When Greg and I travel, our goal is to experience a destination as authentically as possible. Sure, we want to see the popular sites, but we also want to find the local gems that give a destination its personality and flavor.

That’s why I was really excited to partner with Homestay.com during my trip to London. I’ll write more about my experience in a few weeks (in short: it was great). Homestay.com also asked that I write a little overview of the company in exchange for hosting me. (So heads up, this post is semi-sponsored and includes affiliate links. But I wouldn’t have agreed if I didn’t think you guys would find value in the service; that’s not how we roll.)

What is Homestay.com?

Homestay.com connects travelers with locals who have a spare room to rent. You pay a very reasonable fee to rent a room for a night, a week, a month, or longer. Homestays have been popular for decades with European students studying abroad, but they’re catching on with travelers seeking a more authentic experience while they’re on the road.

How is Homestay different from services like Airbnb?

We’ve used Airbnb for years and are fans of the service. But unlike Homestay, Airbnb doesn’t explicitly encourage interaction between guests and hosts. Whereas with Homestay.com, getting to know each other is the name of the game.

my homestay host Danny

My Homestay.com host Danny in his garden.

Breakfast is included in every Homestay. It’s not just a perk, it’s a chance to chat with your host about your plans and get tips on what to see and do. Hosts can also help you plan your public transportation routes for the day.

One day I told my Homestay host Danny that I was meeting a friend at the nearby subway station. He alerted me that the particular stop was closed because of that afternoon’s Arsenal football game. He let me use his phone to make last-minute arrangements to meet at another stop. He also pulled up directions on his computer to show me how to get to our new rendezvous point.

Is it weird staying with a Homestay.com host?

Nah, not at all. Homestay.com encourages you to find a host whose interests and experiences mirror your own. All hosts have profiles with mini biographies where they list their interests and hobbies. No lie: I picked my host because he has a cat.

Meat Bean, my Homestay host cat.

The shared interests give you something to talk about right off the bat. Within a few minutes of my arrival, Danny and I were chatting effortlessly about the cost of caring for an older cat. (His is 13, ours are 11 and 16.)

Soon the conversation veered to more serious, but mutual, interests. While he showed me around the home we talked about the changing states of employment and pensions in the US and Britain, as well as the joys and pains of living in an older home. (Danny lives in a 110-year-old terraced house; Greg and I recently moved into a 100-year-old renovated church.)

We had different schedules during the day and I often had the house to myself. Even when Danny was home there was plenty of space to spread out. I never felt like we were in each other’s way.

There were no rules, curfews or anything of the like. I could come downstairs and get breakfast whenever I liked. The only thing Danny asked was that I put my dishes in the dishwasher.

The dining room in my Homestay. It was so nice to spread out and get some work done after exploring London.

Because Homestay.com encourages so much interaction between guests and hosts, Danny and I became friends over the course of my stay. On my last day we went out for a proper Sunday lunch, complete with roast beef and beer.

Thanks to Homestay, I now have a new friend in London!

Learn more at Homestay.com »

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