When we plan a trip we always check out Airbnb options first. We have had great experiences with this in the past and amongst family and friends we seem to have built a reputation for ‘travelling the uncommon way’. Lately it seems to intrigue more and more people though!
Over the course of the last few weeks Stefan and I have both been quizzed multiple times about our Airbnb experiences, how it works and why we prefer it to booking a hotel. So I thought as this seems to be of common interest I might as well share my neverending wisdom with you guys here.
But jokes aside. I think travelling with Airbnb is a great way to get more out of the whole travel experience. You just have to follow a few easy rules whilst booking. By no means do I know all the secrets but Stefan and I always follow a few guidelines we set for ourselves and we were always happy with where we ended up. Regardless of whether this was a Baja Trailer in the Sierra Nevada, a Lake Tahoe cabin with a grill and jacuzzi on the deck or a studio apartment in Vancouver with a rooftop patio.
So if you are interested in ‘travelling the uncommon way’ I will share with you our process to finding the perfect Airbnb for any travel needs.
What is Airbnb
If you are not familiar with the concept of Airbnb I will shortly explain this to you. Airbnb is a website where private people (though people also do this as a business) rent out spare rooms up to whole houses for a couple of days up to several months. When you book an accomodation via Airbnb both you and the host have insurance through Airbnb to make this a save experience for everyone.
Why we like Airbnb
Costs – First and foremost it’s hella lot cheaper than any hotel or even motel in the areas we like to stay. Like when we spent a week in New York City last year we booked a room on 32nd Street in Manhattan for the price of a hotel room in New Jersey. This is unbeatable in my eyes! And location > pretty much anything else!
Facilities – No matter how long our trips are I enjoy having a kitchen and especially a fridge to store some things. It’s great to being able to make you lunch sandwiches or even eat a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. I enjoy not being dependant on eating out three times a day. It’s also again a possibility to cut some costs. When we are on a longer trip it’s also great to have access to a washing machine. I don’t know about you but I personally don’t owe undewear for a whole month. Neither would I want to carry it with me!
Feeling – Staying in an Airbnb accomodation gives you the feeling of living in a certain area of the world. You can easily get in touch with some locals and I personally feel more relaxed and ‘at home’ whilst travelling than I could ever in any hotel room, no matter how fancy and comfortable the hotel might be.
Our Airbnb Experiences
I must admit that at first I was more than sceptical to rent places from privat individuals. I googled a bit and read about so many horror stories that I flat-out refuesd to even give it a try. But Stefan convinced me to dig a bit deeper. And when you critically look at those horror stories most people were really stupid. Most stories screamd SCAMMERS from the top of their lungs in the first place. Seriously when it seems to good to be true it usually is. So with this in mind we gave it a try…
Our Airbnb experiences have all been very good! The most unpleasant thing was a slightly dusty apartment in San Francisco but that was as bad as it got. You see we have nothing to complain about so far. Fingers crossed and knock on wood…
All our previous hosts have been very nice, easy to communicate with (there’s an app you can use for communication) and all accomodations have been exactly as advertised. To be honest we were surprised very pleasently a couple of times. Pictures couldn’t live up to reality more often than not.
We met the nicest of people – always friendly, reliable and sometimes far beyond helpful when it came to recommendations in the area. One of our hosts in NYC last year even invited Stefan to celebrate her granddaughter’s birthday with her family when I was out of town for the night.
Our Airbnb booking process in 5 easy steps
1. Firstly usually decide first which area we want to stay in
For bigger cities we try to stay close to the center for remote areas close to a supermarket or we prioritize facilities over location
2. Secondly we chose what kind of accomodation we prefer
There are three types of possible Airbnb options. From the cheapest to the most expensive in general there is
- private room in a shared apartment with shared facilities as bathroom, kitchen…
- private bedroom in a shared apartment with your own bathroom
- entire accomodation
We have done every option before and it has always been a good experience so far. When we’re in a city we usually have no problem with booking just a room. You’re most of the time outside anyways. When we go to a more remote place we usually book the entire accomodation. We will most probably spend some time in and also want to cook etc.
3. Then we go on the Airbnb homepage and search for accomodations in our desired area
We first look at the pictures. When they put us off we discard the accomodation. When we like what we see we have a look at what the host will provide. First on my list always is wifi. We also look for towls, sometimes access to a washing machine… basically whatever we expect to need.
4. Next we screen the ratings
We never book with someone completely new. I know everyone has to start somewhere but I feel the need to play safe. So I need a few recommendations to read through. When the ratings are not good or people say it wasn’t clean or the host broke any kind of agreements we won’t book. Airbnb posts an automatic notification when the host cancells the booking. If they have any cancelled bookings especially recently we won’t book either.
5. Now it’s time to wrap it up and book
You can either book directly or you have to request a booking. That’s up to the host. If you have to request a booking we usually send a little text about who we are and why we are going to visit the place. People are more likely to let you book when you tell them a bit about yourself. Especially when you share the host’s appartment. By now we have a ton of ratings ourselves. So potential hosts have some kind of affirmation to let us book. But especially when you’re new to Airbnb many people want to know a bit about you prior to accepting your booking.
If they accept your booking it will be valid immediately. So don’t request more than one at a time. Cancelling is usually a pain. Airbnb charges your credit card immediately and it takes a while until you get the money back. Also sometimes when you cancel fees can occure.
Today in 7 short weekes we will be heading to the USA for a full month. I can hardly handle my excitement about it today. By the way more than 80% of our nights will be in airbnb accomodations. Grilling, stargazing and sipping our morning coffee at the beach included!