Earlier this year, H and I went to alaska for our first anniversary. Growing up in the west, I’ve always enjoyed spending time outdoors and love to see the things that mother nature has created over the last few billion years. Everything is unique in its own special way, and I’d love to see as much of that stuff as I can before I die. Alaska is one of the places that has so many incredible things and it’s difficult to see them all at once. I’ve been twice, and I still am itching to go back and do more and see more.
After my wife and I booked our flights to alaska, I started poking around and looking for places to stay the nights that we would not be camping. We camped 7 of 11 nights, but because of the way schedules worked we needed to stay in the city to be near the airport for an early departure or something like that. We also spent 3 days and 3 nights in anchorage, which we stayed in town. When all was said and done, we needed a place to stay for 1 night in Fairbanks, AK and a place to stay for 3 nights in Anchorage, AK.
Naturally, the first thing that I looked at was some hotels in the area. I looked in february for mid july, and could find very little availability, and what I did find cost around $250 a night for the one night in Fairbanks! I remembered Alaska being expensive, but I didnt remember it being that bad (though my employer did pay it). The prices in Anchorage were better than in Fairbanks, but they were still much higher than I was willing to pay - around the $150-175 per night range. The lower priced hotels were in areas of town that would make it difficult to get to many of the things to do in Anchorage (it’s surprisingly spread out), and we’d need to take the bus or cab places that we wanted to check out.
I was mentioning my plight to a person that is about as obsessed with miles and points as I am, and just as frugal. We chatted about me getting a new credit card for hotel points and using the perks, but that seemed like a bit of a waste to me – rooms in alaska went for a lot of points, and I’d rather just avoid the cost all together. I asked him about airbnb because I had known about it for year, but never knew anyone who had tried it. Lucky me, he’d just gotten back from europe and used airbnb for a few of his stays. He said that everything went off without a hitch and that it was super easy to use, so I started looking around for Airbnb places in Alaska. Honestly, I didnt expect to find much because alaska is pretty spread out and there’s not a lot of people there.
There was actually a fairly good selection in both Fairbanks and Anchorage when I looked, so I formed an account and asked the owners a few questions. I was mostly inquiring if the were available the nights that my wife and I needed, how everything worked with their place (each owner is different) and anything else that I should know. Everyone that we talked to was very friendly and got back to me right away. I talked it over with H and she thought it sounded like it was worth a try, so I booked the places in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Is AirBnb Safe?
This is one of the first questions that my wife had – was the service safe. Of course, there could be wiredos at every corner and you never know what is going to happen, but I thought that it was perfectly safe. When you sign up, they collect your phone number, email address, and profiles from a few social networks (facebook, linkedin and others) to make sure that you are who you say you are. They do the same thing for people who are looking to rent rooms to others. I feel like the safeguards are plenty adequate, and in addition, there’s a safeguard built into the market – no one wants to get a bad review from someone that stayed at their place, because in a crowded market a bad review would be enough for a user to look at other nearby options.
I dont think there’s a safety problem here at all (this just from where I’ve stayed and what I’ve heard) but you should make your own decisions when looking around.
Our AirBnb Review
The first place we stayed was in fairbanks. It was a little cabin on the outskirts of town. The cabin was on her property, and she stayed in a larger house behind it. There were chickens, a few large raised garden beds and a friendly dog roaming around the entire time. The cabin was great. It was very quiet inside, and had a full kitchen. The living room was cozy, and it got plenty dark in the loft area where the bed was (something hugely important when the sun is up around 22 hours per day) The owner was very friendly and helped us with everything we needed the night we were there, and was even kind enough to lend us bikes so that we could ride down the bike path to dinner. Even though we were only there one night, we felt totally at home – she even offered to stock the fridge with bagels, orange juice and other breakfast supplies when we were there (she does it for all her guests, apparently). We told her not to bother though, because we had a 6am flight out of Fairbanks and wouldnt need to eat anything.
Since the prices were high in anchorage also, we decided to give airbnb a crack in anchorage as well. This one though was far different. The place we got in anchorage was in a great location – about 4 blocks from downtown, close to all the restaurants, shops, museums and free stuff that goes on in downtown anchorage on a day to day basis. The only odd thing about it was that it was an RV that was parked in the owners backyard area. That’s right, we stayed in an RV. I didnt book this one right away, because after I mentioned it to my wife, I wanted to let her think about it for a while and make sure that she was OK with the idea of staying in an RV. She gave me the go-ahead, so I booked it and it worked out great. The RV was nice and clean, and had plenty of room for us and our things, and was a great place after camping for 8 of the past 9 days. There was a small kitchen area as well, so we prepared our own breakfasts in the RV before heading out for the day.
It was so close to downtown, so we made sure to spend lots of time checking everything out and walking around. We saw the anchorage museum, did a bit of shopping, checked out the silvers running on ship creek and enjoyed downtown anchorage. We were a few blocks south of most of the hotels, but we didnt mind because we saved about $450 by staying there instead of a hotel.
One thing to note: Airbnb does not charge loding taxes, so you dont have to pay those. They typically run 6-10% of your hotel stay. The reason for this is that they are typically against most zoning codes that deal with the occupancy of a dwelling and similar issues. There was one lawsuit over this issue in late 2012 in New York City, which ended with a $2,400 dollar fine for the person renting the room. Apparently, there’s also a crackdown by city inspectors in NYC, and the hotel owners are considering bringing a class action lawsuit.
Would I Use AirBnb Again?
Absolutely. There are so many options of places to stay depending on the duration of your trip, and it’s nice to have another one. One thing that I really liked about it was that because these are peoples homes, you typically get to see a neighborhood that you normally wouldnt get to see if you were staying in the traditional tourist destination. However that does come with a price. At the place that we were staying in fairbanks, we had to take a cab out there from where our shuttle dropped us off, which costs us about 15 bucks.
Even though it’s a bit non traditional, I’d definitely use airbnb again. It’s just another thing to check when you’re looking to head out on vacation and another option for places to stay. I have most extensively looked in Alaska, but I’ve casually checked out some other places too (mostly international) and found the selection to be pretty good and the prices reasonable.
So if you havent yet, consider signing up for Airbnb and give it a try next time you go on vacation.
Readers: Have you used Air bnb before? If so, what did you think of it? If not, are you willing to try it? Why or why not?