August 22, 2017

Adventures With Air BnB

Working by the fire…

Wow.

Let me tell you about our latest addiction. As long time fans of this weekly column know, we’re long time travelers. We’ve stayed in many a hostel and hotel of various configurations, and we’ve always thought that there should be another niche, something between a weekend hotel and a full on rental.

And darned if Air BnB didn’t hear the collective cries of indie travelers everywhere. We’ve stayed in six Air BnBs to date (three in the United States and three in Europe) and we’re hooked. How is it that we didn’t come up with this?

Of course, like most things internet based, Air BnB looked like a less than stellar idea from the outset. Sure, letting complete strangers into your home might sound unappealing, and several couch surfing sites failed at early attempts along the same lines.

I believe that Air BnB succeeded where others failed for a few reasons. First, it directly connects folks looking for a bed with those with space to spare; second, it appeals to that secret yearning many have to start a bed and breakfast, though it lowers the entry level effort.

Of course, we were skeptical. We first looked at Air BnB as an option during a long term stay in Cheyenne, Wyoming back in 2014… we were a bit dismayed then, as prices offered were more in the holiday range of over 100$ USD per night… hardly worth the effort.

We’re glad we gave Air BnB a second chance in 2016. Maybe it was just the change of venue, but more users seem to ‘get it,’ now, and offer commercially viable prices for users looking for a decent stay on a budget.

What we like: the ability to filter and search for essentials such as wifi, laundry on premises, etc. We’ve turned around and walked out on hotels and hostels that weren’t a good fit—and often came highly recommended—but have yet to find an Air BnB that wasn’t as advertized. Air BnB lets you live like a local, and get in on those stays that were inaccessible to a short-term traveler before.

What we’d like to see: is for Air BnB provide more incentive for heavy users… perhaps a discount?

What we’ve learned: Read those descriptions and house rules carefully. Look a ways out if possible, as the popular places are often booked just days prior. Plus, many places drop their prices by as much as 50-70% per night for long term stays. And you can filter by host language, handy for international stays. And the map feature is probably the handiest, allowing new potential Air BnBs to popup as you pan around.

And hosts: make sure you fill out your entire profile, and presentation is everything. Look at your posting through the eyes of someone that has just landed on your page… does it look like an appealing home? Clutter, boxes, or a weedy front yard are all turnoffs, and true things we’ve seen for header images. Likewise, strict cancellation policies, gruff remarks in the house rules (“this ain’t Howard Johnson’s”) and the renting out of the derelict trailer in the driveway for a buck are all red flags. And above all, be clear about the ‘who, what, where, when’s’ for initial entry!

What we look for: Functional wifi (because wifi, a non-negotiable must), laundry (at least a washer), kitchen, and free parking. And yes, we search the comments to see what folks have said, especially about the wifi.

Overall, we’ve had an extremely positive experience with Air BnB, don’t miss out!

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