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Host homes offer low-cost alternative to hotels

Go Airbnb for warmth, personal touches

If you enjoy your morning coffee with others, check out airbnb. Photo courtesy of airbnb.com.

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Maybe you've heard of house swapping - where two families in different states or countries trade homes for a weeklong vacation, get to explore a new area and also manage to seriously trim their travel budget. Airbnb, which was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning, is similar - except it is more flexible, it can be utilized by a family of four or just an individual, and, of course, you can save a lot of money when compared to a hotel stay.

"It made me a little nervous simply because I'd never heard of it, but I booked it and went on my trip and discovered I loved it," stated Cameron-Ashley Heath, who first heard about Airbnb two years ago.

Airbnb was founded in 2008 and in the last five years, it has grown rapidly; currently it has available rooms in close to 35,000 cities across 192 countries. While staying at a host home might seem risky, the organization does allow for travelers to do some research before deciding where to stay. There are reviews from previous travelers and a background on each host, and conversely, a host can check out the guests before confirming the booking and also post commentary after the guest has left.

For Heath, who was already a fan of bed and breakfasts, Airbnb was a logical choice.

"I loved the camaraderie of morning coffee with other travelers and not just staying in some lonely, they-all-look-the-same hotel. This is kind of the next best thing. The home I had booked was hosted by the owner, and she was about as gracious and kind as a person could be," she shared. "I loved being able to sit around and talk with her about the local area and get great ideas on where to eat, etc. I was never once uncomfortable and the cost was third a night for her very nice guest room compared to any of the local hotels in that area."

Once she returned home, Heath realized that she could get involved on the other side of Airbnb as well since she owns a home close to base and could offer a reasonably-priced option for people visiting the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area. Her host home is currently listed under Lacey, WA.

"My first host told me that she became an Airbnb host not just to make a little extra money, but because she truly enjoyed meeting the new people who came through her door and talking with them before they moved on," said Heath. "She even has repeat customers who've come back to see her. I hope to have similar experiences hosting here."

To look at listings for your next vacation or to investigate opening up your own home, visit www.airbnb.com.

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