Consider AirBnB for Your Next Vacation.

When you’re traveling on business, or in need of a place to rest your head for the night during a long road trip, a clean hotel room with a comfy bed, good shower and reliable wifi is true perfection. But when you’re traveling for pleasure, there is an alternative that will bring you in closer touch with your surroundings than the sterile trappings of chain hotels.

AirBnB is a San Francisco-based company that puts travelers in touch with privately-owned accommodations in more than 190 countries and 34,000 cities worldwide. This on-line marketplace offers a variety of options based on your budget, length of stay and sense of adventure. With more than one and-a-half million listings, You can choose to spend a night, a week, a month or more in apartment shared with your host, an apartment of your own, a villa or a even one of over 1,400 castles.

Simon, Otto and I have stayed in AirBnBs for visits to Canada, Panama, Peru, England, Italy, France and several locations in Spain. So positive were these experiences, we now automatically check the website when planning a trip. Here are some examples of why.

View from the Living Room of Our AirBnB in Panama (©

View from the Living Room of Our AirBnB in Panama (©

  • London: Camilla was single, worked odd hours and was most helpful. We had a tiny room with kitchen privileges in her home and shared a bathroom. What the place lacked in amenities it more than made up for by convenience of location. The basket in our room containing travel size shampoo and chocolate truffles didn’t hurt either.
  • Cordoba: Candella had a walk-up apartment in which she rented out a bedroom with use of a private bathroom, as well as common areas, including the kitchen. Every morning, Candella set out breakfast items and invited us to help ourselves. “Our home is your home,” she said.
  • Avignon: Dorothy and her husband lived off-site, but were a willing source of invaluable information. We had an entire apartment to ourselves with a cozy sleeping loft. This was the only accommodation with no internet access. What it did have was coffee and tea, candy for us and some dog food, along with a blanket for Otto to protect him from the chill of a hard bare floor.
  • Montreal: Rose and her husband also lived off-site, and owned several duplexes. This worked well, since our sons joined us for our stay. We are in Montreal at least twice a year to visit my mother in a nursing home. The hotel options in this area are limited and expensive. But this and other AirBNB apartments we’ve have rented were within easy walking distance of the nursing home, as well as affordable.
  • Normandy: Mari Joseph and her husband, Didier lived in an old farm house in a small village. We enjoyed fresh bread and croissants washed down with plenty of good coffee in the morning. And in the evening, after a long day of sightseeing, the family pet donkey joined us in conversation. I have to admit, he was more coherent then some of the two-legged asses I’ve met over the years.
  • Madrid: Alfredo encouraged us to share his kitchen, and had cleared a shelf bearing complimentary bottled water and juice in the refrigerator for our use. He also clued us in on the rules for taxi drivers, and gave excellent directions for the bus and subway system.
  • Panama: Marnie rented us one of her small casitas for a month during our first visit to the country. The location had a pit barbecue, hammock, lemon and orange trees from which we were encouraged to help ourselves, a stunning view and more wine glasses than we could use, despite our love of entertaining. We also learned a great deal about life in Panama, which we might have found out the hard way had we stayed in a traditional hotel.
Marni - Picking Oranges (©

Marni – Picking Oranges (©

Each experience was unique in terms of location, amenities and interaction with owners. What they all had in common was the warm welcome we received.

The Back of Our Casita (©

The Back of Our Casita (©

So how does AirBnB work? Both hosts and travelers have to apply and be accepted. When you find something that is to your liking, you submit your dates and the host will contact you.

Before you submit your request, you can see your potential host’s reviews, and if you are being considered, the host can read yours. So far, our reviews have been positive, and the ones upon which we have acted were accurate.

The pros to renting an AirBnB accommodation are obvious. First and foremost, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new part of the country or world. Often, you will pay less than a hotel, and host are more than happy to share their favorite restaurants and shops with you.

Often you will be staying in a neighborhood rather than a commercial area. This can be cultural immersion at its best. We have enjoyed authentic and tasty offerings at charming family-owned eateries and bakeries we would never have found on our own.

Our hosts have all been generous, friendly and warm. They have also given us a peek into how local folks really live.

The down side? Well, if wi-fi is critical, make sure you ask the right questions. Of course, there are always alternatives. In Avignon, we shared the lobby of the tourist office with fellow deprived web junkies, and no one seemed to mind.

Apartments may be on an upper floor of a building with no elevator. So if you have mobility challenges, find out ahead of time if your accommodation will be accessible to you..

This applies to air conditioning, as well. If you can’t stand to swelter, make sure you won’t be staying where you will. You may find this a challenge, however, outside North America.

Also, if you have a service dog, you may run into problems, as rules regarding discrimination vary from country to country and even from region to region..

We have made the decision to tell potential landlords about Otto, and we have been turned down on several occasions. We have also been welcomed with enthusiasm by dog lovers, who went out of their way to pamper my already spoiled Otto.

Regulations or no, if we are going to be staying with an individual or family in their home, we choose to respect allergies and other dog discomforts . Besides, we prefer to avoid the tension that would result if we force the issue and insisted upon staying where we’re not wanted. Some may be critical of our stance on this issue, but to us, there is a huge difference between a hotel and a private home.

The bottom line is, if you aren’t persnickety about possibly sharing a bathroom, and you are flexible when it comes to creature comforts, staying at an AirBnB could add a delightful and unexpected dimension to your vacation.

Detailed information about AirBnB and how you can become a host or visitor can be found on the official website.

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