Couchsurfing with a baby : Find a host

Since the birth of our baby 2 years ago, we had the chance to stay with around 35 hosts in 10 different countries thanks to Couchsurfing. We also hosted 5 surfers during a short break in France. In this article we are going to explain you how we do to find awesome hosts around the world.

How to find an awesome host ?

Since we’re in Hanoi, Vietnam at the time we’re writing this article, we’re going to use this city as an example. So first of course you need a Couchsurfing profile, you should create it one as soon as possible and start hosting if you can ! Let’s assume that you already have a profile and you have basic knowledge of the website.

Step 1 : Search for a host by typing the city you’re going to

Search for a host
You have two options to enter the city you’re going to

The first step is pretty straightforward. Enter the city you’re going to in one of the two red circles. In that case I entered Hanoi, but by trying to find hosts without any filter, I have 30,263 potential hosts. That’s way too much since I only need one. Therefore I’m going to add filters in order to make sure that will find an awesome host suitable for my little family !

More filters button
The more filters option

Step 2 : Filter the amount of potential hosts

How to filter hosts
What to do with the filters?

Last Login Date

First, in order not to waste my time I want someone who logged on Couchsurfing at least during the past week. My experience shows me that I’m much more likely to be hosted by someone who has been recently active on the website than someone who’s not. That’s a mandatory case to configure.

Have references

Another mandatory case is the “Have references” case. The whole system of Couchsurfing is based on trust. I’m traveling with a baby so I’m not really keen on taking the risk, unless I get very good vibes from a profile without references. With the kid, we surfed once in someone’s home without references and twice we were the first surfers that this person hosted even though they had “personal” references. In these three cases it turned out to be average to great experiences.

Number of travelers

This is an important case, it does happen that potential hosts just don’t have enough space to host a couple with a kid even if they want to. Therefore I usually put 2 in that case, and then explain in my request that we are with a toddler.

Kids-related

Since I’m traveling with my son, I want my potential host to be fine with the idea of hosting a kid. Thanks to the filter, I can ! In the “preferences” column, there are two interesting options for my situation : “Kids at home” and “Kid-friendly”. Ideally I tick them both. If there are kids at home it means my son can have fun, socialize and interact with other kids. But these two cases will reduce drastically the number of potential hosts, sometimes down to zero.

Filtering the hosts
By the end, you should have something looking like this.

Step 3 : Look how many potential hosts you can choose from

What if there’s no more host?

By filtering hosts, you might come across a problem : No potential host anymore ! Or maybe you’ve checked all the profiles and you weren’t thrilled by any. That could be a problem in smaller cities or countries where Couchsurfing is not yet common. If this is the case, there are a few things that I’ll change in my filters.

No host
That means you’ve been going to hard on the filters !

1 : Uncheck the kids at home case

First, obviously if there are kids at home it means that this potential host is also kid-friendly. The opposite isn’t true, a host might be kid-friendly without having kids at home. Therefore, I can uncheck the “Kids at home” case to augment the chances of finding a host.

2 : Uncheck the kid-friendly case

If that wasn’t sufficient I can uncheck the “kid-friendly” and try to send a request to some of the more active hosts in town, promising a unique kind of experience by hosting a young kid ! Most of the time it will work out for us after that step.

3 : Change the number of travelers from 2 to 1

It can also happen that hosts didn’t really configure this part of their profile. Or they might have moved to another place and forgot to change this tiny setting. Anyway it is worth trying, unless it is specifically written on their profile that they can only host one traveler.

4 : Change the last login date from last week to last month

This usually doesn’t work so well and I do that when I enter “desperation mode”. Once in a while an awesome profile forgot to log in recently and receiving your request might convince him or her to host !

5:I always leave the “Have References” case ticked, no matter what.

As I said earlier, I have a toddler and don’t want to take that kind of risk. The only time we got hosted by someone without reference was this person inviting us after reading our “public trip”. Despite that I still had back-up options when we arrived to the city. That experience turned out to be unforgettable, because this host left us alone in his huge centrally-located flat in Rio de Janeiro.

Step 4 : Choose the right profile

With the settings I used in the second step, I get a result of 12 potential hosts in Hanoi ! This is a pretty good number but it’s not surprising knowing that Hanoi is the capital with around 8 millions inhabitants.

Result filters
12 hosts? Perfect number !

What to do with the result ?

In this situation I would have a look to all of these 12 profiles, because 12 is still a reasonable number. I won’t read in details all of them, but after glancing at them, I would choose maybe 3 or 4 with whom I seem to share common interests and read some of their references. To me it doesn’t really matter if a person has 100 references or 5, in my experience having more references doesn’t always mean that the connection will be better.

How to look at a profile ?

In order to show you what matters when choosing a host, I opened one of these 12 profiles and I’ll show you guys what I’m searching for.

Profile Couchsurfing
One example

Check when is the last reference

First thing that I do is to check the references. I like to read them, I feel this tells a lot about a potential host. I also like to check the date of the last reference. If the last reference is from the same month then it means this person hosted someone recently, which is a good indicator !

Read the description and especially the “My Home” section fully

Obviously before sending a request, it’s necessary to fully read the other’s profile. By reading the description you’ll know if you’re sharing common interests with this potential host. It’s important to get good vibes before staying in someone’s home. If you want to avoid any bad surprises, read the “My Home” section. This will tell you what kind of sleeping conditions you might expect.

My Home
The My Home section

Before sending a request, you MUST read the sleeping arrangements. So hosts might have a severe lack of space and might only be able to share their bed. This should be written here. In this case, if this host accepts my request I’ll presumably sleep in a private room, which is great considering that I’m have a kid.

Last-Minute Requests Okay ?

A last-minute request is a request written one day before or sometimes even on the same day. Some hosts like to plan before receiving guests and it’s understandable. As a traveler, I never send requests more than a week in advance. Most of my requests are written between 2 to 4 days before the arrival.

Accepting Guests or Maybe Accepting Guests

On its profile, a host can choose between 4 options :

  • Accepting guests
  • Maybe accepting guests
  • Not accepting guests
  • Wants to meet up

With our filters, the 2 last categories don’t appear anymore. But if I spend time writing a request to a potential host, I prefer to optimize my chances to get a yes, therefore if I’m hesitating between two profiles I’ll certainly go for someone who chose the “Accepting Guests” option, because he’s probably more likely to host.

Darian on a bed
Couchsurfing.. on a boat !

Step 5 : Write an awesome request

Remember that you are going to sleep in someone’s else home free of charge. Therefore you need to convince this person that you are worth knowing. The very least you should do is to read the other’s person profile and write a unique request for this host.

Improve your chances by writing a unique request to each host

You have much higher chances to be accepted by doing so. When we lived in Mexico, we decided to host travelers passing by our city. In a month and half, 95% of the requests we received weren’t personal but just a mere copy and paste. Our answer was always the same, NO ! I believe many hosts adopt the same policy.

Darian playing with another kid
Kids playing in Taiwan

What to write in my request?

1. Introduce yourself and your trip

To start with, I’d recommend to start by shortly introducing yourself. You could share some basic information, such as your name, your nationality and the number of people who are traveling with. You could also add a bit more about your trip, where you’ve been before, where you’re going next.

2. Get personal : Why you choose this profile to send a request to

This is the important part. Prove your host that you read his/her profile. Tell him/her what made you smile while reading the description, what interests or tastes you guys are sharing. For instance if I chose a profile with a kid, I’ll mention that I’d like to meet them because I love to stay with families, since my son can play and interact with another kid. Be honest ! While writing a request I like to share the feelings I had while reading the person’s profile and I’d suggest you to do the same !

3. When are you coming ? How ? Why here?

If you already know the days you’re coming, it’s a great idea to include the dates in your request so that the host can get ready to receive you. You can also add how you are going to come and why you want to visit this city. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about visiting this city since you were a kid, or maybe you’ve heard about this city only a couple of hours earlier, it doesn’t really matter but at least you let your potential host know.

4. Any details worth adding ?

It’s probably be a good idea to specify anything else that could impact your stay. That could be a strict eating diet for instance. Or something that you necessarily need your host to have. You might also want to wait to be accepted before talking about it.

Darian and a man eating
Couchsurfing in Nara, Japan.

Step 6 : Get accepted and be ready to surf !

With all these tips, I have no doubt that you’ll be accepted pretty fast ! Once your host accepts you, let him know by confirming that you’ll come. Exchange phone number for an easy communication and get ready to have an awesome time with your Couchsurfing host !

Still have questions about how to find a host ? Leave us a comment and we’ll help you to find amazing hosts all around the world !

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Maxime

A young father following his dream of travelling the world, now joined by HiuYing, his wife, and Darian, their first son.
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