Networking is all the rage these days.
You can’t go to a conference or read a career website without hearing about how it can change your life. We use it for our social lives, for getting jobs and for collaborative projects.
So, there is absolutely no reason we can’t also use it to benefit our travel lives as well.
Travel networking can have a lot of benefits, so brush up on those conversation skills and find some great ways to make your trips a little bit better!
- Benefit the bank account
Networking for travel can certainly help offer some relief for your wallet and bank account if you have the proper connections. One of the most common ways of doing this is by networking for cheaper, or even free, accommodations.
While I was in Australia, we had two major holiday breaks during the semester. For the first one in March, while many of my friends were paying steep prices to go on organized bus tours, I managed to network my way to a pretty phenomenal trip.
One of our new Aussie friends offered up his house in Esperance, Western Australia for the holiday. We’re not sure if his mom knew at the time that she was opening her house to ten international students, but she couldn’t have been more accommodating.
When we got to Ben’s house, we were amazed at what we saw.
A gorgeous house on a cliff overlooking the beach, huge windows everywhere, a backyard with a hammock, an awesome balcony for stargazing, and surfboards, canoes and kayaks galore.
We were sleeping on couches, air mattresses, or sleeper sofas, but we were in heaven. A full kitchen at our disposal, family vehicles to use, and the company of a new family for the week were perfect.
And it was free.
On the second holiday, I went a bit further and spent more money on the actual travel – a flight to Melbourne, on to Sydney, back to Melbourne and then back to Perth – but once again did not pay for accommodations.
I had a friend from my middle school years who was studying in Melbourne the same semester I was in Perth, so I spent a couple days with her there, living in her dorm room and having her show me around the city.
After that, we headed off to Sydney together, where her aunt lives. Her aunt picked us up from the airport and, to our surprise, took us to a swanky new hotel in the city for the first night. “So that you can explore the city all day tomorrow while I’m at work, then I’ll come pick you up and we’ll go to my house.”
She refused to take money from us for this hotel, and based on the prices of the drinks in the bar, it cost her a pretty penny.
- Seeing the world through the locals’ eyes
Another huge benefit was having Ben as a tour guide for us, free of charge. He took us to some of the greatest lookout points for a view of the town and the most majestic sunset I’d ever seen, as well as the most immaculate beach I’ve ever been to at Cape Le Grande National Park .
The rest of our time in Sydney was spent at my friend’s aunt’s house in the suburbs, but she taught us the local ways, including taking the Manly ferry instead of a Harbour Cruise. She was also kind enough to drive us into the Blue Mountains one day, which I am beyond grateful I was able to see.
You can’t beat the knowledge of a local when it comes to trying to get away from the typical touristy stuff. Those are the times you really learn about the culture and the city you are visiting.
- Free accommodations means more freedom to explore
The free accommodations on these trips allowed me to spend more money on the experiences and attractions I really wanted to see. They also really made my time there more valuable, getting a true local feel for these new cities, as well as the old comforts of a home-cooked meal and a movie night with family.
- Don’t be afraid to ask!
Couchsurfing is a fairly common practice around the travel world these days, but I am a huge advocate for seeing what existing connections you can dig up!
Ask your friends and family if they know anyone living in the city you are planning to visit, and to see if they will facilitate an introduction for you. Put word out there on your online networks to see if anyone has friends or family who may be willing to host you in your destination.
You might be surprised at who you will find, and what great unknown places you might fall in love with thanks to them.
- Show your appreciation
As with any other kind of networking, be sure to show your gratitude to those who opened up to you.
In Esperance, we cooked dinner for Ben’s family one night, and cleaned the entire house, top to bottom. Upon arriving in Sydney, my friend and I presented her aunt with a gift we had picked up at the market in Melbourne. Simple gestures like that will go a long way and help you to maintain those connections for the future.
Have you had any travel experiences where your networking skills came in handy? Any other tips?