AirBnB – a New Way to Travel

Posted in Travel.

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.

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From L-R: New York, Barcelona, Edinburgh and London

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.

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From L-R: Milan, Edinburgh, Notting Hill, Barcelona

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?

21 Comments

rosedl

i booked my Barcelona stay from AirBNB and I am SO SO SO SO excited. 30 pounds a night for me AND my boyfriend not 30 each so its perfect and so much cheaper then a hostel. And so nice! I am so excited. I’m going to spain for 3 weeks so going to book the other 2 from Airbnb too!
x

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Becks

I’m going to Nice in September and staying in an AirBnB place, right on the harbour. It works out so much cheaper than a hotel and some of the places on there have me swooning!

I’ve already started telling everyone I know to consider it and I’m itching to book somewhere else too!

thenotsosecretdiary.com

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arash mazinani

I’ve known for AirBnB for a while now but never actually used it. My girlfriend’s cool uncle told us about it. Out of the places you’ve stayed, how many have been apartments where the owners have also been staying there and how many have been ones where you’ve had the place to yourself?

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Megan

I just used airBNB to find temporary accommodation in Toronto because I just moved here and didn’t find an apartment before I had to start work. I rented a place for a month! It was so much better than staying in a hotel or a furnished apartment.

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dan

I used AirBnB for Milan and London after seeing you tweet about it and loved both places I stayed. I can’t imagine going back to hotels now! xx

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Nahid Aley

I LOVE reading your posts. This one in particular as only last week two friends told me about booking AirBnB for their holidays to both NYC and Barcelona. They rated it very highly, and all the £ they saved went towards massive shopping sprees!

Anywho, I’m a week into the blogging world, and would be thrilled if you could spare a moment visiting mine!

http://thethingsiloveblog.blogspot.co.uk

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Mel Chillag

Just a word of warning which I found out about just as we were about to book an apartment through AirBnB for our trip to New York, ‘private’ apartment rentals (where the owner isn’t staying with you) are actually illegal in New York City, AirBnB refuse to do anything about the listings they get because they say it isn’t their problem, but if a local makes a complaint that there are transient people in the building then you could find yourself turfed out onto the street. I didn’t want to take that risk and went for a properly registered hotel, even if it cost a little bit more. http://skift.com/2013/01/07/airbnbs-growing-pains-mirrored-in-new-york-city-where-half-its-listings-are-illegal-rentals/

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Jen

Hi Mel,

Yes, I’ve read quite a bit about this… I guess you just have to choose carefully if you want to use AirBnB in New York. I didn’t have any problems with mine but it’s good to be aware – thanks for sharing.

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Anna // angel in the north

Thanks so much for writing this. You brought Air BnB onto my radar with your NY trip; reading this has me absolutely convinced to use them soon. I too am planning a Berlin visit this year and your wish list has given me a great start in finding a dream place to stay.

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eclecticthreads

I used Airbnb for a stay in Paris and it was fantastic value! We got a really cute apartment in Montmatre and it was so much cheaper than hotels in the same location. It also made us feel like locals, if only for a few days! I’d advise anyone with concerns to make sure you choose one with plenty of good reviews for peace of mind 🙂

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Hanna

I’m really thinking about going by AirBNB on my next holiday. I’ve only heard good things about it!

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Hannah

I am actually going to NYC in a few weeks and doing my first air bnb stop, I rented an apartment last time I was there but it was one we randomly found in the Guardian, wish I’d known about air bnb back then though. If you’re going to Berlin I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Micheleberger hotel instead of renting an apartment, no word of a lie it is the best hotel I have ever stayed at and very purse friendly too.

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lee

Hi i travel to europe from London at short notice regularly and had not heard of airbnb i am always looking for alternatives that work and give good deals at short notice. So will give airbnb a look and see how they work out.

thanks for info lee

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Victoria

I’m fairly sure we’re going to use this site to book our New York accommodation thanks to you! Hotels are all ridiculously expensive, even for not-so-nice ones, whereas the apartments seem really reasonable and decorated to our taste. Plus we like the idea of being nestled in with the locals. Such a great idea for a website!

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