If you're a budget conscious bride, you're probably a budget conscious traveller.
While staying in hostels is a great way to meet people, a honeymoon calls for something a bit more private. Hotels are expensive, which is why Airbnb is a great alternative. If you've never used the online vacation rental service before, you've probably read that it's wrecking havoc on the hotel industry, and driving Toronto condo boards crazy. Bad press aside, everyone has at least one friend that swears by it.
Peter and I had used Airbnb a handful of times before our honeymoon. A day here, a couple nights there. But, our honeymoon was the ultimate Airbnb test - almost 3 weeks of staying at other people's places. We definitely learned a lot along the way, which I will share with you now!
WHAT'S IN A RATING?
A five star hotel comes with certain expectations. Friendly concierge, a workout room, hotel bar, and perhaps a pool. A five star rating on Airbnb can mean anything because it's user generated. What do I mean? Both the guest and the host have the opportunity to rate and review one another. To ensure fairness, both parties do not receive their ratings/comments about one another until the other party has reciprocated.
Me? I think this leads to skewed ratings. Travellers are generous with the stars because they want a good rating for future Airbnbs. Hosts are generous with their reviews because they want a good review to ensure more guests. While most of the places we stayed were great, our most disappointing experience involved a cockroach - and that was at a 4 1/2 star location. The hosts response? "This is an island. It happens."
If you found a cockroach at a hotel, you KNOW there would be action taken! So! What do you do if a place is not what it seems, and the host does not seem to care?
AIRBNB TO THE RESUCE
Contact Airbnb immediately. They resolve all disputes between host and traveller, and will refund money so you can stay in a hotel for a night or two.
READ BETWEEN THE LINES
La cucaracha aside, we realized there is a code travellers use when rating other Airbnbs. When someone says, "This place is exactly as described" it generally means, "This place is okay. Nothing special - you will be underwhelmed when you arrive."
If there is even the slightest whiff of negativity in a review, do not stay there. Run. Leave. The same goes for anything less than a 5 star rating. Anyone can get a 5 star rating. If there's a place that has less, there must be something seriously wrong with it.
LOOK FOR SUPER HOST STATUS
While searching for a place to stay, you'll notice some of the places/people are designated as 'Super Hosts'. This. Means. Everything.
Other travellers have gone out of their way to recommend the Super Host. The Super Host takes pride in their accommodation, and will try to make your stay as awesome as possible. At a Super Host Airbnb we stayed at, our hosts left out a welcome basket that included local fruit from their garden, coffee, pancake mix, and snacks. The welcome basket also helped us stay on budget, as we didn't need to buy any fruit or granola bars/snacks while we stayed there.
Super Host locations book fast. If you want a great place to stay, you need to book early. The place with the cockroach? That was the last Airbnb that we booked, and it was almost 2 months after we booked our other accomodations.
GOOGLE STREET VIEW
Google street view is your friend when booking on Airbnb. Take a virtual tour of the neighbourhood. Are there grocery stores nearby? How close is the bus stop? What is the parking situation like? All of this is very important, and can make or break your trip.
BRING A TOWEL
Not all Airbnb's offer the same amenities. If you're staying in multiple locations and unsure of what to expect, bring a towel, facecloth, and toiletries. Most places we stayed at had shampoo/conditioner, but not all. Luckily, we came prepared.
And that's all we have! Would love to hear other people's advice/comments about booking with Airbnb.
*Final budget for the wedding is coming - still tying up some final details.