AirBnB is a gift to the modern traveler, especially if said traveler is on a budget. This is a system that allowed people the opportunity to stay somewhere in their chosen destination, and not only afford it, but really get a feel for the place they are staying. AirBnB’s current tag line is, don’t stay somewhere, live somewhere. I must say, they have hit the nail on the head.
How it works: When you (the guest) log on to AirBnB you can search for places to stay in your chosen destination. On my recent trip to San Francisco I just typed in the city and searched by neighborhood and by price. You can set these filters so that AirBnB knows not to suggest locales in places you don’t wan to be. It also won’t suggest a huge mansion for $$$ when you only wanted a room or a bed for $.
AirBnB is unique compared to other sites like CouchSurfing because you can chose to stay somewhere where you have the whole house (in which case the ‘hosts’ would be out of town or something) to yourself, or just a private room. I chose to stay on a futon in the common room at my SF AirBnB because it was the cheapest option. This means that the hosts had set up a bed in the living room/kitchen with some curtains strung across the room by my bed. I could close the curtains at night for privacy, but left them open during the day since it was a common space. The set up worked beautifully.
Once you have decided what kind of accommodation you want and how much to spend you can scroll through listings. Good AirBnB hosts post lots of photos and tons of great reviews. I stick to places that have about 100 or more positive reviews (make sure the reviews are written by real people with real profiles!). Honestly, there is so much to choose from you can be picky on this site. Now that you have found your place, you submit a request to stay. The host can choose whether or no to accept you. It’s helpful to send them a message telling them about yourself and your upcoming trip. They typically will respond quickly and share something about themselves too! Once they accept you your payment will go through (in most cases you can cancel your stay with minimal penalties if need be) and you will receive instruction from your host on how to get to their place, how to unlock doors, etc. They usually also provide recommendations for places to eat and drink in the neighborhood, so pay attention to those tips!
Some hosts even go so far as to offer transportation to or from the airport or train station. None of the places I have stayed at have actually had my host their at the time, whether because they were out of town or because they didn’t actual live there (think an AirBnB version of a hostel). I was surprised and delighted to meet fellow travelers at my SF stay. I’m introverted, so normally I would expect other strangers in a strange house to equal Awkward City for me, but in fact, it was just an easy way to make friends. A couple I met on the first night (if you read my earlier SF blog posts you will read about them!) actually became good friends and I was sorry to see them continue on to their next destination. The other travelers who came and went were friendly and somewhat more reserved. One person obviously had a late night because there was puke in the sink in the morning. Thank goodness for two bathrooms! At the end of my stay I left behind half a bottle of red wine and an uneaten sandwich for anyone who wanted it. That is part of the glorious nature of this system: if you are here you are part of a community of travelers. Everyone is looking for a comfortable place to put up their feet at the end of the day. If you’re lucky you will get to share stories and count them as friends. Who knows, maybe you will bump into them again somewhere down the line in some far off place?
Here is their snazzy ad!