With over 1,400 castles to its name, the queen of online room bookings, Airbnb, reigns over the territory of affordability and authenticity. In conversation, it’s seemingly the standout choice for travellers wanting more space, style and savings.
You can’t bemoan a Wi-Fi-enabled stone cottage in the Scottish Outer Hebrides or a Slovenian wine cellar in Ljubljana. They are spectacular choices that often lead to a flood of travel advice from your host. Yet, these localist ideals and ‘unique experiences’ come hand-in-hand with the claim that ‘Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetise their extra space’.
Question the moneymaking ‘unicorn‘ (private companies valued at $1 billion or more), and you may uncover a few surprises under your bed sheet.
The best for choice: AllTheRooms.
Since the late 1990s, home rental platforms have been offering travellers with the chance to live locally, wherever they go. Land of home rental colonisers, Alltherooms, hosts search engines from Airbnb, Flipkey, Homeaway and Expedia. It’s a super engine with a supreme scope of the market and an ability to cut out that tireless pre-trip hotel comparison.
Customisable requirements include budget and distance. Better than Airbnb for being practical: providing couch surfing and hotel rooms that could leave your pockets 60% lighter in the US (compared to Airbnb).
For the home-away-from-home: House Trip
Thousands of reviews and hosts make this TripAdvisor-backed site a respectable choice. Browse house rentals from Florence to Falmouth, in the search of the familiar in the unfamiliar. See house listings in French, Spanish, German and Italian, if required. Uncover seaside cottages and city centre apartments, before discovering your destination.
Unlike Airbnb, it’s more customer focused, with hosts unable to select who stays. For some extra peace of mind, the online reviews are by travellers only.
The start-up star: Widmu
With the expertise of dating websites and miserable hotel rooms, the founders of Wimdu set out to spread affordable high-quality rentals to travellers. Use listed ‘deals’, city suggestions, and mapping in your selection. With a few clicks, unlock possibilities like jacuzzi-gifted double rooms for £15 a night in Budapest.
Use this for apartments across Europe – you’ll have more choice than the American-centered Airbnb.
Simple search navigator: Booking.com
Perhaps you’re already familiar with the free cancellation and fuss-free browsing offered on Booking.com – the golden tool for independent travel and last-minute organisation with the guarantee. Simply use the filter search tool to consider the increasing list of homestays. For unbeatable prices, give your adventures the quirky and the cosy to rest your feet.
If your plans do change, the free cancellation policy is often more generous that Airbnb’s.
Best for your budget: University Rooms
Recall memories of flat parties and flying exam-season revision cards, with a university stay. Although most availability is in the summer months, there are options all year round. Set foot on the trail of Banksy in Bristol, or reside in the residences of the world’s oldest university in Bologna, Italy. Student status is unnecessary to unlock these budget-friendly room options – some even with breakfast included.
There are 400 listed universities across 75 world cities to choose from. It’s the ‘unique’ experience that Airbnb promises, but at prices to make students smile.
Nonetheless, the Airbnb debate is encouraging travellers to reconnect with their surroundings. Whether that’s drying the laundry in Manhattan or washing the dishes in Provence. With more space, beds and furnishings – the budget option of home rental are soon becoming the way to sleep right abroad.
For certain, Airbnb has come to dominate. Be wise, and look at some far older and far more innovative options now lending a helping hand. Once the booking is complete, grab those keys, straighten the doormat, and unleash your inner Berlin[er] – or similar.