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HovelStay Is Like Airbnb For Adrenaline Junkies On A Budget

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A nice hotel may have a chocolate on your pillow and a waffle station in the morning, but it's rarely much of an adventure—and it's not particularly cheap. If you're more interested in the travel portion of your getaway versus the frill of a luxury hotel, there's a new website that may help you find a place to lay your head.

Hovelstay, a Glendale-based startup, works a lot like Airbnb. You visit the site, enter where you're going, and peruse the host offerings in that area. There are three categories available. All of them will be pretty cheap—it's rare to see something even close to $100/night. 'Clean & Comfortable' should feel a lot like your average dorm room or guest bedroom. 'Good Enough' is described as "spring-break-ish accommodations, usually in a really good neighborhood." And then there's the 'Survivor Hotel,' which, let's be honest, is by far the most interesting and the easiest on your wallet. HovelStay was initially only open to students, but the company decided it would be "uncool" to be so exclusive and opened the site up to everyone on October 20.

According to co-founder and COO Michael Womack, members of the Hovelstay team have previous experience working for vacation rental agencies. Often, they found that a property owner would try their best to make a rental appear luxurious, even if it wasn't. HovelStay's tactic is to make no such claims.

"We decided on the approach of full disclosure," Womack told LAist. "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."

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Womack said there is no ideal hovel. They'll take a cot, a tent, a front porch or a tiny room beneath the stairs. "The bigger the dump, we want it!" Womack said.

They'll take more ordinary lodging options, like a spare bedroom, if the attitude is right. "You're inviting someone in," Womack said, "not just cashing in."

So far, Hovel hosts have been "delighted" with their guests, especially those hosts who never previously considered their spot as one suited for hospitality. And travelers, Womack said, generally express excitement about the experience and the price. It opens a new world of possibilities for the traveler on a budget, or the adrenaline junkie looking for a unique getaway.

Some of the favorite hovels among HovelStay staff include a Hawaiian love bus; bamboo huts in the Philippines a traveler can rent for $12 or less; and a hammock on a Nigerian porch from which you can take a stroll to the beach. In West L.A., there is simply a tent on a porch one can stay in for some urban camping, touted as 'bear-free.'

Womack explained through reviews how HovelStay will differ from the traditional hotel/motel experience: "'My non-smoking room still smelled like cigarettes' will be significantly different from 'we ended up staying in a shipping container that didn't have a working toilet, but it was steps away from a waterfall.'"

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