I've been tempted by Airbnb before but I've never quite managed to make the jump into actually booking a place to go on there. I'm too much of a nervy bean - constantly worrying that they won't show up and I'll be stranded in a foreign country with no where to stay, having to fork out top prices for crap hotels in a rush to not sleep in a box on the side of the street. Luckily, when booking a trip with some friends last month, they were already seasoned Airbnbers and I didn't have to make the jump myself.
Our trip involved booking two places - the first in Lisbon and the second near Peniche in Portugal. Admittedly, it didn't exactly start well. Two days before we were due to take off, and our Lisbon apartment cancelled, which automatically gave us $20 credit to help us in booking somewhere new. My worst fears recognised. Where do we then book somewhere new for five people in Lisbon two days beforehand, on not a very big budget? I tweeted Airbnb, pretty angry at how someone could be allowed to cancel two days before. And to be fair, they couldn't have been more helpful. They responded immediately, sorted out a bit more credit for us and helped book somewhere new. I was incredibly impressed.
That aside, I couldn't have been happier with using Airbnb. When we arrived at our new apartment in Lisbon, our host Inês greeted us with pastéis de nata and a small glass of Port. I think my bad iPhone photos show exactly how gorgeous the apartment was, and Inês couldn't have tried harder in accommodating us. Our second host (another) Inês, was a little more hands-off but was still extremely helpful, fixing our router for us when it decided to die.
The thing I can't get over is the cost. Our second Airbnb in Peniche overlooked the sea, had five bedrooms, a big patio and was a second away from the nearest bar and had we not gone through Airbnb, I know we wouldn't have been able to get something as good. There were obviously some downsides compared to going to a hotel, like having to make your own breakfast and make your own bed (shock, horror), but I don't think I would have changed it for the world.
Now excuse me as I go off and spend a good few hours booking weekend trips on Airbnb to various European locations...