Most college kids really don't care about luxury when they travel; what they want is a cool experience. That's the philosophy behind a travel website for students called Hovelstay.com, which bills itself as "a new anti-luxury listing site."
The Glendale-based website, which launched last week, caters to college students who are traveling or studying abroad. Huts, treehouses, spare bedrooms and other lodging options in the U.S. and afar cost less than $99 a night and are available for a night or a semester.
It's free to join and to list properties, but the company charges students and hosts a 3% fee for each transaction. (Hosts get a break with an introductory rate of 1% through Feb. 1.)
Listings are categorized as "clean and comfortable," "good enough" and "survivor hotels." Some examples:
--A domed hovel in Murrieta, S.C., that "meets FEMA disaster standards and is registered as hurricane proof" for $75 a night.
--A "Mermaid Cottage" in Del Norte, Colo., that's described as a "cord-wood and bottle structure" for $99 a night.
--A hut made from tree branches and canvas that's perched on the edge of a volcanic crater in Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island for $30 a night.
There are plenty of straight-up neat bedrooms in homes as well. Hovelstay.com, which says it has $1.2 million in private funding, plans to grow its funky rental stock and its users. (The company is in the early stages of getting its name out there.)
Co-founder Michael Bolger in a company statement explains that he had been in the vacation rental business where properties were described "as luxury when in fact they weren't. So we decided on the approach of full disclosure – if it's a dump, we would love to have it, and students are in on this kind of experience. It's not just where you stay, it's what happens when you stay there."
Students must present an ID and student email address to register; rental properties too are vetted. And, as with Airbnb and other travel rental sites, you get to e-chat with your "hovel host" beforehand to see whether it's a good match.