There’s a lot of press out there right now about how strong the US Dollar is becoming against the Euro. I just about can’t log onto Facebook without seeing some sort of article in my News Feed about why now is absolutely the time to travel to Europe. I totally agree with the articles – now is the time to go! But there are a few other tricks we’ve learned that can save you a ton of money on European travel.
We’ve traveled through France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and are heading soon to Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. In our four months here in Europe, we managed to spend an average of just $28.95 per night on lodging!
If you pull out solely the Airbnb Apartments we’ve called home (this is definitely our favorite form of lodging in Europe), our average nightly rate drops down to just $27.89.
In our entire four months here, we’ve spent 7 nights in small Guesthouses or Hostels (averaging $37.85/night), will have 1 night in a hotel in Frankfurt for a whopping $91.80 per night, and spent a night on an overnight Ferry from Italy to Croatia which set us back $196.62. We also managed to spend 6 nights in Paris with family friends for free.
To put all this in perspective, the average 1-bedroom apartment for rent in Seattle right now is $1,434. (Remember, that’s an unfurnished apartment that doesn’t include utilities. Airbnb rentals are furnished and you don’t pay utilities.) That works out to about $47.80 per night, which is about $20/night more than we’ve averaged here in Europe. That is bananas, AMIRITE?
Clearly, Airbnb rentals are the way to go. They are certainly cheaper than hotels in the long run, and are almost always more comfortable and have more amenities. Our current 1-bedroom apartment here in Budapest is huge and bright, has a great kitchen with dishwasher, a sunny balcony, and a washing machine, and we’re paying just $20.65 per night.
I hope this post will help save you money on your travels in Europe. Read on for my tips on how to save money on Airbnb.
First, Sign Up and Create Your Profile
Sign up for Airbnb. If you use this link, you get a $25 credit towards your first Stay and I get a credit, too. Win win!
One of my tips below is to ask for discounts. Airbnb Hosts are MUCH more likely to lower their rate for you if they think you’re a solid person who will treat their apartment with respect. So you should spend some time creating your Airbnb profile. Add a photo, write about who you are, what you do, and what your hobbies are. Trust me, this will help, and it only takes a few minutes.
How Far in Advance Should I Book Airbnb Lodging?
I start my Airbnb searches at least 1 month ahead of time for low-season trips, and at last 2 months ahead of time for high-season trips or for super popular destinations (like Rome, for example). I also recommend 2 months for smaller cities, like Split, Croatia, because they won’t have as much selection on Airbnb.
Why Monthly Airbnb Rentals are Amazing
I cannot convey enthusiastically enough how much money monthly rentals will save you. There are huge savings on month-long rentals for two reasons:
- Most listings on Airbnb have a much lower per-night rate for longer-term bookings (4 weeks or longer). For this apartment, let’s look at the numbers:
- A 2-night stay for June 1-3 is $118, or $59/night.
- A 2-week stay for June 1-15 is $762, or $54/night.
- But a month-long stay, from June 1-30 is just $692. It is cheaper to stay for a month than to stay for 2 weeks! That cuts the rate to just $21.31/night!
- Airbnb and Cleaning Fees. For a 2-night stay in the same apartment we just looked at, the Airbnb fee is a whopping $12. That’s $6/day! Extend the booking through June 30th and the fee increases to $74, which works out to just $2.55/day. Much better. Some apartments also charge a Cleaning Fee, which is the same whether you stay for a few days or a few weeks.
If you can’t stay a full month, many Airbnb listings offer a weekly rate that’s much better than the daily rate, but not as awesome as the monthly one.
What’s the major takeaway? If you can, book your Airbnb for a whole Month! Often times, it will cost the same amount of money to book a full month as it would cost to book 2 weeks. Even if you plan to spend a few nights away from your Airbnb making day trips to other destinations, it usually still makes sense to book longer-term. We frequently book a rental for a month, then end up spending a few nights away on a little weekend trip.
There is one single dark side of monthly Airbnb rentals you should know about. Airbnb’s Long Term cancellation policy applies. This essentially means that you can not cancel your reservation once you book it without losing all your money. If you’re booking a monthly Airbnb, you gotta make sure your ducks are in a row and the trip is really, really, really happening.
My process – How I pick an Airbnb
You’ve created your profile, and you’re ready to start searching. This can be overwhelming! Search almost any big city in Europe and you’ll be met with an absurd number of Airbnb listings – usually well over 1,000 of apartments to sort through. How can you possibly narrow these down? Here’s a peek into my process, which has been honed by many months of obsessive travel planning…
Let’s say I want to spend the month of June in Budapest, Hungary.
Step 1: Enter your Location, Dates and Number of Persons
Don’t open a SINGLE listing up yet. Seriously, you’ll go down a rabbit hole and spend the rest of the day there. You shouldn’t look at any specific apartments until after Step 5. Trust me.
Step 2: Select the “Room type”
For a month-long stay, I insist on having the entire place to ourselves. We tend to prefer to have the entire apartment to ourselves for stays longer than 1-week, and will book a Private Room for shorter stays only. I would never, ever, book a “Shared Room”. I’m almost 30 years old; that is too old for “Shared Rooms”.
Step 3: Select Your Must-Have Amenities
Click on “More Filters”, scroll down to “Amenities”, expand that section by clicking on the black triangle, and check off your must-haves. I always select Wireless Internet and Washer. (You do NOT want to try to send out your laundry in Europe. Just don’t do it.) If you absolutely insist on having a 1-bedroom apartment (we usually consider a studio to be acceptable for us), now is the time to add that filter.
Then click on Show Listings.
Step 4: Narrow Results by Location
Zoom the map in to narrow down the search area. Do your legwork and figure out vaguely which neighborhoods are okay with you. On the map, make sure “Search When I Move the Map” is checked, and your results list will only have apartments in the area shown on the map.
Step 5: Narrow Results by Price
For a month-long rental in Budapest, a good budget is $600. I like to add a little padding to my budget because I usually ask Airbnb Hosts for a discount (explained later in this post). Narrow your Price Range until you end up with about 30 results – in this case that ended up being about $705.
Step 6: Manual Filtering. Ugh.
Your goal in this step is to reduce these 30 options down to just 15 apartments. This has to be done manually, because a lot of these things are total judgement calls. This part can be really annoying and painful. I recommend a bottle of Pinot Noir.
I open each of my 30 results into its own browser tab, then start a tedious process of elimination. At first, I don’t even look at photos. We all know that’s the fun part, but I always get sucked in and lose hours and hours staring at my computer screen, muttering things like “Why would ANYONE paint a bedroom that color?!” or “My God! look how dirty this bathroom is!”
Here are ways to quickly eliminate some apartments:
- Is Smoking Allowed? If you prefer non-smoking accommodations, you should never, ever compromise on this. We rented a smoking-allowed apartment in Florence in February and it was nearly a disaster. Don’t do it.
- Scroll down to the Reviews area. If any of the review scores are less than 3.5 stars, I eliminate the apartment. If the score for Cleanliness is less than 4 stars, I eliminate that apartment from the list immediately. (Airbnb reviewers tend to be generous with their Cleanliness scores, so that one definitely deserves a higher bar…)
- If an apartment has zero reviews, I eliminate it unless the photos are absolutely stellar.
- Sometimes there aren’t enough reviews to show a Cleanliness rating. Time for a judgement call:
Step 7: Time to scrutinize photos.
There are a few key things I look for:
- Red flags, like unmade beds or dirty-looking kitchens or baths. Airbnbs are never, ever, ever cleaner than they look in the photos.
- Bed Type. I don’t know about you, but I cannot sleep on a futon for a month. I also don’t want my husband and I to have to sleep in separate twin beds for a month. I also eliminate elevated loft beds because the steps hurt my feetsies.
- Apartment Brightness, size, and layout.
- If you plan to work a lot while you’re there, are there adequate work spaces? Desks or a large dining table?
- Bath/Shower type. Would being forced to take a bath each day slowly drive you insane?
- Old furnishings. No one wants to rent an apartment furnished entirely with things the owner picked up off the curb. It should look like they spent at least a little money furnishing it. Trust your gut.
Step 8: Glance at the reviews.
If there are any obvious negative trends, eliminate the apartment. I look for comments on bed comfort, noise, and internet speed.
Step 9: Contact Hosts!
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to 12-15 acceptable Airbnb Apartments, it’s time to contact Airbnb Hosts and ask for discounts. Details are in the next section.
How to Ask for Airbnb Discounts
At first, I was nervous to ask for discounts on Airbnb listings. But then I realized how much Hosts are willing to lower their prices if you just ask! Discounts tend to be easier to get on month-long rentals, but I also got our host to come down by about $80 on our 13-night stay in Florence, Italy.
Discounts are especially easy to come by in low season. Our Host for our January Airbnb rental in Spain gave us a discount of $165 off of the list price for our month-long rental. All I had to do was ask!
Here’s how to ask for a discount:
- Go into each of those 12-15 browser tabs that you now have open with all your Airbnb options. Double check your dates and guest count. Then click on the “Contact Host” link:
- I use a template like this and send it to each host:
Hello <Host Name>!
My husband and I are planning a month-long visit to Budapest. We’re both software developers, currently based in Split, Croatia, but we’re looking forward to heading to Budapest in early June.
We’ll be in town from June 1st thru 30th, and we’re hoping you might be willing to negotiate on price a little bit since we’re planning to stay for a month. What’s your best price?
Thanks so much!
- Sit back and wait for the responses to roll in. Almost all hosts will respond within 48 hours. Some apartments won’t be available for your dates (hosts don’t always keep the calendar updated). Some people will refuse your request for a discount outright. Most hosts will send you a “Special Offer”, with a special price.
- If internet speed is important to you, we recommend asking the host to run a speed test before booking. Most hosts will happily go out of their way to run an internet speed test for you if that will clinch a month-long rental.
- Pick your best apartment option, book it via the “Special Offer” the host sent you, and enjoy your cheap stay in Europe!
Tips for NOT Using Airbnb
Sometimes using Airbnb just doesn’t make sense. The options are crap, the prices are too high, or you’re booking last-minute. Or maybe you’re only booking a 3-night stay, and the Airbnb fees mean it’s cheaper to look at hotels/hostels/guesthouses. Here are a few money-saving tips:
- Whenever possible, use Hotels.com. They have the best rewards program. (Though they don’t always offer the lowest prices.)
- Always compare prices between Agoda, Hotels, Booking, and Expedia. More often than not, one site has a much lower price than the others.
- Pay close attention to taxes and fees on all of the travel booking websites, or you’ll end up comparing apples to sweet potatoes. Some sites don’t include taxes/fees in the booking price until you navigate into the hotel listing. Others show them up front. Also, many European hotels/guesthouses (especially in Italy) require you to pay a per person occupancy tax on arrival. So be sure you read the fine print before booking!
We Want to Hear From You!
I assume you’re planning a month in Europe now. Where do you want to go? Leave us a comment and let us know!
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