Tag Archives: booking

Booking on AirBnb: Tips and things to consider | steppanyaki

Deciding on where you’ll be staying is one of the most crucial things to take into consideration when going on a trip. Do you stay at a hotel? A hostel? An inn or an apartment? These will all depend on several factors such as your budget, the place’s proximity to places in your itinerary, your level of comfort and desired amount of privacy.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about AirBnb–from friends and from YouTube vloggers I follow such as Simon & Martina of EatYourKimchi. AirBnb is an online listing of places you can rent all over the world. Hosts partner with AirBnb to have their house, room or apartment rented. The beauty of this setup is that someone is accountable both to you and AirBnb during your stay, and for some people, these hosts even serve as their tour guide. Some AirBnb hosts go out of their way and fetch their guests from the airport or train station, some will cook for you, others will take you out for a meal.

airbnb minami apt 5
Our host, Minami, had chocolate drinks and other kitchen items. Those 3-in-1 coffee sachets were mine, haha. Be sure to check if you can consume what your host has made available for free–they might come with additional charges.

Nevertheless, it can be a very intimidating experience for someone who has always gone for the traditional hotel accommodation. Here are some tips to booking on AirBnb:

  1. Be as specific as possible when indicating where you’ll be staying.
airbnb minami apt 1
Wine Apartments in Shibuya. I loved the boutique-style feel of the facade and entrance.
airbnb minami apt 2
The charming neighborhood in Shibuya, Tokyo. Just outside Minami’s apartment.

When you search for places to stay (with your specific travel dates, preferred room type and price range), not all results will be located exactly where you had specified. A tip:” favorite” the places you fancy by clicking the heart button. This will automatically save these places to your wish list, and will make it easier for you to trim your options down to the best one.

It can be very tricky if you’re not familiar with where you’re going–in my case, Tokyo’s key districts. In fact, the first time I booked, I ended up getting a place in Yokohama, which as it turns out is miles away (thus, more train rides and more expensive) from Tokyo. Yikes. Luckily, there was still time to fix things.

If you’re booking on your computer, there will be a map displayed to your right which shows the available listings in your specified area–you can zoom in to see if your wish list places are actually where you’d like them to be. On your smartphone (via the AirBnb application), you’ll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the map.

2. The prices in the search results are not the actual costs per night.

The prices per place can be very misleading and you might get shocked when you start booking and see the estimated price. Note that on top of the cost in the search results, there is an AirBnb fee, and some places will even require a cleaning fee. It’s entirely up to you, of course, if you’re game to pay for the total amount. You’ll be able to see all charges before making your online payment, anyway.

3. Think hard about opting for a shared space.

airbnb marco apt 1
Maro’s apartment in Shinjuku. Everyone was still asleep when I got up.

During my Tokyo trip, I had the chance to experience both sharing a room with four other people, and staying an apartment with just my friend and boyfriend.

It can be a very uncomfortable encounter to stay at a shared room. Aside from the place being cramped, it can be terrifyingly quiet–and you don’t want to make too much noise when roommates might be snoozing or resting. Also, you have to share a bathroom, which can be hard if everyone’s getting up at the same time to shower. Not everyone shares the same sense of cleanliness as you do, so you might also have to contend with people who do not follow the house rules to a tee.

On the other hand, it also gave me the chance to meet other tourists–there were two Canadian guys and a lady from Taiwan in our room. It was great getting to go out of my shell and just exchanging stories with one another every now and then.

airbnb minami apt 4
Our spacious apartment for three. The space had a washing machine, an oven, and a tub!
airbnb minami apt 3
We also had a futon. 🙂

The non-shared apartment, on the other hand, may give you enough privacy, but at a price, of course.

4. Read the AirBnb profile thoroughly.

Marco had reminders posted on the walls about the WiFi details, the proper segregation of garbage, where to put used comforters, etc.
No choice but the top bunk. Marco had reminders posted on the walls about the WiFi details, the proper segregation of garbage, where to put used comforters, etc.

When you read through the listing’s description, the more you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into. Note: some places are not exactly mirror images of what you see in the search results, but at least if you know all about the amenities and extra charges, you’ll have a clearer picture of what to expect.

5. Read the reviews.

Reviews are your best friend. No matter how attractive an AirBnb listing seems, reading the reviews gives you a glimpse into previous guests’ actual experience. Was the place dirty? Was it as near to the station as the host described it? Did the host reply immediately to their queries? These are all helpful to deciding to book a place or not.

6. Coordinate with your AirBnb host.

It’s always best to reach out to your AirBnb host to consult them on or inform them on certain things that might affect your stay. Make sure to let them know which airport you’ll be coming from so they can give the best tips on how to get to the place easily, and feel free to ask questions. It’s part of what you’re paying for. It’s part of the AirBnb experience.

I hope these tips have been helpful to your booking on AirBnb. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or reactions. Good luck!

Booking flights to Japan: Promo fares, apps and timing | steppanyaki

Tokyo cityscape from Roppongi Hills
Tokyo cityscape from Roppongi Hills (Photo by Loïc Lagarde via flickr creative commons)

Booking cheap tickets to Japan can be quite the challenge.

If you’re lucky, you can get one of those incredibly low promo fares from Cebu Pacific Air. In fact, a friend of mine has gone to Japan several times with this very tactic. They can go as low as P5,000 (back and forth).

What worked to her advantage was that her trip dates were not limited to a certain period, so any day she sees the promo, she can immediately book tickets within the indicated travel period.

In my case, though, I had to make sure my travel dates overlapped with my boyfriend and friends’ business trip dates, which wouldn’t be confirmed until a month or two before the actual event they were covering.

What we had were more or less the timing of the event. Keeping this in mind, I applied a little less than two months in advance, just to ensure I had a Japan VISA in time.

Travel websites / apps are your best friend

The event was happening on the week of October 26th, and I started actively researching in August for flights. At that time, flights were around P16,000 (back and forth), and I felt it was too steep for me.

Several online articles I read highly recommended the use of travel websites Skyscanner and Liligo. They do the job of looking for the cheapest possible flights, accommodation and even car rentals for you. The great thing about these websites is that they also have app versions, so you can conveniently do your searches wherever you are.

To relieve me of the burden of constantly checking the fares each day, I also learned online that you can set these apps up to alert you on the trend in fares for the day–if they’re lower, the same or higher. You conveniently receive the these alerts via e-mail notifications.

I noticed that there really are consistently affordable options, but not from an airline I trust or saw good reviews of online.

The early bird catches the worm

Rumor has it that there’s a greater chance airlines will announce promos on a holiday, and I held on to that possibility.

While a certain airline did have a promo as predicted, it was not the dramatic price slash that I had hoped.

My mistake was that I waited until another holiday to see if there would be another promo with even lower rates, but to no avail.

I should have just gone ahead with the booking early on. Since I opted to wait for that holiday, the overall prices had gone up. I’d rather pay for the slightly more expensive fare but get the full in-flight benefits and flying comfort.

Via Narita or Haneda?

When I finally sat down and decided to book from then current available options, I made it a point to compare if it would be cheaper to fly into Japan via Narita or Haneda airport.

If you’ve already booked a place to stay in before purchasing air tickets, you might want to compare which airport would be nearer. You can use transit apps like Hyperdia (available on the web and on Android phones) to check the travel time, commute suggestions and fares.

What I learned

It was probably not the best idea to tag along my boyfriend and friends’ business trip because it limited the flexibility of my travel dates and required two separate AirBnb bookings to minimize complexity. But it was a blast having an entire group to hang out with in Tokyo when we all had the time to get together.

On the perfect timing to book tickets, I suggest agreeing with your would-be travel companion in advance that when a promo fare comes out, you book it immediately. Might be better as well for whoever’s paying with her credit card to have her travel companion’s details ahead of time, too, so she can just plug in the details and get those dream tickets, pronto.

Hope this helps you with your general and Japan-related travel preparations. Please let me know what you thought of this article!