Staying with Strangers

(posted by Emily)

With all of our upcoming travel, we've had the opportunity to check out some new choices for housing at our destinations. We love staying in hotels, but it can definitely be an expensive endeavor in some of the places we are planning to visit. Luckily, we've had success using two sites that allow us to "stay with strangers"--VRBO and airbnb.

My mom has been using VRBO for years when she goes on trips with her girlfriends. She has always had great things to say about her experience, so Rick and I decided to check things out in Maui. 

We spent some time looking at where on the island we wanted to stay. VRBO lets you search by neighborhood/locale, which helped us narrow things down. 

Once you refine your search by area, it is easy to add other filters like number of bedrooms and price, using the tabs at the top of the page. 

it's a little tough to see in this screen shot, sorry! via
Here is a close up of the filter tabs:

After adding in our preferences about prices, we narrowed our search and found a number of places we liked. VRBO provides phone numbers for rental owners and allows you to email directly through the site. I called a few people, and we ended up booking our stay with a woman named Kim!

It has been very easy to work with her--we've mailed our payments in and communicated by email. She is very excited for us to visit and see all that Maui has to offer. Kim has even provided us with tips about what to do and where to go on the island. Now I just need to check in with her about internet access... :) 

When we first started exploring our housing options for our summer EuroAdventure, my dad suggested checking out airbnb. I browsed a bit, but just wasn't sure if it would be a good fit. So, I turned to the best research tool available--Facebook! Many of you commented, recommended, and encouraged, and I felt much better about the whole process.

Have used it on both sides and rented in many places... totally great experience.
My sister has done it in Europe and had a great experience.
Best ever. In love with them as I've used it around the world.

We stayed with 8 people in Spain over the course of 3 weeks and loved it! Everyone that opened their house to us was super friendly and gave us all kinds of tips for the best experience in their cities. And it was way cheaper than hotels.

Used it in Tahoe, San Diego, Manhattan and Boston... MUCH preferred to hotels in some of the bigger cities.

To me, airbnb is a more updated, social version of VRBO. The design is simpler, and more focused on photos of the places you could stay. Your search begins with location, and dates of your trip. 

Once you have a location in mind, you can filter your search by price and type of room. airbnb allows for room sharing, a private room with shared living space, or an entire rental to yourself. 

In order to book a rental and ensure the safety of users, airbnb asks you to create a profile on the site. It verifies your identify and suggests having friends who use airbnb write a reference for you. I was worried that references and creating an introduction video would be very necessary in order to have my booking accepted, but everyone seems to be very accommodating and low key. 

I even downloaded the airbnb app to my phone, in order to help keep track of everything on the go. Rick and I requested our Paris booking on a Friday evening and I received text notifications that we had been accepted around 3:30am (gotta love the time difference!). It was fast, efficient, and so easy to use. 

the main menu of the airbnb app

All in all, our vacation rental experiences have been great so far--I'll be sure to let you know if we still feel that way after our stays :) 

I'll leave you with a few tips as you explore your own vacation rentals!

My tips for booking a vacation rental home:
  • Know which area you would like to stay in--have a few options, but it's helpful to know where you want to be
  • Research transportation options. Is public transit available near your stay? Will you need to rent a car?
  • Be sure you know what you are getting in to. Will you be sharing living space? Is wifi available?
  • Check out the reviews left by others who have stayed in the rental(s) you are looking at. Their feedback can be incredibly helpful!


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