Vacation Rental Reviews: Airbnb – Haarlem, The Netherlands

Thrifty Travel Mama - My Airbnb Experience, HaarlemAirbnb makes it easy to find a place to lay your head (almost) anywhere in the world.  Add cheap per-night prices in the mix, and you’ve got yourself a budget traveler’s dream.  Right?

Well, it depends.

In my first mention of Airbnb a few months ago, I suggested that perhaps the key to Airbnb’s discount prices and variety of properties is that the properties available on their site are often real people’s homes.  Sure, some are managed vacation properties, but many are just some Joe Schmoe’s pad that he wants to rent out while visiting his great Aunt Edna for two weeks at Christmas.

This real life factor caused Airbnb to fall from my #1 budget vacation rental choice to #3.

When we showed up to the apartment in Haarlem for our weekend in The Netherlands, everything looked the same as the pictures on the website.  The owner didn’t misrepresent anything.  But, what I didn’t realize is that other than stashing her toothbrush in a cabinet and clearing out most of the fridge, she left everything as is and went to sleep at her boyfriend’s house for the weekend.

It’s one thing to look at your sister’s used makeup brushes, crusty spices, haphazard junk mail, and grody toilet sponge.  It’s quite another to find yourself surrounded by the personal effects of a complete stranger, and one that doesn’t share your taste in cleanliness at that.

As the owner showed us around the apartment, I noticed she still wore her shoes around the house (a total no-no in most European countries).  And then I realized, why would she care if she wore shoes or not?  It’s not as if she bothered to clean the floors.  Ugh.

With Airbnb, no standards exist.  Anyone can list their home, and accommodations can be in any condition.  It’s up to the traveler to scour the available photos and be savvy enough to ask the right questions.

I inquired about location, public transportation, amenities, and the like.  But one issue I failed to discuss beforehand – other than personal cleanliness standards – was that of temperature.

It never occurred to me that we would need to use the heat at the end of March.  We are lucky to have a very warm apartment in Germany and seldom (if ever) use the radiators all winter long.  Not so in an ancient townhouse down in damp Holland.

We cranked the thermostat up much higher than I’m sure the owner would have liked.  Unfortunately, even our best efforts weren’t enough.  I had not packed or prepared for such frigid indoor conditions, and Big Foot woke up crying because even with three or four layers he was so cold he couldn’t sleep.  No bueno.

Would I use Airbnb again?  Maybe.  But, I would exhaust all other possibilities first, endlessly analyze photos, and thoroughly interrogate the owner.  No amount of savings is worth being so uncomfortable that you seriously consider ditching your vacation and returning home early.  Signature-Marigold

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7 thoughts on “Vacation Rental Reviews: Airbnb – Haarlem, The Netherlands

  1. Pingback: Vacation Rentals for Families Big and Small | Thrifty Travel Mama

  2. We’re about to head to the Netherlands to an AirBnB locale…just saw your post today, the week before our trip, ha! However, yes, I totally know what you mean about having to scour the post photos and reviews. Having said that, we don’t usually book any place that looks like somebody usually lives there since I’ve always scoured the photos/reviews for just that reason. I usually find a place that’s a real holiday rental (but who’s real website would never have shown up in my own web searches).

    I’m curious, what are your other favorite rental sites? I love the interface and search capabilities of AirBnB (esp. as opposed to VRBOs), but sometimes their transaction fee can add up. However, we like to road trip via our car (we’re also based in Germany), so being able to find a place that includes free parking is awesome. I also like being about to zoom in/out my search on their map and find new places.

    • Hi Juliette! Yes, from this post you can see that we’ve learned our lesson and never stay in homes that look “lived in” anymore :). Farrah from The Three Under recommended House Trip and I have searched their site some, but haven’t made a booking there yet. I have also used booking.com to find aparthotels – managed properties that either have only apartments or apartments in addition to hotel rooms. I know TripAdvisor has Flip Key but I haven’t booked anything with them yet. Mostly, we have just used Homeaway and have had positive experiences with their properties (though I am not a huge fan of their search options). Let me know if you have any other favorites!

      • I have a friend who swears by booking.com for best hotel rates, but I can’t get them to beat some of the AirBnB deals I’ve found. I’ve also heard of people happily using 9flats.com, but have not used them myself. In all, I think AirBnB and VRBO/Homeaway probably have the greatest selection, with AirBnB offering me the ‘free parking spot’ search option nobody else does. We always seem to stay in densely settled areas where street parking is either unavailable or less than optimal (esp. for a husband who is über-careful about the car, ha), so the parking thing is our deal-breaker. Granted, you can always ask the property rep, but it’s an extra step.

        I come from a family of longtime VRBO/Homeway customers, so I feel a little disloyal, lol! But AirBnB has a higher percentage of small spaces suited to a couple, so that’s another reason I like them (they should pay me for this comment,ha!). I suppose if the sky were the limit (it’s so not) I’d go for a mrandmrssmith.com trip. Dreaming on… =)

      • I have heard of 9flats before, but also never used them (nor searched.. yet!). I always look for the parking too as we often either have our car or a rental with us, and if you use Homeaway, just go under “more filters” and click “parking included.” Of course you always have to read the fine print to make sure it’s an actual parking spot and not street parking in front of the property..
        Yes, they should pay you for that comment 🙂 Never heard of mrandmrssmith.com, but going to check it out!

      • Oh, very cool about the parking thing on Homeaway! I honestly hadn’t looked at them since I last looked for a US rental 2yrs ago, so I’ll have to consider them for our next trip. Thanks for that! Choices are always good to have.

        And yeah, those Mr and Mrs Smith locations are droolworthy…sigh. =)

      • You weren’t kidding about the drool! Or the price… not exactly “budget-friendly.” Perhaps for an anniversary splurge when I don’t have to stress about kids knocking over a 500 euro lamp 😉

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