Airbnb has exploded in popularity over the past few years. You can now find a place to rent in almost every corner of the globe ranging from small bedrooms in a basic homes to luxurious mansions. We have had great success using Airbnb to save on our travel costs over the years. You can generally find a clean, well-located Airbnb for prices much lower than a hotel in a similar neighborhood. We’ve found this to be especially true in expensive cities such as London, as well as resort towns like Crested Butte. Airbnbs can offer several distinct advantages over a traditional hotel. If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb before you can use this link to get $40 off your first stay.

Access to a kitchen

In our opinion, this is maybe the biggest advantage that Airbnb’s have over traditional hotels. One of the easiest ways to save while traveling is to cut back on the number of meals you eat out. Not only does this save serious dollars, but it is also healthier and provides the  universally awesome experience of exploring the grocery stores and food markets in a faraway land. We usually check with our host ahead of time to ensure that they provide some basic cookware for us to use. Many also have a small stock of staples like cooking oil, salt, and some basic spices, which save you from needing buy these when you are only cooking a few meals.

Access to a washer/dryer

This isn’t universal to all Airbnb’s, but finding an apartment that has a washer can be a life saver. If you are traveling for longer than a few weeks, it is essential to be able to quickly and easily wash your clothes. This also gives you the ability to pack light since you know you’ll be able to wash your clothes frequently. You also get the added entertainment of trying to decipher the washer controls in a different language! We usually pack this travel detergent and love it!

Access to unique apartments and neighborhoods

One of our favorite reasons to stay in an Airbnb is that you can have an authentic and unique experience that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional hotel. You can stay in neighborhoods that have fewer tourists and in accommodation that gives you a more local experience. I detail how we do this below, but if you look for apartments just outside of the city center you can often find great deals in neighborhoods that have few tourists.

So, that’s all great, but how do we save money on Airbnb?

Look for discounted gift cards

We have had a lot of success finding Airbnb gift cards for sale at 15%-20% off. These deals pop up fairly regularly on places like eBay, and we’ve had great experiences buying from Paypal Digital Gifts. The concept is dead simple: keep close tabs on the Paypal Digital Gifts eBay site and whenever a discounted gift card goes on sale,  jump on it! As you can see below, sometimes these offers are for 10% off, but you can occasionally find them for more (like the 15% discount we scored last December). When these go on sale, we typically try to purchase at least enough to cover our next 6 months of traveling.

We stocked up on Airbnb gift cards when they were on sale for 10% off

We’ve found discounted gift cards for as much as 15% off

You can also find discounted gift cards for Airbnb through Raise.com.  Raise is a gift card resale website that we use frequently to buy discounted gift cards for everywhere from the local grocery store to outdoor gear shops.  They don’t typically yield high discounts (1% or 2%, typically), but if you travel a lot it adds up. They guarantee every gift card you buy for one year, and we’ve never had any issues using the cards we’ve bought there. If you haven’t tried Raise.com before you can use this link to get $5 off your first order.

As a bonus, we always link to Raise.com through eBates.com, which is a fantastic cash back portal. The process is simple. You login to your Ebates account (or install the plugin to your browser) and then navigate to Raise.com. You currently get 1% cash back on all Raise.com purchases through Ebates, which is effectively free money. If you haven’t used Ebates.com before you can sign-up using this link to get $10 off your first qualifying $25 purchase. If you combine this with the $5 discount for Raise.com, and the $40 Airbnb discount above you’ve already saved $55!

You can find discoutned Airbnb gift cards through Raise.com. As a bonus if you install the Ebates extension to your browser you just have to click in the top-right corner to activate an additional 1% off!

Book apartments that give discounts for longer stays

Many Airbnb apartments offer reduced rates if you are booking for 7 nights or longer. We’ve seen these types of discounts for as much as 35% off, and they can really incentivize you to stay in a city for at least a week. We prefer to travel this way, spending more time getting to know a place and less time shooting from one destination to another.

Book apartments just outside the city center

If you are traveling to a big city you will be shocked to find how much cheaper Airbnb’s can become once you venture outside of the most popular, central areas. We’ve found that you can often save 30%-50% on similar apartments just by being willing to take a subway, bus, or train into the city center. This also has the added benefit of putting us in a cool neighborhood with fewer tourists and more locals, enhancing our travel experience.

Don’t limit yourself to the ‘entire-home’ option

While we often prefer to have an entire apartment to ourselves, it can be a fun experience to stay in a private room while sharing the common spaces with your local host and sometimes other guests. These types of listings on Airbnb are significantly cheaper than an entire home and can allow you to interact with locals whom you would never otherwise meet. It is obviously imperative to closely read the reviews of these listings (as it is with all Airbnb’s), but you can usually find great deals and maintain your privacy while staying with a wonderful host.

So, that in a nut-shell is how we save money when booking an Airbnb. If you keep an eye out for discounted gift cards, utilize Raise.com and Ebates.com (don’t forget to get $5 off your first Raise purchase here and $10 cash back on your first Ebates.com purchase here), and you are open to staying in different neighborhoods or in shared apartments you’ll be well on your way to saving big dollars!

If you haven’t used Airbnb before don’t forget that you can save $40 off your first stay by signing up with this link!