Airbnb is the new phenomenon in travel booking. It started in 2008 when founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, needed help paying for their San Francisco loft. During a major conference, they turned their living room into a bed and breakfast. Here we are, just six years later, and there are now over 800,000 listings of castles, villas, rooms and entire apartments available to rent. All you have to do is create a profile on their website, search for accommodations and make your request. In your search, you have the option of choosing to stay with the host (who is the owner or renter of the property).
In September, I visited Cancun for the 2nd time. I mentioned in a previous post that I was excited for my trip but not so much Cancun. My first time didn’t feel like the real Mexico. Since I was returning for a conference (TBEX), I challenged myself to make Pt. II exceed the first. One of my strategies to do so was use Airbnb. Gladly, it worked! I recommend it for travelers of all ages, family size and income.
Why? Here’s my review.
- It’s cheaper. I paid about $150 total for five nights. Compare that to a hotel across the street that charges $150 per night. Or the all-inclusives, where you may or may not get a bang for your buck, with a $400 nightly rate. And don’t think less expensive means lower quality. While accommodations range from “ewww” to “oooh la laaa”, I found a pretty swanky place in a prime location. And I felt at home. My room even had a private bathroom. If you’re looking to save money while traveling, start with where you’ll sleep.
- Insider tips. Whether you go the shared space option or rent the entire home, your host is a resource. He or she is your key to the city. What’s the cheapest transportation from the airport? Where are the local hangouts? What are the best snacks? Any assistance you need to navigate the city, your host will give it to you. Yes, hotel concierges provide assistance as well. But many times they only send you to their affiliates. Your hosts will give you unbiased, unfiltered recommendations. Say ‘bye-bye’ to your typical guidebooks.
- It’s cultural. This is similar to number two, just a smidge deeper. It’s also more for those that choose to rent a room while the owner/renter is in-house. Hosts are excited to share their culture with their guests. When I travel, the more I can feel like I belong to a place (albeit temporary), the better. From national celebrations to 2 o’clock siestas to Saturday night soccer parties. They all make for an A+ trip. While I was doing my Cancun search, I was originally looking for an entire apartment. At the last minute, I looked for a room instead, so I could feel more integrated. I ended up staying with a couple, José and Paula. They were incredible. Warm, hospitable and enthusiastic to share stories of what it’s like to grow up in Cancun (which is far different from other Mexican cities). Over one of our chats, they introduced me to mezcal, tequila’s overshadowed cousin. Did I like it? Not at all. But I loved the bond that was formed through it.
- It’s sustainable. The premise of sustainable travel/tourism is to leave a long-term contribution to a destination’s future. Airbnb is mutually beneficial. As a guest, you pay less (see #1) and as a host, you receive an income supplement. It’s hard out here for a pimp (<– hope you know that line). We’re in an age of financial creativity. Embrace it. Booking a room or house is a direct boost to your destination’s economy. It’s like supporting a small business. Book local.
- It’s secure. I know that most first-timers to this type of system may think that the killer is lurking behind door number one. And well…I can’t guarantee that he/she is not! But I’ll tell ya. The screening process is more meticulous than airport security. To be honest, that part was intrusive and puzzling. (How’d they know my three previous addresses?) But considering that you are living with a stranger for a moment, I guess it is a good thing. Additionally, reviews are left on the profiles of each guest and host. Read them to see others’ experiences before committing.
A tip for interpreting reviews: sometimes it’s more about what people DON’T say than what they say. Not everyone is brutally honest if they’ve had an unpleasant host or guest. You have to read between the lines. Instead of a generic, “It was really nice. Sam showed us where the park was,” rely on the reviews that are more thorough or show more excitement.
So, that’s ma recap. Hope it helps. Peruse the cool listings here.