When my wife and I visited the US recently we made our first use of Airbnb, with bookings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Washington.
The short-term rental site, now used by travellers in 190 countries, did not disappoint on savings or quality.
Each apartment or house was as it was pictured online, and with the exception of the compact New York City abode, each had separate living areas to stretch out in.
There were kitchen facilities and linen provided in all, and a number of the residences were decorated in the detail one would expect only of a home or a four- or five-star hotel.
With no 24-hour reception to rely on, inconvenient arrangements for arrival and departure were the biggest fear at holiday's start, but access to the booked accommodation was easy.
In two apartments there was keyless code entry, and in two others the hosts were happy to leave the front door unlocked and the keys on the table inside.
The only host we needed to see directly for keys was flexible, ensuring we could come straight from the airport in LA and drop off our bags before a day's exploring.
Apartments did not come at bargain rates, with those in Washington and New York (albeit on Wall Street itself) priced at $200 a night, but on average we saved $50-$100 per night – or $1500-$2000 across the three weeks – by avoiding hotels which would have been equally well-located. In New York alone, three-star hotels in Manhattan would have cost at least $800 more across our five-night stay.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb is not embraced by everyone – we were encouraged by the hosts in two of the apartment complexes to not let others know we were short-term rentals – but even where its legal status is disputed, visitors continue to grow. Host and guest are kept accountable by respective after-stay reviews, which can be seen only after each has posted.
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