Last Updated on May 23, 2021 by Larissa

Michael and I have been on the road for ten (!) years now with no fixed address, yet people still ask us where we call home. We finally have a good answer: we live at Airbnb. We thought it would be useful to explain how Airbnb works.

We don’t work for Airbnb, nor do we live at their corporate headquarters (although considering their funky offices in San Francisco that might be fun). We’ve used Airbnb on four continents, and in the past year alone we’ve spent about 200 nights at Airbnb properties: if Airbnb were a country, we’d qualify for citizenship.

Airbnb has changed the way we travel. We still stay in hotels, but when planning destinations, Airbnb is the first place we check for lodging. But Airbnb does have a business model that’s different to conventional hotels . . . or even other vacation rental sites. Therefore, it’s helpful to understand how airbnb works.

There are several reasons why we keep going back for more:

Multiple Lodging Options

No matter whether you’re looking for a luxury condo in Buenos Aires or a spare bedroom in Nashville you can find it on Airbnb. I like the variety; when staying somewhere a week or longer we prefer a house/apartment to rent, whereas for a night or two a private room in someone’s home is perfect. Think of it as “Aunt Mabel’s spare bedroom (with better furniture) meets Couch Surfing, meets VRBO.”

how airbnb works

This Buenos Aires studio is a far cry from couch surfing

How Airbnb works related to the type of property you’re looking for is to ask you through one of its filter options. After you select a location, you’ll see a list of properties. Look at the button that says “type fo place” & it will give you several options. From there you can narrow down to a private room in a house (or hotel/hostel) or an entire place, or even a shared space for a more budget option. There’s something for every price range.

How airbnb works, a screenshot from the site showing type of place booking options.
This screenshot from a booking page shows how Airbnb works when selecting “type of place”

How Airbnb Works-Cost

A big advantage here. It stands to reason that going direct to the source would be more cost-efficient. Plus the more “homey” aspect means you’re foregoing costly things typically associated with hotels, like daily maid service. Note: Airbnb does tack a service fee on top of the quoted price, but on the whole it’s still a better value than comparable hotels.

Off the Tourist Track

Staying in someone’s home puts you in a residential neighborhood, whether a city high-rise or a country farm. It’s a real pleasure to get away from motels at interstate exits or lodging in touristy locations. We loved our flat in the Cihangir neighborhood in Istanbul where all the grocery stores delivered — and we got to know the guy in the video shop.

how airbnb works

Our quiet residential neighborhood in Istanbul

New Friends in New Places

The whole Airbnb experience tends to draw hosts who genuinely like to entertain and share info about their hometown. A dialogue begins with the reservation, so you already know someone local by the time you pull into town. That’s one of the really special features about how Airbnb works. Our host in Memphis joined us for ribs at the local barbecue joint and in Malta we received a homemade version of the island’s traditional Easter cake.

how airbnb works-D-day veteran
90-year-old D-Day veteran “Beamy” Beamsderfer, the father of one of our Airbnb hosts, shared war stories with us

We even met one host’s father: a 90-year-old D-Day veteran who literally shared “war stories” with us. We’ve stayed in touch with many of our Airbnb hosts and now have friends all over the world.

Easy to Use

After traveling full-time for 10 years I’ve used just about every vacation rental website out there, and Airbnb’s is by far the easiest. Searching for places is simple, the pricing structure is clear and booking is done by credit card once you’ve set up an account. Part of how Airbnb works so well is to make the functionality seamless between devices, whether computer, tablet or mobile.I’ve recently noticed other websites styling their design to look virtually the same as Airbnb, yet the search functions and variety of properties Airbnb has on offer are still the best.

Personal profiles and reviews

A big part of the Airbnb experience is establishing an online profile and collecting reviews — for both hosts and guests. Think of it as an online booking site and TripAdvisor all rolled into one. The system is designed so you can’t pad it with fake reviews, thus crappy lodging or disrespectful guests are easily weeded out and don’t stay on the site for long.

how airbnb works
Would you trust these people in your home? Fortunately our Airbnb profile says we’re good houseguests, so our Nashville host Jeff let us (and our visiting nephew) strum away!

Even if you’re not constantly on the road like us, adding Airbnb to your lodging repertoire will give you new options and change the way you travel. There are still times when other lodging options are a better fit, such as when we spent a week in hotels on the Las Vegas Strip for the full-blown thick-of-the-action experience, or when we needed to find a quiet writer’s retreat for three months to finish our latest book.

But on balance, it’s fairly accurate to say we live at Airbnb. It’s our (sort of) home address. (Check out Airbnb Arizona on our companion site for more tips on how to find the best place to stay.)

Note: We have fully paid for all of our stays.


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