Tired of sleeping in impersonal hotels? Feel there's something missing in bland apartments? If you prefer a room with personality, then you'll be as pleased as we were to discover this accommodation service that puts you in touch with locals and helps make you feel at home.
In a decade of adventuring together as a family, we've rested our weary heads in everything from former palaces to storm drains, bouncing happily on hotel beds across the world. But when we look back on our ten years of travelling, it's the personal touches we remember. Being taken to the beach by our quirky Kiwi home-stay hosts, who made us a picnic of home made apple pie. The family from Finland who took us in at Christmas and cooked up a festive feast. The Polish farm-stay and their amazing chicken orchestra. The Bavarian apartment brimming with maps and guide books that pointed us towards the town's eccentric Night Watchman.
In the past, digging out these gems has always required a combination of planning and luck. As any regular traveller knows, the internet is teaming with websites offering quality accommodation, and the travel industry is overflowing with comfortable but ultimately unmemorable hotels. And while the globe is geared up to meeting every last need of the tourist, sometimes all we want is to be treated like a local and feel at home.
We much prefer accommodation that makes us feel at home
Recognise this feeling? We do and it's why we've been checking out Wimdu, a global accommodation service that's all about feeling at home in an unfamiliar city. Whether you are a business traveller, holiday maker, gap year student or round the world explorer, this well connected company helps you find a bed for the night, hooks you up with a knowledgeable host, and helps personalise your experience of a country. You can rent a room in someone's house, or take over their whole apartment. And you can stay for as little as a night, or become part of the furniture for a while.
With offices all over the world, and more than 30,000 properties on offer worldwide, Wimdu wants to take the stress out of finding rest. Curious about the site and it's claims of a local service with a global reach, I put a call in to Wimdu's UK Business Development Manager, Duncan Coleman. He explains that Wimdu is part of a growing trend in 'social travel,' providing unusual short term lets for travellers, predominantly in people's homes. “We have hosts on the ground in almost every country,” he tells me, “This provides the opportunity to meet people from all over the world that you wouldn't meet normally, and get to know them in their own environment. Many of our guests really like to stay in a family home. It's very nice to have that warmth and comfort.” He says Wimdu offers something for every budget, “A lot of people want to travel but get fed up with paying over the top rates for hotels. This is a cheaper way to travel, and the best way to get to know a place.”
Searching for a place using Wimdu is straightforward
I go online and try it out for myself. It's a great site for the technophobe; all you have to do is say where you want to go, and bingo; there's your list of available accommodation. To refine the search you put in your travelling dates and the number of people who want to go. The variety of options is vast, particularly if you are travelling alone or as a couple. From an C18th house in Edinburgh to a chic loft apartment in Barcelona complete with Nespresso machine and Playstation, there are some imaginative pads on offer.
For a family of five that specialises in turning up in a city unannounced, the choice is more limited. But we are offered the chance to stay beneath a castle, on a canal, or high above the city in a penthouse flat. And one of the best things about the service is the opportunity to contact our host beforehand, to question them about their property. Quite often the hosts are happy to meet, and share their insider knowledge and tips of their city.
During my own search of the Wimdu site, I am drawn to a houseboat in Liverpool's Albert Dock. It was once the home of The Joker in the Batman films. And holy smoke, before we know it, we're all booked in for a pre-Christmas break! We'll let you know how we get on in a few weeks time. In fact we're so intrigued by this service that we're even considering becoming a Wimdu host and offering a room in our Lake District house to fellow global adventurers. We hope they enjoy bouncing on our beds as much as we've enjoyed our own bouncing and pillow fights in the far flung corners of this wonderful world.
Disclosure Note: Thanks to the people at Wimdu who provided a voucher to enable us to sample the service and supported us in bringing you this story. The views here reflect our personal experience of Wimdu and the service they offer.