We spent three nights at an AirBnB house for our visit to Boston. It was our first stay via AirBnB, and so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…
What is AirBnB
AirBnB is a leading member among the rise of “alternative accomodations” – alternative to traditional hotels and bed & breakfasts. Other members of the space include VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner, Homeaway, and Roomrama. AirBnB helps connect homeowners who rent out a room in their house, or their entire house or apartment with travelers who are looking for a different, and many times, cheaper, experience than a hotel would provide. It’s been around since 2008 and have generally received good reviews in the press (but for an example of how things can go VERY WRONG, see here).
To use AirBnB, you fill out a profile which can be as detailed or as vague as you’d like and then you search for vacancies in your destination with your dates. Guests review the properties after their stay, and hosts review the guests as well. Now, MOST of the reviews I’ve read on the site are overwhelmingly positive. I think this has to do with the fact that most hosts try to do a good job, but that it’s also awkward to give very negative reviews when you know you will be reviewed in return.
You pay AirBnB via credit card, and the payment is released to the hosts after you check out. This, the thought goes, provides some incentive for hosts to keep their word and provide at good service.
We actually took a bit of a risk, as we booked our stay with a new listing that had only one prior – but positive – review. I suppose our hosts took a risk as well, given that we were brand-new members and haven’t been reviewed before. Fortunately, it turned out very well. For our 3 nights stay in the heart of Cambridge, we paid $314 for a spacious room with a shared bath. This price includes the AirBnB booking fee. Because we were coming into Boston during graduation season, the cheapest hotel we could find would cost $441 for the same dates. Even with a $25 cancellation fee – I booked the hostel before I searched on AirBnB – we saved $100 on our lodging. And that was enough for a nice meal at Lineage in Coolidge Corner and a canoe ride in Concord!
We had our own key to the front door and could come and go as we please. The host was very ameable and we chatted a couple of times, but there was no pressure to have a long conversation. The kitchen was open for our use, but we didn’t really take advantage of that. If you like to cook during vacations, though, having kitchen access would be a huge plus.
Things to keep in mind:
- The most important tip I have would be to do some research on exactly what kind of location the house/apartment is in. A place that is listed as “just 15 minutes from the beach” might take you an hour to drive under Los Angeles traffic conditions, and a room that is advertised as “only 5 miles from city center” might be in a bad part of town. Do your due diligence. Fortunately, I had a friend in Boston who vetted my AirBnB place, so that was really helpful.
- You are staying in someone’s home, and that experience can be very different from staying in a hotel. Our house had far more charm and space than any hotel we can book for the same price, but it also came with its set of quirks. Very noisy wood floors, a tiny sink, a bedroom door that didn’t quite lock, etc. None of these things detracted much from our experience, but just know that you have to be much more open to adjusting to different things to have a good experience with AirBnB.
- Hosts can also institute a cleaning fee – typically $25-$100 – and a security deposit – I’ve seen up to $500! I typically avoid properties with high cleaning fees or security deposits above $100 because that seems to me a way of artificially deflating their list price. According to AirBnB, “we’ll automatically authorize the guest’s credit card for the deposit 24 hours prior to check-in. We release it back to the guest 48 hours after the checkout date, if no damages are reported by the host.”
We didn’t have to contact AirBnB for anything during our stay, but I do appreciate the fact that the company has 24/7 support. If something goes wrong, you have somebody to reach out to.
Would I use AirBnB again?
Yes, I would. In fact… we had such a good experience with AirBnB that we booked a room through them for our wedding weekend. Our room cost $220 for 2 nights, while all the hotels in the area cost $180+ per night. The savings can be quite remarkable. There are things that I will miss about a hotel (which is why we decided to do luxury hotel all the way for our honeymoon), but I was very happy with AirBnB.