Airbnb 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.