Traveling with Airbnb: Why I may never go back to hotels

Since traveling to Paris last winter I have become more than interested in travel.  Trip planning is right up my alley, considering my to-do list obsessed, color code detailed, planning every minute of life nature.

Summer time is easily equated with vacations.  Sometimes with so many options in locations and accommodations planning can be overwhelming.  So, if you are still making your travels plans, I have a resource that offers a new perspective on booking overnight accommodations.

I may never book a hotel room again, due to a travel site called Airbnb, www.airbnb.com.

When I first found this site I was skeptical.  So you want me to stay in someone’s house when they are out-of-town or maybe even also staying there?!  Seems like the start to a murder mystery plot.

Learning more about this company, they explain more clearly what they are all about:

Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

Giving further credibility, over 10 million nights have been booked with 300,00 listings in 192 countries.  Our travels over the holidays were based around using airbnb.  We set out on a two-week adventure with five days in Atlanta, GA and 8 days in Paris.

You will realize quickly when exploring options, travelers can search room options such as: entire home, private room or shared room.  For us, this meant we would be selecting ‘entire home/apartment.’   I’m sure for some, meeting and staying along side the home-owners or saving money on sharing the space is an advantage.  Not for us this time.

In Atlanta we pulled together my in-laws, renting a three-bedroom home in the city.  With seven of us, using a house rental service was ideal as compared to booking three hotel rooms.  This became obvious both in cost and space.

In addition to having privacy in bedrooms, we were able to cook family meals in the large kitchen, as well as enjoy meals around a huge kitchen table.  None of these things could have been accomplished in a hotel, even one suite-style.

The Ahlquist Family at the airbnb Atlanta House

The Ahlquist Family at the airbnb Atlanta House for Christmas

What made this booking even better; the owners (away on vacation) left us their Christmas tree, so Christmas morning felt even more real.  The booking fees also included breakfast items, so a shopping list was requested of me a week before our check in and were pleasantly found at our arrival.

From Atlanta, we traveled directly to Paris.  Europe is known for smaller living spaces, so exploring hotels in the area was discouraging.  We would be traveling with another couple, so the hope to stay together while having our own spaces was required.

Airbnb to the rescue. 

We found an amazing two-bedroom flat in the middle of everything.  The living space was so large that we could have had another couple with us.  While the kitchen was not as large as the home in Atlanta, we didn’t notice since Paris restaurants drew us out of the apartment daily.

Why I Love Airbnb:

  1. More space.  Nine times out of ten, the airbnb rental will be much larger than any hotel option in the area.  Most locations also include kitchens and living areas, in addition to private bedrooms.
  2. Good for groups.  Great when traveling with more than two people, hoping for private rooms.
  3. Affordable options.  Again nine times out of ten, the rental will equate much less than a traditional hotel.
  4. Accountability rating system.  Not only can I count on numerous reviews of owners and their locations, but I too will be reviewed.  This accountability keeps posts honest and believable.

While Airbnb continues to gain popularity, I still find myself introducing it to countless friends or acquaintances going through travel planning.  But the attractiveness of the site is causing concern among the hotel industry as well as local economies.  In a recent CBS local article, Palo Alto city leaders are worried about airbnb hurting tax revenue brought in through hotel stays.  Find more on the story here:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2013/06/10/palo-alto-city-leaders-worried-airbnb-cutting-into-hotel-tax-revenue/

With any resource there are pros and cons.  Here is what I found were the drawbacks to airbnb:

  1. Communication with rental owners.  All went very (very) smoothly with our rental in Atlanta, but our rental in Paris was nerve-racking.  The day before our arrival to Paris, I was still trying to get a clear response from the owner on check-in directions.  In the late night hours, she emailed me but it still required some decoding.  All worked out and I would still risk the reward of location and space over the expense of hotels.
  2. Not in all locations.  After my positive experience using airbnb over the holidays, I was excited to use it again in booking a cabin around Big Bear, CA for a skiing trip.  The amount of options were few.  This may be similar experience of those traveling to less popular destinations.  New York courts just passed a law, making aribnb stays illegal in the state.  With this city a major location for travelers, this rule will hurt.  It hopefully won’t be a trend in other cities in the US. 
  3. Owner response through inquiry process.  The processes of exploring options both in Atlanta and in Paris felt like an online dating site.  Sometimes I would receive a response on my inquiry while others I would never ever hear back from at all.

Even with these drawbacks, I am brought back to the site for my travel research.

Sometimes I log-in just to look around.

How much would it be to:

Stay at a castle in Ireland

  • $1200-4000 per night

Snuggle up in cabin at Yellowstone, Wyoming

  • $70 – $500 per night

So where are you traveling this summer?  Have you fallen in love with Airbnb or had a bad experience?

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