I-S ASKS: How Was Your Vacation Rental Experience?

, I-S ASKS: How Was Your Vacation Rental Experience?Raifana, 25

Where did you hear about AirBnB and where did you stay?
I heard about AirBnB through bloggers like Krisatomic, who’ve used the site before. I stayed in a really cute studio in the Gracia neighborhood in Barcelona and paid for two nights, and a one-bedroom apartment in Paris, for which I paid €220 for 2 nights.

How would you compare your homestay with a regular hotel experience?

With a vacation rental, you are put right in the midst of local life and removed somewhat from the usual tourist areas. You pass by neighbors in the hallway, run to the convenience store downstairs for a razor, and for breakfast you buy bread where the locals buy bread. For a few days at least, you get to experience what it’s like to live like a local. It’s more authentic. The apartment owners are often happy to help—both my hosts were lovely and accommodating, and gave endless advice, recommendations, directions and tips. They were boundless sources of knowledge. It’s akin to having a personal concierge in a hotel, only warmer and more genuine. Vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than hotels too!

What did you like about the booking process?
I liked having a third party, it helps to prevent scams and made the entire experience feel safer and more secure. I cannot imagine what it would be like if I got cheated in a foreign city. In the case of AirBnB, the payment is captured by the website and only released after the first night’s stay, so if anything screws up, hosts know that they will not get paid. Their customer service was excellent and I liked that I could sign in using my Facebook account because I’m usually too lazy to create new accounts. Facebook login also helps the website verify your identity, phone number and other info. The whole process, from finding apartments and approaching hosts to making payment for the actual stay was very smooth and fuss-free.

So no bad experiences?
I did encounter something unpleasant while booking an apartment in Geneva. I had contacted a host and several exchanges had been made—she gave me her word that the reservation was mine, and even proposed a cheaper price. But barely a half hour after I had made payment, the host backed out claiming she’d forgotten she’d promised the apartment to someone else on the dates promised. Payment was made using a Singaporean credit card so refunds were estimated to take up to three weeks. This was very inconvenient for me as I was going to be traveling and could not have my funds inaccessible to me during that period. Thankfully, AirBnB’s customer service stepped up and promptly provided solutions. They suggested other properties I could look into and allowed me to transfer my credit from the botched reservation for the new one. They even offered to top up the extra cost if the new property I was interested in was more expensive.

So you’d recommend AirBnB?
Definitely. I love discovering new hotels in different cities but vacation rentals are perfect for when you’re traveling in a group. I’m very impressed with AirBnB so I’ll stick to the website for all my vacation rental needs. I may try another website if I can’t find suitable accommodation.


, I-S ASKS: How Was Your Vacation Rental Experience?Luke Norman, founder of Be Disloyal & his girlfriend, Rowena Paz

How did you find out about AirBnB?
RP: It was through a NYTimes article reviewing vacation rental websites. We were planning our trip to Australia and hotels were very expensive. I was excited to find other more affordable options.

Any concerns about using it at first?
RP: I was concerned about going in blind to the rooms and owners but I appreciated the reviews that other members had provided before. It felt like it took some of the guess work away.
LN: We were also worried about having a location that was near to public transit and had enough privacy.

What did you like (or didn’t) about the booking process?
RP: Great filtering options and map interface. I liked that I was able to see just places in St. Kilda or Fitzroy. The number of potential places to stay was great too… so many choices! I wish it’d been easier to find out more about the amenities though. It needs to be clearer which rooms have private bathrooms or TV.

Where did you stay?
LN: We stayed right outside Melbourne in St. Kilda. It was a great option. The couple we stayed with had a simple but nice two-bedroom in an older three to four-storey apartment. The style was very Art Deco, right down to the doorknobs—very cool. The couple was really nice and showed us their favorite weekend market. If you’re considering moving to a city, AirBnB is a great trial run!

Another other booking sites you’d like to recommend? What do you think is the future of such sites?
RP: I’ve used VRBO for a US house rental, and I think this system is great. We will be recommending AirBnB as an option for our out-of-town guests when they come to San Diego for our wedding next year.
LN: Rental sites are perfect for budget travelers and those planning a longer stay. It adds a lot more character to the experience as compared to a hotel stay.


, I-S ASKS: How Was Your Vacation Rental Experience?Farizan Fauzan, Delta Airlines Reservation Agent, 28

How did you find out about AirBnB?
I was Googling cheap accommodation in the United States when I chanced upon the AirBnB website.

Did you have any concerns before using it?
Yes, I wondered a little if owners were making up or embellishing the facts about their home. I got paranoid that they’d turn out to be conmen or serial killers. After doing more research, I decided to go with my instinct and give it a shot.

What did you like about the process?
I like the fact that I was paying less for occupying a whole house than I would’ve for a cramped hotel room.

Where did you stay?
We stayed in a studio apartment by the Hudson River in New York. It was accessible from everywhere (Staten Island ferry terminal, Brooklyn Bridge, etc.) and we could see the Statue of Liberty from one side. It was in a safe neighborhood. The homeowner was nice and cute, too! On another occasion, we stayed in a three-storey home in Portland, Oregon. There was a direct bus from the airport and we had the entire second floor to ourselves! The house was also located in the middle of a hip area, with many thrift and food stores to explore, including my all-time favorite Whole Foods. The owner was a Buddhist astrologer who had great taste in music and eclectic home décor.

Would you recommend it?
I would and I have. Plus every referral gets you a $25 credit voucher for a future stay!

Have you heard of other sites?
Yes, I’ve heard of Couchsurfing but it’s less secure because it’s free and truly at your own risk. AirBnB offers insurance.


, I-S ASKS: How Was Your Vacation Rental Experience?Ira Aznor, Graphic designer

What did you like/didn’t about the Roomorama booking process?
It was smooth and straight forward. All the information stated on the website was clear and easy to understand. Everything was explained upfront and if we had any queries, we could contact the apartment owners, who were very prompt with their responses. At first, I was worried about having to pay a high security deposit fee, but on Roomorama, some hosts don’t require a deposit.

Where did you stay?
I went to London and Paris and they were both delightful, considering it was my first time in Europe and I was traveling alone. I was very lucky to have chosen the perfect apartments for my stay. In London, I was in the Earl’s Court area and the studio apartment was really cozy. It faced a beautiful private garden. I loved it so much I’d sleep in on rainy mornings instead of going out to explore. I stayed in a quaint studio apartment on Ile-St-Louis when I was in Paris. That was a five-minute walk from Notre Dame.

Would you recommend Roomorama? 
Yes, the website is easy to navigate and there are options to suit your budget and other constraints.

COVER STORY: Rise of the Vacation Rental