Europe · Travel

Experiencing Airbnb Stays

During our 12-week trip to Spain, we’ll be staying in a variety of locations and a variety of Airbnb stays. In fact, it will be a total of nine Airbnb stays.

Why Airbnb?

Our primary goal on our trip is to embed ourselves into the Spanish culture. Airbnb stays are often operated by local individuals and property management firms, and they are usually in more residential areas where we can be close to grocery stores, schools, and parks. Instead of bumping into other foreigners milling about in the hotel lobby, Airbnb gives us more of a local experience.

We expect Airbnb to be significantly cheaper than a traditional hotel stay. It’s a gross understatement to say it’s challenging to find a hotel that can accommodate a family of eight. In the past, we’ve had to spread the family across multiple rooms, which is less than ideal. As an example, take Sevilla, the second most expensive stay on our trip. A quick search on Expedia for a family of four in a comparable hotel starts at $125/night. Double that to $250/night to accommodate a family as large as ours. Meanwhile, our Airbnb stay is $225/night, and we’re not spread across multiple rooms.

Every Airbnb stay we’ve booked has a full kitchen, making it possible to save money in our food budget. We won’t need to eat out every meal.  By preparing most of our own meals, we can meet our family’s dietary restrictions. We won’t be preparing every meal, instead enjoying the local cuisine at our own pace.

We’re packing light, so we’ll need to do laundry periodically. Each Airbnb we’re looking at has at least a washer and some even have dryers, uncommon in Europe. While hotels often provide laundry services or coin-operated machines, it would be additional expense and inconvenience.

Finding the Right Stay

There are lots of options with Airbnb. Each Airbnb stay is as unique as the operator. Part of the challenge is filtering out stays that would negatively impact our trip. We focused on the following criteria: location, sufficient beds and bathrooms, and no review red-flags. While cheaper is better, we don’t want to compromise on our main criteria very much.

Location: Our primary filter when searching for Airbnb stays was on location. We preferred stays either close to the city center, or with urban transportation options that could get us around in a reasonable amount of time. Any stay requiring a private car or that was so far away from the action that transit time would dominate our experience was rejected. We gave preference to less touristy areas free from late-night revelers.

Enough beds/bathrooms: Many of the stays claimed to support eight people but did so using living room futons and rollout beds. We gave preference for stays that had real beds for everyone. We also looked for enough dining seating for everyone, using that as a signal as to whether a place could really accommodate our family comfortably. And generally places that had less than two bathrooms fell out of the running, because again, it was a signal as to whether the stay could truly accommodate eight comfortably.

Red-flags: We poured over the reviews, and while it was a little exhausting at times, it was also essential to find out as much as we could about a stay before reserving it. Some red-flags we looked for included: unresponsive landlords, cockroaches, noise complaints, plumbing issues, etc. Stays that had few or no reviews fell to the bottom of our list. If I wasn’t traveling with the whole family, I might have been willing to relax a little on this, but not much. The reviews on Airbnb are a good signal, since they are written only by people that have actually stayed in the accommodation.

What About VRBO, etc?

We’ve successfully rented vacation rentals from other sites in the past, including VRBO. As we searched for our Spanish stays, we saw some of the same properties on booking.com and spain-holiday.com. Rates often varied between the sites, adding additional challenge to finding our rentals. Airbnb was consistently cheaper rates when the same property was advertised multiple places.

We’re happy with Airbnb’s search experience compared to the other sites. It was easy to find places during our desired dates, easy to rent them, and so far it’s been a great tool to communicate with the rental owners. I’m also confident that Airbnb will help our family work through any challenges we face in our upcoming stays.

Our Experience so far

We’re in our sixth Airbnb and we have another three to go. So far there hasn’t been any nightmares yet. Our first place in Madrid was definitely not as nice as our stay in Córdoba or Sevilla, but it also wasn’t a complete dump. Cádiz has been the nicest, with Nerja being the most spacious. It was probably better to start low and move up, than the other way around.

Hasta luego!

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