Being something of a frugal fanatic, I enjoy taking what is already a frugal option and making it into something downright, knock-your-socks-off cheap.
Just last week I shared my favorite tips for making camping cheaper than it already is. While camping is definitely our go-to for family activities, I know it’s not everyone’s style.
If you’re the type that prefers a real bed to a sleeping bag, then this will be right up your alley! If your idea of a vacation is comfort and luxury (or a least walls and a roof), then you’ll appreciate these tips on how you can save money on Airbnb accommodations.
What is Airbnb?
If you haven’t heard of Airbnb, then you may be living under a rock. That’s okay though. I’ll get you up to speed with the 60 million guests who have already enjoyed accommodations with Airbnb.
Airbnb is a “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations all around the world.” It is turning the hospitality industry upside down. The range of options for overnight accommodations at every price point has skyrocketed.
Instead of hotels and motels, you can rent much more comfortable, inviting, personal spaces that feel much more home-y and include hosts that bend over backward to make your stay memorable. You can find single bedrooms, full homes, condos, cabins, boats, RVs, and every variety of accommodation. If you can imagine it, you can find someone who has it available on Airbnb.
Since it’s beginning eight years ago, Airbnb has grown to over 34,000 cities in 191 countries. With more than 2 million individual listings, you have plenty of one-of-a-kind travel opportunities to choose from.
Here are 12 tricks to save money on Airbnb:
Now, let’s do what I do best: find out how to do it all as inexpensively as possible! Of course, you can pick and choose the strategies that work best for you.
Get a discount
I’ll start with a tip that isn’t super creative, but is so easy no one should skip it. If you’ve never used Airbnb, then I have a special coupon for you! You can get $40 off your first stay.
Unlike a hotel that has hundreds of identical rooms, Airbnb listings are all unique. Since each listing is one-of-a-kind, once it’s rented for a given date, you’ve lost your chance until it’s open again. You’ll have the best selection if you book your trip early. Awesome places that have awesome prices will go first.
Just like getting in on a flight or a cruise at the last minute, some hosts will drop their prices as the dates get closer. This isn’t a good strategy if you have your heart set on staying in a certain place or if it’s a busy season. However, if you’re taking a spur-of-the-moment trip or you’re passing through on a road trip, you can get some great last-minute deals. When your potential trip date is near, just enter the dates and location into the search like you normally would and see what you find.
Have flexible trip dates
When I was planning our upcoming trip, I was pretty flexible on the dates. We’re only going a couple of hours from home, the kids are out of school, and my husband’s work is flexible. We had several time frames that would work for us. Depending on the day of the week and the time of the year, prices vary.
When you are in a particular listing, you can hover over the calendar and see the prices for different days (Friday and Saturday night are almost always more expensive. For most places around here, it was cheaper to book for May than June-August.
Use all the search features
Using the price slider on the Airbnb website, you can narrow down what you are willing to pay and only see the accommodations in that price range. You can also click “more filters” (right below the price slider) and choose the amenities that matter. For the largest selection, choose only the amenities that really matter to you. To narrow down your options, be more particular.
Look at all the costs
Airbnb hosts set all the prices themselves. In addition to the nightly charge, they can opt to have a cleaning fee and they can charge for extra guests over a minimum. Airbnb also adds a fee. Some places charge a refundable deposit.
All of these fees are upfront and obvious when you’re searching through listings. I look for places that have a low (or no) cleaning fee. The nice thing about the cleaning fee is that you only pay it once (so if you are staying for a week, it’s less of a hit than if you’re just staying one night). I also look for places that don’t charge extra per person.
When you have entered specific dates, you will be able to see exactly what you’ll be charged, so you don’t have to worry about hidden fees.
Bring your friends along
If several couples or families are going together, you can split the lodging costs. Finding a larger place with more beds is usually cheaper than the cost of each family finding their own accommodations. Plus, being under one roof is much more fun.
Last summer, my family (my parents, siblings, their spouses and kids) all got together and rented a huge cabin together. It was fun for the adults to stay up late to talk and play games after the little ones were asleep. We wouldn’t have been able to do that if we were staying in separate places.
Find somewhere with a kitchen
A kitchen will allow you to cook your own meals while you’re vacationing, especially if you have lots of mouths to feed (that would be us). Shop before you travel and bring the ingredients for your favorite meals with you. If you’re staying with other families, take turns cooking for the group.
Of course it can be fun to eat out in new places, but just preparing your own breakfast and lunch can save money and still let you eat well. Plus, you’ll have somewhere to store and warm-up your leftovers!
Find awesome amenities
How does having awesome amenities save money? You won’t have to go elsewhere for entertainment. The place we’ll be staying later this month has a pool. In fact, that was pretty much our main criteria in a place. We won’t have to pay for any other entertainment. The purpose of our trip is to spend time together as a family doing things everyone enjoys. The pool fits that bill and it won’t cost us anything extra.
As I was looking through the listings recently, I favorited some other locations that had some great amenities (tennis courts!) for future stays.
Don’t overdo it
If it’s just the two of you, you probably don’t need a big ol’ cabin to yourselves, you can go for something smaller. If you’ll be sightseeing or have an itinerary where you won’t be around much, don’t worry about getting a place with fancy amenities. If you just need a place to sleep, consider just getting a room in a home rather than paying for an entire home or condo. Sometimes the host will even provide meals.
In some cases, it may be cheaper to stay longer. Many listings have a discounted price if you stay for a week or a month. For example, if the listing costs $100 per night, but if you stay for a week, the price goes down 25%, then you’d pay $600 for 6 days or $525 for 7 days.
Of course, you’d also be missing an extra day of work, so depending on your schedule that may not actually save you money. However, if you’re taking an extended trip or hopping around from place to place, looking for somewhere with a discount for extended stays would really be worth it.
Don’t be afraid to ask
One of the great things about such a personal marketplace is that you can connect directly with the hosts. In fact, I would encourage you to contact your prospective hosts. Message them to make sure that the amenities that are important to you are available or ask if they can offer others.
When I see the total number of guests who can be accommodated, I always take that to mean adults accommodated in beds. I always message to let them know that we have four young children (including a baby) and ask if it’s okay if they just sleep in sleeping bags (or in a pack-n-play) on the floor.
Truth be told, you can even haggle with a host, or work out arrangements to pay more or less depending on the added services you want (or don’t want).
If you are planning an upcoming trip, want to surprise your spouse with a special getaway, or just need a night away from home, take a peek at Airbnb and see what hidden treasures are around. Whether you’re going across the globe or staying close to home, I’ll bet you’ll be able to find awesome accommodations on Airbnb!
Be sure to grab your $40 off coupon (it doesn’t expire) so it’s ready for you when you decide to book in the future.
How about you?
- Have you used Airbnb before? Where did you go?
- What tips do you have for saving money on vacation rentals?