The nature of travel and adventure has changed significantly over the past decade, and no doubt it will continue to evolve as the travel industry tries to keep up with what people want. Gone are the days where you would rock up to your Travel Agent and have them guide and plan your dream holiday or trip to have that sense of security that whatever happened, they would have your back. For some this is still the method of choice, but for others they may choose to do it differently using multiple digital platforms. Although we wouldn’t leave our bigger and more complex trips to anyone but our long-term agent Dane who saved us when trying to get our daughter home to Australia during Covid-19, we have begun to explore more alternative options to book many things.
We stayed in our very first Airbnb in Paris, France over 6 years ago and although we were told horror stories, we could not have been happier with our experience and have not hesitated to do it again in Paris and in Cornwall. That is until now. We have travelled to the Scottish Highlands for a week-long holiday to unwind and find the pep in our step again but was greeted with accommodation where the only “pep” was the one that made us want to get back in the car and drive away.
We arrived late and were warmly greeted by the owner’s relative who, like the owner, was accommodating, pleasant and answered any questions we had at that time. On the surface the house appeared musty but okay with the only sticking point the poor care of the garden and the dated furnishings, although I am sure our tiredness impacted our first impressions. Once left alone we found that in fact there was dust on every surface, dirt in every corner of the floor, and mould that had built up in so many areas – it was clear that the place had not been thoroughly cleaned not to mention they had not and have not updated their internet as promised. My husband and I cleaned for hours to get it up to an acceptable level and had to air and heat the house. I will leave it at that for now as we are in talks with the owner to rectify the issues and I will not share the listing due to the same reasons. We haven’t changed our thoughts on using Airbnb, but I have some reasonable tips for making sure you get the right information at your next holiday.
ASK ABOUT THEIR CLEANING PROTOCOL
Owners may say that they adhere to the new 5-point Covid cleaning protocol, but some may not follow this appropriately and you may potentially expose yourself to the virus. When you pay for accommodation, it is not unreasonable to expect a certain level of cleanliness and if it doesn’t meet a reasonable standard, this should be raised with the owner as soon as possible. Some of the questions you may want to ask around cleaning can encompass mould, strong smelling cleaning products, and dust. These can be essential if you or a family member has asthma or allergies.
ASK HOW FUNCTIONAL & RELIABLE THE INTERNET CONNECTION IS
This is an important question to ask when you are travelling and could make or break your trip if you are likely to want to make spontaneous decisions about activities. Whether you are working remotely during your trip, are travelling outside where your provider will cover data, or if you are staying somewhere that has poor phone service, knowing in advance can help you to plan for those challenges.
ASK ABOUT YOUR PRIVACY DURING YOUR STAY
Sometimes owners will need to plan for maintenance or work to be done on the property or will need access to during your stay for valid reasons, but these should be communicated before booking. Sometimes owners or their extended families just have no boundaries and will pop in at any time – we experienced this, and it took up a significant portion of time we wanted to spend with our visitors. Knowing the details of what “privacy” or “whole property to yourself” means to the owner can be crucial to a relaxing stay where you can be yourself.
ASK ABOUT APPLIANCES AND SAFETY
We Australians are used to the functionality of Australian homes in which many do not have radiators, floor heating, or boilers. Similarly, appliances and safety items can vary significantly so if there is a particular item you may anticipate difficulty with then ask the question about where to find the instructions for these. Although carbon monoxide detectors are an essential piece of safety monitoring, we have seen instances where these are not supplied as promised and the risks are real if you are in a multi-floor or story accommodation – perhaps invest in a travel version.
ASK IF THE PHOTOS & DESCRIPTION ACCURATELY REFLECT ITS CURRENT STATE
We all want to put our best foot forward and owners are no different, particularly because this may be a significant income stream for them which can result in the best photos being presented rather than the most accurate. That is not to say this is done maliciously, perhaps it may also be because it is being managed by an agent who has the job of presenting a property’s best assets. Who here has viewed a house rental or potential purchase only to find that the pictures advertised, and the reality do not match up? For these reasons and a million more it is wise to ask this question rather than travel only to be disappointed in what you get. One last thing for your own protection, take photos when you arrive and when you leave so you have a time-stamped record of everything. It can mean the difference of being held responsible for issues that are not your responsibility.
I talk about how to protect yourself when booking with Airbnb, however this travel essential should be taken care of on both sides which you as the visitor showing respect and care for other spaces, and I will address this in another post. Share what your Airbnb experiences have been in a constructive way and what advice you have for others wanting to try it out. Are there questions you wish you had asked before booking accommodation?