Join a "Hospitality Exchange" and Stay for Free Whenever You Travel
A fascinating and highly personal way to see the world
In theory, at least, it's a simple idea. We all have spare rooms, spare beds, a cot or a couch. Why not make them available to congenial people when they travel to your home city, in exchange for their doing the same for you upon a visit to their home city--or to the city of another congenial person?
Unlike a "vacation exchange," which involves a meticulously scheduled, simultaneous swapping of homes or apartments, the "hospitality exchange" is a far more casual facility, available at any time. On the eve of a trip, members--in the usual instance--consult a directory of other members, and then phone or write to learn if they can be accommodated. The others--the hosts--do the same when it's their time to travel. Each is received in another's home as a relative would be, either for free, or at most for a simple reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.
Sensible? Logical? It's more than that. It's like a perfect world, this cooperation among people, like enjoying an extended family all over the world.
But there's a problem: the considerable amount of time required of an organizer. The practice involves, at least, the periodic publication and distribution of a members' directory, sometimes even direct assistance from the central organization in making reservations. Because membership fees must be kept modest, and no one earns a living from them, the idealistic founders of many a "hospitality exchange" have eventually been forced by hard reality to give up the effort.
That's what happened in 1986 to Tom Lynn's "Traveler's Directory," a nationwide "hospitality exchange" that was both the "giant" (several hundred members) and a pioneer in the field.
But eight other groups continue to carry the torch, and deserve our attention. Each caters to a different type of American:
The Hospitality Exchange of Lewistown, Montana, is the direct successor to the Traveler's Directory. This 40-year-old company, which is run by Wayne and Kathie Phillips, recently brought a similar organization called World for Free into its fold. About one-third of the current 500 hosts are "retired"; the others are between ages 35-55, or younger. "They come from all income brackets and all occupations, but share one ideal: an enthusiasm for travel and travellers," says Wayne Phillips. As potential hosts, members all retain the right to say no to a prospective stay--"your home is your castle" is the organization's motto. Members have access to a secure password-protected Internet-based directory of members' listings. Thus member information is current. In addition, an annual directory is printed for those who prefer that. Only members have access to the electronic and print directories. Membership: $20 for one year, $35 for two. For an application form, contact: The Hospitality Exchange, phone 406/538-8770, 822 West Watson, Lewistown, MT 59457, or visit its website at hospex.net.
Evergreen Bed and Breakfast Club is for people over the age of 50 who love to travel. Members provide hospitality and overnight accommodations for each other in their own homes. The club has operated continuously since 1982 and now has more than 2,000 host locations throughout the US and Canada. No exchange visits are required. Most visits are for a day or so as members drive cross-country, travel south for the winter, or attend special events. Members make reservations directly with their hosts and pay a gratuity of $10/day for one or $15/day for two, including breakfast. Annual dues are $60 for singles and $75 for couples. New members receive a 50% discount on dues for the first year. Mail: 201 West Broad Street #181, Falls Church VA 22046. Phone: 800/962-2392; Email: email@example.com: evergreenclub.com.
The Affordable Travel Club, like Evergreen, limits its membership by age (in this case to those over the age of 40) and must have a permanent residence and allows its members to charge a small fee to defray the costs of hospitality ($15 per night single, $20 double). Travel privileges are only open to host members, all of whom must pay a yearly fee between $55-$70 depending up whether they take the computer version or the printed Directory for U.S. Hosts. Canadian members pay between $45-$60. Overseas membership is free. It also offers pet sitting and house sitting services. Each year they offer a cruise or tour to the members. Affordable currently has over 2,800 members (1400 households) in 48 states and 30 countries worldwide. Write or call The Affordable Travel Club, 6556 Snug Harbor Lane, Gig Harbor, Washington 98335, 253/858-2172, Web: affordabletravelclub.net.
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