It doesn’t always pay to be cheap. For example, when your idea of backpacking is carrying a light jacket, a book, and a bottle of water on a walk around the neighborhood, a hostel is probably not a good choice for a week-long vacation. If you’re afraid of strangers, couchsurfing is also a definite no-no. But mostly when you’re over 40 and carrying a 32″ duffel bag full of clothes, hammocks, snacks, and laptops, choosing an Airbnb in a third floor walk-up is a bad idea. Choosing an Airbnb in a third floor walk-up with bunk beds is an even worse idea. Choosing an Airbnb in a third floor walk-up with bunk beds in a scary neighborhood is decidedly the worst idea ever.
Yes, that’s what we did. And we probably would have stayed except for the floor…and the door…and the smell…and maybe the view. Okay, from the minute we walked in to our Baltimore Airbnb, I knew we weren’t going to stay.
We chose our accommodations very carefully…just like we always do…weighing the pros and cons, along with the price. We knew going in that this particular rental was on the third floor. We also knew it was in an older building and that there were bunk beds (and an airbed). To top that off, we even knew that it was near a bad neighborhood. Given the price, we thought we could deal with those things, plus the reviews were outstanding. More than 100 folks gave it 5 stars and a good majority of the comments talked about how neat and clean the place was. It’s important to note here that CLEAN is a requirement for us.
I’m not sure how other people define clean but if a hotel floor was as stained as the floor in this Airbnb, it wouldn’t even have a 1 star rating! Yes, the linens were clean, the towels were clean, and the host had made an effort to get it ready for us, but when the first things you see are basketball sized stains in the carpet and baseboards so thick with dust that they were outlined in black, nothing else really matters.
In case you’re wondering about the other things I listed above – the front door wouldn’t open. It took us jiggling the key for 10 minutes to get inside. In this neighborhood, I thought a quick entry might be important. The smell – old building, mixed with stale air. The view – a 360 degree panorama of the aforementioned bad neighborhood.
That night we went to dinner at Ruby Tuesday and spent the entire meal online looking for a better place to stay. We ended up at the Holiday Inn, at 50% off the rack rate thanks to Hotwire. It’s a pretty swanky place…with a Keurig in every room and pillows labeled “soft” and “firm”. They even have a full hot breakfast and free cookies in the evening. Most importantly, it’s clean.
Yes, we’ve become one of “those people”.
I used to think my grandparents were old fuddy-duddies because they always traveled with their own pillows, their own coffee, and for a while, even their own toaster. Now I realize, their travels weren’t about trying to escape their home or their routine. They were out to see new things and they didn’t want to detract from the experience by being uncomfortable on someone else’s lumpy pillow, drinking someone else’s bitter coffee while eating someone else’s burnt toast.
This isn’t our first bad experience with cheap accommodations but I can guarantee it will be our last. Not because we’ve suddenly decided price isn’t important but because we’ve learned a more valuable lesson. It’s important that your travels become an extension of your everyday life, otherwise every trip will be miserable. If you don’t tent camp in your own home state, you’re not going to like tent camping in another one. (We learned that lesson last summer.) If you sleep in a queen-sized bed at home so you can snuggle your significant other, bunk beds make for a very long night. And if you can eat off your own floor at home, you’re definitely not going to like spending a week in a place you’re afraid to walk around in with socks on.
What about you? Have you had a bad experience with a hotel or Airbnb? What happened?