Michael and I have been on the road for over three years now with no fixed address, yet people still ask us where we call home. We finally have a good answer: we live at Airbnb. We don't work for them, nor do we live at their corporate headquarters (although considering their funky new offices in San Francisco that might be fun).
We've used Airbnb on four continents, and in the past year alone we've spent about 150 nights at Airbnb properties: if Airbnb were a country, we'd qualify for citizenship.
Airbnb has changed the way we travel. We still stay in hotels, but when planning destinations, Airbnb is the first place we check for lodging.
There are several reasons why we keep going back for more:
1. Multiple Lodging Options: No matter whether you're looking for a luxury condo in Buenos Aires or a spare bedroom in Nashville you can find it on Airbnb. I like the variety; when staying somewhere a week or longer we prefer a house/apartment to rent, whereas for a night or two a private room in someone's home is perfect. Think of it as "Aunt Mabel's spare bedroom (with better furniture) meets Couch Surfing, meets VRBO."
This Buenos Aires studio is a far cry from couch surfing
2. Cost: A big advantage here. It stands to reason that going direct to the source would be more cost-efficient. Plus the more "homey" aspect means you're foregoing costly things typically associated with hotels, like daily maid service. Note: Airbnb does tack a service fee on top of the quoted price, but on the whole it's still a better value than comparable hotels.
3. Off the Tourist Track: Staying in someone's home puts you in a residential neighborhood, whether a city high-rise or a country farm. It's a real pleasure to get away from motels at interstate exits or lodging in touristy locations. We loved our flat in the Cihangir neighborhood in Istanbul where all the grocery stores delivered -- and we got to know the guy in the video shop.
4. New Friends in New Places: The whole Airbnb experience tends to draw hosts who genuinely like to entertain and share info about their hometown. A dialogue begins with the reservation, so you already know someone local by the time you pull into town. Our host in Memphis joined us for ribs at the local barbecue joint and in Malta we received a homemade version of the island's traditional Easter cake. We even met one host's father: a 90-year-old D-Day veteran who literally shared "war stories" with us. We've stayed in touch with many of our Airbnb hosts and now have friends all over the world.
5. Easy to Use: After traveling full-time for over three years I've used just about every vacation rental website out there, and Airbnb's is by far the easiest. Searching for places is simple, the pricing structure is clear and booking is done by credit card once you've set up an account. I've recently noticed other websites styling their design to look virtually the same as Airbnb, yet the search functions and variety of properties Airbnb has on offer are still the best.
6. Personal profiles and reviews: A big part of the Airbnb experience is establishing an online profile and collecting reviews -- for both hosts and guests. Think of it as an online booking site and TripAdvisor all rolled into one. The system is designed so you can't pad it with fake reviews, thus crappy lodging or disrespectful guests are easily weeded out and don't stay on the site for long.
Would you trust these people in your home? Fortunately our Airbnb profile says we're good houseguests, so our Nashville host Jeff let us (and our visiting nephew) strum away!
Even if you're not constantly on the road like us, adding Airbnb to your lodging repertoire will give you new options and change the way you travel. There are still times when other lodging options are a better fit, such as when we spent a week in hotels on the Las Vegas Strip for the full-blown thick-of-the-action experience, or when we needed to find a quiet writer's retreat for three months to finish our latest book.
But on balance, it's fairly accurate to say we live at Airbnb. It's our (sort of) home address.
Note: We are not affiliated with Airbnb in any way, and have fully paid for all of our stays
Travel writers Larissa and Michael Milne have been global nomads since 2011, searching out the historic, the tasty and the quirky. You can follow their journey and pick up valuable tips geared towards the middle-aged traveler on their award-winning blog at Changes in Longitude.