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How Airbnb Works: A Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb

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Besides plane tickets, what is the #1 budget killer when planning a family vacation? Hands down, for us it has always been hotels or lodging – but it doesn’t have to be! For the past two years we have used nothing but Airbnb – this includes our trip to Disney World with the kids last June and our recent trip to London, Paris and Edinburgh, Scotland for our 10-year wedding anniversary.

How Airbnb Works: A Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb

If you are brand new to Airbnb you will have plenty of questions, which I hope to answer for you in our newest installment of how to vacation {in Europe – or anywhere} on the cheap.

How Airbnb Works

There are many reasons why Airbnb is our go-to for vacation lodging. Whether we are staying just a few hours away from home or on the other side of the world, we will always check Airbnb first. Not only are we saving on the actual night’s lodging vs paying for a hotel, we are saving on our luggage fees, saving a ton on food and possibly transportation as well.

How Airbnb Works

Airbnb is a website platform for home/condo/flat owners to offer up their living space for vacationers to rent. While there is the option for the home owner to remain in a portion of their home during your stay, we have never stayed at a location where the owner has remained present. I prefer to have the entire place to ourselves.

Choosing your location

Airbnb classifies listings based on location and price. First, select which city you’d like to stay, then start looking at popular attractions you’d like to visit. Find a location near your main area of interest, and then narrow down your results based on amenities (like a washing machine so you can pack less), a full kitchen for eating a meal or two at home during the day, if they have a hair dryer (great for packing less as well) if they have a workout room or a hot tub etc. Once you narrow it down, choose your final desired location based on price.

READ THE REVIEWS other renters have left! Take all of these factors into account and request to rent the desired space for the days needed.

The flat we rented in Edinburgh was inexpensive (just $86 a night!), in a GREAT location relative to the Edinburgh castle, Holyrood palace, the “Royal Mile” and more, and absolutely beautiful. If you’d like me to share the exact listing with you, feel free to send me an email and I’ll share the link!

How to request

When you request to rent a location on Airbnb, there will be a section in which you will convey to the home owner why you are visiting their city, how long you will be staying and any other information you’d like to share. The home owner will then take a look at your profile and determine if they would like to rent to you. They can choose either to accept your rental or decline, and you will be notified either way via your account/email. This is why you want to receive good renter reviews!

Arrival/Getting the Key

In many instances, you may never actually meet the home owner at all, instead you may pick up the key at a concierge desk or other location. Of our many stays using Airbnb we have seen about 50/50 ratio. In the instances that we have met the owner to retrieve the key, that was the only time we saw each other face to face.

Staying in the rental

Treat the rented space just like you would your own home – don’t break things, don’t be too loud, be respectful of your neighbors… you know the drill.

Finishing your stay

When completing your stay at your Airbnb location, you’ll want to clean up. There is a small cleaning fee (that can vary by home owner) that allows for deep cleaning, just be sure to leave the rental in the condition in which it was in when you arrived.

Leaving feedback/getting your review

Quite possibly my favorite part of Airbnb? The review process!  After your stay, both the renter and the home owner have the ability to leave a review of each other. The kicker? Neither person can see what the other has to say until both have left their reviews.  Why is this so great, you ask? Because it keeps both parties honest – and it helps to insure that home owners are getting good renters and that renters aren’t getting themselves into a pickle in an unfamiliar city/country.  Definitely read the reviews before booking your trip!

What makes Airbnb great

Why You Should Choose Airbnb

One way Paul and I were able to get such a bangin’ overall deal on our trip to Europe was by utilizing all that our Airbnb had to offer. While we did go out to eat for many meals, we used the kitchens to prepare some meals at “home” saving us hundreds of dollars over the course of the twelve days we were traveling.

By the end of our trip we were eating every breakfast (and some dinners) at our flat for close to $5 for both of us – when eating out would have been at least $25 per meal.

A post shared by Ashlea K (@hearthookhome) on

Another thing we love about Airbnb? Finding rental properties that have a washing machine! This not only let us wash and re-wear much of our clothing, it in turn allowed us to pack much LESS clothing.  This means that we traveled with carry-on luggage only instead of checking luggage on our flight.  When traveling to more than one destination, lugging around luggage is, well, not fun at all.  The lighter the better!

Sure, some hotels have washing services as well, but I’m not leaving my laundry in the hotel wash room alone, and I’m sure not sitting there waiting for it to wash while I could be out vacationing! I can not begin to convey how much this simple amenity enhanced our experience – all while being cheaper than a hotel to begin with!

Stay tuned for more in this series, including how to eat on the cheap while vacationing without eating PB&J sandwiches, and how to use public transportation on the cheap as well! Not too keen on public transportation? You got this!

More travel tips before you go:

14 Tips for Planning a European Vacation on The Cheap
9 Tips for Traveling with Crochet
Ten Tips for Fitting Your Life into a Carry-on Bag
Super Slim Hidden Fanny Pack Free Crochet Pattern
How We’re Getting Our Family of Four to Disney World for Less than $1,000
6 Secret Tips to Saving BIG on Airfare {without signing up for 100 credit cards}
Tips for Choosing Credit Cards (for Their Rewards Programs)

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