Book your winter travel for less
There's nothing like a string of rainy, dreary days that makes me want to hop on a plane and escape to a land filled with sunshine.
But then, my bank account doesn't always let me be so spontaneous. That fact has led me on the hunt for discounted airfare and housing, wherever I can find it.
For the last five years, no matter where I go, I book lodging through airbnb.com. While you can book an entire home through the site, it differs from many travel rental sites because you can often book just a room, or a private suite, in a house.
You'll often pay half the cost of a hotel room and have the benefit of a local's knowledge. Plus, you can stay in all sorts of homes - luxury treehouses, architectural gems and lofty city apartments, just to name a few.
A quick search around Auckland revealed rooms for as little as $80/night in areas such as Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. Should you desire an entire house, you and friends could rent one in St Heliers for as little as $175 - an entire house for less than the cost of a hotel room.
So what are some things to be careful of as you book?
Read the reviews. This is the best way to learn if the room or home is as described, if the host is helpful, if the location is what you would imagine it to be. Airbnb hosts rely on reviews for their bookings, so you should pay good attention to them.
Understand your location. When booking in a big city, you might not understand exact locations.
Research the spot on the map, and then talk to your host. Hosts will usually respond to any questions quickly. So if you need to know if the home is near a bus route or train, or within walking distance to other attractions, just ask.
Be certain when you book. There is a tight policy around refunds, depending on the host, so be certain when you commit to a spot.
Julie Navatsyk is communications manager at Christians Against Poverty