The Airbnb Low Down
Airbnb is our accommodation ‘go to’ when we book any holiday – there are some fantastic, and very quirky places on offer and it satiates my slight obsession with nosing around other people’s homes! But if you’ve never booked with them before what can you expect and how do you make the best choices? Do you have to share toothbrush holders and underwear drawers? Will you need to feed their budgie? We have had many strange and wonderful experiences with Airbnb so if you’re after some tips, keep reading…
Back in 2011 we met up with some very good friends in New York and found ourselves at the bottom of some brownstone steps in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – just like the Cosby Show house. I’d left all the travel plans up to Rachel, our friend, so I was quite taken aback when she said ‘This is us’! I don’t know what I’d been expecting but this was a normal house in a normal neighbourhood and it turns out this was our home for the next 4 nights! A guy in his 30’s showed us in and gave us the grand tour, left us with a ring-binder of info and strict instructions to not enter the 3rd floor spare room OR let the fire brigade in to the house under any circumstances. Then he fled! Turns out he was an artist who let out his beautiful home to people like us for a bit of extra cash and he bunked up with his pal for a few nights. A few years later I saw this particular house on TV next door to a home that was being sold for $3 million and the penny dropped how awesome Airbnb is – you have the opportunity to stay in some amazing homes that are otherwise unaffordable and inaccessible for very little money comparatively! That was our first experience and we still to this day don’t know why the embargo on NYFD and what was in that spare room!? Regardless, it was the best location, he gave us access to his food cupboards if we wanted them and left us a bottle of fizz in the fridge. He had a garden patio (in New York!!!!) and a roof terrace with amazing views, great taste in decor (albeit a few too many wooden god heads which we promptly turned to face the walls like naughty school boys) and a folder full of local knowledge and the best food and drink in town. My husband still goes on about Driggs Pizza!
Airbnb Best Bits
Admittedly our introduction to Airbnb was a great one, but it just kept happening! The best views of Lake Como from an apartment in Bellagio (again – way too many african gods hanging around, and it’s really hard to remember their exact spots when you’re retrieving them from the wardrobe on your last day!) and again – the best pizza restaurant that only locals knew about because it was a residential area.
The best location for a large family trip to Denmark’s Riviera, with a giant BBQ, bikes and games room, just across the road from the beach.
The cutest Parisian apartment in Montmartre where the owners had left us a bottle of champagne and rose petals on the bed because we’d mentioned we were there for our anniversary.
Free transportation from Bergerac airport (which is no bigger than my shed btw) with our accommodation in said gorgeous town, just because they wanted to!
An amazing top floor apartment in an English Art School in Rome, with paintings all over the walls and access to the owners next door better terrace because she was away for the weekend! (Film crews paid her to use it occasionally because it is the highest point in Rome with great views over to the Vatican)
The most modern stylish apartment in Venice, a city which doesn’t usually do modern and their baroque tastes can sometimes make you ponder the cleanliness of a place – not our digs, clean lines and crisp sheets to the maximum with a hefty portion of class thrown in.
Oh, and the only balcony in Madrid big enough for a table of 8, which meant we could put the kids to bed on time and us adults could
throw water bombs watch the world go by from the best vantage point in this wonderful Spanish city. Plus, the beer was free!
Have I sold you on it yet?
So, How Does Airbnb Work?
First : Log on to their website and type in your destination, narrow down your search with party size and dates and scour the map for your perfect stay. Some people offer rooms in their homes and this can be a wonderful opportunity to learn how the locals live – you have insider knowledge on tap and often a bit of companionship if you’re a solo traveller, plus its often at a very low cost compared to a hotel room.
Or find a whole apartment, home, boat or tree-house to rent! I’m serious – there are some fantastic unique homes on offer. I have my eye on a boat in Bilbao for our France/Spain roadtrip next summer, a whole boat that you can actually sail too. And, last year I ear marked a gorgeous wooden challet in the trees on the West coast of Portugal, we will stay there one day – the location looks amazing!
Next : Read the reviews and check the amenities, for instance, some places don’t have wi-fi or parking, some do. Some you need to provide your own bedding, some provide it for free. Read the fine print – because you are dealing with individual home owners here and not hotel concierge, there are occasionally some peculiar things in the details.
Then : Contact the owners via Airbnb and make your arrangements. You can use instant book if you’ve read the reviews and are happy with your choice, or you can send the owners an email (‘Request To Book’) with any questions you might have and this will set the ball rolling for the end booking.
It’s really quite that simple and most host’s will meet you at the premises to let you in and show you around. Plus, they’re usually a wealth of knowledge on the best places to eat locally and contacts for tours etc. Occasionally we’ve met a few strange hosts but you need to remember these are just normal people with normal quirks – the world will always throw the odd crackpot your way from time to time! I reckon half of the places we’ve stayed have been homes where the owners just move out for a bit (so make sure you know exactly which toothbrush is yours!) and expect the cupboards to have their food in it, family photo’s on the walls, to-do lists on the fridge. But, the other half of our stays have been in accommodation that is solely for guests, no personal items and a more definite hotel-feel to the place. So do your research!
There really are some bargains out there, on average you will pay approximately 20-30% less for homes in central areas than similarly located hotels, and up to 50% less for homes in places a little further out.
So, there you have it, Airbnb is definitely worth checking when you’re booking your next holiday – you could save a lot of money, stay in the most unique places and have access to fantastic local knowledge! Book away! (And, no, you won’t need to feed their budgie!)
Follow this link and you will receive $31 in travel credit for your first booking (and I receive a little something off my next trip too!)… www.airbnb.co.uk
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Life in Wanderlust