Speaking of home shares, this is the best way to mesh with the local culture and live like a local. It’s always a great way to meet people from all over the world and get an idea of what their lives are like and how we share so many similarities. Airbnb and Homeaway are two of the most popular home share sites. I have only used Airbnb, but hear good things about Homeaway. Homeaway is renting an entire home as Airbnb is renting either an entire home or renting a room in someone’s home.
First things first, review your itinerary so you can start planning your lodging. This is usually the part of the trip where you may make some last-minute adjustments. When planning to stay in specific towns, make sure there are enough lodging choices. Unlike hotels, some home shares may be a bit out of town, so if you want to stay where all the action is, a hotel may be the best option. If you want to stay somewhere a bit remote, then the home share is best. It’s all about personal preference.
When my husband and I were planning a trip to Ireland we wanted to stay in a specific town. Once looking at lodging options, there was really nothing in that town. We went to our map and started looking at other towns that might have a better selection of options. Sometimes you have to do this. It’s actually quite fun because you learn so much about the area and get an idea of the lay of the land before you even arrive there.
Definitely use the search criteria on the home share sites to your advantage. There are options to rent an entire home or apartment or a room in someone’s home on Airbnb. It’s also helpful to view the map of available homes to get an idea of location, since it’s usually a pretty important factor when choosing the perfect place. Also, read the home descriptions and house rules carefully. If you want a room with privacy, but don’t want to rent an entire home, be sure the room description lists “Private En suite” or “Private Bathroom.” If you see a description that lists “Shared Bathroom,” then you will be sharing a toilet and shower with other guests or the host. Keep in mind that in some countries, like France, a “bathroom” or “shower room” is just that. These are literal terms and should be treated as such. This means that you may have a private shower (not always in your room), but there may be a shared toilet.
Here are three examples. My husband and I were staying in a B&B in Verdun, France. Our room was lovely, and we had an en suite shower and sink. However, we had to share a toilet in the hallway with a few other guests. The shared toilet did not have a sink to wash your hands. We made sure to bring antibacterial wipes with us. Being Americans, we found this strange but dealt with it. While staying in an Airbnb in someone’s home in Martigues, France, we thought we were getting an en suite because the listing stated “Private Bathroom.” Well, we had a private shower room outside our bedroom in the hall. The toilet, on the other hand, was clear across the entire apartment and shared with the apartment hosts. Again, this shared toilet didn’t have a sink. From our experience in Verdun, we were well prepared with moist towelettes and antibacterial wipes. It was a bit weird, but we laughed about it because what else can you do? Even in Dublin, Ireland we had a room with a private bathroom, except the bathroom (shower, toilet, etc.) was outside of our room. It was private to us, but when you don’t wear much to bed, it’s a pain to have to get dressed to go into a hall to use the toilet in the middle of the night.
As stated in the discussion on hotels, if you are a hot-blooded person, be sure to search places with air conditioning or travel during cooler months. Most home shares we have come across overseas do not have AC, it’s just not a “thing” there. Most will provide fans and you’ll probably have a window. Just keep in mind that window screens are also not a “thing” in some places. It’s a total adventure and if we can make it work, so can you.
Bring cash. Some of the Airbnbs we stayed in were very casual and asked for us to pay in cash. This was no big deal, but just keep in mind to find out ahead of time how the host accepts payment.
There is a reason why these home share sites provide access to contact the hosts of the properties. Ask questions to the host before you book to ensure you have an enjoyable experience. This is also the time to ask about any specific accommodations needed during your stay (i.e. luggage storage, early check-in). During your search, it may help to determine whether or not you require a self check-in. A Self check-in is when the host will send you a lock box or keypad combo code to get into the property usually a week prior to check-in. This eliminates the need to call and arrange meeting the host for a key upon check-in. I find this to be more streamlined and easier than trying to call and meet someone. Also, you can find out a lot about a host by reading their profile. If something feels off, it probably is, just move on to another place.
When searching for a place to stay our first time in Dublin, we were reading the profile for one of the hosts. By the tone of the profile, the host seemed very rude in her post and it turned me off immediately. Needless to say, we found another place with a lovely host. ALWAYS read the reviews. This gives you a good idea of what the place is like, the host, the location and experience. I also find it helpful to see where the reviewers are from (if possible). Sometimes their location is listed on the review. I say this because people from countries such as the US or UK have different expectations than someone from other places. Pay attention to reviews on location, noise, safety, cleanliness, host behavior and convenience. If someone reports that the room is too small, or the bathroom is too small, then take these types of reviews with a grain of salt. The rooms are probably small, but probably the norm according to country standards.
Whatever method of lodging you choose, remember, it’s not forever and enjoy each experience because we all learn and grow culturally from them. Hopefully these tips will assist with finding you the perfect property for you and your traveling partners.