The concept of Airbnb was terrifying to me at first. Why would I want to deal with someone when I wanted to relax and sleep? On vacations, my mother and I have always stayed in hotels. My father’s vacations usually include camping of which I was never a fan. I prefer privacy in a bug-free, air-conditioned environment, but upon planning my first cross-country trip Airbnb came to mind. Not only was it the cheapest option, but it would be easy to test out the service in short, one-night stays in various cities across the US. A crash-course in Airbnb, if you will.
My first experience was in an apartment that we had all to ourselves. There weren’t many options in the area, and I used my first-time-customer coupon. The space was clean and offered more than what we needed, but I couldn’t help but fear that someone was hiding in a closet. Perhaps I’ve seen too many horror movies, but I thought this would end up like Vacancy. Though I thought it would feel strange to have to share a space with someone, it would certainly be better to face your killer than to wait for the surprise. (Kidding!)
There were extenuating circumstances that led me to book an entire-home Airbnb, but there is a real issue of gentrification from renting out entire spaces. Haven’t we all seen that episode of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? From here on out, I’ll stick to private room rentals, but it was as rookie mistake.
The few rooms we stayed in while heading West were really great examples of the utility and convenience of Airbnb. Once I was on my own, I fully realized I would need to stay in Airbnbs alone if I wanted to travel anywhere cheaply for the weekend. My first solution was to look for places that were hosted by women; I would feel more comfortable with a woman. Another issue was aligning that preference with location, price, and reputation. In looking for a place in Fresno, the best-fitting one was hosted by a man. Ahhh! However, he did have good reviews from other solo-female travelers, so I went for it. It, of course, ended up fine, but I would have really appreciated if some of those solo, female reviewers had gauged their perception-of-safety level.
On my East-ward trip with my mother, we stayed almost exclusively in Airbnbs, and it was a breeze now that I was a seasoned user. We stayed in some really cute places, and we stayed in a place where we kept the lights on all night because we saw a cockroach.
I’ve found that when I’m by myself, I definitely prefer to have present hosts. As an extrovert, I like to have someone to talk to.
Overall, I’ve been really lucky with the places I’ve stayed through Airbnb. The worst I’ve seen was not the owner’s fault, and it is true that you get what you pay for. When I choose the absolute cheapest place, it will not have the comfort or amenities of a slightly pricier place. Airbnb has been a great addition to my travels, and I can’t wait to utilize it further in more countries.
My best advice is to look at the reviews, and leave reviews so others know if it is truly worth it or not! I would also love to see more solo travelers specific their gut-safety-feelings.
If you have used Airbnb, how has your experience been?