For three days in November I will be attending the Backspace Writers Conference in New York [insert squee’ing sound here]. This is my first conference and I am determined to do it as affordably as possible without sleeping at a bus terminal.
I lucked out getting a fantastically cheap flight as well as the early bird registration price for the conference. This leaves me with just under three hundred dollars for two nights in a hotel if I’m going to keep to my self-imposed budget.
Unfortunately, I have formed (thanks to Beckie and her wealth of information) a minor bed bug phobia. She linked me to a registry that lists all hotels with reported bed bugs and a quick glance confirmed that those little critters are swarming the Big Apple.
The conference organizers suggested looking at various accommodation options because their hotel was offering a “special” rate of over three hundred dollars per night. Paying so much to get gnawed on did not appeal to me, so I started searching online for alternatives.
Enter airbnb.com, where people who have space to spare connect with those who are looking for a place to stay. People can rent space on a couch in someone’s studio apartment on the Lower East Side for thirty dollars a night or spend four thousand dollars for an entire mansion in the Hamptons.
I was intrigued, yet skeptical. I liked the idea of staying in someone’s personal space because I assume it will be cleaner and less…used…than a hotel room that serves hundreds of guests a year. I didn’t like the idea of being in someone’s home in case s/he was waiting for me in a closet with a meat cleaver.
At Airbnb, hosts must post a profile of themselves and their space, as well as an availability calendar and guest reviews, but I still needed to confirm that it wasn’t a scam for potential Craigslist killers looking for fresh hunting grounds. I contacted a few of the reviewers to ask about their experiences and they assured me that they’d also felt a bit weird at first, but the operation was completely legit.
I booked a sweet little (i.e. standing with my arms outstretched I’m sure I’ll be touching either wall) studio for seventy-five dollars a night. The owner is a young girl who has another apartment in the building and she’s been a resource on everything from airport transportation (twelve dollars to take a twenty-minute train ride from Newark instead of seventy dollars for an hour-long cab ride) to great restaurants (a Cuban place around the corner).
After speaking to the owner I felt great about my booking, but my husband was still suspicious. Then he used Airbnb himself on a recent trip to Germany and apparently we’ll now be using them for all future holiday rentals. He stayed in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment for only eighty-five dollars a night and loved it. It turns out, the home-share concept is much more commonplace and popular in Europe. Until it catches on here it’ll be our little secret, okay?