Like all expats, once we get home from our last vacation, we immediately begin planning the next one. Budgeting for such a trip requires hours on the various airline websites to find the perfect flight, time on traveller’s websites to plan the itinerary, but what usually happens when it comes down to lodging? Do you settle for a standard hotel? If you are travelling with children or friends, booking more than one room in the same area can become a hassle, as well as an unexpected expense. On our most recent trip abroad, we solved the puzzle of travelling as a party of five – two adults, two teenagers and one toddler – by using a tool I’d heard about but never tried: AirBNB. We saved money, time, and ended up living like locals in London, County Cork and Dublin.

How does the process work? It’s as simple as going to airbnb.com or downloading the app onto your mobile device. I prefer the app, as it allows me to daydream during my free time! Once you’re there, simply input your area of choice. To narrow the search, adjust the filters. These include dates of stay, budget, whether you prefer to stay in a private room, shared room, or entire home, amenities and numbers of beds, bedrooms and bathrooms. You can save these filters to apply to all new searches.

Now comes the fun part – choosing your lodging. All listings have photos, reviews, an overview of the property and a breakdown of amenities. When we were planning our trip, we knew that with teens, wifi was a must, and with five people over ten days, a washer/dryer was essential. The overview of the London property was useful in that it included how far away the underground lines were from the flat. As with any purchase, read the reviews to get an idea of how other guests feel about the place.

Once you’ve chosen your perfect place, use the booking feature to request a reservation or instantly book. When you request a reservation, AirBNB will put a freeze on those funds in your account, so be sure you’re prepared for this. It is then up to the host to accept or decline your reservation. The host has 24 hours in which to do so. If he or she declines or does not respond within 24 hours, the reservation is canceled and the funds will be released at the discretion of your bank (warning: our bank took 30 days to release the funds – your bank may differ). If the host accepts, then you are all set. The host will use the AirBNB’s mail system to email you details about arrival and securing keys.

Our experience with AirBNB last summer was fantastic. Our hosts were thoughtful, with our County Cork host leaving us tea and scones on arrival. When we had an issue with wifi in London, our host promptly fixed the problem. I haven’t even mentioned the best part – we spent less than half of what we would have on accommodation if we had used hotels – and we had plenty of room for the whole family. We’ve already started planning our next few trips with the help of AirBNB. For your next trip, why not give it a try!

By Betina Fuentes

Betina is a Cycle 2 teacher at a girls’ school in Al Ain. She and her family are from Florida, USA and are enjoying their time in the UAE. She enjoys travelling, meeting other new teachers, and helping her students learn as much as they can.

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