It's not you, it's me. You're beautiful. I love your room service, your floofy beds, your miniature toiletries. But sometimes... sometimes I just feel like there's something missing. Like I want to try something different. It's not that I'm unhappy with your overpriced, undersized bottles of gin, because I do love them. And I take a huge amount of delight in the way I can call someone for ice when I'm staying with you. But I want something a bit more raw, a little more real. And a lot cheaper. To be honest, I've been cheating on you for years. Yes, it's true... With home-sharing services. It started with Airbnb, and from there it was a slippery slope. VRBO, Homeaway... I've tried them all. And while I'll always, always love you, I need an open relationship - a bit of you, a bit of them. See, they give me something you can't. I can live like a local, I can stay in weird and quirky places, I can explore neighbourhoods where hotels don't even exist, and I can usually get more bang for my buck. So I'm sorry, but our exclusive relationship is over.
Too difficult, too high maintenance, not worth the drama I hear you say. I'm sorry, but it's not. Not if you know how to treat home-sharing sites right...
Filter like a mother-loving hipster pour-over coffee. Tick those boxes with abandon. Set your budget. Enter your dates. Think about what you need and don't need...your own place? (For me, always, for the same reason I don't like a traditional B&B - I hate having to make polite conversation at the end of a long day wandering a city). Wi-fi? (obvs). Indoor fireplace? (Nice, but no dealbreaker). The options can be overwhelming, so start off by being picky - it'll help narrow your options and reduce scrolling fatigue. Now open a million tabs on your computer. It's easier than clicking back and forth...
Don't just look on Airbnb. If you're going to cheat, cheat good. Airbnb is the king of home-sharing, but I've found some incredible hidden gems on VRBO and Homeaway, too.
Search by the map. First, pick a neighbourhood ('Where to stay in XX' is an easy Google search that you should do before you even begin - and Airbnb has good neighbourhood guides for some cities, too). Is there a main drag? Is there a bakery you would like to be two minutes from? (No word of a lie, I chose an Airbnb in San Francisco because it was 50 metres to Tartine. THE HAM AND CHEESE CROISSANTS MADE ME DO IT). Where's the train/bus/tram stop? Now, cross check your options on the map.
Approach more than one host. Eggs, several baskets. Send out questions (rather than booking requests) introducing yourself, explaining the purpose of your trip, asking a simple question and checking availability for your dates. Send this out to your top three options (Apple-C, pals!) and you should be right.
Reviews, reviews, reviews. Properties without reviews are to be approached with caution - but not dismissed altogether, those poor little love-starved things are just looking for a chance! Still, unless a property has something incredible going for it, I don't risk it. No review? There should be a ton of information, a full profile and a responsive host who doesn't mind answering your questions.
Check for other properties. If your host has a bunch of other places listed, they might be a professional Airbnber and you might get less personal service. This isn't a bad thing - it can be smoother and less, well, needy. But if you're looking for that romantic Airbnb experience of a host who offers intimate recommendations for sushi and foot spas, this might not be for you.
Watch for hidden extras. Cleaning! Some people charge $50, others can be more than double. Airbnb also charges a service fee on top of your nightly charge.
Screenshot, print, download. If you lose that bit of paper with the code to the lockbox on it, you'll have your app. If you can't get a signal, you'll have a screenshot. Back shit up - when you're waiting at your Airbnb and there's no key in the lockbox (it happened to me in San Fran) and your phone's about to die, you'll be glad you did.
I still love your mini bar, though.
P.S. You want details, huh? Okay, here's who I've cheated on you with:
In Echo Park, L.A
In Silverlake, L.A.
In West Hollywood, L.A
In Venice Beach, L.A.
In San Fran, again
In New Orleans
In Joshua Tree
In Oahu, Hawaii