I’m Just Back From An Airbnb And I Have Thoughts

Like many of you I had money left in my travel budget this year. I’ve spent a lot less money overall in 2020, and in some ways that’s a good thing. It’s good for savings, certainly. For a bit of a change of scenery I booked a house on the Texas beach, a few hours’ drive from home outside of Corpus Christi.

The weather in Texas in December can be a bit unpredictable but things worked out well with highs in the low 70s. It was great for sitting outside on the water, walking along the beach, and playing with my two year old in the sand. We weren’t in swimsuits, and didn’t spend time in the water but all in all a nice change of pace. And it was all possible without any close contacts outside my own household for the entire four days we were gone.

For this trip I booked a three bedroom home right on the beach through Airbnb. At $400 per night I’ve only spent this much on lodging once before. But as I say, my travel spend for the year was low and my desire for a change of scenery high.

The home was in a small development that reminded me of Art Deco Miami without the architectural significance. Lots of similar colors, all the homes showing wear from proximity to the water.

But we had a deck, we had a kitchen, and though Airbnb has its cleanliness standards the first thing we did was disinfect high touch areas ourselves.

Overall it was exactly the stay I was looking for, and Airbnb was the right option for booking something in this location where there aren’t nice chain resorts where I could spend points and where other homesharing sites lacked the same beachfront inventory at the price for a similar home. At the same time the Airbnb experience left me frustrated in many ways.

  • The actual cost was 50% higher than the sum of the nightly rates. While resort fees at hotels in Las Vegas can do the same thing during the week, it’s still shocking to see the price jump due to booking fees, cleaning fees, etc. (Most hotels include housekeeping in the room rate, even if Marriott pushes you to tip housekeepers and some hotels weren’t doing daily housekeeping even before the pandemic).

  • 5 p.m. check-in and 10 a.m. checkout is ridiculous. It doesn’t take a hotel 7 hours to turn a room.

  • No late check-out. The owner’s outsourced representative proactive emails they’ll let you know day-of if early check-in or late check-out is available, I got emails on the day of check-in and day of check-out denying both. Presumably the property was booked until my day of arrival and someone else was checking in right after my departure. Hotels, with more inventory, can more easily offer this.

  • Take out your own trash or get fined a $50 fine for not taking your trash to the complex’s bin blocks away was not included in the property listing but was reinforced multiple times over email.

  • Contactless check-in was a plus. I was emailed a door code to use for my stay, so entry was keyless. Hotels are moving to keyless but Marriott allowed owners to delay this investment during the pandemic.

  • The property needed care. Hotels have maintenance on staff, though the median domestic Sheraton may not have always gotten what was needed. This home badly needed paint on the interior and work on the base boards and door frames. There was mold around the showers and hair in the shower drains. The towels in the master bathroom were stained.

  • Airbnb worked out better than Marriott’s homesharing site The home I booked was in the perfect spot. Marriott had a home in the same community for just a few dollars more that wasn’t right on the beach (but still an easy walk). I would have rather taken advantage of a Marriott promo and earned points, but Airbnb’s option was better.

With Airbnb I always have the worry of a host cancelling and then you’re stuck. Hotels walk guests but they have many rooms versus only one usually booked with a host. And when a host does cancel, I’ve only read horror stories, Airbnb offering to find options out of its own limited inventory at your expense along with a small goodwill credit towards a future stay. That’s not helpful at all in peak times when inventory is sparse at best.

How have your Airbnb experiences been, and how do they compare to hotels? Would you consider renting a home or condo instead of a hotel, and if so why?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As a rule I do not schlep trash to bins not on property when I pay a cleaning fee. I don’t mind taking the trash out to a rolling bin that’s beside the garage of the home I’m renting, for example, but I am not paying $250 to clean a place on a $3,000 weekly rental and then hauling bags of trash to a community dumpster two blocks away all week. I have had 100% success not paying any fines when that is not disclosed upfront before booking.

    Overall I find some modest but very limited value from Airbnb but generally much prefer a hotel.

  2. I personally love Airbnb. Even when things haven’t gone smoothly, it’s all worked out in the end. I hope you do leave a review for the host as the trash requirement should have been in the listing. Most hosts I interact with have been amazing, but I’ve never spent that much per night. Maybe this host feels entitled, if they’re able to ask for that much and have high bookings. I tend to message several properties before deciding. I get a feel for what’s likely going to be a good experience based on their reply. Have you experienced better with Marriott homes? My guess is the experience is a bit more consistent there, but also fewer options.

  3. We’ve used three AirBnB’s this year in Rehoboth Beach, De, Asheville, NC and Emerald Isle, NC. What I find with Airbnb is all the properties are in need of some TLC and minor repairs. Not that I’m “project guy” but all seem to have some mold, painting, broken or loose boards on deck, etc…can’t say I’ve stayed in one great place but it’s been good to stay in some new place during pandemic shutdown where travel has been killed.

    Almost all places I’ve learned to bring my own towels. It seems that’s where most places cheap out or are worn. Most places have okay bedding/pillow cases.

  4. I find Airbnb too risky. My first stay was a condo booked in Seattle and when I arrived the code didn’t work to get in. At 3 a.m. in an industrial area with a non responsive owner and Airbnb staff that were totally worthless. The hotel I checked into at 4 a.m. was a godsend! Next Airbnb – same trip – in Missoula was a group home with people coming and going all night. Give me a hotel any day.

  5. Our family just stayed in sea Ranch . Air bnb is much better than other website they found us replacement right away . Also u can check reviews before booking . My boyfriend stayed in Marriott two times they say it’s a big room but most of time the room are tiny for $250 per night plus service tax they charge and facing parking lot and so many peo waking up and down. We saw videos on u tube and peo accepting that sometimes in hotels the housekeepers put same sheet on . Lots of horror stories . In Airbnb it’s owned by one person so it’s more personal and mostly u can see in review how clean the house is . We just love using Airbnb and if host cancel which they don’t because Airbnb fines host for cancel . They always find u nice spot and give discounts . In hotel $250 per night u can find nice Airbnb with full house privacy at same amount .

  6. Hi Gary,

    As an Airbnb host, and also a frequent Airbnb guest, I thought you offered a balanced appraisal of the short-term rental experience through their platform. I’m also an avid points and miles enthusiast, and the negative remarks in this comment section do not surprise me. Mostly I think it’s because your typical readers are more attracted to a luxury hotel experience. A short-term rental will most-of-the-time not be able to compete with the service level of a competent 4 or 5 star hotel. Also, as other commenters have mentioned, hotel points often offer an outsized value. While Airbnb rentals are usually an excellent value compared to hotels, your readers have access to the magic of points. This turns the price factor on its head.

    A good host will be able to offer a short term rental experience that overcomes most of your negative points. Reading your blog post, I think the biggest issue may be the host used a rental management company. For my husband and me, all of our short-term rental listings are also our own properties.

    As an Airbnb guest, I look for listings with at least 20 reviews, a host with “Superhost” status, and an overall rating of 4.9 or higher. All of our Airbnb stays have been fine. Most have been great.

    The one area for which I would like your constructive feedback: what would you suggest doing with the cleaning fee? To me it does not seem practical to incorporate the fee into our standard nightly rates, when a thorough cleaning will cost us the same, whether for a one, or seven, night stay.

  7. @Jason

    I’m not even sure WTH this means:

    ”You’re sounding like a Robinhood noob who made a few lucky bets on 0 day to expiration $TSLA $PLTR calls”

    I believe Gary’s question was how would you rate your experience. Mine: Fabulous!

    And for the record the Airbnb maps for the locations I was looking at pretty specifically pinpointed the location. I verified on google maps and street views they didn’t appear to be sketchy neighborhoods, and what conveniences are available within a few block radius.

    Please don’t speak to me condescendingly as though I don’t know what I’m talking about

    I’d been these places before, there are no high end hotels available, and again, MY opinion, , the comfort and value of the Airbnbs far outweighed the hotel/motel experience

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