Accessible Travel; The virtual experience with Airbnb

London Bridge in London

If there’s one thing to have come out of the situation in which the world found itself in 2020, its innovation. Companies that for years had been saying employees couldn’t work from home, found a way to get them working from home. Business changed and evolved their business model in order to survive, and sometimes even thrive.

Perhaps the industry one of the hardest hit was the travel and tourism industry, leaving not only travelers the world over unable to get their fix, but people working in the tourism space potentially without income. The travel industry may never be quite the same again.

Enter innovation.

While experiences have been a feature of Airbnb for some time, there’s been a recent expansion that irregular users may not have spotted that takes armchair travelling into a whole different league.

Online travel experiences.

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Check out the full list of Airbnb online experiences.

 

What is the Airbnb Online Experience?

I have undertaken a couple of Airbnb experiences on my travels. It’s a great way to get a locals view of a place that’s perhaps less touristy than a larger organised tour.

The city of Los Angeles from the wilderness of Griffith Park
A hiking experience I took in LA

Of course with travel and interaction restrictions during 2020, not only have experiences had to cease, so have all the usual tours. Instead, people have got creative and figured out how they can deliver an experience differently, through a virtual format.

 

What can you do as an Online Experience?

Just about everything you could think of!

  • Broadway shows
  • Dance lessons
  • Music performances
  • Magic lessons
  • Coffee or wine tasting
  • Cooking classes for just about any cuisine
  • Cooking classes with Michelin star chefs
  • Cocktail classes
  • Language classes
  • Historical and cultural tours.

Every time I look I find something else that I add to my list to try.

You can even find people running game nights, great for a group of friends or to challenge the family.

 

What do you need for an Online Experience?

You will need to have an Airbnb account you can register through, as well as an internet connection and a device. The online experiences are conducted through Zoom, so you’ll need this preloaded on your device.

Some experiences are practical and will require you to have certain things on hand, such as ingredients. This will be stipulated in the information or in a follow up message.

 

Why you should try Airbnb Online Experiences

  • You’re supporting people who may not have an alternative source of income at the present time. These aren’t big corporations.
  • With the click of a button you can be experiencing a place on the other side of the world, at a fraction of the cost.
  • Stories and experiences of locals in real time, with the ability to interact, unlike pre-recorded tours.
  • Some experiences are absolute bargains. From time to time you can even find a free one!
  • See different parts of the world, from your own home, in your pyjamas if you so choose! Its the ultimate in armchair travel!
  • If you’re stuck at home an online experience is better than watching television! Get a group together for a ‘night out’ on one of the games night experiences.
  • With a little planning you can share an online experience with a friend on the other side of the world!
  • Supplement the online learning for the kids with some history experiences.

It’s not quite the same as being there, granted, but some hosts have gone to a great deal of effort to make the experience as close to a live one as possible. I hope that the online experiences are here to stay, as they make the world more accessible to those unable to travel, for whatever reason.

Perhaps betraying just how much I am missing travel, I seized upon these as an opportunity. Since I’ve discovered these virtual experiences I must say I’ve become a little addicted, and have been madly collating the ones that fit within my waking hours in the Australian timezone. I’m not so keen as to be getting up in the middle of the night…not yet anyway.

So here’s some of the experiences I have personally tried and recommend.

 

My Favourite Online Experiences

 

Experiences for hobby photographers

Secret Phone Tricks

These days most of us have a pretty whizbang camera in our pocket with the advancement of Smartphone technology. Like most people, I don’t carry my camera on me all the time, but I’m rarely far from my phone, so I’m always on the lookout for tips on making the best use of the technology.

Jonathan is a professional photographer based in Barcelona who has studied arts and photography and won prestigious prizes for his work. He has some great tips and tricks for technique and composition, including tricks for how to get great photos in busy tourist locations, without your image being filled with other people. I took a number of tips away that I will definitely make use of.

Best of all, Jonathan is just passionate about sharing his knowledge so his experience is about as cheap as they come. I would recommend this one to everyone who simply enjoys taking photos!

Host: Jonathan

Location: Barcelona

Language: English

Duration: one hour

Cost: Prices start at just AU$0, prices will vary across times

Book your Secret Phone Tricks today

 

Experiences for coffee lovers

Beans from every stage of the life cycle of coffee at Filadelfia plantation, Guatemala
The evolution of coffee

Coffee Masterclass

This was the first online experience I tried, not only because I love coffee but because it happened to be the first one that fit with times after I discovered it! I was able to plan this for my Saturday morning coffee.

Ricardo and Christian are National Coffee judges and chemical engineers, so they are uniquely qualified to judge the components of a good cup of coffee. They live in Mexico City not far from Frida Kahlo’s blue house.

What I really enjoyed about this virtual experience was that it is very sensory. When you book you’ll receive a list of items to have at the ready and you’ll be guided through a taste test to explain what are the elements that go into coffee. You finish up with the recipe for the perfect cup of coffee and enjoy it with your host!

Mexico City from the grounds of Chapultepec Castle
Mexico City from Chapultepec Castle

Host: Ricardo and Christian

Location: Mexico City

Language: English and Spanish, be sure to check which language you are booking

Duration: one hour

Cost: Prices start at AU$9, prices will vary across times

Book your Coffee Masterclass today

 

Experiences for movie buffs and Harry Potter fans

Hogwarts replica at Harry Potters Wizarding World at Universal Studios, LA
Hogwarts at Harry Potter Wizarding World

Harry Potter London Secrets

Sure to appeal to any fan of the Harry Potter films, Mark has done an amazing job of transforming his walking tour into an online experience format for the armchair travellers, integrating movie footage, photos, video footage and computer effects to create a great virtual experience. Taking guests through the sites of London that are used in the films, Mark explains how locations were used and filmed and is full of interesting facts.

Mark engages and encourages participation just as if it were a face to face tour and makes this a really enjoyable experience for you or the Potterhead in your life.

Host: Mark

Location: London

Language: English

Duration: Ninety minutes

Cost: Prices start at AU$11, prices will vary across times

Book Harry Potter London Secrets today

 

Harry Potter Magic in Edinburgh

This virtual experience drew me in straight away, not just because I’m a Harry Potter fan, but because Scotland was planned to be my big trip this year. Wistful for what might have been this seemed like a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the capital city.

While fans of the movies will enjoy this virtual experience, I found the true appeal to be for lovers of the books. JK Rowling wrote most of the first two and the final book in Edinburgh, and it was fascinating to see the places that featured or inspired her descriptions of locations in the books, as well as hear stories from her childhood of the people who became characters in the novels David takes you on a virtual stroll around the local graveyard where they rest.

There was a family with young kids on this experience with me, and David did a great job of making sure the kids could be involved and have fun.

Image of JK Rowling's hand's in cement in Edinburgh
JK Rowling’s hands outside the Edinburgh City Chambers

Host: David

Location: Edinburgh

Language: English

Duration: One hour

Cost: Prices start at AU$9, prices will vary across times

Book Harry Potter Magic in Edinburgh today

 

Experiences for lovers of true crime

 

Jack the Ripper East London in 1888

This virtual experience was actually recommended to me by Mark from the Harry Potter tour, and it didn’t disappoint! Let me say first up though this is not one for the kiddies!

Jamie is a great storyteller and clearly very passionate about his subject material. While not the most prolific of serial killers in history in terms of body count, Jack the Ripper is probably one of the best known. Perhaps due to the mystery of his identity remaining unsolved to this day.

Jamie instead focuses on the identity of the Rippers victims, ensuring their stories are known, and shares the details of the crimes and the clues that may indicate his identity. Some of the experience will feature graphic description and crime scene photo’s, so this is not one for the squeamish.

Jamie was hugely giving of his time and more than happy to stay after the experience to answer any questions, including his theories on the Ripper’s identity.

Host: Jamie

Location: London

Language: English

Duration: Ninety minutes

Cost: Prices start at AU$12, prices will vary across times

Book your Jack the Ripper experience today

 

London Bridge in London
London Bridge has a gruesome history

London’s Gruesome Stories Online

If you thought London’s gruesome past is all about Jack the Ripper, you would be sorely mistaken.

Join this tour to hear tales of decapitated heads garnishing London Bridge, the true story of Guy Fawkes and a forgotten mass plague grave under the very streets of the city.

Dominic has a great knowledge and clear interest in his subject matter, and tells his stories wonderfully and engages with participants. Again this is not one for the kiddies!

While it will touch on Jack the Ripper and have some overlap with that experience, it is only a small portion. Dominic is also more than happy to stay and answer questions after the conclusion of the virtual experience.

The River Thames as seen from the London Eye
The River Thames also features prominently in some gruesome tales

Host: Dominic

Location: London

Language: English

Duration: One hour

Cost: Prices start at AU$12, prices will vary across times

Book London’s Gruesome Stories today

 

Experiences for lovers of history

 

Pompeii with an Archaeologist: Love and Eros

Since I studied the ancient city of Pompeii in primary school I have found it a fascinating and sad tale of a city frozen in time.

Over the course of 48 hours in 79AD, Italy’s Mount Vesuvius spewed forth ash and debris, burying Pompeii and several other nearby cities and preserving it within the ash. Pompeii is an ongoing archaeological site today.

This virtual experience will appeal to those with an interest in history, but also in art, with a focus on the paintings that have been uncovered throughout the city and also what they know of love and sexuality from that time.

I sadly didn’t get to visit this region of Italy on my trip there, so I loved seeing how astonishingly well the city has been preserved, even down to graffiti on the walls, while walking through the site with Gulia. This experience is with Archaeologists who actually work on the site so their experience is first hand!

This virtual experience is not for children due to the adult content discussed.

 

Host: Emiliano and Gulia

Location: Italy

Language: English

Duration: One hour

Cost: Prices start at AU$13, prices will vary across times

Book Pompeii with an Archaeologist today

 

Follow a Plague Doctor through Prague

 

Statue of John of Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge in Prague, a priest holding a crucific and haloed by 5 stars

You’ll hear the story of this priest on your experience

Inspired by the book by plague doctor Alexander Schamsky, this is a well constructed and unique experience.

Using recorded footage, you’ll be guided through the deserted streets of the stunning city of Prague. Undergoing your training as a Plague Doctor, you’ll learn about what life was like in the time of the Black Death, what they knew of the disease, and what resources they had at their disposal to deal with it. Interwoven with stories from the history of Prague as you are taken to notable landmarks of the city, this experience is about as close as you can get to being there, from the comfort of your own home.

Statue of Saints John of Matha, Felz of Valois and Ivan on the Charles Bridge Prague
Statue of Saints John of Matha, Feliz of Valois and Ivan on the Charles Bridge in Prague

Host: Lucie and David, though the experience may be hosted by a member of their wider group

Location: Prague

Language: English

Duration: Ninety minutes

Cost: Prices start at AU$25, prices will vary across times

Book Follow a Plague Doctor through Prague today

 

Saigon History A Bittersweet Ending

While it might fall into the history category, and it certainly fits, this is also an experience that will appeal to those interested in the Vietnamese culture. Hieu and Spring have filmed through Saigon and narrate the nuances of the culture and social norms as they go. It’s an interesting insight from the perspective of a local resident into a different way of life and the real grit of their city, not a tourist facade. As a former student of the Vietnam war, I was particularly interested in the footage of an old bunker under a cafe in the city.

They also talk quite a lot about the Vietnamese coffee, how it is made and served, so this will also appeal to the coffee lovers.

Hieu and Spring are a lovely couple and their English is very good. They were more than happy to give their time to answer questions after the virtual experience. This one is fine for the kids, but I can’t imagine it would hold the attention of the younger ones for too long.

 

Host: Hieu and Spring

Location: Vietnam

Language: English

Duration: One hour

Cost: Prices start at AU$10, prices will vary across times

Book Saigon History…A Bittersweet Ending today

 

I hope you enjoyed this selection of virtual experiences with Airbnb and give some of them a go. I’m going to keep searching for great experiences so keep on checking back for my recommendations of the ones I’ve tried!

While I have been selecting experiences that fit within my timezone specifically, all of these tours offer a number of times to cater to different timezones.

If you loved this please share!

Airbnb has made experiencing the rest of the world accessible with their online virtual experiences! Check out this list of the experiences you should try!

Airbnb has made experiencing the rest of the world accessible with their online virtual experiences! Check out this list of the experiences you should try!

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6 thoughts on “Accessible Travel; The virtual experience with Airbnb”

  1. I love this idea & have never heard of it before! I especially like the phone tips one. What an innovative idea. Thanks for sharing & also a great way to support these hosts until things find their new “normal”

  2. Great experiences, I’ve been looking at some of these Airbnb ones but haven’t booked one yet. Maybe I should. I did the Jack the Ripper tour when I was in London and it was really good, but would like to see Pompeii

  3. These online experiences sound really fun! I Love the idea of Harry Porter themed tours and Prague doctor. I had no idea Airbnb offered these tours. And they cost next to nothing. Will be fun to do a few tours now and when you do find yourself in those cities, you’ll know more about them and see some of these places for yourself.

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