My First Stay at an Airbnb was Amazing — Will I Continue to Stay at Airbnbs Over Hotels?
I belong to the generation that pioneered Airbnb and whose willingness to avoid chain hotels elevated the vacation rental application to unprecedented success, yet I only just completed my first ever stay at an Airbnb. I might belong to the Airbnb generation, but I just can’t motivate myself to ditch chain hotels.
Why I Still Like Chain Hotels
The main reason boils down to consistency. Consistency at Starwood Hotels, my preferred hotel chain, has never been an issue. However, that might change as Starwood is eventually merged into the Marriott family of hotels. Essentially, if consistency is no longer, well, consistent, I won’t have much to keep me from booking Airbnbs routinely.
The second reason that it took me so long to stay at an Airbnb was loyalty programs. I’m still one of the suckers who gobbles up a free upgrade and cheap breakfast. It is worth noting that while frequent flyer programs have seen their fair share of devaluations, hotel loyalty programs have remained relatively consistent. Airbnb lacks any reward or loyalty program meaning, you get what you get, and there’s no chance of staying enough at Airbnbs to earn a free night. If loyalty programs start to tank, the chain hotel-ship will likely set sail.
I’ve certainly made my case for chain hotels: consistency and loyalty. However, what’s the appeal of an Airbnb? Well, since Airbnb is all about variety, the appeal of renting through the application varies. I’ll outline my booking process from my stay in Southern California.
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Background: My First Airbnb
Last month I decided to travel to the Los Angeles Area with some friends for spring break. If you have not had to stay in the LA Area, then you probably aren’t aware of the unappealing nature of most hotels in the area. Though many of the Hiltons, Marriotts, and Starwoods are clean and modern, they are pretty dull. There aren’t any true beachfront hotels, hotels are often located in business communities away from attractions, and rates can be unbelievably overpriced. Add to that, that the few exciting properties are riddled with fees and additional charges. I yet to come across a single hotel in LA that excites me, especially when you take value into consideration.
Since it was spring break, I wanted to make it so that my friends and I could have a memorable and unique time in Southern California. I did not want to stay at some run-of-the-mill Westin or a Hilton 5 miles from the beach. So, I turned to Airbnb with the initial intention of renting a property on the beach in Malibu. Surprisingly, rentals both on the beach and in the Malibu area were very reasonable. Yet, I didn’t book a property in this area. Instead, one rental, in particular, caught my eye.
Booking A Chic Airbnb in Topanga Canyon
For less than $200 a night, taxes included, I was able to book an entire chic modern house in the middle of beautiful and rustic Topanga Canyon. I like interesting towns as long as they aren’t off the beaten path. Topanga Canyon turned out to be a 10 or so minute drive away from the Pacific Coast Highway and Burbank, yet still felt very secluded. The proximity to major attractions coupled with the beautiful scenery made this Airbnb unbeatable.
Finally, the Airbnb host, as well as the property, had stellar reviews. To ensure a fantastic first stay I also filtered out non-superhosts. Superhosts are hosts that meet specific Airbnb standards. This property was a superhost property. I requested to book this property for two nights.
Step 1: Booking, Not Guaranteed
The most significant difference between booking a hotel and an Airbnb is in the booking process. When I “booked” this Airbnb, I wasn’t guaranteed that the host would accept my request. Unless the property is part of the Instant Book program, you aren’t guaranteed access to your desired property. I actually thought that this might be an issue for me. The host gets to see some basic details about you. Like with Uber or Lyft, both the host and the guest has a rating. Additionally, the host can see my age, my name, and some minor details like occupation and purpose for my stay. Here’s why I thought this might pose a problem.
First off, my age. The younger the guest, the more of a liability that guest poses to that property. Second, my occupation, student, and blogger. Both are not the most desirable among hosts. No host wants some spring breaker with a blog to come and review their property. Finally, my rating — which was non-existent at the time. This was my first stay. The host had every reason to deny my request. Somehow, the host saw the best in me and accepted my stay request.
Step 2: Check-In
Check-in varies by property. In this case, all I had to do was show up. In the days leading up to my stay, the Airbnb host routinely provided updates about my stay. The day of arrival, final check-in details were provided via the Airbnb app. I thoroughly appreciated the detailed communication my host provided. Again, I cannot stress enough that a superhost is not a guarantee. I just so happened to luck out. One thing that is consistent with Airbnbs is that they are not consistent.
When I arrived at the property, I simply walked into the Airbnb and picked up my key.
Step 3: The Stay
I am still amazed by how beautiful and charming the property was. Everything exceeded my expectations. From cleanliness to location, the Airbnb was perfect. This was one of the few times I’ve honestly felt that I had booked the perfect stay.
The Airbnb was just as I had imagined. It was a chic one-bedroom hipster-esque house in the middle of beautiful Topanga Canyon.
The property was stunning. I was looking to go full-hipster this spring break, and that is exactly what this property allowed me to do. The aesthetics were modern and chic with wood paneling and neutral colors. The decor and furniture felt very premium. Additionally, the wifi was fast, and Netflix was provided via Apple TV. Finally, the bathroom featured a heated floor with organic shower amenities. The property also featured a full kitchen. You just don’t see amenities like these at the Westin in Downtown LA.
Step 4: Check-Out
I wanted my host to have as little to do and clean upon our departure, so my friends and I folded our dirty towels and placed them on the counter. We bagged up our trash and set them near the entryway. Finally, we made sure to clean the dishes and kitchen counters. This wasn’t a requirement of the host, but it was the least we could do after a fantastic stay.
We left the keys on the beautiful wood table and left. We hopped in the car and sent a message to the host letting them know that we had departed the property. That was all it took to check-out. It was a super easy and seamless experience.
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Overall, My First Stay at an Airbnb
The answer to the question, “Will I stay at another Airbnb?” isn’t a yes or no answer. As you might be able to tell from this post, the appeal of an Airbnb varies with the area, available rentals, and available hotels. There are just some areas I would not consider renting an Airbnb. I would avoid Airbnbs in a city like my hometown of St. Louis or even a city like Dallas. These are both cities where you can find a nice variety of relatively modern and reasonably priced hotels. However, there are also a few areas that I would first check out on Airbnb. These areas consist of hip and unique cities like Los Angeles, Portland, OR, and most US beaches except for South Miami Beach.
I am certainly surprised by how easy it is to use Airbnb and how structured the process was. My first stay at an Airbnb certainly exceeded my expectations and will keep me coming back for more, in some cases.
Have you ever stayed at an Airbnb? What’s been your experience with Airbnbs?
I’m primarily a leisure traveler. After nearly a decade of maintaining SPG Platinum and Hyatt Diamond concurrently, I have made the switch to Airbnb for the vast majority of our vacations for the past three years. A few things to consider in light of the points raised in your post: 1. Consistency. I’m not sure you are are really in a position to gauge the “consistency” of Airbnb stays after your first stay. The FlyerTalk and TripAdvisor forums are full of complaints about inconsistent elite or other treatment at major hotel chains. You can set the filters on your Airbnb… Read more »