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Choosing Accommodations

I am an Airbnb person.  I was a host in my two-bedroom, one-bath duplex rental for six years, and I enjoyed meeting all kinds of people.  The money I earned from hosting went right into my travel fund. I have stayed in Airbnbs since 2012.

 

When traveling, I have primarily used Airbnb, staying with others and renting the whole place.  It works great for my budget despite the rise in popularity.  A lot of hosts have lost the original vibe of sharing spaces and making travel more accessible, but the pros still outweigh any cons I have faced in my opinion.  There have been sweet stays with other people, though now, I mostly choose to stay in “entire place” options.  Airbnbs have a wide variety of options these days, and I have stayed in a couple that felt like a traditional BNB.  It felt like more privacy than other “room stays,” and the breakfasts were amazing as well as the hosts!  Two of my favorites were both in England. In Chalgrove, we stayed in Rhianna and her partner's thatched roof cottage. We sat around the table with other guests in the old kitchen with the original cooking fireplace while our hosts entertained us with great stories and cooked a brilliant breakfast.  In Bath, Joey and David were the sweetest hosts, who seemed happy to see us when we ran into them in town.  Their home was beautiful, the bathtub was heavenly, and my sisters and I still talk about the breakfast spread. 

 

I find that you get a lot more space in an Airbnb than a hotel room, and I can always find something more affordable than the price of a decent hotel.  Eating out every meal does

tromso norway snow
View from Tromso, Norway Airbnb

not appeal to me.  I understand “not cooking” is a favorite part of vacation for a lot of folks, but, for me, I like to be able to have some simple meals at the apartment.  Markets are always fun to visit—both the small stores and the outdoor type, so I like to go and get some basics early on in the trip.  Packing enough clothes in a carry-on for a long trip is also impossible, so having a washer (and hopefully dryer) is much preferable to spending time at a laundromat.  When my sister and I were in Switzerland, I was gone so long washing clothes, that she was worried I had gotten lost.  I was struggling to get change and to figure out how to use the machines, so I would rather deal with laundry in the comfort of the apartment.

 

The ad campaigns by Airbnb are great, and they also give good reasons to take a peek at the site.   If you have children, you can put them to bed and they are not in the same room, ending your night as well.  If you and your friends want to get away from the kids and can get a place with a pool that you are not sharing with other people’s children, that is a win!  There are more expensive Airbnbs that will give you luxury, space, and privacy if that is what you are looking for. 

 

Airbnb gets a bad rap from many folks.  There can be issues, but there can be issues in hotels.  One thing I highly recommend is reading the reviews and now I start with the worst one or two and then scan the others to see if they are mentioning the same thing.  One terrible review does not mean you should not stay there.  If one person complains about everything and everyone else seems to love it, that is probably the individual.  On the other hand, I think people are not always fully honest in their reviews because they feel bad or don’t want to take the time to write much. If you see a complaint that is in several of them, even if only mentioned or couched in compliments, it is probably a thing, and you have to decide if that thing would bother you.  If they say it’s a noisy area, and you like to go out and party, it might be a great place to stay.  If it says the air conditioner doesn’t work well, and you barely turn yours on at home, you may not care.  If you are like me and like it to be cold during sleep, that does matter to me.  There is a matter of expectations that needs to be kept in mind.  The clothes dryers and central air conditioning in the United States are two of my favorite luxuries, and I have not been anywhere else yet that has dryers and ACs that work as well as the ones in the U.S. A lot of other countries hang their clothes to dry or have a steam-based/lower wattage dryer.  It will do, but as a jeans wearer, it is not the same as a good drying in an American dryer that makes them soft and shrink back to shape.  Air conditioning is not a thing in a lot of other countries. If they do have it, they usually have “mini-splits” or free-standing air conditioning units with a hose that goes out a window.  They do not cool the same way American central air works.  But I know this.  I do not expect other places to be like home.  That is literally why I go to other places—for something different.  Sometimes, traveling means, letting go of some of the comforts of home.  Ok, most of the time.  The bed and pillows won’t be like yours, you may need to put your toilet paper in the trash can rather than down the toilet, you might have to turn on a water heater before you take a shower, the electricity may cut out and the wifi may not be great.  In a hotel, I suppose some of these things might be different, but they also may not.  You will have a much better time if you just enjoy where you are and don’t expect it to be like home.

 

Two other tips for Airbnb:

1) It is a lovely thing to be greeted by and meet your host, but I think the self-check-in option makes things easier than trying to meet up with hosts. It can get a little complicated, especially for people like me who do not have cell service in other countries.


2) Once you have the address, map it so you know where it is.  While you are on Google Maps, look at the satellite view so you know what the outside looks like.  I confirm I have the right building with the host beforehand.  Many Airbnb hosts do not put the outside of the building on their posting.  I am guessing that is for privacy or because the apartment looks better on the inside than on the outside.  Make sure you have the right place.  When I went to Colombia, my taxi driver took me to the wrong place.  I ended up showing him my printed directions.  If I had not done that beforehand that could have been a mess.  It has only happened that one time, so do not let that scare you from using Airbnb.

 

HOSTELS

Hostels, to me, are for young people.  Staying in hostels in my 20s and 30s was often incredibly fun.  You have a high chance of meeting other people from all over the world.  They can be super inexpensive and when you are traveling on a small budget, a go-to for sure.  Read all the words though—some do not provide towels or blankets.  Often it is a room of bunk beds.  There are usually “female only” and “male only,” but that does not necessarily mean everyone will follow those rules.  There are also mixed dorms.  You can get private rooms in some of them, but usually the bathrooms are shared.  The shared kitchens and common areas are where you make new friends from all over the world. Hostels will sometimes arrange group events on and off-site. Other hostels are incredibly basic and not very clean, but let's say you are young, on a budget, and out until 3 am dancing--then the hostel price for a few hours of sleep feels just right!

 

Remember the adage, “you get what you pay for,” can especially be true with hostels.

 

HOTELS

If you feel better staying in a known hotel chain, do that.  Take the trip!  Don’t stay home because you are not up for the risks of an Airbnb.  Personally, with many Airbnb stays behind me, I do not think the risks are high if you do your due diligence.  If you are on a budget, it’s worth the work.  If you are not, do what you want.  Hotels often have airport shuttle service, 24-hour front desk personnel, a cleaning and maintenance staff on hand, and maybe more reliable internet.  You can still get great advice from a local if you talk to the hotel staff and ask what their favorites are (not what is popular with tourists).

 

VRBO and HOME EXCHANGE SITES

For larger groups, it sounds like VRBO has been a hit with people.  I have just begun to look at those a bit, so I would have to dig deeper and maybe try them to give advice.  Generally, it seems they are all pretty similar at this point. If I ever get a remote job, I will likely look into the home swaps that have become more popular with more remote workers.  Live Kindred is a new one that has been popping up on my Instagram, but I am not sure how they will feel about the 1940s duplex I live in.

 

HOUSE AND PET SITTING

One of my travel hacks has been using trustedhousesitters.com.  Pet sitters out there getting paid, probably do not appreciate this site, but I have used it to take my “free vacations.”  For $100/year, you can get a membership on this site as a house sitter.  It is really a house/pet-sitting gig.  They do a background check on you.  You can go stay somewhere you would like to go for “free” by agreeing to take care of the homeowner's pet(s).  With my Chase Sapphire card, I usually earn enough points for one or two domestic flights a year, so with a free flight and free accommodations, I enjoy my “free vacation.”  I have done this in Asheville, NC, Seattle, WA, and Washington, DC (4x).  There are also international options on this site.  I know a couple who moved sit to sit for two years—looking for longer stays when possible, but living rent-free and exploring the world.  I moved to DC without a job, so I dog sat instead of renting a place before I had garnered employment. 

 

EMPLOYEE DORMS/APARTMENTS

You do not have to be a college student to do this, but seasonal work is another budget-friendly way to see the world.  You may have already read, “How It All Started,” but, if not, taking a summer job in a place like Glacier National Park, is a great way to get to live in/visit a new place.  Some of the non-college students I met in my two summers in Glacier Park, worked in other parks and places like ski resorts when GNP closed for the winter.  They took room and board out of our checks, and we did not make much money, but it was absolutely worth it to get to live there and meet people from all over.  People waiting tables may have made a lot more money than us housekeepers did from tips, but I do not think money was why any of us were there.  I’m sure AI and Google can help you find summer jobs in other places.  I also lived in the woods for one summer as a Girl Scout Camp counselor, and we had other counselors there from Poland and Australia, so summer camps in other countries could be another option.

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