When I traveled to Vancouver, BC, a few weeks ago for the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon, my friend Claire and I opted to rent an apartment through AirBNB instead of staying in a hotel like we normally would. We chose AirBNB for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it was essentially the same cost as a hotel in the area, we found one within a 10 minute walk of our event, and we got separate sleeping areas and a full kitchen.
This was my first time using AirBNB. We rented the entire space and had no interaction with our host at all, other than the emails exchanged before and after our stay. Obviously, AirBNB experiences will differ from individual to individual, but I wanted to provide a little bit of insight into my experience for those of you who are wondering what it’s even like to stay at an AirBNB property.
What I Liked
-The key pickup/ dropoff process.
This was very slick. It will differ depending on your host, but for us, we just picked up our keys from a “Key Cafe” machine at the Waves Coffee down the street from the apartment building. All we had to do was enter the required codes provided to us by the host, and the keys popped out of a little locked box. Super straightforward.
-The apartment facilities
We were lucky, because we had access to a fitness room (which we never used) and a swimming pool (which we used once). It’s nice if you can find a rental with a few added perks like this. We also had 24 hour security in the lobby, which made us feel very safe. The apartment had a few little extras too, such as Lonely Planet guides for the surrounding area and basic spices for cooking in the kitchen. Some AirBNB rentals even include the use of a bicycle, surfboard, etc. Do your research and ask questions!
-The Homey Feeling
It definitely felt nice to come home to an actual apartment instead of a hotel room at the end of the day. It felt a little bit more like home. We were happy to have separate sleeping areas – especially after our Half Marathon!
-The Ability to Cook
While we didn’t use this a lot, it was definitely a bonus, and more cost-effective. We picked up a few groceries so that we could at least eat Breakfast at home before heading out for the day. We also cooked a big pasta dinner the night before our race, which was great because we weren’t eating a restaurant meal that we didn’t know what was really in it. Had we been staying for longer, we would have taken advantage of the kitchen even more.
What I Didn’t Like
-Not quite “Hotel Clean”
It is important to understand that arriving at your AirBNB will not be exactly like arriving at a hotel. While the space was generally clean, there were a few minor things that weren’t up to our standards. We also arrived to find the sheets and towels in the dryer, but they weren’t fully dry and smelled as if they had been sitting in there for a few days, so we did end up doing a few loads of laundry before we could fully get settled in our space.
You pretty much have to bring everything you think you might need, unless your host states otherwise. Our rental did have shampoo, conditioner, and body wash (several random half-full bottles that were likely left from other guests) but it had no facecloths, hand towels, hair dryer, etc. As someone who almost always stays in hotels, I wasn’t prepared for this (I should have been) so I ended up having to purchase a few things. This definitely isn’t a deal breaker – just something to be aware of, or to at least ask your host about before you arrive.
-Not quite as described
This is an issue that not everybody will have, but we definitely did. The apartment was advertised as “One Bedroom Plus Den”, and could sleep up to four people, as the bedroom was supposed to have a queen-size bed, and the den was supposed to have a Futon that could sleep two additional people if needed. Well. The queen size bed was lovely, but the “Futon” turned out to be a very cheap ikea-style couch that folded out a thin foamy on the floor and was not big enough for even one adult human. It might have worked for a child, MAYBE two if they were small, but I ended up sleeping on the living room couch for 5 nights. It ended up being okay, but I was definitely annoyed that I was led to believe that the Futon was going to be a real Futon. It definitely was not. If we had been 4 people (which we originally were going to be) we would have been in a scramble to find an additional hotel room. Not cool.
Overall, my first AirBNB experience was a good one, and I would definitely use it again, but I would ask more questions, such as what kind of additional amenities are provided? (Facecloths, shampoo, etc.) and what sorts of basic staples can I expect to find in the kitchen? (Cooking oil, salt & pepper, etc.). I think the more information you can obtain, the more you can plan to have a wonderful stay.
I love the concept of AirBNB. You are giving your money to an actual person as a source of income as opposed to a large corporation, you get a very personal and unique experience, often times you’ll have the opportunity to meet someone new, and more than likely you’ll be saving money. I would absolutely recommend AirBNB and I will be a return customer.
– – – – –
Have you ever used AirBNB, or something similar like VRBO or Couch Surfing? How was your experience?