As we’ve been traveling throughout the United States and Mexico, friends and family have asked us what we do when it comes to lodging. Are we staying at hotels? Camping? House-sitting? Staying with friends? How are we paying for accommodations without going broke? Our reply is a combination of all of these. We’ve tried house-sitting and camping. And we’re not opposed to staying with friends or splurging at a hotel. But our favorite form of accommodation is finding a cheap Airbnb to stay in for a month. This truly makes us feel like we’re at home, no matter where we are in the world.
Making a case for Airbnb
In case you didn’t know, Airbnb has been around since 2008. It initially started as a way for travelers to find solutions for hotel room shortages. Rather than search for a hotel, travelers can book a cheap Airbnb room offered by a local. It’s a win-win for the traveler and the property owner!
Since then, Airbnb has grown into a multi-million dollar company, with over 5 million listing in over 190 countries. With the growth of the company, Airbnb prices have also soared. And while you can still find some cheap Airbnb properties if you look hard enough, you’re more likely to find Airbnb homes that are comparable to hotel rooms in the cities you visit.
Airbnb has been getting a lot of attention in the media lately. Negative coverage of Airbnb has focused mainly on putting Airbnb responsible for the rising cost of rent in cities around the world, and pushing locals out of popular tourist destinations. But my opinion is that increased tourism, and an influx of newcomers, is causing prices to rise, not so much purely the presence of Airbnb. Whatever your take on the issue, clearly Airbnb has succeeded in disrupting the monopoly that hotels have enjoyed in the tourism industry for years.
Airbnb prices in popular tourist destinations
As I mentioned, gone are the days when you can easily find a cheap Airbnb. These days, when you look up Airbnb properties for popular destinations like Paris or New York City or Bali, you’re more likely to find Airbnb prices in the hundreds. For a family of four, you may not always find an affordable Airbnb in the city center.
Airbnb prices in popular tourist destinations are often dictated by market prices. And rightfully so. As the law of economics posits, if there’s an increase in demand, without a corresponding increase in supply, prices will rise. And so it goes with Airbnb prices.
My tip for families wishing to use Airbnb when they visit popular tourist destinations is to use your best judgement. Sometimes you might luck out and find a cheap Airbnb in the center of town. But more likely, the Airbnbs within your budget will be just outside the town center. Do your research about the neighborhoods that the Airbnb is located. And make sure that it feels safe for you and your family.
Finding a cheap Airbnb
In our years of using Airbnb, we’ve found that booking longer stays have helped to keep costs low. Airbnb properties usually offer discounts for week long stays, and even bigger discounts for stays of 28 nights or longer. This has worked to our advantage on our trips, as we tend to stay in cities for longer stays anyway.
Even if you’re only visiting a city for a few days, it may end up cheaper to book a week stay. For example, if you’re planning to stay at an Airbnb for five nights at $150, and the property offers a 30-40% discount for a week stay, you might as well book the whole week and save a few dollars. Just check with the host ahead of time if it’s okay to check out early.
Another tip we’ve found for how to book Airbnb at an affordable price is to negotiate for a better deal. In Mexico, we’ve tried this in Guanajuato and Puerto Escondido, and have had success in getting lower Airbnb prices. Obviously this tip may not always work. If the property is in high demand, or you’re only staying for a short stay, you may not always have the leverage to negotiate. But if you’re planning a longer stay, or visiting a destination during low season, then it doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower price.
How to book Airbnb for your trip
If you’re new to Airbnb, and not sure how to book Airbnb for your trip, don’t worry. It’s actually really easy. Once you create an account with Airbnb, you can search for properties in your destination. Airbnb will provide listings of Homes and Experiences. If you’re interested in trying out local activities, you can look through the Experiences selections. We have not yet booked any Airbnb Experiences, so I can’t speak for the quality or value of these. If you’re just looking for Airbnb properties, then click on Homes.
When you select the dates for your stay, Airbnb will show you the Airbnb prices for each specific day. This is really helpful as you can see what days are the popular days for that property. You will also need to identify how many people will be staying with you, as this will also affect the Airbnb prices for that property. When searching for the right place, we usually choose the Entire Place option. Since we work remotely, we also choose the WiFi option under filters. And because we are on a budget, we usually put a filter on the prices.
My other two tips for how to book Airbnb is to always read the reviews. When you find a property that seems like a fit for you, look at the reviews to see how other people have liked or disliked the property. We never book an Airbnb property if it does not have reviews. Another tip for booking an Airbnb is to always contact the host before you book. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions about the neighborhood, the WiFi speed (especially important for us), and negotiate the price. At the end of the day, you’re staying in a home, and you want to make sure that home is a place that you will feel comfortable in.
Making Airbnb part of your family travel experience
In our travels, we’ve always enjoyed using Airbnb. We were early adopters of Airbnb, and stayed in our very first one in 2009. What we’ve loved about Airbnb is that it gives us an opportunity to stay in some very unique places. We’ve stayed in a tiny house, a deluxe camper, and even a converted garage. Airbnb has allowed us to stay in some very cute neighborhoods and experience life like a local, rather than a tourist.
People give Airbnb a hard time, for having rowdy guests and increasing housing prices. But at the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of the traveler to behave respectfully. And increasing housing prices is an economic phenomenon that is far more complex than just one simple reason. To me, Airbnb has helped to democratize travel, making it easier for everyday people, not just the privileged few, to explore new places. And that is a good thing!
If you’re new to Airbnb, use my Airbnb code to book your first property and get a discount. You’ll get $40 off of a booking of $75 or more, or $15 off of an experience of $50 or more. Let me know how your Airbnb stay or experience was!
Have you had success in finding a cheap Airbnb? Share your tips in the comments for how to book Airbnb at a cheap price!
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