So, What’s Airbnb?

Every now & then, a new phenomenon catches the world’s attention. If it is a fad,it dies down naturally. Else, it goes on to create history. Airbnb, to us,falls in the second category. We had been reading & hearing about Airbnb but our inhibitions were preventing us from trying it out. Will a stranger’s house be clean & hygienic? Will it be safe? But then came a time when we were unable to get a hotel for our travel. After exhausting all the hotel options on TripAdvisor (our love for TA needs to be another blog post), we perforce switched to Airbnb. We chanced upon a two-bedroom cottage in our destination.Looked pretty & reasonably-priced too. The questions still nagged our minds but we went ahead & booked. & that was a life-changing decision for us…

shepherd, hut, host, family, homemade, food
At the shepherd’s hut, we sat with our host’s family to have homemade food!

Since then, we have stayed in four Airbnb accommodations – a cottage in the Himalayas, a villa in Bali, a flat on the Indian west coast & a shepherd’s hut in the Himalayan foothills. There was no reason for us to dislike any of these. While the cottage was a little away from the town center, it had an incredibly homely feel. The villa in Bali, of course, was outstanding. The flat on the west coast was like a regular apartment but you could see the Arabian Sea from there. & the shepherd’s hut gave us a chance to interact with his family & understand their customs. In all of these, there was the owner/ a caretaker to help us with food.

So, for the uninitiated, Airbnb aggregates bed & breakfast services across the world, & in every possible price range. From the backpackers’ hostel to the luxury travelers’ state-of-the-art mansion, Airbnb has got it all.

A cottage in the Himalayas – Our first AirBnB experience – A winner!

You can choose to have the entire place to yourself. Or you can have a private room but share the common space. Or you can stay in a shared space, like a common room. We have, till now, only chosen accommodations where we had the entire place to ourselves.

So, Airbnb is cheap. Hold on! What? Please do not have this notion. A few Airbnb accommodations can cost as much as a five-star hotel. We did a sample search for a not-very-touristy destination, Gwalior. The available options, for four adults, ranged from INR 900 per night to INR 6,000 per night. But what works in the favor of Airbnb is that the more people you are & the longer you stay,the cheaper the options become.

Apartment, Indian West Coast, Arabian Sea
An apartment on the Indian West Coast – Spotting the Arabian Sea in the distance

We also like their security features. The hosts are verified & so are the guests. We had to upload our photograph & a photo id. We could book the accommodation only if the two matched. It gave us some comfort that there may not be a psychopath on the other side.

What must be remembered – it is not a hotel. So, do not expect 24*7 service or‘tandoori’ food or room service etc. Think of it as staying in someone’s house.

So,go ahead, create an account & book. Do not forget to share your experience with us.

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OUR MAGIC MOMENTS PRESERVED

We don’t really remember what prompted us to try Zoomin in the first place. In 2009, we created & ordered our first product – a t-shirt!

That started our love affair with this online photo service provider. Over the years, Zoomin has made even our ordinary photographs look excellent in print.

We have tried almost every product it launched – Photo Books, Canvases, Posters, Mugs, Magnets, & even a notebook!

A Lay Flat Photo Book with our photos from the Chamba District trip
A Lay Flat Photo Book to preserve our Chamba memories

Anyone who loves their photos will know the nightmare called ‘Crashing of The Hard Disk’. Sure, there is Facebook & Instagram, but what if, tomorrow, you wish to quit social media?

There are also many who prefer to flip through albums, either by choice or due to limitations (e.g. the elderly who aren’t technologically-savvy). For each of these scenarios, Zoomin comes as a savior.

So, what do we love about Zoomin?

We visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan & stored it in a Flip Book!
  • Speed – At times, we have placed an order in the morning & received the product the next evening! Perhaps, with their business growing, they may be unable to maintain such a turnaround time, but it is still better than many traditional eCommerce websites.
  • Creation Ease – You sign up on the Zoomin website, upload photographs into an album on the portal, choose the product & theme, place your photos into templates, write your captions & voila! You are done.

There are many optional effects & features available, but if you are like us, you would prefer to keep it natural.

A Photo Book for the time we spent lazing in the jungles & the mountains!

We tried Canva, another leading photograph printing website recently & gave up within 10 minutes due to the navigation difficulty.

  • New Designs/ Products ALL THE TIME – Zoomin is one of those companies that continuously evolve. It is always coming up with new designs & products.

Since October, Zoomin has been bringing new Easy Book covers based on monthly themes. These covers are designed by doodle artists & sourced designers. For November, Zoomin has festive covers. We cannot wait to get our hands on the new theme-based Easy Books.

Zoomin has recently introduced Decorative Clips to go with Square Prints. We think these look chic. And for those who like to dirty their hands, it has come up with a DIY Photo Display Kit.

Tripping on these Clips!(Image courtesy Zoomin)

Zoomin is launching Felt Boards & Calendars in Square Prints size with new designs by November – end. Hats off to their design & product teams!

So then, what should you try on Zoomin?

  • Photo Books – Our absolute favorite! A Photo Book is an album that you can create for your trips or for an occasion or even as mixed bag of memories. The high-quality paper gives a glossy look to the photos.
Our Sikkim Book!

Photo Books are available as Flip Book, Hardcover & Lay Flat. Prices begin at INR 329 which, in our humble opinion, is value for money.

  • Canvases – We recently tried this & are hooked for life. You can create wall art using your own photographs. They come printed on quality canvas material & already mounted. You can hang them up as soon as they arrive; no hassle of framing.

Our travel photos turned out to be even more beautiful when canvas printed.

Goa, Hawaii & London on our wall!

The newest Zoomin offering is Square Prints. When we were approached to try these out, we could not say no. A set of 12 photographs, looking like Polaroids, arrived promptly in our mail. To put these up, we chose a vertical magnetic rope. (The other choices were horizontal magnetic rope & washi tapes.)

We were super impressed with the Prints. Made on top quality stock paper with a wonderful finish, the Square Prints breathe life into the photos.

The Masai Mara wildlife on our Square Prints
Our Travel Wall looks Solid!

We cannot say the same about the magnetic rope. The Square Prints are on a thick paper & too strong to be held in place by tiny magnets. Also, we felt the magnetic rope is child & household help unfriendly. Perhaps, washi tapes would have been better.

Three boxes full of albums covering our travels & important memories, & we still haven’t got enough. Zoomin is one service we fully vouch for. Convert those memories to keepsakes right away!

Remembering our West Coast road trip!

(P.S. Did we mention Zoomin has good deals going on throughout the year.)