I will be the first to say how much I adore staying in Hotels, but when you're travelling for a long length of time the cost can seriously add up and sometimes you want to be able to have more of a home base where you can cook, do laundry and just generally make home for a while.
When I was researching for a recent trip, I decided to look at AirBnB. I didn't know anyone who had used it before, but I had heard a lot of people I follow online talk about it so was curious. I was amazed how much choice there was, the options you could tailor to your own needs and I loved the quirky place you could find.
Location is really important, so I was very excited when I found a beautiful San Franciscan home in the heart of our ideal location, the Marina District. I, like I'm sure many people using a new service for the first time, was a little apprehensive and unsure how AirBnB even worked right up until we arrived & didn't know how it was all going to go, but the minute we pulled up outside the beautiful wooden clad, duck egg blue, classically San Franciscan house I knew we were home for the next 10 days.
One of the huge benefits of staying in a rental over a Hotel is how much space you get for your money, especially with AirBnB. Although technically this place was an apartment, it felt like we had our very own house for the stay and when you're travelling for a long time with somebody, it's always nice to have a little extra space to breath, no matter how much you love them.
I've said a couple of times above how this place is 'classically San Franciscan' that's because although I definitely have a strong idea of what I look for in travel rentals, one of the coolest things about staying with AirBnB rather than a Hotel, is you get to experience the true way that people in the area live and see behind the classic facades that identify a City.
In your own place you also have no worries about when you leave & return, no issues with the busy morning rush using all the hot water in a Hotel or Hostel & there are little extras you might not even know you need until you instinctively reach for something that is already there in a home rather than a Hotel.
Finally for our beautiful SF home, it was nice for after the really, really busy days to be able to come home & snuggle on a couch with Netflix or Apple TV & great free WiFi. Although you can get these features at Hotels & even some Hostels they often involve hidden costs.
We also used AirBnB in L.A but the search was slightly different. I had no idea at all what a classic Santa Monica place would look like so we just wanted somewhere clean, simple, with A/C & in walking distance to the beach. I must admit the fairy lights on the balcony probably did lure me into this particular choice but it was the views, cost & proximity to the beach that sold it to me, all the other facilities were just the same as I had been looking for in SF.
I want to add as well that there were no Hotels anywhere around either of the properties so it really is like living in the City.
How it works:
You request the dates you wish to stay at the specific property you have chosen, you talk to the host and they will either approve or decline your request and then up until the day or two before travel there is nothing you need to do. As the date approaches you just need to confirm details like addresses, key pick up and check in/out times but often I've found these flexible with no extra cost.
In both my experiences this trip we never met the host, the key is either left in a secure location or their is a code you are given to get into the building. I am quite a social person but honestly I really appreciated this smooth check in, where after a long day of travel you walk in the front door instantly without paperwork or any other hassle. On leaving you just leave the key where you found it, couldn't be easier.
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+ More for your Money
+ Freedom to eat in
+ Option to do laundry for free
+ Free WiFi
+ Parking Spaces
+ True experience of living in each place
+ Locations you wouldn't otherwise find with Hotels
+ Option to meet people
+ No Bellman
+ No Room Service
+ No Concierge Services
+ No Wakeup Calls