I recently got the opportunity to use airbnb.com to book a room for me, my husband and our 9 month old baby to stay in for a week in LA. I have to admit at first glance the service seems to be a great idea for those wishing to save a few extra dollars when traveling,although some of the homes cost more than some hotels not really a bargain. I’m not afraid to say that’s why we used the service, we were retuning from a month long trip to Asia and needed a few days to recover before heading back to work, a sort of hiding place. The site itself seems easy enough to use, find the price and area you want and write the owner seeing if your a match. I sent out around 50 requests and got back about 25 responses, not to bad. We finally settled on a home in the outskirts of LA, mostly due to the price and her close proximity to the airport. I admit I did not pay close attention to the details of the room, I remember it said it was a private room with a shared bath and a Continental breakfast every morning. After we accepted the room we wrote to the owner and asked if their was free Wi-Fi and a television. The owner was great about responding quickly, there was free Wi-Fi but only one TV in the community room, but we were free to use the TV whenever we wanted.
The day we arrived to our temporary home we were not sure what to expect. First the neighborhood seemed safe and quiet, there was nothing fancy about it, maybe it was a little boring but that’s ok. When we got to the house, at first glance the property appeared to be a little run down, the property itself could use some fresh paint, there were old sofas lined up on the side of the property and an old run down car sitting in the drive way. When we got into the front entrance of the house we became a little scared of what we had gotten ourselves into. The living room was almost bare, just a couple run down chairs, an exercise machine and a strange little white wall in the middle of the room. There was also a strange smell in the whole house, I can’t really explain it but it reminds me of old carpet that needs to be cleaned. As you enter into the rest of the property there is an improvement to the front room. The kitchen is large with a big table in the middle and the community room was full of lots of big soft sofas, each a little old and used but nothing terrible. Our room was upstairs it was a nice size room with two beds, a overhead fan and personal AC unit, the room next to us had neither, leaving the occupants hot, we felt quite lucky. I must say the bed was incredibly comfortable soft and inviting, the only bad part was the sheets did not seem to fit and we would often wake up with the bottom sheet bundled up in the middle of the bed and we were sleeping on bare mattress. The one huge downfall, when it said shared bathroom they were not kidding, the time we stayed there six of us were using one small bathroom, at times you might have to wait up to two hours to shower or pee.
Upon checking into our room we were given a paper with a complete explanation of the property. It was pretty basic, mostly about where to eat, how to use the laundry and use of the kitchen including her breakfast every morning. So far so good, after over 20 hours of flying, 72 hours of travel and a time difference of over 13 hours we honesty just wanted a place to sleep for a while. That first day I think we slept for nearly 20 hours just waking up briefly to get up and eat something. Our hosts seemed a little confused about our sleeping habits, I think they get mostly people on vacation who get up early and are gone all day and could not quite understand why we were not being more active. Many of the other guests were international travelers and seemed sympathetic to our plight. On other days we did get up and try and find a few things to do, we were not compete slugs, but unlike staying in closer to town there was not really much to do around where they lived except a 24 hour Walmart or the world oldest MacDonald s and a few restaurants. So unless you wanted to go for a drive you were stuck with nothing to do. We usually stay in west Hollywood, where you can walk or take a short drive to endless hikes or other activities. We did ask the hosts if there was anything close by to do, they sadly admitted there was nothing to do in their neighborhood.
Overall our stay was fine, nothing exciting, nothing horrible perfect for those who are just looking for a place to sleep between their days of sightseeing. There were a few things I would suggest for the host to change. One the coffee in the morning is unpredictable, on one day there was no coffee at all because our hosts decided to sleep in until 10 am, but on most other morning there was just not enough coffee ever made, you were lucky to get one cup before the pot was gone. There was tea, but you had to heat the water up in the microwave, excuse me for being picky but I prefer my water to be made in a tea kettle. We were given a small shelve in the fridge, but usually our shelf was used up by others, it felt useless to use it at all, plus our food with our name on it was still eaten by others(maybe let people know they only have a small shelf that way they do not show up with five bags of grocery’ s for the week). The breakfast she offered was really just some cold cereal, two mornings there was not even any milk to have cereal with anyway. There was peanut butter and jelly sandwich’s to make (which our host and her husband had every morning) but for most it was just not breakfast fare Honestly I would have been just as happy with plenty of hot fresh coffee with real cream and let me fend for myself with the food. Having a kitchen available for us was great though, not having to rely on eating out every meal.
The biggest complaint I have with my stay it not ever feeling completely at home. A few times we sat in the community room and watched television, but as soon as the host and her husband came home it felt like we needed to leave the public areas and stay in our room. Almost every night the host and her husband would eat dinner together while watching television, turning down the lights and putting the volume of the television so loud you felt like you needed to run fast to get away from the noise. If you ever went downstairs during that time you felt like you were invading their time in their house, one night we spent from 5 pm till the morning in our small room because we felt so unwelcome in any other part of the house. I wish I could say it was just us, but I noticed the other hanging out in their rooms during that time as well, I don’t think any of us ever felt at home during that time. Maybe the hosts could put a TV in their room leaving the community room a place for all to come and escape the confinement of their rooms. It was the main reason for us to leave a couple days early, one more evening feeling forced into our room was more than we could bare.
Would I suggest others using this service or stay in this house? Sure for some this may be the perfect solution. It is a fine place to sleep after spending a busy day out. No you don’t have to freedom to spend all evening in the bathroom after eating too much Mexican food, so what. No you don’t get to spend an mindless evening watching television, so get a good book and go to bed. You may have to actually get up and get moving in the morning so you can get your cup of Joe at Starbucks, there are worst things. Or you might end up meeting amazing people from other parts of the world as you each search for your food in the fridge, or talk about the exciting things they saw that day as you are all hiding up in your rooms together. For some this is the perfect setting, one of the guests said she had terrible anxiety when she stayed at hotels, she just felt better staying in homes, for her this was perfect. For the young girls from Europe they mostly needed a cheap places to stay that were safe, for them this worked as well. For my husband and I we have been living out of hotels for the past three years, for us this type of living just does not work for us. I guess its an individual thing, you have to decide what you can live and live without.