I’m not a high maintenance traveller. I like basic things when I travel: a comfortable place to sleep, preferably a flush toilet (I don’t think that’s asking a lot) and some way to connect to the internet (I do run an online business).
When I do splurge on accommodation, I appreciate extras like a coffee machine and a few options for comfy pillows. And, when staying a while, I look for a washing machine and a nice kitchen to make “home-cooked” meals.
Not expensive things, just basic needs really. (O.K. the coffee machine is a stretch on basic needs, but if you’ve a coffee lover, you will get that point.)
Over the last year, I’ve discovered AirBnb. It seems that Airbnb are kicking ass when it comes to providing travellers what they need – and want. Hotels, on the other hand, seem to be charging you extra for even the basics.
I was a little hesitant at using Airbnb at first. I wasn’t sure at what to expect.
I had questions:
Do you stay with other people?
Do they move out while you stay in their home?
Are you living in someone’s house or, is it like an investment property where they rent it out like they normally would a rental property?
We’ve tried numerous Airbnb properties now and every one of them is different.
Thankfully, you can specify on the AirBnb site as to whether you want to rent a room or the entire property. We always chose the latter. We’ve learned most people have investment properties or rent out their properties when they aren’t in use. Sometimes, they offer ‘granny flats’ or ‘guest houses’ that are separate additions to their private homes.
There was only one place we stayed in which the owners moved down the hill to a caravan on their property, giving us full access to the house they actually live in. It was a bit weird, I will admit, but it certainly gave us that first hand ‘this is how they really live’ experience.
Hotels on the other hand are a stand-alone business.
Usually it’s a room offering the basic bed, a bathroom plus some amenities like shampoo/body wash, tea & coffee making supplies and onsite facilities. Some offer self-catering options, like one we stayed in Canberra while on a campus tour, or such as the one on our recent trip to Cairns.
I am quickly realising that I much prefer the Airbnb option over hotels.
- Airbnb is cheaper.
I was pleasantly surprised by this. When researching for our (re) Discover Australia 10-month road trip, we planned on staying in Holiday Park cabins/villas and hotels when we weren’t camping or housesitting.
After comparing the costs, we found the cabins/villas to average between $100-$125/night. When digging deeper, we found Airbnb offers a lot more amenities for about one third of the cost, sometimes more. In fact, in some areas, we found it to be half the cost.
Airbnb stays offer more conveniences for long term travellers too, like washing machines and dryers. Fully equipped kitchens are the norm, with utensils and an assortment of oils and spices supplied. Most even offer a pod capsule coffee maker with a generous variety of capsules to choose from. For maximum convenience (and yummy popcorn), a full size microwave is available. (sold!)
- There are no hidden costs.
When booking through the Airbnb site, you see exactly what you are getting. There are no hidden extras. It still shocks me when I book a hotel that “offers Wi-Fi” only to arrive and learn that while Wi-Fi is available, you must pay $25/day or $10/hour to access.
Or, like when we splurged to stay in a ‘resort’ in Cairns, the apartment had a cheap coffee machine, but no coffee pods. They included 2 packs of instant coffee (yuck), or we could purchase the pods at $1/pod from the office. We planned on getting our supplies at the local grocery store anyway.
The toilet paper policy really blew me away. We were provided one extra roll of toilet paper for more than a week’s stay! If you run out, it’s $1/roll from the office. Seriously?!
- Communication with the host is easy.
There have been times when I’ve enquired prior to booking with a question and almost always get a response within an hour or so. Any time I’ve done that with a hotel, the inquiry goes into some black hole. I’m lucky to hear a response at all, and if I do, it’s usually 24-48 hours later.
- You’re immersed into a neighbourhood.
This is a feature I really like and appreciate. As a traveller, I like to see what a location is about. I want to absorb the culture. I love seeing how people really live. I am not a tourist. I don’t like being put into a bubble.
I found this particularly true in Rome. At the beginning of our trip, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment. It was part of an apartment building, where you could hear people playing their pianos in the afternoon. You smelled the delicious meals being prepared around dinner. You saw people coming and going, having conversations with their neighbours in the halls. People stopped and chatted with us at the front mailbox, offering suggestions on local restaurants or ways to navigate the streets. When we did go to local restaurants, we dined amongst the locals.
We ended our trip in a hotel. While quite luxurious, I felt as if I was in a tourist bubble. The hotel and restaurant were obviously in ‘cahoots’ with each other (no surprise there). We sat amongst other tourists who were, without a doubt, given recommendations from their hotels as well. When we ate the next morning in the hotel breakfast area, we were amongst other tourists who generally spoke amongst themselves, planned their day and moved on. You were lucky to have a conversation over the scrambled eggs with another traveller. Mostly, the depth of conversation ran to ‘thank you’ when they handed you the serving spoon.
The drawback with Airbnb is that you generally pay up front.
Most Airbnb accommodations do have a generous cancellation policy but you do eat the service fee if you need to cancel. Only once have I had to change a booking (from two days to one) and while the change was easy to make, I had to pay the Airbnb service fee of $13 to do so. Given the situation, I was fine to do that at the time.
Most hotels now have a similar set up.
With hotels, most times you pay a deposit which you lose should you cancel. Booking through a service like Booking.com, which I use all the time when using hotels, doesn’t require a deposit but a credit card to hold the reservation. You pay upon your stay. That’s not always the case but I make a point to book hotels that way.
Times are changing. Airbnb really have put up a solid opposition for the hotel industry.
Hotels need to go above and beyond to lure people in to keep the business running. Guests like their comforts. They want value for their money. They certainly don’t want to be surprised at hidden costs!
After staying in Airbnb properties around the world, I am a convert. Dodgy advertising has clouded the experience after my last few hotel stays. Hotels have lost their appeal to me.
Unless I find a great deal, or have a great experience that I’d like to repeat (like the personal attention offered in our Florence hotel with a great breakfast offering and a convenient place to base ourselves), I will now opt for an Airbnb every time I can.
We always say that we won’t recommend something unless we’ve tried it ourselves. After using Airbnb’s service now on several occasions, it’s a service we recommend wholeheartedly.
If you want to learn how to sign up and use Airbnb for the first time, click here.