Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

New York City and San Francisco are the most "requested" destinations on CouchSurfing.org.

In a relatively short period of time, home-sharing websites like Airbnb and CouchSurfing have changed the way we view traveling. Instead of shacking up in dorm-like hostels or overpriced hotels, travelers now have the option of a home-away-from-home, in the shape of a furnished condo, treehouse, bedroom, or gently-worn sofa.

These travelers end up staying in locations that can provide an embedded community experience — they live in private homes, furnished by individual city residents, rather than 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton. CouchSurfing, founded in 2004, reports over four million CouchSurfers on their site this year (over 16 million since launch), and Airbnb has had 10 million nights booked since their founding in 2008. The main distinction between the two sites is payment: CouchSurfing is free, and the idea is to stay with a "host." Airbnb's rates vary on the place, but tend to be solo (57 percent of listings are entire places [PDF]) — you are renting the place, not the hosted experience.

CouchSurfing.org was kind enough to share data with us on which U.S. cities have the most "requests" to stay. The top five are large cities  — New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston. The requests decline sharply, however, after the first few major cities. New York City, the top city by far at nearly 106,000 requests over the course of a year (note that Brooklyn is listed separately), has nearly double the number as San Francisco, which takes second with just over 55,000. If we take a generous leap with data analysis and presume the rate of requests was constant (which of course, it most likely wasn't), New York City had about 289 requests per day and San Francisco had about 151.

Chart data courtesy of CouchSurfing

We thought, perhaps, that the concentration of CouchSurfing requests in large cities was likely due to more expensive hotel prices in these urban areas. While that's true in some cities, it isn't the case universally. New York City, unsurprisingly, tops both lists — it's the most popular for CouchSurfing and had the most expensive average hotel room last year. Honolulu, Boston, Miami, and Santa Barbara round out the top five most expensive cities for hotel stays. Of that list, only Boston is also in the top five for number of CouchSurfing requests.

City Average Daily
Hotel Room Rate (2011)
New York, NY $204
Honolulu, HI $175
Boston, MA $165
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL $153
Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis, CA $147
New Orleans, LA $146
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA $143
Washington, D.C. $142
Panama City, FL $139
Chicago, IL $139
Idaho Falls-Pocatello, ID $138
Monterey-Salinas, CA $138
Anchorage, AK $137
Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA $136
Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY $131
Charleston, SC $130
Bangor, ME $130
Portland-Auburn, ME $129
Philadelphia, PA $129
Seattle-Tacoma, WA $129

Data via Hotel Price Index 2011 [PDF]

Top image: Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

About the Author

Sara Johnson

Sara Johnson is a former fellow at CityLab. 

Most Popular

  1. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  2. Modest two-bedroom apartments are unaffordable to full-time minimum wage workers in every U.S. county.
    Maps

    Rent Is Affordable to Low-Wage Workers in Exactly 12 U.S. Counties

    America’s mismatch between wages and rental prices is more perverse than ever.

  3. A house with two cars is pictured.
    Equity

    It's Time to Change How We Measure Affordable Housing

    A cheap home isn’t affordable if it comes with high transportation costs.

  4. A street vendor hanging cans of Coke to a customer in a sunny park
    Equity

    What L.A. Can Learn From Its Failed Experiment in Legalized Street Vending

    It fizzled out 20 years ago, but the city can do better this time around.

  5. Life

    Where Are America's Real Arts Capitals?

    Big coastal cities might have iconic, profitable, and well-funded scenes. But the economic impact of the cultural sector can be larger in some surprising places.