WARNING: While I don’t have any previously undiscovered predictions from Nostradamus or high level clearance from the FBI, I do have a weakness for world travel and a need for safe, clean, and often times, unique accommodations while on the road. I usually prearrange my hotel accommodations far in advance, but during one of my recent last minute trips, finding a hotel in Budapest turned out to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. An experienced traveler always has backup plans and in this situation, I turned to airbnb. With 2 million listings, 60 million guests, and over 190 countries around the world, airbnb has a wealth of options available with amenities and prices that most chain hotels can’t compete with. I mean, with the discount codes that I found on sites like PromoCodeWatch.com, I don’t think I could have turned down the opportunity of staying in an airbnb. I watch so many people on social media stay in these sorts of accommodations, so I was super excited. Follow these easy steps to learn how a great airbnb experience can change your life.
1. You won’t find better prices: With the exception of some over the top luxury accommodations like a Tuscan villa that sleeps 24 or a chateau in France, prices for accommodations almost always beat hotel prices hands down. Less money spent on hotels and hotel fees means more money in your pocket for your sightseeing, meals, and of course, coffee. I look for places that have a fully operational kitchen to cut costs further for breakfast and lunch so I can enjoy a dinner out without feeling guilty about the price.This has changed not only how I travel, but it's definitely changed me as a person, too. I'm not just observing through my camera lens, but interacting with people as a local might.Click To Tweet
2. Live like a local with the best locations: Hotels are almost always situated near a city’s best sights and for good reason. Tourists want to see what the city has to offer, but after you’ve finished sightseeing, do you want to sit down at a Starbuck’s, TGIFriday’s, or McDonalds? Probably not. Finding accommodations that allow you to live like a local allows for an instantaneous cultural immersion instead of having a sanitized tourist experience. This has changed not only how I travel, but it’s definitely changed me as a person, too. I’m not just observing through my camera lens, but interacting with people as a local might.
3. Choose a specific neighborhood: You’ve decided on a specific destination and once you determine what it is you want to do while you’re there, choosing an accommodation becomes easy. If you plan on navigating the area on foot, then it’s not practical to have an apartment hours away when you can find others within a 15-minute radius. Accommodations located in the city center are generally higher priced vs. those farther away, but this might not matter if you have a car or only plan on going into the center of the city once or twice.
For my stay in Budapest, Karla and I came up with a list of sights and activities and then decided on a district. The 23 districts of Budapest are spread out over the city, which required us to research neighborhoods before deciding on accommodations. We chose an apartment in Terézváros – District VI. near Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út), an area that dates back to 1872 and is one of Budapest’s main shopping streets with cafés, restaurants, and of course, great shopping and culture like the Opera House.
TSG Tip: A simple way to remember how the districts work in Budapest is that the lower numbers are in the city center while the higher numbers are more suburban.
4. Narrow down your choices and don’t look back: The airbnb website and app are incredibly easy to use and anyone, even your grandmother, can navigate it to book a rental in only a few short steps. Once you’re signed up on airbnb, you’ll find that the site has this crazy ability to suck you in and before you realize it, you’ve lost countless hours looking at odd accommodations like a sphere house in Brazil, a gingerbread house in California, or even a yurt in Nuremberg, Germany. But focus on your destination first before making wish lists for other destinations and becoming hopelessly sidetracked.
5. Check photographs: Pictures can and do tell a clear story. Not once have I arrived at my destination and felt duped by either the host or airbnb. This includes staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam, in an apartment in Berlin, a barn in New Hampshire, a luxury apartment in NYC, a cozy flat in London’s SoHo, a ridiculously large apartment in Reykjavik, or an apartment in Budapest, among others. Each and every one of the accommodations had photographs showing every part of what it looked like in detail. If you don’t like what you see or instantly think it won’t work, go with your gut because it probably won’t. If a listing has only one photograph, you might want to keep looking.
TSG Tip: Did you know that airbnb works with hosts to utilize free professional photographers near them. The professional photographs have a “verified” watermark on them so as you browse listings you’ll know that the pictures are really of the actual listing.
6. Do more than look at the pictures: While the percentage of bad hosts, guests, or experiences overall on airbnb is low, I always confirm that the host has ID verification. airbnb requires that both hosts and guests have verified ID’s such as a driver’s license or a passport. Other verifications can include email, phone number, and social networks. The more verifications you see, the more secure you’ll feel, which will eventually lead to a superior overall stay. I also check out the reviews, which are confirmed by airbnb, that the photographs are of the property itself, and if the host has a SuperHost badge,
What is a SuperHost? airbnb defines a SuperHost as follows:
To become a Superhost, you need to have an account in good standing, and in the past year you’ll need to have:
– Hosted at least 10 trips
– Maintained a 90% response rate or higher
– Received a 5-star review at least 80% of the time you’ve been reviewed, as long as at least half of the guests who stayed with you left a review
– Completed each of your confirmed reservations without cancelling
By choosing a SuperHost you can expect a more experienced host who not only has a great property, but has earned superior reviews on all aspects of their guests’ stays. SuperHosts provided that something extra and if you want more than a basic stay, I say search out a SuperHost. I’ve had some SuperHosts provide guidebooks, no fee airport transfers, local mobile phones at no extra charge, breakfast, and even bottles of wine.
8. Narrow down your choices and don’t look back: After picking out a few properties, see what you like best in each of them, compare prices, location, and amenities, and then either communicate with the host or make an instant booking. You can always double check to see if new listings have opened up before you book, but second guessing yourself can drive you crazy as to whether or not you’ve chosen the best place.
Our apartment was located on the second floor of a historic 19th century building with a central courtyard. Keep in mind that Europeans call the floor on the main level the ground floor so our second floor was the third floor, which isn’t an issue except when trying to lug your suitcases up a windy staircase.
I’m not terribly picky about where I stay as long as I have a comfortable bed, hot water, WiFi, and absolutely, positively no bugs. This apartment was huge and had 2+ bedrooms which could have slept 6 people, 1.5 baths, and a full kitchen. I fell madly in love with this apartment because it had more room and storage than what I have back home in Boston. Not to mention that the bed was one of the comfiest I’ve ever slept in – the mattress wasn’t anything special but I never knew how much difference a mattress topper made. I’ve been looking online at them ever since – debating getting one (I found that The Dozy Owl has some toppers you should check out if you’re after one as well). Anyway, during my communication with the host I verified that the WiFi was fully operational as well as the dates and times of both our arrival and departure. Full communication is imperative from both the host and the guest for a successful airbnb experience.
9. Utilize airbnb‘s Trust and Safety Team if there are problems: Despite all of your pre-trip research, things sometimes do go wrong. But airbnb has their “Trust and Safety Team” global team of more than 150 people available to assist you 24/7 via email or phone in case something does happen. Fortunately for me, every single one of my airbnb reservations have never required me to call airbnb for problems before, during, or after my travels. Doing all of my research beforehand and working with a reliable company is the reason why my airbnb accommodations always work.
10. Check in earlier than at a hotel: Our apartment in Budapest was beyond perfect and we had zero complaints about the host or the apartment. After our arrival, we quickly unpacked and left for another day of sightseeing like we did the previous day. Having an airbnb apartment that allowed us to check in earlier than a hotel gave us extra time to explore Budapest and in the end, that’s what we were there so not having fancy little soaps in the bathroom or a bellman to carry my bags was the least of my concerns.
Both regular and branded hotels provide a reliable and predictable caliber of service to guests, which can be a great source of comfort while traveling at home or abroad. To break out of this conventional mold meant I had to learn trust in a company like airbnb, those people who were hosting who were complete strangers, and even myself. I learned that I often don’t need the constant hand holding that hotels offer because I was enough of an experienced traveler that I could take care of myself. While I won’t ever turn down a hotel stay and all of its conveniences, I’ve found that using airbnb has allowed me to experience life and travel in an entirely different way and I not only like it, I prefer it. Be open to life’s experiences and you never know what can happen.
Have you ever used airbnb?