The following is an article by frequent contributor Kosmo. I’ve been interested in how AirBnb works to stay at as it seems like people are using them to save some good money. I’ve written in the past about potentially being an AirBnb host. If you have stayed at one, I’d love read your thoughts in the comments
We decided to visit Door County, Wisconsin on our vacation this summer. For those who are unfamiliar with the geography of Wisconsin, Door County is the “pinky finger” that sticks up on the eastern edge of the state. It has a smattering of small towns whose population can swell to nearly ten times its size in the summer to accommodate tourists who come to visit the state parks, lighthouses, wineries, and many other attractions.
My wife and I have two kids, age 9 and 7. When we started looking at hotels, we had trouble finding ones that were close to Lake Michigan, could comfortably accommodate four people, and were reasonable priced. That’s when my wife got the idea to poke around on AirBnb.
To be honest, my wife did all the legwork for this. She searched for houses for rent in Door County and quickly narrowed it down to a handful of places. For the same price as a small hotel room, we found a two bedroom house to rent that purported to be a block from the beach and a block from downtown. I wasn’t born yesterday, so I was a bit skeptical, but it did appear to be close.
We asked the property owner a few questions about the property, and he was very quick to respond.
So we committed and made our reservation. One drawback is that you pay for the entire stay up front. So if you make a reservation six months before your stay, you’ll get charged immediately. It appears that AirBnb has been testing different payment options, but we only had the choice of the standard option.
AirBnb holds the money until 24 hours after check-in before transferring the funds to the property owner. AirBnb itself is the only entity that gets your credit card number in this process.
Shortly before our stay, we received an email from AirBnb with information the property owner had supplied. Most importantly, information on how to get into the house! There was a lockbox on the door, and the email gave us the combination to the lock. There was also information about the WiFi network, directions to the house, and general information about the area.
We left our home in Iowa on a Friday and stopped overnight in Madison, Wisconsin. We could have made the triple in a single day, but we didn’t want to press our luck with the two kids. Also, my wife wanted to visit Lambeau Field on the way to Door County. (Packers. Ugh.)
We arrived at our destination mid-afternoon on Saturday. The house was indeed very close to Lake Michigan – a few hundred feet from the very nice beach. There was a nice view of the lake from the living room window. There was a pizza place a few hundred feet in one direction, and one of the main streets (lined with restaurants) was a couple hundred feet in another direction. The location was awesome.
The house had two bedrooms. The master bedroom had one bed and the other bedroom had a bunk bed and another bed. In theory, the house could have slept six. There was also a good-sized living room and a combination kitchen/dining room. Definitely on the smaller side for a house (more of a cottage), but much larger than a suite at a hotel. The living room also had a bunch of board games, include a very nice glass chess set.
There was also a basement. My kids were fascinated by the basement (I had no idea why), but its most important features were a washer and dryer. They were on the small side, but they didn’t require coins, and the property owner even provided the detergent. Other than that, the basement area had storage for the consumable items (paper towels, etc) and it was clear that the property owner was working on a few projects in other area of the basement. The basement was pretty tidy, relative to most basements.
There was also a one car garage. It was a tight squeeze for our Ford Edge, but it did fit inside. It was nice to have a garage when the hail was falling.
Toward evening, we realized that the AC didn’t seem to be working, and we sent a text to the owner. Although we didn’t see his response until morning, he actually responded quickly with a suggestion to check the breaker box. I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t thought of that, assuming that there was a problem with the recently installed AC system. Minutes later, the AC was blasting cool air. The property owner knocked off $50 for the inconvenience, even thought it was mostly due to me being an idiot.
Overall, the AirBnb experience felt much more like home than a hotel. The house had all of the basics that we needed. Although we didn’t cook much while we were there, the kitchen had all of the pots and pans and utensils you’d need to cook nearly anything. There were plenty of plates and glasses, as well as paper plates, paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, etc. We were pleasantly surprised that they actually had name brand toilet paper instead of the thin, scratchy industrial toilet paper you see in most hotels.
The property owner did a great job of communicating. On a few of the days, there was the threat of severe weather, and he texted us to give us a heads-up, as well as letting us know where the weather radio could be found. As native Midwesterners, we knew of the dangers posed by severe thunderstorms, but it was nice of him to let us know.
We’ll definitely try AirBnb in the future. The process was very smooth and professional. We got a lot of space for the money, as well as a great location. Any of the hotels in the area would have been much further from the beach.