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Traveling Differently in 2021

My husband and I, along with other family members, have travelled using traditional bed and breakfast inns and short term rental sites such as Airbnb since 2008 and VRBO in it's many faces. We became Airbnb hosts in 2015 in order to share a room in our home to travelers from all over the world. We have enjoyed sharing our home and venturing into other people’s homes across the United States.

Yes, it’s intimidating the first time you walk into someone else’s home. But they have chosen to welcome you and share their hospitality. A very similar experience would be staying in a traditional Bed and Breakfast. Many times there is a person living in that house.

When using a short term rental that is a shared home, think of it as visiting a distant relative. If that is too big of a leap of faith, perhaps renting an entire home or a free-standing addition may be a more comfortable route. The main distinction between Airbnb and VRBO, the two most popular homes listing websites, is that homeowners on Vrbo mainly rent out the whole home or space, which means you won't find anyone else sharing the space with you. This is unlike some Airbnb listings where you may book a room in a shared house.

A benefit of staying in a home Airbnb experience versus a hotel is the extra space and outdoor environments. One can rent an entire home, condo or garage apartment, but many hosts rent out only a portion of their home, like we do-the front bedroom of the house. It’s what’s called a shared or partial rental. We have often rented a bedroom and a private bathroom in an Airbnb host’s home, where we also had access to a comfortable den space and kitchen. And sometimes it is just a room and bed.

Before using Airbnb we had always preferred to have our own place and privacy, but we discovered that renting a room in a home where the hosts live could be very enjoyable. We have experienced wonderful hosts who were as friendly and talkative as we wanted, but also respected our space and privacy. And those that we never saw the entire stay. All fine each time. Some offered excellent insights into the local area, including restaurant recommendations and traffic information. By the time some of our stay end, we felt like we had made new friends. And we do return a second time.

How to Use

Creating an account is very simple. Enter your name, email address, phone number and an agreement to Airbnb’s Community Commitment. The commitment agreement asks both Airbnb hosts and guests to treat each other with respect, and without judgment or bias. Airbnb hosts cannot turn down a guest due to their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or age. Airbnb wants to create a way for guests to be able to travel and to feel welcomed wherever they are staying. You will have to enter government issued ID for some hosts. We do not allow anyone to stay with us that does not have this ID in their profile with Airbnb.

When booking your first Airbnb stay it may be helpful to get a reference from a friend that has used Airbnb. They can write a recommendation that will appear on your public profile to tell hosts a bit of information about you.

Now all that awaits you is to enter a destination. Anywhere! On the home page type in the location, along with the dates and Airbnb will provide you with a list of Airbnb listings. One can also type in the location of a nearby attraction such as the location of the zoo you want to visit. Locations will pop all around the zoo. Maybe not so close to the zoo on a hot Texas summer day. If you are not familiar with an area, do your research and see what kind of areas surround you. Is it in the middle of an industrial or downtown area that has no night life? Make sure that is your desirable location. I wanted peace and quiet while my husband spend 1 entire day venerably visiting a beautiful Civil War Site in E. Tennessee. I chose a working farm, that was actually a former religious community that have scattered a bit over the years. It was just what I needed. Quiet time and space.

Some of the best hosts to stay with are designated the title of “Superhost". These are experienced hosts that are known for creating extraordinary experiences for their guests. In order for a host to become a Superhost they have to earn great reviews from their guests. The best hospitality that's available in an area. I recommend booking with a Superhost.

My husband and I achieved Superhost status since our first quarter, back in 2015. We strive to provide a unique Austin stay for those that choose to share our home. When booking on Airbnb we normally stay with other Superhosts because we know the lengths they go to attain and maintain that special designation.

Let’s talk about traveling and booking for unique lodgings using the Airbnb website!

Have you ever dreamed of living like a King or a Queen in a castle? Well you really can sleep in a King or Queen sized bed in an actual castle with Airbnb! Airbnb has numerous styles of lodging for guests that provides a fun and memorable experience. Many hosts have created unique places to stay that are much more exciting than staying in a typical condo or townhouse. For example you could end up booking a night in a treehouse, airstream caravan, houseboat, yurt, light house, or even a castle!

The search filters on the Airbnb website allow you to choose from thousands of unique living spaces, which you can browse here:

Point Arena Lighthouse Keeper's Room
Private room in a lighthouse - Courtesy of Airbnb

Select whether you want to book a shared room, private room or an entire house and adjust a sliding scale to narrow down your search within your price range. If you think your plans might change, you can even pick a stay that offers flexibility in their cancellation policy. You can even instantly book a place without waiting for a host’s approval after you have a positive review by another host. It’s your stay, so what’s your vibe? Search for villas, hostels, apartments and more. Decide if you need a working kitchen to cook up a feast. Do you want access to exercise equipment, or do you want to bring your beloved pet with you? You absolutely can by adjusting the filters to find a host that has what you are looking for. Go ahead and find your dream stay at a treehouse in the forest or an elegant castle in the hills!

Castle in the Smokies: Mtn View & Private Hot Tub!
Castle with a mountain view and private hot tub - Courtesy of Airbnb

For the highest in convenience, many hosts allow guest the option of self check-in to their stay. Self check-in means guests can access a place without needing the Host to be there. Any time after their designated check-in time on their arrival date, guests can conveniently gain access via:

  • A key lockbox

  • A smartlock

  • A keypad

  • A key or access via the building staff, such as a doorperson or front desk attendant, who must be available 24/7 to do so

Vintage 60s Camper in Austin, TX - Courtesy of Airbnb
Airstream caravan - Courtesy of Airbnb

We have travelers from all over the world arrive very, very late and we try to welcome them with a nice water and sometimes chocolate treats. International times zones, especially travelling in a pandemic can be brutal. If you travel in an RV, you can search Airbnb for RV sites and find a wide variety of options to stay. Many RV sites will allow you to park your RV with city water, sewer hookup, and electric service. Some will have wifi and even an onsite laundry facility.

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb doesn’t just help you find a great place to stay. It also provides interesting experiences that you can search for in the area that you will be visiting. The experiences include activities that you can browse according to your interests. The search categories include art and culture, sports, food and drink, nature and outdoors, and sightseeing opportunities.

Our favorite experience was in Cincinnati, Ohio in Feb 2021. Why did we visit in the winter? Our son bought his first house and needed some assistance so we volunteered to drive up with tools. Little did we know we would actually be dodging and following some of the biggest snow storms of that winter. Did I mention it was 28 degrees when we participated in our Airbnb Experience?! The title of the experience was "A Walking Food Tour of Famous Cincinnati Cuisine". Did I mention the snow on the ground? Our guide showed up and we did too. We were the only crazy Texans to do that. This was my trip that I actually learned how to drive on ice, or how to gently slide on the ice to park at my curb.

On our tour, we did have to trudge through a bit of snow, as a major storm preceded our travels and dumped quite a bit on the cityscapes. It was definitely a memorable “experience”! We enjoyed every moment of our guide’s knowledge and the food was wonderful. We would not have booked a tour like this on our own, but Airbnb made it easy to do with a curated list of experiences on their site. We will definitely select another Airbnb experience on our next trip!

Safe travels during these uncertain times. Please don't hesitate to get out and explore the world right around you. We discovered a donut shop, within minutes of our home and that we had driven by so many times. Peddling the bike along the sidewalk we saw it and turned in. What will you find?


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