If you're willing to sleep on a stranger's sofa, you might consider Couch Surfing, a free Website that links travelers with local hosts in the U.S. and beyond.
Founder Casey Fenton was inspired to start the nonprofit site after a visit to Iceland. Before leaving for his trip, he randomly e-mailed hundreds of students at the University of Iceland asking for a place to stay. Fenton was flooded with invitations.
Now, close to a million people are members of Couch Surfing, as guests, hosts, or both. Fenton sees it as a project that promotes cultural understanding. "Kum Bah Yah" refrains aside, this is the Internet and there is potential for creepiness, so the site does offer security measures. Members can have their names and addresses confirmed by site administrators, and you can choose to communicate only with those whose basic info has been verified. The site is designed to be a community, so the setup is similar to social networking. Members are linked to those they know and can vouch for those they have met in person.
In addition to saving cash, the site can be a place to turn when hotels are booked solid. It was impossible to get a room in Washington during the inauguration this week, but CNN reported on a D.C. couple who hosted 16 couch surfers.
Would you try Couch Surfing?