Everything You Need to Know About Airbnb's New Adventures
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There's nothing wrong with tanning on a beach or hitting the theme parks with your family, but once in a while it can be fun to mix things up with a little adventure. And no, that doesn't necessarily mean bungee jumping off a cliff.
Adventure is a broad term. But it can boil down to something as simple as trying a new recipe, meeting people you otherwise never would, and keeping an open mind.
This month, Airbnb launched Airbnb Adventures — a new adventure tourism platform that the vacation rental company hopes will become a one-stop booking site for travelers. Instead of reserving an Airbnb and a travel experience separately, you can do it all on the Adventures site. These overnight and multiday excursions range in price from $79 single-night stays to $5,000, 10-day treks.
Not All Adventures Are High-Energy
During a recent media preview, I experienced one of the "adventures" for myself. Only a couple of hours outside New York City, two Anabaptist farmers from Indiana replicated their "Amish Country Farm Stay" for a dozen journalists.
We learned to cut and bind leather journals, and to make our own fresh strawberry jam. Will and Jewel Johnson taught us about their simple Anabaptist life and expressed their excitement to teach future Airbnb guests how to harvest fresh food, preserve ingredients, cook and more.
This adventure — which was pretty mild on the "adventure" scale — could be perfect for a family with younger kids, who can play with the Johnsons' children, or an urban couple seeking quiet activities that may be difficult to find in a city.
Later in the day, another host, Matt Prindle, led us on a nature walk while we foraged and learned about the plants. When I saw this on our itinerary for the day, I was skeptical. As a city person, I'm not much of a "forager" unless it's looking for the perfect shady tree to lie under in Prospect Park. If it were not for Johnson's energy and knowledge, I probably would have been sleepwalking during the entire hike. I have honestly never met someone so passionate about nature. He even handpicked mushrooms and leaves for us to observe and sample (one plant tasted an awful lot like Skittles).
We ended the day by sitting around a campfire as Flight of Voices (a community of musicians) performed — a nod to Airbnb's overnight "Musical Camping" in the California desert adventure. The show featured five different musicians who were wonderful solo artists, but so moving and powerful as a group. Every performance is different, because there are more than 40 individual musicians who form the group. The actual adventure takes place near Joshua Tree National Park, so during the day, you can expect to hike and canoe. When evening falls, you can admire the stars as you listen to original melodies.
Neither of these adventures were the adrenaline-pumping, high-energy activities I would expect for something that dubs itself an adventure tour. But Airbnb Adventures encompasses a wide range of activities (they're divided into categories like culinary, active and cultural, among others), so you can find something that suits your interests.
And Some Are Downright Wild
To celebrate the launch of Airbnb Adventures, for example, the brand introduced a worldwide journey: Around the World in 80 Days, based on the Jules Verne classic novel of the same name and the adventures of his main character, Phileas Fogg. The trip will begin and end in London — just like in the novel. It will take travelers to 18 different countries spread across six continents — all for $5,000.
Some activities include hunting for the elusive Northern Lights, sailing down the Nile River, meeting elephant singers in Nairobi and chatting with "Dracula experts" in Transylvania. The 80-day journey will take participants to the United Kingdom, Romania, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Jordan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the US, Ecuador, Chile and Iceland.
Airbnb Adventures include all meals, lodging and activities — but you will be responsible for booking your own flights.
So, Why Airbnb?
There are already plenty of adventure tourism companies, so Airbnb Adventures isn't new in that sense. But Airbnb is taking a different approach to the concept. The travel company wants to make adventure tourism — often considered risky experiences like skydiving or bungee jumping — as accessible as possible. Most of the hosts are also exclusive to Airbnb and have already been using the company for lodging or for their own personal use. Hosts are either local residents or experts from the area, as Airbnb wants to give customers the most authentic experience possible.
"With Adventures, we're taking people to destinations that they might not have even imagined going to and allowing them to experience those destinations through the eyes of a really interesting local person," Caroline Boone, head of Adventures at Airbnb, told The Points Guy.
Airbnb Adventures currently has more than 200 adventure options spread across six different continents, so the decision is yours. You might book a three-day luxury camping trip in Wyoming, or you might opt for something less expected, like learning to surf and practice yoga in the United Kingdom. If you want to channel your wild side and are looking for a more typical "adventure" trip, dive with sharks and meet penguins in South Africa or try a nine-day Amazon jungle trek.
Are the Adventures Safe?
Many travelers expressed concerns about safety following the announcement about Airbnb Adventures. So, first of all, be mindful of your skill level and abilities when choosing a trip.
In terms of the hosts, Airbnb handpicked their first adventures and did not open applications for people to apply. An application process will open soon for future hosts, but it won't be as simple as a quick background check. Airbnb will look at applications and rank them based on expertise, connections and insider access. Leaders from Airbnb have also been trying out experiences themselves.
“We looked for hosts on the ground who had a tremendous level of expertise but who also had a really unique story to tell," Boone said.
If you choose an Adventure, most hosts will have their own insurance plan and Airbnb also has its own protection of liability insurance up to $1 million, in the event something does go awry.
As for guests, Airbnb partners with International SOS to provide medical assistance in emergency situations. All hosts leading Adventures must prove they have the appropriate skills, certifications and first aid and CPR training or access to medical services relevant to that activity.
How to Book
Unfortunately, Airbnb — despite expanding from standard vacation rentals to luxe properties, experiences and adventures — still does not have a loyalty program. With Adventures, all meals, lodging and activities are folded into one purchase. For instance, a three-day walk with elephants in Chiang Mai is $435 per person and includes transportation (except for airfare), food, accommodations, equipment and a local guide who knows the area. If you decide to book, use a credit card that gets you a high return on travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel).
Featured Photo courtesy of Airbnb