I initially heard of AirBnB through a friend who liked to spend his time abroad but was tired of staying in overpriced and under-accommodated hotel rooms. Although I was familiar with online services for couch-surfing and hostel-living, both of which I was hesitant to try for safety reasons, the overwhelming success of AirBnB was enough for me to at least download the app. What could it hurt, anyways?
I was pretty tired of staying at dingy motels with threats of bed bug infestations and decided to finally step-up my traveling game. AirBnB allows property owners to rent out their various spaces to those passing through. I was immediately impressed with how easy it was to navigate through the app itself. Not only did it allow for a multitude of personal choices, it let me interact with other users and renters through a simple chat feature. With a few more clicks, I was all set to be housed up by a couple living in downtown Chicago for a spur of the moment weekend trip. I was hooked.
A year later, I’ve become a committed AirBnB devotee and haven’t booked a hotel room since. From renting out an entire house with 18 of my closest friends (it was pretty much like being on The Real World, minus the cameras), to staying in a tiny inner-city apartment with four other strangers, I’ve learned the ins and out of finding frugal, yet accommodating, hospitality. Here are the secrets to ensuring your AirBnB experience meets exactly what you’re looking for, from a cozy cabin in Iceland to an affordable rooftop in New York City.
Just like a coworker suggesting a restaurant, we are more inclined to chose something if it’s been recommended to us. AirBnB follows the same principle and utilizes feedback so you can see just how many people have stayed at a particular residence and their honest thoughts about their experience.
Make sure you read through both the five star responses as well as the low ones to get a feel for the room you’ll be staying in. (Is it actually a ten minute walk from the train? Or is that only if you’re 6’5” man with exceptionally long strides?) Keep in mind the number of feedback entries as well. A residence with 300 responses is clearly more popular than one with five or six…there must be a good reason for that. If you’re feeling bold and want to pinch a few more pennies, you can always contact a new AirBnB member and ask for a discount while staying there to help build up their reviews.
The perks of staying in someone’s home are that you’re often able to use the amenities available to you, such as a full kitchen and living space. If you’re looking for something in particular, like a gym to squeeze in a workout between museums or even a garage to keep your car, clarify these details in your searches to ensure you’re getting the most suitable results. Many hosts are more than willing to provide you with additional items such as bath towels and toiletries. Yet, double check these details so you’re not left with greasy hair and zero shampoo.
Paying a little bit extra to guarantee a prime location can end up saving you in the long run. Instead of spending money on bus fares and travel fees (looking at you, Uber surcharge), splurge on a higher rent to find a residence that’s closer in proximity to the majority of your expeditions. This is also a way to take note of the safety within your area.
It doesn’t hurt to do a quick check of the crime rate of your host’s location. (I’ve read that you should Google the closest Whole Foods to your spot to verify the safety of a particular neighborhood…doesn’t hurt to try). There have been a time or two when I’ve ended up in dark ally because I was unaware that I had been staying in a less-than-glamorous part of the city. This is a mistake I won’t make again.
Since properties are owned by various hosts, check-in and check-out times can vary dramatically. If you need to discuss a change to the set hours, make sure you do so far in advance. Even then, hosts have to make sure there is no overlap time between visitors and might not be able to accommodate your request. Hosts may also include a list of rules particular to their place. I’ve seen multiple hosts request that you not walk around the premises in your underwear. I’m not entirely sure who’s to blame for this becoming a trend, but keep minor regulations like this in mind. Throw in some sweatpants to keep your bum (and your security deposit) covered.
Along with time, take note of any additional fees. The AirBnB service itself will cost you around $30 added onto the final amount. Additional guests can bump you up another $100, so think twice before bringing home that guy you met seven drinks ago. Others might charge a clean-up fee or a security deposit.
Personally, I’ve found that I was able to bypass these charges traveling alone. However, larger groups might need to be more aware of any damages or messes they cause and how that will increase your overall spending. Make sure the possibilities of additional charges are clear and ask your host ahead of time how to earn your initial security deposit back. Keep these responses handy in case of miscommunication later on.
To further your savings, consider staying in an apartment that either has other visitors or the host themselves there. I’ve found that I rarely see hosts when I’m staying with them, and when I do see them it was nice to have someone nearby to answer any questions…even if it’s just to guide me to the best deep dish pizza is in town. Having a personal contact for the city can help you get better acquainted during your visit.
Many hosts are excited to have you visit and are more than willing to share the hidden gems of their neighborhood. However, this does mean sharing a space and not always having access to certain areas. Though, personally, I spend limited hours in my room when traveling and typically just need a comfy bed to restore my energy for the next day. On the other hand, if you’re set on renting out an entire place, the price might increase but you will have the flexibility to truly ‘move in’ and make yourself at home. This works best if you’re staying with a large group and would like the run of the land.
AirBnB allows travelers to truly immerse themselves in their adventures by letting them live like locals rather than being holed up in a conventional hotel room. Not only will it allow you to save some extra cash so you can afford that excursion you’ve been dreaming of, it also gives you a host to open you up to the insider’s experience you can’t always find on TripAdvisor. Happy Travels!
While I’ve used AirBnB numerous times in the states, I just booked my first AirBnB abroad for the ten days I’ll be spending in Madrid and Barcelona this March. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my experience!
Stay up to date on Juliette’s adventures at Namastay Traveling or on Instagram @NamastayTraveling!
I have always been nervous to try AirBnB but have heard good things!
I would start small (like a weekend away) just to get the experience! Not only can it be inexpensive, but you can really enhance your trip with rooftop apartments, beach houses etc. The reviews have been the most helpful for me, a good way to know that the place is safe and conducive to your needs. Let me know if you try out a new place!
Have an amazing time abroad! I’m looking into AirBNB more.
Thank you! It’s definitely a good option to consider 🙂
Airbnb is great. I paid a cheap hotel’s prices for staying in downtown historic Philadelphia, blocks away from Independence Hall. I rented out a one bedroom apartment for a weekend in Chicago, which was really great when my spouse got food poisoning and we stayed in watching Netflix and their collection of DVDs.
Loving the travel posts lately! I hope to see more.
You got it!
Makes me want to go on a trip just to try this app. How much of a discount would you say you get from doing this route vs., say, a holiday inn express?
I would average it out to be a little more then 50% savings, but you can definitely increase/decrease that depending on if you want a whole place or to share it with others. Let me know if you try it out!
I really can recommend AirBnB! I’m using it for about two years now…for solo travelling and travelling with friends! I always felt very welcome and home and met some really wonderful people! I agree to read ALL of the recommendations of the place you would like to stay. In the end I always trust my gut, when I decide where to stay…even if it means to spend some extra cash!
I definitely agree on trusting your gut! I’m glad you had good experiences as well!
This is so timely! I have my first AirBnB trip next week. We’re apartment shopping in Philly, and will be able to stay in the neighborhood we want to move to. I would advise new users to watch the reservation/cancellation policies too. I lost $80 because AirBnB keeps their booking fee when you cancel a booking. Typically hotels don’t.
Thanks for mentioning that tip, Jackie!
I’ve used Airbnb three times, from a 2 night stay to a 6 week stay and I have never had an issue. I love it! I do make sure to be really careful in checking the reviews and the listing, and I always triple check on Tripadvisor to see if there is anyhting negative said. you never can be too careful. I wrote about it here if you wanted to take a look? https://www.laughteriscatching.com/home/airbnb
I’ve heard of AirBnB but I’ve never tried it. You make it sound pretty good! I’ll have to look into it and maybe I’ll try it on my next trip.
I hope you have a great time in Spain. I’ve never been there so I’m excited to hear your views on the country. I also look forward to hearing about how your AirBnB experience in Madrid and Barcelona works out! I bet you’ll have a great time!
The AirBnB in Spain was a dream, and much more efficient than a hotel since we used the kitchen often! I’ll be sure to give a little recap soon. I hope you try it out, would love to hear what you think about it!
I’ve been intrigued by AirBnB but a bit hesitant to try it because I just don’t know exactly what kind of area I’ll end up in. I love the Whole Foods proximity idea, though!
The more I read about this type of thing, the more comfortable I get with the idea. At first it was sort of scary to think about how the system works, but I think the system works well and has become more safe for people.
Been planning to try AirBnB so thank you for the great advice!
I have used AirBnB before during a 5 night stay in Boston. You end up spending less money than in a hotel if you get a place with a kitchen. Plus you can’t beat the location of some of these apartments/houses/castles/and even treehouses!
I am using AirBnB for my stay in Oahu this coming December and saved so much money compared to a hotel/resort!
Great tips! We’ve been on a USA road trip for the last 5 Months and have stayed mainly at airbnbs. It’s given us the opportunity to stay in city centres, on a ranch in Wyoming, or by a lake in Maine.. We’re yet to have a bad experience!
That sounds like a wonderful adventure!
We’ve just Airbnb-ed all over Iceland and every stay was fantastic – so much better than we could have had at a hotel (and cheaper). Highly recommended!
Glad to hear that!
Great advice here, especially the stuff about reading all the commets, not just the 5star reviews! Taking the good with the ugly really is the best way of gauging whether a rental will work for you
We have been ysing AirBnb for a few years. We yave atayed in Canada, USA and Europe. I know people who are renting their hoses in Nexuco through this company. I live it and we are presently lookin for a place in Cape Tiwn and we already hove one booked in Victoria Falls that can house 12 of us.
We booked with AirBnB when we visited Croatia last summer. We stayed in Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Split. All three places were great and the hosts were so accomodating and gave us valuable recommendations for what to see in their cities.
we’re full time travellers and for us Airbnb is the way to go – in 2015 we stayed 294 nights in Airbnb apartments. It is particularly useful for stays for a month or more (Airbnb considers a month 28 days for its purposes) as you get charged a monthly rate vs daily rate…another thing I’ll do is communicate with a renter prior to booking and maybe ask him/her if they have a bit of flexibility in their pricing (depending on the time of year and the market). They’re usually very accommodative if planning to stay longer term..
I’ve had good experiences with Airbnb in NYC and in Copenhagen, renting apartments (the whole place) when traveling with a friend. I agree, reading reviews can give you valuable info. I chose places with at least 5 reviews. Also, I found that having a message exchange with the host before you book can be really helpful to give you a sense of what they are like, how easy to deal with. Just ask some detailed questions about the place, check in times, etc. Last summer our Copenhagen host picked up my friend at the airport at 7 am and drove her to the apartment. I had asked for early arrival, and the host went above and beyond our expectations!
I love air b&b! Couldn’t imagine staying any other way. I am just booking a 4 day stay in Cape Town and when I compared them and hostels, air b&b won hands down in terms of style and price.
I like the idea and will try it. I tried using your link for the discount, but it’s not working.
Hmmm try this!