Looking for a free place to stay or to broaden your community of travel enthusiasts?
Available for: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad; Android
What it does: This app connects travelers for lodging, meet-ups, conversation and more.
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What’s hot: I always thought staying on someone’s couch was only for broke backpackers. Not so. The Couchsurfing network spans all demographics. I value the safety features that let you fine-tune your search results to specify gender, profiles with pictures, and profiles that have been vetted. This really helped my trust factor because I want only female “hosts” if it’s just me and my daughter traveling. The network has been around a long time so there are lots of active users. Its strength in numbers and accessibility from mobile devices were a win-win for me. I was able to find hosts and locals in every city I looked up in the U.S., Britain and Canada. Use the map view to see how many “surfers” there are all over the world.
What’s not: My experience varied when I used it on different platforms. Mixed reviews on Google Play didn’t give me much confidence. And when I tested it on my Android, I was annoyed because I couldn’t read the page easily. I was constantly resizing the screen, scrolling to get to sections I couldn’t see and having a tough time finding filters I had used on its website. When I used the app on my iPad, it said I could log in with Facebook, but when I tried it said the mobile app couldn’t link my Facebook and Couchsurfing accounts.
Worth it: Yes. You might think this type of “hitchhiking” is not for you, but after reading a few profiles you just might find someone with similar interests. It doesn’t mean she’s going to be your new BFF, but you could easily have some great travel conversations, let alone a free place to rest your head.