About a month ago I wrote a mammoth piece on how to incorporate Airbnb rentals into your vacation plans. I offered a few tips about questions you have to ask to ensure that you get a really good bang for your buck while cutting down on unpleasant surprises.
Vacation rentals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, understandably. But with hotel loyalty programs playing catch with customers or being just plain incompetent (or both), where do you go, really? Hilton points are harder to get due to the Amex monopoly; Marriott, Hyatt, and IHG points are almost impossible to get due to the Chase chokehold. Unless you really are a business traveler — what’s the alternative? A friend recently told me he doesn’t like to stay in other people’s places. That left me speechless – dude, what do you think a hotel room is?
My point is: with hotel prices at a record high, both on cash and points, a lot of avid travelers might want to rethink their take on staying “in other people’s places.” Me? I don’t need any adjustments. I value space above service, and I’ve always liked to spread out. I might be willing to pay for a vacation rental even if there is a stay available on points. But … there are “buts” about everything.
After my trip to Andalusia, Spain, where we stayed in Airbnbs exclusively, I’ve come up with a few more tips because Timmy and I “got got,” sort of. No, our Airbnb problems in Spain weren’t horrible, not even too bad, and those surprises I mentioned didn’t ruin our vacation, but … this is always like live and learn, you know!
We booked this penthouse (LINK) in Seville. The listings promises 2 bedrooms and 2 beds and continues:
Duplex Loft with Private Pool, in the heart of Seville … a place designed to be at peace, relax and enjoy the benefits and comforts of walk or bike everywhere! A home decorated with care for you to enjoy and feel at home!
An open kitchen to the living room to share the cooking time with the other guests while enjoying good wine, is lying on the couch or sitting comfortably at the dining table watching the culinary arts. Separated by Japanese panels, we have a sleeping area with double bed and fitted wardrobes …
A beautiful spiral staircase leads to the second floor where the bedrooms have en suite with dressing room, bathroom with shower water and access to the terrace of 100 square meters with swimming pool, all private, for enjoyment and joy of the lucky ones who can spend your time on this rather than nice, well designed space.
The penthouse didn’t come cheap – about $750 for 4 days with all the fees, but we weren’t looking to save money this time. We were looking at this rooftop with a pool. In Seville’s heat (even at the end of September) that seemed like a solid idea, and we were right. It was still very hot in Seville. We did have fun at that pool. But not right away, unfortunately.
Aside from the pool, the listing and the pictures depicted a 2-bedroom duplex with a huge living room, full air conditioning, WiFi, modern kitchen appliances, and washer and drier. It wasn’t all inaccurate. The living room was huge, the appliances modern, the AC downstairs was good, and WiFi was flying – at least in some places of the apartment. Was it ideal? No. The AC upstairs was fairly weak, and WiFi almost didn’t work on the second floor. But that was nothing compared to these issues:
The pool was dirty
One of the “bedroom” was just a sleeping alcove without a door
Now, the water in the pool was fine, but there are probably issues with the filter, which is why there is all that dirt on the bottom. it’s a monumental failure of the host maintenance company, because greeting new guests with this kind of issue, especially at a fairly expensive property, is simply unconscionable, IMHO.
Jumping ahead, the issue was resolved, and the maintenance people were quick and effective from that point on. But in a couple of days, the dirt on the bottom of the pool returned, although the self-cleaning cycle took care of that reasonably soon.
As you see, the description is listing “bedrooms” (plural) upstairs, not a bedroom. The description led me believe that there were 2 bedrooms upstairs and a “bed space” downstairs. Up to now, this description has not been revised, despite my detailed review outlining the problem.
Alas, there was only one bedroom upstairs, So I slept in a “sleeping area” “separated by Japanese panels with double bed and fitted wardrobes” because the bedroom space without a door is not a bedroom. A bed – yes. An alcove with a bed – yes. Looking back, I should’ve asked – now that I know it’s possible to list a bed separated from the main room by a curtain as a bedroom. I have never ever encountered anything like that!
So, how bad was it? Well, it wasn’t really, even if Timmy insists that he could hear me snoring in his upstairs bedroom (I couldn’t hear him). But if it were 2 couples, or an extended family – no, it wouldn’t be cool.
I was struggling writing my review for that property. I felt that the host misrepresented some very important features of his apartment, so in my review I methodically listed all its shortcomings along with all the strong features of the place. But I still gave him 4 stars because I also felt that the problem areas didn’t take away much of our enjoyment.
And yet, none of the previous reviews I’d read for that apartment (unless I did miss something) mentioned any of the issues. Goes to confirm my point that people can be unreasonably kind in the reviews, sometimes. Would I stay there again? No.
The description portrayed a 2-bedroom air-conditioned apartment duplex with free parking and fast WiFi, next to the main tourist drag. Most things in that description were true. It was less than a minute walk from Calle Larios in the middle of the Malaga tourist district with its countless cafes, bars, restaurants, and beautiful streets. The port is 10 minutes away on foot, the beach 20 minutes. The point is: it would be hard to find a better base in Malaga.
Here are the issues.
The AC downstairs was rather weak
The bedroom downstairs didn’t have an AC unit (!)
The bedroom upstairs didn’t have a door (!!!)
Jeez, what’s wrong with you, Spaniards? How do you “forget” to mention something like that?
In all my previous travels I’ve never experienced a situation where the living room would have air conditioning and a bedroom wouldn’t. It’s usually the other way around. So … live and learn.
How terrible were those issues? Not terrible. Again, for 2 friends traveling after the heat of the summer is gone, it wasn’t a big deal. But for a family or 2 couples in the middle of summer it would be less than an ideal environment. Fortunately, there was a strong floor fan that kept me cool, or I could always open a window. The window could be a problem, though, as the construction work downstairs started at 8:30 like clockwork, and it stopped around 8 at night.
Would I stay there again? Maybe. It’s smack dab in the middle of everything and cheap enough that I’d even stay there alone. Especially with a rental car, which we didn’t use this time.
The description pictured a fully air-conditioned 3-bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms and a small terrace in a building right across from the beach. And it was exactly that. Zero misrepresentations or embellishment. I would call it a golden standard of Airbnb listings, the way it really should be 100% of the time (yes, I’m a daydreamer, I know).
Would I stay there again? In a heartbeat!
Even though our Airbnb problems in Spain were far from too serious, what other questions should you have for the host before you make a booking? Here are my suggestions if these things are important to you.
Which room or rooms are NOT air conditioned? Just presume that something might be wrong in that department.
Do all bedrooms have doors? Sounds stupid? You’ll thank me later.
Are there any issues with the pool (if there is a pool)?
Again, check my previous Airbnb post that outlines more possible issues.
Do you have any other vacation rentals tips?