A modern house with a large pond out front
Airbnb is a valuable resource for travelers or those wishing to meet new people from all walks of life.
Photo Credit: Airbnb

The Lowdown on Airbnb: Giving Unique Alternative Accommodations a Try

Your Chance to Stay in Some Beautiful Places

If you’ve planned a trip in the last five years or are at least somewhat aware of the sharing economy, you’ve likely heard of Airbnb. Maybe a friend or family member mentioned they got one for their last trip or are renting out their spare bedroom through the site.

Airbnb is a valuable resource for travelers or those wishing to meet new people from all walks of life. The service is beneficial to both travelers and hosts, provided you know what you want and what you’re getting.

If you’re interested in tips on how to use Airbnb, what it’s good for and things to look out for, you’ve come to the right place.

What Is Airbnb?

Touted as a community marketplace for travel accommodations around the world, Airbnb offers unique experiences for travelers at every price point. An alternative to hotels and hostels, Airbnbs are located in people’s houses, apartments, vacation homes, villas, castles, yurts, airstream trailers and more.

Anyone with a spare bed, bedroom, or living space can rent it out for a few days, weeks, or even months to people visiting or staying in the area temporarily. There are over 2,000,000 listings available in more than 34,000 cities, and 191 countries with new listings are added every day.

How to Use It

Those interested in hosting travelers go through a process of preparing their space and creating a searchable listing. A description of what’s offered in terms of beds, baths, amenities, location, transportation, etc., like you’d find on a hotel’s website, are included in the listing.

Hosts are also able to include any house rules or personal information that might influence a traveler’s decision to stay there. Once that’s done you can take photos of the space, set your price for nightly and weekly stays and set a schedule for when your space is available.

For a traveler, the experience is a little different. Airbnb acts as a search engine for accommodations based on a travel location.

You input a city or specific address and the site will populate a list of rentals in the area. If you know the dates you’ll be staying, you can select those as well, which will usually influence the cost and availability of certain places.

You can choose to narrow down listings by price, type, size and amenities as well. Once you see a listing you like, you can request to book or instantly book the place, depending on the listing, in addition to sending a message to the host or saving a place to your wishlist.

You can either access Airbnb listings on the website or download the app, often considered one of the top travel apps to keep on your phone.

Pros & Cons: Hosting

Most of the pros and cons apply to using the site as a traveler, but there are a few for hosts as well. The biggest pro of renting out your space is of course the extra income.

Depending on your location, you can make between $200 to $500 a week. You also get to meet a variety of interesting people from all over the world who love travel just as much as you do.

Being a host also builds your reputation on Airbnb, which allows you to book places as a traveler much easier.

In terms of cons, there may be the occasional person who doesn’t respect the place or isn’t pleasant to be around. Luckily there’s an option for security deposits and cleaning fees to protect you and your property from any such unfortunate circumstance.

If you ever feel suspicious or uncomfortable with a potential guest, you can always cancel the reservation or, in serious circumstances, report the individual to law enforcement as well as Airbnb.

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Pros & Cons: Traveling

As a traveler, there are tons of pros to staying in an Airbnb. Since most of the spaces are people’s homes, you’ll have a much more intimate look at how people in the area live.

If you’re sharing the space with a host they can also provide you with invaluable information on things to do or see in the area. You’ll also likely have access to more amenities than a traditional hotel or hostel.

Many Airbnbs have all the comforts of home: a full kitchen, Netflix and other entertainment, balcony, couches, fireplace, access to pools, etc. Additionally, since Airbnb prices are set by the individual host based on what they’re offering, there are rentals at every price point, making booking accommodations a lot more affordable and attractive than a typical hotel or hostel.

As with hosting, you may occasionally encounter an unpleasant person during your Airbnb stay. This is much more likely if you’re sharing a room or a living space, but isn’t very likely to occur at all. Even less common, but still a risk, is that something about the space isn’t what was promised or expected.

The best way to avoid disappointment is to communicate with the host through the site’s messaging system and ask any questions or concerns up front before your stay.

What to Look For

Since Airbnb hosts can’t discriminate against people who want to rent their space, this mainly applies to travelers. When looking for a place to stay on the site, use the map view to see the neighborhood or area where it’s located.

Do some research on the safety of the area as well as the proximity to things you want to do and public transportation accessibility if necessary. Sometimes hosts list this information directly on their listing as well.

Look for places that have multiple reviews and a five-star rating. Read the reviews and note anything questionable about what others had to say about staying there.

Check out the host’s profile and make sure they have a verified ID on file and try to book from a Superhost if at all possible. These are individuals who book at least 10 trips during the year, have a high rating, and are consistently reliable.

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