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Booked our first room through AirBnB
Old 05-08-2011, 08:13 AM   #1
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Booked our first room through AirBnB

AirBnB.com is a website where people list rooms, apartments, or houses for rent. We've long considered alternative lodging arrangements, including these peer-to-peer hotels, as potentially inexpensive options for visiting expensive destinations. We're trying it out for the first time this June when we return to New York City.

Conventional hotel rooms for the time we're going to be there are $215 per night and up (including pretty egregious taxes and fees that add 20% to the list price). Instead, we booked a private room and bath with breakfast included from a woman who runs her Brownstone like a B and B. It seems like a pretty professional operation: she has an online booking calendar and 38 reviews, all glowing. We're paying $85 per night for a pretty decent location on the Upper East side.

We've stayed in B and B's before, and usually paid a premium for the privilege. Now we're trying an unconventional B and B at a deep discount. I'll let you know how it works out.
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Old 05-08-2011, 09:15 AM   #2
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Thanks; we will be very interested in your experience!

Not to say it'll be true of this B&B, but we have stayed at less-than-loveable ones, where the "guest books" make it sound like people thought they were staying with Mother Teresa and MLK Jr at the Taj Mahal...either we missed out on all the good drugs, or the proprietors wrote the stuff themselves!

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Originally Posted by Gone4Good View Post
AirBnB.com is a website where people list rooms, apartments, or houses for rent. We've long considered alternative lodging arrangements, including these peer-to-peer hotels, as potentially inexpensive options for visiting expensive destinations. We're trying it out for the first time this June when we return to New York City.

Conventional hotel rooms for the time we're going to be there are $215 per night and up (including pretty egregious taxes and fees that add 20% to the list price). Instead, we booked a private room and bath with breakfast included from a woman who runs her Brownstone like a B and B. It seems like a pretty professional operation: she has an online booking calendar and 38 reviews, all glowing. We're paying $85 per night for a pretty decent location on the Upper East side.

We've stayed in B and B's before, and usually paid a premium for the privilege. Now we're trying an unconventional B and B at a deep discount. I'll let you know how it works out.
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Old 05-08-2011, 09:23 AM   #3
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Thanks, I will give this a try in the future and will list my condo on here now.
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Old 05-08-2011, 03:00 PM   #4
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We've used both AirBnB and VRBO.com with good results. It's especially effective when you're looking for lodging in a specific place-- near a certain attraction or a subway line or a family event.

When you get the address of the place you'll be staying, do yourself a favor-- run a search on the address to see if it's listed for sale during the time you're staying there. We had a very nice condo rental almost ruined by the listing realtor nearly barging in on us "just to give these nice folks a quick walkthrough". We won't be going back there.

Paul Graham has an interesting article on the AirBnB corporate history. Gotta love entrepreneurs who can make it happen.
A VC: Airbnb
Subject: Airbnb
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Old 05-08-2011, 03:19 PM   #5
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When you get the address of the place you'll be staying, do yourself a favor-- run a search on the address to see if it's listed for sale during the time you're staying there. We had a very nice condo rental almost ruined by the listing realtor nearly barging in on us "just to give these nice folks a quick walkthrough". We won't be going back there.
Ha, too funny. File this under the category "You get what you pay for."

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It's especially effective when you're looking for lodging in a specific place-- near a certain attraction or a subway line or a family event.
Our idea is to use them as a way to explore big cities. We've found the RV to be perfect for 80% of our travels, but for large cities it is less than ideal. We love staying directly in the city, being able to pop out for dinner and drinks without having to worry about a 45 minute drive home. We've also found that it is easier to really get to know a place when you stay there, rather than day-trip in. This means we'll be paying for an RV spot, and a hotel, so saving a few shekels on the room makes me feel better about the indulgence.
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Old 05-08-2011, 09:53 PM   #6
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Ha, too funny. File this under the category "You get what you pay for."
Not even close.

It was a high-rise with a porte cochere, doormen, and a marble lobby. I never got to touch a door handle at the entrances or the exits. It was way overpriced for the market and the condo owners must've been losing their shirts.

But it was educational. After a week in it we realized that we'd never be able to tolerate that way of life for longer than a vacation. It was like sitting in a climate-controlled box just about anywhere in the world, completely lacking interaction with the environment-- except for the hallway noise. Couldn't even open a window, and didn't really want to. Hostage to the elevator, especially for a grocery run. Until I'm lacking in both sight & hearing, I'm going to have to stick to single-family homes.
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:00 PM   #7
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Please post your experience with the B&B.

We have had good luck with vrbo.com.
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Old 05-09-2011, 07:14 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post
It was a high-rise with a porte cochere, doormen, and a marble lobby. I never got to touch a door handle at the entrances or the exits. It was way overpriced for the market and the condo owners must've been losing their shirts.
I guess I assumed that even a place like that would be far cheaper than an equivalent suite at a normal hotel.

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It was like sitting in a climate-controlled box just about anywhere in the world, completely lacking interaction with the environment
I hate that. We stayed in a big hotel in Marrakech and, after traveling 4,000 miles, we felt like we landed in a giant western bubble. Why bother even leaving home?
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Old 05-09-2011, 10:59 AM   #9
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I guess I assumed that even a place like that would be far cheaper than an equivalent suite at a normal hotel.
My apologies, upon re-reading that I was using way too many pronouns.

The condo complex appears to have been built just before the real estate boom crashed. The owners had to have bought at the top of the market and then had huge monthly fees to pay for the lobby staff. When we looked it up on the Internet the sellers still seemed to be overpriced... several of them for sale and the sellers were the top price of the group. The whole neighborhood sprouted realtor's signs and property managements were begging with ads like "Free first month's rent!" But it was decently convenient to Rice.

The price we paid to rent the place was indeed way under the local hotels. Even better, it was out of the crowd around the Texas Medical Center and away from the rush-hour traffic roads. Great location. But no connection to the environment. It was OK for a place to sleep & relax (and we didn't spend much time in it) but not as a lifestyle.

ETA: Ah, here it is: 651 Bering Drive. $210/night in August 2010, and at the time we were seeing hotels charging over $250/night for their family-sleeper suites. This may have been price-gouging for the Families Weekend.

We'll be back in Sep/Oct to try another Families Weekend, and this time we'll probably need to start searching for a big ol' house very near the campus for May 2014.
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Old 08-19-2011, 09:35 AM   #10
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Update

We've been back from our NYC trip for quite some time and I had forgotten about this thread until now. A blog post I wrote this morning on our experience using Airbnb reminded me that I needed to follow up here.

The short story is that our “hotel” booking with Airbnb was an unqualified success. Everything went exactly like it was supposed to and we saved 60% off the cheapest traditional hotel we could find.

So what did we get for $85 per night in NYC? A clean single room with a private bathroom, queen bed, T.V., air conditioning, and continental breakfast each morning in a private home on the upper east side of Manhattan. Our room was immediately off the front door so we didn’t need to traipse through the entire place when coming or going. And through careful planning, we found a location so convenient we were within walking distance to about half of our planned stops.

Our host, Dorothy, ran the place like other Bed and Breakfasts we’ve stayed in. Unlike other B&Bs, her place wasn’t ‘quaint’ it was just a simple room. But it had everything we needed for our stay and we ran into no difficulties whatsoever.

A couple of things occur to me though.
  • Limited quality control. Dorothy ran a professional operation and we were pleased with our experience. But the next place we stay at will be completely different. Unlike staying at the Red Roof Inn, where you pretty much know what you’re going to get, every Airbnb room and host is going to be a completely unique experience. User reviews posted to the site help keep everyone honest. The reviews for our rental were spot on.
  • Location, location, location. We found the NYC listings to be somewhat overwhelming with 2,000 properties available for our trip and plenty of places not actually in the city. Having a very good understanding of the city’s neighborhoods, geography, and transportation options is pretty critical in sifting through the list of potential places to stay. Hotels tend to be in places people want to go. But Airbnb listings can be anywhere someone lives, and many of those places aren’t terribly convenient for tourists.
  • A knowledgeable local, or uncomfortable stranger. Staying in someone elses house isn’t for everyone. True you can find completely vacant rentals on Airbnb, but I suspect most of the offerings are like the one we rented, where you share the space with the ‘host.’ As travelers we value the insight of locals far more than hotel concierge services. So having built in access to someone who lives in the area is a plus for us. Others may find the experience a little weird.

The bottom line for us, is that Airbnb is a viable alternative to traditional hotels and one we’ll definitely be using in the future.
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Old 08-19-2011, 10:15 AM   #11
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Thanks for the update. We plan to use their service to find a place to stay in Lima, as we aren't going to be in the city for very long. I've heard many raves about the service, but did you hear about the folks out on the west coast that got their houses trashed by AirBnB renters? I think I'd rather be on this side of the rental arrangement, than the person turning their house over to others.

See more of the story here:
Plot thickens in Airbnb vacation rental horror story - USATODAY.com

And of course, I received your post in my morning email about your positive experiences with AirBnB:
Better Bookings with Airbnb « Wanderings

Thanks!
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Old 08-19-2011, 10:47 AM   #12
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did you hear about the folks out on the west coast that got their houses trashed by AirBnB renters? I think I'd rather be on this side of the rental arrangement, than the person turning their house over to others.
I hadn't heard that story. Thanks for sharing.

Letting strangers into your place certainly carries risks, more so than being a 'guest.' I suppose guests can be at risk too.

I always like to put these kinds of things in perspective. One high-profile incident like this makes the news. The millions of successful transactions fly under the radar. Unless we hear repeated horror stories, I'll file this under the same category as 'shark attack.'

Living life carries risks, especially when done to excess.

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Old 08-19-2011, 11:28 AM   #13
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Just to put a contrary, cautionary story out there. My wife and I took my 78 year old mother to Manhattan last year for a week long treat. My wife and I go all the time but she had never been. Took the train down and back from Toronto. We have reserved a condo in Midtown from a guy on VRBO. On the way down on the train, he sends me an email to say sorry, but he has double booked the property !

This after repeated assurances everything was set to go and we paid. So here I am, on the train, calling hotels from my iPhone trying to find a place for the three of us with about two hours notice... stressfull ? yup.

Now, I did send some nasty emails and VM in response to him and he refunded every penny by Paypal right away. But, caveat emptor. These aren't companies you're dealing with and there are just as many flakes and incompetent individuals on these sites as there are in real life.

(and yes, all's well that ended well. Got us two rooms in a hotel right on Times Square that she loved and she still talks to the rest of the family about what a great trip it was. Did I tell her about the VRBO screw up ? ... not on your life)
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:40 AM   #14
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These aren't companies you're dealing with and there are just as many flakes and incompetent individuals on these sites as there are in real life.
It's true, and that is part of the reason I'd expect deep discounts. Stories of canceled bookings can be seen in comments on the site, and I'd avoid anyone who had multiple occurances. Good reviews don't offer 100% protection, but they do give you a good indication of who is reliable.

I haven't delt with VRBO, but with Aribnb, the host doesn't get paid until after you arrive. So there shouldn't be any risk of not getting your money back if the host flakes. Airbnb returns the money directly.

Having said all of that, companies aren't always reliable either. I've been bumped from flights, had car rental companies lose my reservations, and shown up at overbooked hotels. This stuff happens. Does it happen more often on peer-to-peer sites like Airbnb? Probably. I guess you just have to decide for yourself whether that increased risk is worth the savings.
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Old 03-01-2012, 09:15 AM   #15
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I just came across this article on the Budget Travel website
Is Renting Out a Bedroom to Random Strangers for You? - This Just In - Travel Blog

and it is interesting that there are lots more people considering this as a form of extra income. I looked around my hometown and saw a surprising number of whole house, bedroom, and extra space rentals. The article also links to a new feature on AirBnB that purports to tell you how much money you could make listing your own property.

Any updates from folks who have listed their own spaces? I was surprised that some of the listings here weren't necessarily convenient to the tourist areas.

We used AirBnB to book our place in Lima (to which we returned 3 times during our stay in Peru), with splendid results, and the people who owned the house have become close friends. Very positive experience on our end.
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