I’d heard of Airbnb before we started to plan for our Europe trip…but we’d never actually stayed at one. Now, having traveled for 14 days in Europe and staying only at Airbnbs every night of our trip…we are huge fans!! It’s such a genius idea – you book either a room or entire house/apartment in someone’s actual home instead of a hotel, and in the area you want!
Here’s the actual quote from the main page of their site: “LIVE THERE. Book homes from local hosts in 191+ countries and experience a place like you live there.”
Umm, how does that make you NOT want an Airbnb experience? 🙂 But, let’s get more specific:
Why we loved staying at Airbnbs:
1 // They are low cost. (Read: they can be low cost.) The site is so easy to search on, and you can apply all sorts of filters to your host search, including making the price window as low or as high as you feel comfortable with. You can go the luxury stunning vacation villa route, or you can go the small-town 1 bedroom apartment route. You can choose whether you just want a room in a home while the hosts are still there, or you can search for the “rent the whole house” option. (We did the whole house option.)
We wanted to keep our Airbnbs at under $100 per night (the total for the 4 of us). Luckily, we were able to stick to that with one exception that was a little over.
It worked out well having the 4 of us, because when we stayed at 1-bedroom flats, we girls shared the bed in the bedroom while the guys shared the sofa bed in the main room.
^^ the cute front door of our place near Compiegne, France! ^^
2 // They allow you to experience local life in a very real way. One of my VERY favorite books growing up was a nonfiction book made by UNICEF called “Children Just Like Me.” The authors met and stayed with families all over the world, and each page of this big book has photographs and captions about the children. “Children Just Like Me” describes their names, what people in their culture wear, speak, eat, what their house looks like, what their school looks like, what their daily life is like…
Airbnb is kind of like a “Children Just Like Me” dream come true for me, since I just love living life in someone else’s shoes! 🙂 It’s different from a hotel. Granted, you’ll have to get used to how the shower works, or how tricky it is to unlock the apartment door (haha)… But maybe you’ll also get to wake up in a non-touristy neighborhood, see locals commuting to work or walking their dogs, discover quiet cafes, grocery shop at the local store, navigate your hosts’ kitchen just like they do, see how they decorate their home…those little details make the experience all that more special!
^^ Signe and I went grocery shopping with our reusable bag just like the locals do! And you won’t feel French unless you let the baguette stick out of the bag too, haha 😉 ^^
3 // They connect you with people all over the world. Once you set up an Airbnb account, you’ll be able to message back and forth with hosts through the site. That was such a neat part of setting up this trip! You’ll look forward to your destination even more when your host has told you how excited they are to meet you and give you the keys, or tell you about their city!
We loved meeting our host’s brother in Albert, France – he was so warm and fun to chat with, and he brought his two little kids who were learning English. So cute. We loved meeting our host’s father-in-law Martin (yes I’m saying it in my head like they do on “The Parent Trap!”) in London. He lived in the flat below us and was so helpful. We loved spending time eating supper with our host Catherine near Compiegne, France – she lived in the house next door! Near Verdun, France, our host’s 20-something son hopped on his bike in the middle of the night to come lead us to their home because we were lost but we were nearby!
^^ the view from one of our 3(!) little balconies at our Paris Airbnb (#swoon) ^^
Plus, if you loved staying at a certain home, you know you’ll always have an acquaintance and a “home” in that part of the world you can return to! I’m all for making friends around the world – I believe it’s part of this grand human experience!
4 // Obviously, they feel a lot more homey. Because they are someone’s home! 🙂 And I love that so much. I seriously felt like a special guest wherever we were: towels were laid out, the place was decorated nicely with fresh flowers or brochures of what’s in the area, baguettes were set out for our breakfast, their cell number was posted in case we needed to reach them… So special.
^^ outside our London Airbnb ^^
5 // They’re a fun way to support people. Airbnb allows people to earn money simply for opening up their home and practicing hospitality to strangers. Some hosts are students, some are teachers, some have children, some need to travel a lot…and it’s heartwarming to know we’re supporting kind, welcoming people around the world! Some hosts really go above and beyond.
6 // You can preview a lot (safety, appearance, reviews) in advance. Before you reserve a place, you can read reviews to see what other travelers thought of that host and their home. You can also find a home that is popular/high-rated amongst Airbnb travelers, and the hosts are all verified so you know they are who they say they are. In addition, you pay via the Airbnb site, not through an external site, which adds an extra layer of security in this process.
^^ the precious little bakery (“boulangerie”) RIGHT across the street from our Airbnb in Albert, France ^^
I also liked how we could view several photos of each place, so we knew the layout or the bed situation, etc. You also can view photos of the exterior, in most places. I DO wish I had paid even better attention to what the outside of our Airbnbs looked like – knowing that really helps when you know you’re close to your destination and you just want to make sure you’ve pulled up to the correct house! 🙂
7 // They can be found just about anywhere. This was a really important factor for us! Given the fact that we were doing a World War I-type tour of Europe, that meant we weren’t necessarily staying in only the huge cities (with a lot more hotel/hostel options). We road-tripped throughout France and some of Belgium during the last 7 days of our trip. That means we found ourselves in quieter villages, especially during the latter half of our trip. Sometimes we 4 were the only ones at a tiny WWI museum at the back of a Belgian cafe, or we’d be the only ones driving out to a French wheat field in the middle of nowhere, to see a certain small WWI site or cemetery.
With this kind of travel, it really helped that we could stay in someone’s home in a nearby village, instead of searching for a large hotel in the area and paying a lot more to be potentially further away.
^^ the quiet street where we stayed for our final 2 nights of the trip – near Compiegne, France ^^
If you’re curious, here are the Airbnbs we stayed at:
London // “Spacious 2-bed beside Victoria Park”
Paris // “Cozy&Calm appartament Paris center”
Near Verdun, France (in Rarecourt, France) // “Location petite maison de campagne”
Near Waterloo, Belgium (in Ottignies-Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium) // “Private apartment in our new house”
Near Ypres, Belgium (in Lambersart, France) // “House quiet near of Lille”
Albert, France // “Beautiful house in ALBERT Somme WWI AREA”
Near Compiegne, France (in La Neuville-Roy, France) // “Maison 3 pieces”
Well, it’s time for me to get back to work on our upcoming Europe posts! I hope this post got you a little excited about Airbnb and how workable they can be for you when you travel! (And if you’re looking at being on the host side of things, my friend Lauren at Sobremesa Stories has an awesome post all about hosting!!)
Have you ever used Airbnb, whether abroad or in the States? What was your experience with it?
*This post is not sponsored in any way; I’m just really impressed with Airbnb and want to spread the news!