We’re in Tucson, Arizona staying at the JW Marriott since Jimmy is there for work. It’s 7:15pm, the baby is asleep and I hear the faintest clang of dishes in the hall. Jimmy and I creep to the door, slowly open it (praying it doesn’t squeak too loud), and thank the hotel staff who just brought us our room service meal. As we sit on the floor outside our room scarfing down delicious food and maybe a few beers/cocktails it dawns on me how drastically our travel accommodations have changed.
Many parents out there can understand what it’s like to stay in a studio style room with a baby or toddler (or multiple kids) who is used to sleeping in their own room. You creep around like you’re trying to rob the place and not get caught, texting each other instead of talking, quietly climbing in and out of bed just in case the bed squeaks, etc. We have done this so many times on our travels where our hotel was picked for us or where the options were limited. We can do it and we WILL do it if we need to….but we don’t always need to. Jimmy and I didn’t always go to Airbnb first for travel. As a matter of fact, we will still stay at Candlewood Suites if we don’t have another option. They are large studio style rooms with full kitchens, lots of space, they usually offer a complimentary breakfast, a decent workout facility, a “pantry” with food/toiletry items, and they have a killer military discount. (I believe it’s usually under $80 a night) The downfall is: we now have a toddler and we don’t always want to go bed when she does --- at 7pm.
Our first experience with Airbnb was in November 2015 when we arrived in Florence, Italy. We arrived by train, wheeled our bags across the small city and called our Host. He spoke pretty decent English, met us at his restaurant and took us upstairs to the apartment. It was fantastic; 2 bedroom, kitchen/common area, washing machine (Critical when traveling Europe with a baby who has blow-outs), wi-fi, a small balcony, blow dryer, etc. He even had a table with easy Italian translation books, maps, tourist info. I had contacted the host prior to arriving and arranged to have a baby cot (pack-n-play) set up for us in advance which was already there waiting for us. The location of this particular Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was at the foot of the Ponte Vecchio….literally. When you walked out of the apartment building, you were standing at the foot of the bridge. We couldn’t have asked for a better spot! So, how much was it to stay here? Must have been outrageous right? No. I am so cheap. I did hotel cost comparisons before we booked and this was much cheaper than booking two hotel rooms. (my mom & step-dad were with us, so they needed their own room too) We ended up paying $367 total for two nights and we split the cost with my parents since they stayed with us, so $183.50 for each couple and only $91.75 per night. You won’t find a hotel in that location for that price where you can put your baby to bed, go into a kitchen eat dinner/drink wine/socialize AND do some laundry! It was a wonderful experience. Here is a link to that particular place: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5646089
As we moved through Italy we stayed in an Airbnb in Rome about a 7-10 minute walk from the Coliseum – SPECTACULAR views and location. (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6042538) Then again we stayed in an Air B&B in Sorrento that had an incredible host, a killer location near the water, and easy access to the downtown area. (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2118943) Overall, we were so impressed with all of our accommodations. I was admittedly afraid before we left because I knew I would have to call and meet up with real life Italians; the language barrier and not knowing my surroundings was intimidating, but other than a few 10-15 minute hiccups, we were able to find our Hosts/Apartments easily. Each accommodation was worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY. The easy access to each city’s “must-see” attractions, the convenience of having a washer, the separated bedrooms and common areas, being able to put our baby to bed and still socialize/eat/drink in local’s apartment – all so worth it! We spent our nights gorging on Italian bread/pizza/pasta and drinking the best cheap wine in the world. **My parents did stay in with our baby a few nights, so Jimmy and I could go to dinner alone after she went to bed and we are so grateful for that time as well!! Thanks Mom & Ed!
Fast forward to April 2016 when we took our Little Nomad to New Orleans for her first birthday. (I mean, who doesn’t need a trip to NOLA in lieu of a 1st birthday party??) We decided to forego the expensive hotels and search around for a quieter place for us and our birthday girl. We ended up finding an AMAZING Air BnB. While this particular place was in fact a studio, it was in a neighborhood, had an actual driveway to park in, a pool we could use, a small kitchenette area and plenty of space for our crawler to explore. The place was nicely located near lots of restaurants as well. We loved getting to know our Hosts, being able to conveniently explore the city and get a taste of local NOLA instead of the Bourbon/Canal Street scene again. Here is the place: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4222053
So, what do you need to know about Airbnb?
- Is it safe? We think so! We have never felt unsafe or threatened staying at an Airbnb. Actually, quite the opposite. You can see how Airbnb protects guests here: https://www.airbnb.com/trust and here: https://www.airbnb.com/home-safety
- Is it cost effective? Yes. We have always paid less per night for an Airbnb than a hotel room would cost. As I said before, I am cheap and I like to travel on a budget. Airbnb has protected our budget and allowed us to stay in some great, convenient locations.
- Know the rules. Each Host has posted rules with their accommodation. Make sure you know and understand them, so you don’t get into a situation when you arrive. For instance, if a particular Airbnb host says they do not accept children and you show up with your kids, it could get awkward and your trip may get really expensive.
- You aren’t staying in a hotel. This is a private citizen’s home. Most Airbnbs do not offer 24/7 check in/check out, there is no room service or front desk, no parking garage, etc. Keep an open mind here.
Tips from the Nomads:
- Choose “Entire Home”: You don’t have to settle for studio style hotel rooms and you NEVER have to stay at someone’s house while they are residing there. You can choose to have the “entire home” instead of a room in someone’s house.
- Use the “Size” option: If you have several couples/children/family members joining your trip, you can limit your search to only include however many bedrooms you would like. On our next trip to Europe we are booking only 3 bedroom apartments so we can accommodate our older daughter, us, and my parents again. Sleep is vital to relaxing vacations, so don’t skimp here.
- Contact the Host before you book: You can (and should) contact the host of the accommodation you want. Give them some info about you/who’s traveling and ask them any questions you may have. I always ask if they have a pack-n-play available, ensure their washing machine is still functioning, make sure the place is kid friendly, ask how convenient the place is to attractions or public transportation, etc.
- For contacting international Air BnB Hosts we called Verizon and had one phone line turned international for one month. It cost us $40, but gave use the convenience of being able to call/contact international numbers. When we weren’t meeting up with locals, we would put our phone back on wi-fi only and not use our data.
- Enjoy the experience!! Airbnb was the BEST way for us to get to see “real Italy” and experience living the way real Italians did. We absolutely loved going up to the apartments, looking out into the courtyards and seeing laundry on the line, hearing neighbors talking in Italian, etc. It made the trip feel more authentic and less touristy.
When you book your next trip – explore Airbnb’s website before you get a standard hotel. Find a great apartment or house to stay in, get your kids their own room to sleep in, meet some local people AND get $35 off your next trip (of $75 or more) if you use our link: www.airbnb.com/c/tcarlson66
(You’re welcome in advance for the most authentic trip you’ve been on!)
We would love to hear about your Airbnb experiences!! Please leave a comment or send us your story!
Fly Brave. Travel Often. See everything.