Next to picking the right flight, the hardest part of traveling the globe for me is choosing where to stay. I can’t even imagine how many hours I’ve spent trawling through Trip Advisor and other booking sites trying to find just the right option for me when I travel.
As someone who is more or less a budget traveler, I despise spending heaps of money on a hotel when I am the kind of traveller who is out all day long exploring (or attending a tennis tournament). I only really care about location (close to public transportation usually), whether it’s relatively quiet and if they have free wifi. I don’t care about frills, free breakfasts or whether I get a choice of four types of pillows.
One accommodation option that I have become addicted to using is Airbnb. I cannot sing the praises of Airbnb more – it’s helped me keep my travel expenses down so I can spend more money on activities, food or transportation (and more trips!). I heartily recommend using Airbnb for your next vacation.
I first used Airbnb in 2013 when I spent a week in Charleston, South Carolina. I was covering the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament and a friend and I were sharing a car and wanted to split accommodation. I ended up finding a fantastic couple who had a spare wing of their house that they rented out on Airbnb. For just $35 each per night, we had a comfortable bedroom each and our own bathroom. We also had full use of the rest of the house but as we were onsite day/night at the tournament we really only put our rooms to use. The couple who owned the house were saving for their wedding and they listed their home on Airbnb to earn some cash. It was brilliant. We only ever met the couple once so it never felt like we were staying with strangers. Their home was cosy, quiet and clean and we had a driveway to park our car. Easy!
Fast forward a few months and I was in London (for Wimbledon). I was meant to stay with a good friend but her place was quite far from the All England Club and her flat was pretty tiny. So while onsite at the tennis, I looked up some possibilities near Wimbledon for me to stay for three nights (frantically searching as my phone battery was fading fast).
I sent an enquiry to a host who called me immediately and they agreed I could stay there starting that night! The couple lived in South Wimbledon and they could not have been nicer or more hospitable. I was offered a glass of wine upon my arrival and we talked tennis and travels every night. I had my own room and the bathroom was shared. The best part was that the husband offered to take me to the tournament in the mornings – what service! I was actually dropped off at the Wimbledon gates one day and Wimbledon Village the next – it was a brilliant start to my day (I took the bus back to their place at night).
These first two experiences made me an Airbnb fan and I’ve since used it in Montreal and New York City and will use it for an upcoming trip to Madrid.
There are three types of accommodation on the website: shared room, private room or entire house. I’ve only ever done a private room but there are lots of options if you like cheaper, or more private, options. You will pay a booking fee (usually nonrefundable if something changes and you can no longer stay where you booked) and sometimes there’s a cleaning fee.
Some people may find it uncomfortable to stay in a strange person’s house but bed and breakfasts are a popular accommodation choice and many people love that option. It’s definitely more personal than a hotel, and that can be good or bad depending on the type of traveller you are. For me it’s been a saving grace on both domestic and international travels – affordable and you have a built-in local travel guide!
Here are some tips for booking a good place to stay on Airbnb:
- Check the reviews. I do not, and will not, book with a host who has no reviews. I need confirmation that the hosts have actually had people stay at their homes, and I also want to know that the room/house was as described and that the host is good!
- Look at the photos. Yes, people can misrepresent their homes/apartments but make sure you look at the room and that it looks acceptable.
- Make sure the property has amenities you want/need. Do you need a driveway? Wifi? Laundry facilities? Then check what the host has indicated they have to avoid disappointment later. Sure the host may have their own washer/dryer, but they may not let guests use it for one reason or another. Don’t make assumptions – read the listing properly.
- Message the host. If something not listed and you want to know, such as whether the bedroom door has a lock or how far their home is from a certain place, then ask! When you go to request to book (there is an approval process), you’re able to send a message with the request and it’s so useful.
Questions or comments about Airbnb? Leave it in the comments section below!