Paris though; I live here, host on CS a lot, and will be away for a good stretch in the holidays. We may be able to work something out if the timing is good.
posted by whatzit at 11:38 AM on August 27, 2010

I host a lot. The people I say yes to the most ask last-minute. So have hostels or other hosts as plan b but I think you'll be fine asking a few days in advance even around the holidays.

This is obvious, but make sure your profile is up to date and you have plenty of good references. If you need some, go to an event and ask around! Good luck.
posted by milinar at 11:41 AM on August 27, 2010

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