When you travel on a budget, any way to save money is welcomed and ‘sharing economy’ tools and apps are an easy way to make your money go further.
Essentially, sharing economy is where you split items and services between multiple people and groups, meaning everyone pays a smaller fee. Transactions usually happen on an online platform, so you’re able to benefit on the go as you travel.
Below are a few of the best sharing economy platforms to try next time you travel on a budget:
Blablacar has brought hitchhiking to the masses. Drivers list their journey plans on the website, including details about the car’s model, number of seats available, luggage space, smoking rules, and willingness to make drop-off detours. The cost per seat is calculated based on dividing the price of petrol for the distance travelled between passengers, meaning that while they may recoup some of the expense of travel, drivers don’t stand to make a profit. Passengers can book a ride instantly through the Blablacar website or app.
Popular across Europe, it’s easy to find both short rides and cross-border epics: a trip between Paris and Berlin is as easy to arrange as one between Lyon and Marseille with about 48 hours’ advance planning.
The added bonus? Car shares are environmentally friendly.
Fon connects you to a vast network of Wifi hotspots around the world in exchange for sharing access to your own internet connection or paying a small fee. If your home broadband provider is a Fon partner, you may already have access to the service; if not, you can buy cheap passes to use now or later.
These pioneers of Wifi-sharing can spare you substantial time and expense. Wave goodbye to trawling internet cafes, buying refreshments to earn your share of the bandwidth, or purchasing the dreaded data add-on from your mobile network.
If you can’t leave behind a taste for the finer things in life, EatWith encourages travellers to go authentic in style by dining in the homes of culinary experts.
Hosts apply online and are carefully reviewed, firstly for their credentials and then in person at a trial ‘open table’, so you can be sure you’re getting the best. Once approved, they can post detailed listings of scheduled dining experiences and guests can book their seat at the table online.
EatWith isn’t exactly cheap, but it provides palatable value for money, significantly undercutting restaurant rates for a similar meal. Think of it as fine dining and a miniature homestay, all in the company of a seasoned tour guide.
If you’re on a road trip with your own vehicle, parking is the last thing you want eating into your sightseeing budget. It’s a necessity: if you decide to drive, you can’t avoid dropping the car off somewhere before you continue exploring by foot.
In unfamiliar locations, parking can be unpredictable. You can’t anticipate the most convenient spot for your ultimate destination, you don’t know how busy parking facilities will be, and it can be hard to access information about cost or payment method before your arrival. You could get caught out without the correct cash for parking, or worse, given a hefty fine.
YourParkingSpace removes these hassles; through the website or app, you can search and book affordable parking spaces, including a mix of commercial car parks and private driveways. This allows you to
choose what you need, where you need it: proximity to city hotspots, swerving the queue with a guaranteed space in popular car parks, or bargain long-term stays which provide extra income for a helpful host.
At the moment YourParkingSpace is currently a UK-only provider, but you could find similar apps in Europe and Australia.
CouchSurfing is now a mainstay of travel, and was first conceptualised in 1999 when its founder hacked a University of Iceland database to email 1500 strangers requesting a homestay. Today, it’s a social networking platform that allows users to list and request lodgings at each other’s homes in addition to organising meet-up events around the world.
CouchSurfing was one of the earliest operators in the sharing economy and still supports a thriving community. As it’s absolutely free of charge, for many travellers, it’s worth the time spent messaging potential hosts individually to discuss a visit.
I hope these help and save you some time researching! If you’ve got any you’d add that you’ve used and would recommend, write them up and I can update the post. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!