Cutting Travel Costs: Budget Accommodations

This is the second part in the series about cutting travel costs. Last time I gave a brief rundown of how we got United to foot the bill for our round trip airfare to Los Angeles, this time I’ll share how we’re saving on our accommodations.

We’re Not In Europe Anymore

One major difference between European and US accommodations is the lack of US hostels. While they do exist stateside, they’re nowhere near as prevalent as in Europe.

Now personally I’m not a big fan of hostels, I’m a pretty private person, but nevertheless there has to be a stateside equivalent for the budget traveler.

In planning our trip to LA we were able to get free roundtrip airfare, so the next logical expenditure to address was lodging. Along with airfare, it’s a major expense inherent to long distance travel.

Looks can be deceiving when looking for a room, at the single night rate a hotel can look pretty good, that is until you calculate the cost for the entire trip. Right now on Kayak the first result for a hotel stay in Los Angeles is $162/night. Now whether or not that sounds like a good deal to you is a matter of opinion, but taking into account that we need that room for 7 nights, that’s already $1,134.

It Adds Up

An 8 day trip is by no means an extremely long amount of time, but airfare coupled with hotel accommodations, can quickly make those 8 days fairly expensive; and this doesn’t take into account food or entertainment. Now I’m in no way opposed to spending money if it means that we’ll have a more enjoyable experience, money isn’t what life’s about, living is, but at the same time I have no interest in spending more money than we have to for simple necessities that add little or no value to an experience.

To an extent, sleeping accommodations falls into this category. Hostels are a great value, but at the same time I won’t settle for an uncomfortable experience just to save a few bucks. But as long as I’m not uncomfortable, pretty much any sort of accommodations will do.

So this lead us to search for something that could be a better value than a hotel without sacrificing comfort. Little did we know that we quite possibly found something that may also add additional enjoyment to the trip.

Our search lead us to Airbnb, a website where you can rent a bed directly from the home/apartment owners. From the site:

We connect people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay. Guests can build real connections with their hosts, gain access to distinctive spaces, and immerse themselves in the culture of their destinations. Whether it’s an urban apartment or countryside castle, Airbnb makes it effortless to showcase your space to an audience of millions, and to find the right space at any price point, anywhere.

The Benefits

The first benefit of Airbnb over a hotel chain is that the homeowners are listing their space for what they consider to be a fair rate. This means that it can be quite a bit cheaper than a hotel because there is no overhead for cleaning crews, maintenance staff, receptionists, etc etc.

But other than the cost savings it also throws an entirely new dynamic into the travel experience. While many people offer entire apartments or homes for rent, others simply offer a spare bedroom in their home. They graciously invite guests to stay with them instead of simply renting from them.

Social Proof

Now I’m just as much of a skeptic as anyone else (if not more than most) so I can’t help but imagine that some of the people participating in Airbnb are less than desirable. However this is where our friend, social proof, comes into play.

It’s great that Airbnb offers as many listings as they do, but I personally won’t even consider staying somewhere unless others have stayed there and have commented both that it’s a nice place to stay and that the homeowners are pleasant people.

I for one won’t be the guinea pig for a newly listed space (but I’m very grateful to those who are willing to take that risk and open up the comment stream). I’m much more comfortable with a safe bet in this instance and this is why our first Airbnb trial is with a home that was praised so much that Airbnb felt compelled to send someone onsite to document her experience on video.

While the video wasn’t a necessity it really showcased exactly what the experience will be like and how friendly the couple is who we will be staying with. That, coupled with the 40 rave reviews and all around pleasant sounding experience that they offer helped confirm that we were making the right choice.

Have you booked accommodations through Airbnb or a similar site before? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.