One of my greatest fears was booking our accommodations in San Francisco. At first glance, we were looking at $300USD hotels per night, minimum. Note these were not 5 star hotels we were looking at, but 3 star motels that were near the SFO airport. Further research also indicated that the SFO Airport was nowhere near the downtown core of San Francisco. Without a doubt, I thought this was an absurd amount of money to be spending each evening, and would have blown my budget without even having set foot in California yet!
After my coworker fervently advocated for AirBNB, Hannah and I decided to investigate this as a budget friendly alternative. If you’re a first time user and receive a link from veteran, you can get $40 off your first time – a nice amount of money to be saving. Naturally, I’d heard of AirBNB in the past but was pretty skeptical about using the live share site. I’m a very risk adverse person with safety being my number one priority, so a site with little to no guidelines where you had to trust complete strangers had me on red alert. And yet the cost of regular San Francisco hotels also had me running in the opposite direction. The dilemma.
After researching AirBNB a bit more, we finally decided to go for this option. There are a couple of reasons the alarm bells and flashing lights dimmed to a low hum (ever present, but manageable). Firstly, I have several friends who have used the site before and only had good experiences from it. Those who had a bad experience were able to get in touch with a representative from AirBNB and either arrange new accommodations, or received a partial refund for their less than stellar stay. Secondly, it is imperative for you to fully vet every aspect of your potential stay. AirBNB has a couple of options for live sharing. There are places where you can rent out an entire house/apartment and therefore have full use of the space. However, there are also ones where you essentially rent out a room in the home of someone, and may have access to their kitchen and bathroom(s). Obviously, the latter costs less in general.
Hannah and I carefully examined the couple we were planning to stay and share a space with. We ensured they had gone through the AirBNB verified info checks (government ID, email, photos), and I also attempted to look them up via Facebook and LinkedIn. All potential AirBNB rentals have photos, so we had a look at those as well. The general location of the accommodation is listed as well, so we made sure it was in a safe location of the city. I am a comfort traveler, so I need to be well-rested for my day otherwise I am a cranky, un-fun mess.
A couple of questions we asked our hosts before we confirmed our reservation was:
- Does the bedroom have a lock on the door?
- Are we allowed to use the kitchen?
- On what floor is the apartment located?
- What is the walking distance to the closest bus/subway located?
Though the final cost per night was $116 CAD, you should keep in mind that there are additional cleaning & service fees and occupancy taxes. This brought the total cost for accommodations per person up to $451, taking another chunk out of our budget.
AirBNB won the war in this case. But we’ll see if it wins the battle once I have a chance to try it out!
Personal photo – KW