For our trip to Europe, we had a lot of decisions to make – such as where to visit, how to get there, and so on. One of the bigger decisions was deciding where to stay. Rather than go with hotels, hostels, or camping, we decided to try something completely new to us – AirBnB.
AirBnB is quite simple – you’re traveling and need a place to stay, but you don’t want to stay in a hotel. Individuals list their apartments, private rooms, or couches on the site and you can browse the listings to find what suits your needs.
Another way I’d explain the concept of AirBnB is to utilize the idea of home-swapping – where you and someone at your destination swap living spaces for a set period of time. The difference, however, is that a full home swap isn’t necessary. The video clip below from the movie “The Holiday” gives a fun (yet not entirely realistic) example of the home-swap concept. Obviously, for more specific information about how AirBnB works, check out the AirBnb website.
There are a lot of really fantastic places listed on AirBnB by some rather fantastic people. On the flip side, there are also a lot of…well…not so great listings as well. As mentioned prior, listings on the site are for 1) entire apartments, 2) a private room, or 3) a couch to crash on. When it came time for Tammi and I to decide on where to stay – seeking out apartments, mind you – we looked primarily at the following as our deciding criteria:
Pictures / Description – “You only get one chance to make a first impression” and the first thing one sees when searching through the listings are photos. What does the place look like? Is this a place in which we would feel comfortable actually living for an extended period of time? Is it welcoming or does it make us cringe? Are there multiple photos or is it a one photo and floor plan? Additionally, there should be a decent description of the property. Does the description match the photos? What is the neighborhood like?
We really weren’t super picky here, but we did have three non-negotiables that needed to be met in order for a listing to move forward.
- Washer – Backpacking our way through this trip means packing as minimalists. No dryer is fine – clothes can air dry after a wash. No washer, though, could smell…er, spell, disaster.
- WiFi – Tammi was just offered a new position prior to our departure from the states, so she needs to be able to keep in touch – especially with her school year starting quickly upon our return. Additionally, I’m still searching for a new position myself (higher ed, non-profits, etc). So yes, we should be disconnected for this trip, but it just wasn’t feasible. However, we’ve managed to keep our online time to late evenings and travel days, allowing us to really enjoy our trip to the fullest. Another plus of having access to wifi in the apartments? It has made uploading photos to our Dropbox backup much easier!
- Bed Size – Honeymoon jokes aside, we wanted beds that we could both easily sleep in without a fear of 1) smothering the other or 2) falling out on to the floor because of a tiny little bed.
Distance from Public Transport – Our travel through Europe is via train, so we needed to find listings that are close enough to public transport to make our trip a little easier. We’ve defined public transport, in most cases, as a metro line (subway). In other cases – such as our stops in Amsterdam & Munich – it was more a question of how far the apartment is from the central train station.
Overall Cost – We could have easily stayed in nice hotels the entire trip. However, by using AirBnB, we actually ended up SAVING money. I’m not going to go into great detail on the particulars, but know that on average, we saved probably close to $50-100/location by avoiding hotels. Plus, this gave us the added bonus of actually living like locals for a few days.
…and finally, Reviews – It should come as no surprise that we looked for places with positive reviews. We wanted to stay in places where people had positive experiences and had great things to say. No reviews at all? Thanks, but no thanks.
Our Experience (so far)
We’re still on our trip – currently on the train from Berlin to Munich – and thus far our experience has been great. Our hosts have been fantastic about responding quickly to our messages and, in some cases, have been good about checking in with us in advance of our arrival. A few of our hosts have even surprised us with a bottle of bubbly in the fridge – their way of congratulating us on our marriage!
Your AirBnB experience might differ from ours, and that’s okay. We’ve enjoyed it and would recommend giving it a shot – even if you just use it for a weekend getaway in the states.
Until next time…