I’m playing it a bit hard and fast with the word ‘new’ in this title, because AirBnB is not technically a ‘new’ thing. It’s been around for quite a while, and its concept (which I’ll explain shortly) is a classic. But as it’s just starting to catch on here in the UK (as always, our American friends are way ahead of us), I thought I’d write a post about this ‘new fangled’ AirBnB thing, and explain why I love it so dearly.
Back in September 2012, I was heading to New York on a last minute trip and trying to book accommodation within my client’s budget. ‘Last minute’ and ‘New York’ are not words that really go together, and hotels were astronomically expensive. Before despair took hold and I resigned myself to sleeping at the airport, I asked Twitter for help.
Oh, Twitter. I am forever in your debt.
A couple of tweeters (if one was you, let me know in the comments so I can lavish you in eternal gratitude) told me to look at AirBnB. After HOURS of browsing (for fun, not through lack of results), I had my first apartment booked and a new obsession under my belt. And since then, every overnight trip I’ve taken has involved an AirBnB place.
So what is it?
AirBnB is an accommodation site. Wherever you’re heading – from Indonesia to Inverness – you can use it to find a place to stay.
How does it work?
AirBnB is powered by people. If you live in a lovely part of the world that attracts many visitors, you can advertise your home as a place for these visitors to stay. An AirBnB photographer comes and takes nice photos, you decide a price, set the type of stay (will you be in the house too, or will you be elsewhere?) and update your calendar to show availability. Then your home is listed, in all its glory, ready to be found by your future guests.
Living in Leeds – a place not really known for its tourism – I haven’t advertised my own house on AirBnB. I use it solely as a guest, which means I simply log on, search for the place and dates I need and scroll through a seemingly endless list of beautiful places until I find the one for me.
But what about security?
When it comes to renting out a place to stay, you’re pretty well-protected. AirBnB works on a feedback system, so guests are encouraged to rate their stays and share their experiences, which makes it really easy to spot a great place and avoid the bad ones. Payment is also handled through AirBnB, so your host never sees your credit card details and if it all falls through you get an instant refund (with credit, in some cases).
For hosts, there’s obviously a degree of trust needed to let strangers into your home, but the feedback system works both ways and AirBnB authorise a deposit against the guest’s card at the time of booking, so if there are any problems you should be covered.
Since that first trip to New York last September (where I stayed in a penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side for less than a 2-star hotel), I’ve been to Edinburgh, London x3, Milan and Barcelona through AirBnB bookings, and every single place has been a dream.
I prefer to book places with a little character, like the original carved ceiling in the Barcelona apartment or the vintage sideboard in the Notting Hill flat. I love the space and freedom that comes with an AirBnB booking – you’re not governed by hotel rules and housekeeping won’t wake you up at 9am by hoovering the hallway.
If, like me, you hate being a ‘tourist’ and enjoy pretending you live in the place you’re visiting, this is truly the best way to travel. You feel like a local, and as long as you perfect your fake accent before you arrive, no one will know you’re not!
My next AirBnB trip is to London (again), and after that I’m considering a Berlin break. There’s so much travel (and interior!) inspiration on the site, and that combined with cheaper prices makes me feel like I can go anywhere. To see what I’m planning, check out my wishlists.
Have you ever used AirBnB? What do you think of their alternative travel accommodation?