As is obvious, I am an avid solo traveler. Although my posts are currently focused on my most recent trip to the U.K., I have traveled much more than that, long before there was AirBnB or blogs for that matter.
Arnisdale House, Scotland AirBnB Scottish High;lands
Having traveled for most of my life, in looking back through my past adventures, perhaps I should have been much more cautious. But hey, I was young, fearless and determined. Often youth is a time less focused on concerns for welfare.
Now in my midlife, I have a greater realization of the potential hazards around me. I do not tend to allow such dangers to greatly sway or hinder my passions, either in life or travel. Yet today, I am much more cognizant of potential issues. AirBnB has become a bit of a safety net for me in that respect.
Solo Traveler Advantages of AirBnB
There are a lot of advantages to AirBnB and similar sites and apps, that help support ones desire to travel. I will share some of those advantages here, but one in particular stands out to me.
Retrospectively I realize, I’ve either been extremely lucky (since I certainly was far from cautious) or perhaps the world is just a safer place than many people think. I’ve gotten into strangers cars. Slept on their couches, floors and beds. I have walked through dangerous neighborhoods like Compton, where I clearly stood out. But in all of those years traveling alone, I never thought about who would have noticed if I’d gone missing?
Hell, at 13 I would walk from Grand Central Station to CBGBs and back, in the wee hours of the night / morning. That NYC was a far different place than it is today. I’d sneak out the window and take the train into NYC. Essentially, no one would know where I went or that I’d gone missing until morning.
So what’s this all about you ask? Well, it is about AirBnB and similar types of hotel disruptive apps. It is how AirBnB increased my sense of safety when traveling alone simply by knowing there was someone at the other end expecting me.
Utilizing AirBnB has saved me a shitload of money for more reasons than you may think. But it’s sheer existence has changed the way I travel. AirBnB quite literally opened up a new world to me, within the world, I thought I already knew so very well.
The Power of Alternatives
When AirBnB started, it was the idea of a place for guests to stay that was cheap and safe, yet also provided extra income for those willing to host with very little costs or middle men, so to speak.
Like other disruptive services, AirBnB opened a up a window of opportunity for those looking for alternative ways to make some money. It also opened up a new world to both the guests and the hosts. Today, AirBnB can be a cash cow for many. Although the prices are at times like that of hotels, they still offer unique benefits that seem to help one save quite a few bucks.
With me, traveling on my own often means driving. Driving for weeks and months at a time. Therefor having someone on the other end expecting me is a huge plus.
A hotel isn’t going to freak out if I don’t show (for the most part). If the host of the AirBnB I book does not intend to be there, I give them specific instructions to expect me to ping them upon arrival. If I don’t contact them in a reasonable amount of time, they are to contact me.
To think of me meandering through Bali, at 17… on my own. No one even knew I was there. I could have vanished into thin air and it would have taken months to track me down. So this is one really big perk of AirBnB. On top of this unintentional perk of AirBnB, there are so many other pluses in utilizing them and similar sights, over hotels, motels and hostels.
Home Cooked Meals & Traveling with Pets
Some of the more pragmatic perks involved in utilizing AirBnB, is the option of cooking for yourself or ‘self catering’ as it is more commonly referred to overseas. Sure you can still eat out, but you’re not forced to eat out at every meal.
This not only saves you money, but offers more healthy options and more control of your calorie intake. It also lets you eat when you want. Make snacks to take with you or sandwiches for picnics, you get the gist.
When traveling with babies or pets, I consider this an ideal situation. Yes many AirBnBs allow pets. Some are even ok with babies.
It’s good to keep in mind that although self catering is a huge AirBnB perk (when it is offered), that it does not always mean full use of the kitchen, especially outside of the US. I do not believe AirBnB has stringent criteria for what this means.
It also doesn’t always mean there is a stove. Some may not have an oven. It could mean access to a microwave or even only a fridge. I searched AirBnB for specific criteria and couldn’t find anything. Because of this, it is best to check and not to assume that you have access to an entire kitchen. Also check if you might be sharing said kitchen.
What to Know When Booking an AirBnB
I suggest you ask if they have a can opener (especially if traveling with pets) or a coffee maker. If you’re like me and going to need them. Coffee often means that shit some people consider to be coffee called Nescafé, especially outside of the US.
Shockingly, in the U.K., Ireland, and similar places abroad… many people do not have coffee makers, or even French presses for that matter. The inhumanity! It is all about the tea.
Before you go, do make sure there is access to food either already there or at a place to which you can get. Some AirBnB locations can be pretty darned remote. Since I mostly drive, I can pick up groceries for remote areas. If you’re in a remote area with no transport and the kitchen is empty, it’s sort of redundant.
Complimentary breakfast is a great AirBnB perk, but not all comp breakfasts are created equal. In some places, like Scotland, a good Scottish breakfast can go a long long way. Seriously, a true Scottish breakfast will keep you going well to tea (dinner) time and the chance to interact with others is most often a plus.
But breakfast to some is tea and yogurt. Which is fine, but it will less likely tide you over to dinner. Also, a plus is when along with breakfast, comes conversation with other guests or your hosts. It’s an added bonus for a solo traveler like me.
Do make sure if you’re expecting a comp breakfast, that they can meet your dietary needs. In Italy I was once offered only custard, donuts and tea for breakfast. I ate an apple and had an early lunch. When asked if they could provide alternatives like oatmeal, eggs and fruit… they happily obliged the next day.
Since I generally walk many miles in a day, covering most cities on foot, so a hearty meal makes it easy to keep going without being focused on my next meal.
A Place to Park & Advice From Locals
Free parking is a fantastic AirBnB bonus, if you’re a driver like me. When a staying in a major city, a promised parking spot can save you a ton of money and aggravation. Downtowns New York City, London, San Francisco, Boston, Paris etc… can be an outrageous expense for parking.
In Florence and Rome car break ins are rampant and finding any parking can be an absolute nightmare. Oh, and try parallel parking with 2 inches of space in front and back while newly driving on a different side.
One of my favorite perks of AirBnB is the opportunity to get a true locals advice on where to go, what to do, where to eat and when.
Without AirBnB I would have never found the Roseleaf in Edinburgh. I’d have never gone to Gellions in Inverness, I’d never have forgone driving into Dublin’s city center and taken LUAS instead. And I’d never have driven out to Brough Birsay on the Orkneys (one of the best parts of that fantastic journey)
There’s No PLace Like Home / But AirBnB Can Come Close
OMG! I almost forgot. A washing machine. After 3 weeks on the road, I was glad to see this washing machine in Durness. So glad, I almost kissed it. (I actually may have).
It’s crazy expensive to have your knickers washed at a hotel and time consuming in a laundromat. (although it’s a great way to meet the locals). Since I carry only a backpack, I often must rinse my clothes in the sink. To actually wash them? Joy of joys.
Not so important to me is the TV and cable access that many AirBnB provides, even in remote locations lacking much infrastructure. But for me the access to decent Wi-Fi, so I can post, or download pics or video is a huge bonus.
Lastly, being able to plunk down on a couch in your jammies with a glass of wine is a true pleasure. Doing so after a nice hot bath, with your clothes churning in the wash even better. Ultimately having all of that while nibbling on foods you enjoy in a place that feels like home, makes all of the difference in the world on a long excursion.
AirBnB & Extended Stays
Staying at an AirBnB for at least a week. Getting to know the neighbors or if in a remote area, the camels or sheep. Having time to yourself in your own space, is such a different experience than just “staying” somewhere, because you become part of the community instead of just observing it. For me it’s the best addition to my traveling life that has occurred beyond the advent of GPS.
Oh and I must admit, I too love a good stay in a nice hotel. Fine food, lots of catering to your needs. I am all up for that. But for me, that’s vacation, not travel. I can go anywhere and obtain fine service in a fine hotel. Travel to me is melding into your environment and becoming as much a part of it as you can. There certainly are benefits to all sort of travel and quite frankly, I’ll take any sort of travel, pretty much to anywhere over almost anything else.
Unexpected Benefits of AirBnB
A really unexpected perk of AirBnB has been the locations. Although I have stayed in some amazing places such as Miramare (which is an actual BnB, in Agerola Italy). The neo gothic half ruin in which I stayed in Fiesole Italy (sadly no longer available) or in Arnisdale Scotland (I will return there) were just as magical as the journey itself.
These places took me to places to which I never would have been if not searching out places on AirBnB. My stays there were as wonderful as the journey that brought me to them.
Lastly, the enduring friendships, interesting people, the exceptional conversations I have had while staying in AirBnBs have added to my travels so significantly, it is hard for me to imagine traveling without it.