Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

Airbnb is one of those companies that you wish you started!  From renting space in their own place to a couple of travellers, the guys that started Airbnb then went on to create what is probably the world’s best-known accommodation booking service with hundreds of thousands of accommodation listings around the world.

Paris apartment buildingImage © Tiberius Gracchus / Adobe Stock Photo

Whilst I’ve known about Airbnb for a number of years now, and friends and family have used the site, I only started using it to find accommodation recently.  The Holidays to Europe accommodation directory has apartments listed in many locations around Europe so that is always my first source but sometimes the options aren’t suitable or there aren’t any apartments listed where I’m headed.  This was the case for my 2016 Europe itinerary which included visits to Reykjavik in Iceland and Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany.

So it was off to the Airbnb website I headed and there were plenty of options for both destinations. I chose my preferred apartment in Reykjavik and sent a message to the owner, via the Airbnb website, requesting a bit more information.  The owner replied promptly and I decided to go ahead with the booking, so I added my credit card details and voila, the booking was confirmed and paid.

Whilst I was happy to have secured my preferred accommodation, there were a couple of things about booking via Airbnb that I didn’t really like.

Firstly, Airbnb require you to pay in full for your accommodation at the time of the booking and secondly, they charge a service/booking fee on top of the cost of the accommodation.

Reykjavik is not a cheap destination and my booking was made nine months ahead of my arrival date, so I had just forked out over $1800 (including an Airbnb service fee of $190) that would sit in Airbnb’s bank account, earning them interest, no doubt, for nine whole months. (Airbnb pass the rental cost on to the apartment’s owner 24 hours after check in.)

I’m more than happy to pay a deposit at the time of booking but I’m not really so keen on paying the full amount upfront when my trip is many months in advance.

House with shutters in GreeceImage © pkazmierczak / Adobe Stock Photo

Now I know that one of the benefits of using a service like Airbnb is that they are a well established company and provide 24/7 support. If you show up at your accommodation and find out it doesn’t actually exist or you encounter other problems, Airbnb is at the end of the phone to assist you. 

This peace of mind is very reassuring and is probably a factor in why so many travellers use the service,  however, I still don’t understand why they need to collect the full payment upfront.  If it’s to avoid travellers booking at multiple accommodations and then cancelling later, why not request a 25% - or even 50% - deposit with the balance payable a month before your arrival?  

For last minute bookings, full payment upfront is understandable, but bookings made nine months in advance?!  I’m more than happy to pay in full before I travel, in fact I prefer it as that way all my major holiday expenses are taken care of BEFORE I leave Australia, but nine months in advance is a bit rich, in my opinion.

Having booked my Reykjavik accommodation, it was now time to find somewhere to stay in Rothenburg.  Last time I was in Rothenburg it was just for an overnight visit so we stayed at a hotel but on this occasion we decided an apartment would suit us better.  

I found a lovely apartment on Airbnb but also discovered a way I could avoid the service fee and get around paying the full balance upfront.

The listing for this particular apartment had a building/property name so instead of being listed as (for example) ‘Modern apartment in quiet location’ it was listed as ‘Apparthaus Anna’ (example only, not the real name). Aha, I thought and quickly went on to Google to search Apparthaus Anna.  Sure enough, up came a website for this apartment.  After browsing the website and reading the guest testimonials, I emailed the owner for more details and prices.  

Dealing directly with the owner via her own website rather than via Airbnb, meant that I would save the Airbnb service fee (around 11%) AND the owner did not require pre-payment or even a credit card guarantee, instead requesting cash payment on arrival.

Having made this discovery I did go back to Google to see if I could find a direct website for the Reykjavik apartment I’d booked, but nothing came up.  In the Reykjavik instance, Airbnb was my only option but luckily for me, I could book direct for the Rothenburg accommodation.

Buildings in AmsterdamImage © ziss / Adobe Stock Photo

Now I realise that not everyone is going to be confident booking their accommodation this way but after corresponding with the owner via email, I was happy to go ahead.  After all, what did I have to lose?  If I arrived in Rothenburg and the apartment didn’t exist, I would have just had to find somewhere else to stay.  It’s not like I had parted with any money.  

Had the owner requested a hefty payment upfront, I would probably have booked via Airbnb.  And if I still had any concerns about booking the accommodation directly with the owner, I could have always contacted the local tourist office and asked them if they were aware of the property.  At the end of the day, you have to decide whether the Airbnb booking fee and payment conditions are worth it for the peace of mind of booking with a 'secure' company.

Would I book with Airbnb in the future (if I couldn’t find suitable accommodation in the Holidays to Europe directory) ? Yes, BUT……   if I was booking more than three months ahead I would definitely try and source my accommodation either directly with the owner or via another online booking site that doesn’t require full payment up front.

If you're looking for self-catering accommodation for your trip and you can't find anything suitable, you can search as they list a lot of apartments and villas.  Click the banner below to start your search.

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Note: Unfortunately I had to cancel my European trip due to a family medical emergency.  The cancellation conditions of the apartment I had booked in Reykjavik via Airbnb were strict - 50% cancellation fee if booked more than 7 days before arrival and no refund of the Airbnb fees ($190 in this instance).  I have claimed back these cancellation and booking costs on my travel insurance.


Two things I dont like about Airbnb
















Have you booked accommodation via Airbnb?  What are your thoughts on their payment policy and booking fees?


Photos are not examples of accommodation found on the Airbnb website.

Disclosure: This article contains an affiliate link.  Should you choose to make a booking via this link, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.




# Jan Wild 2016-09-02 14:08
I hear what you are saying and airbnb needs to be careful that their fee structure doesn't price them out of the market. I have just stumbled across a property on Stayz that is significantly less expensive than it is on airbnb.
Having said that our experience is that paying in advance is not always a disadvantage. We airbnb-ed around France last year and were happy to pay in advance. Because the Australian was strong against the Euro it was actually advantageous to have the currency conversion work in our favour.
# Carolyn 2016-09-05 10:05
Great points, Jan. Paying in advance can be advantageous if the exchange rate is favourable. Like you've done with Stayz, I always try and find the property I'm interested in on at least a couple of different websites to compare the prices. I'm glad to hear you came up trumps in your recent search.
# Phoebe | Lou Messugo 2016-08-30 21:37
I use Airbnb both as a host for my holiday rental and as a traveller and agree completely with what you say. I've been using it almost since it started, I signed up in 2010 when the fee varied between 6-12%. Now it can reach 20% easily for the guest but they also take off 3-5% form the host! So from a host's point of view I need to be on Airbnb to get seen and found in searches but I put loads of hints (like the less than subtle name of my place!) in my listing for people to then find me direct and book direct,. The guest pays less and I earn more, plus they don't have to pay all up front too. I'm glad to hear savvy travellers like you realise that this is an option, but I'm glad to hear also that you had insurance to refund your cancellation as small businesses like mine have to take some payment upfront and can't afford to lose everything with a late cancellation. When booking a place for myself I always try and find the owner direct to avoid fees. Airbnb is a double-edged sword for me; it's great - sometimes - but it's too powerful now and has gone down hugely since it first started as a genuine independent alternative to hotels.
# Carolyn 2016-08-30 22:35
Thanks for your comments, Phoebe. You are dead right - Airbnb is now too powerful for holiday rental property owners to ignore. Hopefully more people will pick up the hints that owners like you leave in their property descriptions and start booking direct, after all it's a win-win for both them and the owners.

I never travel without adequate travel insurance ... and unfortunately I've needed to claim on it on more than one occasion. I don't begrudge the fact that cancellation fees have to be charged and I believe it's my responsibility to cover my own back.
# Sandra 2016-08-11 22:16
For 5 weeks in June and July this year I toured Italy wth my family. We required an apartment on the Amalfi coast and booked with Airbnb. Like you I was put off with having to pay in full at time of making the booking and also a booking fee. The host as shown on Airbnb was actually a real estate agent from Positano, and not the owner. After communicating for some months before travelling, it was disappointing to arrive and not meet the host. After discovering these issues with Airbnb, when looking for other accommodation, like you I searched for websites belonging to places shown on Airbnb, thus avoiding such issues.
# Carolyn 2016-08-12 13:27
Thanks for your comments, Sandra. It sounds like I'm not the only one who is frustrated with some of Airbnb's terms and conditions.