Monday, July 15, 2013

Would you like to spend some time in Australia for $20 a night?

 That's what The Affordable Travel Club offers,  breakfast included!
The idea is that you join the club for about $60 a year and then select someone from the
membership list who is willing to host you.  The basic rate is $20 a night, breakfast included,
and your host will spend at least an hour with you to help you get oriented. In most cases, your host is waiting, offering a glass of wine when you return in the evening, to listen to your day's adventures. 

It is expected that you will not overstay your welcome, the limit is usually 4 days, unless a more extensive stay has been negotiated.
 In most cases, people tend to more generous in their welcome with the
result that wonderful, lasting friendships develop.  Of course, you may get an email or phone call from someone who will ask you if you would be willing to host a visit.
  Friends of ours are presently on a wonderful vacation down-under, enjoying the hospitality of friendly welcoming Australians.  During their one month visit, they will have spent only 4 nights in hotel!
  What a wonderful, affordable way to see the world!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Home Exchange -  Be Ready for the unexpected

We are experienced home exchangers.... at least we thought we were,  until we experienced the unexpected:  a heart attack in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  It had been the end of a lovely day,  just the two of us hiking and having a wonderful time.  Toward the end of our hike,  Johannes started to feel unwell with pressure building up in his chest, sweating and getting sick to his stomach.  All the signs of a heart attack.   What to do?  Whom to call?  How to call?  We had not prepared for this eventuality:  didn't know how and whom to call in an emergency.   These details had not been discussed between us and our hosts before they left.    The bottom line is that everything turned out all right thanks to the quick thinking of a wife and friendly helpful neighbours.   But it could have turned out otherwise because we had not planned for this eventuality and have looked after the details as we should have.    

Home exchanges are wonderful, but be prepared for the unexpected!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Home Exchange.... The Affordable Travel Club

there is no better way.....

How do you meet and get to know "real people" and not just tour guides and fellow travelers who look and act in predicable ways,  the way you do?  The pictures you see here are the delightful children of our hosts in Istanbul we were privileged to meet on a home exchange. What's it like to be a child in Turkey, to go to school,  have friends and birthday parties, live as a member of a family?  There is no better way to get to know the answers to these real questions of  "real people" in the country you visit than through a home exchange or The Affordable Travel Club.  What is it like to live in Turkey,  to experience the daily work-a-day life of a family living here?  There is no other way than to experience that daily life the way "real people" do.  Doing a home exchange for an extended period or enjoying the benefits of ATC for a shorter period are the only way. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A couple of simple but important and helpful hints

The other day my wife and I received an enquiry from a couple in Spain about a possible home exchange.  Sadly we had to decline.  Why?   The exchange being proposed was for a whole year, starting this year in July!   Sorry,  but..... When we plan to be away from home for such long period, we need time to prepare.   Lately we have been getting quite a few of these enquiries for shorter periods of time but with imminent time-lines.  When approaching someone,  be realistic and try to put yourself in his or her shoes at the other end.  Unless they are single with no children and are able to venture forth without much concern, most people will feel obliged to turn down a request when the time delay is so short.

Once  a home exchange has been negotiated, be sure to stay in the communication loop.  Let your hosts know how your time-line is progressing, when you expect to arrive etc.  It's a practical courtesy you should expect too if you are the waiting host.

Once a home exchange has been negotiated,  the details can vary immensely.  In one case, we were present for a couple of days to welcome the couple at the airport and get them acclimatized,  They in turn had asked their family in Europe to do the same for us.  Details regarding the use of a car, care of pets,  operation of the telephone and tv system,  peculiar details  about the house you live in etc all need to be discussed.   

Regarding the latter, we thought we had covered the details...... On the side of our bed is a push button which is connected to the security system and brings the police running when activated.  We had overlooked to mention this little detail to our new guests with alarming results.  During the night, looking for a light switch, they pushed the fatal button.  Thanks to our efficient police, they were confronted by two men in uniform within minutes.    

Just one more thought:  When you arrive, have something in your bag that is unique about your country and which you can present to your hosts as a small gift.  In our case, we often bring a container of maple syrup which is especially treasured elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Four Overnights in San Francisco for $80 ?

My wife and I recently visited the beautiful city of Adelaide in Australia, toured the vineyards of the Barosa Valley and paid only $80 for our four overnight stay.  We paid the same amount for four nights in San Francisco while neighbours stayed a month in Melbourne and spent only 4 nights in a hotel.  Sounds impossible? Not really.  The Affordable Travel Club makes it possible. 

This is how it works.  As members of the ATC we receive an on-line list of other members around the world who have agreed to host or be hosted.  In our case, we emailed members in San Francisco and Adelaide and enquired if they would be willing to host us.  They were more than happy to extend such hospitality.  Generally, the overnight ATC fee is $20, although in cities like Paris it could be $30 per night.  This includes breakfast!  In most cases more than breakfast is offered, such as a glass of wine in the evening or even a BBQ dinner.   Of course the possibility always exsists that we might get an unexpected call or email asking us for hospitality. 

It is expected that you will not overstay your welcome.  Arrangements for a single night to four nights are reasonable.  On a rare occasion you can arrange to stay longer in which case a more generous fee than the usual $20 can be offered.   In our experience we have nothing than the most pleasant memories of our stays with friends of the ATC.