My Crush on AirBnB
NOTE: Before I begin I would like to make it clear that we do not currently have a working relationship with AirBnb, nor are we receiving anything in exchange for this post. This is nothing more than an expression of my school girl crush on AirBnB and the wonderful housing options they provide. However, if someone from AirBnB is reading this we would LOVE to work with you.
One of the downsides to long-term travel is the feeling of never really being ‘home’. While the constant movement and changes of scenery definitely play a huge part in that, our living arrangements compound the feeling. Living out of a suitcase is hard enough, but squeezing two of us and our two bags into a tiny room, that offers little space to unpack, exaggerates the frustrations that exist from living out of a backpack for an indefinite amount of time.
So whenever we get the chance, and it doesn’t break our budget, we always opt to stay in an AirBnB property over a backpackers or hotel. Whether it’s a rental of a private room or an entire apartment/house, there is something transformative about staying in a home. There are pros and cons to the private room vs. entire home listings and we tend to allow a variety of factors to help us decide which route we will choose.
Factor #1 – Cost
In some cities, like Casablanca, we didn’t really have the option to rent a place to ourselves. With an all-in budget of $85/day we couldn’t afford any of the private listings. We still ended up going over-budget but when we weighed all of the factors (location, privacy, reviews, etc) the apartment we went with was a perfect fit for us. In other cities like Essaouira, where we are now, we were able to find more affordable private options so went with an amazing apartment that we had all to ourselves.
In most cities you can find ‘private room’ listing for about 30-40% of the budget hotel chains and ‘entire home’ listings for about 10-15% less, sometimes more. Even in cities where the listings are about the same price as the hotels we often choose to still use AirBnB since we can save money in other ways (home cooked meals, free laundry, etc).
Factor #2 – Comfort and Culture Shock
In locations where we are unsure of how safe we will feel or how extreme the culture shock will be we LOVE to book a room in a home. Even if a private home is affordable we prefer the shared accommodations since it gives us an opportunity to take advantage of a local expert while still having the privacy of our own room. In most cases we have a key to our room and a private (if not ensuite) bathroom, as well as access to the kitchen and main living areas of the home.
While to some people a hotel room may seem more secure and they prefer to rely on the guidance of front desk personnel, we always feel safer in someone’s home. We typically like the feel of residential neighborhoods and appreciate being able to escape the hustle and bustle of the ‘tourist’ areas. Here in Morocco the Medinas are great, but it’s nice to be able to visit them during the day and then enjoy the peace and quiet of our neighborhood at night (not to mention the ability to get far away from the speakers of the Minarets). Plus being in a neighborhood you have access to local markets and restaurants which are huge helps to keeping the daily budget in check.
Also, in cities like Johannesburg (our next destination), where the dangerous reputation precedes itself, it’s nice to know we will be staying with locals who can give us tips on where to go/not go as well as insider scoop on fun things happening around town. Hotel staff can provide tourist brochures but they’ll rarely invite you out to dinner with them and their friends.
Factor #3 – Our Mood
One of the most important things we consider when deciding between private and shared listings is our mood. We are much more likely to choose a private room if we plan to be out and about, exploring the city and spending long days wandering around. However, if we are in the mood for a relaxing visit with late mornings, lazy afternoons and lots of book reading (like this week) we will choose a private listing. While all of our hosts have been wonderful it’s sometimes awkward to be a lazy homebody in someone else’s home. I’m sure no one would mind, but I would feel like they were thinking to themselves ‘they came all this way and all they’re doing is sitting around blogging and reading’.
Reviews often come into play in this case as well. If all things are pretty much equal and both options fit into our budget comfortably, but one listing’s reviews blow the others out of the water we will most likely let that help steer our decision. Even if that means picking a shared listing in a place where we would typically elect to stay on our own.
I ♥ AirBnB
As long-time users of the site we really couldn’t be bigger fans and encourage you to give it a try! Plus it isn’t just for long-term travelers. When we were deciding whether or not to move to San Diego we were able to use AirBnB to stay in an apartment in our desired neighborhood to get a feel for what it would really be like to live there. We were able to visit the local farmers market, experience the neighborhood at all times of day and avoid the ‘tourist experience’ that often provides a misleading impression of a city’s true feel.
Plus when it was time to get ready for our ‘Around the World’ trip and we needed a furnished place to stay between the end of our lease and the beginning of our trip we were able to find an amazing (and affordable) place right up the street and avoid the high month-to-month leases available through management offices!
We also used AirBnB while visiting Paris on our honeymoon. It allowed us to stay in an apartment that was a 10 minute walk to Norte Dame for less than $90/night, which is a steal in that district! Plus we got to pretend to be locals and visit the produce markets and try our hand at some home-cooked French meals.
Here are some of the places we’ve stayed:
- Johanseburg, South Africa – Private Room (Upcoming trip, cant wait!)
- Essaouira, Morocco – Private Apartment (which we LOVE!!)
- Casablanca, Morocco – Private Room (this family was amazing!)
- San Diego, CA – Private House (weekend trip @beach, you can be a tourist in your own city)
- Paris, France – Private Apartment (Our Honeymoon Getaway)
NOTE: AirBnB has also recently added a ‘Neighborhood Guide’ feature for most of the major cities around the world. They are adding more every day and it’s a really great tool to get the feel for the different areas of town and help you figure out where you want to stay. They also have incorporated disaster relief into their site and encourage locals to list free places for displaced neighbors. Keep up the great work guys!