For today’s Travel Tuesday I am talking about using AirBnB instead of hotels. We started using AirBnB about four years ago for a trip to Chicago on a budget. In Chicago there are tons of amazing hotels in the Loop area, but they are pricey. Sadly, $200 a night just wasn’t in the budget for us. Also, although the loop is nice, we didn’t really want to stay there with all the hustle and bustle of the city. The other hotel options I found that were in our price range were out by the airport which was too far away from the city for us. After looking around I remembered that a friend had used AirBnB and loved it. After doing some research about which neighborhoods were best for us I was able to find a nice room to rent in the Wicker Park area of Chicago.
Now you will notice I said room. Yes, the first few times we used Airbnb we just rented a room with a private bath from our host. When searching with Airbnb you have the option of finding a shared space (couch), private room, or the entire home. This saved us around $30-$50 a night which at the time really helped out. When renting a room via Airbnb there are a few things to look out for.
Who else is in the home?
Some hosts will divide up and rent an entire home to travelers and will never be on site. Although this sounds okay in theory, I did not feel that this would be the safest bet for us. In my opinion the host/guest relationship is based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s space and things. When this relationship is just with another guest you lose that respect as the other guest is not responsible to you and vice versa. We only rented from hosts who also lived in the home, however for the three times we did this we barely saw the hosts at all. One was not there the entire time of our stay.
What is the bathroom situation?
Even if I am renting a room I still wanted my own bathroom. This was just so that I did not have to worry about being late for something because the host needed to take an hour shower or something of the like. It also made the idea of a shared space more comfortable for me.
What is included?
Depending on the host, you may have full or limited access to the kitchen, washing machine, and other amenities the home has to offer. Some hosts even include breakfast supplies to help with your stay.
Once you have found answers to these questions you can see if a room is a good choice for you. When renting a room, or any Airbnb home, I always read TONS of reviews and always stay with a host with tons of experience and positive reviews.
For our trip to Europe we decided that we wanted to use Airbnb again and rent studios in the cities we were visiting. Compared to US cities we felt there were many great affordable studio options in London, Brussels, and Paris. We were able to rent studios and apartments for around $100 USD in each city. In Brussels that $100 got us an entire one bedroom apartment.
Just as before we read reviews and did out research of the area before requesting to book. For safety reasons Airbnb does not tell you the address until you confirm the purchase but you do know the area. Generally the listing will give walking times to popular transit stops, stores, and restaurants which will help you understand the area. If you are still unsure I suggest going through a google street view of the area to get a better understanding of it and to ensure it feels safe.
One of the questions I often asked hosts before booking was the availability of a space to store luggage before check-in or after check-out. Many hosts are able to accommodate this request but I always ask first. Also check out the check-in and check-out times. They can vary greatly from host to host and many are flexible. Often hosts have a key box available so guests can check in at their leisure without having to meet in person.
Once we arrive in our room/home I always do a quick check of everything to ensure that everything that we need is available and that we feel safe in the space. When renting an entire home this includes checking out the kitchen and seeing if we have the supplies promised such as pans and dishes.
One of the reasons we wanted entire homes while in Europe was so that we had a kitchen. This allowed us to cook one or two meals on our own which saved money and stay healthy. I will share more on that in a future post.
We have been very lucky and have never had problems with our rentals. If you find that you have a problem with your host or rental before, during, or after a stay please visit the Airbnb Trust Center. There you will find information as well as how to get more help. As with anything, if you for whatever reason do not feel safe feel free to leave. Also be aware of the emergency phone number regardless of if you are staying in an Airbnb or not.
As I’ve said, we have had amazing luck with Airbnb to the extent that they are were we start our lodging search. If you are interested in trying them out use this link for $40 in travel credits for new users. (Please note that I do receive a credit for every new users who completes travel via this link.)
If you’ve used Airbnb before let me know in the comments; I am super curious about the experiences of others. Stay tuned, next Tuesday I’m going to be talking about our stay in London!