Airbnb is very new, and we’re all still getting up to speed. What started in 2008 with a few guys charging a few bucks for air mattresses on the floors of their San Francisco apartments has grown to more than 34,000 listings in 190 countries and a total of 25 million customers so far. Rentals now include entire apartments, houses, even castles, as well as rooms in private homes. Part of the appeal is the cost savings; in Oxford, Rich and I paid £80 ($93) for the attic suite with private bath and breakfast, far less than the price of nearby hotels. After we’d settled in, our host grabbed a flashlight and walked us through the rain to a favorite pub, regaling us with bits of neighborhood history along the way. You don’t get that kind of service at the Holiday Inn!
If you’re thinking of giving them a try, start by downloading Airbnb's free app. You can book from the website, but the app offers navigational conveniences and makes you a part of the online community. You and your hosts can learn a little about each other in advance and post evaluations of one another afterwards. This goes a long way toward ensuring decent behavior on all sides.
Check out the photos, descriptions, and reviews carefully, and pay close attention to what isn’t specified. Does it mention heat or air conditioning? Is there a photo of the bathroom? There nearly always is, so if it’s omitted, that could be a red flag. Are there pets in the house? I like cats and knew one came with our Munich apartment, but I was unnerved by the cranky animal glowering at me every second. Guests tend to be generous in their comments, so read between the lines and take “It was OK” as a criticism. One review said, “I loved this place so much that I didn’t even mind stepping over the homeless guy in the stairwell at night.” We took that one off our Wish List in a hurry!
Airbnb is leading a new wave of informal rentals that includes Roomorama and Wimdu, budget-conscious communities such as Couchsurfing and Warmshowers, and rustic, romantic getaways from Glamping Hub. The range of accommodations is dazzling, and the right choice can enhance your stay with small, offbeat pleasures.
In Oxford, for instance, our bathroom's hot water had to be actively managed via a unique system involving a dial and pull cord. Just washing my hands provided a challenge to memory, brain function, and eye-hand coordination, adding a touch of adventure to an otherwise mundane task. And isn’t that what travel is all about?
All products and services referred to in this post are included solely because I believe you might find them interesting and useful in planning your own adventures. Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I do not accept sponsorships of any kind.
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