My First Experience With Airbnb

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In the last installment, Tiffany explained why we decided to stay at an airbnb in London. Since we would have needed three hotel rooms, it was significantly cheaper to get an airbnb than to stay at a hotel.

And I was excited at the prospect of finally staying at an airbnb, as I’ve never stayed at one before, but get asked about them all the time. I love the “sharing” economy, like the ride sharing offered by Uber, so I was curious to see how that worked with airbnb. For that matter, airbnb is giving hotel chains a run for their money, and in many cases hotels view airbnb as being competition in the same way as other local hotels.

Tiffany had more experience with airbnb than I did, so she handled everything. She chose the apartment, worked out the logistics, etc.

Here’s the place we stayed for two nights, which was a two bedroom apartment located near the O2 arena (where we wanted to be).

airbnb

The place cost a total of £409 for two nights, or ~$620. So that’s $310 per night. London hotels were extremely expensive over our dates, and we could barely have booked one decent hotel room for that price, let alone three.

Airbnb-prices

We arrived in the early evening, and met the owner’s father, who was lovely (the owner was in Thailand). He took us up to the apartment, showed us around, and even explained the surrounding area. There was a rental guide with all kinds of info about the apartment, and also the information for the wifi, etc.

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London airbnb exterior

The unit itself was quite large, especially by London standards. There was a long entryway, and then on the right side were the doors to the two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

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London airbnb hallway

The hallway led into the living room, which was definitely the most impressive part of the unit. It was large, and featured two couches, a bar-style table with four chairs, and a nice kitchen.

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London airbnb living room

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London airbnb living room

Of course the kitchen came empty, though Tiffany was kind enough to pop down to the local grocery store and make coffee and yogurt parfaits in the morning, which was lovely.

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London airbnb kitchen

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London airbnb kitchen

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London airbnb kitchen

The two couches faced a flat screen TV and entertainment center.

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London airbnb TV

Then there was a nice balcony with a table overlooking the Thames.

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London airbnb balcony

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London airbnb view

You could see central London in the distance, so the views were pretty snazzy, especially at sunset.

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London airbnb view

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London airbnb view

The bedrooms were a bit more basic than the living room, though still perfectly functional. The bedroom closest to the entrance of the apartment just featured a bed. I was impressed that the bedding was fairly high quality and bed was comfortable.

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London airbnb bedroom

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London airbnb bedroom

The bed also had a flat screen TV.

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London airbnb TV

The second bedroom was right next to it and virtually identical.

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London airbnb bedroom

The only difference was that this bedroom had a bathroom inside the actual room. Tiffany and her husband gladly took that room, as personally I’m not a fan of the shower/toilet combo, whereby there’s no separation between the toilet and where you shower. That setup gave me flashbacks to the “Beach Palace Hotel” I stayed at in Male.

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London airbnb bathroom

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London airbnb bathroom

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London airbnb bathroom

The second bathroom was further down the hallway, and much nicer. It featured a shower/tub combo.

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London airbnb bathroom

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London airbnb bathroom

I appreciated that there were several international power adapters throughout the unit, which was a nice detail on the part of the owner, in my opinion.

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London airbnb outlets

Before staying at my first airbnb I was curious how toiletries work. I don’t know what the standard practice is, but in this case we were given towels, toilet paper, and bar soap, while there was no shampoo/conditioner/body wash. So we brought our own, and that worked out quite well.

The unit was in a locked apartment building, and we had a fob to always open the front door. So the entire setup felt quite safe.

Would I use airbnb again?

I’m sure a lot of people will disagree, but for me a large part of enjoying travel is having a great hotel. Ideally having a great hotel using points, which is the best price of all. 😉

But the degree to which I care about the hotel depends on where I am. In other words, at a relaxation destination I generally care more about where I’m staying than in a city where I’ll be out and about all day.

In this case airbnb was the best option by far. By far. We would have otherwise needed three hotel rooms, and probably paid less for the airbnb than we would have paid for just one room. So under circumstances like these I think airbnb is a great option.

I’d probably be less inclined to get an airbnb if I were traveling alone, or traveling to a relaxation destination, though. There’s something nice about room service, housekeeping every day, breakfast being included, etc.

But again, the value from airbnb is spectacular, and I get why it’s so popular. I’d certainly use it again if traveling in a group to a city.

How about you? Have you used airbnb, and has it impacted how often you stay at hotels?

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About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Two of life’s greatest joys:

    1) Dining at an extraordinary restaurant

    2) Staying at a fabulous hotel.

    I can’t imagine ever trying this airbnb thing. I would feel very uncomfortable crashing at some stranger’s apartment. I cringe just thinking about it.

  2. Good points about the reasonings behind why one would choose an AirBnb over a Hotel. In my case, I chose the later in order to experience traditional living in Beijing, staying in a Hutong on my last 2 days there. It was a way to live a culture and feeling I wouldn’t otherwise find in a hotel.

    In this case the hotel was nice but this was a choice made intentionally in order to experience something specific. I’ve seen entire islands, treehouses and all kind of unique homes on AirBnB and I think that if someone is looking for something particular and special or specific, it’s def the way to go.

  3. I have not used Airbnb, but I have used other similar services and stayed in many “apartment hotels”. It’s definitely my preference. I never use room service. And typically I don’t need daily housekeeping. I like the feeling of being more like a residence with a separate kitchen and so forth. Some even have washers and dryers in the unit which comes in handy on a long trip. But I also don’t have status beyond what some credit cards get you and don’t really have all that many hotel points. I am not particularly loyal to any brand and usually choose where to stay mainly based on location. Sometimes I will splurge a little but typically don’t spend more than $200/night. Usually the apartment places give you a much nicer standard of furnishing for the same amount of money as a lower end hotel.

  4. I have never tried AirBnb yet.

    While I really enjoy a nice hotel, I think the price could make me choose AirBnb over a hotel if I was in the same situation as you were.

    I’m pretty sure I would prefer paying for a nice AirBnb appartment rather than paying the same price for a lousy motel. Even if it doesn’t come with housekeeping, breakfast, etc.

  5. Just curious. How did you transfer from LHR to the flat? Last October, a taxi ride from LHR to Trafalgar Square cost a fortune. This was late afternoon on a Saturday.

  6. I love airbnb! I only stay in places that have received numerous and high reviews from other users, and I haven’t had a bad experience yet in at least a dozen stays. And for those of us who don’t travel too frequently, haven’t acquired top-tier hotel status, and are on a tight budget but still want to be close to the action in a city, airbnb is perfect. As a grad student, I don’t think I would be able to do the amount of traveling I do if it weren’t for places like airbnb (I’m so keen about hostels, so airbnb is a godsend). I think it also depends on what you want to get out of the travel experience. For me, I like the feeling that I’m “living” in a place, instead of mentally detaching by returning to a hotel after exploring a city. It’s such a different vibe, and one that I greatly prefer. If you’re not on a work trip and can live without room service and housekeeping, it’s so great!

  7. I can just about imagine using airbnb if with a group. Otherwise I can’t say the idea appeals particularly. Friends have organised an airbnb property in NYC in December and it looks grim to be frank – I’ve jumped ship and booked into a hotel. The flat above (“unit”? what is this word?) looked fine and most importantly very clean; a bit spartan though (I think this is part and parcel of airbnb so I’m not criticising the specific flat/owner). It’s not in an area I would recommend to tourists – I say this as a Londoner.

  8. I think your review is spot on. When traveling to Rome last year with my parents I were facing a similar situation: expensive rates, low occupancy thresholds, and minimal inventory. My mom and dad do not “rough it” and anything nearing luxury hotels in the city center are prohibitively expensive. Mix them with a gay couple looking for some vibrancy in the neighborhood and you’re pretty much screwed. Airbnb was a splendid choice; and besides saving money, we were able to stay in areas that are highly desirable with no inventory at all: namely Trastevere.

  9. I love airbnb. The times I have stayed there the places I’ve stayed have held far greater appeal to me than a hotel ever could. As my life’s motto seems to have evolved into, “Luxury is wasted on me. Comfort is not,” I don’t value room service, housekeeping, etc. I have found far greater comfort in airbnb rentals than in hotels, typically. Hotels have a sterile feel to them, no matter the one I’m in. Feel the same way of a Park Hyatt that I do of a Quality Inn.

  10. At least that location in London is something I’d consider. Here in Silicon Valley, people are renting out tents in their backyard on AirBNB.

  11. I stay in both hotels and airbnb. In general, these are reasons I would choose airbnb over hotels:
    – if I have a car and want free parking
    – if I’m staying for 5 days or more and want to live more like a local. There’s something cool about going to an apartment building or house where you’re surrounded by locals. Makes you feel like a local for a week.
    – if there’s a particular area I want to be in that doesn’t have a lot of hotels
    – if hotels are prohibitively expensive during the period I want to be there
    – if travelling to multiple places, I’ll throw in an airbnb in the middle with laundry facilities so we can do laundry without bothering with a Laundromat or expensive hotel cleaning

    I’ve never had a bad experience on airbnb, every place has been nice. Have used them for many different countries. Their review system is pretty good, but I always read the reviews to see what people liked and didn’t like about a place.

    I do love staying in a nice hotel though, especially if it is in an area with lots of restaurants and things to do! You just go downstairs and you’re right in the middle of things.

  12. @ Michael Rigney — We used Uber XL (they have flat rates to LHR that are quite a bit less than a cab). If it had been just me, or even just two of us, we would have taken the Tube, but as I wasn’t familiar with the area a car seemed like the better choice. It was still pricey though.

  13. We’ve used Airbnb a few times and have loved it. One of the interesting parts of using the site is meeting locals and getting some good pointers and ideas related to the area. It seems like your encounter with the owner’s father was relatively brief? We enjoyed having breakfast with our hosts, having some interesting conversations etc.

    Here is a review of our first Airbnb stay back in 2012: http://michaelwtravels.boardingarea.com/2012/09/our-awesome-experience-with-airbnb/#sthash.Vr5l1B56.OfsceRqA.dpbs

  14. @ Leo — I think the more spartan look was part of the aesthetic. There were oodles of linens and kitchen supplies, but everything was hidden away.

    Absolutely agree that this mightn’t be a great location for first time tourists, but for repeat visitors it was just fine. There was a Waitrose in the adjacent building, along with a few coffee shops, and it was only a few minutes walk to Greenwich proper, which made taking the Thames Clipper easy. The area was sufficiently interesting for a quick visit with lots of restaurants, the Naval College, Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory, etc., and it was nice to see things that we probably wouldn’t have hauled out to Greenwich for otherwise.

  15. Almost every time I go to book a hotel I end up booking AirBnB. They’re cheaper and typically feel more comfortable than a standard hotel room. I don’t have a ton of hotel points and rather use points for flights. On top of that I travel light and on a budget. So kitchens and laundry machines on top of the room usually being cheaper and better located make AirBnB an obviously choice for me.

  16. As with others I follow the same protocols — if I can find a well priced hotel I’ll choose Airbnb purely for many times better geography and costs.
    I also did tried hotels in Rome for 3 adults and the costs were prohibitive. We ended up in a fantastic Campo di Fiori location that couldn’t be beat — and it had a washer which was just icing in the cake!

    It made me such a fan of at least using Airbnb as an option — ‘ve even started renting my place in the SOMA area of San Francisc out on Airbnb and have had fantastic success with guests. I have a minimum 5 nights which gets conventioneers and longer-term tourists who are mainly European.

  17. Ben and Tiffany – thank you both for great posts on this alternative to Hotels. Like Travis, we travel as a family and spent 4 weeks in Europe not long ago. Add up the points needed for decent Starwood or Hilton properties in places like Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris and London for that period to accommodate four and, well, it’d be a LOT.

    Although we didn’t use Airbnb, we used HouseTrip (similar, though UK based) and the process was downright excellent. We had incredible apartments (some two levels) for a fraction of the cost of hotels (whether direct rates, cash+points, or points alone). We did use points for Hilton and Starwood properties in London and Milan for adjoining rooms that were steals, so it made sense to do that for those shorter stays.

    We appreciate the opportunity to travel to experience culture and to immerse ourselves into it as much as possible. Doing that in those locations was very relaxing and made it incredibly more enjoyable. I think if airbnb or housetrip or companies like that had rewards program or one could redeem ThankYou points for those, I might soil myself at the prospect.

    Business trips, I like being taken care of and perhaps at luxury resorts for relaxation. For active, culture-immersing travel for vacation, learning, etc, apartments/villas, etc via airbnb is an excellent way to go!

  18. Nice write up here, For a flat in London that is pretty decent in all respects, yes it might be far away from Central London but its a very nice apartment compared to most Flats in the UK.

    I use both hotels and Airbnb and VRBO the same way, all depends on location, price and how many people I will be travelling with.

    Free $20 AIRBNB credit if anyone wants to use it on first stay.

    http://www.airbnb.com/c/jlong254?s=8

    (yes its a referral, so it will probably be removed.)

  19. We have used Airbnb a few times, out of the country.

    Selections were based on location and reviews. All units were as described and pictured.

    We would use them again.

  20. I would say if you have enough points and/or cash, then an upper category hotel is hard to beat in terms of elegance and service. However, on our Europe vacation this past summer, renting an apartment just made more sense for us. We only stayed at one nice hotel..the Park Hyatt Venice. Nothing to complain about regarding amenities, service (concierge is excellent there!), and location. However, in Europe and most Asian countries, the occupancy limit is 3 persons/room. It was my husband, our 2 teens and I. We ended up having to book 2 rooms at the Park Hyatt Vienna. They weren’t connected so that was a huge bummer. Also, 2 rooms cost double the points. The apartments we stayed in were all great! I’ll reiterate what other travelers mention about feeling like a local. Most apartments are within walking distance to a market. It’s cool to shop for milk like you live there. Also a lifesaver was the washing machines in the apartments (I specifically look for this as we don’t like to overpack. Also teens somehow shed A LOT of dirty clothes on a daily basis). The apartments were also right smack in the city centers and cost a ton less than if we had to book a similar hotel (2 rooms remember?). The only downside to an apartment would be that there’s no concierge. Generally the owner can give you tips but it’s not the same as having a person whose job is dedicated to providing you with fun things to do all day (the concierge in Vienna even hooked us up with free tickets to museums, palaces, etc). But if you’re savvy at surfing travel sites, you can easily find your own itinerary. Overall, for our family of four, Airbnb (I actually used VRBO) worked out better for Europe due to the strict occupancy limits of 3 for most hotels.

  21. I have used VRBO several times. I have rented a condo in Key West old Navy Building which was stunning and had an amazing view. I have rented a compound in El Salvador with some friends that came with a caretaker (an entire family) who cooked all your meals, cleaned and made sure everything was safe. I have also done the same in Tulum. Each time, it was stunning, but it was with a group of people. I agree with Lucky that since I mostly travel alone or with just one person, it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. Airbnb seems even to use more personal than vacation homes on VRBO, and I am not sure I would enjoy it alone in a city I wasn’t familiar with.

  22. @ Imperator – It’s not just some atranger’s apartment. Many rentals are solely for rental use. The owner doesn’t live there. Quality all depends on the particular rental. If there’s something cringeworthy, it should show up in the reviews. That’s why I avoid newly listed properties.

  23. I’ve used both HomeAway and Airbnb a few times. They are fantastic for:

    1) Large groups that are going to a conference or event together, or to HOLD an event (family reunion, wedding, etc). I used HomeAway to reserve a lovely house (the whole house) which slept 17 along with several acres of gorgeous land in Southwest Austin. It was fully furnished, patios, pool, party barn, everything all to ourselves. We also did this for our wedding, and our wedding party got to stay with us the whole time.

    2) Making friends. A friend of mine went to Mexico City on Couchsurfing (basically airbnb for free) for 3 nights, and stayed in a room at an artists house. The whole place was amazing, colorful, and the host was also a bird fanatic so he had a separate atrium with his parrots that held quite an impression. He also showed him around the city and introduced him to other friends and he learned a little Spanish on the way. Most Airbnb hosts offer something like this, basically being a friendly host, and will oftentimes make breakfast or pick you up at the airport or give you pointers about what to see locally, etc. It depends on the locale and the host but sometimes you can get some great experiences from this sort of thing, and maybe some pen pals!

    3) Experience your destination “like the locals.” It can be a different experience – hotels try to cater to western whims and seem a bit “samey” if you aren’t choosing the best-of-the-best hotels. By staying in the neighborhood, you’ll see more of a day-to-day quiet life of your destination.

    4) Experience truly unique accommodations. There are more than just houses and apartments. At some destinations you might find: castles, tree houses, etc. I certainly have many on my wish list.

    Honestly, as long as you are smart enough to always choose Airbnbs that have lots of pictures, message the host, and where there’s lots of fantastic reviews, you probably will have a great time. You can modulate the experience as you wish (for a more private experience: choose “whole place”, or if you are okay with making friends you can choose “private room” or even “partial room” if you are adventurous and really looking for a cheap (or even free) stay.

    I like hotels too, mostly for my own sanity. If I’m going someplace and seeing tons of things around a city I want to ensure a “standard” experience that I can rely on when I get back and relax (big bathtub, relaxing shower, comfy bed, etc.) rather than something adventurous that might frustrate me.

  24. I love love love AirBnb and stayed in many properties around the world. I own several properties and list them on Airbnb and my tenants have been fabulous. There is still something to be said for staying in a nice hotel and it being “idiot proof”.

    Much of a positive experience in an AirBnb property depends on how great the owner/manager is. Even with positive reviews, things can come up. In a hotel even if things come up they can simply move you to another suite. Not always so easy in an AirBnb property.

    When I was young and single (like you Lucky), I preferred hotels. Now with 2 kids I almost always stay with rental properties from AirBnb, VRBO or Homeaway.

  25. Ahhh yes, you’ve finally discovered that posts about AirBnB are second only to posts about tipping when it comes to reader-to-commenter conversions 🙂 I’m sure we’ll see more of these soon!

    As a longtime guest and host, it’s pretty clear that there are two basic types of rooms: those offered by actual owners, and those that are being property-managed in some way. If you’re actually meeting the owner of the unit, it’s a great chance to make a local acquaintance and learn about some fun stuff you’d never hear about from a concierge. It’s also a good chance to grease the wheels for a good review by:
    – being communicative about your arrival/departure time.
    – asking what (if any) type of cleaning they want you to do. (often you can really save them a ton of time just by throwing that first load of bedding into the washer on your way out)
    – bringing them some little fun trinket from your home. (it’s easier to overlook a screw up by a guest who brought a gift)
    – making sure you can get onto the wifi and work the front doors of the building before you say your goodbyes

  26. Ive owned a vacation rental for 10 years, and though legally it is a B&B, I operate as a vacation rental because I make more.

    I have a family of 5, so when we travel, we almost always stay in vacation rentals. More space for the money and you can easily cook meals there.

    Also, you don’t “stay in an AIRBNB”, AIRBNB is just a service that advertises apartments or homes that can be rented for vacation. There are many other services, like Homeaway that advertise such homes. A vacation rental is a much better term.

  27. Last trip to London I met up with three friends and we rented a flat in Notting Hill. It was around $200/day, a one bedroom (but the living room had two sofas that each converted to flat beds) and was purely a rental; not someone’s flat with their stuff all around. We absolutely loved it. On the day of arrival I got there first and was looking out the window, waiting for my friends to arrive separately. I saw a small camera crew and three women set up in front of the building and start filming for about an hour, pointing, sometimes, right at my window. I didn’t know who they were but it was clear it was a professional shoot; they had a lighting set up, etc. Then my reality-TV-loving friend arrived and I ran down to let him in and he asked, “why are the Real Housewives of New York out there?”

    The episode that was being shot finally aired about 9 months after our trip; turns out one of the wives, (Carol?) used to own the unit that my friends and I ended up renting.

  28. We use airbnb quite regularly, and have stayed in places in Paris, London, Zurich, Rome, Florence, San Diego, Ubud, etc. Generally if the stay is more than a couple of days, it’s a far better value, especially given current hotel rates in bigger tourist areas. Also having a kitchen and washer/dryer makes it easy to travel light and not have to eat out every meal. Next week we have a beach front condo in San Diego for our family of five for about $250/night, and there’s a great studio in London I’ve stayed at a few times for under $200 per night in an area where hotels are double the price for half the room.

    I find most hotels to just not be that great, and find the average airbnb place to be better than the average hotel for the same price. That said, I don’t have status with any hotel chain as for work we always book based on proximity and value, so I never have enough stays at one chain, so I’m probably missing most of the perks.

  29. @Michael Rigney @Tiffany: as an alternative to black cabs and uber, you can also use a minicab service. There are many such companies and they use fairly decent cars and people movers and they will monitor your arrival time and wait for you at arrivals for free for up to 45 minutes. I paid £32 in April to transfer from Heathrow to Shepherd’s Bush in west London.

  30. Have to agree w imperator and Danny – ABB feels like crashing at your college roommate’s place while s/he’s gone – and u get to pay for the privilege. Nicer hotels provide the “new car feeling” that even the nicest ABBs don’t – u r still always looking at pre-owneds. Very OK pre-owneds, but they were always someone else’s first.

    However, I’m glad ABB exists as its a nice downward price pressure on crazy hotel prices to keep them in competitive check. So I encourage everyone to use ABB – I just will not be one of them …

  31. What pisses me off about airbnb is that there seems no way to arrange the listings after reviews. Aka best reviews first.

  32. Since Airbnb does not obtain permission from the condo association to operate short term rentals it is worrisome the legal status of the transaction. If the unit has building materials made with toxic chemicals, the previous occupants had a communicable disease, the neighbors are criminals or in a heated dispute with the owner or any legal trouble, who is responsible to pay for medical/legal costs?

  33. Like others have hinted at, the reason I now always choose airbnb for vacations is because I feel far better integrated into the fabric of the destination I’m visiting… though admittedly this might not be the case if your airbnb booking is an anonymous, glass and chrome-type apartment in a soulless, gentrified part of London’s Docklands!

    I associate hotel stays with a certain escapism from the world around me, a place you retreat back to at the end of the day. Sometimes, like when I’m travelling on business, that’s what I want. But it’s not what I’m looking for when I travel for pleasure, particularly to cities around the world.

    Yes, you do have to get over the fact that you’re staying in someone else’s private living space, and I would feel uncomfortable with the whole couch-surfing approach, but often this reality just enhances the sense of local immersion. Plus, if you book carefully, you often get the kind of info about local life from your hosts that not the even best hotel concierge or tripadvisor search can provide. Just my two penn’orth.

  34. I understand why a lot of people would totally dig an airbnb property, especially in a situation like Ben’s & Tiffany’s.

    But, for me, nothing beats the rarefied atmosphere of a fine hotel. I don’t want to feel like I’m at home when I’m traveling for fun. I want something far better, like having a staff to clean up after me. And having my dirty laundry taken away and then immaculately returned all wrapped in tissue paper within a wicker box. I love being addressed by name as I walk through a elegant lobby. And having a vodka martini at a swanky hotel bar. It can be quite a magically wonderful experience.

    Many people would be surprised as to how much local color and culture can be packed into a hotel bar. Last year, my partner & I ended up getting a bit sloshed at the Connaught Hotel’s bar in London with a local theater set designer and her friend, who was a flamenco dancer of some renown back in the 1960’s. We didn’t know them; they just happened to be seated at an adjacent table. A conversation started and we ended up having ourselves a delightful little party. That was a marvelous evening. And when it was time to call it a night, Tim and I just had to stagger up the Connaught’s oh-so-beautiful staircase to get to our room. Apparently word of our vodka-fueled escapade with Mesdames Set Designer and Flamenco Dancer reached the ear of our floor butler, who proactively arranged to have a “curative” breakfast sent to our room the following morning.

    OK…I’m sounding like a snob. Sorry. My work related travel is spartan drudgery and so I do tend to indulge on those rare occasions when I can travel for fun.

  35. I used VRBO.com for my apartment in sprague last year, and it was a good experience….$90 per night for a place that was in a perfect location.

  36. Like Paul said Airbnb is most times the best option, when you want to experience life as a local.

    Nothing like passing neighbors wishing you good morning and good evening in the language of the country you are visiting, or closing down a local restaurant with the chef and owner after conversation and drinks to the wee hours of the morning.

    Hotels are OK too, but more for those that are comfortable with the hotel providing your experience.

    That being said, having just returned from a stay in Kensington, London – hotels were the cheaper option by 50% after using hotel points.

  37. I wonder which bank will be issuing the Airbnb reward credit card? 😛

    Stayed in Airbnb for the first time last month in Cannes, and really enjoyed it. There are some unique eye watering properties on AirBnb (lighthouse, treehouse, medieval bell tower, windmill, entire French Chateau & Tuscan Villa , etc) that you won’t be able to have through traditional hotel chains. Some of the unique properties that look like cover of Architecture Digest are definitely one more reason to stay in an Airbnb property.

  38. I stayed in an airbnb in Sydney in March. The owner wasn’t there and when I told him (over the phone) that there weren’t enough towels for my friend and me he told me that he was following the standard for rentals in Sydney. The place was a fire trap which I put in my review. The owner’s idea of safety was to have every window on the ground floor nailed shut. The back door led to a garden with a gate that was almost impossible to open. Unfortunately, these details don’t show up on the airbnb reviews. The site, which wants to be able to rent apartments and homes, asks very specific question which makes it difficult to get your point across if you have a complaint. I wouldn’t say I would never rent from airbnb again but it really taught me a lesson. You have to ask very specific questions about what to expect. Ask how many towels you will be allowed. Ask if the owner or a representative will be there. Ask about fire safety. Etc., etc., etc.

  39. “yes its a referral, so it will probably be removed”

    Hey, if Lucky can benefit, so should you…

  40. I see value in both and depending on the situation choose one or the other. For longer stays of more than say 5 days I heavily prefer air bnb. For shorter stays and especially where I don’t have time to do a lot of research/planning I prefer a nice hotel with a good concierge that can Really point me in the right directions.

  41. I’m a habitual hotel-user (always Starwood as my go to when travelling solo as I have elite status but there are occasionally boutique hotels here & there when traveling with my partner) & so have become accustomed to the style & idiosyncrasies of hotels when travelling. I decided to exit my comfort zone for once & tried AirBNB when I was in Manhattan for several days last time (2014). The place wasn’t cheap but was still far less than a hotel (not difficult in Manhattan, but still), had a great location for me (14th & Seventh – I am NOT a midtown kinda guy), a fantastic/friendly owner who simply could not have been more accommodating if he’d tried, & was a perfectly-sized, funky one-bedder. What’s to complain about?

    That said, despite my great experience, it still made me highly nervous before, during and after, particularly after having read practically all of the AirBNB horror stories as they came up in the media. I tried it once but just don’t feel comfortable enough with it to do it again, though of course this was absolutely no reflection on my ‘host’ or property. Much like I cannot quite feel comfortable enough to try (much less regularly use) Uber, I just don’t think AirBNB is really for me. I almost feel that I need the faceless corporate behemoth in the background to make sure that, if there’s a major (or even minor) stuff-up, I can claim recompense in a more defined manner. Also, quite sadly on my behalf, where’s the fun if there isn’t points redemption or earning occurring? *giggle*

    Maybe the world is divided into hotel people and AirBNB people – we all just have to get along!

  42. I’ve stayed in multiple AirBnBs and have had good luck with them. Just like hotels, it pays to do your research, especially with AirBnB. There’s no corporate standards in play here and you’ve got little recourse if things go pear shaped. I’m still about 80%-100% hotels these days, depending on work schedule. I prefer to use AirBnB for longer stays.

    I love the residential feel of AirBNB properties, which usually are in residential areas, so you get to live like a local. I like to cook, so having a kitchen is something I look for. Price-wise, they’re usually a bargain, but you do notice where the extra money for a full service hotel goes — service. With AirBNB, here’s your key, you’re on your own. It doesn’t bother me as that’s what I expect at these locations, but it is a marked difference if you’re used to staying at full service properties.

    Now… I’ve been wondering why some of the hotel chains haven’t gotten into this. I’m sure they could make something like this work, with brand standards/procedures to ensure a great stay every time.

  43. So, did this host allow you to post intimate photos of his space? Where’s the photos of his driver’s license and the obligatory medicine cabinet photo?

  44. You would have needed three hotel rooms but rented a place with two bedrooms instead. Creative logic to justify the price ?

  45. Completely depends on the hotel market in the area you’re in and what type of travel you’re doing. I used airbnb for the first time when I was in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil by myself. In that city, there’s a dated Sheraton, and a bunch of 2 and 3 star hotels, but plenty of very attractive airbnb condos. I was interested in meeting people and living like a local – I can’t recommend airbnb enough if this is what you’re into. I probably stayed at the nicest condo in the entire city, then moved onto a more modest apartment owned by an absolutely amazing host. Both places were exactly as described. At the end of my trip I stayed in my 3rd airbnb in Ipanema in Rio and had the same level of satisfaction. If you’re traveling solo or in large groups, want to meet people, or the hotel choices are overpriced or lackluster – airbnb is a great alternative.

  46. absolutely love the airbnb option when traveling with my large family or extended family where many times we are able to snag a great deal on a luxury place with lots of big, common areas. this way we can retreat to our own room whenever yet gather communally in a great room or sometimes in a nice yard.
    i’m a lover of luxury accommodations thus spend hours searching for just the right airbnb. sometimes (most times) we hit the jackpot but on several occasions the place was not quite as represented or not at all what we expected. the only risk i’ve found is to get somewhere and a) find the place is in a substandard location (you have to study the locale before committing) and/or b) if i don’t like the place i’m pretty much stuck there through the entire duration (i know of some who’ve been given a refund do to egregious misrepresentation). in most cases owners are strict with cancellations or modifications.
    on a side note, sorta fun to checkout other people’s digs and get to know people this way.
    so, a bit of a crap shoot but i’m willing to take my chances under certain circumstances.

  47. Just stay 3 nights in a 2 bdrm cottage on a horse farm in Kentucky that I found on AirBnB. It was great!

  48. I have personally never stayed at an airbnb but I have a friend who mostly only stays at airbnbs, couchsurfing, or hostels. Mostly it has been ok to positive experience, but there have been some really negative ones. Most recently, they used an airbnb for a place in New York. It was a spare room in an apartment with two other people, and the apartment had bed bugs — lots of bed bugs. My friend brought this to the attention of the owners and instead of fumigating, all they did was just say “we will clean the place again”. That does not get rid of bed bugs. It was a big mess. Like I said, my friend has stayed at many airbnbs and they range from ok to great; but with some stories like this I am a bit hesitant to try them

  49. @Michael – pretty sure most of the photos taken by Lucky would be included in the airbnb listing by the owner so no invasion of privacy there.

    Another great site for Europe is sawdays.co.uk … The only problem I’ve had with airbnb is booking too far in advance (10 months) and having bookings cancelled. You can take the time to look for properties that are rentals only which makes cancellations less likely. And given the amount of time we spend looking for cheap/points flights, it’s really no different.

  50. If one’s idea of travel is international brand standards and a high level of personal service then rentals are probably not for you. If you’re more interested in experiencing the locale, if you’re traveling for an extended period of time, if you have a large group or children, if you have a budget that you have to hew to, and if you want access to local food markets then rentals make a lot of sense.

    We rent out a dedicated two bedroom (plus pullout sofa) unit in Manhattan. We list on Home Away (same ownership as VRBO) which is a slightly tonier service — no shared apartments. Most of our guests would likely not be able to afford a visit to New York were it not for a service like this.

  51. I’m a bummy but low maintenance 20something that still wants to see the world on a tight budget so Im pretty experienced in airbnb. Full disclosure: never stayed a nice hotel when I wasn’t with my parents. Anyway, I’ve only had good experiences with airbnb (never heard a horror story but some friends have had harder times than myself), most hosts try to stay out of your way and that’s perfectly fine. Recently tho I visited Tokyo for the first time ever and was staying a bit out of the city center at a young guy’s pad who had phenomenal reviews. 3 bedroom place, rents out 2 of the rooms, small but great space. He was not the kind of host who totally kept to himself… not to say he was intrusive just always around and willing to chat and hangout. I ended up having the best time with him and his roommate. After I expressed an interest we had dinner at terrific local spots I’d never be able to find much less order at, partied on our own and went out with his friends etc etc. The hangover(s) was worth it, ha. A huge part of what made my trip to Tokyo so beautiful and memorable was that I got to have some real Japanese experiences hanging out with locals that happened to be my age and share my interests. This is just not something I could ever get in a hotel. 20 bucks a night as well, can’t beat that. I love the idea of staying in a home either way, I’m always crashing with friends and always letting them crash with me — I guess my idea of comfort isn’t necessary luxury.

  52. Having 2 boys, my wife and I have found ourselves using airbnb for many years now. The accommodations have been 5 star. From Italy to Spain to the East Coast of the U.S., including NYC, Vermont, Boston…and soon Charleston and Savannah, GA. Traveling alone, or as a couple…possibly a nice hotel, but what you get with airbnb…is fantastic. The price and room. Especially when you have an amazing kitchen.

  53. I am pretty new to the points and miles game, but I have used AirBnB for years and love it. I typically use if if my husband and I travel anywhere for more than 3 nights. Like any hotel, you have to look at the location, pictures, and reviews, but there are some amazing properties to be found. So yes, you may find a place that has bedbugs or is dirty, but you can find the same in hotels (even luxury hotels in Manhattan have incidents of bedbugs).

    Some great experiences with AirBnB:

    -We stayed at an apartment in San Diego’s Little Italy; on Saturday, we only had to walk outside the door to get to the amazing farmer’s market. It included a free parking space.
    -In San Francisco, we stayed at an amazing place in the Castro that was beautifully decorated. It had a deep jetted tub and a beautiful tea garden, and is still the most luxurious rental I have ever been in (hotel or otherwise).
    -In Paris, we avoided being identified as tourists by staying in the Marais neighborhood. We went two doors down to a boulangerie (bakery) for fresh baguette and croissants every morning.

    In each of these instances, we could explore local markets, prepare some meals ourselves, and meet locals in their own neighborhood. We had a coffee maker (and coffee) in each rental (sometimes a nice espresso maker), and sometimes our hosts left us some goodies like wine, beer, yogurt, chips, etc. While hosts are not required to give you food or hygiene products, the ones with higher quality listings usually do. I believe they are required to provide sheets, towels, and toilet paper. Good hosts will also point out local sights and restaurants, and probably don’t get a kickback for doing so.

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