So many people have asked how my 3 month trip to America and around West Coast has been affordable, we all know that hotels aren't as a rule inexpensive and if you do stay in a hotel then there's the added costs of eating in restaurants/rooms service on top. The trip has worked like this: 1/ saved up alot prior to trip 2/ stuck to a budget and 3/ for the most part used Airbnb.
For those that don't know Airbnb, it is a service, essentially a global hotel without all the costs of a hotel and more fun, In fact it recently became one of the largest hotel chains in the world without actually owning a single hotel! With Airbnb you can rent whole apartments/houses, a room, tree house's, airplanes, Airstreams... the list goes on. Costs range from very very little to very very expensive, it caters for everyone. The other plus is that you can live in nice neighborhoods, put roots down, feed off the local knowledge of the "hosts"-where the best coffee house is, areas to avoid, best transport links and so on.
This trip we have used 7 different locations, from sharing a couples flat for 8 days in Chicago for £28 a night, 2 whole apartments in San Francisco for a month at a time, a fantastic en suite bedroom stop over in a massive Vegas house near the strip for £53 a night, a boat for £24 and our favourite a converted Water Tower for £40 for a night (see next blog post all about this gem). Each has been different, all have been tremendous fun, at a fraction of the cost of a hotel, and with the bonus of being able to cook "at home" this has saved us a lot of money that has been used in better ways. We have done a couple of motels on this trip too-very low cost ones when we weren't able to find Airbnb's, these have been hit and miss. Road side motels in America can be very cheap but they get booked up very fast as have limited rooms and in the case of the last one we did, well, the room was fine but the neighbor and his late night "guest" wasn't!!
I would recommend using Airbnb for travelling without a second thought, I really like that you meet the locals, feel as if you are "at home" and get a sense of what it's really like living in the city you are visiting.
Below are some tips we have found that have helped us in booking:
1/ Research Research Research: You know where you want to go, you have found a listing, so do a quick Google search about the area. You might want quiet and it's not quiet, you may want all out fun and it's far away from that fun, you might need to get places fast and need a nearby transport link. It's all about the famous line "Location Location Location".
2/ Read the reviews, all of them: The advantage of Airbnb is that it is a review based service, bad reviews do not help the host getting bookings so many go out of their way to make sure you have a great stay. Is it clean? Is there noisy neighbors? Are there appliances in the kitchen? What has other guests grumbled about...... or raved about! Weigh up the plus and cons of what you have read before jumping in.
3/ You've found a place and want to book it: Stop! Before you book, send the host an email, specify the times you need, why you are there, it doesn't hurt to say a little about yourself too, after all it is someone letting you into their house! Some hosts are great at replying, some not, some listings could be inactive at the time but still on the site, don't book before you've "connected".
4/ Don't put all your eggs in one basket: Send an email to several people, it is possible that the place you like is booked up OR you don't like the reply from the host. Any host that writes a nice polite email back is certainly going to get booked with me, one that replies with a one line, less than interested response (for me) won't be booked.
5/ Don't be afraid to ask: You might be struggling to find something for your budget, this has certainly been the case with us in San Francisco. So find something near enough to your budget and email the host what you can and cannot afford in your opening "hello". It might be that they will do you a deal. This has been our experience, we have had daily rates knocked down, cleaning/admin charges wiped off and free bottles of wine supplied! Worst case they say no and you politely move on. This is another chance to find out about the area too.
6/ You're happy, the host is happy now book: Great! You are off on your adventure but, before you pay, do one thing....... do a web search for "Airbnb coupon codes". Yes, you can save yourself even more cash. It's a bit hit and miss, but several times i've found 20% off, £20 off vouchers and saved that little extra off the bill (in one case a whole night free). It all helps.
Hope this has been helpful, if you have any questions and thinking of doing a trip but are unsure, please feel free to drop me a line, leave a comment below.