travel tip: alternative lodging options in expensive cities

find a place to stay

photo source: airbnb.com

This year my work travel is going to slow down, but the travel bug has it’s teeth permanently sunk in me. Less work travel means less frequent flyer miles with United and loyalty points with Marriott, which equals less “free” stays for me. Sad yes, but will this stop me from traveling? No!

As I won’t have as many United and Marriott points to lean on (a.k.a. cash in) and unfortunately don’t have an unlimited travel budget, I’ve been learning more about budgeting and alternative lodging options. Am I ready to surf? Couchsurfing, that is. Not quite yet, but Airbnb is where I’ve chosen to start. I have a two-week work trip (one of few trips) coming up and instead of criss-crossing the US, I’ve decided to take a short flight from San Diego to San Francisco for the double holiday weekend (Valentine’s / President’s Day) and with NYC and San Fran battling for #1 and #2 for most expensive cities in the US, you can guess that hotel prices come at a premium. So, I thought I would give airbnb.com a try.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

1. People (known as hosts) rent out rooms or their entire house. They post pics, have a profile with reviews and set their own prices/calendar. They get verified by Airbnb.

2. You create a profile and search available spaces within the city you’re going to visit. You can search without having your own profile, but if you want to book, I would recommend setting up one with a picture and a quick description so the host(s) gets a feel/look at you. You can do advanced searches based on neighborhood, quiet vs touristy, price, # of visitors, etc. I like that they give you a quick rundown on the neighborhood’s DNA.

3. When you find a place you like, contact the host(s) to see if the space is available. Although there’s a calendar on their profile that doesn’t mean the space is actually available OR that the host will respond back to you, which brings me to the next step.

4. Wait for a response. Airbnb recommends  you contact several hosts to increase your chances of booking a space.

5. Once you get a confirmed “yes”, then you pay for your booking. Your card will be charged, but the money doesn’t get transferred to the host until 24 hours after your visit. This is to ensure the space matching the description.

6. Meet your host, get your keys and hopefully you enjoy your stay and visit.

7. Provide and seek feedback. This will show that you are a good “guest” and will improve your response rate/bookings for future trips.

8. That’s it, it’s really that simple. Unless you get a bum host or a non-responder the process of getting started is really quite simple.

For my upcoming trip, I contacted three hosts, heard from two and got a confirmed booking with the last one. This all happened within a weekend. I’ll let you know how the rest of the process goes after my stay. But, so far, all good.

Has anyone else used Airbnb, couch surfed or something similar?

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