Airbnb is a rad tool that you should be utilizing if you are traveling. In case you are really green to the travel scene, the service connects travelers with hosts from all over the world to give you a truly unique experience during your adventures.
I first thought to try Airbnb in 2013 when backpacking for three weeks over in Europe. The site was easy to use, fun to browse and had extremely affordable options. The idea of staying in someone’s cozy home appealed to me so much more than a hostel or a cramped hotel room with basic amenities.
That first time was, well, an adventure. I made decisions based almost solely on price. Some locations took ages to find since this was also at a time when I was traveling without full service on my phone. One particular place in Prague took a near hour going back and forth to McDonalds using their wifi and screenshooting maps find out where we actually were. Another stay was at New Year’s Eve in Florence nearly two miles from the train station. The host was so kind and got us a celebratory bottle of wine but we were so exhausted trying to find the place that we didn’t even make it to 930pm before crashing. A bloke in Genoa didn’t have hot water. Our stay in Rome was run by a darling lady who left us sweets on our pillow and our hosts in the Loire Valley had fresh pastries upon our arrival. It’s a longer story but I’m pretty certain our place in Paris was haunted. As I said, an adventure!
After that first trip I got progressively better at picking and booking on the site. I’ve stayed in over forty different Airbnb’s in twelve countries on three continents. I even went through a chapter of hosting people in my apartment for some extra cash. I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way and I’m happy to share them with you.
Things to know first:
Before you can book you must complete a profile including a photo, short bio, work information and even links to references. You can add as much or as little as you want but I recommend bare minimum a good photo and short bio, especially if you are new to the site. This will allow potential hosts to have a look and see if you are trustworthy and also a real person.
Listings are close to the map location but not always exact. Be mindful in places you are really unfamiliar with. The flat I picked in Bali was about twenty minutes deep in the jungle even though it appeared just outside of the city. I was completely unaware of the infrastructure and fought hard to get refunded, claiming that the listing was misleading. I lost and had to pay for the nights even when I didn’t make it to the place.
Airbnb covers all money transactions. Sometimes hosts ask for extra tax but that should be mentioned in their listing prior. Typically you are paid up when you arrive.
For longer stays your price is split, half to pay now and half is charged before you arrive.
You can stay in a shared room, in your own room or have the entire place to yourself. I’ve stayed in my own room while traveling alone many times. Having the place to yourself sometimes requires a little more work picking up keys sometimes or sometimes its as easy as opening a lock box.
You always run the risk of being cancelled on and Airbnb does a pretty awful job of helping you out. I learned this the hard way. I booked my second summer in Paris five months in advance giving me the perfect spot and a beautiful price. A month prior the host messaged me that she was doing construction and the place was no longer available. Airbnb gave me a whooping $150 voucher to help find a new place. Didn’t exactly help the new $1650 flat I had to book instead. Sometimes they suck.
Things you may not know:
Airbnb encourages hosts to give weekly discounts. If you stay seven days the price drops, same for monthly stays.
Airbnb keeps logs of your past trips including messages and addresses. This is always a fun way to remember where you’ve been. Even for this post I was able to pull data from six years ago.
You can negotiate the price with the host. This is where having a complete profile and a few good reviews will give you some leverage. If I stay more than three nights, I negotiate. It works more often than you think. Be reasonable and respectful. I’ve also negotiated and stayed additional nights by paying the host directly and making contacts and connections when I go back to particular spots. It never hurts to ask.
Bonuses that maybe you didn’t think of
Sometimes perks are available like fruit from the garden, bottles of wine, breakfast or welcome snacks.
Can be unique locations for photo shoots and getting ready for weddings. [did you know I photograph weddings?]
Your hosts are experts on the area and most are happy to help.
Sometimes hosts offer Airport Pickup.
Most have places to store leftovers and groceries and provide kitchen access.
Farm stays are a real thing. With animals and everything.
Remember to check if they have parking if you are in a big city. I’ve stayed at places that even have rental cars available.
If you don’t know where to stay in a city usually stick to either the train station you came in to or the city center. My guide on where to stay in Paris.
I’ve never had a truly negative or life threatening experience but if something doesn’t feel right trust your gut. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth it.
Airbnb gives you the most intimate look into someone’s home and way of life. I’ve learned, been inspired and had so much fun staying in other peoples houses. From high-rise flats above the city to quaint neighborhood boroughs, in ancient buildings with antiques, cozy cabin stays on the lake and simple quiet rooms when I needed a cheap place to rest. Using Airbnb enriches my experience as a traveler.
How do you feel about Airbnb? Any particularly awesome experiences you’ve had? Would love to hear!