Have you heard about Airbnb recently; perhaps when your friends returned from their weekend getaway to New York City or a family member’s week long excursion in Italy?
It seems like there’s an ever-increasing number of travelers staying in Airbnbs as much as hotels, if not more, to get a taste of the local lifestyle, experience unique places, and save money.
Based on my experience of staying at over 30 Airbnbs, let’s talk about what Airbnb is exactly, why you’ll like staying at an Airbnb over a hotel, how to choose a good Airbnb, and most importantly, the few times you should NOT choose an Airbnb vs. a hotel.
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What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is the world’s largest accommodation sharing site. Like a hotel, you book accommodation for a trip whether it’s only one night or 12 nights. Unlike a hotel though, an Airbnb is unique because most likely you are renting someone’s home or an interesting venue like a treehouse, tent, or cottage. This creates a one-of-a-kind experience that differs greatly from your traditional hotel rental.
In addition to holiday cottages, apartments, homes, and more, Airbnb also offers unique experiences where you can go on interesting tours with knowledgeable locals. Their experiences are unlike normal tour packages and can range from going out to a club with a local techno lover or learn how to make chocolate with a chocolatier within their home.
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Why is Airbnb better than a hotel?
When it comes down to an Airbnb vs. hotel, most people opt for an Airbnb because it’s cheaper. Airbnbs tend to cost less than hotels while offering more space. Besides the basic cost savings, the most inviting factor of Airbnb, there are many reasons why Airbnb is better than a hotel:
- Airbnbs often come with a kitchen so besides saving money on the accommodation itself, you can save money by eating in. If you eat in, that means you’ll have to go grocery shopping, and in that way, you can experience the shopping aspect of the local life, and go to delicious local markets.
- By staying in an Airbnb, you get a peek at the local life by simply being in a local’s home. You can see the layout, materials used to build the home, how it’s furnished, and other small details that may be unique to the area that you’re visiting.
- Your host* will give you real local tips unlike hotels who give you tips based on partnerships they have with restaurants and tourist sites. If you have a good guide, they’ll generally write up a guide to their city, which usually includes what they’ve come to love about their city from years of living there.
- Large groups can stay in Airbnbs together instead of having to get two to three hotel rooms. It makes you feel more at home when your whole family gets to stay together in one house or when your gal pals and you don’t have to split up (i.e. like at my bachelorette party in Savannah). Some Airbnbs even have dining rooms to fit your whole family at the table!
*A host is someone who rents you their Airbnb.
What are Airbnbs like?
If you really know want to know what an Airbnb is like, then to be honest, it’s hard to say because they’re all different! I’ve stayed at so many different types of Airbnbs ranging from a modern home in a village overlooking Cinque Terre to large, airy apartments to fit a group of friends.
Although the look and feel of them have all been different, the common factors of all the Airbnbs I’ve stayed in were that they’re clean and comfortable, and the hosts have been amazing at giving me local insight.
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How do I make sure I get a good Airbnb?
I’ve stayed at over 30 Airbnbs in the past seven years! Now that I’m voicing that out loud, I feel old. I’ve become sort of a pro at spotting what Airbnbs are going to be clean, comfortable, and nice vs. the ones that are going to instigate my allergies or make it hard to sleep at night with loud noise and an uncomfortable bed.
First off, to make things easy, Airbnb sorts out their top hosts by calling them “super hosts”. Super hosts are generally very helpful and their places are clean and comfortable. Over time, many people have given them such good reviews that they earn this title of “super host”. You can filter out your settings when searching for a place to look at “super host” only accommodations. Look for super hosts!
Second, you’ll want to read reviews. A place might look nice, but if you’re looking for something specific such as a comfortable bed or quiet place to sleep, then read the reviews!
Lastly, look at the photos. Sometimes when you need two beds for four people, you’ll see through the pictures, there’s actually only one real bed and then one sofa bed. Pictures are a great indicator of whether or not the listing has exactly what you want.
Some additional things I look at are how close it is to main attractions or public transportation and how quiet the apartment is, but first and foremost, I always check cleanliness and comfort.
Also, you can choose to get an entire place for yourself, but if you want to save money, you can opt to get a private room in someone’s place meaning you’ll be sharing the kitchen and bathroom with them. I’ve done this a couple of times and it’s been really comfortable.
When should I NOT choose an Airbnb vs. a hotel?
When it comes down to an Airbnb vs. hotel, I often opt for an Airbnb. After staying in over 30 Airbnbs, I’ve learned that an Airbnb is not always the best option. Here’s when you should get a hotel instead of an Airbnb.
- If your flights arrives very late at night, public transportation isn’t running, and cabs and people in public (for directions) are scarce, then get a hotel. You might get lost trying to find the Airbnb, which isn’t fun when you’ve already been traveling for so long, and if your host isn’t easy to reach at this hour, then your check-in might not go smoothly. Hotels are generally easy to spot and their front desk is open 24/7 to greet you when you arrive.
- If you only need a place for one night, then you might want to stay at the hotel to save time on meeting with your host for check-in and/or check-out.
- If hotels are cheaper than Airbnbs and you don’t need a kitchen, then you’ll probably want to save money and stay at a hotel.
Do I have to treat an Airbnb different than a hotel?
An Airbnb is basically a hotel, but since it’s most likely someone’s own home or their own apartment designated for rentals, I always like to check the manual to see how much cleaning up I have to do or noise curfews I need to respect. They’re generally minimal and of common sense such as “put away dishes in the dishwasher” or “no loud noise after 10PM”.
After staying at over 30 Airbnbs, this way of traveling has a special spot in my heart. I highly recommend you trying it! If you don’t like it, you can always go back to hotels.
Thanks for stopping by! xo.