Thanks to Airbnb, I’ve stayed in a fashion designer’s bungalow filled with candles and Balinese tapestries in Miami, shared bagels with Moroccan girls in an exposed brick walkup in Montreal, and spent a weekend living in an apartment in Brooklyn that belongs to a comedian with excellent taste and her wife.
For the past couple of years, I’ve had one favourite way to find a place to stay when I travel: Airbnb. If you’re not familiar, it’s a site where people post their homes as alternative accommodations to hotels and hostels for both travellers and more long-term visitors. I’ve used “The Air Justin Biebs,” as I like to call it, all over North America, and its reach extends around the world. I’ve never had a bad experience. My old roommates rent out their rooms on Airbnb. SDTC boss-lady Jen spent a month living in a loft on St. Laurent in Montreal that she found on Airbnb. My MUM rents out her apartment on Air B ‘n’ B. Everybody’s doing it and you should too.
How It Works
You set up an account on their site, which you can connect to a variety of social media to help verify that you’re not a crazy person. As you rent places, hosts will give you reviews. The site is based on these community bonds—you rate hosts as well, and you can browse reviews of properties before you pick one. Once you’ve found a place you want to rent, send a message to the host requesting your dates. They recommend you send out a few requests, and they’ll cancel all of the outstanding ones when you book somewhere. All the payment goes through Airbnb, which means it’s a lot safer than finding a place to stay online on your own.
Finding A Place
There are a lot of different ways to search for somewhere to stay. I usually filter by date and price. My boyfriend likes to keep track of people’s Wish Lists, where they aggregate properties they’d love to stay in. You can browse neighbourhoods, popular listings, or refine by any number of metrics.
Renting Your Place
If you’d like to list your place for rent, you can create the listing on your own, or solicit Airbnb’s help—they’ll send a photographer to take pics of your place and make it look great. (My mum, who can’t take a picture without cutting off at least three of someone’s appendages in the image, did this with her apartment and had a really good experience.) You can rent your place whether you have roommates or not (some people are looking for a place with more energy, and for people who can give them tips about the city. Others want something more private.)
Why We Love It
It’s so, so affordable, and you end up getting to know the city in a much more organic way. Many hosts leave little tip sheets, so you get access to favourite local spots. It’s also fun to see how people actually live in a city, and if you’re something of a voyeur, like me, you’ll love the wedding invitations, bookshelves, baby pictures and love notes that augment the space (I realize I’m sounding a little creepy right now but you get my point). If you like to feel like you’ve really lived somewhere for a short stretch of time when you travel, this is the way to do it. And if you love hotels, do what my boyfriend and I usually do on trips now: Spend one night in a nice hotel that you could never afford to stay in for your whole trip, and do the rest on Airbnb.