AirBnB started as a paid version of Couchsurfing back in 2008, though have successfully moved up the luxury scale and is now mainly used to book vacation rentals. While I certainly had heard about AirBnB back in 2010 when I spent much of the year traveling and contemplating various travel startup ideas, my first AirBnB experience didn’t come until 2012 in Barcelona, on my next extended trip abroad. In 2012, I stayed with 3 hosts over the course of 3 weeks. My first host was a Catalan lady who spoke no English, the second a freelance graphic designer, and the third was an amazing family that ran OurBnB.com (Phil and Fiona Morris). There are numerous reasons staying with a family is amazing; the Morris’ are just one of those families you can’t help but love.
The value proposition in the beginning, at least to me, was the time savings of not going back and forth with 5, 10, or even 15 potential hosts on Couchsurfing trying to find someone to take me in. With AirBnB, I could just pay the fee and bypass that entire process.
AirBnB isn’t built for finding an amazing host; it’s built for finding a unique place to stay. Particularly when traveling solo, I could not care less about the specific details of where I’m staying. I’ll sleep on a couch, blow up mattress (airbed), or even a foam mat on the floor (I’ve done it) – if it means spending time with a friend or meeting an awesome connection.
When in solo travel scenarios (but not when traveling in a group), I hack AirBnB everytime I use it…
My primary search criteria is an interesting host profile. Price is a consideration – I’m not going to book a place to stay with a cool host if their room is $300 a night – but within a range, I’m seeking a host with whom I share something in common. I browse host profile after host profile in the city I’m planning to visit, and bookmark the ones who seem most interesting by leaving them open in new tabs. I review each one, and narrow it down to a few. If they work in the travel or real estate industries, are involved with microfinance, or I can somehow tell they’re socially conscious individuals – they move to the top of my list. I always prefer hosts with whom I have a shared friend, given they are then more likely to give me a discount, or go a little out of their way to ensure I have an amazing time in their beloved city.
My stay with the Morris’ was by far my best AirBnB experience. It had nothing to do with the specifics of accommodations, and everything to do with the connection with the people. We built Horizon for those who place more importance on the connection and friendship, than on details of accommodation.
Do you hack AirBnB the same way I do?