The Freebird travel club offers social interaction with an AirBnB vibe in worldwide destinations while remaining friendly to your wallet… or even fattening it.
Irishman Owen Mangan, a widower in his 70s, loved welcoming guests to his son’s AirBnB-style rental in southwest Ireland. He was happy to show guests around and act as a guide. For the first time since his wife died, he didn’t feel bored.
“My dad didn’t just give them a key. He’d end up taking them to the pub, having dinner with them or even taking them for a game of golf,”says Peter Mangan, founder of travel company Freebird. “I could see that he was really benefiting from these people arriving on his doorstep.”
Seniors are more likely to be empty-nesters with unused rooms available at home. They’re also more likely to be free to travel, free of the ties of children, jobs and mortgages. It’s possible they feel intimidated by travel to unfamiliar places, and lack the funds to pay for fancy hotels.
Peter got stellar online reviews on his property, raving about the personal treatment Owen provided.
“I saw this as very positive for my dad, too,” says Peter, “and that this was something clearly way beyond the Airbnb model, where people are often given the keys or staying in vacant properties.”
Peter began to research the older adult population during three months of unpaid leave from his job, and soon discovered that they often feel lonely and isolated, longing for the sort of connection his father was providing.
The Freebird Club was soon born. Billing itself as “a social and travel club for over 50s”, club members may offer a room in their home for guests or travel to a host’s house. A wide list of countries is available, including the Bahamas, Brazil, Australia and Costa Rica. The website is user-friendly, but club members can opt to make a reservation by phone.
I know what you’re thinking: How much is the membership fee? Hold on to your knickers…. It’s going to set you back a whopping $31. That’s right, about the same as a tank of gas. The fee confirms you’re not just an online lurker.
What about safety and security? To join, you must upload a driver’s license or passport to confirm your name and age (which are deleted when your identity is verified). Then, you’ll fill in a personal profile telling a little about your interests, and how much you’d like to interact. You can opt to play tour guide and share a meal, or just greet guests and offer suggestions over coffee or a glass of wine. Guests can indicate their preference, too.
Before final approval, a Freebird staffer does a phone or Skype interview and you can get started. Peter knows older adults don’t check their email five times an hour, so texts are used to alert a host when someone requests a homestay.
Finally, guests and hosts are welcome to use an optional buddy system to ensure safety. Just list a friend or family member to give them limited access to your account, and they’ll receive a notification when you book a trip or host a member. That way, someone else always knows where you’ll be or who’s visiting.
Start planning that trip to visit Luisa in her lakeside chateau in Switzerland… it’s booking fast!
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors