The Time I Finally Gave in and Stayed at an Airbnb
Last month, I stayed at an Airbnb for the first time. I’m a resolute and consistent hotel guy. I like my points and my status (correction: I love my points and my status). I like the consistency and the anonymity. Staying in “someone else’s house” seemed odd enough and why would I do that if I couldn’t earn points?
But, I was taking a trip for Batch to check out our Austin operation and was going to be there for five nights. The city was busy, so hotel rates here high. Plus added fees like parking was killing my budget and putting me a healthy drive away from where I’d need to be each day. So, I hopped online and created an Airbnb account, did some research, booked a stay, and now, after a few weeks to reflect back on my experience, I’m here to say this:
I’m hooked. Bring on the guest rooms and strangers.
Here’s why I’ll consider Airbnb on every future business trip I take:
1) Better amenities
I was posting up for five nights. I like to work out each day and I also don’t like to pack a ton. I enjoy eating out (who doesn’t?), but don’t like dropping all that cash if I can quickly concoct something in house. All of these needs meant that staying where I did with Airbnb was a perfect solution. I got to wash clothes (and pack less). I got to cook my own meals (saving money and time). Sure, it didn’t “feel” like a hotel, but my wallet is way happier. While some extended stay hotels offer kitchenettes and washing machines, they usually feel cheap, unlike my Airbnb unit.
Since I mentioned I like to work out, my airbnb didn’t have a stacked fitness center like many hotels. But, I went for a jog one day and then easily found a Crossfit box down the street. Even with the modest guest fee there, I was still under budget with better services.
2) Better price
Austin had a lot going on the week I was there (it nearly always has a lot going on). So, room rates with Marriott (my hotel company of choice) were through the roof. Without all the overhead a hotel demands, rates can stay low (even if hosts can gauge market demand). I spent about half of what I would have shelled out for a hotel and got approximately 8x the space.
Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just found the right host who happened to have a nearly new guest house (one bedroom with huge bathroom, full kitchen and living area) at a very low price. Time will tell. But, even if this Airbnb unit had been the same price as a hotel, the amenities (See #1) were better bang for my buck.
3) Skip loyalty and gain community
I earned no points for this stay (except those via my branded credit card, which I used to pay for the Airbnb). Nor did I bank any room nights and trust me, I hated to give up five room nights towards status. And if Airbnb comes up with a loyalty program, then every hotel chain needs to be on more notice than they are now.
But what I lost in loyalty I gained in community. The transparent way hosts and guests interact via email, texting, and through the system is easy and trustworthy. And, the way my host checked in on me (not in a weird, overbearing way) was endearing, asking if I needed recommendations or directions around town. She also left me a welcome bottle of wine.
I’ve heard lots of stories about folks who become fast friends with hosts, too. Maybe that’s next level airbnb stuff. I’m not there yet.
The not awesome
Of course, I’ve heard horror stories about folks who have stayed or hosted via Airbnb. I brush those off and would encourage you to look past them, too. Crazy things happen at a hotel, too (I used to work at one). Ups and downs happen in all parts of our world; that’s the price we pay to keep things as open as possible. So if you go looking for awful Airbnb stories, do yourself a favor and be on the lookout for how things were resolved or stock up on positive stories, too.
That said, I didn’t love the check in process. I needed to coordinate with the host a time to get the key (a literal key, also a downer). And while communication was easy, it did create an extra chore for me. From what I’ve gathered, some hosts use a lock box, so if you arrive late or your flight is delayed, you’re not inconveniencing a host. Again, hotels are open 24 hours so you can come when you like.
Some of you have been using Airbnb in all places and in all ways for a long time. If so, I’d love to hear what it is you love about the service (or similar services). Or, if you’re a heavy business traveler, weigh in on when you may given these services a go.
See you on the road (or in your house).
(That sounded creepy. I didn’t mean it like that.)