For a long time, I wasn’t a great fan of Airbnb. Whenever I looked for short or medium term housing, their prices were high and their fees numerous and excessive. We were always finding better deals elsewhere.
That changed on our ~4 month European tour. We stayed 77 nights in 20 different private apartments across 19 cities in 7 countries, with an average price inclusive of fees of ~$106/night. (We also spent 8 nights with friends, 16 nights in free hotels, and another 14 nights in paid hotels (average $104/night.) Average price for the whole trip was ~$84/night.
The private apartments found on Airbnb were incredible value compared to hotel options across Europe, with full use of a kitchen, a living space for lounging and computer time, and a bedroom for Jr’s naps, all in an ideal central location for easy walking and access to public transit.
We had a wide range of amazing experiences and a few that were lessons learned (more details below), but we would definitely choose Airbnb for future travel in Europe.
Prior to our European trip, we hadn’t used Airbnb extensively. For the most part listings we saw in Asia, the US, and Central America were ultra luxurious expat accommodations with price tags 2-3x higher than a high end hotel room or a long stay luxury apartment. There were way better deals to be had.
In Europe, we found the opposite. Even dumpy hotels were priced higher than great Airbnb apartments. European hotels also have weird per person pricing, and mid-range hotel rooms are often cramped and still showcasing 1950’s carpet.
But hotels do offer consistency, whereas Airbnb properties are as unique as their respective owners, with all of the pros and cons that entails. It also means a lot of Ikea furniture.
If you haven’t stayed with Airbnb before, you can get up to $35 off your first stay (we’ll also get $35.)
Sample the Merchandise
We like to come back to a clean home with plenty of space, a respectable kitchen, and a comfortable bed.
Here are some examples from a few of our favorite apartments:
Not bad, eh?
Experiences, aka When Things Go Wrong
We had some incredible experiences and adventures as a result of our Airbnb stays. A great host is invaluable, substantially better than a hotel concierge.
Our host in Valencia, Spain suggested we have lunch at her favorite place in the whole city. She told us the name and gave us directions, but it took some effort to find it in a side alley. We looked for the place on Tripadvisor but had no lunch, and asked a couple people on the street but nobody had heard of it.
We were almost ready to give up but then we noticed the faded sign overgrown with ivy. That lunch may have been the best meal we had during our whole trip.
Later while in Napoli, Italy, our host asked us if we were planning to visit the ruins at Pompei. Naturally we were. It turned out he was an archaeologist of the Indiana Jones variety, and we scored free tickets and suggestions of how best to appreciate the massive site.
Not all was wonderful, however… when we walked into our apartment in Copenhagen for the first time, we almost choked. It smelled like an ashtray. We knew we couldn’t stay there, but weren’t really sure what to do and Airbnb’s online help system was terrible. I figured this was one of those times where money can solve problems, so we found another housing option and moved out. But once I hit the cancel button, Airbnb really came through, refunding several fees and the rest of our stay, plus giving a credit for future use.
In another instance, Airbnb really came through again… but this time for our unhappy host. Shortly after checking out, we got a message from her asking about the stain on the sofa. “What stain?”
We eventually figured out that Jr wasn’t ready to stop wearing a onesie. We had set him on the nice white sofa while we were packing, and he managed to loosen his diaper and pee all over a blanket and cushion. Now it looked like we tried to cover it up and bolt without claiming responsibility. We paid $200 for a new cushion, and also learned to avoid white sofas.
It is rare when customer service is done well, but Airbnb did just that.
We really enjoyed using Airbnb for our European tour, and it became our first choice for finding housing across multiple cities and countries.
We were able to get beautiful apartments in central locations with a kitchen, bedroom, and comfortable living space, for the same or less than a dingy hotel (~$106/night over 77 nights.)When things didn’t go perfectly, Airbnb’s customer service was helpful and supportive.
What do you think of Airbnb?
If you haven’t tried it, you can get up to $35 off your first stay.
But what better way to enjoy a few days hanging out with fellow financial geeks than to stay on a houseboat? Fortunately Airbnb has such a place.