September 15, 2012 by 8junebugs
I’ve been fascinated by Airbnb for a while now. From time to time, I’ll run searches on little getaway places, filtered by “Pets allowed,” “Wifi,” and various configurations of guests (Hypothesis: Maybe I could get my family to come visit if I host Thanksgiving in Tahoe). I’ve done cost comparisons with hotels and included all the little not-included costs; travel fact: the pricier the hotel, the less likely it will offer wifi or parking for free. I’ve quizzed friends who’ve used the service and scanned the interwebz for horror stories…of which there are shockingly few, when you consider that you’ve got strangers traipsing through private homes, possibly making copies of the keys or installing hidden webcams.
So that’s how we ended up renting a two-bedroom apartment in Venice Beach this week. Here were our options:
- Stay at the beachside resort hotel hosting Graham’s two-day continuing education class. Pay event rate, which is still fairly high…as one would expect at a resort with a view of the Santa Monica Pier. Pay for parking by the day. Pay for or find wifi, or swallow my salary for two and a half days while I sit on the beach and read (in retrospect, maybe this wasn’t such a bad option…). Expect at least two overpriced room service orders, because we don’t explore much after dark. Accept dim lighting, stale air, and extra charges/extreme inconvenience if we wanted to keep Rodney with us in a cramped hotel room.
- Stay at a hotel near the resort at a lower rate. Historically, we have had laughably bad luck with this. This, of course, comes with most — or all — of the same concerns as the resort hotel, with the anticipated addition of “Why won’t the shower turn off? Shouldn’t the back door…I don’t know, latch?” (That was the Monterrey trip a couple of years ago.)
- Find a highly rated Airbnb rental that would accommodate us, the dog, my work schedule, and a reasonable budget.
Two bedrooms, full bath, full kitchen, within five miles of the thing that brought us here, and a straight-up Ikea decor that feels familiar? Five blocks from the beach? Room for the dog’s crate and a fridge for his insulin? Free off-street parking? A desk for me to work at (which I would quickly abandon for the Poang chair/ottoman)? All for a little less than the hotel option?
It’s true that we didn’t necessarily need to bring Rodney with us. We could’ve kenneled him or imposed on friends who’ve offered to keep him when we go out of town (with a diabetic in their family, giving a dog twice-daily shots ain’t no thing). But we like the little guy, and he loves nothing more than a good road trip, so…if we can find a way to bring him with us, we do. And it’s fun to see people wave at him on the road; no one expects to see a furry white face looking at them from the other lane. Aside from being a little anxious (“iz this home now? where can i pee?”), and also excited about ALL THE SMELLS, he’s weathered the trip well.
He did not like the feral-acting cat that turned up on night two. The damn thing hissed and postured, trying its level best to keep us from going out for Rodney’s last walk around 10. At first he thought she’d want to play, but all she seemed to want to do was hiss and strike. We had to inch our way along the walkway, stomping and trying to intimidate her, but I still walked away with three puncture wounds on my right foot. When we got back, she was up there again, waiting and watching. She was less feisty that time — I swear I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d launched herself at our heads as we came up the stairs — but still just seemed to want to get between us and wherever we were going.
This is why we’re dog people.
I get that it’s not terribly sexy to bring soup from the freezer on vacation with you, in addition to bread, butter, peanut butter, and coffee. (And kibble.) But…I kind of like it. It’s really the way I would’ve liked to travel, years ago, when going to the Outer Banks invariably meant taking a turn with the timeshare, a condo that was fully equipped for a family to enjoy a vacation at the shore without eating out for every meal. I was all for eating at local places — Darrell’s in Manteo still makes the best crabcakes and hush puppies I’ve ever had — but if it’s a choice between toast at home or an omelet I’ll regret by naptime (there is always naptime on the Banks), I’ll take the toast.
I know. Technically, this wasn’t a vacation. It was work, plus a change of scenery. But it’s how I’d like to vacation. Our hosts were welcoming and helpful without being intrusive, and it was kind of nice living around them and their families for a couple of days…as opposed to a hotel, where everyone’s traveling and only the staff cares if you feel at least moderately satisfied. From what I’ve seen so far, this is personal for a lot of Airbnb hosts. It’s their home they’re sharing, and it matters to them that you’re comfortable in it.
tl;dr: Airbnb isn’t the most luxurious way to travel (although it certainly can be), but it’s arguably the best option for traveling comfortably without disrupting one’s routine overmuch. Sure, it’s not how you roll when traveling on an expense account, but traveling with friends? Getting away for a week? Taking a growing family to visit someone who has limited space for guests? Attending a wedding in a popular tourist destination? Accommodating some specific needs that make hotels difficult? TOTALLY the way to go.