Couchsurfing is a way to crash on a friendly stranger’s sofa (or floor) for free. User profiles are backed up by reviews from previous guests, like customer reviews on eBay — and the network is huge, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place you’re comfortable with. Your host can offer insider travel tips you’re unlikely to get from Lonely Planet. Download the app for planning on the go.
Airbnb is the real-life version of the house-swap from rom-coms like The Holiday, where you can rent someone’s home for a short stay (but maybe don’t bank on falling in love with Jude Law). You get a homier experience and it’s typically much cheaper than a hotel. Airbnb operates in nearly 200 countries, but you’re likely to have more selection in major cities like New York, London and Paris.
Priceline is a name-your-price service great for those who aren’t particular. It lets you reserve hotel rooms at a discount, but there’s a catch: you won’t know which hotel you’ve booked until you’ve paid and confirmed (though you do know the star rating). Savvy travellers swear by it, and trying to game the system is practically a sport. Check out betterbidding.com for tips.