It’s perfectly possible to get off-island without spending a fortune if you take advantage of the ever-growing list of hosts abroad who are willing to receive guests.
While millions of people squirrel their pennies away into a holiday fund each year, dreaming of the day they’ll be able to book flights to somewhere like Cayman, those of us who live here can be just as keen to get off the island from time to time. Vacations from Cayman don’t come cheap, though, and after the spending extravaganza that was Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the next “off the rock” experience could seem like many, many paychecks away.
It doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of options out there for low-cost and almost-free holidays. You can’t expect five-star luxury for free, but if you’re prepared to forgo room service and deferential customer service, you could have a truly enlightening and out of the ordinary experience, without dipping into those precious savings.
Born in 2008, Airbnb is an online service that connects individuals (hosts) who have unoccupied living space of some kind for rent with guests looking for a holiday with a difference.
Currently listing over a half-million lodging options in over 30,000 cities and 192 countries, the options run the gamut from spare rooms in people’s homes to entire apartments, boats, castles, tree houses, tipis and even private islands.
Hosts do charge a fee to stay in their space, but it’s likely to be well below what a hotel would cost and will probably have oodles more character while giving you the option of being self-catering and therefore saving on meals out.
It’s also a good alternative to bear in mind for those who have friends or relatives visiting Cayman but don’t have a spare room to put them up.
Home swapping, or exchanging, allows you to swap your home with a like-minded traveler elsewhere in the world for an agreed length of time. A home exchange vacation allows you to holiday like a local and stay in a home as nice as your own. Sites typically allow you to browse countless home swap options, view pictures and reviews, then message like-minded owners to find out if they would be interested in swapping their home with yours.
Couchsurfing puts budget travelers – or simply those who want more interaction with the locals when traveling – in touch with people willing to offer a spare couch or bed for a night or two. It’s totally free to the traveler, and hosts generally sign up to the service simply because they enjoy meeting new people and showing them around their city or neighborhood.
You can couchsurf pretty much anywhere in the world and it’s a great way to escape for a weekend. Let’s say you’re going to New York: all you need to do is register (it’s free) and search for hosts in the area. There are over 50,000 in NYC alone to choose from, so chances are you’ll find something suitable, and there are plenty of reviews by other couchsurfers if you need a background check.
Workaway & Help Exhange
If you’d like more of a cultural exchange, a chance to practice another language or the opportunity to pick up some new skills while you’re away, these two sites are packed full of fascinating options. The deal is the same on both sites: thousands of hosts who are willing to provide accommodation and meals to travelers in exchange for a helping pair of hands for a few hours a day – usually four hours per day, five days per week are listed on the site. Travelers can search hosts by country, type of work or other criteria until they find one they like the sound of.
In Jamaica, for example, you could teach children to swim, volunteer on a development project or help out at a yoga retreat. In Honduras there are options to teach English, work in a library or volunteer at a youth hostel. Maybe you’d like to try your hand at cattle farming in South Africa, or help make a documentary on HIV in Kenya? Or cruise the Caribbean on a boat in exchange for a little maintenance work?
It’s a win-win situation: Hosts get the help they need to get on top of a never-ending to-do list, and volunteers get to see and experience things they might never have done on a standard holiday.
Both sites charge a small registration fee, but once you’re signed up you have access to opportunities all over the world.
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty on vacation and would like to learn more about sustainability and low-impact living, then the Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms network could be just the ticket. The network places volunteers on farms, smallholdings or homesteads requiring additional help. Accommodation and meals are provided in exchange for five to six hours work per day.
Placements can last anywhere from a few days to several months, but conditions vary hugely and the site does not enable one to access feedback on host farms. There are different woofing websites for different countries, each of which requires a registration fee.