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How Airbnb will change the way you travel

by Larissa on November 22, 2014

Michael and I have been on the road for over three 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 them, nor do we live at their corporate headquarters (although considering their funky new 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.

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

1. 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 worksThis Buenos Aires studio is a far cry from couch surfing

2. 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.

3. 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 worksOur quiet residential neighborhood in Istanbul

4. 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. 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. 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.

how airbnb works-D-day veteran90-year-old D-Day veteran “Beamy” Beamsderfer, the father of one of our Airbnb hosts, shared war stories with us

5. Easy to Use:

After traveling full-time for over three 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. 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.

6. 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 worksWould 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.

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

***Get a $20 Credit on your first stay***

Thinking of trying out Airbnb? Take advantage of Airbnb’s referral program.  Sign up here: Airbnb new member. You’ll get a $20 credit on your first stay over $75.


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Julie November 23, 2014 at 7:19 am

I’ve toyed with the idea of using this service recently & always hear good things. I didn’t know it operated as a two way review service. Even better! This has definitely convinced me to check into some Airbnb spots on our next travels. Thanks so much!!!

Julie @ Life in the Little Yellow House

Cindy November 23, 2014 at 10:05 am

I agree whole-heartedly with Larissa & Michael on Airbnb. In fact, we found out about their story from Nashville Jeff (shout out!) when we stayed with him in Sept. I recognized his place and the instruments in the photo above immediately. We’ve used Airbnb and several other services over the years and found that the apartment or flat rental works great when traveling with a family. For example, hotels in Europe are generally designed for 2 people, which means renting 2 hotel rooms for a family of 4. For the same price or less, you can get more space and a kitchen, and it’s nice to have separate spaces for parents and kids. Staying in someone’s home gives you that local flavor. Jeff directed us to some super areas for live music far way from the honky tonks on Broadway St. In Athens, our landlord provided a daytrip to Delphi at a much lower cost than a tour company. During the trip, he gave us tremendous insight into day-to-day life in Athens and the struggles of the Greek economy. I could go on. To use these services, you have to have a comfort level with shared spaces and be willing to take some risks. In our experience, it’s been well worth it.

Larissa November 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I think you’ll be pleased with the experience, Julie. Keep me posted on how it goes 🙂

Larissa November 23, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Good point about the multi-rooms, and the local hosts, Cindy.

Glad you recognized the photo from “Nashville Jeff’s” place-it illustrates the point about making friends wherever you travel 😀

Marjolein November 25, 2014 at 7:43 am

You have to be careful with Airbnb though. We stayed in a property when the owner was away on holiday. The people who let us in gave us a set of keys for the padlock of the fence surrounding the house. When they left they locked the fence and when we tried to leave the keys we received turned out to be the wrong ones so we were locked in. We had received a list of emergency contacts but none of those answered their phones. It was a very frightening experience for us – so always double check when it comes to Airbnb! I am glad to read you have better experiences with this system, but I have deleted our account…

Michael November 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hi Marjolein,

Story to hear about that one experience. That’s no fun. We’ve stayed in dozens of Airbnbs and have not had a problem like that. We’ve stayed at a few hotels where we have had problems but that wouldn’t scare us off staying at hotels in the future which we still stay at occasionally.

Good luck in your travels.

Linda October 5, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Sorry to read about your bad experience – that must have been stressful! I’ve lived out of Airbnb apartments for 2 years and learned the hard way to confirm 5 things at check-in.
1) Make sure you can lock and unlock all doors (to the apartment and the building) by yourself. One time I came back on my first day and couldn’t unlock the apartment door so I texted the owner and had to wait an hour for him to come by to show me how to work the quirky iron key in an old wood door. Thank goodness he was able to rescue me – but I felt so foolish!
2) Connect all your devices to wifi and make sure you can access the router, have the passwords, etc…
3) Flush the toilet, check the water pressure in the shower and faucets and make sure the electrical outlets work.
4) Ask for manuals to the appliances – if they’re not available, Google the model and download the operating manual online.
5) Call, text and email the host and have them reply to confirm you can reach each other later. I’ve contacted them about water leaks (or no water service), postal mail notices and other unforeseen items.
Finally, I NEVER answer the apartment door or buzz anyone into the building unless I’m expecting them. If the owner needs to come in, they have to email or text me to arrange a time.

Michael October 5, 2016 at 2:44 pm

These are all great tips. I’d add one to make sure you know how the TV works. It seems like half the time one remote works the volume and the other one works the channel selector. If you mess up the result is often just a screen full of fuzzy snow.

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