Before Ben and I officially start our year’s sabbatical in a couple of days, we have taken a quick side trip to New Zealand, a place we have now been to four times together, and which holds a special place in our hearts.
Seven out of eight nights have been booked in Airbnbs, and here’s why we love them.
1. You get to meet interesting people
Every stay is a chance to meet someone new – sometimes a single, sometimes a couple, and even families. Last night we stayed just out of Dunedin with a father and son and their three pets. Sophie the dog made the stay especially fun; from the moment we arrived she decided we were her new best friends.
A couple of nights before we stayed with a lovely young couple who run a farm. Not only did we get to meet their pet goats and sheep – Scott can’t bear to slaughter them, so they get treated to chocolate chip cookies instead – but we had a lovely, unplanned meal with Scott and his partner. They had offered us free rein of their garden, and after harvesting a feast of fresh veggies, I sauteed them in olive oil. Delicious. Because it was a farm stay, we also had fresh eggs, bacon and homemade bread for brekkie. Divine.
2. You get to stay in places you may not be able to afford otherwise
Queenstown is up there among my favourite spots in the world for scenery, but accommodation can be very expensive. Airbnb makes it affordable. We stayed with (another) lovely couple in the studio apartment above their house. The views were phenomenal and our hosts had thought of pretty much everything we might need.
3. You get off the beaten track
Often, this is because you’re staying just out of town, somewhere you otherwise wouldn’t have seen, but it’s also because staying with locals can give you an insight into the area that the brochures can’t. Locals will be able to tell you the best places to get something to eat – often away from the crowds and with a local flare – the secret trails down to the water, the best places to see the sunset, or where to get a good local wine that’s not available in shops.
4. The unexpected and very pleasant surprises
Between us, we’ve stayed in Airbnbs in the US and Australia, as well as Athens, Barcelona, Bath, New Zealand, Tuscany (in a castle!), Cape Town and Amsterdam. We’ve had a lot of wonderful, unexpected experiences because we opted for Airbnb rather than a hotel.
When we stayed in Napa Valley in 2014, it turned out that our host was a private chef. He invited us to join a degustation dinner he was cooking for friends the first night we were staying – and his friends were all Napa wine makers. The meal, the wine, and the company were all amazing – and we were invited to attend a vintage release party the next day as special guests.
While travelling with my 5-year-old nephew and his parents in 2016, we arrived at a 700 year old castle in the town of Montespertoli (Tuscany) several hours late. For some reason, we hadn’t anticipated that collecting a pre-paid rental a car would take 3 hours. Our hostess took pity on us, weary, hungry travellers, as we had arrived in town between mealtimes and there was nowhere for us to get something to eat. She disappeared into a kitchen and came back with fresh bread, an array of cheeses, and sliced apple, and then poured us a selection of the castle’s wines to taste. The 5-year-old wasn’t the only one who was grateful (just cheese, bread and apple for him).
These sorts of special experiences don’t happen to us when we stay at hotels. Yes, we have had one or two odd, or not-so-awesome, experiences staying at Airbnbs, but on the whole, we prefer them to more traditional accommodation choices. More often than not, we’re delighted with our stays.