This week we have a post from an avid reader of the blog, my cousin Hima, who has a rather hot take on the concept of AirBnB. We have sparred over the idea of staying in AirBnBs while on family vacations for quite some time now and I figured it was about time you hear her hot take on the topic.
I realize how controversial my title is, so before all the Airbnb fans out there come at me with pitchforks, allow me to elaborate.
My husband and I love traveling. Some of our favorite places in the world are Switzerland and Italy. So when we had our kids, we decided that we would continue globe trotting. In fact, our recent 3-week trip was mostly spent in a breathtaking town in France called Colmar. We started off in Paris and where did we stay after? In an Airbnb of course! Knowing exactly what I look for, my husband had selected a spacious 4 bedroom, serviced (cleaning included) apartment in the center of the town.
On paper, and even in reality, this was supposed to be an amazing property, but here were some major problems:
- Bathrooms: There were only 2 toilets in the entire property with extremely old plumbing. The toilets were separate from the showers, and only one toilet and sink really worked.
- Hot water: We stayed there for 8 nights. I did not have hot water for 4 of them. The water pressure was so low that it didn’t even feel like I was taking a shower. They had a shower and a sink inside two of the bedrooms, none of which had strong, running warm water.
- Air conditioning: it took us a little longer to figure out how to work the room air conditioning. Until we later realized that the room air conditioning wasn’t cutting it with the sweltering heat outside.
- Poor WiFi: I was working during this trip, and could not get a good signal at any point of my day. I had to go to the nearby Starbucks, for wifi and for nice air conditioning! Shouldn’t Wi-Fi at least be a guarantee at a property like this?
- Washer/dryer– Cool concept including both as one unit, and they both worked decently well (one load would take about 6 hours). But the washing machine was inside the same room as the only working toilet…. I’ll spare you the details.
This is a highly recommended, beautiful property in the city center but nothing about it felt like a vacation for me. With 2 young kids who are picky eaters, it meant constantly chasing after them with homemade food, and having to clean up their messes. In other words, it felt like being home without the luxuries of actually being home.
The most stressful part of any trip for me is the packing aspect. Majority of the time we are always up all night packing. But atleast this time around we had a bit more flexibility, as we were driving to the next part of our trip. Despite paying for cleaning service, we quickly realized that there was still quite a bit of clean up to do. We were out by 11 AM, checkout time and by the time we arrived in Wengen, Switzerland it was almost 9:30 PM. There, we stayed at yet another property that had recently been renovated with a gorgeous view and state of the art amenities. I was looking forward to staying here for 3 nights, but soon realized it would be the toughest 3 nights of our trip.
At a pretty high altitude and temperate climate that is known for its skiing in the winters, Wengen has no air conditioned properties. As luck would have it, the temperatures at this time were at an unprecedented high with the heat wave across Europe ( it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit the night we arrived). The property manager told us to open our windows and enjoy the “fresh mountain air” when we called her frantically. Now I am not a camping gal, more a glamper if you will.. so imagine my horror when every little critter known to mankind entered through our windows. Suffice to say, I did not sleep those 3 nights.
Once again, we packed up, cleaned up and threw away all the trash at a far away location from our chalet. They had very strict instructions for cleaning which we followed to the tee to avoid penalty fees. It was raining cats and dogs that morning and we ended up missing our train. The mood was reflective of where I stood at the end of this stay.
We stayed the remaining nights at a Hyatt regency in Zurich near the airport, in “The Circle” as they call it, and it felt like I was in a resort in comparison.
Airbnbs in Europe are not standardized, and though I used our recent stay as an example, we have stayed at Airbnbs all over including Prague, Alesund, Rome, Florence, Venice, Eigenberg (Austria) all with young children. Each time we left I have had varied experiences, some were pretty good, while others were unbearable. No matter how many reviews and stars you may see on a property before committing, Airbnbs have a lot more variability compared to a hotel.
So while traveling to Europe can be a lot of fun with young kids, I must warn you not to get tempted by the “ample space” that Airbnbs supposedly provide, I’d much rather stay in a slightly crowded suite with breakfast and a nice lobby where I can call if I need an amenity right away.
Do not fall for the ‘having a kitchen is convenient with kids’ trap for I have stayed at places where they did not even include a dishwasher or a microwave in the kitchen. Wrack up some points and stay at a Residence Inn people!
But wait, aren’t Airbnbs more cost effective?” You might want to think twice. By the time “cleaning fees” and grocery bills are accounted for (some places don’t even provide a tissue roll) you’re not saving much nor enjoying as much. Lastly, the statement that “Airbnbs are like home away from home.” Yes, in fact you might just be scrubbing and cleaning away just as though you are “home.”
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve stayed at some fantastic Airbnbs in the past with mesmorizing views, but there always seemed to be a caveat. We once stayed at this super luxrious lake como villa with a view to die for, but we were forced to choose between running the dishwasher and washer and/or the lights. We woke up in the pitch dark of night and stumbled to find a flashlight to look around for the circuit breaker.
A nice vacation for me after working hard all year long is all about rest and relaxation. So after traveling for 12 hours, dealing with jet lagged children, and having grocery stores close by 6 pm in most places, the last thing I want is to arrive at another “home” where I’m going to be cooking and cleaning. I’ve especially come to this recognition after my experience in Europe this past summer. It seems more efficient to have room service options with ample space and a designated place for kids to have fun. I find that I am more suited for resort life like the Westin Villas in St. John, USVI, or a Marriott Surf Club, Aruba. These places are my kind of vacation spots.
The imagery of having a nice lady welcoming us with a drink and showing us to our room isn’t so shabby either (in contrast to playing escape the room to find the hidden keys placed somewhere by Airbnb hosts).
So my word of advice, if you’re traveling to Europe with young kids, run while you can to a hotel! (Unless your kids are angels and don’t make messes and you can bear no air conditioning, and couldn’t care less for WiFi; in which case, it might still be the best option for you).
Disclaimer: I did not get paid by Hilton or any hotel chain to write this editorial.
For the laughs: