College students are graduating and many are heading to Europe. Six weeks, six months or a “gap year” are popular graduation gifts. This is an ideal time in life to travel unencumbered and “see the world”. My youngest stepson will turn 20 later this month somewhere in Italy. His trip wasn’t a “gift” but rather an opportunity he created for himself. When he talked to his dad about the trip, he had a budget all worked out and was planning to stay in youth hostels.
My husband turned pale as scenes from the Quentin Tarantino movie, Hostel, flashed through his mind. He then turned to Google typing in “Security Youth Hostels”. Despite their best efforts to provide security, all the advice came down to this; Don’t bring anything valuable (think camera, laptop, iPad), Don’t bring much money, Beware of those who try to befriend you. Great!
He then asked if the interest in hostels was for some sort of “experience” or simply “economic”. In fact, being young and on a budget – he was being cheap. Other options were welcome.
If you have a young person about to travel abroad – or even if YOU are so inclined, check out “AirBnB”. Based out of San Francisco, this internet site matches up travelers with rooms for rent in private homes. Sometimes it’s a room, other times the entire apartment, villa or home. The prices range from only a few dollars a night more than a hostel to as much as you want to spend.
How is this different? First, you typically have the place to yourself or you are sharing with your host – not a dozen or more strangers. You can safely leave your belongings as you go out to explore. Like some hostels, there is a kitchen so you can save some money by eating at least some meals in but you again are not sharing it with dozens of others. Most have a private bath so you are less likely to catch a foot fungus in the shower and you won’t get ripped off while you are in there either. Some even have a washer/dryer so you can do your laundry too.
How it works: People with spaces to rent take lots of photos of the room, apartment, even the neighborhood or the view. They set their rules (non-smoking for example) and their rates. The host will also include a photo and some info about themselves. If you were a woman traveling alone and only wanted to rent from a woman or a couple, you could make those choices.
The people who want to rent build similar profiles. Before agreeing to rent their space to you, the host can review your past rental feedback. You can also read reviews from previous guests. Each time someone rents, both parties can review each other. If a space for rent isn’t as advertised, the reviews will negatively reflect. Same if a guest is rude, dirty or steals. Think of it as an “Angie’s List” for overnight accomodations.
They have available space just about anywhere you would want to go. Payment is by credit card through the website so you don’t have to worry about carrying as much cash or the price being suddenly different when you arrive.
My stepson has been staying with AirBnB hosts for the past 6 weeks and will continue to do so until he returns to the States mid-June. Some of the hosts have simply met him to give him the key and left him alone, others have made him breakfast or gone out for a drink with him. Traveling alone, the opportunity to have conversations with some locals is a bonus!
As for my husband, he has lost a lot less sleep for the few dollars more per night these accommodations cost and that, is priceless!