Travel News

Making A Home Stay Work For You

Locations in this article:  San Francisco, CA

Crazy Sky HouseHoping to have your own home stay but don’t want to leave it to chance?

Check out home-stay facilitators such as Servas, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people get to know one another through travel.

After you are vetted by a local Servas interviewer, they will loan you a copy of their list of hosts in any of 130 countries. Program rates are $50 for domestic travelers and $85 for international, and $25 for students.

Once you contact the host family and make your arrangements you may find yourself treated to the kind of reception that Servas members Phyllis and Daryl Chinn experienced on their travels throughout the world.

In Turkey, a Servas host treated Phyllis and Daryl to a home-cooked meal on a rooftop overlooking the Bosporus. Iraq had just been invaded and Phyllis was a little worried about the reception an American might garner, but to her delight her hosts were more interested in sharing their hospitality and their mutual passion for tango than sparring over foreign policy.

Perhaps even more enlightening was a trip Phyllis made to Florida. Her hosts were a couple in their 80s. Phyllis is a college professor and her husband, a poet.

Their host was a retired Navy Seal and munitions expert. But they bonded over their mutual interest in birding and a fabulous fish chowder that the couple whipped up with a fish caught that afternoon.

After 16 years as a Servas traveler and host, Phyllis summed up her warm feelings about her experiences this way:

“We’d just arrived at our host’s home in San Francisco when she announced she had to go to a friend’s book signing and insisted that we come along. When we arrived, she introduced us as ‘her friends Phyllis and Daryl.’ Now she’d only known us for about five minutes, but that’s what [an organization like] Servas means to me. Everyone you host or stay with proves to be just a friend you hadn’t met yet.”

Other home stay resources:

By Jamie Simons for

Read more from Jamie Simons’ Grateful Traveler series.

Looking for more non-hotel accommodations? Check out Couch Surfing: Sleep on the Cheap.

And if worst comes to worst, there’s always Sleeping in Airports.