Being a budget traveler, I am always looking at new ways to save money when visiting new places. When I decided to visit Caen, I was going solo and therefore needed to look for accommodations. While I prefer hostels over hotels, I was disappointed to see that Caen did not have any. I looked at hotel prices, and it was about €100 a night! For three nights that was way out of my price range.
I had created an AirBnB account a few months back so I decided to see what was available. I found quite a few rooms that would work, but I wanted to be central to downtown. I booked one that included breakfast and was both a 10 min walk from the train station and downtown.
I had a great experience from start to finish, so here are my steps to make your process go off without a hitch as a first time AirBnBer:
- Sign up on AirBnB to start creating your profile. Use this link and save $39 dollars on your first reservation! When creating your profile, make sure you upload a picture and add a little about yourself. You can also download the Mobile App for Droid and iPhone.
- Confirm you phone number. This will show you are a responsible traveler. Your host may want to get a hold of you for various reasons, and you may not be allowed to stay if you don’t provide a number. If you are traveling out of the country and may not have service, no biggie. Still register your number to show you have a working cell phone.
- Verify your email. Again, this shows you are a trust-worthy visitor. Remember, you are staying in someones home, or a room in their house. Having these checked as “Verified” show you took the extra step.
- Search and read feedback. Depending on when and where you are looking to stay, book at least 2 week in advance. When you are booking, look for what you want in terms of location, price, offerings, etc., but also read past feedback. The pictures look great and the price is too good to be true, but the last 5 people said there was a screaming baby all night? Maybe not the best… unless you can sleep with a child screaming all night.
- Request your room/house… not book it. This was a surprise to me. When you find a place you want to stay, you basically send a “request” to the owner. This is why you want your profile to be as completed as possible. They will read reviews about your past stays and can either accept or decline your request to stay. When you request to stay, take the extra step and send a message to explain your reason for traveling. I explained I was attending Nordik Impakt as I knew I would be returning in the middle of night and wanted to make them aware.
- Once request is confirmed then you will be charged. You will not be charged until your reservation has been confirmed by the owner. You will receive an email confirmation followed by a confirmation of the charge to the card on your account. I was approved within 30 min of requesting, which was super fast considering I requested at 11:30 pm. This step can take up to 48 hours, which is why you should book 2 weeks out.
- Contact with host starts. When my host accepted my stay, she sent a friendly message which broke the ice. She then gave very detailed directions on how to get to the house from the train station. On the day of my arrival, we were messaging on the iPhone App to confirm my time of check-in. This was very helpful and set a good start to my stay. If you have any concerns or issues that arise before your arrival, be sure to make the host aware.
- Arrival. When you arrive, you will be given keys and information about the house. Be sure to pay attention and ask any questions you have. I told my host about my itinerary and she gave me suggestions on where to eat. I was lucky that she also rents out another room in their house, so I had another American to go out around town with. (I got the hostel atmosphere without sharing a room!) When you rent an entire house, this may be the only time you meet and speak with the host so make a great impression since they also review you after your stay.
- During your stay. Feel free to contact the host for ideas of things to do, events to attend, stores to shop or places to eat; thats part of the AirBnB community. Treat is as your own home and be respectful.
- Return the keys and give a review. Once your stay is over, return the keys as requested by the host. Be sure to take all your belongings and leave the space clean. When you get a chance, always review your stay. Be honest, as you want to know how others really felt staying when you are looking at another place in the future. You can always give your host feedback, privately, so they know how they can improve. They can do the same for you.
Traveling Tip: One thing people may forget when traveling abroad is the difference in wall outlets. The United Kingdom and Europe each have their separate wall plugs. This means your phone charger and hair dryer need a converter. I recommend one that has all options, so no matter where you travel you are covered, and one with USB slots. This enables you to charge multiple devices at once, and you only need the cord! Amazon has many to choose from, but this Universal Adapter has it all.
AirBnB is a great option for budget travelers, but also for anyone looking to get another element to their visit. It is less “touristy” and offers more culture to your stay. The breakfast my host offered was a full spread, and they even sat and talked with us to share information about their town and learn about us. Overall I had a great experience with AirBnB and would definitely recommend it to all my family and friends. If you are new to it, like I was, follow my steps to have a seamless stay and to start your profile off on the right track!
Whats your experience with AirBnB?