Lauren and I are taking our first big vacation since our honeymoon two years ago. After going through all our options for a November vacation, we settled on a 10-day trip to Italy and Israel. Lauren is about to finish her master’s degree in speech pathology and will start working once all the paperwork goes through, so this is our last chance to go a big vacation before scheduling and vacation time gets even harder.
This trip is not going to be cheap. We knew that going in, but that didn’t stop of from getting the best deals we could. First, we started with flights. We found flights that fit our schedule, and then I tracked them for a few weeks to find the patterns when they were cheapest and most expensive. When I found a price we liked, I pounced. Putting down three thousand dollars on plane tickets alone was a bit nerve-wracking, but knowing that I had 24 hours to cancel if necessary made it a bit easier (if you didn’t know, you have 24 hours to cancel with no fee on all U.S. flights).
Hotels vs. Airbnb
Once we had the flights booked, we moved onto hotels. To put it lightly, hotel rooms in Italy are neither cheap nor large. In most places, the room consists of a bed, which rubs up against a chair and table. If we’ll be traveling for a 10 days, that type of cramped space might not be enough. It would be nice to relax on a couch as we plan out our next day’s activities, and a fridge to store some food would be very convenient. Unfortunately, hotels don’t offer those types of amenities.
Enter Airbnb. For those who are unfamiliar, Airbnb allows people with houses and apartments to rent out their spaces for a price they set. This can be a great way to earn money from an otherwise dormant apartment, and for those looking to travel, can be a cheaper way to find places to stay (and in a more home-like environment in many cases). We have never tried it before, but with a $25 promotion, it made even more sense for us. Plus, we could look for all the amenities that were important to us: free wifi, and a washer and dryer in Florence so that we can pack a little lighter. For everything we were looking for, it was about half as much on Airbnb as it would be to be in hotels. And more comfortable for us!
Negotiating for Even Better Rates
In each city, we picked out our 2-3 favorite apartments that had the amenities we wanted and were in our price range, and I contacted the hosts asking if they could be flexible and offer a slightly lower rate since we’d be staying 3 nights. Some could not discount the rate further, but some were willing to offer a discount for us. In Rome, instead of $364 (including all fees) for 3 nights, we were offered $335 for a very modern 1-bedroom apartment that we are really excited to stay in. Add in the $25 credit we were given being referred, and we paid just $310 for it. What a deal!
In Florence, we went from $358 (including all fees) all the way down to $316. That’s $42 in savings just for asking! Add in the $25 we got because I referred Lauren (and now I have a $25 credit in my account, too!) and we paid just $291 for a really fantastic 2-bedroom apartment.
Once again, it never hurts to ask. In this case, we saved $71 just by asking for it. And it feels especially good since we got another $50 off with the referral credits (get $50 off your first stay here). We booked about 7 weeks in advance, so if you are not in a rush like us to book something (the more time the better), I highly recommend not only checking out Airbnb, but also asking for discounts from any properties that you’re considering. There is really no downside, and the upside is tremendous. The longer the trip, the better deal you can get!