Airbnb has been a travel lifesaver for us!
For instance, we’ve been to a handful of tiny towns for a surf contest that offer only one or two hotel options within dozens of miles. OR, (more commonly), when we visit a tourist-popular city (think: Paris, Sydney, Tokyo), all of the decent hotels are all ridiculously out of our price range. We used Airbnb in every country we’ve visited so far: up and down Australia, before/after our campervan reservation in New Zealand, in villas while in Bali Indonesia, in the heart of Tokyo and out in Japan’s countryside, down the Atlantic coast of France and in the center of Paris, as well as for our quick trip to Spain.
I’ll be honest — some Airbnb accommodations have been better than others. We’ve stayed in a fabulous penthouse, but we’ve also seen cockroaches. I’ll break down the good, the bad and the ugly, and ultimately, why I highly recommend using Airbnb! Pssst… get $40 off your first Airbnb reservation, here.
Below is an assortment of photos from some of our absolute favorite Airbnbs we stayed in. Obviously we prefer to book a private “entire apartment/home,” but we’ve also done our fair share of “private rooms”— where you stay in someones house with them. 90% of the time we had super friendly, hospitable, helpful and considerate hosts. They shared their local recommendations, offered to have dinner together, and also allowed us enough private space.
(Above photos): Amazing apartment in Anglet, France (next door to better-known town Biarritz), set on a golf course and in easy walking distance to the beach. All modern appliances, lovely patio, community pool, and super spacious. We loved this apartment! Might even say it was the best we’ve ever had. We booked the “entire apt/home” so we had it all to ourselves. See it here!
(Below photos): In the beach town of Coolangatta on the Gold Coast of Australia, we stayed in a penthouse apartment that was beautifully decorated with an open air lounge room, ocean views, and even an adorable shitzhu puppy! We booked just a “private room” in this home, so we stayed with the host couple, Robert & Evelyn, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. We stayed for a whole two weeks! See more here.
(Below photos): Another top choice (!)— a cozy, private apartment we booked in Avoca Beach, Australia. This beautiful front yard and patio was a definite highlight, along with the “welcome package” the hosts left us in the fridge — breakfast, snacks and wine included! See more here.
(Below photos): Oh, Bali! My favorite! Below, first two photos are of our villa in Canggu. Gorgeous pool, adjacent rice fields and just a few blocks from the beach. Loved this place. Third photo down is taken from our room in Bingin Beach, on the Bukit Peninsula in Bali. Great location to explore the Uluwatu region, though it wasn’t quite as nice as the Canggu villa. But at $37/night, you can’t really complain.
(Below photo): Probably our most culturally-immersive Airbnb stay, here in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan. This was one of those instances where the town is literally so small there’s only one hotel and it was kind of pricey. So we booked this Airbnb room (out of only 3 or so options) with zero reviews and only one photo. It felt a pretty risky because we usually rely heavily on photos and reviews, but it ended up being wonderful. It was a very traditional Japanese home with the sliding soji screen doors and woven tatami floors. Our host Riosuke went above and beyond. He was super accommodating and helpful in a town that was extremely foreign to us (barely anyone spoke English). He even picked us up from the train station and took us to local/secret Udon noodle spots. Thank you Rio! See the minimalist listing here.
On one occasion, in San Sebastian, Spain, we booked an “entire apartment/home” listing. The photos were sparse and reviews were in broken English. We were leaving in a couple days and hadn’t locked down a spot yet, so our options were limited. Once we checked in, we very quickly realized this was the family’s everyday home (we had it to ourselves because they were on vacation). Nothing was particularly wrong with the apartment, but it just felt strange to be living in a strangers’ home without ever meeting them. Their food was in the fridge and their cosmetics in the bathroom.
It doesn’t feel like this when you book a “private room” and stay with the hosts, because you’re living side-by-side with them and there are usually clearly shared guidelines set up (i.e. this is my bathroom, this is yours). Additionally, any “private room” you book is typically very basic and decorated similar to the likes of a hotel room. In our Spanish apartment, we stayed in their master bedroom… with their family photos on every wall. Kind of weird! Separately, the biggest issue was a design problem at root: there was no living room. There was a futon couch in the kitchen and that was the only common space to hang out. Also, kind of weird!
Okay, our worst Airbnb experience: Cronulla, Australia. Problem 1: the bathroom was literally inside the kitchen. I’m not exaggerating. The toilet and shower were 3 feet away from the fridge, toaster, microwave and “kitchen sink.” So unsanitary! Problem 2: We had cockroaches. First, we saw one in the kitchen (/bathroom?) but then several more after… Shaun chased the roaches with a butcher knife and caught most of them. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night. The next morning, we debated how to handle this situation and decided to message the host (his house was attached to our attachment, like an in-law unit) asking to check out early and for a refund for the remaining nights that we would not be staying.
Problem 3: The host had a “strict” cancellation, which basically means no refunds, no matter what, sorry not sorry. I thought this situation may have been an outstanding exception (potential cockroach infestation!!!) but I was wrong. Strict cancellation: no refunds after 24 hours past checking in. We didn’t see the cockroaches until day 2 of the reservation, so we had missed the refund window. We toughed it out the remaining couple nights because we didn’t want to throw away our money, but it was awkward. The host knew we were mad. Below, see the only negative review I’ve ever left on a listing, and the host’s clearly irritated response.
But don’t let that scare you!
90% of our Airbnbs have been enjoyable and some have been phenomenal! Literally, just these 2 out of our 18 total stays have been sub-par. Plus, we’ve saved so much money along the way. For example, we booked a $45/night studio in the heart of Tokyo versus $150+/night for a decent hotel. And, Airbnb offers a real immersive feeling into the local culture and community. We ended up trying out (and loving) little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and kinda-secret bars, because of the recommendations from our hosts. Next time you’re planning a getaway, especially an international getaway, consider Airbnb!
A few more Airbnbs we’ve stayed in but I don’t have any photographic proof to share with you:
- Private room in Burleigh Heads, Australia. Our very first stop on our 5 month trip. The young married couple hosts were super cute and welcoming. We’re all still friends on Facebook!
- Private room in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia. (Yes, that’s really the name of a neighborhood there!) Nice, basic room and clean, modern decorations. Pleasant host, but not buddy-buddy. Best part was the central location in the city. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about either.
- Private room in Bondi Beach, Australia. Really great location, in the middle of everything in this fun Aussie beach town. Small room and shared bathroom, but welcoming hosts- a young couple from Italy. I’d come back!
- Private room in Auckland, New Zealand. Beautiful room with a beautiful view over the bay. Really lovely host, Jodie, who even invited us out to her friend’s party! Only stayed for 2 nights, but definitely enjoyed it. Only negative, we got really stormy weather for our short stay in Auckland!
- Studio apartment in Christchurch, New Zealand. Essentially felt like a hotel room with a basic kitchenette, so nothing fancy, but it had everything we needed. Clean and comfortable and private.
- Studio apartment in Shibuya, Tokyo. Probably the best money-saver we booked! It was small, but hey, it’s Japan. One stop away from the biggest train station in the world, so we had plenty of opportunity to explore. Also in walking distance of the best ramen we’ve ever had.
- Private studio in Cornwall, England UK. The studio was attached to the family home, in a beautiful garden setting and spacious land. However, it was more or less in the middle of nowhere. About a 20-30 minute drive from the surf contest in Fistral Beach, so it wasn’t an ideal situation (everything was booked out in Fistral months in advance!).
- One-bedroom apartment in Paris, France. An AMAZING apartment in Le Marais— an artsy, bohemian, up-and-coming area in the dead center of Paris. Walking distance to the Notre Dame and down the street from both the Centre Pompidou and the Picasso Museum. Our spot was on the 3rd floor, above a cliché but so adorable Parisien cafe with mojito “happy hours” everyday. One of my top choices of all our Airbnb stays, and $72/night is insanely cheap for the heart of Paris.
6 Click here to show some love!