Home Sweet Homes On the Road

We had some amazing views from our Airbnb homes during our travels.

We love staying in Airbnb rentals. I enjoy looking at different homes, imagining us living there for a while, and seeing if I can find a place that fits our wants, needs, and budget. It can be a challenge, but a fun one. We did very well with our rentals overall during the Big Adventure, and stay in just one place that was a disappointment (in Bath; thankfully it was a very short stay, only two nights).

Finding accommodations when we travel has always been one of my tasks. Brett is usually in on the final decision, but not always. I have a list of requirements, amenities, and always a budget when it comes to finding a place, with some of these things negotiable and others absolute requirements that we won’t budge on.

The first thing I do is go is narrow my search to Superhosts. We had a couple of bad experiences having our reservation abruptly cancelled, but Superhosts can lose their status if they cancel. They are also experienced hosts and go out of the way to make guests feel welcome.

The next step is to go through the pictures. Does the home look like a comfortable place to stay? Is the kitchen nice? Are there lots of pictures of the tchotkes or pictures around the apartment? Why are there so many pictures of the toilet (this seriously happens)? Is the place filled with stuff or is it minimally furnished, or even too minimally furnished? Does it look clean overall? Does it feel like a good fit? I generally can filter out several places on the pictures alone – some places just don’t feel right.

Next I take a closer look at the price. I adjust the search to look for the maximum we are willing to spend per month on lodging. Having an upper limit is critical because Airbnb always tacks on a service fee, and they almost always add a cleaning fee as well which can drive up what looks like an affordable daily amount. We did allow ourselves to stay in a slightly more expensive place as long as that cost was balanced out with other less expensive rentals. We stayed in some “over budget” rentals during the Big Adventure but when combined with some that were well under our budget we ended up going just $38 over what we had planned for lodging costs.

Although a daily price is given for each Airbnb rental, that price can be adjusted according to the time of year or the length of the stay. I’ve looked at places advertised for say, $56/night, but when our dates are entered the price comes out to more than $100/night. Nope! Many rentals will give a discount for a week’s or month’s stay, but I’ve come across others that either don’t or even increase the price for a month’s stay! Sometimes the increases given are ridiculous or outright funny. When I began searching for place to stay in the Cotswolds back in 2017, I found one lovely home that was exactly what we were looking for, at a price within our range. I saved it to a list, and went to look at a few other properties and locations. When I came back to the first property, the cost for one month had jumped to astronomical proportions, something like $16,000. What? I cleared the cookies on my computer and checked again, but the monthly price had climbed even higher. It became a game to see how high the price would go as it continued to climb every time I checked. I stopped when the price for a month’s rental reached over $300,000 – we didn’t want to buy the house for heaven’s sake! Check out the monthly price for the Tokyo apartment below – crazy! I have know why this happens but it does now and again.

We won’t be staying in this Tokyo apartment for a month!

After looking at pictures and prices I typically end up with a list of five or six properties that might work for us, and then dig into the details. Does it have all our must-have amenities? Does the location work for us? And what do the reviews say? Many only say things like “great host” or “great location,” but digging deeper I can usually always find information about the cleanliness, how comfortable the bed is, how nice the kitchen is, and so forth, and one or more locations will eventually rise to the top. If we’re not traveling for a while I save the location to a wish list, but if we’re close enough to book I will go over the top picks (if there’s more than one) with Brett, make a choice, then contact the owner to see if they will accept our booking. We have yet to be turned down for our top pick, but we always make sure we have others that will work as well if that should happen.

Must-haves for us in a rental are WiFi, a table for eating and where Brett can work, a washing machine (and hopefully a dryer, but it’s not absolutely necessary) if we’re staying for a week or more, a separate bedroom with a comfortable bed, a stove with an oven, and good kitchen space with a nice assortment of cooking tools and basic dishes. A nice bathroom with a shower is also a given. The location of the home is a big factor – we want a place where we can walk to various places and/or that’s near a station or other public transportation, and we like to have a grocery store within walking distance.

Do we always get everything we want? No! One of our favorite stays, Strasbourg, had no washing machine in the apartment – we had to take our clothes to a laundromat. There was no table, just a counter with two stools, and no separate bedroom. I didn’t notice until just before our arrival that I had not booked a one-bedroom apartment as thought but a studio with a sofa bed, and we arrived in Strasbourg dreading our three-week stay there. The sofa bed turned out to be the most comfortable bed we slept on during our travels, the counter worked fine for us, the laundromat was only two blocks away and we met and chatted with nice people there, and the apartment’s location was superb for walking throughout the city. The landlord was friendly and generous, and before we left Strasbourg we were invited to her home for dinner with her family. She cooked a beautiful, traditional multi-course French meal for us and stuffed us with treats. We have stayed friends with her and her family, and both of us look forward to meeting up again some day. That apartment also taught Brett and I that we could live comfortably in a very small space and get along just fine.

Almost all of our stays provided everything we wanted and needed and then some. Still, we have assembled a simple set of kitchen tools to carry with us when we next travel (vegetable peeler, paring knives, silicone spatula, simple grater, can opener, and a couple of other pieces) as these are the things we sometimes found lacking in an apartment. For the most part though we adapt easily to what’s available in each home. We always keep our temporary homes clean and fix things if we can but call the owner when we can’t.

The opportunity to “live local” was one of the best things we did during our travels, and we’re looking forward to further Airbnb experiences when we hit the road again.

11 thoughts on “Home Sweet Homes On the Road

  1. Did you ever find out why that home in the Cotswolds kept rising in cost? That is crazy.

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    1. No, we never did. We assumed it was something wrong with the algorithm between the cookies on my computer and that site, but who knows. It has happened with other places a few times, but nothing like what was going on with that house in the Cotswolds.

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  2. I have had some very good stays with Air BnB. When it is just me I often just stay in a room in a home. No issue. Sometimes I interacted with the hosts, sometimes I did not. All places were clean and comfortable.

    BUT we rented a large house for my mother’s birthday 2020. It was expensive, which we knew, since there were going to be 12 of us. The host never canceled (which they should have) forcing us to cancel. We ended up losing about $700! Air bnb said we could have “$65 credit” but the super host was unreasonable and kept the deposit. I asked for a refund- but Air BnB was swamped. They were not helpful. Finally I just threw in the towel. I get it, he was probably bleeding money (7 huge properties). Still, that was a big loss for us. At least we were booked with Southwest for the airline!

    My sister uses a different site and has great luck (canceled two places during the beginning of the pandemic). I will probably go that direction if we have long stays again.

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    1. That is HORRIBLE what happened with that one house. Unforgiveable, especially from a Superhost, and I am so sorry you had to deal with that. We have had a very positive experience with Airbnb going to bat for us when there have been issues. We got a refund from them enough to cover our entire 3-month stay in the Cotswolds when a reservation was cancelled (we had only paid one month; they refunded us three months for the “inconvenience.”). When we had to cancel our reservation in Mexico last year, the host was going to keep 25% of what we had paid as a “credit” – we wrote to Airbnb and our entire payment was refunded. But, I have heard horror stories from others and yours will be added. Caveat emptor!

      We have seen and read about other services that operate like Airbnb. We have used VRBO and had good rentals, but I know there are others out there.

      By the way, we did a few rooms stays through Airbnb – mainly Switzerland and New Zealand, and they were great. We would definitely do them again for short stays.

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  3. I think finding a place to stay is one of the most fun parts to planning a trip. I agree that location is important to balance between amenities. I’m glad you stayed in so many wonderful places. It really does give you a sense of what it’s like to be a local.

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    1. I agree M’Shell!! I love looking for lodging any time we’re going somewhere. Airbnb was a great choice for our stays while we traveled – we experienced things we never would have if we had chosen a hotel (and saved a boatload of money as well). The neighborhoods we stayed in were all interesting, and we loved exploring what was in our immediate area.

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    2. Thank you! The black bean bake was wonderful – I’m already looking forward to making it again. I’m trying a new bean bake this coming week, with more Italian/Mediterranean flavors this time.

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  4. It’s fun to look back at all the places we stayed on our travels. Services like Airbnb, VRBO, and others are a wonderful alternative to often sterile and more expensive hotel rooms. Although there are going to be instances when the pictures are far from reality, most of the time I found rentals to be pretty consistent with the descriptions/customer reviews. I personally had only one issue with AirBnB but the company came through and helped us out.
    I remember when we visited Paris, we found a studio in the second arr. through a small company(then) called Vacation in Paris, we loved being there for a week or so. It was located in a charming neighborhood, 5 min walk to Louvre and metro station, and we’d be out and about for the day. In the evening, we’d be back in our hood, bag a rotisserie chicken, a couple of cheeses, and a bottle of wine from a grocery store on our street, and have a lovely dinner at our studio. It was small, but we had the greatest time there and it had everything we needed, including a washer/dryer combo ( I only pack for 5 days regardless of how long the trip is, so a washer is a must for me).

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    1. We had only one Airbnb rental that was a disappointment, in Bath, England. The location was good, but the apartment was shabby, the bed was uncomfortable, and it just didn’t feel clean. Thank goodness we were only there for a couple of nights. Otherwise every place we stayed was a gem, with wonderful hosts.

      We were surprised by how much we grew to love that tiny studio in Strasbourg. Like your experience, the neighborhood was great, it was easy to walk to many places in the city, and the apartment was furnished with everything we needed for a comfortable stay. The bed was the biggest surprise, but our host told me she bought the mattress from a supplier who sells to the most luxurious hotels in Europe. She also said if she had to do it over again she would have put in a washer/dryer combo versus a dishwasher, but we found it was easy to get to the laundromat, and we enjoyed the people we met there. A washer is pretty much a must for me as well these days though – not sure we’d be so lucky the next time.

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  5. I’ve love looking through AirBnB too. And have been lucky with our picks. We share some of your criteria. Mr S adds, not so many steps as some of the old places we’ve stayed in in Europe have narrow flights and no lift. Hard with luggage!

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    1. Steps and elevators became a factor the further along we went. We had three flights to climb in Florence, but our host came and helped. Same in Lisbon. Not so in Bordeaux and Sydney, where we had four flights to go up and down each time! It was a chore getting our bags up and down those stairs. Our apartment in Paris had an elevator that could either hold one of us or one of our bags, but not both, so one of us would stand upstairs and the other would send up the bag! Two flight were manageable though, but these days I look to see if there is an elevator or try to find something closer to the ground floor.

      Overall though we stayed in some pretty wonderful places, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of “living local” even if only for a few days.

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