I recently wrote a couple posts with travel tips for runners. One of the tips that I shared in the second post was that hotels aren’t always the best option when you’re traveling for races. Staying with friends or family members is obviously a good way to save money, but if you can’t do that, then there are options that you can try as well. Depending on the time of year, you might be able to get good deals on bed and breakfasts… or better yet, you can use AirBnB to find a place to stay.
If you’re not familiar with AirBnB, it’s a website that individuals can use to rent out lodging. Live close to a major city and have an extra room in your house that you’re not using for anything? List it on AirBnB and you can make extra money on the side by renting it out. Or maybe you have a vacation home that you only spend a few weeks at each year… you can make it pay for itself by using AirBnB to rent it out on the days when you’re not using it….
I used AirBnB to book a room when I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the Grand Teton Half Marathon earlier this year. I’ve also used it to book another room in Aspen, Colorado when I travel for the Golden Leaf Half Marathon this fall. If you’re a runner and you like to travel for races, I’m going to give you a list of reasons why you should check out AirBnB before you even look at hotel rates when you plan your next trip. Also, in case you’re wondering – this is not a sponsored post and I don’t have any connection to AirBnB whatsoever. I just think it’s a good option when you’re looking to travel on a budget.
- Renting a room through AirBnB is typically cheaper than renting a hotel room in the same city. At the very least you’ll get a better deal for the same amount of money. In Jackson Hole, the cheapest hotel rates I could find were for a one star motel on the outskirts of town that was charging $150 per night. But I was able to use AirBnB to rent the entire lower level of a split level house that was walking distance from downtown for $70 per night. I got a similar deal in Aspen. And here’s the thing: I could have spent more on my AirBnB rental if I wanted to and got an entire house all to myself for the weekend. It would have cost the same price as a standard hotel room, so it still would have been a better deal.
- You get to stay in interesting places as opposed to bland hotel rooms. One of my favorite things about AirBnB is that the site doesn’t limit you to only renting single rooms from hotels that all look the same. You can rent anything from a mansion to a tree house. I’m not exaggerating – if you’re planning a trip to Chicago and want to be adventurous, this can be yours for a weekend… or this…. I’ve also seen listings for trailers, houseboats, a 1 square meter house, a gingerbread house, a giant wooden dog shaped house, and a castle. Notice that the castle is only $155 per night. If you want to come back from your trip with an interesting story to tell people, where’s a cooler place to stay? A castle? Or a Holiday Inn?
- You can get access to your own personal tour guide when you book a room with AirBnB. Unless you rent an entire house, chances are that the person you’re renting from will be there and still using whatever part of the house you didn’t rent. The first time I did this, I thought it would be weird to stay at someone’s house when I had never met them before, but I quickly realized that there are a lot of benefits to it. The main benefit is that the person you’re staying with is probably a local who can tell you where to find the best restaurants, shops, sightseeing, etc… that the locals like to go to as opposed to the touristy crap that’s listed in travel guides. Want to know the best places to run in town? Or the best place to go for a beer after the race? Ask your host. You get to rate them after your trip and better ratings mean more guests, which means more money for them, so they’ll almost always be happy to help. My host in Jackson Hole gave me some awesome tips about running trails in the area that I never would have known about if I didn’t stay there.
- You get to know interesting people. This is kind of an extension of my last point. The people I’ve stayed with whenever I’ve used AirBnB to rent a room have all been extremely friendly. That kind of goes hand in hand with being willing to rent out part of your house, I guess…. But the thing is that in a lot of cases, not only are the hosts good travel guides, but they also have interesting stories about how they ended up in the area and what they do for a living, etc…. I’m not gonna go out for a beer with the front desk worker at a hotel to find out what kinds of things they like to do for fun, but I would definitely grab a beer with an AirBnB host.
- AirBnB has an awesome rating system. This is important for both hosts and guests. After your stay, you get to provide a rating for both the host and the accommodations. AirBnB hosts live and die by these ratings. If a lot of people have positive things to say about the place they stayed and their host, then more people are going to want to book with that host. This means that they can charge more for their rentals and it also means that people will rent from them more often. On the flipside, hosts can also rate their guests. A guest who has consistently bad ratings won’t be welcome in a lot of rentals but a guest who consistently gets high ratings might be able to get better deals.
- AirBnB has a good background check system. The biggest question I got from multiple people the first time I rented a room through AirBnB was “Is it safe? How do you know you’re not renting from a serial killer?” So here’s the deal: hosts have to supply multiple forms of ID to the site before they can list their rental properties. Renters have to supply multiple forms of ID to the site before they can rent anything. The site runs background checks on everyone, so your chances of renting to or from someone seedy are pretty slim. In fact, think about this: hotels don’t do background checks on all of their guests. And it’s not uncommon for several hundred people to stay in the same hotel throughout the course of a weekend. So truthfully, you probably have a better chance of having another guest trying to rob you or hurt you in a hotel parking lot than you have of an AirBnB host trying to do either of those things to you. Also, that’s what the rating system is for. Make sure you’re renting from people who have high ratings and you won’t have anything to worry about. Do you really think that someone who got 27 positive reviews was really spending all of that time being a perfect host while secretly waiting for someone like YOU to rent a room from them so they could kill you? I’m thinking not…..
- AirBnB is convenient and the hosts are usually flexible. Not sure what time you’re going to be arriving yet? That’s fine. AirBnB has a messaging system that allows hosts and guest to communicate with each other easily. The majority of hosts will find somewhere to leave a key so their guests can get in whether they’re home or not. The rest of the site is convenient to use too. You can search for places by location and date and filter your results based on your price range. Most hosts post multiple pictures of their rentals and a description of the area so you’ll know exactly what your accommodations are going to look like when you get there.
- You’ll usually have access to a kitchen, laundry room and other things you’re used to having at home. Hotel rooms have microwaves, small refrigerators, and maybe a washing machine at the end of a hallway but in most cases they don’t compare to the appliances you have back home. If you rent from AirBnB, the hosts are typically pretty open to letting you use anything you need in the entire house. Want to cook yourself dinner on the night before a race instead of going out to a restaurant? Check with your host before you arrive, but most of them are pretty cool about letting you use their kitchen to cook your own meals. Same with using their washer and dryer (no need to bring home a bag full of sweaty running clothes), WiFi, and whatever else you might need. Have a pet that you want to bring on your trip with you? Chances are that it will be a lot easier to find a pet friendly AirBnB rental like this one than it will be to find a pet friendly hotel.
- Lastly (but probably most important), by using AirBnB, you’re supporting an individual person or a family. This beats giving money to a chain hotel owned by a giant corporation that barely pays their workers minimum wage any day. There’s something satisfying about knowing this when you book your room. The sharing economy rocks. If you’re not already taking advantage of it, you should be.
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