Gas. Airfare. Restaurants. Sightseeing. Hotels.

If you’re anything like me, you tend to keep an eye on your budget when you travel. There are so many costs associated with taking a vacay that it tends to boggle the mind.

I don’t know how the hotel industry can justify an average rate of $143 dollars for a night’s stay, but let me introduce you to Airbnb. Founded in San Francisco in 2008, it is an app that pairs homeowners with weary travelers. You can stay in a shared room, a private room, an entire apartment, or a whole house. Prices vary by season, accommodations, and location, but believe me when I tell you Airbnb is a fabulous alternative to expensive, cookie-cutter hotel rooms!

I first used Airbnb on the recommendation of my best friend. I spent three weeks in Spain, and I wasn’t about to fork over $200 a night for posh hotels. When she showed me what I *could* get for an average of $75 a night, I was simply stunned.

In the course of my three-week trip, I stayed at Airbnbs where:

  • I got home-cooked breakfast while my host gave me a chance to work on my Spanish and recommended some out-of-the way jewels in Bilbao.
  • Another host introduced me to her brother who owned a tapas bar in San Sebastiá Free tapas and drinks, as well as amazing interactions with the locals!
  • A wonderful couple welcomed me with maps and tons of fantastic recommendations in La Coruña.
  • A tiny, airy apartment was filled with music from the Lisbon Conservatory of Music across the street.

Because I had my best friend guiding me that first time, I took advantage of her expertise with Airbnb. Let me give you some of the tips she taught me, which all women traveling alone should adhere to:

  • Try to stay with a Superhost. These are hosts who have been vetted by Airbnb and really care about their ratings. This is not their first rodeo, and you will benefit from their experience.
  • Do your homework. Read as many reviews as you can before booking. If a particular critique keeps coming up again and again, there is probably a reason for it.
  • I had more peace of mind when I was staying somewhere with at least ten or fifteen reviews.
  • A female host is preferable. I have stayed with older and younger couples without incident. For the sake of safety, exercise caution about renting from single men.
  • Research the part of town you are staying in. Look at police reports and maps online to determine the safe parts of town.
  • To make your travel budget go even further, look for places that serve breakfast.
  • Don’t let price be your only consideration. Location, host reputation, and degree of privacy are all things to take into consideration.
  • Wifi connectivity is a very high priority on my list. Is there anything on your list that is a deal-breaker?
  • Make sure you carefully read the host’s cancellation policy and descriptions. It helps to be clear on check-out policies and if your host is a night owl or morning lark. Plus, knowledge is power. If you are allergic to animals, you won’t want to stay with someone who has pets.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your host for recommendations for places to visit and good restaurants. I love going where the locals hang out, not other tourists.

I hope you’ve found some good, practical tips for choosing an Airbnb host. With a little research, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed when staying with a local host. You certainly will get a heartier welcome than any hotel, and you will more than likely be way more comfortable there than at a nameless, faceless hotel chain.

What luck have you had booking lodging online? Comment below!