Updated Oct. 19, 2018: If your heart is set on seeing the world, you’ve probably spent some time browsing through Airbnb. The short-term rental marketplace was founded in 2008 as an online alternative to hotels and hostels.
Owners rent out their homes to travelers, who, in turn, get to live like a local — and save some money. (If you're curious about becoming a host, you can calculate how much your home could potentially earn using Airbnb's free tool.)
The options on Airbnb are seemingly endless. You’ll find everything from treehouses to swanky loft apartments. There are many affordable options; it’s not uncommon to find a single room for rent in the $30 to $50 per night range.
Travel gets expensive fast. You need to fund everything from meals to car rentals and travel insurance. To help stretch those dollars, here are six money-saving hacks for Airbnb users.
1. Utilize referral links
Airbnb has done a fantastic job of getting current users to entice new ones. If you’re brand new to Airbnb, use a referral link to save $40 on your booking. Depending on where you’re going, where you’re staying and how long you plan to bunk, that discount can go a long way.
Although you only get $40 off the first time you use the code, you get a referral code once you’ve made an account. Each time a new renter uses your code, you get a $20 credit toward a future booking. If you keep the code in circulation, you can continue to save money.
There’s no any harm in asking for what you want. In fact, negotiating on Airbnb is common. If you see a location you love, ask if the owner has special offers for first-time clients or if they’re flexible on the price. Try something simple, like “Hi! I’m really interested in your listing but it’s a bit out of my price range. Are you flexible at all?” Or write a longer letter that includes some info on what a good house guest you'll be.
Bonus: Negotiating gives you a chance to get a feel for the host and what kind of temporary landlord they are. Also helpful when vetting an Airbnb host: Read the reviews. Consider multiple bad reviews or bad reviews with no response red flags.
3. Travel in the off-season
Travel prices fluctuate with price demand, so hitting up a destination in an area’s off-season is a great way to save on trips in general. Flights, tourist attractions and traditional lodging are cheaper across the board — and, yes, that rule of thumb extends to Airbnb. After all, an empty room doesn’t make a host any money.
Off-peak season varies by destination, though hotspots usually thin out November through March (excluding holidays, of course). If you’re planning a trip during an off-season or even on off-days (Tuesday through Thursday), you might help Airbnb hosts earn some money instead of $0. They might naturally lower their rates or you can ask for a special one.
4. Book early ... or late
Again, price and demand rules are in effect, so booking way ahead of schedule (when plenty of rentals are still in need of guests) should net a lower price. So, incidentally, can booking last-minute ... assuming a well-rated and affordable rental is still available.
5. Compare offers
Cast a wide net when you’re looking at potential Airbnbs. Just be sure to consider variation between rentals when comparing costs. They don’t all offer the same amenities, like Wi-Fi, washer/dryers, TVs, etc. Policies (like free cancellation) or extra fees vary, too, by host and city.
6. Solicit multiple hosts
Write a short, polite message and send it to 15 listings at a time. If someone comes back with an offer to lower their price, you can use that as leverage with another listing to see if they’ll give you an even better deal.
Pursuing multiple offers can also lead to other perks. Some listings might not budge on the price, but offer free amenities, like breakfast or rides around town, to entice you to book their place.
Thinking about renting your home to vacationers online? We’ve got safety and liability tips for Airbnb hosts right here.
Disclosure: This post contains references to products or services from one or more of our advertisers or partners. While these codes earn us a small fee at no additional cost to you, we only refer products we love.