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.
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.