What is AirBNB and is it the Future of Travel?
This is NOT a paid endorsement. I am, in no way, invested or affiliated with airbnb.com.
I am a frequent user of the vacation rental service known as AirBNB.com (think Bed & Breakfast). But, I am often surprised by how many people I meet who have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention it. This website and app was recently valued at $10 billion by investors. This makes it more valuable than actual brick-and-mortar hotel chains like Hyatt. If that sounds insane, it’s because it probably is. That’s just how Wall Street seems to act nowadays…e.g. WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram valuations.
But Airbnb is poised to revolutionize travel for folks like me, with kids, or people who just don’t want to spend a lot of money to stay at a place they will only sleep in.
What is airbnb.com?
Airbnb is a property rental service website and app. Let’s say you have an investment home, rental property, or even a room in your own home that you’d like to rent out on a daily or weekly basis. You can list your home/room – complete with pictures, reviews from guests, house rules, maps, and local attractions on the site, to make some extra money. Airbnb takes a cut of the rental price, and a cleaning fee is also assessed to the renter. Properties on the site include traditional homes and apartments to totally insane treehouses and underwater domiciles all over the world.
The app is very easy to use and well designed. It’s a great product, and despite its Wall Street appeal, it seems Main Streeters are not so well versed on the idea of staying at someone’s place, instead of a hotel chain – and believe me, I get it. But let me share my own personal experience with Airbnb to persuade you to at least add it to your hotel search regiment when lining up your vacation.
How I used Airbnb
I’ve used the service three times now, and I can say, all-in-all, it’s been a great experience. As a father with two boys – who are the destroyers of all things good – my wife and I lament the thought of sleeping in a one-room hotel room – right next to the holy terrors. I love them to death, but Daddy needs a quiet house! So, a few years ago, my wife and I decided to go to Asheville and use airbnb. The whole trip and airbnb experience is documented here.
Our main criteria for picking a place is location, price, reviews, and bedrooms. We like having extra rooms for the kids. I can not tell you how much more awesome this makes traveling with kids. At night, when they’re asleep in their private bedroom (we still bring the video monitor), it’ll feel like home. For our trip to Asheville, we picked a three bedroom, historic home – just outside of town for $150/night. We had a living room, washer/dryer and full kitchen. Most places have a coffee maker as well. This turned out to be a great trip and our host was lovely.
The pictures of the property are the main selling point, but the reviews are what closes the sale. Just like on amazon.com, tripadvisor.com or any other retail website you might use, the reviews help immensely. One or two bad reviews will kill a rental, and I treat them seriously. You do not want to get all the way there and have to back-out. Airbnb is very customer service friendly, and I doubt you’d have any issue getting out of paying, once you’ve stated your case. Although, I’m glad to say I haven’t had that issue yet.
It does take some getting used to – sleeping in another person’s home. I sometimes remind myself that it is professionally cleaned (supposedly) between customers.
As I mentioned, one of my criteria is price. Airbnb has rates that undercut a lot of hotel chains, even with the extra rooms. This is not always the case, but my second Airbnb experience – prioritizing price – wasn’t quite as special. My wife and I went for the Daytime Emmy’s in Los Angeles. Travel Thru History got nominated for an award (I’d like to thank the Academy). The hotel prices in LA are outrageous, so since the kids were staying home, we went with a single bedroom place in Beverly Hills for $80/night. You seriously can’t beat that.
Although it was OK for us (we’re not picky) it definitely sucked some of the glamour out of getting ready for the Emmy’s in a dingy little hole-in-the-wall that was not decorated – at all. We decided that for $80/night we should just suck it up and learn from this. We were, however, in Beverly Hills, so you can’t beat that location. I learned on that trip that just being in Beverly Hills does not mean luxury.
Every year, some friends and business partners get together to travel to the National Association of Broadcasters convention (NAB) in Vegas. We write this off as a business venture, but it’s mostly an excuse to play with the latest video equipment and have fun. For this trip of four grown men, we sought out a bachelor pad of sorts (there were no bachelors). We scored a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath place, six miles from the strip, complete with third floor poker and pool table, outdoor grill, full kitchen and 70 inch TV for the unbelievable price of $150/night.
Our host, John, had recently bought a place on the strip, and wanted to rent this one out – presumably because he bought it during the height of the Vegas real estate boom, and is probably woefully under water on it – but that’s pure speculation. Either way, this place was amazing. It was so cool and comfortable, it made us actually want to hang out there instead of go out. The master bathroom was huge and had a spa tub. We really outdid ourselves on this one.
So, hopefully I’ve convinced you that airbnb should be considered as an alternative to traditional hotel stays. The future of airbnb is uncertain, being that, hotels do not like the idea of regular people getting into the hotel business, and governments do not like the idea of not collecting bed taxes. Legislation is in the works and rules and regulations will probably push airbnb prices higher, but for right now, it’s a great, affordable “hotel” option for your travels.
For more information on airbnb visit their website or download the app.