May 21, 2014 4:24 pm

Nightswapping the new couchsurfing? Travel tips to help you save

TORONTO – The May long weekend is over, but summer vacation-planning has just begun—and if you’re not doing a stay-cation but still want to save money, “nightswapping” might be for you.

Nightswapping is a new way of travelling,” said marketing manager Sarah Leyman.

“We say it’s a little in between house swapping and couchsurfing.”

You join the service for free, list your home or guest room—with a real bed, not a couch, said Leyman—and invite people to stay. For each night you have someone stay, you “gain” a night that you can use at another member’s place at one of more than 6,000 accommodations world wide—80 per cent of which are currently in Europe as the company looks to expand.

Staying in Paris almost for free? Nightswapping could help make it happen.

PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images

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“For example, if I were to come to Toronto and I would stay at your place for two nights, you would gain two nights,” said Leyman. “If you then want, you travel to Europe—for example to Paris—you can use those two nights at another member’s place in Paris and in that way you can travel for free.”

Er, almost free—there’s a $12 Canadian administration fee when confirming your night swap, said Leyman.

The screening process includes photo, address and telephone verification, as well as “city ambassadors” in main cities who can stop by your home.

“They will also certify your home to make sure that the pictures are correct, the person is who he is.”

Risk is involved, just as there is in couchsurfing or other online rental services, but Leyman suggests the people using the site make up a community that “have the same values,” including a strong sense of trust.

And since no money is exchanged, you don’t have to worry about legal restrictions on tourist establishments like those that apply to Airbnb in some cities.

“Nightswapping is considered, anywhere in the world, as a loan, and not as a sublet. Since there is no financial transaction, it is just as if you were hosting a parent or friend,” reads the site.

Worried it’s not the same as hosting a parent or friend? There are other bargain options for your travel accommodations:

A cheap flight that doesn’t have multiple stops and hours of layovers can be hard to find, but a handful of travel sites are making it easier.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

If you’re already familiar with Expedia.ca and Kayak.com for flights and accommodations, there’s also YYZdeals.com when Toronto is one of your destinations.

Especially popular in the U.K. and Asia, Scotland’s Skyscanner offers low-cost searches in more than 30 languages, and provides flight, hotel and car rental searches that will transfer you to the travel supplier’s website to make your booking directly.

Hipmunk, launched in 2010 and co-founded by one of the men who created Reddit, also lets you find cheap travel: flight prices with an “agony” ranking (scored based on price, shortest flight length and fewest layovers) and hotels with an “ecstasy” score (price, stars and location). Airbnb results and Amtrak train routes will also appear in search results as they’re available.

Hotwire.com is another hotel/car/flight/vacation service that gets access to unsold inventory at “big savings.” The catch is, you don’t find out the name of the hotel, for example, until after booking (you do see the price, neighbourhood and star rating).

“By showing the name of our travel partner after customers book, Hotwire can get travel deals that are significantly below published prices,” boasts the website.

So whether you want a hostel, hotel, flight or car to hire, there are many sites to help you find the best deal. Make sure you have your travel health insurance, and happy trails!

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