It’s no secret. I love Airbnb. My social media reflects my delight with my favorite homes. Not in a contrived look-at-my-fab-life sort of way, designed to induce envy, but in genuine gratitude to the hosts. I believe it’s only right that their efforts be lauded. Because they’ve obviously invested effort to make guests comfortable and happy. I want to share the joy in finding a unique home where one can discover a neighborhood that may have otherwise been overlooked.
What I Love About Airbnb
- User-friendly website and app
- Favorites lists designed to organize preferred properties, with notes
- Filters to customize search
- User reviews of both hosts/properties, and guests
- Ease of communicating with hosts
- Private feedback after check out, between guest and host, as well as between guest and Airbnb
- Clear and reasonable cancellation/change policies
- Financial protection for guests and hosts
- Home-away-from-home comfort and convenience
- "Belong anywhere" philosophy
My first time. Music City - Nashville, Tennessee. Complete with a guitar in the living room. The house was so charming. The kitchen stocked with food and beverages. The host was communicative and accommodating without being intrusive. And my dog, Bailey, was welcomed. I wanted to move in and live there forever. At the time, it didn’t occur to me to take pictures, but you can see Jeannie’s house here.
That little house remains on my favorites list. In fact, all of my most memorable stays have this in common: no comfort or amenity was overlooked. Décor, toiletries, quality linens and towels, WiFi, books, DVDs, games, area information and more, all combined to create an exceptional experience.
My love has been tested, however. It's not always freshly baked cookies and scented sheets. I’ve walked into properties that have made my skin crawl. In one home, I opened the washing machine to find a stranger’s stiff, crumpled underpants pasted inside. I discovered dirty pantyhose under a seat cushion, and a filthy plate under a desk. Another home was a graveyard for insect carcasses. Inevitably, there will be unpleasant surprises when traveling. One runs that risk with any type of accommodations. Fortunately, the creepy "eeww!" factor I experienced occurred with only a small fraction of the homes I’ve rented.
Airbnb guests are provided the opportunity to interact privately with their hosts to immediately address concerns and deter escalation. I like that option; it’s civilized. In fact, when it was necessary to contact the hosts, all but one acted quickly for a satisfactory resolution within mere hours. As a result, I've not been forced to pursue Airbnb's refund policy.
My Airbnb stays have been domestic thus far so, I can’t yet comment on the international hospitality.
What I Don’t Love About Airbnb
- Very limited rewards program
- Paying in full, at the time of reservation
- A traveler whose linked email address doesn’t register as a business is ineligible for the coupon rewarded for a first business stay. This algorithm disqualifies freelancers (like me) from that discount
Yet, what I don't like is not nearly enough to dampen my enthusiasm. When trip planning, Airbnb is my first choice for stays longer than two nights. A fun little home where I can prepare my own meals, and allow my dog to remain safely while I go out to explore, is extremely appealing and cost-effective. I've used HomeAway and its VRBO, as well as TripAdvisor, and regional vacation rental outfits. While they were fine, and I still comparison shop when vacation-planning, for my money they're outranked by Airbnb for quality, business model, community, and sheer consumer satisfaction.
Should you be unfamiliar with Airbnb, it's an online short-term lodging marketplace, wildly successful in the sharing economy. It quickly outgrew its original model, matching budget travelers with hosts willing to share a spare room for a fee, and has expanded to offering luxury and exotic properties to rent. Additionally, it's recently launched a business travelers program. The corporate ideology has evolved to foster a sense of belonging; a mission that begins with top executives and employees, and extends to the brand, to hosts, and to guests. World-wide. Travelers should feel they belong wherever they've landed. That they, "Wake up at home, anywhere in the world."
The marketplace is simple to use. Download the app or visit www.airbnb.com. Once you've registered and created your profile, you choose the area you’d like to visit and the dates you intend to be there. You’re encouraged to further filter amenities to generate a list of properties that most closely match your preferences in your price range, from inexpensive single bedrooms to upscale homes. Payment is remitted in advance by credit card at the time of reservation. There are reasonable cancellation policies and each host includes their preferred policy, along with their house rules, in their property listing.
I favor the option to rent an entire home, not merely a bedroom with a common area shared with the host family or other travelers. Privacy is important to me. When I’m vacationing, I don’t want to feel cramped, or obligated to engage in conversation, or even get dressed and made up. I want the freedom to eat over the sink, walk my dog in my pajamas, or pee without closing the bathroom door. Like I do at home.
So, I want to be like I am at home, but not be at home. Which means I typically choose a well-reviewed unoccupied single-family, pet-friendly, detached home, with a fully equipped kitchen, and WiFi.
Quite often, in my experience, check-in doesn't require the host's presence. Instructions are delivered electronically and privately prior to arrival. The greeting of a bottle of wine or freshly baked bread, a note from my host, or treats for my dog create a connection that I appreciate. Even without a genuine personal interaction. Yet it works. Especially for me. And it’s always a thrill when I want to extend my stay the moment I walk in the door. I feel so savvy when I've made a great choice.
I've listed my favorite Airbnbs, in no particular order. I'm a budget-conscious traveler and you may prefer more upscale accommodations. No matter. These hosts exemplify the Airbnb community philosophy and made a real difference in how I enjoyed my stay. I've never felt unsafe, and I would absolutely return to every one of them. Click the links to see where I've been. Each property has many dozens of rave reviews, for good reason.
Stone Ledge in La Grange, Kentucky. A sweet two-bedroom cottage on a 30-acre horse farm. Ten minutes to historic La Grange, where you can watch the street runner trains come through. Louisville is only a 30 minute drive, and check out the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Or do nothing but whisper to the horses and hike the property's trails.
Cozy Coyote Retreat in Joshua Tree, California. Located only minutes from Joshua Tree National Park. Go early to avoid the crowds. Brew coffee from the local Joshua Tree Coffee Company before you go. A bottle of California's Ménage à Trois red wine from Cheryl and Jimbo helped us celebrate the holidays. They even took care to provide bowls for the dog. Ask about purchasing their own original artwork that decorates the home.
3 Bears Lodge in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Secluded and homey. Exactly what I wanted in a two-bedroom mountain retreat. Guests must stop at the office near town to obtain the key before accessing the cabin. While this property is one of dozens managed by Mountain Laurel Cabin Rentals, they're responsive to their guests. When I realized there was no coffee maker in the kitchen, a caretaker stopped by with a brand new one as a result of a quick phone call.
Quixotic Cottage in Bloomington, Indiana. David and Krista built and furnished this enchanting cottage with mostly repurposed, salvaged, and recycled materials. Nestled on 38 acres in the wooded Persimmon Ridge yet only a 15 minute drive to Bloomington. Prepare a breakfast of fresh eggs from their hens. Ask David for a tour of their recording studio. And don't be surprised when you're greeted by attention-loving Luna and Griffin, their sweet dogs.
Charming Scandinavian Cottage in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I arrived late at night, exhausted and hungry. The pancake mix, syrup, and coffee waiting in the kitchen put this adorable one-bedroom cottage over the top for me. Even better, it was within walking distance of downtown. Don't miss a visit to the Garden of the Gods.
Into the West bnb in Parker, Colorado. Another late-night arrival. Although he’d provided the entry instructions in advance, Neal kindly waited up to make sure I was safe. And while I didn’t meet Katie, she had baked a loaf of banana bread to welcome me. Much to my great disappointment, this one-night stay was insufficient to fully enjoy the accommodations or the stunning surrounding area. That only means I'll have to go back.
Note: I am in no way partnered with Airbnb, nor have I received compensation in exchange for this article. In full disclosure, during my travels in October 2016 and very much to my surprise, Airbnb noticed my posts on Instagram. They sent a gift basket to a property at which I had a reservation, in anticipation of my arrival. That blew my mind. I felt like a rock star. Albeit perplexed, since I have about 15 followers. I couldn't believe they noticed! Nevertheless, that did not influence my decision to share my experiences. I credit my gracious hosts for the inspiration.