I like to leave my travel arrangements until the last minute. It feels to me like travelling is meant to be: spontaneous, free, exciting, maybe even a little reckless. Unfortunately when it comes to Christmas holidays, the rest of the world does not follow suit. People do crazy things like book a year in advance. Who the hell knows what they’re doing a year in advance? Anyway, they do, and that’s how I found myself with flights to Tasmania booked and nowhere to stay. As I scanned booking site after booking site, I started to get that sinking feeling. That feeling of realising I’d left it too late. I had visions of having to pitch a tent (seriously, a tent!!). Even the hostels were $150 a night for a dorm room, sharing with 30 other people! Too scared to tell Simon that I’d left us up the proverbial creek, I took a friend’s advice and logged on to Airbnb. And to my sudden and immense relief, I was offered a life-saving paddle.
I had first entertained the idea of actually using Airbnb when I attended a presentation by the company’s manager in Australia and NZ, Sam McDonagh, in Perth. I loved the company’s slogan: Belong Anywhere. As a single female traveller for most of my life, the idea of having not only a place to stay, but an instant family, friends or guide really appealed to me. Airbnb’s rise has been stratospheric; the company has gone from a small seed of an idea among a group of university mates to a global juggernaut with over 1.5 million listings worldwide. (Sam told us the only countries Airbnb doesn’t operate are North Korea, Syria and Iran – but Iran is expected to come online soon).
In Australia, Airbnb has grown to more than 60,000 listings in 2016, and more are being added every day. 70% of users in Australia are international visitors, while the other 30% are home-grown tourists (like us).
So what’s it like?
Well, using the Airbnb website is kind of like booking a hotel. You select the place, dates and how many guests there are and hit ‘search’. The site offers up a bunch of options, complete with a map of where they’re located. You can then refine the search by adding the amount you’re willing to spend, whether you want to stay inside someone’s home, or select ‘entire home’ if you want a place to yourself. The property profiles have all sorts of information, including location, nearby restaurants or attractions, photos, cancellation policies etc.
After finding a place we liked, I had to create a profile. This was a simple process which involved providing a photo, a blurb about myself and some personal details like email and mobile phone number to verify I was a real, non serial killer-type person. The host has to do the same, and you can check the reviews to see what other people have said about them (to satisfy yourself that they’re a real person too).
Once you select your dates, you send a request to make a booking and the host can check out your profile and then decide whether to accept your booking. You’re only sent the approximate location of the place until just a few days before your stay, but you can contact the host at any time through the Airbnb site if you need extra details.
A few days before our bookings, Airbnb sent us a reminder with the exact address, dates we were booked and contact details of the host. All three of our hosts contacted us prior to arrival just to check what time we’d be arriving, and all were flexible on check in and out times.
Our first booking was at a beautiful little cottage on a property in Ferntree, just south of Hobart, at the base of Mount Wellington. The host just left the place unlocked, and we let ourselves in. The host’s daughter came to say hello and offered us a map of the local trekking trails, which was invaluable. We loved this place because we had our privacy, but we could still ask the host if we had any questions about things to do in the area, transport etc.
Our next booking was a fantastic little apartment in north Hobart. The host met us near the apartment and took the time to explain all the local restaurants and attractions. He also gave us some advice on some road trips we wanted to do. He clearly didn’t live in the apartment building, but was available to us if we had any questions at all. When we checked out, we simply left the key for the owner to collect.
Our final booking in Launceston was in a stunning little apartment that had been built adjacent to the main house and had a beautiful view over native bushland and a park. The host lived next door and was home when we arrived to give us a quick tour. She also made some recommendations about local restaurants and things to do in Launceston. The next day, she left for a trip to Hobart and we had the whole place to ourselves. We loved the fact that she’d left a supply of breakfast things for us to eat; cereal, fresh bread, milk and most importantly, coffee! As a guest, it was such a treat for us to not have to go and buy these things for ourselves.
After our stays, the hosts all left a review about the kind of guests we were (pleased to say they were all positive), and we got to write reviews of all our hosts and accommodation (all good too).
Our experience with Airbnb was overwhelmingly positive, and I would definitely use the site again. There were so many positives; having an entire apartment to ourselves instead of just a hotel room, having kitchens available if we wanted to cook (ok, we didn’t, but at least we had the option!), having privacy, yet still having someone there to share their local knowledge, and all at a cheaper price than what we would’ve paid for an apartment hotel. Our Airbnb experience honestly made us feel like we could Belong Anywhere.
Please note: I was not in any way compensated for this review.