Would you ever stay at a strangers house on vacation? I never thought I'd say yes, but it turns out that it's the best way ever to travel through Europe. Allison from PetitElefant and I set out on a little adventure we like to call #ParisRoadTrip (you can check that hashtag on our Instagram feeds: @todaysmama and @petit_elefant) and we used Airbnb along the way.
How Does Airbnb Work?
7 Tips for Traveling With Airbnb.com in Europe
- Give yourself plenty of time to book. It can take quite a bit of research and back and forth with the host to find the best place to stay, especially when traveling internationally. It generally took up to 2 days to get a response because of the time zone differences etc.
- As with most things, always read the reviews. It will tell you most of what you need to know about your host.
- Take note of how fast your host responds to your inquiries. That will give you a good indication of how helpful they will be when you are actually there.
- Use the "Neighborhoods" guide. We had great tips from friends on great areas to stay in, but it's tough to narrow that down when you're actually searching for somewhere to book. The neighborhoods tool let us browse through exactly what we needed without a lot of hassle.
- Always inquire about elevator access and pack accordingly. I over-packed and ended up hauling my 50 pounds of luggage up several flights of stairs in both of the places that we booked. Additionally, had I mentally processed the fact that we had booked places with washer/dryer I would have packed even lighter knowing I could easily wash my clothes.
- Make sure you get the wifi code from your host.
- We had the cell phone numbers for both of our hosts, but we could also communicate directly with them via the Airbnb app which was super easy.
Our host in Barcelona actually rents out several apartments, so this apartment was not someone's home. We arrived around 10:30 at night and our host met us there and got us situated. He was a huge help and left us with his cell phone number in case we had any questions about the area (which we did). Our apartment was fresh out of an IKEA magazine. Everything was relatively new and very clean.
Our host was a dance student who travels once a month for a week up North so she rents her apartment out through AirBnB. She left us macarons and fresh flowers on the table, left us her umbrella for the rain, and gave us lots of good information about the area.
We could use her washer and dryer for our clothes. The apartment was full of beams from the 16th Century and we were in the heart of one of the best neighborhoods in Paris. We were within walking distance of just about any where we wanted to go. We had a relatively short stay in Paris so location really was everything for us. Surrounding hotels were through the roof expensive, while we paid just $245 per night for an entire apartment. Split that in half with a friend and that is even better.
Using AirBnB.com in a Pinch
What happens if you need a place to stay short notice? So there was this one time . . . when Allison and I missed our night train to Paris . . . you know the kind . . . with bunk beds and stuff. The cool kind. Missing the train was not cool.
Well, it was 10:00 at night and we needed to figure out where to crash for the evening. We didn't want to pay crazy amounts of money for decent hotel for a few hours, so we turned to the "I need a place to stay tonight" button on the AirBnB app. I'm not exaggerating when I say that within 20-30 minutes we had replies from 3 different hosts that could make arrangements for us to stay short notice at great rates. You obviously need wifi to access the app, but we found it easily at the bus station. (I shut off my data plan when I'm in Europe so I rely on wifi for internet access on my phone).
5 Reasons to Use Airbnb With Kids
As a first timer, I felt a little skeptical, a little scared, and wishing I was allowed to pack bear mace on my flight so that I could have it with me out on the cold hard streets. Turns out, I didn't need the bear mace. Even better, I'd love to take my kids to Europe and use Airbnb for our accommodations. Here's why:
- Have more than 2 kids? You often get pushed into 2 hotel rooms, especially when you can't play the "babe in arms" card. By getting a full apartment with Airbnb, it's not only cheaper in general, but can save you from actually having to book 2 hotel rooms.
- Feeding your entire family on vacation can get expensive. We booked apartments with kitchens and were able to buy breakfast and snacks to keep in our apartments. This would be a huge savings with kids.
- Kids are messy. Sometimes, kids are just plain gross. Having a washer/dryer available on a trip like this is a life saver.
- Staying in a neighborhood will give your family a more authentic experience.
- There are lots of options - Airbnb is filling more nights than the Hilton Hotel chain!
Would I Use AirBnB.com Again?
I'm planning on it. I'd like to go back to Europe with my husband - especially Italy- and use Airbnb in Venice. There were some incredible places to stay, again, at a fraction of the costs, with way more bells and whistles. Once my kids are old enough to appreciate Europe, I'd love to head there as a family as well.
Not Traveling to Europe Anytime Soon?
Check out the AirBnb Picks to browse some of their most unique places to stay! Check it::
But when I go back to France? I've got to find my way to Paradou. I've got my eye on a pretty sweet gypsy wagon!
Disclosure: Airbnb provided us with some credit for 4 of our room nights on our #ParisRoadTrip, the opinions, thoughts of bear mace, and inability to make the train on time are my own.
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