The way we travel has changed a lot over the years and one thing I’ve loved is the move away from package holidays to more independent travel. Most people these days seem to arrange their flights and accommodation separately and choose carefully to ensure they get the best price and the holiday that is perfect for them. I’ve always loved being an independent traveller and part of this is taking the time to find quirky and unique accommodation to stay in, I’ve become a huge fan of Booking.com over the years but amazingly, I still have yet to try Airbnb. So many friends have raved about the website and the amazing locations they have stayed in all over the world, and I must admit I always catch myself looking at articles featuring particularly incredible accommodations. But why haven’t I used it yet? I think my main reason is being a solo traveller, I’m used to falling back on hostels as a cheap option. But now that I am travelling with a boyfriend, actually I’m thinking that being able to get more for our money when we want to escape hotels/hostels, Airbnb can only be a good thing!

With so many people choosing to travel solo these days, it seems Airbnb is becoming increasingly popular as a way of saving money when travelling to avoid the extra charges for travelling alone, with around 74% of solo travellers using it for exactly this reason. But are hotels suffering as a result? I teamed up with holiday home insurance company, Schofields Insurance, to find out more after they surveyed over 1,000 solo travellers aged 18 and above and based in the UK to find out more about their accommodation preferences when travelling alone. The survey revealed that around 44% of solo travellers have stayed in an Airbnb, with 65% staying in hotels and just 18% in hostels. Out of those who had stayed in hotels, a whopping 78% had been charged extra for travelling solo. It seems that of those choosing hostels, 35% preferred the communal living style, while 29% had chosen them based on pricing. It seems us solo travellers are far more money-savvy when it comes to booking our trips and if there is a chance to save ourselves from extra charges for being independent, then we’re definitely going to use it.

Inspired by the survey, I decided to do a bit more research to hear from my travelling friends about their experiences with hotels and Airbnb – would they choose one over the other? Is Airbnb all it’s cracked up to be? I turned to Facebook and Twitter to find out what you guys had to say:

Penny’s AirBnb in Queensland Australia

Where is the best place you’ve stayed with Airbnb?

I hired a whole cabin by a lake in Ontario, Canada, last June, for three people. An absolutely amazing find with views to die for. The owner was nearby and on hand if we needed anything but basically told us to help ourselves and treat it as home! Cathy Keeler

I stayed in an Airbnb in Gdansk, Poland and it was the best choice, especially for a group of four! Rather than being stuck in small hotel rooms, we had rooms, a huge living room and a kitchen – it would be so expensive and maybe even impossible to get such space in a hotel. And it has genuinely played such a big part of our trip – cooking breakfast with Polish ingredients, playing drinking games in the living room or even hanging out when it was too cold outside. It wouldn’t have been the same in a hotel and I’d always choose an Airbnb for groups! Kamila Zielinska of Kamz Online

Have used Airbnb, in London, San Francisco and Paris, all good experiences and a bit quirky. In London we had a basement flat in a beautiful house on Clapham Common, in Paris a flat in the commercial area and in San Francisco a flat in the garden of an architect, lovely. It’s a very different experience from a hotel, and we like the privacy. Ann Wells

I used it in New Zealand and ended up getting a villa on an avocado farm for £120 per night. It included a pool and hot tub also. Stunning and great value. Shane McDonald

It’s normally my first option for accommodation and they have more character than the hotels I can afford, often in areas that have more personality. My favourite one was in New Zealand, we stayed on a vineyard in Marlborough and once the tasting room closed at 4pm, it was literally just us there! Charlie Elliott of Charlie Distracted

Stayed in Verona, Italy. Absolutely gorgeous apartments, even better hosts! Akvile Stan

Booked a Airbnb in Margaret River, Australia, very close to the ocean called The Beach Shack, it was epic! Dave Salway

Charlie’s amazing stay on the vineyard in New Zealand

What do you love about Airbnb?

I’ve only used it since having my daughter, Evie, in Paris and Prague and absolutely loved both apartments. With a baby/young kid it is so much more convenient than a hotel room, you have loads more space plus a kitchen. Ayla Warner of Mrs Ayla Adventures

Used it twice and I’ve had very positive experiences both times. Helpful hosts, so much cheaper than a hotel, and lovely to have the flexibility of having a whole flat to ourselves in order to cook for ourselves when we wanted to and just have a bit more space to feel at home. Also it can give you a better taste of what it would be like to actually live in the place you’re visiting rather than just holidaying there. Emily Johnson 

In the UK, I tend to go for Airbnb and haven’t been disappointed. I’m opting for it more abroad now so I don’t have to share a room with strangers and for better quality accommodation because hostels can be gross. I’ve been really happy with every Airbnb so far! I’ve stayed in some beautiful places and met some of the loveliest people from it! Hannah Talbot of Han Meets World

I’ve used Airbnb in Brighton and Lisbon, Portugal. Both were good experiences, I love the authenticity of a home compared to a vacuous copycat hotel. It’s more personal, quieter and you get more freedom. Sunny Winter of Sunny Stuart Winter

I am a huge fan of Airbnb. We always look for an Airbnb first when staying away. Stayed in Rome, Paris, Budapest, Amsterdam. Also for weddings in England and for big houses for family get-togethers in places like Yorkshire, Bury St Edmunds and Bungay. We find if we stick to a super host then it’s always amazing! Kate le Serve

We’ve used it about 15-20 times and love it! One time we had a bad experience and Airbnb were good with helping us. Claire Jermany 

Shane McDonald’s villa on the avocado farm in New Zealand

Have you had any bad experiences with Airbnb?

I had a really bad experience in Medellin, Columbia, (amongst many other amazing ones). I booked a room in a dream house for a month. After travelling for 8 months, I needed to write and have my own room for a while. The host’s dad came in who was 65+ and started telling me in Spanish ‘that I should always make sure the door is locked because you never know who might come in’. I had a shower and I was looking for clothes to put on. I looked up from my clothes bag and there were two eyes on me through a one inch gap between the curtains and the wall. He was watching me naked from my private balcony through a small gap. I knew that I needed to get out. I messaged AirBnb straightaway and they had a very good response time. They told me to get out of there and rang me every day until it was resolved to check that I was safe. They also deposited my money back immediately. I absolutely couldn’t fault the response of Airbnb. Interestingly, the son that was hosting the place was a Superhost with over 3,000 amazing reviews. I still love Airbnb, but I guess I won’t stay anywhere alone now without a guy, a sad thing to say in 2018, but true. Anonymous

My group of friends decided we should all go on a 4-day city break to Amsterdam to get away and blow off some steam. So we found an apartment we liked, reasonably priced, central, hot tub and contacted the owner. My friend was asked to do a bank transfer outside of the Airbnb site directly to the owner to secure our booking. Later we discovered it was quite a famous scam, my friend was so embarrassed she fell for it and a momentary lapse of judgement lost us nearly £1,000 between us. While not Airbnb’s fault – I was quite disappointed they didn’t investigate the user. Knowing that scammers operate on the site has made me dubious about using again. Hannah Streatfield

We booked an Airbnb for my sister’s hen party in London, the place we eventually decided on looked absolutely gorgeous. We arrived in high spirits and the host met us outside, as soon as she opened the door my heart just sank. The smell of smoke was overpowering, the carpets were dirty and it didn’t look anything like the photos. Windows were sellotaped together where there were cracks in them and the fire extinguishers wouldn’t have worked in a fire, there was even a toilet in the kitchen! I opened a complaint with Airbnb but because I didn’t complain within 24 hours of checking in they wouldn’t do anything! Anneliese Yaxley

Once in Boston, it was so cold the pipes were frozen and we didn’t have a working bathroom – thankfully they fixed it swiftly! In our place in Brighton, we didn’t realise the bathroom was shared with the owner so awkward toilet run-ins. Kuala Lumpur recently was the worst, just filthy! Connie of Connie Consumes

Used it for the first time in Budapest, then again in Berlin and Hamburg – generally been pretty good and made trips more interesting/much cheaper! Only thing close to an ‘issue’ we’ve had was that when we could only afford a room in someone’s flat vs a whole place to ourselves, we did miss our privacy once or twice, it took some getting used to as it’s so different to a hotel experience but was totally fine. Chris and Amy of 2TallTravellers

I’ve only had one issue recently and that was when the host wanted to cancel the booking but said I had to do it which would have meant me not getting a full refund. It got sorted out in the end but she was not helpful at all. I definitely look there first as the prices are always cheaper and the hosts are normally great. Darren Groves

My stay in Budapest wasn’t so good as it was way too hot in the room and we couldn’t turn the heating down as it was centrally controlled. Jess of Enjoy The Adventure

More from Shane in New Zealand

What should travellers look out for with Airbnb?

We have used it in New Zealand and absolutely loved it. Has a much more homely feel than hotels. Just make sure you do your research on the property. Check out the hosts rating and reviews. Ella Morgan

Would you choose a hotel over Airbnb?

Airbnb is the best travel app in the world, I’ve found some amazing gems, UK and abroad, it lets you dive in and experience the culture as if u live in this new place. So cheap! I choose it every time! RayRay Ox

Have used Airbnb in Zurich, Rome and twice in Iceland and had great service in each one. They were all very personal and if anything they undersold their places online. I normally use them over hotels when I’m visiting cities or exploring, but if I want a relaxing break I’ll opt for a hotel purely because of the breakfast, bed making, 24-hour room service and a clean and minimal room is nicer to relax in. Jasmin Crerar 

We’ve had some good ones but also some absolute duds so ultimately still prefer hotels! I like having someone to deal with directly and the option of changing rooms if need be. Airbnb is always our secondary option – we don’t often cook while away so don’t need kitchen facilities and sometimes hotels are actually better value for us! Connie of Connie Consumes

I’ve had some really good experiences with Airbnb’s. I’ve used them mostly in the UK and have been really handy for when I was looking for a new home in Bristol as they’re far homelier than a hostel, easy to find and not too expensive. The hosts have always been friendly, helpful with local knowledge and have genuinely cared for us whilst staying there. I now always check Airbnb if I’m going somewhere new to see what my options are. Zoë Harrison 

I’ve stayed at Airbnb’s in Brighton, Amsterdam and Reykjavik and all of them were lovely! I would look at the AirBnb options before looking at hotels because I’ve found them to be cheaper and more homely! Rebekah Chilvers 

I used them all over Asia and would 100% rather stay in one over a hotel, it depends what you prefer, but for the amazing price you pay for them, you get so much more room and freedom then a hotel room! Jess Overland

I’ve only used it once via a friend when we stayed in London last September. It was a good property but still not sure I’d use it consistently over hotels/hostels – it’s just another option for me to look for accommodation. Emma Hart of Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles

I think that I will always prefer Airbnb. Just because you get to maintain a level of independence when you’re in your own home. Also, it feels just more homely, especially when you’ve been travelling for a while and you’ve been living out of a smelly backpack for the last year. Grace Jones

Penny’s beautiful beef and grain farm in Australia

Hear from a host

Penny Fredericksen is a host in Queensland, Australia, she invites people to stay on her beef and grain farm for a real authentic, outback experience, right down to the kangaroos hopping around. 

“For me it’s more about connecting with people than staying in a flash hotel. I really liked my experience staying in an Airbnb, but I also thought that if I were the host, I could do better and cater for women who were solo travellers. I know that I much prefer to stay in little guest houses in Asia and decided to model my place on one of those guesthouses.

Staying with me, is not your usual Airbnb experience. Like all relationships, good communication is a must and for my guests they are treated from the very start like a friend who is coming to stay for the weekend. I email and send more details and ideas for places to eat in the local area. I also send a drone video of my farm because most people want to see where they are heading into the bush. I am “selling” an experience rather than a room with a bed and breakfast.

My main customers are women and their daughters who are traveling either from overseas or just escaping for the weekend. My guests are not looking to escape to their bedroom and not come out. They are made to feel part of my family and I hope that when they leave they understand a little more about living in the country.”

Cathy’s Canadian paradise

So, what do we think?

Well much like the survey, it seems you guys are huge fans of Airbnb – such a huge response overnight and I’ve loved reading all of your experiences. As with everything, there are some negative views and one-off bad experiences, but it seems that despite these many of you wouldn’t be put off using it again and most of you would choose it over a hotel. So perhaps the hotel industry is seeing a hit from the sheer number of travellers – not just solo but also family groups and friends – all plumping for a more unique and personal touch when they go away. I know I’m definitely interested in giving it a try, and although I’ll be careful to do my research before booking, I think I’d definitely look forward to trying something a bit different to the standard hostels and hotels.

What do you think? Would you choose a hotel over AirBnb? What do you love about staying in AirBnb’s?

*First image by Jess of Enjoy The Adventure