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I love staying with family or friends when I travel, as opposed to booking a hotel. Of course, that's just not always possible, despite the fact that I do have a rather significant social network around the world. Simply put, sometimes it is just not convenient, due to schedule conflicts, location, lack of space, etc. Luckily, for people like me, there's Airbnb.
The first time I used a similar concept was when I stayed at a casa particular on a trip to Havana, back in the early 2000s and I loved it. I repeated the experience on a second trip to Cuba in 2008. Airbnb would become my natural choice for certain trips when I learned about their availability at other destinations a few years later.
I have used their services several times in destinations such as San Juan, Puerto Rico and Cassis, France, to name a couple. Now, I find that staying at an Airbnb is particularly convenient under certain circumstances, which I have compiled below.
1. IF YOU ARE TIRED OF STAYING AT HOTELS For those who travel frequently, especially on business, staying at hotels can become really monotonous. After a while, it is inevitable to end up feeling that hotel rooms are all the same and that they are not homey enough. This is even truer if you always stay at chain hotels. In that respect, the Airbnb experience may provide the variety your travels are lacking, as their listings can range from cozy studios to modern apartments to spacious houses. Their possibilities are truly endless.
2. WHEN EXPERIENCING LOCAL LIFE IS YOUR THING Unlike hotels that are usually either in busy business or touristy areas, Airbnb offers a variety of accommodations in neighborhoods normally reserved for locals, allowing you to mingle with their residents and to experience the place you're visiting from their perspective. This does make a difference: you'll be able to try the restaurants where they like to eat, the bars where they hang out, etc. In summary, you'll get to see and experience how they carry their daily lives. This is how I found Copacabana's Bip Bip, a bar tucked in a garage where musicians of all ages gather to give amazing renditions of samba and bossa nova every evening. It is located in such a residential area that clapping is not allowed to avoid disturbing neighbors (you can snap your fingers instead!). It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience that I recommend to every music lover visiting Rio de Janeiro.
3. IN THE EVENT YOU ARE TRAVELING WITH COMPANY I have been satisfied with the Airbnb experience when traveling by myself. How could I forget my room with a tiny window overlooking the turquoise Caribbean waters and the San Cristóbal Castle, in Old San Juan? Yet, I think it definitely makes the most sense for trips with family and friends. Airbnb offers accommodation options fitting parties of all sizes and requirements. For example, if you'e traveling with your significant other or one or two close friends you may want to rent a studio or a flat. If, however, you're bringing the entire family along, you may instead book a larger apartment or a house. Bonus: they may even have a unique feature, such as a spectacular view or a prime location.
4. WHEN YOU WOULD LIKE TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BUDGET Generally speaking, staying at an Airbnb will get you the best value for your money. Whether you have a modest budget or you're willing to splurge, their listings will certainly get you the maximum within your planned spending range. You may even save some money by choosing an Airbnb over a hotel! That will allow you to use that extra money in one more activity or excursion either during your current trip or on your next vacation.
5. IF YOU PLAN TO PREPARE YOUR OWN MEALS One of the things I've enjoyed the most of my Airbnb stays has been being able to have breakfast and snacks "at home". Many of their listings are well equipped with everything you'll need to prepare a basic meal, at the bare minimum: from coffee-makers to pans to dishes and utensils. And since most likely you'll be in a residential area, chances are you'll also have a grocery store nearby to buy fruits, veggies, dairy, etc., so you'll be all set. When a friend and I stayed in San Sebastian, Spain a couple of years ago, we enjoyed a homemade breakfast every morning, which included a yummy fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was the perfect start for our activity-packed days ahead.
If you're planning a trip soon and your travel preferences meet at least a couple of the things mentioned above, why not give Airbnb a try? It may turn out to be the experience you're looking for!