Airbnb is the site I use to arrange lodging for the vast majority of my nights on the road. Whether I am coming to a city for four days or four months, it is the first place I look because:
- Apartments have better amenities than hotels (kitchens, multiple bedrooms)
- Apartments have better locations than hotels (residential areas and nightlife areas instead of business districts)
- Apartments are cheaper than hotels
- There are so many more pet-friendly options on Airbnb vs hotels
When I was living in Europe last, Airbnb was just starting out and wasn’t nearly as widespread as it is now, so paying 40$ for a room to split between 2-3 people while travelling with friends was the cheapest option, comparable to getting a bed in a dorm. Nowadays, there are tons of options in most touristy spots of Europe where for around $40 a night, all of which come with the amenities listed above.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a website you can use to “rent unique places to stay from local hosts in 190+ countries.” The offerings range from houses and luxury apartments to a room in someone’s apartment to interesting accommodations like a houseboat or igloo.
Some hosts are professional landlords who put up several properties on Airbnb and make a full time job out of it, and some are people who rent extra space in one property. Some do it because they love to meet fellow travellers and earn money on the side, others because they prefer to generate income on their vacation properties. Either way, you win!
How to Search Airbnb
Start on Airbnb and input your city, dates, and number of guests.
You’ll immediately be given results, but I like to refine my search quite a bit before checking them out. The first thing I edit is “Room Type.” The three categories are pretty self-explanatory. I’ve stayed in a Private Room in when it was cost effective and/or was in a fantastic location and I knew I’d be out exploring most of the day, but I generally prefer to spend a tiny bit more and go for the “Entire Place” for maximum privacy, access to a kitchen and shower at any time, and most importantly, when travelling with pets.
Next is price. usually set the maximum price very low, depending where you are: North America is reasonable at $40-$50/night, while for Eastern Europe feel free to set a max to $25. Go ahead and see the cheapest options first, if none suit you, increase the price range to what you feel comfortable with, while keeping in mind there might be a small cleaning charge and roughly a 10% booking fee.
Under “Price Range,” click “More Filters” to refine your search further. I set the filters to my need for the booking (usually just the number of beds and wi-fi), but I ignore neighborhood. Instead, I select my neighborhood on the map to the right of the filters.
On the map, make sure “Search When I Move the Map” is checked. Now, you can move and zoom the map, and only properties on the current map will show up in results.This is by far the best feature, as you can visually see how the rental rates differ with distance to the city center/popular neighborhoods/train station.
After setting my filters and map, I finally look at my results. Along the top, you can see how many properties met your filters and map. On the actual results, you can click on a property for more information. If there is a lightning bolt next to the price, it means you can book the property right now online, without waiting to hear back from the host. If there isn’t, it means you have to request to book the property and have your request approved by the host. This usually only takes a few hours, but if you are booking at the very last minute, be mindful of the difference.
On a property page, I scour the pictures and written description. The written description is especially crucial if you selected “Private Room” or “Shared Room.” If you are sharing space with the host, you need to know what the rules are and what you can expect from the place and the level of interaction that is likely to happen.
After reading the description, I head to the bottom and check out the reviews from previous guests. (Only people who actually booked the property can review it, which eliminates the possibility of fake or dishonest reviews). I check out the averages of the ratings, and then I read the actual reviews to see if the complaints are important to me. Once I have my ideal property picked out, I book it or, more likely on longer stays, I contact the host from the listing page and ask for a discount.
Airbnb is the only way I’d managed to travel all over Europe in 2016 for 6 months and still stay under $30/night on average for pet-friendly rooms with 2 separate beds and full kitchens (right now I am paying 10$/night for 1-br condo in Bulgaria). It is simply the only system that allows great flexibility, direct interaction with the owner, ability to negotiate, all while knowing your money and transaction is protected by the Airbnb guarantee.
So while I have plenty of Hilton and IHG points, when I am travelling long-term (anything longer than a week), I choose Airbnb. On average, I save over 90% of my nights. You just can’t beat the price, and you get to pick a place with the amenities and location you want.
If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, you really should test it out. Right now, if you sign up for through my referral link, you’ll get $35 off your first stay, and I’ll get $20 towards my next stay. So if you appreciate all the hard work I put into this site to provide all kinds of travel and money saving tips, it’s a small “thank you” that is much appreciated.