Making Travel More Affordable (And More Fun)

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I’ve been visiting New York for years. We used to stay in various hotels in Midtown Manhattan.

I always had a good time doing the tourist things. Going to New York from North Carolina is a pretty big deal.

Then I stumbled onto Airbnb. It is a service that matches people renting homes, apartments, and rooms with those in need of short-term rentals. I bet you’ve heard of it but haven’t used it yet.

Basically, Airbnb is a way to turn your home into a hotel when you’re not using it. It’s also a way for you to rent a place from someone when you go on vacation.

The Advantages of Making Yourself at Home—Literally

It was weird to stay in someone else’s home instead of in a hotel.

But then I realized it was weird in a good way.

We rented an apartment for a week on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was an awesome apartment: clean, safe, and beautiful. The owner met us when we arrived from the airport. He gave us the details on the apartment and filled us in on the neighborhood. He gave us the inside scoop on restaurants, coffee shops, and transit options.

Our stay in the apartment was perfect. We felt like New Yorkers living in a real New York neighborhood away from the bulk of the tourists. It gave us a totally different perspective on the city.

It also saved us a small fortune. In Midtown, we’d been spending hundreds of dollars a night. Airbnb cut our expense in half. Plus, we saved money by being away from the tourist-priced restaurants. We got twice as much vacation for a fraction of the price.

We’ve gone on to use Airbnb in Cairo, Melbourne, Mexico City, London, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, Asheville, Portland (Maine and Oregon), Rome, Istanbul, Sofia, and a bunch of other places. We’ve been using it for more than four years now.

We’ve never had a bad experience. In fact, we’ve had some great experiences.

Use my link to Airbnb, and you’ll get $25 off on your first trip. You can sign up for an account with your e-mail address, or simply use the Google or Facebook logins for an instant account.

Tips for Using Airbnb

A few quick Airbnb tips:

  1. Complete your profile. Airbnb is about trust. Tell your story. Explain what you’re about and link to your social media accounts. You’ll want to be able to check out the hosts, and they’ll want to check you out too.
  2. Read reviews critically. No one likes to insult a host or a guest. If you see negative information, take it very seriously. Look carefully for even slightly negative reviews. I won’t stay somewhere unless the reviews are all very positive.
  3. Read the entire listing. Study the listings carefully. Read each review. Yes, this is more challenging than renting a room at the Ritz Carlton, but it’s more fun, and it’s less expensive.
  4. Pick location carefully. You’re not going to be in the middle of the tourist area (probably). Make sure you account for your transportation needs. How will you get to the theatre, museums, etc.? Is there access to public transport? Is Uber around? Figure it out before you commit.
  5. Create a checklist of what’s important. Use the filters to search for the ideal place. I check for Internet, A/C, washer/dryer, kitchen, and no smoking.
  6. Stay in the system. Don’t offer to go out of the system and pay cash. Yes, you’ll save a few bucks, but you’ll lose the protections of the system.
  7. Communicate with the host. The one downside to Airbnb, for me anyway, is having to show up at the right place at the right time instead of landing at the Hilton front desk whenever I get there. Keep the host in the loop. Let your host know if you’re late, plans change, etc.
  8. Check in with the host if it’s a long stay. I’ve kept places for multiple weeks. I e-mail them once in a while to let them know their place has survived so far.
  9. Replace anything you break. Let them know what happened and fix it. I’ve only broken one thing and it was no big deal, but don’t ignore it. Be proactive.
  10. Leave a review pronto. The system is built on reviews. Go ahead and add one after you leave.

Nearly all of my Airbnb stays have involved renting the whole place. However, on occasion, I’ve rented just a bedroom. That’s what I did in Melbourne, Australia.

How was that? How did it go staying in the apartment with the host? It was awesome. We’re still chatting via Facebook more than a year later. I stayed for nearly three weeks, and it was great to have people to talk to during down time. I really liked the people.

Airbnb has worked out great for me. However, you may feel uncertain about giving it a try. I understand: it’s different, and it’s a little weird.

I’d encourage you to roll the dice. Worst case, you abandon ship and check into the Hyatt. Best case, you have a very different holiday experience and get to know a place from a non-tourist perspective.

Give it a shot. Sign up here.

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