Although I love to explore new destinations, sometimes I hate the nitty-gritty details and glitches that come along with travel. Flights get delayed. You book at an ocean-front hotel, but your room faces the parking lot. You snag a cheap rental car, and it overheats as you drive along the highway. Travel errors happen, but thankfully technology has advanced, and a new method of vacationing has evolved with it. Say goodbye to the lifeless discount travel website, and say hello to online forums that are bringing together travelers, locals, and their community. Both founded in my home region of San Francisco, Airbnb, a global travel community, and SideCar, a taxi-like community of rides and drivers, are changing the way we explore the world.
What is Airbnb and why should I care about it?
Founded in San Francisco in August of 2008, Airbnb is a community marketplace for people looking to rent a room, list a house, spend the night in a treehouse, experience life on a houseboat, and everything in between. Accessible online and on a smartphone app, Airbnb connects people to travel accommodations like no other. Since its start-up in 2008, Airbnb has grown to be available in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries. Trying to find a room with a great view by the beach? Are all the hotels booked? Scared you’re going to break the bank? Airbnb offers accommodations in some of the world’s most beautiful (and expensive) locations. Additionally, you book accommodations per night, so if you find it’s not all you had imagined after the first night, you can easily book a new source of shelter for the next night. Not only is this convenient, but it also gives you the unique opportunity to experience life as a resident of the city you’re visiting. While hotels are typically bunched together alongside each other on the tourist side of town, you can stay with the locals and get a taste of the city’s community.
How do I use it? To use Airbnb, simply log on to their website or app. Type in your desired destination, the amount of days you want to stay, and click the “search” button.
A list will appear with various neighborhoods, accommodations, and prices. Whether you’re looking for a whole flat to yourself, or simply a spare bedroom to crash at in the evening, you’re sure to find the perfect match.
Just click “book it,” enter your credit card information (you will be charged a service fee), and a host will accept your request within 24 hours with the contact information and property address being shared, as well.
How can I become a host on Airbnb? Going away for the weekend and looking to earn a few dollars by renting out your house? Have an extra room and want to be a host? Make an account, and you can list your space for free. You have the freedom to accept or decline requests, and you will be paid 24 hours after your guests check in.
What is SideCar, and why should I care?
SideCar is your personal taxi service. Founded in 2012, SideCar is currently available in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin and Philadelphia. Don’t have a ride? Make an account on your smartphone’s SideCar application. Enter your credit card information and you’ll never have to worry about having enough cash. You also have the freedom to donate whatever monetary amount you think the driver deserves – there’s no set price. Once you type in your current location and your desired destination, small car icons will appear with the time that it will take for the driver to get to you. Click on the nearest car, and in a few minutes, a friendly stranger will be there to pick you up and take you to your destination. Watch this video to see how the app works:
Can I make money from SideCar, too? Yes. Have a license, insurance, and a recent background check? You can join the SideCar community by visiting the website, filling out a form, uploading your documents, and doing a quick online interview. It may sound like a hassle, but the whole process can take as little as 24 hours.
These two applications are the beginning of a new era of travel, where you don’t need to plan your stay weeks in advance, you can skip the expensive rental car, and you can get a genuine feel for the community while avoiding the tourist traps. San Francisco is filled with down-to-earth people who enjoy a sense of community, and the city is beginning to share that love with the world around it. What are you waiting for? Book a flight, then use Airbnb and SideCar to get around town.
*Featured photo courtesy of Mike G. K.