TWP // Where to Sleep and Why AirBnb is Awesome

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Where you stay can seriously impact your vacation. Things normal people consider when booking a place are location, price, amenities, included meals, internet connectivity, ect. I'm a weirdo so in addition to those normal things, I also tend to choose a place based on how it will make me feel and what kind of memories I will make by staying there. I know, I'm strange.

Well for this trip, we decided to open our mind to an option that would meet all of our criteria. Enter: Airbnb. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a website that allows people from all over the world to list their property for short or long rentals. Properties range anywhere from a spot on someone's couch to a 5 star condo on the beach. Whatever kind of place you're looking for you can pretty much find on Airbnb. I know it sounds a little sketchy, hang in there a sec and I'll make you a believer.

I heard about Airbnb about a year and a half ago and I KNEW we were going to use them at least once. Being the research queen that I am, I spent quite a few days looking up reviews and making sure this was legit. If I'm going to rent out someone else's house, I don't want to get robbed or get there to find out it was all a scam and it doesn't exist. Well I'm here based on research and now experience to tell you that not only is it legit, it is the only way I will ever book lodging again.

I know you're doubting me.. I know you think the idea of renting from a complete stranger is crazy.

Well let me plead my case..

The main reason most people will love it is because it is CHEAP! Or at least it can be.

An apartment in Manhattan on Airbnb is going to be more than half the price of a hotel. Trust me, I checked. Of course if you're going at peak season for that location or if it's a super classy place (there are many many mansions, top floor condos, beach houses, ect) they could be a little pricey, but it would still be a better value than an equally as luxurious hotel. Also, I find that in general most of the areas where these apartments are located are less crowded and less touristy (unless of course you book a place in a touristy area on purpose) since they are where real people live, not just hotels in the biggest parts of the city.

A big reason I'm a fan for life is that staying in an apartment makes you feel like a local. It gives you the true experience of living in that city, if only for a few short days, and makes you see what your life might look like if you lived there. Whether it's strolling through the local market, waking up and making breakfast in your kitchen, or sitting on the rooftop terrace having a glass of wine, there are more possibilities and more authenticity when staying in a local home or apartment. My heart is smiling just thinking about all the little things I got to experience because of the places we stayed.

First of all, every renter and host must set up a profile on the site. That profile can then become "verified" by entering in on offline id (like a drivers license), linking to an online profile (Facebook, Twitter), adding a photo and giving your email and phone number. It looks like this on the hosts profile:

Verification is not required, but many hosts won't rent to you unless you are and most hosts are also "verified" to help the renter feel a little more at ease. Of course there's always a chance someone could have worked the system, but most people wouldn't go to that much trouble to fake a profile.

In addition to the verification, each listing comes with pictures. The host decides how many pictures to post, but I've found that there are usually enough to get a solid idea of what that place is like. There are also might be pictures that are labeled " Verified Photo" which means they were taken by an Airbnb photographer and portray the rental as they actually are instead of just being staged to seem nice. Here is an example from the place we stayed in Stansted. (ps. It really is as amazing as it looks!)

The biggest thing that puts my mind at ease is this: every listing has a section for reviews. This keeps the host accountable.

Reviews pretty much make or break the place for me. I've found that most people are very detailed and brutally honest in their reviews which is exactly what I hope for so I know what I see is what I will get.

In order to review a place, you have to have booked with that place through your Airbnb profile, paid for your room (also through Airbnb) and then actually stayed there. Only then will the option to leave a review be available. This means that every person who leaves a review is a real person who actually went through the process, not some fake profile by the owner. And the host can't just delete bad reviews, bc the reviews are managed by the site. 

Reading reviews is the number one way I decide if I like a listing. 

If I see a listing with no reviews, I generally move on to the next one. BUT if you realllly love that place, don't count it out just yet. If I love a place and there are no reviews, I will click on the hosts name and see if they have other listings. If so, I check out those places to see it they have reviews. If so, its my lucky day and I can get a feel for the host. 

Although it can be kind of risky, it could just be that a listing is new and hasn't been reviewed yet so by reading reviews on their other listings by the same host, you can see if this host seems legit and reliable. If so and your feeling frisky you could take a chance and book it anyway, sans reviews. 

I did this with the place we stayed in Rome and it turned out to be the best place we stayed on our entire trip! Crazy right? The host had 5 star reviews on his other listings but none on the one I wanted and the place was the exact price and location we wanted so I went for it! Turns out, this new listing was a new property he was managing and we were the first to stay in the room! 

We did the same thing in Venice because we were booking last minute and it was the only place with a balcony view of the canal and it turned out to be BEAUTIFUL and exactly what I wanted! Rick Steves is even staying in that room at the end of the month! 

So sometimes, risks pay off! Just use your noggins to make sure the place is safe, obviously.

Ok, so I know you might be a little worried about paying for your place. The last thing you want is to reserve and pay for a place and then get there and realize it isn't even a real place and your money is now gone. 

I've heard lots of horror stories about similar sites so I was a little nervous going into it. 

With Airbnb, its simple and secure. You make the payment to the company when you make the reservation and then they make the payment to the host. The host isn't paid until 24 hours after your stay, so if you get there and there are any concerns or problems, you call the 24 hour number for customer service and it is handled. You don't lose your money and this makes sure you get what you pay for. The hosts are bound to their word at the risk of losing the payment. 

The cancellation policies are pretty awesome too! They have many different options that the hosts can choose from and the hosts choice is clearly noted on each listing. They range from "Flexible" a full refund up to 1 day prior to "Super Strict" which is 50% refund up to 30 days prior. Different listing have different policies so make sure to check before you book. For a description of the different policies, go here

Ok, so now you're seeing the light and you're saying.. this sounds amazingly awesome.. how do I get onboard?! Keep reading!

The website is super user friendly. Just enter in your location, dates and wether you want an entire place, a private room or a shared room. If you want to narrow it down even more you can choose specific amenities you want (internet, washing machine, breakfast ect.). 

It will bring up a map of the city you are searching for and you can sort through the results to find your perfect home away from home! 

I always research the city I am visiting to find out what part of the city fits my purpose and what I'm looking for and then go from there. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you will only be in the room long enough to sleep. Like in London we did so much sightseeing there wasn't a lot of time to spend in the room. So sometimes having a super awesome and elaborate place isn't really important because you won't be there long enough to get your money's worth! Basic (and cheaper!) accommodations are can be the way to go in a situation like that!

Either way, the key is to start searching early because the best places get scooped up pretty quickly.

Quick tip #1: Check the calendar for that listing because some hosts have different prices for different days (ie more expensive weekends). If your schedule is flexible you might could save more money!

A cool feature that some hosts offer is a "Guidebook" of where to eat, things to do, places to see near that place. If you see a little globe at the top of the listing with "Guidebook" next to it, click it and see what they've got going on! It should show up on the map with little pinned locations!

You can message the host with questions, save a listing to your "Wish List" or book it! 

Just be sure that before booking, you know the cancellation policy and read all the details to make sure that the place has the amenities, cancellation policy, noise level, ect that you are looking for.

Some places will straight up tell you about issues they may have like being on a noisy street for example. This may be no big deal for a young traveler just wanting to enjoy the night life anyway, but for someone looking for a quite and relaxing stay, this might not be the right choice. Just don't wait until you get there to figure out something you could have already known.

Also, when traveling in the off or shoulder season, I always email the host to ask if they are willing to offer a discount or special price. Sometimes they just don't expect to have quests book during the slower season and so they don't bother to update the off season price on their calendar! I have gotten great deals this way!

Thats it! It really is that easy to book a place on AirBnb!

When you are choosing what type of place you want, challenge yourself to stay open minded. Going into it, I told myself, "self- you are only going to stay in an "entire place" because you don't want to get murdered". I know some of ya'll are thinking the same way. 

But as I was searching I saw some pretty awesome looking places for way cheaper that were a private room. So I talked to Jon about it and we decided, why not? We were going to Europe after all, home of the hostile, and we would be together so as long as we used a little common sense, we should be good. And you know what? Some of the best places we stayed were private rooms! That is what all bnb's are considered because it is one big place with a bunch of smaller private rooms for rent inside. We just made sure that wherever we were staying had individual locks on the private door and bingo, safe as can be. I don't know that I would ever try a shared room, but who knows! 

Just challenge yourself to push out of your comfort zone and live a little. Yea that host could be a serial killer.. but if you live your whole life scared of what might be, you will box yourself into a place that sucks the joy out of your life. Obviously I don't want you to go crazy and be wreckless, but most times if you use some common sense and good judgement, you can take some risks and experience something that could change the way you view yourself or life in general.

Ok, now that you've gotten the scoop on how we booked, let me show you where we booked!! The pictures link to the Airbnb profile!

NYC- We stayed here. It got the job done, but I don't think I would stay here again. It was a great neighborhood but the apartment wasn't the cleanest. It did have a cool rooftop view though.

LONDON- We stayed at this lovely student apartment in London:

And this extravagant place (the same one pictured earlier) in Stansted where we flew out of:

VENICE- This was our breathtaking apartment:

FLORENCE- We stayed here because it was cheap, included breakfast and we were only staying one night. It wasn't a bad place and the host was nice, but I don't think we would stay here again. There wasn't a lock on the door which kind of made me uneasy and it was a bit outside of the city center (Although very close to the Accademia Gallery where The David is!)

ROME- Hands down one of the best places we stayed!! Such great hosts and the place was modern and close to everything!

PARIS- I LOVED this apartment. The view from each little balcony sealed the deal for me.

Quick note: Airbnb in no way compensated me for this review. I really do just love them!! I am SO glad we used Airbnb to find these gems and I hope you will break out of your little box and give it a try! 

If you have any questions (although how could you with that book I just wrote!) just ask in the comments!! Happy sleeping ya'll!


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