I recently came across the website AirBnb.com, which promises to connect “adventurous travelers” with “nice folks” willing to let strangers stay in their apartment, spare room, or even on their couch – for a fee. Basically, if VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and CouchSurfing had a love child, this would be it.
At first I thought it was just a way to get money out of people who (somehow) still haven’t heard of CouchSurfing. Some of the offerings are downright laughable – why would people pay $70 to sleep on a couch when they can get their very own room at a major hotel chain for $10-$20 more? And if someone really wanted to stay with locals and make new friends, wouldn’t they just CouchSurf?
Despite some of the clearly deluded potential hosts offering to allow you to squat in their apartment for a ridiculous fee, I still wouldn’t write the site off completely. A few of the options listed are actually pretty great, like an entire apartment to yourself in Chicago, tastefully decorated and ideally located, for just $80 a night. There are even established B&Bs and pensions using AirBnB as another outlet for advertising their available rooms. Luckily the site does allow you to set search parameters like “private room” and “entire place” so you can easily find what you want. You can also look at reviews from previous guests and see plenty of photos of the place before you book. You’ll take on more risk than if you book with a traditional hotel, but you could score a great deal.