Adventures with Airbnb
I punched in an unfamiliar area code, followed by an unfamiliar phone number and waited for someone to pick up.
“Hello? Lucia?” I asked, reaching for my bag. “I think I’m here!”
“Ah yes, Andrea! Come ring the doorbell, Rakesh will let you in! I’m just upstairs with the baby.”
As I rolled my bag down the driveway, I thought about “stranger danger” and wondered why I felt so at ease preparing to stay at an unknown family’s home. Maybe using a website to find hosts in a new city seems like a bad idea on paper, but Airbnb made the process feel safe and comfortable: after viewing my host family’s extensive profile, going through the process of creating my own profile, and reading over 20 glowing guest reviews of my hosts, I felt surprisingly confident about my decision to spend a couple of nights on a business trip with a couple I’d never met.
And what a great decision it was! Compared to the alternative, a generic stay at a hotel off the highway, staying with Lucia and Rakesh was incredibly cozy, enriching, and affordable. While a hotel in the city would have cost around $100 a night, staying in Lucia and Rakesh’s warm guest room was closer to $50. I also got to meet their sweet baby daughter, listen to music with them in the morning while we ate Lucia’s homemade coffee cake, and learn about the city from locals who lived there.
Airbnb takes a booking every two seconds, and there are now 300,000 rooms, apartments and houses listed on the site (including 500 castles, 200 treehouses and 1,400 boats). – The Guardian
The process of setting up an Airbnb profile was easy and took about fifteen minutes. The steps were straightforward and include:
- email address authentication
- phone number submission
- online identity verification by connecting to a LinkedIn profile (a Facebook or Google profile connection can alternatively be used for this step)
- upload of an offline driver’s license or other official form of ID
- agreement to the site’s terms and conditions
- submission of a photo (I opted to take a picture with the site’s webcam).
By the end of the process, I felt as though it would be pretty difficult for someone to convincingly fake a profile.
I didn’t know I was leaving for my trip until two days prior, but still found many Airbnb lodging options available on the site. Some hosts allow visitors to rent out an entire home or apartment, while others, like my hosts, offer a single guest room in their home. All of the hosts’ profiles included pictures of themselves, their homes, and the space that you would stay in as a guest. Most hosts had scores of recent reviews from other visitors who cited specific things they enjoyed about the experience. The website was also user-friendly and easy to navigate, making it easy to see when rooms were available. Airbnb handles the credit card processing online so you do not have to deal with any awkward money transactions in person.
When I decided I wanted to stay with Lucia and Rakesh, I filled out a short form with my trip details. This form was forwarded to my hosts, who luckily accepted it (it’s a two-way street, hosts are allowed to decline offers). Although my Airbnb stay was not as conventional as staying at a Best Western, I found the experience to be incredibly rewarding, affordable, and a unique way to experience travel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Weinberg is a Capitol Hill dweller who caught the travel bug after a high school trip to Australia and New Zealand. She works as a Research Associate for czb, a neighborhood planning firm in Alexandria, VA and in her free time, likes to organize get-togethers for her friends and play a lot of Ultimate Frisbee.
Have you ever tried Airbnb? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below!