Four Airbnb lessons for young travellers

January 08, 2015
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'First World Problems'

Problems from living in a wealthy, industrialised nation that third world-ers would probably roll their eyes at.

You haven’t experienced First World Problemitis until you’ve booked with global hosting site Airbnb. But at the end of the (holi)day, if you want to save the green stuff and spend it on a longer stay in a big city, I’d still recommend Airbnb. Here’s four of my most memorable experiences so far and what to lookout for when using the site.

Be wary of “loveable canines”

If Airbnb were a dating site, its tagline would be: “Must love dogs."

If the apartment listing permits ‘lovable canines’, chances are that your suitcase will continue to smell like a dog park long after you leave Sydney International Arrivals Baggage Claim. Chances are that the building complex is also a fan of said “loveable canines”. As a result, my fondest memory of Los Angeles is hiding around the corner of my Pit Bull-infested apartment complex, waiting for a) my friends to return from Universal Studios to form a human shield so I could get into the building and b) the ‘Mommy and Me’ group of Pit Bulls and their aspiring-actor owners to vacate the premises.

Always appreciate running water

While my friends were experiencing a thunderstorm in New Orleans, I remained in LA and moved downstairs to a smaller, cheaper apartment in the same complex. The catch? I had no running water. I contacted the host and told her that I needed water to a) survive and b) shower. Three hours later and no reply. By this stage, I had convinced myself that I was hoarding 98.5 per cent of the sand from Venice Beach in my hair. So, Pantene bottles in hand, I snuck up two flights of stairs to my previous apartment and tried the pin to see if it still worked. Voila! I had opened the Chamber of Secrets, and it had running water. Petrified that a German family with kids would unlock their new apartment to find a small, naked Australian girl in their shower, I showered quicker, and quieter than I ever have in my entire 22 years.

Don’t trust unreliable hosts

Want to know how to best acquaint yourself with the streets of Manhattan? Arrive at 10pm after a delayed flight, then go on a wild goose chase for apartment keys that’ve been left with your Airbnb host's best friend because they’re “out of town”.

The struggle was real. I couldn’t wait to get to the apartment and sink into the pull out couch in the living room. Come 1am we realised there was no couch. That night I slept on a loveseat, a towel as thin as a Chux as my blanket. Then there was that light bulb issue and for two English majors and a teacher the SOS email sent to our host was shockingly written:

“The bathroom light is out and we bought globes at the corner store but they don’t work because wrong size and now we can’t see ourselves in the bathroom mirror and it’s the only mirror in the apartment. Please help, we are using stove door as a reflective surface.”

The one-line response that came the following day? “Please don’t run the air conditioning while nobody is in the apartment.” Our host had returned to the apartment while we were out. Was he allowed to do that? Did he come to deliver that pull-out sofa we were promised? Nope, nothing. We never got a globe in the bathroom, or a pull-out sofa, or a blanket for the loveseat.

What you see is really what you get

On the last leg of my trip, I disembarked from a Greyhound Bus in Boston, older, wiser, sunburnt, expecting to find only half of the amenities I was promised in my Boston Airbnb abode. I was wrong. I had a bed…with sheets! I had an iron, and a frying pan. I had all of the tea I could possibly dream of. And yes, I had Netflix. The photos sold me with this one. The Boston apartment taught me that what you see is what you get.

In hindsight I could’ve stayed in Boston for much cheaper, but it was my final destination so I splurged on a high-end studio apartment in an affluent part of the city that had a fantastic rooftop view overlooking the Boston Common and the Massachusetts State House to boot.

Hayli Thomson

Hayli Thomson is a University of New South Wales graduate who’s currently studying screenwriting at The University of Technology, Sydney. She spends way too much time on IMDb.