A Review of AirBnB, A Great Budget Alternative

Written By: jeff

Posted On: December 9th, 2010


travel advice, travel the world, AirBnB review, Traveling on a budget, budgettravel, travel the world on a budget, traveling the world, how to travel on a budget, how to plan travel, how to budget for a trip

Screen shot of Airbnb's site

This year I had two trips to New York, one in June and the other in October.  Both times were for events in Manhattan. Looking around for budget accommodation was a challenge to say the least. I really didn’t want to waste time commuting over bridges and through tunnels.  Even cheaper hotel chains were ridiculously expensive.  I have points on several hotel programs, but really didn’t want to use them for work trips.  For my June trip, I sucked it up and stayed in an average hotel.  By the end, I was even more infuriated that I had overpayed for service that under-delivered. By October, I finally found a smarter and cheaper option, AirBnB.com.  I had such a good experience with AirBnB that I will definitely be using them again…around the world.

Service Overview

AirBnb.com is a site that offers you a place in someone’s home. The accommodation can range from a simple air mattress to your own room to an entire apartment or house. I even saw one option in Colombia for someone’s island!  The system acts as a broker and payment system between you the owner.  I have been a big fan of getting out of the hotel and renting apartments for a long time. I’ve done in Buenos Aires, Santiago, Madrid, Paris and Bogota.  So, immediately I was keen on the concept.  Here’s how it works.

  1. Select.  Enter your destination, dates and the number of guests. If you leave the dates off, the directory comes up
  2. Sort and Filter.  Next, you can sort the results by ¨Recommended¨, ¨Distance¨ or ¨Price¨.  At this point, you can also filter the results by the type of room you want, price range and amenities offered. The list of amenities included the most important one for me: Internet Access!
  3. Play.  Now it’s time to play around and look at the options.  You can see the individual listings that include photos, complete descriptions, reviews from previous renters, and the house rules (which all include the owner’s cancellation and refund policy). Don’t ignore the house rules!  I love the integration with Google Maps because you can see exactly where you will be located in the city.
  4. Select and Book.  Once you find a place that you like or want to know more about, you are guided to book the location.
  5. Response.  The owner will receive your request and respond to you.  In New York, my first option was not available as the owner had an unscheduled trip.  I was disappointed. But what I liked was that the owner got back to me right away, and was very friendly. So, even though I didn’t get my first choice, I was not upset with the service. So, I went through the process again and finally found another great place.
  6. Confirmation and Pre-Payment.  Once the owner approves your request, you will receive a confirmation email with the owner’s contact details so you can coordinate the check-in.  You will also be charged for the stay.  That money stays in escrow with AirBnB until you check in.
  7. Check-In.  Once you arrive to your city, you’ll meet up with the owner, get the keys and relax in your new place. At this point of the game, your money is transferred to the owner’s account.  You will probably work out the check out details with the owner at this point.
  8. Check-Out and Review.  The day has come for you to leave to head off to your next destination, or home.  AirBnB will send you a form to review your stay and the host. AND, the owner will receive a form to review as a guest.  This information is made available to other owners. It’s a great check to weed out unruly guests and bad hosts to keep everyone honest. So, you better be a good guest and leave the place like you found it!  Oh, and each side gets to see what the other wrote.

Pros and Cons of the Service

My Top 3 Pros Are

  • Simple, easy-to-use service to find the right balance between the creature comforts you want and the budget you have
  • Great detail on the listings like photos, services included and maps
  • Double-sided review process that keeps everyone honest

My Cons Are

Honestly, I’m sure there’s something. No service is perfect. And, maybe after a few more stays, I´m sure I can come up with something.  The wildcard is definitely the owner from whom you rent. I would highly encourage you to check our AirBnB for your next trip.


I got a large studio in New York with wifi and full kitchen for $80/night in October. Compare that with a crappy hotel in which I paid $250/night in June.  Not only was it cheaper, I was way more comfortable, my internet worked and I could cook for myself and not rely on takeout!

Let me know if you have any questions about the service or have something to add from your experience.

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4 Responses to “A Review of AirBnB, A Great Budget Alternative”

  1. Jeff, this looks terrific! We already found 2 great spots for our upcoming trip to Bogota in less than 5 minutes. We’ll let you know if we decide to use this service.

  2. Ian [EagerExistence] says:

    Just to make your readers aware, they also have a FREE AirBnB iPhone app now. Even better for finding cheap places to stay on the road!

    (I still prefer CouchSurfing, but thats for the social factor, I can understand the need for your own place once in a while).

  3. Justin C says:

    airbnb will encourage anybody to rent out their rat infested crawl space just so airbnb can snatch up a percentage. … And when those airbrushed photos turn out to be nothing more than a wallpapered outhouse, you’ll find how quickly airbnb support team vaporize into thin AIRbnb. keywords: censorship airbnb deceiving pimps of squalor

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