Peer-to-peer lodging really became a travel trend when AirBnB hit the scene, sometime between 2009 and 2011. They were founded in 2007, but they didn’t really become a thing until about 2011, when they won the “app” award at the South by Southwest conference. From that point on, everyone knew of AirBnB, but they were not the first. There have been many peer-to-peer lodging companies that offer private homes and rooms to the public.
When you are planning your trip, where you stay can change the whole vibe of the destination. Having a place that allows you to have the type of experience you want is important.
Peer-to-peer lodging sites have been part of my planning even before AirBnB. I have used VRBO and other sites to locate the perfect place to stay when traveling.
Here’s a little list of some of the options out there.
There are several reasons to look beyond hotels when traveling. Here are my top five reasons for choosing a peer-to-peer accommodations instead of a hotel.
- I get to live more like a local. These rentals are in more residential areas. Depending on the rental, you will likely have access to a living space and a kitchen, which means you can grocery shop, cook a meal or even enjoy a movie in the evening.
Whether you are renting the entire property or just a room, you will have access to a local, your host! Your host can provide tips for where to shop, eat, and fun things to do in the area. Beyond what you would find in a local guidebook. Some hosts are willing to meet with you and share a meal, you might even make a new friend.
During our stay in Panama, we met a lovely women who lived in the property above the rental. She invited us into her home for a chat and shared some fresh baked banana bread with us. It was lovely. She offered a few pointers as to where to visit in the little village.
- I get to stay at unique places. Oh, the variety of places to rent. Everything from a bedroom in a home, to an entire chalet.
During my daughter and I’s stay in Paris, we rented an apartment that was beautifully decorated, with a loft bedroom and bath.
The VRBO rental in Costa Rica was so beautifully decorated, with a big porch and a community pool, complete a free-flowing beverages.
- The amenities are unique too. You might have a place with a pool, a view, a spa, a full-kitchen or a washer and dryer. Most places offer free parking, and free wifi. Some hosts will pick you up at the airport, others might offer to share a meal with you. There are tons of options when booking your stay.
The VRBO rental we rented in Costa Rica had hammocks and a lovely kitchen.
In Belize my VRBO rental had an outdoor area fully equipped with a grill and a beautiful garden to explore.
Most hosts offer a few welcome goodies. Checking into my AirBnB in Manhatten, I was greeted with a little box of goodies. A couple of bottles of water, a cup of instant oatmeal and a few individual snack bars and bags of nuts. It was a sweet gesture.
- Privacy and room to stretch. You might not think that an AirBnB or VRBO rental would offer privacy, but it can. Some hosts will meet you at the property to show you around – but then you will be on your own. I especially like to rent an apartment or home when traveling with others, it gives us a chance the lounge around together without being in a restaurant or hotel lobby.
On a 3-day trip to Indianapolis, I rented 100-year-old home from a retired couple which was lovely, quiet and allowed me to spread out and enjoy a few days of solitude after a previous week in a hostel in Chicago.
- They are budget friendly, and I can support the local community. Many of these types of rentals are less expensive than hotels. And even when they are comparable, you could easily save money other places. By having a kitchen, you might be less likely to eat out as often saving money on meals. You can curl up on the sofa and watch a movie or grab a bottle of wine and have a little private evening, saving a little money on entertainment. Free parking and free wifi can help cut costs as well.
Another bonus is you are likely giving money to locals, your hosts. Instead of paying a larger company, like Marriot or Hilton or the like. You can feel better knowing your travel dollars are supporting the local community.
And here are my top 5 tips for booking an AirBnB or other peer-to-peer accommodation.
- Personally, I shy away from listings that do not have a review.
Check the reviews! Read them carefully and consider your situation. A poor review from someone stating that the location is too far from the touristy areas, might be a plus for you and your group. One thing to consider is checking reviews from similar people. If you are traveling with a group or your family, look for reviews that included a group. If you are a single woman, look for a single female traveler’s review. A neighborhood that feels safe for a 35-year old man may not feel safe to a twenty-something woman.
- Read the fine print. Thoroughly read the listing. Make sure you read all the information provided, understand the cancelation policy, the clean-up expectations, the check-in and check-out procedures. With these types of listings, they are all be different. The host sets the rules (with the guidelines of the listing site). One property might require a $250-cleaning deposit and a 30-day notice for cancelation, while another has no cleaning deposit and will accept cancelations up to 24-hours before check-in. I have lost my deposit a couple of times because I miss read the cancelation policy.
- Following along with the tip above, connect with the host. Always, always chat with the host for a few messages. Sites like AirBnB make this easy, but regardless, I encourage folks to connect before booking. Clarify anything that you are not sure of in the listing. Confirm the presence of a coffee maker or parking space, ask to confirm your understanding of the cancelation policy, or any other detail that is a priority for you. It only takes a few minutes. And this quick chit-chat with the host will give you a peek into the level of customer service your host will offer. You may also want to share a few detail about your plans, if you are wanting time alone, looking for tips or even want to know where to find the best coffee, your host can help you with these things.
- Ask where the host will be during your stay. Knowing if someone is available to come help if needed and how accessible they will be during your stay can help set expectations on response time and what to expect while at the property. Some hosts live in the adjoining property, others can be out-of-the-country on their own vacation. Be sure to understand what assistance is available.
- Check out the street view on Google Maps. Most of the time you can drop the little pegman onto the street and check out the neighborhood. Even if the sites won’t give you the exact address of the location until you book it, you can still check out the neighborhood and see what is nearby and get a lay of the land. I often take a virtual stroll down the street before I arrive. It helps me see what the place looks, sometimes I can even locate the front door. This little virtual walk gives me more confidence when I am trying to locate the place on the day of arrival.
When you are booking your next trip, don’t hesitate to reach beyond hotels for your lodging. If you have a story of a wonderful place you stayed, let April and I know – we’d love to hear your story.
April & Cindy discuss peer-to-peer lodging in this episode of The Travel Collective podcast.