Don’t like the cost and drag of a hotel? Don’t want to rely solely on hostels? Don’t want to bug random strangers on Couchsurfing? Airbnb provides a healthy medium. I’ll give my input on this travel service and how much is has helped my trip planning…
In January, I mentioned Airbnb as a useful tool in trip planning. At least, it’s a good basis to see how expensive some cities are in relation to one another. Now I’ve gone and actually used it for my upcoming trip. I have to say, I am more than impressed with how much this service has actually helped. Since January, I have booked 6 spots that will be used within the first month of my trip:
- room/ balcony for Frankfurt
- Spare room in Turin
- Room in Manarola (Cinque Terre)
- B&B in Lucca
- Spare room in Florence
- Room close to San Marco in Venice
Each of these reservations were made will little to no stress. Here are the 3 things I love about this service:
Your initial search is as simple as any site, simply putting in your desired dates and destination. Afterwards, you are given an opportunity to filter your search with price ranges. I love using the price range filter because it will have a bar chart that will give you a really good idea of what most Airbnb hosts are charging in that area. I like to compare those averages to the cost of a local hostel and go from there.
If you wanted to be really specific, Airbnb lets you select amenities, type of property listed, language the host speaks, and even lets you pick results that only show recognized and well-reviewed hosts. Out of all the filters, I would say I used the room type (private/shared/entire home) and the price filter exclusively.
Don’t like the search results? You can also use the map view you see exactly where the properties are listed. ***NOTE: Sometimes properties aren’t listed exactly where they are. If you want specific instructions you need to ask the host. Before you book a place, look at the reviews of recent stays to see what they said about the location***
Find something you like but can’t book it right away? Click the heart in the right corner of the listing to list that property in your very own wish list. The wish list section is handy because it lets you create as many lists as you’d like. I made a habit of breaking mine down by city. I loved this option because there were a lot of properties I could not reserve while I was in school, but was able to quickly book them when I had the money:
As you can see, I went a little crazy looking at places in the Cinque Terre region.
I already mentioned the price filter that gives you an idea of what a room or apartment would go for in the area. After you see that average you should always look up hotels and hostels as well. If you find the Airbnb to be cheaper (and better), then you shouldn’t hesitate. I’m not going to do extensive research with fancy charts to show my point. Expensive cities will still be expensive on Airbnb. From my experience in Germany, there really weren’t any decent hotels for the price range we were seeking in 2009.
Personally speaking, I am finding Airbnb to be an effective way to travel through a lot of Italy. I’m sure there are some hostels that may be cheaper (in an 8-bed dorm :p), but I would rather save some money and stay with a local that’s been hosting for a few years. In Florence, I managed to find an room with a good host. It just happens to be a few minutes from the Boboli Gardens.
In Manarola (Cinque Terre), I found a room with bathroom that overlooks the harbor. The couple had been renting out this property for years on their own and eventually listed it on Airbnb. Maria (the host) is listed as a super host on Airbnb and I read many positive reviews from people staying there. This property cost a little over $100/night when you include the cleaning fee, but the location makes it well worth it. Any half decent tiny room will run you well over $100 in the Cinque Terre region, so I am really happy that Maria doesn’t overcharge for their rooms. Time will tell if this reservation pays off, I’ll be sure to update in October!
Now, I can’t say that every host on Airbnb will go out of their way to make your stay better. However, you can easily find the good hosts by looking at their reviews and how often their place books up. If you notice their property is wide open all the time, you may want to look at that as a red flag. As a personal rule, I’ll only book places that are well reviewed and have been listed on Airbnb for a while.
That being said, I like to think that a lot of users on Airbnb are a lot like people on Couchsurfing. Except, these people don’t want to just give a room away fro free. These people will still go out of their way to point you in the right direction when visiting their city. Airbnb will give you an opportunity to send them a detailed message about your travel plans when you put in your request. From my recent experience, I would say that it’s okay to be as personable as possible in these messages. Don’t know their local language? It doesn’t hurt to tell them. I was very clear in all of my requests and made them aware of how I would be arriving in their city. The hosts all replied with an automated response with proper directions from various hubs, followed by a personal message in response to my request. I’ve been very impressed with the speed of the responses as well.
Overall, booking through Airbnb has been a positive experience. Throughout my trip I will make sure I give an update on how each booking turned out. There is a good chance that some of these spaces won’t be as advertised, but it’s a risk I’m willing to make.
Have you booked an Airbnb? Share your thoughts below if you’d like!