Family Couchsurfing


Couchsurfing and hosting are great ways for families to learn about the world together. Families also offer other Couchsurfers, whether or not they have children, the rewarding experience of seeing how children live in other cultures. Whether you're interested in getting your family involved in CS, or if you're about to host or surf with a family for the first time, read on for some tips! Besides these specifics, of course, don't forget to read the basic tips for Couchsurfing and hosting for information that's important for any Couchsurfer to know.

When you're done on this page, head over to the Family Welcome Group to network with other families, make friends, and learn from their experiences!

Couchsurfing as a Family

  • Practice makes perfect. Before staying with your first host, try "Couchsurfing" with a friend or family member so that your children can practice being a guest in a comfortable environment.
  • Host a Couchsurfer. To help your kids understand the idea of Couchsurfing, host someone before your trip.
  • Get your kids involved - and excited! When searching for a couch, let your children help. When you've chosen a host, read the profile with your children. Let the kids help make or choose a gift to bring along. Talk with them about the culture you'll be visiting.
  • Give your host plenty of notice. Hosting a family can take a bit more preparation, so be sure your host has time to get ready.
  • Take the host's kids into consideration. If you're Couchsurfing with another family, take the time to talk with your host about the personalities of the children and how you think they'll interact with each other. A little advance information can help all the parents work together to help the kids get along.
  • Communicate clearly about your family's needs. Make sure your host understands your family's needs. Does your host need to do any childproofing? Will you need to have the children in bed at a specific time? Do you have any sleeping arrangement requests? Don't be shy to ask about potential cultural conflicts of opinion -- for example, breastfeeding is treated differently from country to country and that may affect your experience.
  • Feature your kids in your profile. Include pictures and information about your kids to help your hosts learn a bit about your family. If you're concerned about who can read this information, you may want to set your profile to be visible only to Couchsurfing members. To do this, go to your Privacy Settings and set "Only seen by members" to yes.
  • Make back up plans. There is always a bit of unpredictability in Couchsurfing, and changing plans can be a hassle with kids! In case your hosting situation falls through unexpectedly, have a bullet-proof back-up plan: know the local phone numbers for taxis, hostels, and hotels.
  • Help your children get acquainted. Your children may need some help becoming comfortable with your hosts. Give them something specific to do on arrival, such as presenting the hosts with a drawing or gift, sharing some information about your family, or introducing themselves in the host's native language.
  • Family rules or house rules? Talk with your host about differences you may have in rules for children, and decide whose rules to follow in each situation. How much time can be spent in front of the TV? What rating of movies can be watched? What sweet foods are allowed?
  • Double check for safety. When you arrive, ask your host to join you in doing a safety sweep of the areas you'll be staying in. This way you can both feel confident that there are no dangerous objects within reach of the children.
  • Take things slow. Start off with shorter CS stays to avoid overwhelming your kids -- but don't move too fast. Having a few days with your hosts will give the kids a better chance to get to know them. Take time to talk with them throughout your stay about how they're feeling and what they're learning.
  • Only adults should use your CS account. Please remember that while your children are welcome in the Couchsurfing community, no one under 18 may use the website, or Couchsurf without a parent. Talk with your children so that they understand these guidelines.

Hosting as a Family

  • Make CS a family project. Let your kids help you build your profile, and include information about them. (If you're concerned about who can read this information, go to your Privacy Settings and set "Only seen by members" to yes. This makes your profile inaccessible to non-members). Have conversations about what Couchsurfing is, what will be fun about it, and what might be difficult about it.
  • Let your kids help decide who you'll host. After you've done your research and think that a Couchsurfer sounds like someone you'd like to host, let your children take a look at her profile and share their thoughts.
  • Take the Couchsurfer's kids into consideration. If you're hosting another family, take the time to talk with your Couchsurfer about the personalities of the children and how you think they'll interact with each other. Talk with your children about things they can do to make the visiting children feel welcome, such as planning an activity together.
  • Make your home guidelines clear. Both in your profile and in messages, make sure your Couchsurfers understand your family's schedule and routines. Remind them to keep any sharp objects, medication, or other dangerous items out of sight and reach. If there are things that they can't bring into your home (for instance, a type of food), let them know before they arrive.
  • Discuss arrangements with your children. Make sure that your children understand how hosting a Couchsurfer will impact their daily life. Explain where the Couchsurfers will sleep, what parts of your home they will be using, and how long they will be staying. If any of your normal routines will be altered, tell your kids in advance.
  • Prepare for your Couchsurfer's arrival. Teach your kids a little bit about your Couchsurfer's home country: show them where it is on a map and teach them a word or two of the language.
  • Double check for safety. When your Couchsurfers arrive, give them a place to store any dangerous items. Ask them to do a careful check of their belongings, and remind them what things can be a safety risk. A Couchsurfer who isn't used to being around kids may not realize that a lighter or a bottle of medication can be hazardous.
  • Family rules or house rules? Talk with your host about differences you may have in rules for children, and decide whose rules to follow in each situation. How much time can be spent in front of the TV? What rating of movies can be watched? What sweet foods are allowed?
  • Take things slow. Start off with shorter Couchsurfer stays to avoid overwhelming your kids -- but don't move too fast. Having a few days with your Couchsurfers will give the kids a better chance to get to know them. Take time to talk as a family about how they're feeling and what they're learning.
  • Only adults should use your CS account. Please remember that while your children are welcome in the Couchsurfing community, no one under 18 may use the website, or Couchsurf without a parent. Talk with your children so that they understand these guidelines.

Surfing with or Hosting a Family

  • Communicate well and often. Whether you're surfing or hosting, ask in advance about the family's schedule and routines. Discuss any special needs the family may have, such as food allergies or special sleeping arrangements.
  • Make a good first impression. When you first meet the family, be sure to introduce yourself to each person individually, even the smaller children. If the children are shy, it helps to make an extra effort to tell them how happy you are to spend time with them.
  • Plan on time for play. Young children will be curious about you, and they'll want to learn about you by playing. You can set the tone of the play by asking to play indoors or outdoors, quieter or louder, but do plan on spending time with the kids in one way or another.
  • Establish trust. Be sure to ask the parents' permission before spending time alone with the children, and never take the kids to another location without the parents.
  • Talk with the parents if the children act up. If a child is doing something that you consider innappropriate, such as going through your things, let the parents know. Avoid getting involved yourself, as this may offend some parents.
  • Check with the parents before offering anything to the kids. It may seem like a good idea to surprise the kids with small gifts, but always check with the parents first. Some families may prefer not to receive gifts; others might disagree with certain types of toys or candy.
  • Ask about food restrictions. Kids often have dietary restrictions, whether for general health reasons, allergies, or cultural reasons. If you're hosting, make sure you find out in advance which foods should be kept out of reach (and maybe out of sight - no one likes a cookie temper tantrum!). If you're surfing, ask before bringing food into the house.
  • Sweep for dangerous objects. It's surprising how many things you may own that could be dangerous to a child. When hosting, do a sweep of the house and put lighters, medication, knives, and other potentially harmful objects out of reach. When surfing, make sure these items are well hidden in your bag. Remember, even a key chain knife can be a hazard.
  • Put away valuables. Your new, expensive camera has so many cool buttons!! Keep it out of reach to avoid a broken belonging and an awkward situation.
  • Behave as a role model. You could be inspiring the next generation of global citizens! Be careful to be a positive example.
  • Say good-bye. When it's time to say good-bye, make sure to find each child and give them a personal good-bye. If you're Couchsurfing and the kids aren't home, leave a note.