My First Stay at an Airbnb
In 6 weeks' time, Mr. Misadventures and I went from having stayed 0 nights in an Airbnb to 19 nights! I've had an account for quite a while and have visited the site to drool over many gorgeous properties, but never really considered staying.
The main reason is that my hubby and I have had long corporate careers with lots of business travel and hotel points. In the decades we've been together we have had so many Starwood nights for free that it would make your eyes roll!
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Opinions are always my own and I’ll never promote something I don’t use or believe in. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
But life is different now. We took an 18-month sabbatical (and therefore no business travel) in the RV. Mr. Misadventures is 100% out of corporate life and working in photography (how lucky he is!) and I've given up my corporate executive path for a more fulfilling role as a program manager.
I don't manage people or a budget, but rather a program and there isn't a lot of travel involved, even though in less than a year's time I have been back to San Francisco, to Barcelona, and to Orlando!
We used the last of our precious Starwood points in Paris in December the week between Christmas and New Year's and it turns out, we are kind of over it. With our low-carb lifestyle, our dynamic travel lifestyle, and the fact that as a remote contractor I have zero vacation time and when possible need to work while we are traveling, have shaped a need for a different type of accommodation where we can cook or picnic they way we want, and with space for me to work. Thus we turned to Airbnb.
We also decided to share an apartment for the first time as well. We had kept up and strengthened a relationship with RVing friends that we had met on the road and got along with. Over our many outings and dinners, we had spoken about our love for Paris and they had shared a desire to visit with us, so we decided why not share the cost of an apartment.
And away we went!
So our first Airbnb experience became 3. Upon returning from Paris we had 2 quick trips and decided to continue experimenting with this type of lodging. So you get a tripleheader of my thoughts on renting an Airbnb.
Paris Apartment in the Marais
Go big or go home right? Paris notoriously is risky for Airbnb. I've read so many horror stories online and in Facebook groups as well as seen reporting on the French news. But I study all the reviews for all the properties we considered and decided to pray to the gods that everything would be okay!
For our 2-week trip to Paris, we rented this 2-bedroom condo in the 3rd arrondissement. The location was sublime. Half a block away from a Monop grocery store. Half a block from a good bakery. Close to the metro and restaurants and markets. We really could not have asked for a better location.
It is important when selecting a place to stay that you are near a metro, so take that into consideration if you are planning to stay in an Airbnb (or other rental property) in Paris. Also, having lived in France I am familiar with French apartments/condos. Make sure you carefully review the number of rooms and study the photos.
We had a 2-bedroom to 2-bathroom condo with a kitchen, dining room, and salon. Quite a lot by Paris standards. Of course, only 1 of the 2 bedrooms was a “master” bedroom, so remember if you are renting with friends, think about how you are going to divvy them up, someone is going to get the short end of the stick.
On this particular trip, it was Mr. Misadventures and I. No big deal in that the bed was super comfortable and we had our own bathroom. Our room was just quite small, but we absolutely made do.
The one annoying thing was that our bathroom was very dark. There were 3 lights, but the only one that was functioning was the one over the toilet. We took a shower in the dark, which wasn't so bad. Our shower was a stand-up enclosed shower.
The shower head was attached to its stand with dental floss, not particularly cool, but it functioned with good water pressure. It was also dark over the sink. I didn't think it was such a big deal. That is until I started putting together photos for posts and I realized how dark my make-up is! I wear light make-up and I guess I could not get a good gauge of my makeup because all I see in the photos is how orange my face looks! Makeup misadventures!
There was wonderful natural light in the afternoon which was perfect. I was free in the mornings to enjoy Paris and started work at 1 pm. I worked on the dining table enjoying the spring weather and natural light. Wifi was perfect and I had only one occasion that the internet was down for about 5 minutes. In a 2-week period, that's pretty darn good!
We got our exercise being on the 4th floor (which is really 5 floors as level 1 is 0 in France) as there was no elevator (we knew that at the time of renting), but other than that coming and going into the condo was a breeze. Everything was very convenient to access.
Communication with our host prior to our trip was slow, but we got the information we needed ahead of time. The check-in and check-out processes were easy as the concierge for the building we were staying in was our liaison.
My only other complaint besides the lights in the bathroom was the kitchen. It was small, which is not unexpected in Paris, however, it wasn't very well furnished. In fact, the bathroom wasn't either. I wouldn't remark on that except for the fact that the hosts advertised the apartment as having “ALL IS PROVIDED LIKE IN FOUR STARS HOTEL.”
In reality that meant a single roll of toilet paper in each bathroom and 2 bottles of shampoo/shower gel that looked like they were taken from a hotel. There were no paper towels (I would have expected at least one roll), no salt and pepper, or a sponge. There was one pot and one pan. We bought all of those items plus dishwasher soap, a pot, a pan, olive oil, vinegar, and a salad mixer.
Honestly, I didn't expect much of the kitchen. I remember sitting in the airport in Indianapolis last June after having spent the weekend at BlogHouse with the first edition of the Airbnb magazine. I will always remember that edition because I was intrigued by an article written by Mark Bittman titled, “How to Cook in Other People’s Kitchens.”
In it, he talks about what he always brings with him to cook – tools, spices, etc. It stuck with me. When you are traveling internationally you can't really bring a whole bunch with you, but domestically there is an opportunity. This brings us to Airbnb #2.
Duplex in Cathedral Valley (Palm Springs)
The following weekend after returning from Paris we found ourselves heading to Palm Springs. Mr. Misadventures was registered for a workshop Monday – Wednesday, and I was going to work. We went the weekend ahead to do some exploring (blog post coming!). Given that I would be working remotely, and that I would need to feed myself for 3 days without a car, we decided staying in an Airbnb would be the best solution.
And it was. We rented this lovely duplex in Cathedral Valley. From a design perspective, we loved the aesthetics, the minimalist decor, and the thoughtfully selected furniture that not only looked good but felt great, along with being super functional. Every little detail was taken into account. Our host was kind, thoughtful and a very interesting person (a sculptor who had lived in Italy)!
The house was bigger than we needed, but the price was right so we went with it. We were up on the hillside and had a lovely view of the valley, it was very quiet which was great for work and the check-in and out process was very easy. Whatever misgivings I had about the generosity of our hosts in Paris were long forgotten after staying here. Our host even upgraded her wifi so that I wouldn't have any issues while working remotely!
The one thing that I did not like, and it is my hang-up, I'm sure not anyone else's is that we were in a duplex. The other half is the host's home. I know our hosts didn't pay attention to our comings and goings and I certainly didn't pay attention to hers, but there is something to be said about having your own autonomy, which is why I always filter on “entire place” in the Home Type. I'm not the kind of person to share a room, (and didn't really love sharing the condo in Paris) so the farther away from the owner/host the better in my book!
Overall, our experience in Palm Springs was exceptional.
Casita/Guesthouse in Tucson
Our original plan was to head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for Memorial Day weekend, but frankly, we started planning too late. Then we just sort of dropped the ball while we went to Paris and Palm Springs. So we decided way last minute to head back to Tucson and use it as a home base to visit some of the more remote areas of Southern Arizona.
We knew we would be packing food so we wanted accommodations with a kitchen so we headed back to Airbnb with the hopes that we could still find something given the holiday weekend. We lucked out and rented this casita, a straw bale house in Tucson.
The house had its own entrance in a back alley, it was a bit confusing to find at first, but a quick phone call to our host got us straightened out. It was our first experience with the “Self-check-in” feature and I loved it. The hosts have a code-based entry system to the house and it was awesome. So was the house, a totally adorable little studio that was completely charming and very Southwestern in terms of theme and aesthetic.
Like in Palm Springs, our hosts had thought of everything and there were plenty of amenities, local guides, magazines, books, and even a basketful of treats – it was lovely! The garden around the house was beautiful. The air-conditioning (remember we are talking Tucson) was powerful and easy to use, and the home theatre and wifi equipment were top-notch.
The only problem was that absolutely everything was uncomfortable! It looked good, but nothing was enjoyable. Not the kitchen chairs for the island, the sofa or chair in the living area, and especially not the bed. In reality, except for the bed, we weren't there a lot, but it would have been nice if we were there to have an enjoyable place to sit, eat and relax.
I'm sold on Airbnb! After 3 stays I am better armed to make my future stays more enjoyable. For the type of traveling and food lifestyle that Mr. Misdaventures and I like, this is the perfect arrangement for us. Like anything else, it isn't perfect, it's got its pros and cons, but we are now fans.
We are putting together an “Airbnb-kit” that we will bring with us if we are staying in a place we drive to. And a list of items to buy if we are traveling to a location. One thing I had to buy in all 3 locations was a sponge. 2 places didn't have one, and the 3rd I just preferred to use a new one.
I will look for Self-check-in places (although it won't preclude me from staying in one that isn't) and I will prioritize Super Hosts as well because they have been doing the hosting thing for a while and have great reputations.
How about you? Have you stayed in an Airbnb? Have any pro tips? Have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them based on my recent experiences!
Like it? PIN it!
My wife and I have not used Airbnb yet but we are looking at a trip back to the East coast. In my research I found that most places also charge a cleaning fee that seems to range from $40 to $150. It takes a few clicks on each property to find out those extra charges. The hidden charges are not a big deal if you stay week or or more, but if we stay only a few days then the Best Western looks pretty good.
Side note-We were pulling our 5th wheel up the Oregon coast at the same time that you guys were. We just seemed to hop scotch around each other. We were on the look out but never did see you!
Hi Bob, I agree with you on those cleaning fees and I should have included that in my post. I look at it too and won’t select a place with a crazy cleaning fee. And it’s true if you are only stay a day or two it may not always make financial sense!
I’ve used Air B&B twice and really like what a different kind of experience it is. You get to enjoy your destination in a slightly more “local” way than staying at a hotel. It’s also a great alternative to traditional lodging in more expensive places like LA.
I have never really thought about this. I have heard of the name but really did not know much about it. I don’t know if I would have gone out on that limb to stay in Paris. I am such a planner, the stress of the unknown would have had me a mess. I like to make things pretty solid and can admit I am not in a great mood when things do not go well. It sounds like an amazing experience in the other places. I will be taking a closer look because we travel a lot! We are also loaded with points but it does get old!
I have stayed once at a rental property instead of a hotel and LOVED it! Now this was before the term AirBnB was phrased but is there a difference? Between a private property rental and an AirBnB? Anyway now I am also curious about why it is risky to do this in Paris! I am glad however that overall you had a GREAT experience and will do it again!
Wow, you all really just dove right in. I’m glad to hear overall you had a great experience. I’ve used airbnb twice for academic conferences and had a stellar time. My hosts were veey accomodating ans gave me loads of tips. It was such a relief after having numerous hosts cancel on me.
We have used Air BnB in often. We spent a month in British Columbia and liked our 3 different places. We’ve stayed in the same one in Paris twice in the 15th. Close to a grocery and the metro, within walking distance to the Eiffle Tower. We too had poor lighting in the shower area – the toilet was in a separate place in the apartment. The most important thing to look at is the furniture in the bedroom and living room to make sure you will not be getting a pull out sofa bed. Also, read the appliances. Our friend stayed in one without a stove. We have stayed in Sarasota, Fl. and Idaho. We would recommend trying one.
I’ve stayed at plenty of Airbnb’s, and I honestly still have mixed feelings. Like you, I’m strictly an “entire place” kind of person. And I’ve had mostly fantastic experiences! If you don’t mind sharing space with friends (which I don’t), they can save a small fortune on accommodations. That said, they definitely have their drawbacks, most of which you mentioned. The one I’m hearing more and more about though, especially here in Italy (and particularly Venice), is that Airbnb’s are actually pricing local Venetians out of the city. In fact, there are signs posted warning tourists that Airbnb is partially to blame for destroying the cultural heritage there as younger generations move away. On the other hand, if the over-priced hotels were the only option, it would remain a playground for the rich. Which hardly seems fair. Sooo…. it’s just something to keep in mind. In Italy I’m really enjoying staying at agriturismos. If you get one with half or full board, possibly a swimming pool, and kind, local hosts, it’s the best of both worlds!
@Katie, there is the same issue in Paris (and I know in Spain as well). It is always because of abuse and people taking it too far. With the French it is always a tax issue as well – the French hate paying taxes and the French government is pretty good at extracting. So many people have illegal places – meaning not registered so they pay tax! Also, they limit the number of nights so I have seen cases (and even experienced once) where a place will rent to you but then cancel or withdraw because they went over their limit. While we were in Palm Springs there was a measure on their ballot to ban vacation rentals but it was rejected (MEasure C, June 10) – their issue has a lot more to do with people having wild parties. I’ve heard stories of loud tourists in residential buildings in Paris as well. It is the people who can’t behave themselves that ruin it for everyone. I think people also view their home super subjectively and within their own frame of reference. The Paris condo we rented was nice, but in the owner’s mind she offered 4-star amenities (because they probably were in her mind, 4 stars) but to me, they were not. It is always going to be hit or miss, what is great for some is not for others!
Hi Andi, I haven’t stayed in a vacation rental property but do own one on a golf course. I have studied the market and VRs are so popular that the industry is $18B and expected to surpass the size of the hotel market by 2022.
Below is a link that shows you all the vacation rental websites and what they charge people to stay there. It doesn’t include cleaning fees.
I suggest once renters find the ideal rental they check the prices & fees on other VR websites. Many properties list on multiple sites and charge different prices (because of the fees charged to owners by the sites).