This September I’ll be attending the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for the second year in a row, Even though I’ll have a numb bum after sitting through three or four movies each day, I’ll still be in nirvana because I love going to the movies (as does Mom)! I booked my lodging through Airbnb and wanted bring this amazing site and other rental services to my readers’ attention, because they are terrific alternatives to hotels in terms of both cost and options. And who doesn’t love discounts on lodging?!?!?
Airbnb is a San Francisco-based company that caters to anyone interested in listing or renting temporary housing. What sets Airbnb apart in the rental marketplace is its ability to accommodate a range of travelers’ needs. Through the site, travelers can find a shared room, a private room, an entire apartment or home, or even a castle! Rentals are available throughout the world, and there are plenty of listings that work for budget travel. Member reviews keep hosts and renters honest (and members can’t review a rental without having stayed in it), so users don’t have to worry about reading owner descriptions that hide any flaws.
This will be only my second time using Airbnb, so I wouldn’t call myself a pro. But my experiences have been good so far, and people I know who’ve used Airbnb have also had positive results. In fact, my friend who is going to the film festival with me has used the service over a dozen times (both in the US and in foreign countries) with great success.
Airbnb prices vary, but to give you an idea of some possibilities, I’ll give you the details of my two Airbnb experiences, both of which were in Toronto. When we went to TIFF last year, my friend and I booked a place for five nights at $145/night (for a one bedroom with a pull-out sleeper). Although it was centrally located, it was far enough from the festival center that we did need to use the city’s transit system to get around to all the theaters. (Still, that was a great deal for a room, so I’m not complaining too much!)
This year, my friend and I wanted to stay closer to the action so we could walk to both early and late screenings (cabs are almost impossible to get!). For lodging two blocks away from TIFF headquarters, we’re paying only $237/night for a 2-bedroom through Airbnb—a much lower rate than any hotel room in the vicinity!
Although Airbnb currently boasts over 600,000 listings worldwide, you may not be able to find exactly what you want through that service. Fortunately, there are many other organizations out there than can help you line up accommodations to suit your needs and budget!
One organization I’ve heard great things about from fellow travelers (and want to try for myself) is Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO), a subsidiary of the world’s largest vacation rental property company HomeAway (listed on the Forbes website in March 2014 as one of America’s 100 Most Trustworthy Companies). Through VRBO you can find great deals on apartments, cottages, and homes in locations around the world. And for less than you’d usually spend for a week at a hotel, you can usually get more space, more privacy, more views, and a kitchen where you can cook your own meals. (Eating out is fun, but doing it for every meal while on vacation can get expensive—and exhausting. I love to cook, and sometimes it’s nice to kick back at home with a casual meal.)
There are plenty of sites with country-specific lodging information as well. So if you have a particular destination in mind, see what local companies offer there. If you’re traveling to the United Kingdom, for example, take a look at the rentals from Sykes Holiday Cottages, which offers one-bedroom cottages for as little as $275/week). And if you fancy the idea of spending your vacation in a historic property, consider staying in a cottage owned and managed by the National Trust, a UK conservation organization. (Admittedly, although you can find places for about $400/week, most of the National Trust cottages aren’t exactly budget accommodations. But one of its unique lodgings could be just what you’re looking for to make a special trip even more memorable.)
When it comes to trying new lodging options for the first time, I like to get recommendations from friends or trusted reviewers if I can. Do you have any budget-friendly lodging recommendations that you’d like to pass along? If so, please share them in the comments!