Last week, I completed an eight-day trip to Hawaii to stand in a friend’s wedding, and feel like I did it fairly frugally. In this and subsequent posts, I’ll review the strategies I used, what worked and what I could have done better.
Yesterday, I talked about how I saved money on my flights.
Today, I’ll discuss lessons I learned with hotels. The short answer is that I save money on hotels by not staying in them in favor of using AirBnB, so this may end up looking like a review for that site.
I’ll quickly disclaim any connection to the company, and I have received no compensation to write this post. This, however, is a referral link that you should use vigorously and share with all your friends: https://www.airbnb.com/tell-a-friend?airef=31s4yzd47a4zz5 .
What’s the point of AirBnB?
I’ll start by pointing out the things I could have done to go even cheaper:
- Stay with a friend. I don’t know anyone who lives on Oahu. You should all move to Oahu and let me stay with you.
- Couchsurf. A third cousin in concept to AirBnb and another free option, but I really wanted my own space.
- Youth hostel. I’m just a hair too old for these backpacker-friendly, cheap, dorm-style rooms; which is sad.
And this is where AirBnB fits in, ready to fill the gap between these options and hotels.
And fill it, it does. When I use it, I’ve only ever stayed in places where I get the whole of a studio-sized condo to myself, but there are also categories all the way from renting a whole, private house (or villas and castles complete with maids and butlers, if you’re so inclined), down to renting one bed in a shared room.
How the process works and my experiences with AirBnb
I’ve used Airbnb three times now — once in Virginia, once in Dubai, and this time in Hawaii. The process is simple enough: (1) Put in your dates and criteria and search; (2) Chat up a few potential hosts; (3) Decide on a place and book it; (4) Stay and pay
I am a very risk averse person when it comes to wanting to feel like I got a good deal, so I spent a lot of time browsing listings for pictures and reading reviews — sticking to places had lots of reviews. I ended up with a place with 94 positive reviews this time and exchanged several emails and phone calls with him. Also, we’re Facebook friends now and he routinely “likes” the things I do on that site.
NB: I am very much the opposite in terms of risk aversion when it comes to not getting stabbed. If this is important to you, apparently, Airbnb has also taken measures to prevent this by requiring ID of all its participants, letting hosts and guests check each other out on social media, and so forth: http://airbnb.com/trust
Oh, one good thing about their booking process is that the host has 24 hours to respond to your booking or else it gets cancelled, so there’s no chance of getting stuck with a zombie listing that doesn’t materialize into an actual place to stay when you show up. Also, your credit card doesn’t get charged until you check in.
My budget and philosophy for this trip
OK, back to my own trip. The first, important step was setting a budget. I decided that I didn’t want to pay more for my seven days of lodging than the $760 I paid for my flight, meaning that I would be capped at around $110 per night.
Then, to make this price point I needed to prioritize.
Stuff I cared about:
- Being close to the beach
- Being close to everyone else in my group
- Having my own space
- Fridge and WiFi
Stuff I didn’t care about:
- Swimming pools (because there’s a beach)
- Maids and butlers
- Everything else (I’m a big, non-caring jerk)
In the end, I paid $78 per night, which of course included any taxes and fees to Airbnb. Writing this reminds me that I need to leave a review on Airbnb.com so that future users know. The place I stayed was everything I expected — better even — and the host was always available to get in touch — even when it was because I’d forgotten silly things like writing down the WiFi password.
One more time:
Anyone else have experiences with this or other inexpensive lodging options? More importantly, does anyone have a counterpoint to my good experiences with Airbnb? I’ve heard that canceling can be a pain.