Matthew and I have heard a lot of great things about Airbnb, but staying in a room at a stranger’s home left us both a little nervous. We had no idea what to expect. Of course, you can rent an entire private home (or RV, house boat, yurt, or any other sleeping accommodation you can imagine) but for our trip we wanted to stay on a tight budget so we would have more to spend on experiences and food. It turns out, you can rent an amazing room for around $43 a night, some for even less.
Our first Airbnb experience was much better than expected. We stayed with a lovely woman named Wendy who lives right outside the borders of Charleston, South Carolina. She was also a new host for Airbnb so we were learning this new experience together. The pictures on her profile showed a neat and tidy home with a comfortable room and a front porch outside. When we arrived, her home was even lovelier than the photos.
Humans are very interested in other humans, and I am certainly no expectation. I absolutely love learning about how other people live. I love seeing how people decorate their homes and what kinds of homes they live in. Wendy’s home was raised, like many homes in South Carolina, to protect the structure from floods. It made the house look like it was two stories, but the house itself was actually only one floor, with a garage door underneath for parking a car. It made every house look exceptionally grand and the long staircases up to the front porches gave them an air of sophistication. Wendy’s home had a piano and a guitar by the main entryway, and a screened in porch in the back. The kitchen was open to the living and dining room and everything felt very much like Charleston to me. Decorations from local vendors, like the sweet grass baskets, were in every room. And lovely old books lined the shelves. Surprising splashes or colors like coral added to the beauty of the rooms and I enjoyed the charm of the white shutters on the windows. It was very different from our brick-walled factory apartment at home, which made our stay truly unique.
We had our own private bedroom and bathroom as well as a set of keys to come and go as we please. The mattress was great, the linens were nicer than a hotel, and Wendy had placed personal touches all around the room: cute illustrations in frames, candles, and a welcome basket with snacks, drinks, and a guide book for the city. There was even a basket by the bed filled with local magazines.
If you’re worried that renting a room will not give you privacy or freedom to explore your new surroundings, push that thoughts aside. Hosts share their homes for numerous reasons; for extra income, to meet new people, and to start a business. Hosts understand that you have your own plans and they are respectful of your schedules, yet it is different than simply renting a room at a hotel. Your hosts do want to meet new people and learn about the renters sharing their home. It is a fun way to learn about your surroundings and receive advise for where to eat and explore. We were off exploring for most of the day, but on our last night we sat up with our host and had a lovely conversation about how she moved to Charleston from New York and what inspired her to start renting with Airbnb. When he daughter moved out she had an extra room and thought it would be a fun experience while saving money on the side. Her daughter helped select the mattress and décor for the new space. She is also a writer and I loved hearing about her writing career. You won’t have to change your plans to accommodate your host, but be respectful of your noise levels, the time you come and go, and take the time to get to know who are you temporarily living with.
At the end of the stay be sure to follow their closing rules (such as taking sheets off the bed, or putting all used towels in a specific place), clean up after yourself as you would when you stay over at a friend’s place, and give an honest review. When both parties make reviews on the Airbnb website, you do not see the other person’s review until yours is posted, which helps keep things honest. If your host was 5 stars amazing, be sure to let them know how much you appreciated your stay. These reviews help other possible renters decide, as well as helpful tools for hosts who are worried about who will be in their home. Share what you liked (or didn’t like) to help other renters know useful things to plan their trip around.
Overall, the experience was a very positive one and we will definitely be using Airbnb again. When we have a house one day we will be using Airbnb to rent out a room as well. If you’re curious about Airbnb, Matthew and I both highly recommend it. Our accommodations were nicer than a hotel and cost a fraction of what a hotel room would. Airbnb opened many doorways for us, as we now know that we can afford to stay overnight at almost any place we travel to.
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