I book private rooms on Airbnb in people's homes instead of staying in a cheap hotel.
I find Airbnb rooms to be less expensive than a hotel, and I've stayed in some incredible places.
I've found it to be such an incredible experience, I don't book hotels anymore.
Over the past few months, I've stayed in more than a dozen private rooms in Airbnb homes across the US. I find it to be such an incredible experience, I don't book hotels anymore.
Two years ago, I became an empty nester.
But as a remote worker with a case of wanderlust, I hardly wanted to sit at home. Eager to take more solo road trips across the United States, I made a list of places I wanted to see and off I went, from Zion National Park in Utah to the rolling hills of Vermont.
Since then, I've driven over 12,000 miles on these trips.
But I'm also a cost-conscious traveler and need to keep all my travels within a set budget. Since accommodations tend to be one of the most expensive parts of travel, I learned that the best way to save money is by renting a private Airbnb room in someone's shared home.
So instead of booking an entire private Airbnb property or a traditional hotel room, I instead book a room in a shared space. I show up to my host's door and they show me to the spare bedroom where I'll be sleeping.
My family and friends think I'm crazy for bunking with strangers, but I think it's more affordable and memorable than other types of lodging.
I'm not a thrill-seeker or an extrovert. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm a cautious introvert who values quiet and solitude — and a good deal.
In my experience, an Airbnb room in a shared home can cost much less than even a budget hotel.
For example, I never spend over $100 per night in an Airbnb room, whereas I've paid $115 even for cheap lodgings like a Super 8 motel.
And I'm not roughing it or sleeping in sub-par places, either. By booking Airbnb rooms, I've been able to stay in mansions, oceanfront cottages, historic Victorian homes, and a farmhouse with chickens. I absolutely love to travel this way, and have no plans to book a hotel again anytime soon. Here's why.
I find Airbnb rooms to be less expensive than cheap motels. My Airbnb bookings always average under $100 per night.
When I first started considering individual rooms on Airbnb, I couldn't believe my good fortune. There were so many great places available in my price range of $100 a night — including fees.
I was able to book a gigantic private room in Cincinnati in a great neighborhood, in an 1855 Queen Anne Victorian for $65 a night, complete with a fireplace, chandeliers, hardwood floors, and a sitting area, and all within walking distance to great stores and restaurants. It had a shared bath, so I brought my own shampoo and body wash, but I didn't see anyone else while I was there.
I had access to the whole home and two kitchens. Normally, an experience like this would cost me hundreds of dollars. It's one of my favorite Airbnb stays to date.
I can have a luxury experience in an Airbnb room that I can't afford in a hotel.
Ordinarily, I never splurge to stay in any five-star hotel. It's simply out of my budget. But I've found I can get a similar luxury experience from booking a room in a posh home.
In Provo, Utah, for example, I booked an enormous room in a mansion. My fancy suite cost just $95 and had a bidet, fireplace, rain shower, Jacuzzi tub, washer and dryer, and a huge patio. I don't think I'd ever be able to book a hotel room for that price in the US and enjoy all those luxe amenities.
My stay also included full access to the home's tennis court, in-ground trampoline, and pool area, where I watched the sun set over the city. While I was technically under the same roof as the family who lives there, I had a private entrance and didn't see them the whole time.
I did hear their kids practicing piano and yelling to each other — there were eight of them — but I didn't mind at all, because I loved my room and the property so much. It felt like I was staying at the Ritz Carlton for a Super 8 price.
Sharing living spaces like bathrooms, kitchens, and dens with an owner or other guests isn't a big deal.
While I always book a private room in an Airbnb home, it's fairly typical for an owner to share their common living spaces, both indoors and out. This can range from living rooms to kitchens and bathrooms, as well as outdoor recreational areas.
I'm often the only guest in a home, but I've also stayed in Airbnbs that operate more like a B&B, where additional guests are occupying other rooms.
I tend to stay in my private room, but there are times when I need to use the kitchen or bath. I've rarely seen other guests or even the host when I do, as I find that people prefer to keep to themselves. I've never had to wait to use a bathroom either, or seen evidence of anyone else.
The most I've done in someone else's kitchen is microwave a bag of popcorn to eat in my room. House rules usually require that you wash and put back anything that you use. And when I'm on a trip, I prefer not to make a mess cooking, so I'll opt for a take-out deli sandwich instead, or occasionally splurge on a nice meal out .
Once in a while I'll see another guest on their laptop at a table or pass someone coming or going, but that's the extent of it.
I appreciate how friendly and welcoming hosts in shared homes are. It's only weird if you make it weird.
Staying in a stranger's home can be a little unnerving at first. The first time I did it, I assumed I'd have my own private entrance. I didn't, and a polite, single guy opened the front door, welcomed me in, showed me to my room, and that was the last I saw of him.
Most hosts are very professional and give you your space, taking cues on how friendly or not you want to be, and I've never been bothered by an over-friendly host.
In my experience, though, most anyone willing to open their home to traveling guests enjoys people and will be glad you're there. Several hosts have asked if I'd like to join them for dinner — I usually decline — and will do anything they can to make the stay enjoyable.
A host in Mobile, Alabama, left a breakfast spread for me with croissants, rolls, fruits, and juices and told me to help myself to any canned drink in the fridge.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, I asked the homeowner if I could eat my dinner by her pool and she was more than happy to oblige. I didn't see her again after our initial introduction, either. It's been my experience that most owners will clear out if you are using their kitchen, living room, or backyard.
Another time, I mentioned to an Airbnb owner in Vermont that I'd just finished my book. She offered to swap with me so I'd have something new to read. This felt so much more personable than what I'd experience in a hotel.
I'm never disappointed if I read the full listing and all reviews, and only book homes with specific criteria, like Superhosts.
Since I began booking private rooms, there are a few things I require before I book.
First, I carefully read the full listing and all the reviews so I know exactly what to expect.
And I never ignore bad reviews. One time I thought I'd found the perfect place, until I saw two reviews comment that it was noisy and a little hot. I passed and kept looking. I consult reviews to make sure it's in a good neighborhood based on past guests' comments, including if there's a safe place to park.
I also only focus on homes from Superhosts. They're people who are highly rated and have multiple five-star reviews. I also look for tags like 'rare find.' Together with Superhost, these terms indicate to me that the property receives a lot of bookings and the overall experience is likely to be very good.
Additionally, I prefer a room with a desk or table, and a nice, comfortable chair. Privacy is important, and I enjoy a private bathroom, but sometimes it's worth it to embrace a shared bath.
For example, when I found an oceanfront cottage in Maine for $55 a night, it clearly stated that the bathroom would be shared with the owner. To me, it was worth it for the ocean views.
I love how sharing an Airbnb home can be an immersive experience into local culture.
One of my favorite things about staying in a stranger's home is getting to experience a different lifestyle.
When I booked a room in Montpelier, Vermont, I saw wildflowers growing in yards, and noticed there were no billboards, and that everyone in the grocery story brought reusable bags, and composting was required by law. This felt so different than my home state of Texas where plastic is king, signage is everywhere, and homeowner associations issue fines if your grass is too high.
My Montpelier booking, however, was a turn-of-the-century farmhouse with an urban garden and six hens, where I learned to feed and care for chickens.
At the farmhouse, my host asked if I'd like to feed the free-range chickens in her backyard that were pecking about. I was delighted; I'd never done anything like that, and I also helped let them out of their coop and gather eggs. When I'd shake their cup of millet, the chickens came running from all over the yard.
It was a big treat for this city girl, and I especially enjoyed cooking and eating those farm-fresh eggs later that day. They were delicious.
Sterile hotel rooms can't compete with character-filled homes. I've had experiences I could never replicate in a resort.
Normally, I prefer to sleep in a double bed that is centered on a wall.
But when I found a tiny oceanfront room with a twin bed in a picturesque home in Owl's Head, Maine, for $55 a night, the pros vastly outweighed the cons.
I thought everything about it was charming and quaint. The owner had sprinkled blue and green colored sea glass on a shell-lined walkway outside the home, where the Atlantic Ocean served as the front yard. I was able to wake up to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean from the front porch in my pajamas.
It was so beautiful and peaceful, I thought, and no sterile hotel room could compete. Plus, an oceanfront hotel would have cost me a fortune compared to the small price I paid here.
Airbnb rooms also offer me more peace and quiet than a hotel. There's no highway noise, doors slamming, or elevators dinging.
While staying at a hotel, I've been woken up many times by people being loud at night, road noise, doors slamming, or elevators opening.
Since most Airbnb homes are located within residential neighborhoods instead of major thoroughfares, I find there are fewer disruptions when trying to sleep.
I also think that hosts want you to have a good experience in order to get a good review, and look for ways to minimize noise.
The aforementioned room in Owl's Head, Maine, for example, was located at the end of a private drive. The only sounds I heard were waves rolling in from across the single-lane road.
I love seeing how Airbnb owners decorate their homes and have gotten ideas for my own house this way.
I've always loved home decor magazines and TV shows, and I think that staying in an Airbnb room offers a similar peek into someone else's lifestyle.
I've stayed in some phenomenal homes across the country, including a $2.5 million beach house in Redondo Beach, California, for $107 a night. I had my own private entrance, and a bedroom with a copper tub, that served as inspiration for how I might remodel my bathroom in the future.
I've also incorporated some design ideas I've seen into my own home.
In Mobile, Alabama, I stayed in a traditional home decorated in rich browns with red accents. I found it so charming, that when I got home I ordered a similar rug and changed out my sofa throw pillows to mirror the same style.
I've never had a bad experience staying in someone's home because I fully embrace this mode of travel. I respect other people's spaces and tidy up before I leave.
I realize that not everyone is comfortable staying in a stranger's home, but I've found it to be completely enjoyable. I've met some of the nicest locals this way.
During a heat wave in Texas, I stayed at an Airbnb in San Marcos and found it a little too warm when I was getting ready for bed. I asked the owner if she'd mind lowering the thermostat and she happily obliged and also got me a fan, telling me to let her know if there was anything else she could do.
I've never had a bad experience, mainly because I fully embrace this mode of travel. I think being welcomed into someone's home makes a trip much more personal. These hosts trust me to be honest and respectful and I take that very seriously.
Before checking out, I always review the house rules and follow them exactly. Most expect you to clean and put away dishes or start the dishwasher, bag garbage and possibly remove sheets.
It might be more work than a hotel, but I think it's like staying at a friend's house who you wouldn't leave with a mess.
Airbnb rooms offer a great overall experience and I'm never going back to hotel rooms.
I could fill a photo book with pictures from all the amazing Airbnb places I've stayed. I've found so much more variety in an Airbnb home than a hotel. To me, each stay is a mini-adventure and I've met amazing people.
I think it's kind of like a bed-and-breakfast inn, where you might share a bathroom and meet everyone downstairs for breakfast the next morning. I've saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in accommodations by traveling this way.
In my opinion, Airbnb rooms offer a great overall experience that are often in more desirable areas than a cheap hotel, making them feel safer to me as a solo traveler on a budget.
The rooms I've stayed in have been pristine, attractive, and quiet, and I can often stay in a great location that would otherwise be out of reach, meet people from the local community when I want to, and enjoy an immersive travel experience.
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