Find accommodation with Airbnb
Finding accommodation with Airbnb may seem like an excellent solution if you want to save money and live experiences in contact with the local reality of the destination you visit but
- Is it really worth using Airbnb to find accommodation?
- are you sure you know all the features that Airbnb offers you?
- do you know all the possible alternatives?
In this post I will try to tell you everything you should know to find accommodation with Airbnb using all the features that the site offers you and some tricks to be able to save by exploiting the (few) bugs on the site.
Airbnb: the story in a nutshell
The site was born relatively recently (in 2007) in the years in which all the giants of the web exploded (Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006 Linkedn 2002 Booking born in 1996 but "exploded" in 2006 with the acquisition of Priceline).
The initial idea of the founders (Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO, Nate Blecharczyk Co-Founder, Head of Corporate Strategy and President of Airbnb China and Joe Gebbia Co-Founder and President of Samara and Airbnb.org) was simple and mundane (he mimicked the one he had from Geert -Jan Bruinsma when he founded Booking.com) and, initially, he wanted to propose a tool to find accommodation for off-site university students.
Soon, however, the strategy changed and Airbnb also began to address tourists and travelers who were looking for accommodation to rent (houses, apartments or rooms) directly from individuals, to save money compared to hotels.
The spread of laws in favor of Bed & Breakfast all over the world combined with "fashion" and the demand for cheap accommodation by tourists and travelers have favored the exponential growth of the site, making it today one of the most interesting possibilities to be seized to save on accommodation expenses.
But is it really so?
The "failure" of the idea that decrees its success.
As often happens, when analyzing the "case histories" of successful companies, the initial idea is only the first step that triggers a series of events that lead to the greatest success that is the result of an involuntary journey.
The idea of the founders was to provide a tool to connect people who had a room or an apartment to rent with those looking for temporary accommodation (university students).
The founders were students and, at the time, that was a priority for them!
The beginning was not easy at all and in 2008 we celebrated the milestone of 80 bookings received!
In the meantime, the demand (from tourists and travelers) was forming in the world for alternative forms of accommodation that had to satisfy the need to save money and to live travel experiences totally immersed in the reality of the destination you wanted to visit.
At the same time, the "fashion" of Bed & Brekfast spread all over the world and the laws of the various states regulated this new form of hospitality offered by non-professionals.
Hence, what was originally meant to be a tool to help students find shared accommodation for off-site study had already become a tool used by tourists and travelers alike.
But that's not all yet!
Over the years, the concept of Bed & Breakfast has also been completely upset and what at first was supposed to represent a (valid) alternative to hotels today represents a fearsome competitor (for hotels) and a potential failure for tourists looking for alternative accommodation. to save money.
in fact, in many cases, the prices of B & Bs are not at all lower than those charged by hotels and are unreasonably high.
However, the success of Airbnb seems unstoppable and, despite the obvious failure to realize the initial idea, it remains one of the most valid and interesting alternatives to follow when looking for accommodation for travel and holidays.
Finding accommodation with Airbnb: is it really worth it?
If you choose to use Airbnb instead of Booking or Momondo or any other website able to make you book an accommodation independently you actually believe that you have already made your first choice: to save money you will not stay in a hotel (where you can find services and professionalism) but in a private structure, managed by a non-professional with whom you will share spaces.
I have to give you the first bad news (if you don't already know it): most of the Bed & Breakfasts in Italy (and in the world) are no longer (for some time now) accommodation shared with the owners but real structures used for hospitality.
Moreover, for some time, Airbnb has also opened its doors to Hotels and since 2019 it has acquired HotelTonight a website that allows you to get discounts if you book a room the same day you are due to stay.
While this may seem like good news, in all respects, it is not:
The failure of the initial idea of the founders of Airbnb is also due to the change of costume and a misinterpretation of the concept of "Bed & Breakfast".
What initially was supposed to be only an alternative source for the family budget of those who had "an extra room" has become an entrepreneurial activity that has disillusioned the expectations of tourists and travelers who choose to find accommodation with Airbnb because driven by the desire to live experiences in contact with the real reality of the places visited (to find oneself instead in structures very far from the “concept” of family hospitality) and the need to save which remains completely unsatisfied.
Let's do an experiment:
Suppose you need to stay in Rome between July 1st and July 4th (three nights) and look for cheap accommodation:
First Step: Let's search on Airbnb:
I have activated two filters (later we will see what they are and how to use them)
–private room with shared spaces (therefore in an apartment, with a kitchen shared with the owners or other guests)
the result is this:
the average price I have selected is around € 163.00
According to Step, we do the same research as Booking
I only set three filters: free cancellation, private bathroom, and breakfast included.
The result is this:
the average of the prices I have selected is about € 166.00
- I want to point out is that the prices are practically the same. Airbnb is slightly lower but the difference is minimal.
- In the case of Airbnb, I looked for a "shared accommodation" with common spaces.
- In the case of Booking, I selected the "Breakfast included in the price" and "Free Cancellation" filter
- If you've read the post where I described the strategies on How (not) to use Booking to save you will know that to book an accommodation using Booking it is not necessary to enter your credit card details and that you can choose to pay only upon your arrival at the Hotel.
Using Airbnb, on the other hand, you have to enter your card details and Airbnb "freezes" the amount until your arrival. The actual withdrawal takes place only after you have "checked in".
On all booking pages, just below the space to enter your card details you will find a text box similar to this:
you have to be very careful because each "host" has the right to change the cancellation terms and (very often) it happens that in case of renunciation by you you will be charged
- a part of the amount due for the room (50% or more)
- cleaning costs
in the event that we are examining one of my "Hosts" has decided that in case of cancellation it is me anyway charged for the first of the three nights I booked.
Furthermore, almost always, it is the host who decides whether to accept or reject the reservation (this is because, once upon a time, people stayed in private homes) and only when the accepted reservation is the full amount "frozen" on my card of credit. If the stay is successful, upon my arrival, I will be charged the agreed amount.
To get around this limit, in 2010, Airbnb included in its filters the option for "Instant Book" that "hosts" can choose to allow. I advise you to carefully consider whether to use this filter: remember that once you have booked the entire amount due will be "frozen" on your credit card.
If I should decide to cancel or if for adverse reasons I could no longer travel, the cancellation terms set by the host will come into play and therefore I may have to pay (even the full amount) if, for example, my host has decided that a storm is not an accepted reason for canceling the stay.
If you want to find accommodation with Airbnb, never neglect to carefully read the links that you find under the cancellation terms: "House Rules", "Cancellation Policy" and "Guest Refund Policy".
How to find accommodation with Airbnb making the most of its potential
Now you know that Airbnb is very different from Booking and almost all its competitors and if you want to proceed, follow these guidelines to make the most of the potential that the site offers you:
Subscribe to the site
First you have to exploit the weaknesses of the algorithm that determines the results of your searches: the system is calibrated to provide results consistent with the search terms entered and the user's expectations.
First you need to sign up to the site and use it as often as possible (even without making purchases).
At each visit, the system stores data on your profile and "learns" what you like and what you need. Over time your results will be more and more consistent and in line with your expectations.
Use the "wish lists"
If you plan to make a trip to Rome, do regular research on this destination and create a "wish list" in which to save all potential accommodations. The "wish lists" (introduced in 2012) as an option to help users find the accommodations they have selected are actually used to make the algorithm "understand" what you are interested in and are willing to buy.
Inserting a structure in your "wish list" will most likely help you receive emails with offers and find lower prices in your searches.
In fact, by not purchasing, you will have communicated your willingness to go to Rome to the algorithm and it will suggest alternatives (almost always at a lower price).
Use the search filters
Using search filters has a double advantage: the first is to communicate more details about the search you are carrying out to the algorithm. In this way the results that will be proposed to you will be more and more coherent and closer to your needs.
The second is to cross data to find solutions that are more convenient or closer to your expectations.
Do not forget the consideration we made before: very often hotels can be cheaper than B & Bs (with infinite advantages) and therefore also use the filter to search for "Hotel Room" (yes ... even hotels are present on the site that was supposed to be an alternative to professionals and dedicated to private hosts) and compare the results.
Use the "Shared Room" filter
If your goal is to save as much as possible, this filter is what will bring you back to the principles that inspired the birth of Airbnb. Sharing a room with strangers is certainly the most effective way to spend less and it is also a good opportunity to socialize and to live travel experiences that can enrich you spiritually.
As you can see, using the "Shared Room" filter the average price drops considerably. The average is ruined by an absolutely off target proposal probably due to the centrality of housing in the capital but the results are much lower than the first research carried out.
If you have to go on a trip and you are thinking about the best way to understand how to choose a hotel keep reading this blog and don't limit yourself to consulting just one of the many sites (don't forget Expedia and Momondo!) that allow you to book accommodation independently. Visit them all and compare the results. Sign up for the newsletter well in advance of your trip, express your interest on the sites you visit and wait for offers.
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