GETTING THE MOST OUT OF AN AIRBNB EXPERIENCE
Jonathan and I planned an 80 day stay in Europe over the summer. I don’t know when a trip switches from “visiting” to “living” but we definitely feel like we are “living” in Europe. Some days we play tourists and hit up the most popular sites, visit historical landmarks, and take lots of pictures but the other days look like normal day-to-day life. We go on a run, put in a load of laundry, cook dinner, do online homework, or go grocery shopping at the nearest market. As you can guess, it has been essential to have an Airbnb “home away from home” where we can do these everyday activities.
When we first looked for places at the beginning of our adventure, we quickly realized that Airbnbs could be either inexpensive or break the bank. We could spend thousands of dollars on accommodation in a little over two months, or we could pay less than rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in the States. Here are a few guidelines that we followed in order to stay in places we loved while still sticking to a tight travel budget:
Take Advantage of Weekly and Monthly Discounts
Many Airbnb hosts offer up to 60% off of the daily price if you book their home for at least a month. Even if you book for a week some offer 20-30% off. Our first host in Italy explained that he prefers to rent out his home for a month at a time versus individual nights. It requires him to clean less and not have to communicate with new guests constantly. For this reason, many hosts offer incentives for travelers willing to stay in one place for a longer period of time. Most entire homes with basic amenities average around $50 per night. If we were to book a different Airbnb every night, this would become very expensive with us paying $1,500 a month on accommodation. However, if we booked a $50-per-night home for a month with a 60% monthly discount, we would only pay $600 which averages out to only $20 a night. It is hard to find a European hostel (where you have little to no privacy) for cheaper than $20 per night.
Look for Hidden Fees
Many Airbnbs have additional prices tacked onto the initial price they advertise. These are actually pretty easy to find and communication with the host will help to clarify any unclear additional costs. Some of these costs include a cleaning fee, additional charges per person, security deposit, or utility fees. These might be reasonable additional fees but be sure to add these into the final amount that this home will cost you to book. Our host in Italy mentioned an electric bill fee that was paid at the end of our visit depending on how much electricity we used. I simply asked for an estimated price so we did not have any surprises later on.
It is important to not only love the home but also the location of the home when booking an Airbnb. If you are staying for an entire month, you want to be sure there is enough in the area to keep you busy. If you do not have a car, you want to look at how remote the home is and if a train or bus stop is within walking distance. Also, the price of an Airbnb will depend on where it is located. If it is in a touristy area, it is going to be more expensive because there is a higher demand. We wanted to live close to Rome but didn’t want to pay Rome prices so we found our Italian home in a small suburb with an inexpensive bus commute to the city center. Some countries average higher prices for Airbnbs than others. At the time when we looked, the U.K., France, and Germany didn’t offer as many good deals so we chose Airbnbs in Italy and Turkey which fit better in our budget. We stayed for a month in Italy while visiting Rome and the beautiful coastal towns and then began our train ride for Istanbul. Along the way we stopped for day trips in Venice, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest and slept on the train at night. This way we were able to see many of the places we wanted to without having to pay $50 a night for multiple Airbnbs.
Read Reviews on Host/House
Each Airbnb has a series of reviews left by previous guests, rating their experience. The host cannot control these reviews so I found these very helpful in getting a feel for whether or not to book a home. If the host seemed reliable and informative and if the house was reported clean and as described, it helped me to feel good about paying money site-unseen.
Check House Rules and Establish Expectations
Many hosts include house rules in the Airbnb descriptions. Be sure to read these over before booking. Most rules only include quiet hours or non-smoking policies but you need to be careful that you are not agreeing to anything without going over it beforehand. Also if you are staying at a home for a week or a month, be sure to ask your host what his or her expectations are concerning the level of cleanliness the apartment is left in. Jonathan and I forgot to do this with our Italian host and we were a little confused on whether we needed to wash sheets and towels before leaving.
Decide Which Amenities are a Must
Different homes offer different amenities. Some hosts offer breakfast in the morning, wifi, hairdryer, towels, air conditioning, bikes, TV, washer, etc. Others only provide bare essentials such as running water and sheets on the bed. Usually the Airbnbs with more amenities are going to be a little bit more expensive. It is really your decision to choose what is worth or not worth your money. In Italy, we chose a home without wifi because we planned to go to a cafe whenever we needed any online access. However, with all of the money we spent on coffees and pastries at cafe so we could use their complimentary wifi, it might have been cheaper for us to have found a home with wifi available. It has also been helpful for us to have full kitchens in the homes we have stayed in because we can cook our own meals which is a lot cheaper than eating out everyday.
In a nutshell, Airbnbs can be very helpful and affordable to travelers if they are in the right location, for the right period of time, and including the right amenities. I cannot stress enough what a wonderful opportunity it can be to live in the middle of the local community and experience a different culture firsthand.
When living abroad is this inexpensive, it makes it even harder to come back home!