I recently needed to visit Chicago a week earlier than I had originally planned and at fairly short notice. My visit coincided with the graduation season and I discovered that Downtown Chicago has quite a few schools. Add to that a food festival, a Special Olympics event, and the regular round of corporate conferences, and even with the thousands of hotel rooms, I could not find a single hotel that could accommodate me for a 10-day booking. I decided that being based over an hour away was not going to work so I looked at plan b, an airbnb rental instead of a hotel.
However, even an airbnb rental proved a little challenging. No sooner had I sent the online request to reserve a unit than I received an email saying, sorry it was just booked. I gradually increased my budget and resigned myself to the fact that it was supply and demand driving up the cost as I spent far more than I had originally budgeted. Paul, the friendly owner of the unit I finally rented, communicated very clearly and the unit turned out to be pretty much as he had described (one of the fears I had from using this type of booking). But let me tell you more.
Airbnb was started in 2008 and has grown to offer properties in 190 countries. With 34,000 cities and counting, to date they say they have accommodated 25 million guests with over 1 million properties. I had read about the airbnb concept but had not really thought it was for me. The idea is that owners of properties can rent out a spare room or an entire house or condo whenever it works for their timeframe. There are a wide variety of properties available ranging from regular flats,condos and houses to castles, houseboats, tree houses and even an igloo. By using Aibnb as the middle man, owners of the properties get the added protection of a company giving insurance coverage of over $1,000,000. Owners can set their own requirements regarding who can rent, their own criteria such as number of occupants or if pets are welcomed, and their own time frames of when the properties are and are not available to rent, pretty flexible.
Once you register on the Airbnb website you are free to browse the available listings. When ready to make a booking you have the added security that both guests and hosts must verify their IDs through social networks plus supply official documentation such as a driving license so everyone is fully aware of whom they are dealing with. Detailed profiles are put on the website so that the renter can get to know who they are renting from and communication between the two is strongly encouraged through the Airbnb online messaging system although I found my owner also text me with additional information so I felt very much in contact even though we never actually met face to face.
Be aware that:
Overall I would say yes I would. That said, I visit Chicago quite regularly so I know the neighborhoods and where I would and would not be prepared to stay. I might be a little more reticent booking in a totally new location as unlike a hotel, the unit you book could be off the beaten tracks. As price is directly linked to supply and demand then perhaps at a quieter time of the season an Airbnb might be a cheaper alternative that would make it more desirable.
While writing this article I looked for the Airbnb logo to use and found that the recent rebranding had led to a few raised eyebrows on how the design had been tested in the market before being adopted. Does it remind you of anything? UK musician Brett Domino created a song to give you his opinion.