Why we changed from hotels to AirBnBs

Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 3.18.12 PMYesterday we were talking to someone about using AirBnB or just vacation rentals instead of hotels and I was telling them why we have pretty much stopped staying in hotels and just stay in vacation rentals now. 

Here’s why we have pretty much switched to AirBnB type rentals:

  • Different rising times. Most of my regular readers know that I get up early (really early—like 3:30 or 4:00 am) and Kathleen likes to sleep in (6:30 or 7:00). When we are in a hotel room, all I can do is lay there and look at the darkness but when we are in an AirBnB there is usually a living room where I can go and sit and read, work on my photos from the vacation we are on or get dressed to go workout. 
  • Check-in is usually a piece of cake. We have done 15 AirBnBs so far and have only met humans twice. Usually they will send you a key code you can use on the front door or on a lock box where the key is.
  • Check out is just as easy. You just leave the key or lock the lock and you are gone. If you are nice person, you can e-mail or text them and let them know you are out so they can send their cleaning crew.
  • You can sometimes get in early. We have had great hosts who will text us when the unit is ready. One guy in Tucson sent me a note around noon telling us that if we wanted to get in, the place was ready. I love that.
  • You can communicate entirely by e-mail or text. No phone calls which is my preference. I think I have only talked on the phone to three of the 15 hosts we have stayed with.
  • You can save some money by eating some meals in the unit because most have kitchens and dining rooms. Even if you just have breakfast (we have done that) it can save you money or be easier. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a coffee maker you have access to.
  • Most AirBnB’s have a washer and dryer which is great if you are traveling on longer trips. That means for a two week trip you only have to pack one week’s worth of clothes. When we did our New England trip last year we had been on the road for ten days before we got to our AirBnB in NYC. After four days in NYC we were going on a cruise. It was great to get on the cruise with clean clothes.
  • They are GREAT for groups. One of the best things about an AirBnB (as opposed to a hotel) is that when you are traveling with other people and you aren’t doing anything, everyone is in the same place. You have a nice living room to sit in and just talk, especially if you are coming from different places and haven’t seen each other in a while. Plus you have a fully-equipped kitchen you can do breakfast or snacks in. It’s a great way to go. We had an AirBnB in Dublin last summer that slept 8 so when my brother, his wife, their daughter, my sister-in-law’s sister and her husband and daughter joined us, we got to have this experience. It was great to have a place to just sit and talk…or play games. 

Some tips for booking an AirBnB

If you haven’t booked one yet, I will tell you some tips that Kathleen’s daughter and son-in-law (who have used it for years) told us when we started booking them and that we have learned from booking ours. These rules may not apply to all rental sites. My daughter has used VRBO, we never have. We use AirBnB pretty exclusively.

  • Always look at the photos of the unit. If there aren’t photos of most (if not all) rooms, move on.
  • Read the reviews. AirBnB will not allow owners to remove bad reviews (owners can respond to them, but not remove them). Pay special attention to mentions of cleanliness. Most people who stay in AirBnBs will write reviews. The owners will also review you when you do and you can’t see each other’s reviews until you both have submitted them. When you go to rent in the future, other owners can look at your reviews and turn you down (maybe you left a place a mess, had a big party, etc.). It’s a good system.
  • If it sleeps a bunch of people, make sure there are enough bathrooms. Some of the older homes have 4 bedrooms and one bath. Yikes. We always look for at least one bath per family. When we did Dublin we had three couples and two of them had a 20 something child with them. So we needed four bedrooms and 3 baths. 
  • Check the number of beds/bedrooms. If you have four couples in our age group, they may not be thrilled with bunk beds.😀
  • Make sure the unit is where you want to be—close to the action. When it comes to location, most will NOT tell you an exact address before you book but they will tell you a general neighborhood and show you a map with a circle that the rental will be in. That can help if you know the neighborhood. We had friends stay here in one who didn’t ask us about the neighborhood and wound up in a part of town I wouldn’t park my car overnight in. You can also look at street views on Google Earth which can give you some idea what you are getting into. If you are coming to Seattle and plan to rent one, just ask us.
  • AirBnBThe nightly rate quoted may not be the entire cost. Keep in mind that you will pay more than the nightly fee which is what they show to start. There is also a separate cleaning fee, service fee (I have no idea what this is for that isn’t cleaning, but they all charge it), Occupancy taxes and fees. Check out this example of the charges on a Seattle AirBnB.
  • The price may be different from one day to the next. One other thing to remember about the price: if you look at rental without putting dates in, you may find that when you do the price changes, sometimes dramatically. For instance, our last stay was in Walla Walla, on our wine tasting tour. We went with our neighbors in August for three days, mid-week and we rented at the last minute. The price for mid-week rentals in the heat of the summer and at the last minute was great! But in the spring or fall (peak months) and on a weekend, the price was literally double. 
  • Set up an account before you look. When you go to the site, click the sign up link and put in your info. This will really help when you want to save particular rentals and come back to them.
  • Refine your search. When you know where you want to go, search for where you want to go,  Then Click Dates, Guests, Type of Place (choose Entire Place) and go. That will show you only what you are looking for. 
  • Save your favorites. Once you have refined your search, look at each one and save it to a favorite list by clicking the heart at the top of the page. When the site asks you which list to save it to, create a new one for the next place you are going. We have lists for all the cities we have stayed in (about 15). 

Out of the 15 or so we have stayed in, we have only had one so-so experience (our first) and no bad ones. Here are photo (from their listings) of the places we have stayed. There are notes in the captions.


In Arizona waiting for warmth.

As I mentioned last week, we are in Arizona for some sun and some warmth. Well, we have the sun. The sky is blue without a cloud but when I went to walk this morning, it was below freezing. Having only packed shorts and short-sleeved shirts to walk in, that’s just too cold. If I was at home, no problem. Just put on some sweats and off I go.

So far though many parts of this trip have been superb. We are doing the first two segments of this three-city trip in AirBnBs. We started using those in 2017 and have had pretty good luck so far. Only one was just so-so (needed a good cleaning) but we have since done at least 10 and they are a super value and in many cases, better than hotels. The place in Phoenix where we spent the first two nights of this trip is a great example. You can see it by clicking here. We would highly recommend it for two-four people. It’s a really nice condo that is centrally located. The host was outstanding and super responsive. We would stay there again in an instant.

Our stay in Phoenix included meeting up with our best buddies from BC, and then visiting and having lunch with some old mutual cruising friends. After that we took in a nighttime Mariner’s spring training game which was so cold and windy we barely lasted three innings. Just sad. We originally were thrilled it was a night game because we had sweltered in the hot AZ sun at previous games but we were longing for some of that heat by the end of the second inning.

Yesterday we moved down to Tucson. Stopped on the way to have lunch with an old neighbor who had served on our condo board in Redmond with me in the past and then we checked into our Tucson AirBnB where I am sitting and typing this while we wait for the BC crowd to get down here from Phoenix so we can tootle off to Tombstone and Bisbee. This AirBnB is a very quaint bungalow with lots of really cool features. It’s older than the condo in Phoenix but so far, we really like it. You can see that one by clicking here.

After we had checked in (that means getting a key out of a lock box) and dropped our luggage we headed out to tour the Tucson Botanical Gardens. A very cool place with lots of cacti as well as a really nice butterfly house. Spent about an hour there and it almost warmed up while we were inside. Luckily the butterfly house is kept at a constant 88% humidity and about 85 degrees. So we warmed up for a few minutes.

After a quick return and a change of clothes we were out to dinner to meet my best friend from high school, Randy. She and I have known each other since sometime in elementary school and no matter how often I see her, it’s just like we are back in the old times. Kathleen did her best to not be bored while we talked about this person or that person that she had never heard of. Randy took us to El Charro Mexican Restaurant which is a Tucson landmark. Kind of the king of Mexican restaurants in a town full of great Mexican food. It was quite the place and the food was superb. My only problem was the noise level and hearing Kathleen or Randy half the time.

We are meeting Randy again on Saturday at her son’s pizza place where we had the world’s greatest Brussel’s sprouts the last time we were here. Can’t wait to have them again. Then we are heading to the Desert Museum (which we are told is so much more than a museum.) I’ll give you a report tomorrow.

PS: If you would like to see more pictures, check out my Flickr feed at right.