Find Your Treehouse. My one year experiment using Airbnb.

travel lean 2

Find Your Treehouse

When I was in third grade, my dad helped me build a treehouse.  I should say, I helped him. It was a great treehouse, larger than most with a solid deck, walls, and a gable roof. It was built in a huge tree that could easily support its weight.  We had windows with large screens and even ran power via a long extension cord. I could run a fan, a radio, and even a small tv.

My stock value went way up for coolness of sleepovers among my friends. I miss that treehouse. It was a great place. For me, it was my “other” place. There was home, school, and the treehouse.

I think Airbnb, the travel app juggernaut, had people like me in mind when they started featuring photos of all kinds of lodging alternatives including: Yurts, Houseboats, Airstream Trailers, exotic treehouses and even old trains. It’s now the most popular page on their website. You can find it on their website homepage just by clicking “popular.”

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I mean, who wouldn’t  want to sleep on a boat or on a train or in a rainforest treehouse. These are the type of places where people can really get a good night’s sleep. And you get to skip buying the boat or vacation house part. Oddly enough, I started experimenting with Airbnb a few years back for business travel, not personal.  I was headed to New York and sick and tired of business hotels that charge over $300 a night with nothing much more than free WiFi. And don’t forget about the 15-23% lodging and misc. taxes most cities add on. I found something much better on Airbnb for $130 a night in the East Village.

One of my best finds was a one-bedroom apartment in the center of the old city in Barcelona for $70 a night.  Yes, you read that correctly — $70 per night. Prime location with balconies that opened out to one of the nicest parts of the city. It had WiFi, full kitchen and a living room. In a pre-war building with 15 ft high doors. A comparable room in a hotel would be close to $300 a night.

With most of my experiments I always find it’s better to try something out solo as part of a  business trip. Much better than bringing the family along and risking disaster along with mockery and grumbling for the entire trip. Last summer we lined up a 2 bedroom place at the top of Telegraph Hill in the prime North Beach section of San Francisco with sweeping views of the city. The price was about half the price of a chain hotel. The savings came in handy as we spent quite a bit in even the most casual North Beach restaurants.

I’m still looking for just the right boat or treehouse on Airbnb, but in the meantime I’ve found a 3 bedroom waterfront “cottage” where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Rappahannock River. They include a skiff and a paddle boat at the dock on the property. The price, $140 a night and we can even bring the dog.

Two nearby resort hotels are offering “specials”  at $299 a night sans waterfront view. Airbnb has already shown their potential to disrupt the hotel industry.  We’ll skip the hotel route and save that cash for another adventure.

As an added bonus, if this place works out, I may have found my treehouse, at least for this summer anyway.

Here are a few things I learned from my Airbnb experiments.

  1. Create a verified profile. Include some interesting information about yourself.  You’ll find that this makes booking much smoother and allows property owners to pre-approve you.

  2. When searching for a place, include both private home and private room options in your search. You’ll find that more interesting lofts, treehouses and other cool affordable locations show up as private rooms instead of entire homes.

  3. Look at some of the reviews and read the listing details. You’ll notice that some owners include cleaning fees in their daily price so the actual cost is higher than what is listed on the calendar.  Other hosts may charge a small fee for additional guests.

  4. Be wary of hosts that only include a few pictures of the inside of the rental. Great locations should have multiple photos and reviews.

  5. If your dealing with a new host or listing  feel free to ask the host for additional information.

  6. In the listing click on maps and street view if possible. It gives you a good feel for the neighborhood and attractions nearby.

  7. Leave a review after your trip.  You find that hosts will return the favor rating you as a guest and improve the credibility of your profile.

  8. If you have a strong profile, hosts are more likely to give you a discount so don’t be afraid to ask for one.

  9. I found a $20 Airbnb credit to get you started.


Happy trails

The Frug


  1. Bob Gray

    I recently was in Paris on business and rented from Airbnb in the heart of the Latin Quarter. $111 per night. I’m never going back to hotels if it’s on my nickel.

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