AirBnB for Families. Finally Winning!

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I’m famous for saying that AirBnb is useless for families and we never use it. If you’re not on Facebook you may not know that, so I’m putting it out there via the blog today because I’ve (possibly) changed my mind.

After 3+ years of full-time travel I’m sitting in a glorious light-filled apartment in Richmond London, footsteps from my beloved Thames, paying a very modest price and, yes, it was through AirBnB.

I was an AirBnB landlady back in Australia so had great hopes for using this unconventional booking engine as we traveled around the world. That was until experience taught us that Airbnb for families always worked out more expensive than typical backpacker guest houses and hotels.

So after a while, Airbnb and my family parted company. Not just more expensive, somewhat more difficult to organise with AirBnB bookings not being instant as they are on regular booking platforms.

Using Airbnb for Families, Around the World

Airbnb is Rarely Cheaper For Families But it’s Not All About Cost

AirBnb in Scotland. Cairngorms Kingussie
An Airbnb in Scotland, 2 rooms and a bathroom in somebody’s house. This one was good and the price OK but the Airbnb we used in Fort William was a total rip off.

We kept a very close eye on costs during our first 2 years of budget travel and Airbnb was rarely, possibly never, the cheapest option for us, anywhere in the world.

Of course price and budget may not be YOUR primary concern, you may be looking for an apartment rental or room in somebody’s home and your motivation may not be price.

For a family, ours is a family of 4, staying in a room or rooms in somebody’s private residence is unusal. We’ve now done this twice, both times in Scotland. We found accommodation prices in Scotland so high that we were forced to take Airbnb rooms in people’s homes. One experience was good, the other was a complete rip-off but we were stuck, there was nothing else available.

I think most families would prefer to have their own space and a full appartment or house to use as their own and yes, you can find these on Airbnb.

London and AirBnb

We spend a lot of time in London so we know the prices here inside out. I should say that we have a fixed “base” here in South London thanks to very good friends, but we also enjoy moving around the city sometimes, exploring different areas, always asking ourselves “Could we live here?” and always answering “Yes.”

These days you’re looking at, realistically,  upwards of £80- £125 per night for a family room in a B&B, budget hotel, guest house or apartment hotel. We stay in London with kids, we’re generally looking for family rooms and appartments..  (There is a full, but evolving, post on family accommodation prices in London here ). We’ve found deals around £50, but that was back in the days of one child stays free in existing bedding, my two are too big for that now.

In previous years I’ve always checked AirBnB to be put off by a rising tide of hotels and grotty buy-to-lets stuffed with extra cheap beds. We always check Twickenham, where the boys were born, but no luck so far. I’ve looked, really looked, and not found anything. The other problem with AirBnb is the tendency for people to add extra charges for extra people, a per night fee of a few pounds which very quickly destroys your once-good price.

Of course AirBnb also adds their fee on top of the original price, which again, skews your comparisons. So for a couple of years AirBnb was a total fail for us.

Not any more!

AirBnB for families London
We couldn’t be any happier! A perfect AirBnb in London, steps from the Thames. No TV, but the kids found the Netflix within seconds. Their 2nd favourite playground and their best mates are right on our doorstep.

I don’t think it’s fair to plaster other people’s homes all over the internet, so 1 photo will have to tell the story.

We are in love with this apartment. I really couldn’t be any happier.

The price is comparable to that we were paying when we rented a 1 bedroom flat here for 8 months, 2 years ago. It includes WiFi and bills, so overall it’s a sweet deal.

When I was searching for this place I found another, same price, nearby, a family going travelling for a month wanting to rent out their home ( +cat). Another great deal.

Another Airbnb semi-win for us in London was a whole house rental in Kingston. This one was more expensive 90 UK Pounds per night.

The house was fine, if small, but it was as if the owners had just moved out the day before and left it exactly as it was.

Their computer was on the desk, food in the fridge and cupboard, even medicines and toiletries were left in place. It made the experience rather cramped and cluttered and I would have preferred a more business-like rental.

AirBnb Family Apartment in Guatemala

There has only been one. This glorious little apartment in Antigua Guatemala was ours for a month.

We checked all the sites, and this place gave us the best price. Antigua isn’t Asia-cheap and there are a lot of well-off tourists there so accommodation prices are skewed in favour of them, AirBnb gave us another winner.

AirBnb Antigua Guatemala
We rented a cute apartment in Antigua Guatemala through AirBnB
AirBnb Antigua Guatemala
An AirBnB in an apartment complex with shared pool

You can read more about our month of AirBnB slow travel in Antigua here, in Being Normal

Airbnb in Egypt

We found that Airbnb, surprisingly, was a winner in Egypt. Egypt seems to have a lot of holiday homes scattered along the Nile and the owners only visit for part of the year. We had a really nice apartment in Luxor owned by a foreign lady. Hotels were often pretty grim in Egypt, so this Airbnb was a great find.

Airbnb Wins in Slovenia

Again, we had great experiences with Airbnb in Slovenia. Plenty of space, private apartments and welcoming hosts nearby. One was in a winery, one on a farm. See our post on Slovenia for more information.

When AirBnb Works for Families

These are my personal findings based on over 3 years of research as a customer and a year of being an AirBnb host, I haven’t done an in-depth study and noted down figures, but I think my findings are valid.

We rarely rent apartments, preferring guest houses, hotels, and a typical backpacker scene. That seems to be changing. Spending a month here, a month there can be less stressful and easier to organise. Like homeschooling while traveling (worldschooling), travel changes and evolves with needs and wants.

  • AirBnb works in some countries, not in others.
  • AirBnB works best for longer stays, look for 1 month discounts.
  • AirBnB for families is great if you can find people letting their actual homes, not businesses hijacking the platform, however, check that the family will be removing their possessions and giving you some space.
  • AirBnB performs better in expensive destinations.
  • Zoom in tight on the map in your search results, extra options appear.
  • Don’t expect perfection, it’s not a hotel, it’s a home.

My Experience as an AirBnB Host

pool Port Douglas Australia, rented AirBnb
Our house, our pool, we rented the master bedroom and en-suite through AirBnB

It was the best hosting for AirBnb! We rented out the master bedroom and en-suite in our home while we were actually there. I massively under-cut local hotels and hostels and started getting bookings within 24 hours of placing my listing.

We lived in a holiday town in Australia, so we had a big advantage but it could work in most cities. We hosted all kinds of couples, young and old, one single gent in town for the Iron Man event and one pair who’ve become blogger friends, Andrew and Amy of Our Big Fat Travel Adventure. It was great to meet them all.

As a mum of small kids I was always glad of some adult company and the extra cash went straight into our travel fund when we were saving for year 1 on the road.

The beauty of AirBnb lies in its original concept, in private owners renting their homes and holiday homes, not in what it has become, a shady booking engine.

So, as always, things change. I’ve been scanning global AirBnb lets, considering options and comparing prices. Like our usual favourite booking engine, Agoda, the moveable map is priceless. Maybe we will become one of those slow travelling, apartment renting families. It’s not something that’s ever really appealed before, but the truth is, we’ve been just about everywhere we want to go now and it’s getting harder to find places that we want to backpack around. But it’s still interesting, still fun, we will carry on living differently.

What about you, do you have successes with AirBnB for your family? If so, where?

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

27 thoughts on “AirBnB for Families. Finally Winning!”

  1. We almost stay all the time in Airbnb with our baby. We love it especially for the kitchen access to cook food for us and for her. We are Airbnb hosts as well and homesharing. It’s really great in fact because our baby meets people from all over the world!

  2. Hi, thank you for this post. We are looking for an AirBNB stay in Spring 2019, in a residential are close to a playground where our 7yr old could play with local kids. Which are good neighborhoods for this? Thank you!

      • oops : ) . I meant in London. We are hoping to find an AirBNB in a residential area of London, close to a park, so our son can play with local kids in the afternoon (we’re planning for Spring 2019).

        Thank you!

        • There would be hundreds of locations in London that fit your description Jo, but there won’t be so many Airbnb s. Find an Airbnb you like the look of and I’ll tell you if the area is OK if I can. We have loads of parks and playgrounds. We tend to go for Richmond / Kew area because it’s very up market and just lovely, also it’s on the end of the tube line. It’s a pain to get into town without a tube nearby, so look for that. Buses are cheap but often very slow and hot in summer.

  3. We had successful times with airbnb in Japan. Family of 5 during cherry blossom season. We based ourselves in Osaka in a house for 5 nights and used the Japan rail pass to get out on day trips even over to Hiroshima and back as those bullet trains are indeed speedy. We also found a very expensive but amazing home in the hills to access the Takayama festival. The owner picked us up from the station, took us to the festival, helped with ryokan ideas and turned up to get us in to local restaurants which were full until he magically appeared. We did a few guest houses and apartment in Tokyo with airbnb. Loved being in same neighbourhood watching the fruit sellers. Good space and portable wifi too. Also had good airbnb experience in Milan although the owner was keen to move back in and her shoes were stashed in the bathroom cupboard! London success too. I like the idea but often get miffed with oncosts for service fee and cleaning on top. Am grateful for agoda tip as haven’t used them. Many thanks. Jo

    • Yes, Airbnb works for some countries, not all. I’m yet to find it good in SE Asia, We were burned by Airbnb again a few days ago here in Vietnam. Arrangements made locally have proved much better and cheaper. Although we did receive a full refund on the place we’d booked through Airbnb.

  4. Hello, how do you search for guest houses? We’re 5 and have had great experiences with Airbnb because hotels would typically require us to rent 2 rooms.

    • Just use one of the big booking engines ( like Hotels Combined on this site for instance, and set it to “1 room, 2 adults, 3 children” It will then ask for their ages. There will be fewer for 5 people, yes, but you’ll still find them.

  5. I was just thinking about checking out airbnb this morning for our Sydney stop over to Fiji. Then I saw your post. Never really thought of them for longer term travel but will be doing so now 🙂

    • Y’know, if you check every possible option, you could spend all day searching for accommodation online. We’ve learned to just go for 1 booking engine and book something quickly rather than searching every one. It’s much less stressful ! We save Airbnb for those times when a hotel or guest house just isn’t happening and we’re careful to avoid the hotels and other businesses listed on there and go for private home owners only. The businesses will be on the other booking engines if they are legit.

  6. We’ve been traveling for a year and only used Airbnb and Homeaway. We stay at least a week in each place and it’s been great. As a family of 6, hotels aren’t a viable option and we really need the kitchen. I love it.

  7. We have been using Airbnb quite a bit and rather enjoy it. We recently did a post on the pros and cons if you’d like to hear more personal experiences . I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the idea of the differences in using Airbnb as a family as opposed to a couple We do hope to start a family at some point though (part of why we like to follow your blog).

  8. I like your feedback on AirBnB Alyson.

    I’ve never used it myself as I like the fact that someone (rather than myself) is cleaning and tidying lol. Also like you, I hate cooking so I’m not necessarily looking for a kitchen. I prefer to make sandwiches and eat out in the evening.

    Having said that, I only have one child, so it’s not too bad, and I prefer boutique hostels or hotels. Something with a quirky twist!

    I’ve heard good things, but AirBnB isn’t for me.

    • Yep, it’s horses for courses, but for long stays ( and I mean a month or so) AirBnb makes more sense than a hotel room. I’m with you, I prefer hotels, guest houses and occasionally hostels for real travel. Hostels almost always work out more expensive for families though.

  9. We are considering putting our home on AirBnB next summer to take a longer vacation and help pay for it. We’ve used 1 Airbnb in Paris…it suited us alright.
    Have you guys ever considered using a motorhome or something similar to travel with? If not, why have you made this decision? Just wondering because I’ve seen many people do this, but wonder if it would actually be a good idea.

    • Well basically because to drive around Asia in a motorhome is hard to do, particularly to get it from the UK, passing through the middle east. Sure, if we were interested in Europe it would be fine, but we’re not. Also wifi and power would possibly be a problem and fuel costs maybe. We looked at renting one in the US, but fuel costs were way higher, car hire +hotels was better value. But I do like the idea very much, it’s just not practical for us.

  10. San Diego. I found great deals on Airbnb in San Diego. I’m in total agreement that London works well for Airbnb. I haven’t been to London yet, but I’ve researched immensely. Paris really works for Airbnb too.

    In the US, it’s mostly a waste to use Airbnb. Hotels are just such a good value here. I do agree that the more expensive the city, the better value Airbnb seems to be.

    Also, the timing of your trip matters a great deal. If you’re visiting NYC in high season, you’re gonna pay through the nose at any decent hotel with a somewhat convenient location. If you want to be in a great location you’ll pay $400 a night and up in the summer. It’d be much wiser to use Airbnb if traveling during peak season to an expensive city.

    I really have to do my research when I travel and everyone needs different things. I don’t need or want to cook, clean, or have space to spread out. We’re spread out enough at home. I also rarely go anywhere in peak season these days. I’m going to Orlando in 2 weeks, and Airbnb is a terrible value there. I’m a family of 5, with two teens, so it definitely gets more complicated when you are outside the US.

    • No, I’m not a fan of slow travel either, I get bored and to me travel is backpacking. But London is our home, we spend weeks and months here to catch up with friends, my husband even works sometimes, so it’s one of those rare places where we do hang around a long time. This isn’t really travel for us, it’s just, y’know…life. But to get a regular short term rental is all but impossible. We managed to get a place for 8 months year before last, that’s why we’re so impressed with this place, same price, no 8 month contract. Plus that place was 1 bedroom, this place is 2. Because there are only 4 of us sharing a hotel room is absolutely fine, no problem. I loath cooking! With you there, but every now and then I feel the urge, this place inspires me and we have a farmers market 5 mins away.

      • Well, that place looks lovely. And if I was going to spend a lot of time in one location outside of the U.S., London would probably be at the top of my list. I love that city so much and feel very at home there. Also, I get what you’re saying about the difference between home and travel, because I do often spend longer amounts of time in the three cities I visit here. I stay with family and visit friends, so a month or two flies by. In fact, I’m in New Orleans for a month at the moment. I actually spent 2 months in San Diego, but my sister and I take little mini-breaks to other places, and that makes a huge difference.

      • I know London isn’t really travel for your family, it’s just home for all of you.

        With cooking it’s sort of strange for me. When I’m traveling I’m out and about. I don’t want to be “forced” to go home and cook something. And really does anyone have the energy to go home and cook after being out sightseeing with kids? I don’t know how people do it. I really like cooking in ‘normal’ life, but with travel it feels inconvenient and bothersome.

        I only buy simple meals if I’m on a budget and can only afford to eat out once a day. Sandwiches, fruit, easy pasta dishes, veggies are about as much as I can do when traveling.

        This is why I enjoy your blog and honesty so much. Bless those souls who tell people to take food with them everywhere to save money (really I can’t imagine doing that), but no I’m not lugging food around all day. If I can’t afford to eat some of the food where I’m going, then I need to reconsider the destination.

        • It depends on how long you’re traveling, and if you’ve got kids. When I travel alone, or with my sister, we rarely cook. But just having access to a fridge and microwave can make a huge difference. There’s so much in grocery stores these days that is really good. But feeding four of us out even once every day for six weeks in Europe and the U.K. would have cut significantly into our budget.

          Having a kitchen meant we could have cereal or eggs and sausage in the morning. And we had no problem bringing sandwiches with nuts or chips and fruit to have for lunch. We were already carrying backpacks with water, umbrellas and sweaters, so this was not a big deal. Our dinners were something simple, often frozen pizza or the great prepackaged meals available abroad. We’d only really “cook” in places we stayed for more than a couple of days. And we still ate out more than enough times to enjoy local cuisine.

          Also, I actually get tired of eating out after just a few days in a row. I prefer it every few days, instead.

  11. I love those kinds of success stories! It just goes to show that it always pays to be flexible and keep trying new things. We’ve used other rental by owner sites before but we’re still waiting for that great “find” on AirBnB. In expensive cities I get a lot of pleasure from walking past overpriced hotels and knowing that the guests are paying twice as much for a single room while I’m enjoying all the space and amenities of an entire apartment just down the street.

  12. I traveled with my family around western Europe and the UK for six weeks last summer, staying in AirBnB apartments almost the entire time. With two adults, a 12 year old and 7 year old, it was more comfortable, as well as cheaper. In London, for instance, we spent two nights in a THREE bedroom apartment in Elephant and Castle for $208 per night. There was a yard where the kids could burn off some energy. In contrast, the night before my daughter and son-in-law flew out of London, there were six of us staying in 2 triples at a hotel which cost $300 each. Though that one did include breakfast.

    The main cost saving for us in major European cities is having a kitchen. We spent 2 expensive nights in a Swiss hotel, a visit made more expensive by having to eat out every meal, even though we always stock up as much as we can from grocery stores even in those circumstances.

    While we didn’t stay a month anywhere, since they were with me for only six weeks, we did stay a week in London when they first arrived and still managed to get a discount for the weekly rate. Traveling by myself, I often stay in hostels, but a weekly discount got me an AirBnB single studio in Paris for $53 a night in an elevator building which also featured a tiny balcony, from which I could see the Gare du Nord. It was gorgeous lit up at night.

    Though cheaper, none of the hostels in Paris really appealed to me. And while I certainly sampled some exquisite Parisian food, I saved a great deal by having access to a kitchen, which I would not have had with an inexpensive hotel room.

    To this day, that Paris studio is my happy place.

    One of my daughters and I are both hosts, as well. So we see the experience from both sides, but don’t have the same take on it. For instance, she does not charge a cleaning fee to her guests. She cleans her properties herself, and feels that guests believe paying a cleaning fee gives them free reign to leave a huge mess behind. However, we have a cleaning service between guests, and I definitely add that cost to our rates.

    As a guest, I prefer to pay a cleaning fee. Otherwise, I feel obligated to try and wash all the linens and clean to a high standard before leaving, and there simply isn’t time for that on departure days, particularly with kids. We try to leave things tidy, and I make sure the dishes are washed. But traveling days can be stressful enough without sweeping, mopping and getting the bathroom spic and span. Not to mention that most European apartments don’t have clothes dryers, so doing laundry in a short amount of time is almost impossible.

    I traveled for over six months straight last year, and had many AirBnB experiences, both with entire apartments and staying with hosts. Most were wonderful, none was actually bad. The same is true of my hostel and hotel experiences. As I’m sure you’re well aware, the key to successful travel is being adaptable. When it comes to lodging, I try to stay wherever is safely cheapest, and provides an acceptable level of comfort, whatever form that might take.

    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your detailed comment. I’m glad you enjoy using AirBnb and have found success with it. Like you I HATE cleaning on moving out day, which is one of the reasons House Sitting freaks me out, I feel I have to clean the whole house, including cleaning windows and my perfectionist nature just gives me a hard time. As an Airbnb guest I don’t feel any need to clean beyond just leaving things OK. I’m a paying guest be there a cleaning fee or not. Like you, I never charged one. We are paying 60 pounds per night, a hotel would start at 80 pounds per night ( for 4 in London, with breakfast!) so your experiences are pretty expensive and way beyond normal hotel costs.

      • I used to find hotel rooms in London, and all of the cheaper places that would fit 5 or 6 people were outside of zone 1, where we were spending most of every day. By the time I added the price of transpo for all of us every day, plus all eating a couple of a meals a day, it never came up much less than AirBnB. Same thing with airport transfers. Once we got over 4 people, it cost less to get a car for 5 people than to pay public transportation.

        But the main thing is, even with just 4 people, we wanted 1 bedrooms rather than studios and that pushes the prices up. But my daughter was going to school online during the trip and she needed a place to work in the evenings away from the two kids. Even now, there aren’t many one bedrooms much under $200 a night for October at weekly rates. Fortunately, it will just be me and my sister going then, and we love staying at the Generator hostel even if it doesn’t have a kitchen.

        The other thing is, London was the most expensive, no surprise there. We found a two bedroom apartment in Rome for just $100 a night while my son-in-law joined us.
        Even Dublin was much cheaper than London, as was Edinburgh, where we used Homeaway rather than AirBnB. But even private quad rooms in central London hostels weren’t significantly less than than what we paid for apartments during the summer. My two favorites don’t happen to have kitchens and they were each going for almost $50 a bed, which was $200 a night for the four of us. The one bedroom we found in Earl’s Court with a kitchen was the same price.

        Slow travel is definitely very much cheaper. Unfortunately I don’t want to spend entire months even in my favorite places. After 10 to 14 days or so, I get itchy feet again and need to be off somewhere different. Still, on my own, I can even enjoy London and travel full time for about the same as it would cost me to live in New Orleans, Vegas or San Diego, which is where I spend the most time in the States. But as nice as those places are, I don’t want to spend months at a time in any of them – much less sign year leases.


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