My boss is a very experienced and savvy traveler so when we needed to make hotel reservations for the two of us for a trade show in Connecticut, what hotel did she use?

She didn’t make hotel reservations at all, but instead reserved a townhouse through Airbnb.  This was going to be my first experience using Airbnb and I must say, I wasn’t totally enthusiastic about the prospect. But hey, she’s the boss.

In case you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it is an “online community marketplace” which enables people who have space (it could be a room or an entire house) to rent it out on a short term basis.

The concept has become very devise in many communities including Petaluma. Some residents oppose allowing the service to operate because of concerns about increased traffic and noise in neighborhoods.  Some cities regulate the industry so that they can collect Transit Occupancy Tax as is done in hotels thereby leveling the playing field between Airbnb rentals and local hotels.

The positive Airbnb experience we had in Hartford made me a believer. I don’t foresee giving up hotels entirely but in a lot of situations, Airbnb is a wonderful alternative. I think cities would certainly be wise to get on board working with the service so that they can benefit – both in positive PR and tax revenue –  from the new “sharing” economy.

What made staying at a townhouse reserved through Airbnb better than staying at the Marriott next to the Convention Center?

To begin with, the price. Even with the trade show discount, rooms at the Marriott were going to be at least $250 a night so for two rooms for four nights, that’s over $2,000. The townhouse was less than $900. So we had at more than double the amount of space – full kitchen, living room, dining room and our own bedrooms and bathrooms – at half the price.

One of my concerns about not staying in a hotel was the potential lack of amenities. Would coffee, snacks, close and safe parking be available? All of these features were more readily accessible than they would have been at a hotel.

The absolute best part was having access to a kitchen so that we didn’t have to eat out. At the end of an exhausting day manning our trade show booth, it was a total blessing to be able to sit in the living room, order in Chinese food and have a cup of tea. In the morning, we could have coffee before putting on our clothes and make-up.  And the owner left us a garage door opener so we were able to park much closer than we would have been able to at a hotel parking lot.

At first, it seemed a little odd to be staying in a stranger’s house with all their belongings and family photos on the walls. This particular situation was even a little more unusual because the owner of the townhouse keeps a Kosher kitchen which means that everything that comes in contact with dairy – utensils, dishes, sinks – is kept separate from anything that comes in contact with meat. It really wasn’t a big deal. She made it easy to respect this practice by labeling all the drawers “Dairy Only” or “Meat Only.”

It only took one night for me to appreciate the comfort that I felt staying in a home with lots of personal touches versus a very impersonal hotel room. Accommodations made through Airbnb give travelers something that a hotel never can: literally a home away from home.