How To Save Money Traveling With Airbnb

How To Save Money Traveling With Airbnb

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Let’s face it, there’s not going to be a hotel that participates in a rewards program everywhere that’s on your travel wish list. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to cough up some money to pay for your accommodation. This, however, does not need to break the bank. Not only can you still find affordable accommodations, but this also turns into an opportunity to get more in touch with the reality of the location you are visiting, and experience it from much more of a “local” perspective. In this post, I’m going to show you how you can save money with Airbnb, and still have a great time, as well as how to save $40 on your first Airbnb stay.

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a web based market place that connects homeowners wishing to rent out their homes on a short-term basis, with travelers such as yourself. As of 2017, Airbnb has over 3,000,000 listings in over 65,000 cities, in over 191 different countries. Not too shabby. Suffice it to say that whenever Kendra and I have been unable to find a reward program participating hotel, we have always been able to find comfortable accommodations through Airbnb.

Airbnb has accommodations to fit any type of stay. You can search for anything from a private room in L.A. for a night, to renting a tree house for 3 nights in Costa Rica, to renting a castle in Europe for a week. The good news is that nightly rates are typically about half the cost of hotels, depending upon the locations. A study of 22 touristy cities was conducted by and found that Airbnb rates were higher than hotel rates in only 6 of those cities. So far, every time I’ve needed to use Airbnb, it’s been cheaper than hotels.airbnb-vs-hotels-difference-by-city Airbnb is simple to use. If you can book a hotel online, you should have no trouble using Airbnb. You simply sign up for an account, and then login to search based on location, length of stay, number of travelers, and travel dates. The people that rent out the homes/rooms are called hosts. Most hosts will have plenty of pictures and descriptions posted about their accommodations. When you book a stay, you are actually submitting a request to stay at your host’s property. Most hosts will typically respond within 24 hours and you will be notified when they do so your stay will be confirmed. Once confirmed, you will have access to whatever instructions the host has uploaded to Airbnb; directions to the location, where to find the key, check-in and check-out times, Wi-Fi passwords, things of that nature.

What if the host is a serial killer? Don’t worry, Airbnb has user reviews from people that have stayed there before. So any reservations you have about booking can usually be cleared up (or confirmed) by simply reading through the reviews. This is a two-way street. Hosts will also do reviews on you so that other hosts can read up on you before they decide to accept you as a guest. There’s no need to worry about this; if you’re a decent human being and don’t trash your hosts property, most will give you good reviews (Kendra and I have had no problems).

Our Airbnb Experience

We’ve used Airbnb probably a half a dozen times. We’ve used Airbnb in Switzerland, Croatia, France, and in our own home state of Utah. Each one has been its own experience, but each enjoyable.

Our first experience with Airbnb was in Goldiwil, Switzerland a small hillside village that is part of the larger municipality of Thun, near Interlaken. Our hosts were Franziska and Rene whose lovely home overlooks Lake Thun and the Stockhorn mountain range. Franziska and Rene were very welcoming, welcoming but not invasive. They had breakfast prepared for us each morning of our stay, and even joined us a couple times and offered tips for how to maximize the time we spent in Interlaken.

Kendra with Airbnb Hosts Interlaken
Kendra with our Interlaken Airbnb Hosts
Interlaken Airbnb Host Artwork
Artwork done by Rene, our Interlaken Host

Our second experience was in Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn. This was a tiny studio room on the top floor of apartment complex with a fold out bed. Our hosts name was Bettina, but we never met as she lives in Bern. The key was simply left for us in a flower pot and we were directed to leave it in the same place when we left. As we spent most of our time wandering the streets of Zermatt and exploring the ice caves near the top of the Matterhorn, this small accommodation was perfect for what we needed.

Zermatt Airbnb
The grounds of our Zermatt Airbnb

Our next host was Zadranka in the city of Zadar, Croatia. We had an apartment on the second floor of her building that overlooked the Adriatic Sea. She is a sweet lady that makes her own liquor and has several bottles prepared for her guests. While in Croatia, there were two national parks we wanted to see: Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Krka National Park. Both parks were roughly equidistant from Zadar, which is why we chose it as our base for the middle part of our Croatia trip. We were also able to experience the old town of Zadar at night and see the unique Sea Organ and Sun Salutation.

Zadar Airbnb
Kendra on the seaside walkway by our Zadar Airbnb

When my brother-in-law graduated from college, the family decided to do a weekend getaway at Park City, Utah, a high-end ski town just up the canyon from Salt Lake City. We were able to find a 3-bedroom Airbnb that comfortably accommodated about ten of us for the weekend. This is another location where we never met our host, but once again, clear directions were left and the stay was everything we needed.

Okay, I’ll bore you with one more. Our last stay was in the beautiful city of Annecy, France. This was probably the nicest Airbnb we have stayed at. The grounds had a beautiful pool, which sadly we just didn’t have time to use. Franck was our host, and despite the language barrier, he was able to help us out quite a bit. He lent us the use of his bikes, and even called ahead to a nearby restaurant to make reservations for us.

Zadar Airbnb
The pool at our Annecy Airbnb

Save $40 On Your First Airbnb Stay

As you can see Airbnb has treated us nice throughout our adventures, and our story is not unique. If you can’t find award travel in any of the cities you visit, there’s no reason not to use Airbnb. Kendra and I have stayed at multiple Airbnbs, each unique and memorable in their own special way. After each visit, we walked away glad that we weren’t able to find free hotels because it allowed us to get to know and live like locals, if only for a couple days.

Airbnb has a pretty cool referral program. If you sign up for and use Airbnb through this link, you will be able to save $40 on your first stay. If you have any questions and comments as you do so, or if you want to comment on anything just in general, please do and I’ll get back with you.

18 Replies to “How To Save Money Traveling With Airbnb”

  1. I love your ideas on Airbnb and will check out more when my husband and I are ready for travel. We live in S.F where this particular business, Airbnb, has taken its toll on local residents and the rental market. It used to be easy to rent a one bedroom flat but now it’s almost impossible due to all the Airbnb places provided. I suppose there must be some sort of balance so everyone can be happy. We used to run our own Airbnb where we used to live, and it was a very lucrative side business. So, I really can’t complain. However, I do feel bad for many that cannot stay in S.F due to this problem.

    1. Thanks for your comments Meherbani.

      I’ve read a couple brief articles about some of the affects Airbnb has had on the housing markets of local economies. They are compelling, though I can say I’m not much of an expert on economics so my understanding is superficial.

      Regardless, I hope some sort of solution can be found that serves the interests of local housing markets as well as the millions of people that want to visit them. It really has been a great travel resource and I’d love to see it stick around.  

  2. When i see all this I am coming to realize that I really need to make a trip to Greece!Do you offer some free tickets there 😀 for me and my boyfriend who really likes History and we would like to go to Greece and save some money. Thankss 😀

    1. Stella, you can certainly get award travel to Greece. Both United Airlines and American Airlines fly right into Athens, and they both have amazing award programs: United MileagePlus Program and American AAdvantage.

      You can get a one-way award ticket between the USA and Europe for as low as 30,000 (120,000 round trip for two travelers) MileagePlus points and as low as 22,500 (90,000 round trip for two travelers) AAdvantage points.

      It’s easy to get that many points with sign-up points from various cards. For United points you can get sign-up bonuses from the United Mileage plus Explorer Card and the United Mileage Plus Explorer Business Card, you could supplement the balance by also signing up for the Chase Sapphire Card or the Chase Ink Plus Business Card. If you don’t have a business, there are still ways of getting business cards. American Airlines would probably be easier to do with the Citi Bank AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Master Card, the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Master Card, or the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard.  Check out this post for more information on these cards.…that-arent-chase

      All of this is totally doable, and it would probably take less than a year for you and your boyfriend to sign up for and acquire the bonus points on these cards.

      Regardless, I hope you guys find your way to Greece soon. But honestly, I hope you follow these tips so you don’t have to starve yourself once there.

  3. I was in Italy last year in September and now i will tell you how to save money there.It is great to have AIRBNB to save you some bucks.Even better than a cheap Italy vacation is a free Italy vacation 😀 .So my advice to you all is not to eat anything 😀

    1. Haha. Ya Stella, food can be pricey throughout Europe. You think Italy is expensive? Go up north to Switzerland…. mmmm cheese and chocolate fondue.

      In my opinion it’s well worth it. As I’ve said so many times, when you use credit cards to cover your flights, it takes the sting out of spending money on experiences and food once you’re there. My wife and I have traveled through Italy twice and it has been our favorite place for cuisine. I had the best ravioli of my life in Venice.  My mouth is watering just thinking of it.

  4. Hi Dustin,
    A very good Airbnb experience you had. I have heard of it a couple of years back. Even did some price comparison with the hotel rates. Very competitive indeed.
    I guess my concern is security. Not knowing who owned the place worries me. Or staying with the host is a bit scary. Perhaps I am not adventurous. But then, reading your experience seems alright. Thank you for your advice in checking the user reviews. I shall give Airbnb a try on the next holiday.

    1. Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for the comment. I get your concern, I had a bit of trepidation my first time (and I’d certainly be nervous if it were my wife traveling without me). However, I think Airbnb has put a lot of resources in place to protect both hosts and travelers. The user reviews are extremely helpful.

      When it comes down to it, I think the risks of danger with Airbnb are present as they are throughout everything you do in life. There are many people on a hotel staff that have access to your room as well. I haven’t seen any data or read any studies, but intuitively I’d think the likelihood of someone on a hotel’s staff taking advantage of travelers is the same as it would be using Airbnb.

      Any time you travel regardless of where you choose to stay, always be aware of your surroundings and be vigilant. Kendra and I have never had any issues, but we’re still always very careful. Do a quick Google search on how to stay safe when traveling, and also look up the specific area to which you’re heading and you should get a wealth of information on what to keep aware of.

      Happy travels,


  5. Hello! Thank you for sharing! I never booked Airbnb as of yet, for I usually stay at hostels or a hotel from a travel deal I find online. I’m actually looking at an Airbnb stay in Miami. We found something, but now that I read your article, I am going to reexamine our selection before booking. I have pinned your article as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Jo Jo. I hope you’re able to find good accommodation s and have a wonderful time in Miami. I’d love to hear about any highlights of your trip.

  6. I really did not know that Airbnb can be this useful, I thought it would be as good as living in a hotel but looking at the graph one can tell that you can actually save some money and travel more cost effectively.
    It is really interesting and I can say that I’m surely going to try it out. Although I must ask, is it safe to stay at someone’s place?

    1. Thanks for the comment Shrey. It really can be a useful resource, not only to save money, but to really immerse yourself in the culture of the location your visiting. 

      Safety is definitlely a concern. I can say that my wife and I have had no problems as we’ve used it. We’ve been thoroughly satisfied with all of our stays, and the host have always been incredibly gracious. That being said, you should remain vigilant and use common sense, as with anything in life. Read through user reviews before booking. Also a qickngoofle search will give you a wealth of information to be safe, not only with Airbnb, but throughout travel in general. 

      If you give it a try, be sure to let me know how it goes.

  7. Interesting as it seems this is what the alternative hotel industry needs. Let people rent out their homes like they do their cars Uber. airbnb is the way to travel, as it saves time and must provides reviews needed as the web site as well, to track the trust and validity needed in getting ready to take a leap to book in a place like one of these.

    1. Yep, there’s definitely a lot more options than there used to be. We love to use Uber as well, especially in big cities where driving and parking is a pain in the butt.  Thanks for the comment Andrew.

  8. Thank you for your feedback on this program! I have a friend who has started using Airbnb for most of her travel — she and her husband have been to various places in the US and even used it on travel to a couple of international destinations. If everything works out, I hope to get some travelling done in the next 2 to 3 years — with positive reviews from you as well as what I have heard from my friend, I will definitely look into Airbnb!

    1. Great to hear Kristin. Be sure to click on the link in the article to save you some money off your first Airbnb, and I’d love to hear about any experiences you have.

      Thanks for the comment.

  9. Great post! Airbnb is definitely ideal for the budget traveller. It’s just something that seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year.

    For every bad airbnb review there are at least 100 good ones so I think it’s a bit of a no-brainer especially if you are travelling as a group of people. The money saved on renting an apartment for example is just huge.

    1. Stephen,

      Thanks for you kind words. Airbnb is great for large and small groups as you can search for specific parameters in whatever city you may be wanting to stay. It is a unique experience, staying in a room or the entire home of a host and Dustin and I recommend trying it out. We’ve found it especially useful in more remote cities that may not have hotels that we hold reward points or nights through, and all of our experiences so far have been delightful.  

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