Everything you need to know about home sharing on holiday
When you’re thinking about booking a budget holiday, what springs to mind? Flying with a low-cost airline? Booking a bunk bed in a hostel? Well there’s a new kind of budget accommodation: home sharing.
So what exactly is home sharing?
Instead of checking into a hotel for a few days, you move into someone else’s home.
The idea of home sharing and a ‘sharing economy’ originated around the west coast of America, but it’s rapidly gained in popularity all around the world. Research conducted by Crimson Hexagon found that 11% of US adults have used an online service to stay overnight in a private residence; and it’s becoming increasingly popular across the UK and Europe too.
The company that’s leading the way? That would be Airbnb, of course. With over two million listings in 34,000 cities, it’s fair to say that home sharing is certainly gaining in traction. Airbnb’s 60 million users currently enjoy 500,000 stays every night, and it’s likely that you’re one of them!
Another brand that bought into the home sharing idea was backpackers’ failsafe Couchsurfing. Founded in 2004, users simply searched for the city they were visiting, and connected with locals to find a place to stay. Sometimes they’d get a spare room, and other times (much like the name!), they’d sleep on the couch. Now it has over 12 million members in its community, with regular events for people to meet up and get to know each other.
If you’re thinking that home sharing is very much a thing amongst millennials, then you’d be mistaken: according to Airbnb, their average user is 42.
What are the benefits of home sharing?
If you’re willing to put in the time to research, then you can find lots of great deals. A quick search on Airbnb for a long weekend in Riga, Latvia brought up some interesting results: a penthouse apartment in the city centre was available for £211… for 9 guests!
At a cost of less than £23.50 each, finding accommodation at a similar standard in a hotel or holiday apartment at the same price is highly unlikely – especially if your group want to stay together. In fact, an apartment of the same standard for 9 people on booking.com cost the equivalent of £350 – that’s £139 more for the weekend!
It’s not just large groups that can make big savings. For those travelling as a couple or solo, who don’t want to rough it in a hostel; paying for a hotel or holiday apartment can be quite costly.
We took to Airbnb again, to see what we could come up with – this time, in the German capital, Berlin. To rent a room in a modern, city centre apartment, it would cost around £20 a night – that’s £10 each if there are two of you.
In contrast, the cheapest apartment we could find on booking.com, that was on par in terms of quality on Airbnb cost in excess £50 a night.
If you’re a frequent traveller and find you tend to spend a lot of money when abroad, home sharing can save you a significant amount of money over a period of time; with 45% of people surveyed by Crimson Hexagon stating this was the main reason for them to try out home sharing!
Whilst travelling and exploring new places is extremely fun and exciting, sometimes you can crave the convenience and comforts back at home.
It might sound trivial; but small things like being able to make yourself a cup of tea, and curling up on a comfy sofa after a hard day of exploring can make all the difference!
Whilst it’s fun staying in a hotel from time-to-time, they can be quite impersonal, and if you’re on a budget, can lack a lot of the comforts you take for granted at home.
With home sharing, this problem is completely eradicated, with kettles to boil, sofas to sprawl out on, and much more!
Something as simple as having a fridge can make a huge difference, as it means you can buy in drinks and snacks, as opposed to eating everything on the go. This can really help if you’re looking to cut costs – buying ingredients from a nearby supermarket and cooking will cost so much less that dining out in a restaurant.
The other thing hotels often lack is space. Obviously when you’re in a foreign country, you want to spend lots of time exploring; but sometimes all you want to do is relax. If you’re staying in a small hotel room, you might avoid staying in, whereas if you choose to home share, there’s somewhere you can chill out in the evenings.
Everyone knows the best way to explore a different city is to visit the locals’ favourite haunts. The problem is, unless you know someone who lives in the city or knows a lot about it, you probably won’t come across anywhere except tourist traps.
Home sharing solves this problem!
Think about it this way: you have access to someone with knows the city inside and out! Ask them for recommendations on places to go and things to see – even if your host isn’t staying at the property with you, you can still drop them an email and ask!
If you’re lucky, you may even find your host offers to show you round themselves – whether you visit an unusual landmark, an underground hipster bar or a quaint restaurant, you’ll get to experience things that not every typical tourist sees!
Let’s face it: when it comes to booking accommodation for an upcoming trip, there isn’t that much choice available. Hostel, hotel or apartment? Sure, you can pick whether you want a shared or private bathroom, and a double bed or two singles, but that’s really where the choices end – especially if you don’t want to spend too much.
But with home sharing, there are so many other options to choose from (and a distinct lack of bunk beds… unless you want them, of course!)
If you’re looking for accommodation with a difference, you could rent out a log cabin in Norway, or a castle in France. Turns out castles are quite in demand actually, with over 1,400 available to rent on Airbnb!
Should I book a home share or a hotel?
Hotels have lots of great qualities about them too, and home sharing isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering the idea of a home share, but aren’t fully convinced, then you need to weigh up the options and see what’s best for you.
Consistency and reliability
Research from Crimson Hexagon found that this was the top reason those surveyed picked hotels over home sharing.
When you stay in a hotel – especially chains – you know exactly what you pay for. Travelodge may be basic, but you know it’s going to be clean, the beds will be comfy, and there’ll be a decent restaurant on the ground floor.
Similarly if you splash out and stay at the Hilton, you know that you’re going to get a certain amount of quality for your money.
With home sharing, this can vary. Whilst there are many great deals to be had, with great accommodation and amazing locations at a fraction of the price of hotels; unfortunately you have to understand that there may be a few places that aren’t so good.
Whether the flat isn’t as big as you thought it would be, or the bathroom is dated, you have to accept the gamble you take with accommodation. You may be asked to clean up after yourselves, so be sure to read through the house rules before booking somewhere. It might sound frustrating, but you need to put yourself in your host’s shoes: if you’ve made a mess, you should clean it up, right?
The other point to consider is reliability: if you book a hotel, you can relax in the knowledge that your confirmation is guaranteed, and you have a room to stay in. Unfortunately – whilst rare – home sharing hosts can cancel; and this can be very stressful if they do so right before you’re due to visit.
Be sure you read through reviews of the property you’re looking at. If people are complaining about frequent cancellations, it’s best to avoid that particular property and look for somewhere else with rave reviews – there’s plenty of them!
Additional services and amenities
This really depends on what you want from your holiday. If you like to spend a lot of time in the hotel using the gym or drinking in the bar; or even value amenities such as room service, housekeeping and a concierge, than home sharing isn’t for you.
If however, you don’t mind going without them, then home sharing could be a great option, and will allow you to try a new experience at a fraction of the price.
Can I be a home sharing host?
If you’re looking for some extra income, want to meet new people or just want to show off your city, then being a home sharing host is a great way to achieve all of these things.
The important thing to remember is that as a host, you have to provide a service that you would expect if you were the guest. However, if you sign up on Airbnb, you can set rules for who you’d like to share your home with, as well as whether you’d be comfortable letting out a spare room, or the whole house.
Things such as arranging key collection and providing recommendations on where to visit are all important parts. In order to get great reviews and more bookings, you need to provide an excellent service, which means that it can be quite time consuming. If you want to make it work, and open up your home to guests, then you’ll need to be prepared to put in the time and effort.
Nevertheless, it’s a great reward, as you’ll get to meet new people, make new friends all whilst showing off how amazing your city is!
Is home sharing for me?
If you’re sold on the idea of home sharing, but need some inspiration on where to go, then take a look at these alternative European city breaks, or these exotic beach holidays! Just don’t forget to order your travel money before you fly – ordering in advance will help you get the best deals available!
Please note: prices were correct as of Friday 2nd September and are subject to change.