Want a fun and affordable way to get away this spring? Why not try Airbnb? Read our ultimate beginner’s guide and learn how it works, where to stay and how to make sure you and your budget are protected.
What is it?If you’re planning on traveling for spring break, Airbnb may help you stay relatively inexpensively in your ideal destination. That’s because it’s a breakthrough online service that connects property owners all over the world who are willing to turn their homes into vacation rental homes for adventurous travelers who are looking for a place to stay.
Where and how long can I stay?The length of a stay can range from just a weekend to as long as a month, and the types of accommodations can vary widely too. You’ll find everything from a futon in an apartment to a shared room in a house to more exotic choices like full luxury villas, castles and tree houses. Their website, airbnb.com, even mentions igloos.
Although Airbnb has only been in existence since 2008, incredibly it already boasts more than 800,000 unique listings in 190+ countries around the globe. Which means, your spring break getaway can be half way around the world, across the country or just around the corner in many popular destinations.
Some of the most popular U.S. destinations in 2015 were New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and D.C.
Why would I choose Airbnb for my spring break vacation instead of a hotel, motel or traditional bed and breakfast?Airbnb offers travelers a truly local, immersive experience. Or as they put it, you’ll feel like you “belong anywhere” all around the world. Wherever you stay, it’ll feel like home, because it actually is home for the listing owner(s). For many, the unique appeal of the accommodations is reason enough to choose Airbnb. For others, Airbnb may offer a more reasonable price point for their stay…or perhaps a pet-friendly option that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
Airbnb also offers another unique, acculturating experience called “Meetups.” These Meetups are a way for Airbnb travelers to get together during trips to do authentic local activities together. Activities can range from volunteering at a local garden, taking a neighborhood architectural tour or even just throwing a party to celebrate the Airbnb community in a particular destination city.
Another reason to choose it? Popular destinations at peak times may not have any vacant hotel, motel or B&B rooms. Sometimes Airbnb simply fills a real need.
How do I see what’s available for when I’m traveling?To see what’s out there, just go to airbnb.com. Search by your destination city, travel dates and number of guests who will be traveling. You’ll see photos of the listing, a brief description, including amenities, pricing and can even read reviews/ratings from previous guests. To make things simple, Airbnb provides local maps and neighborhood guides. That way, you’ll be able to see the listing’s approximate location along with local points of interest and its proximity to transportation.
What does it cost?If Airbnb looks like something you’re interested in trying, joining the service is free and simple too. Just click here and register with an email address and password, or link to an existing Facebook or Google+ account.
Of course, the cost of your accommodations will depend on the type of listing, the number of guests and the length of your stay. The host determines the nightly price and whether or not to charge a special cleaning fee. Airbnb also tacks on a service charge for handling every reservation and to help cover their 24/7 customer support. Other fees may include currency exchange fees, Value Added Tax (where required by law) and local taxes.
How do I know it’s safe for me and my wallet?According to Airbnb, “guests and hosts verify their IDs by connecting to their social networks and scanning their official ID or confirming personal details.” You can also get to know your host through their detailed profiles and confirmed reviews. A special Airbnb direct messaging system allows you to learn more about a host before you stay. You can also get in touch with previous guests to ask about their experiences before you book.
When you book a listing, you pay through Airbnb. (This system works much like the on-demand ride service, Uber.) Airbnb then releases the money to hosts 24 hours after you check in.
Airbnb has a guest refund policy in place should you experience a travel issue. And there are policies for when a host or guest needs to cancel due to extenuating circumstances. By using the Airbnb payment service, you agree to their terms of service, cancellation policies, and can take advantage of the security measures and financial safeguards they have in place to protect both guests and hosts.
Another reassuring thought; Airbnb’s customer service is provided by actual, real, live human beings, who are available around the clock, anywhere in the world.
How do I book a place to stay?Some hosts don’t feel the need to approve each reservation. In instances like these, the host will have a button on their listing that says “Instant Book.” Once you click it, you’ll be prompted to enter your arrival date, departure date, number of guests and your payment details. You’ll also have the option of sending a personal note introducing yourself to the host. Once you’ve entered all the info and are ready to book, you click the Book Now button. Shortly after, you’ll receive an email confirmation with your payment details and itinerary.
Other hosts prefer to approve reservations before they are finalized. In this case, you would click on the Request to Book button on the listing. You’ll still need to provide the same details above, including your payment information, but the host has 24 hours to respond. They can either accept or decline the request. If they accept, your payment will be processed and you’ll receive an email confirmation. You will not be charged if the host declines or doesn’t respond.
Before you book, you should complete your Airbnb profile by including photos and a Verified ID. Airbnb has developed a process to connect your profile with other sources of information about you. Incidentally, both hosts and guests can receive public references from friends, family members, and colleagues to help build their profile. Once you’ve completed this process, you will earn a “Verified ID” badge. Both guests and hosts can see this badge on profiles, and many people use it as a criterion for deciding who to host or where to stay. For many, this badge offers extra reassurance. But as Airbnb points out, it should not be seen as an endorsement or guarantee of someone's identity.
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