Much has been written about using Airbnb for travel, or even housing out of town guests when your own home has limited space. We have friends who rent out extra rooms through Airbnb for extra cash. We have heard as many nightmares as we have positive comments about using Airbnb over hotels. And I am sure each of you have stories about either or both in nightmarish circumstances.
Compared to using hotels, I see Airbnb as a crap shoot, particularly if you are not familiar with the area. I am more comfortable choosing an Airbnb in a city like Seattle, Boston, or San Diego, than I would in Miami, Atlanta, or Washington, DC. No matter, some people still call it ScareBnB for good reason.
The neighborhood, for me, is the most important factor. It usually determines my comfort level, safety, and access to public transportation. When I went to Super Bowl 47 in Nawlins, I was in a decent neighborhood, on a street with a busy bus line, and walking distance to shopping, coffee, and Whole Foods. The only problem was the nonstop partying going on in the house until the wee hours of the morning, and having ONE bathroom to share with the “owner”, who was actually illegally subletting to me.
Ease of check in is another important part of the process. We rented an apartment in Seattle, in a building we are very familiar with. But we ended up walking through countless corridors, and riding three elevators just to get our keys! Then our place ended up directly on a busy pedestrian walk, with broken window shades, and limited (read this as NO cable TV) television reception.
Hotels have a few other features that Scarebnb generally do not offer. One, that matters to me, is early (and EASY) check in. The desk is open 24 hours a day in most cases. And when I am not able to check in early, they offer storage for my luggage. And two, I often, and I repeat often, get a choice of rooms, and an upgrade!! I prefer lower floors, away from elevators and ice machines. Most importantly, if the room is noisy, dirty, or otherwise unacceptable, I can usually change to another.
I also enjoy using the coffee machine (VERY important to me!) and refrigerator in hotel rooms. I have never rented an Airbnb room with these amenities. Apartments are generally better equipped, though the quality of the equipment is marginal. I have even stayed at places where they do not give me a KEY!!
Hotels generally do not cancel you at the last minute. Airbnb is notorious for this. Likewise, my ability to cancel is severely limited. Not fair!
Who will be your concierge? If you know the area, great. If you do not, you are totally dependent on Trip Advisor or Yelp. When I was in Berlin, I found the best places to eat with the help of the concierge. They were not even listed on Yelp or TA.
People of color have been rejected by Airbnb hosts. This platform has been working with the NAACP to develop a non discrimination policy. Prejudice can extend beyond the landlord, since neighbors may report “suspicious” people in their building or neighborhood. Bottom line, it is a system that allows individuals to decide who stays and who goes in arbitrary fashion. So, count me out.
As I get older, other conveniences are important. Will I have my own bathroom? Will I have lots of stairs? And who controls the thermostat? Is the bed comfortable? And if I stay several nights, will I get fresh linens and some cleaning?
Don’t forget Airbnb’s guest service fee, which can run as high as 20%!!! Cleaning fees are also added. These two expenses are included in most hotel rates. Bottom line, you may not be saving as much as you think with Airbnb
On the plus side, I have stayed in places where we rent the entire house, with several bedrooms and several bathrooms. This works well for ski trips, wine tasting along the coast, and weeklong vacation stays. Dividing the cost among several people for an upscale home is almost ideal. And some neighborhoods are so charming, straight out of a story book. But not all!
Which one of my stays was the worst? Nawlins is near the top, along with a place we have rented in Kauai for many years. The owners decided to renovate a little. The shower handle did not function properly, leaving the water too hot to use. I had to call a plumber at our own expense!! It was not clean when we arrived at 4pm, resulting in killing another two hours before we could enter. No adjustment of our weekly fee was granted.
Another concern: children and animals. Who does the cleanup, and what are the rules? And so they have quiet hours? I also appreciate the rules, as in health and safety. Where do you want to take your chances? And what recourse do you have after?
If you are meeting someone on business, would you rather meet in the hotel lobby or someone’s front porch? And where might you have that proverbial get-acquainted drink or happy hour?
Yes, I have stayed in hotels that are duds. But at least, I can check out early and head elsewhere. Just try getting a refund with Airbnb.
In fairness, there are some good ones, just be very, very careful, and read the reviews! We have friends who have excellent places to rent.