Here’s the second in this month’s series on saving money while travelling.
Looking for affordable accommodations when you travel this summer without giving up comfort? My pal Gregg saved hundreds on his European tour by using an online site.
I’m 48 years old, and having just returned from a 3 week/9 city whirlwind tour through Europe, I’ve been joking that it was my two decade late ‘post university tour’. For this trip, however, I wasn’t quite up to the thought of lugging a backpack around and sleeping in less-than-private hostels. I wanted a bit more peace-of-mind knowing I had a room reservation and, if at all possible, a private bathroom.
As I went online to research hotel prices in Europe my naiveté became apparent. I was making my plans only two to three weeks from my departure date and WOW are hotel rooms expensive – those ain’t dollars, they’re Euros, worth 40% more! As I contemplated delaying my trip, I decided to look at more affordable options having recently heard there were web services connecting travellers with people renting out rooms and apartments. So I started my search and came across AirBnB.com
Airbnb lets anyone search and book rooms, apartments and unique spaces from people around the world. Membership is free and the only fee you pay is a small booking fee charged on top of the rental once you commit to a reservation. For my trip I was looking for a room for two people for two nights in cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Rome and Barcelona and found great convenient places for each of them. Prices ($CDN) ranged from $58/night for a room in someone’s London apartment near Canary Warf, to $77 for a full flat/apartment in Prague, to $90 for rooms in Paris and Amsterdam, to $93/$98 for Florence/Rome, and $88 in Barcelona for a full funky place in the centre of town that I booked last-minute using the Airbnb iPhone app.
Everything worked out great with all our reservations, and the best part was meeting local people who were more than happy to chat and provide insider tips and tourist information. Of course you can’t always tell exactly what a place will be like from a website photo (our Rome apartment was fine but the street and entranceway were not appealing), but Airbnb features like testimonials, photos and Google Street View minimize any uncertainty. And although you submit your credit card information when you book, the charge is held ‘in-trust’ until you arrive and find everything is suitable. This gave me great peace of mind knowing that I wasn’t handing out my credit card, or cash, to strangers, and that I could call Airbnb to cancel and receive a refund if the space was unavailable or not suitable.
The trip was great and staying with locals in each city really helped us feel connected to the cities and countries we were visiting. Although I found Airbnb to be the only site I needed to use, you can also check out Crashpadder.com, Couchsurfing.org, For Rent by Owners,and Vacation Rentals By Owners . I didn’t use these as the latter two focused more on apartments and homes for rent for longer stays, and the first two didn’t seem as feature-rich, but they may be worth a look too. To check out how Airbnb works go to: www.airbnb.com/info/how_it_works.
Gregg Taylor is a career coach and consultant who loves life, travel, and supporting people through life and career transitions. He can be reached at gregg at visionpath.ca
Readers: any tips for comfortable accommodations at affordable prices while travelling? Anyone use any other sites?
Featured Image photo credit: Jessamyn