In our previous article we discussed some tools, tips, and tricks to help you navigate booking air travel. In this article we’ll tackle accommodation. Specifically we’ll look at one of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry – Airbnb. Let’s move about the cabin and discuss accommodation on the ground.

Airbnb Basics

Airbnb has left VRBO and HomeAway in the dust while also overtaking some hotel chains based on US sales. There are over 7 million Airbnb listings worldwide and some 2 million people are staying in an Airbnb on a given night according to recent statistics.

We’ve used Airbnb in the United States, South America, Russia, and beyond. During this time, and comparing against hotel prices, we’ve found tremendous value. Having things like your own kitchen can allow you to savor the local flavors of the markets as well as save on costs versus dining out. We often select places with a washing machine, which allows us to travel with carry-on only and ditch the cumbersome checked luggage.

Selection, selection, selection

One basic premise of Airbnb is that you can book a wide range of properties. From a private room to an entire house; from a tree house in the jungle to a retrofitted airplane; you can even stay in a castle:

You and 13 others can rent your very own castle for $1,196 per night

There are properties for any size budget. Private rooms in a shared property will generally be the cheapest. But in many places you can get your own private accommodation for an affordable price. In the Republic of Georgia, the average nightly cost is around $44. You can snag your own entire apartment in the capital city of Tbilisi for under $20 per night. Take the aforementioned castle. It might seem steep at first, but when you split up the costs between fourteen guests, it comes to $85 per person per night. Who’s in?

Filters

After entering the location, dates, and number of guests, you’ll see a list of filters at the top of the results page.

Filters on Airbnb.com

The first filter we go to is price. You can see what the average nightly price is for your given location and quickly filter the results. Move the sliders to adjust the price range to your liking, or enter the numbers manually:

You can quickly filter by the type of place you are interested in:

“More Filters” brings up a whole slew of options, including filtering by number of beds and bathrooms, amenities such as a washer or Wi-Fi, places which allow pets, and more.

Though we do not worry about checking every single filter, like shampoo and hangers. Most places will have the basic necessities, and you can always send the host a message prior to or after booking with any questions. The “contact host” button can be found underneath the reviews section:

Price per night and the fees

The results page will show you the price per night, but be careful not to overlook two important considerations – cleaning fee and service fee. These are not included in the price per night shown on the results page. They are, however, included in the total price. Clicking on the question mark icon next to the total price will reveal the breakdown:

So while the listed price per night is $44, with the cleaning and service fees factored in, it becomes $59 per night in this particular example. One key factor here is that the cleaning and service fees vary from property to property. Occasionally you may find a property which does not charge a cleaning fee. In any case, we tend to ignore the listed price per night and instead calculate the approximate total cost that we are looking to pay.

Maximize your spend and earnings

There are a few strategies to help your money go further.

Category bonuses on credit cards

First, use a credit card which earns points for travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, will earn 3 points per dollar on Airbnb bookings because Airbnb codes as travel. The Citi ThankYou Premier also earns 3 points per dollar on travel expenses, as does the American Express Green Card.

Secondly, you can buy Airbnb gift cards using a credit card which earns points for department, office, or grocery stores. For example, the Chase Ink Business Cash is a no annual fee card which earns 5% cash back (or x5 Chase Ultimate Rewards) for purchases at office supply stores. Airbnb gift cards can be purchased at Staples, an office supply store; therefore you earn x5 points per dollar. You can also use cashbackmonitor.com to see which rebate portal is offering the best deal for buying gift cards.

Airline portals

You can earn airline miles by booking an Airbnb through select airlines. Delta, Qantas, and British Airways all offer earning miles for each dollar spent on Airbnb reservations. Other airlines occasionally run offers, too. Just be sure to include your frequent flyer number and book the Airbnb through the respective airline portal.

Stacking both

Stack the last two tricks for even more earnings – buy an Airbnb gift card using an appropriate credit card, then book the Airbnb through one of the airline’s site. You’ll earn both credit card points (for the gift card purchase) as well as airline miles (for booking the Airbnb through the airline portal).

Credit card offers

Take the savings even further by watching offers from your credit cards. Chase Offers–which you can see displayed within your online account–has frequently offered 5% cash back via the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

Earning 5% cash back via Chase Offers

When given the option, if there currently is not a Chase Offer available, we will choose to pay 50% of the total cost at the time of booking and the rest later. This does not cost extra and you’ll be able to wait for a possible cashback offer for the second payment.

Partial payments at no extra cost

Negotiating the Cost Last Minute

Scott Grimmer has previously discussed more tricks for booking Airbnb properties, including negotiating the cost when booking last minute. Sarah Page recently adopted the strategy for a big discount on a property in Patagonia.

Use Credit Cards to Erase or Reduce Purchases

Some credit cards allow you to erase the cost of travel purchases. Popular examples include the Capital One Venture Reward Credit Card and the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card.

Final approach

By using the filters, knowing what’s included in the price per night figure, and utilizing strategies to make your money go further, you’ll be well on your way to booking Airbnb’s like a pro. In our next article, we’re going to looking at researching techniques and how to prepare for possible bumps in the road.

Have you stayed at a unique property or have any money saving tips? Let us know in the comments below. Cheers and travel on!

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