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Learn These Travel Hacks to Travel the World on the Cheap

You’ve probably had the thought at one time or another…”If I had the money, I’d totally travel the world and see everything.” Well, what if you could span the globe and make money at the same time? Don’t let finances keep you from seeing all the amazing sights our planet has to offer with the resources of the World Travel Hacker 2017 bundle.

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Mastering AirBnB – a $165 value
Learn how to use AirBnB to make enough cash to pay for your own world excursions.

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Measure To Restrict Airbnb Rentals Loses In San Francisco; Mayor Ed Lee Re-Elected

By Matt Hamilton and Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

SAN FRANCISCO — Proposition F, the contentious San Francisco ballot measure that would impose tighter restrictions on short-term housing rental services such as Airbnb, lost by a sizable margin Tuesday night.

According to the city’s election website, the measure was defeated, 55 percent to 45 percent, with about 133,000 votes cast and all precincts reporting.

Airbnb raised more than $8 million to oppose Proposition F and put up a series of controversial billboards that touted the $12 million the company has generated in city hotel tax revenue. Supporters of the measure raised about $800,000.

Voters easily gave Mayor Ed Lee a second term after he faced scant opposition, and threw out Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after one term. Several other housing-related measures were also on the ballot in a city where the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $4,000.

But it was the so-called Airbnb measure that generated wide interest beyond the city as well as fierce debate among local residents. On Monday, protesters in support of the measure stormed the Brannan Street headquarters of Airbnb.

The measure would have capped rentals to 75 days a year, whether or not they are hosted (meaning that the resident is at home during the renter’s stay). Current city law limits rentals to 90 days a year for unhosted rentals, while hosted rentals face no such limit.

Proposition F would also have allowed “interested parties” such as neighbors or landlords to sue short-term rental companies such as VRBO and Airbnb if they violate the new rules.
The tsunami of anti-Proposition F cash dwarfed the war chest of supporters.

That gap in funding was “maybe the thing that most convinced me” to support the measure,” said Michael Reiner, 24, an advertising industry freelancer who has lived in San Francisco for two years. “It just seems that we need to keep big corporations in check.”

But opponents blasted the ballot initiative as a poorly crafted scapegoat for concerns about a housing crisis whose roots are deeper than the recent arrival of short-term rental platforms.
The measure “disingenuously asserts (that) it addresses the housing crisis, said Patrick Hannan, campaign manager for No on Proposition F. “Thousands of apartments will not suddenly become available.”

Some voters agreed, with the battle lines in some cases drawn between landlords and tenants.

Russian Hill resident Gary Hermansen, 59, rents his property to long-term tenants, but has in the past listed a unit on VRBO, which would also be subject to the new law. He voted against Proposition F, calling the idea “hollow.”

“Everyone loves using Airbnb, and they’ll say they always use Airbnb no matter where they go — as long as it’s not in their neighborhood,” he said.

Mirkarimi, who has been sheriff since 2012, was defeated by former chief deputy sheriff Vicki Hennessy by a wide margin.

Mirkarimi’s tenure was dogged by controversy, beginning with a New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident involving his wife that prompted a city ethics investigation. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of domestic violence but the Board of Supervisors voted to keep him in office.

Mirkarimi faced criticism after Kathryn Steinle was killed along the city’s waterfront, allegedly by a Mexican citizen who was in the U.S. without legal authorization and had been deported several times.

A union representing sheriff’s deputies blamed Mirkarimi for implementing a policy that limited communication between the Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The union endorsed Hennessy in Tuesday’s election.

Among other housing-related ballot measures, Proposition I — which would place a moratorium on market-rate housing development in the Mission District for at least 18 months — lost by 57 percent to 43 percent.

Proposition A, a $310-million affordable housing bond backed by Lee, was approved with about 73 percent of the vote. The measure needed a two-thirds majority for passage.
___
(Hamilton reported from Los Angeles, Romney from San Francisco.)

Photo: Even in San Francisco’s Chinatown, apartments are hard to find. Jessie Leong/Flickr

Many Travelers Going The Airbnb Route

By Virginia Linn, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

Forty million guests, 34,000 cities, 1,400 castles and 190 countries.

These are the latest stats for Airbnb, the home-sharing lodging site founded in 2008 that now has 1.5 million listings worldwide. It looks like the $25 billion service is here to stay, at least until something more innovative comes along to provide alternatives to the traditional hotel industry.

For many travelers — and not just those in their 20’s and 30’s — Airbnb is providing more choices, particularly in expensive cities or communities where there is a dearth of affordable hotel rooms. And now the service is reaching out to business travelers to make it easier for them to find homelike accommodations while on the road.

I’ve stayed in five Airbnbs — from Providence, R.I., to Orlando, Fla., to New York City to Paris and Berlin — and for the most part the experiences have been positive. I welcomed the chance for short-term stays in full apartments with family or friends instead of cramped, overpriced hotel rooms.

That’s not to say the service hasn’t had its horror stories. In July, a 19-year-old Massachusetts man reported he was held captive and sexually molested by his Airbnb host in Madrid. And websites such as airbnbhell.com, Trustpilot and Quora abound with stories of absent hosts, last-minute cancellations, filthy rooms, apartment doors that don’t lock and profile descriptions that misrepresent the place. On the flip side, hosts have found their homes wrecked by disruptive guests or personal items stolen.

The New York full apartment we booked had a great location near Times Square and its room photos depicted the place fairly accurately (it was clean and had strong Wi-Fi). Yet our stay was disrupted by a ridiculously loud party in an apartment next door. The pounding music didn’t end until 3:30 a.m.

In Berlin in August, we loved our large, two-bedroom apartment, which was airy and modern and just footsteps from a U-Bahn stop. What the profile didn’t mention was that it overlooked a cemetery. That didn’t bother us, but it could have spooked others.

Guests can have bad experiences in hotels, too. I’ve stayed in a pricey boutique hotel in New York City that was infested with bedbugs and a historic resort in Central Pennsylvania that charged 5-star prices but delivered 2-star service.

Clearly you’ve got to be an intrepid traveler to give Airbnb a go. My twenty-something kids are frequent users and haven’t yet had any problems, but I always hold my breath when I click the button to book a place.

I do get a thrill when it turns out to be a gem. I was delighted with the breakfast of homemade granola, yogurt, fruit and French-press coffee that my host prepared each morning during my stay near Orlando. She had a lovely designer’s home full of modern artwork, and I had a whole wing of the house to myself. She and her Scottish husband, empty-nesters, opened up their home to Airbnb travelers because they loved meeting interesting people and had hosted guests from New Zealand to Nova Scotia. It was $77 a night (plus cleaning and booking fees) instead of the $240 I would have paid for a hotel in the same neighborhood.

Then there was the owner of our lovely and meticulously clean Paris apartment this past August, who spent a half-hour explaining the neighborhood and all the local sites. He even arranged a cab for us for our early-morning departure the day we left.

I first tried Airbnb in Providence a couple of years ago to visit my children at college. Even the cheapest hotel room — with fees and taxes — tops $200 a night.

I found a place for $70 a night, a bedroom with private half-bath in a duplex along a 1.6-mile linear park perfect for my morning jogs. The owner was a doctor who quit after two years to study art; her husband was a composer. They made me feel welcome and the stay overall was what I needed — affordable and where I wanted it.

An important caution is that Airbnb does not do background checks on hosts or guests. This can pose a risk for both parties. Airbnb did not make any official available for comment or questions, but on its website the company believes it has put in place checks and balances in the form of reviews and verified ID and customer profiles.

Like other sites in the sharing economy, guests rate the host and the host rates the guest. A writer for Business Insider recently complained that because the reviews are not anonymous, guests would feel pressured to write just positive reviews because they feared they might be rejected by future hosts.

Indeed, a spot check of reviews of Airbnb bookings shows mostly glowing descriptions. “The property was exactly as described and in the pictures.” “Gorgeous apartment, even better than description.” “Lovely place, would stay again!”

In explaining its review policy, Airbnb writes: “Our community is built on trust, and trust comes from honest conversation. Therefore, we ask for reviews that are truthful, clear and helpful to both the review’s recipient and the wider Airbnb community. … We strongly discourage personal insults, opinion that’s not backed up by examples, or generally unsociable behavior.”

It doesn’t censor, but “we may take the extraordinary step of disallowing or removing reviews or review responses. We reserve the right to remove reviews that violate review guidelines.”

In July 2014, Airbnb made a change to its review policy, in which reviews are revealed to the hosts and guests simultaneously. It also offers a place for private messages so guests can share concerns about their stay.

——

(c)2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Kate and Nik Stoltzfus, shown in July 2014, are among the hundreds of Pittsburghers who use Airbnb to rent out rooms, apartments or homes. They rent out a mother-in-law apartment in Garfield and screen potential guests carefully. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

How To Use Airbnb Safely

By George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog.com (TNS)

The well-publicized Airbnb horror story of a young man who says he was held captive and sexually molested by his host in Spain this past July raises the question of how to use the popular site safely.

As was widely reported by The New York Times, on NBC’s Today show, and elsewhere, Jacob Lopez, 19, from Massachusetts, was staying with his host in Madrid when he was locked in his room from the outside. The host then “pressed him into a sexual act,” according to the Times, although the host denies this.

But the worst part was Airbnb’s response. The company refused to give Lopez’s mother the host’s address or to call police (the host had shut off his Internet access, so he was unable to contact her).

Things happen in hotels, too, but Airbnb guests need to realize that they will never have the same safety net that hotel guests have. It’s a chance they take in exchange for saving money. The same applies to home rentals and exchanges.

And although the thousands of guests who use the popular website each day enjoy their experience, this has hardly been the first sensational report of Airbnb stays gone horribly wrong — everything from guests claiming they were drugged by hosts to guests being attacked by a host’s dog. There have been instances of fraud (hosts listing apartments without the right to do so).

Airbnb does not do background checks on hosts (or on their pets for that matter). It does not require even rudimentary safety devices, such as smoke detectors and fire alarms (much less the automatic sprinkler systems found in many modern hotels), or bedroom doors that lock from the inside, in the accommodations it lists. There is no front desk to call if there’s an emergency, nor are there safe deposit boxes or room safes for guests to store valuables. In short, most of the regulations and safety norms that guests have become accustomed to, even in the most rudimentary hotels, are lacking.

What Airbnb Should Be Doing

The company is making enormous profits and is valued at $25 billion. They can well afford to begin doing thorough background checks on hosts. Perhaps hosts who have gone through such checks could be listed as such.

Airbnb suggests that hosts have working smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, but doesn’t require them or check to see if they are in place and functioning. Again, the company should at least do spot checks. Same thing for “clearly marked fire escape routes,” which the company suggests that hosts provide, but doesn’t require.

If something goes wrong with your stay _ malfunctioning air conditioning or heat, for example – it’s difficult to get compensation or switch to another accommodation. In a hotel, it’s fairly easy to march down to the front desk and insist that something get fixed, and if it isn’t fixed most hotels will at least adjust your bill or refund that night’s stay.

Steps You Should Take To Protect Yourself

  • Talk to your host extensively before you arrive. It’s just like online dating: if you get a queasy feeling, back out. Ask questions. This isn’t foolproof but it is essential.
  • Do due diligence. Is this rental legal? You don’t want to get a knock on the door from the building’s management saying you have to leave or learn that the person you gave your money to had no right to rent the unit.
  • Stay with hosts that your friends or acquaintances have stayed with previously. Don’t rent “blind.”
  • If possible, choose to rent accommodations where the host will not be sharing with you (Airbnb rents both types _ sharing with the host and staying on your own).
  • Before you arrive, get the local emergency numbers for police, fire and ambulance services and know how to use your mobile phone to reach them. Make sure your mobile phone works where you’re staying.
  • Tell friends, family or another responsible party where you’ll be staying. Ask them to check in with you by text or phone.
  • Ask if the room you’ll be occupying can lock from the inside, and check to see that it cannot be locked from the outside.
  • Ask if your host has working smoke detectors. Don’t be afraid to test them.
  • I think Airbnb is still learning, after all these years, what it takes to keep guests safe but the company needs to put safety over profits and their stock price. 
  • (George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com.)

(c)2015 Airfarewatchdog.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.