|Dining area in our Rome apt.|
While David and I prefer one of the Home Away/VRBO listing services, (I'll tell you about our rentals for this trip in upcoming posts.) Jaime, who often travels solo because her husband must stay home, thinks Airbnb is best. Renting a room in someone's home can be extremely inexpensive and a built-in friend/host often comes with the accommodation. After weeks of independent travel, it can be comforting to know there will be someone at "home" to hear all about your day's adventures.
Jaime says she has filed a "User Profile" because she wants potential hosts to know she is a mature, professional woman who will treat their property as respectfully as she would her own. She would want to know the background of anyone staying in her home, so she assumes her European hosts feel the same.
One of the aspects of the program she particularly likes is that her rental money goes directly to Airbnb and will not be sent to the host until after the first day. Not releasing the funds until the second day is the company's way of guaranteeing that the guest is satisfied with the accommodation. If the apartment has been misrepresented, then Jaime's money will be refunded any time within that first 24-hour period. The company would also help her find another place to stay.
This kind of reassurance, the ability to use credit cards, and the friendliness of Airbnb hosts will leave Jaime free to concentrate on her art. Instead of worrying about arranging for rooms in impersonal hotels, Jaime will feel "at home" wherever she goes in Europe.
The Airbnb site is full of helpful information, FAQ, and even videos.
In a conversation this morning with Rachel J, a company representative, I was told the best way to handle reservations was to use the "Contact Me" button on the site to e-mail the host. After viewing the photos, reading the apartment description, and going over other people's reviews, you can deal directly with the host about any other questions you might have. When you are satisfied that you've found exactly the right rental, then use the "Book It" button to confirm your choice.
One of the major advantages to Airbnb is that there are multiple ways to pay the rental fee. All major credit cards, PayPal, or e-check are acceptable.
I also really like the way security deposits are handled by Airbnb in the case of long-term rentals. A guest's credit card is authorized 24 hours before the reservation begins and credited back to the card within 48 hours of the guest's departure. Using the credit card carries its own safeguards and so does having Airbnb handle the transaction. In the case of damage claims, Airbnb mediates with the guest and host until matters are fairly resolved.
Here is an article by Linda Lacina that recently appeared in Smart Money magazine about the pros and cons of the apartment rental market.