Planning a trip (especially a month long trip to Europe) is a lot of work! One of the most important, and expensive, aspects of your holiday is where you are going to stay. If you have a travel agent plan your holiday, they will always book you in hotels. And although I love staying in hotels (hello cosy robe and room service!), sometimes an AirBnB is a much better option, especially when you’re staying in a city. Here are my tips for choosing the right place to get some zzz’s each night and leave all your shopping during the day!:
1) Research the city and decide which area you want to stay in. We always look at Trip Adviser for recommendations, and look at proximity to tourist destinations we want to visit, shopping, restaurants, bars, train station/airport, etc.
2) Then, look at both hotels and AirBnB’s in this neighbourhood and compare their price, quality, amenities, etc. You may have a specific requirement (for example we definitely wanted an apartment with a view in Positano). It’s at this point that you get an idea whether hotels or AirBnB’s are better value in this city. Remember that not all cities are the same! For example, we are staying in the nicest apartment in an excellent area in Florence for a great price, that was much better value compared to hotels. However when we researched Barcelona, we could stay in a great hotel for a reasonable price, so decided to go with that option. (Side note, we had heard from a few people that they had things stolen from their hotel rooms in Paris and Italy, and they were even staying in really nice hotels. The good thing about AirBnB’s is that no one enters your room while you are staying there.)
3) If you decide to go with an AirBnB, start browsing! We only stay in a whole apartment/house, but if you are single or on a budget, you can also rent rooms in people’s houses. You just search based on your requirements- e.g. # of bathrooms and bedrooms, room/apartment/house, etc. If you have a specific area/neighbourhood that you want to stay in, I suggest using the map to search (not the listed view). The reason for this is sometimes people put listings under a town/suburb, but they aren’t ‘really’ in that town. For example, when we were looking at Positano, some people listed themselves under this (as this is the city name) but were actually in a far-away ‘neighbourhood’ of Positano. I’ve also found this applicable when searching for hotels!
4) We only consider AirBnB’s with reviews. I know it’s like job advertisements that look for ‘Recent University Graduates with 20 years experience’, but that’s just our rule. Not only do we like reviews as it gives the listing a rating, but we read each review as this gives you insights into the apartment, the neighbourhood, and what the owner is like. For example, if a few reviews say ‘we tried contacting the owner several times about something and never heard back, or heard back after 2 days’ we generally pass over this listing. Things are bound to happen (as they do in hotels), but the important thing is how the owner handles the issue.
5) Carefully read the amenities list for things that are important to you- e.g. Wifi (all AirBnB’s I’ve stayed in have this and it’s always faster than hotels- it’s like your home Wifi), Washing machine/dryer (another plus over hotels, especially when you’re away for a long time and are over washing your underwear in the shower *ahem*), etc.
6) Ensure you look at the final price so you have no nasty surprises! There is the nightly rate, and then each AirBnB has additional costs that vary, e.g. cleaning cost, city tourist tax, etc.
7) When you’re ready, book your AirBnB- but be prepared, they can say no to you! *sadface* When we went to book Positano, we found a listing we liked within our budget so we ‘booked’ it. We then got an email saying we had been DENIED. I had no idea this could happen, and was mortified! She said that the minimum number of people per night was 4 people. When we went back to her listing and changed the number of people to 4, the nightly rate skyrocketed! This was actually her error- when she put up her listing, she should have selected 4 people minimum, but it just goes to show, nothing is guaranteed until they confirm with you. (We did have someone cancel a confirmed booking a few months before our trip when we went to Hawaii last year, which is annoying, but AirBnB compensates you a small amount for this, and it wasn’t last minute which was okay…)
8) Keep in mind that not all AirBnB’s are run the same. Some AirBnB’s are run like a business. Our AirBnB in Florence is owned by 2 brothers who own 5 other apartments in the city and work out of an office. One of the brothers met us at the apartment, showed us a laminated guide book they had created, and then went through the book explaining the best pizza restaurant down the street, tours we could go on in the area, check in/out, emergency numbers and the wifi password, etc. They are super professional. Not all AirBnB’s are like this so lower your expectations right now! 😛 You may not be met by the owner, they may send someone else in their place, they might not even meet you at all (especially if the house has a passcode instead of physical key) and they certainly might not speak English well.
To sum up, we have stayed in quite a few AirBnB’s and most have been positive experiences, but some are better than others of course. AirBnB’s aren’t the perfect alternative to a hotel, but they are definitely another option, especially if you are staying in a city, and I would definitely recommend checking them out!
What have your AirBnB experiences been like? Any really positive ones? If anyone has any questions at all, or wants any recommendations for any of the cities we’ve visited, just let me know in the comments below!