If your travels are primarily limited by your budget, or if you simply are bored by staying in a bumpy-ceilinged box at a chain hotel, think better, think cheaper, think hospitality, think experience-the-local-culture, think AirBnB.
The concept is simple: anyone can become an impromptu innkeeper, offering stays at their property (anything from a whole house, to an apartment, to a spare bedroom, to a couch, to a Winnebego) to registered users of the site. The property owner sets the nightly rental fee, and AirBnB makes its money by charging a negligible booking fee on each transaction.
When I first heard of the site, it sounded dangerous and seemed uncomfortable. How could I trust that the host would not hatchet me to death in the middle of the night and pawn my iPhone? And would I feel okay chilling in someone else’s house, brushing my teeth in their sink and putting my sandwich in their fridge?
I have stayed at several AirBnB locations, and I have felt safer and happier at each one than I ever have at a hotel. Unlike most corporately-owned places to stay, AirBnB users get to view hosts’ profiles, which include photos of themselves and the property as well as reviews offered by past guests. Without fail, my arrival at an AirBnB location involves no surprises, as the site provides ample insight beforehand.
And much to the BlinkPacker’s delight, the price for a night’s stay cannot be beat. I recently searched for a decently priced hotel room devoid of bedbugs in the Florida panhandle; the cheapest return in the search came in at $150 after taxes. For a third of that price, I found a comfortable, private room with its own full bathroom in a gorgeous, modern, waterfront house, where I was given full access to the kitchen, living room, wraparound deck, and private beach. Not shabby for 50 bucks.
The proprietors are always fantastic — hospitable and helpful, never intrusive or overbearing. Every time I stay with AirBnB, the hosts offer amazing recommendations for dining, nightlife, and local experiences that far outweigh the overpriced, underwhelming tourist traps I may have found on my own.
Traveling on a budget is within reach, especially as web-based travel startups like AirBnB flood the market and change the game. Next time you need a place to sleep, hop onto the interweb machines and look up your destination on AirBnB.com. And stay a better way.
Have you scored any great deals on accommodations with AirBnB? Where did you stay? And how much did it cost?