Craigslist is great for old couches and day-of concert tickets, but if you’re looking for a place to stay next time you’re traveling – Craigslist is a crapshoot. I’ve had friends who have had Craigslist vacation rental experiences on both extremes.
Friend X went down to North Carolina with a bunch of friends and rented a house on the beach for a week through craigslist. She loved it, had a great time, beautiful house, was clean, got her security deposit back, great memories.
Friend Y went to New York with her boyfriend and rented an apartment for the weekend through Craigslist. She hated it, had a terrible time, dirty apartment, on the 7th floor without elevators (and no mention of that in the listing), lost the security deposit, has awful nightmares ending with years in therapy.
Airbnb.com tries to fill the void between hotel prices and Craiglist uncertainty. Because when you travel for longer than a weekend, the biggest expense is usually your lodging not your airfare. Hotels in New York, Miami, and other tourist destinations can make vacations too pricey for almost anyone. Airbnb offers listings of hundreds of renters hoping to make a little money back on the rent they pay every month. In exchange for having guests pay money to rent their apartment, Airbnb hosts try much harder to be accountable.
First, by arranging the rental through Airbnb, there is a bit more security from scams. Instead of giving your deposit directly to your Craigslist host through Paypal, you give your payment to Airbnb to hold instead. That way, if the host doesn’t show up with the keys or you show up to the apartment and it looks like an abandoned brothel, you don’t have to stay and you can get your money back.
Second, there are impartial Airbnb representatives that will handle a dispute between hosts and guests if a problem arises. Airbnb will actually help the two parties resolve any confusion or miscommunication through email and/or direct phone call. Because no matter how hard you try, you can’t call Craig and tell him his list screwed up your weekend.
Third, there is an availability calendar! That alone is a magnificent improvement from Craigslist. You check on Craigslist for the perfect weekend apartment only to find out days later when you finally get a hold of the host that the weekend you wanted was booked 10 minutes ago.
Fourth, there is a Google map that displays the location and streetview of the apartment! This is another huge improvement from Craigslist vacation posts. You can actually verify the apartment surroundings and judge for yourself the safety of the neighborhood.
Finally, most Airbnb hosts are responsive to your needs and requests. Because these hosts are rated on the Airbnb site, they know that they are accountable. Whether choosing a bookseller on Amazon or an apartment on Airbnb, I can easily look at the previous guests’ comments to see what they think of that host. Airbnb hosts also have a response rating that grades them on how attentive they are to requests and reservations (very helpful if you are looking for a place last minute).
Just to be clear, Airbnb does not own these apartments. It is still up to the hosts to clean the apartment and be attentive. As a prudent precaution, I suggest taking many digital pictures of the apartment when you arrive and right before you leave. You wouldn’t want to be in a situation where you’re staying in a place that isn’t clean or are blamed for something you didn’t do.
Sometimes, I’m sure, somebody tries to rent out their dirty apartment for the weekend for some quick cash. For this reason, it is much safer as the renter to not pick a host with a strict cancellation policy. They have four options regarding cancellation policy: easy (full refund up to 1 day in advance), moderate (full refund up to 5 days in advance), strict (50% refund up to 1 week in advance), and super-strict (50% refund up to 30 days in advance). For all cancellations, you must contact airbnb right away by email or phone and it is highly advisable to have digital pictures to back up your case. Airbnb has the final say in all disputes so make a good argument and they will resolve it fairly.
Airbnb is the perfect vacation solution for the uncertainty with Craigslist rentals. When staying in a different city, you should be enjoying shopping excursions and dinner out on the town, instead of worrying about the expense of your hotel room. Airbnb lets you do just that and make the most of your travels.