I absolutely love Airbnb, and have had nothing but positive experiences myself. However, two good friends from South Africa visited me here in Ireland last week and they seemed to have the worst luck. Their first Airbnb host left them waiting outside in the rain for about two hours, when she finally showed up to let them in. They were sharing a room with another person, so it all seemed rather awkward.
Their next host also left them waiting with hours outside and when he eventually got in touch it turned out he had double booked his apartment for the entire weekend. While he did sort them out in the end, they lost almost an entire day of their holiday trying waiting to check-in to the apartment.
I have also heard some other horror stories so wanted to provide people with some great alternatives to guarantee a more comfortable and convenient holiday. From swapping your New York loft with a stranger’s apartment in Paris for a few nights or sleeping in someones spare room for free, to tweeting a company requesting they book a boutique hotel for you, below are the new kids on the block; unique travel startups and Airbnb alternatives perfect for the tech savvy traveler.
Nightswapping is a new travel startup that allows people to travel and sleep for free all over the world. A mix between Couchsurfing and home-swapping, for every night you host people in your own home, you are entitled to a free night in someone else’s house in destinations around the world. From beautiful Chateaus in the French countryside, to stunning townhouses in London, Nightswapping enables you to stay for free in accommodation you would otherwise only dream about. With over 6,000 hosts in 54 countries, this is definitely one to watch in 2015.
Irish travel startup Homestay.com is just 2 years old but has already facilitated tens of thousands of overnight ‘homestays’ around the world. While the idea is not a new one in the youth and student sector, it is now becoming more mainstream as more and more travellers are looking for a local and authentic accommodation experience. Homestay.com connects hosts and guests worldwide, ideally people with similar interests. One thing that sets a Homestay apart from Airbnb is that you will never be staying in an empty house. The host, or host family, will always be around during your stay to give you local travel advice and to make you feel at home.
Stayful is essentially a group of travelers who want to share their passion for independent, boutique hotels with travellers all over the world. The team believes that independent, boutique hotel experiences are unique as they can transform an ordinary trip into an amazing story of discovery. The Stayful app lets both business and leisure travelers make an offer for a last-minute hotel room and then Stayful will negotiate the best price with the hotel on your behalf. Travelers get an amazing deal on a great hotel and the hotelier gets an upcoming stay from a new guest for a room that may have otherwise remain unoccupied. You can even tweet the Stayful team with a request to stay in a certain hotel – talk about convenience!
Have you ever booked a hotel room only to come back a week later only to discover the price has drastically dropped? Infuriating, isn’t it? Well fret no more as Tingo is here to help. Tingo is the only online travel site that automatically rebooks you at the lower rate if your hotel drops its price—and then automatically refunds the difference to your credit card. All without you lifting a finger! If you are looking for the best price on hotel rooms, Tingo is the place for you.
5. Go Cambio
GoCambio is similar to both Airbnb and nightswapping as it involves inviting strangers to come stay in your spare room. The difference with this Cork-based travel startup, however, is that no money exchanges hands and you are not obligated to host someone at your own home in return. GoCambio brings us back to the days of Couchsurfing, when you would invite people to stay simply because you enjoyed the company of others and could potentially learn something from your guest. In return for a nights stay, you must commit to helping your host with their language skills. Pretty neat concept, and beneficial for both parties!
First of all, the idea behind this is pretty great on it’s own. The fact that this incredible tool can now be used on the Apple Watch, for the lucky few who own one, means you can book a discounted hotel room from your wrist in seconds! When you open up the HotelTonight app, you will see a variety of hotels all around you. You can then book the hotel of your choice instantly. The HotelTonight app is brilliant for travellers who don’t like to make big plans in advance, or for last-minute business trips.
One Fine Stay may looks like an upmarket Airbnb from the outside, but in reality it is so much more than that. This site gives people the opportunity to rent out some of the most upmarket and luxurious apartments you will ever come across online. To ensure the highest quality. OneFineStay employees have personally visited each and every apartment, met the owners and verified levels of exclusivity. This is the sort of site that the rich and famous should use when going on vacation, or ideal for senior business executives who need a high quality place in a foreign city for short periods of time.
Bonus: Rent an apartment direct
Besides the great travel startups listed above, nne of the best ways to avoid stress and extra fees is simply to book an apartment direct. In Singapore for example, a great alternative to Airbnb is to book a place at the Metro Residences which have over 400 serviced apartments around the city. This is quite a popular method in many Asian cities as there are many apartments readily available. Guests also get to enjoy the privacy of a fully furnished corporate apartment, the full amenities of the apartment block, convenience to transport systems, weekly housekeeping and having a service staff checking them in professionally. Sometimes they also do pick ups from the airport to avoid guests getting lost on arrival in Singapore!