We don’t use Airbnb all that much anymore when we travel. Too many stories about people getting screwed over, whether it’s a filthy apartment or a full-on scam. Too many stories of how harmful it is to locals who get priced out of their homes. And the days of spending your vacation in someone’s cozy home while they’re not there are few and far between. These days you’re more likely to be renting a somewhat sterile apartment run by a corporation or someone who’s bought up a dozen apartments in one neighborhood or even in one building.
So instead we opt for hotels when we travel. But we do still occasionally spend an extended period of time in one place, and a hotel just isn’t practical for that. We can’t cook in a hotel, and we can’t eat out for every meal for a month. Hotel rooms are too small and cramped for that long, plus impractically expensive.
But as we take these longer trips and stay in Airbnbs, I’m realizing the apartments are never set up for long term stays. And it makes sense since most people are only staying for a few days. But with just a few small changes, a basic bare-bones apartment that’s perfectly fine for a long weekend can be a great place to “live” for a month or two. It wouldn’t take a lot of effort for hosts to be better at how they set up their apartments.
You’re hanging things too high
Dear host, are you a tall person? Get your short friend to come over with you before hanging cabinets and mirrors and shelves, and make sure your short friend can reach things. If you’re short, get a tall friend to come with you to make sure things aren’t ridiculously low. There is a happy middle ground, I promise.
I can’t tell you how many apartments we’ve been in where the kitchen cabinets are so high I can’t reach them, or I can only reach the very lowest ones. And bathroom mirrors that are hung so high I can barely see my chin in it. And even bathroom sinks that are so high I feel like I need a stool to wash my hands.
I’m 5’1″ (155cm) which is admittedly pretty short, but if I can function in my own home, I should be able to function in an Airbnb.
(OK fine, I can’t reach the top shelves of the cabinets in my own kitchen, but it’s still waaaay better than most Airbnbs I’ve stayed in where I can only reach one out of five cabinets.)
Please stop with the comically large bathroom sinks
Really, it’s ok to choose function over fashion. Those giant bathroom sinks might look pretty but they are annoying, especially if it’s a small space. The sink shouldn’t be so huge that there’s no longer any space on the counter around it for my toothpaste and contact solution.
Here’s a test: Is the bathroom sink larger than the kitchen sink? If your answer is yes, it’s too big. Don’t buy that one.
The kitchen is important
I think a lot of hosts assume that since you’re there on vacation, exploring the city for a few days, that you’re not going to cook or actually use the kitchen. They assume you’ll eat out the whole time you’re there. And why wouldn’t you if you were only there for a long weekend?
But access to a kitchen is one of the perks of renting an Airbnb instead of a hotel. Especially for long term stays, I want to be able to buy groceries, store those groceries in an appropriate place, and cook some of my meals.
This means I want reasonable supplies in the kitchen. Cooking utensils are easy, and should include a big spoon, a spatula, and a pasta spoon at the very least. A peeler is greatly appreciated but almost never appears in the drawers of an Airbnb despite how cheap they are to buy. A full set of dishes and bowls – because yes, we once had to use a set of different sized tupperware containers as cereal bowls. And go sharpen those knives every once in awhile. If I can’t cut a tomato with your knife, there’s a problem.
And if I’m buying groceries, I need somewhere to put them. I’ve had to stack food boxes on the floor, on the kitchen table, on the counter that I’d rather keep open for prepping. Most recently, we had to move the useless decorative knick-knacks off some shelves where the living room and kitchen blended together so we could store food there. But there was a big blank wall where a simple and inexpensive shelving unit from Ikea would’ve made a world of difference.
Your apartment isn’t really comfortable
If you’re an Airbnb host, I beg you to actually stay at your place for several days before you start renting it out. Is it comfortable? Do things work like you’d want them to work at home? Is it just tolerable for a three day weekend, or could you see yourself staying there for a month?
One of the filters you can choose when searching for an Airbnb is “laptop friendly workspace” which we usually check because we work from home. But again, I think hosts think you simply want to check your email for a few minutes, so what passes for a laptop friendly workspace is pretty minimal.
A high counter with bar stools is not someplace where I want to work. A plastic kitchen table and chairs that would look more at home on a patio rather than inside is not comfortable for several hours of working on my laptop.
Beds are another issue. If the host would actually test out the bed for a few days, I’m positive at least some of them would say, you know, this bed feels like sleeping on a cement sidewalk. Did you skip out on a box spring or whatever is equivalent in your country? DON’T skip that! You’re canceling out the potential comfort of that expensive memory foam mattress you bought by throwing it onto a flat bed frame with nothing springy underneath it.
There also needs to be storage space for clothing and other things we want to unpack. Living out of a suitcase or backpack is fine for a few days, but if I’m there for a month, I want to unpack my things and put them somewhere. Sometimes there is no closet or dresser, and sometimes what’s there is being used for storage for stuff for the apartment.
Get decent curtains
Some people like having lots of light streaming into their bedroom. I am not one of those people. I want good, solid curtains to keep streets lights out at night and the sun out in the morning. But guess what? If you’re one of those people who likes all the light, you just won’t use the curtains. So why do so many hosts only have light colored, thin, flimsy curtains that don’t keep any light out?
One time we were traveling in the summer and stayed in an Airbnb that had flimsy curtains in the bedroom. And sunrise in the summer in Europe is really early, so it was disturbing. We ended up buying black trash bags and tape and covered up as much of the window as we could with those bags to even attempt to sleep past 4am.
We had another place that had a sliding glass door instead of a normal bedroom door, and even though the glass was frosted, it wasn’t enough to keep light out. The street lights coming through from outside the living room window were so bright, it felt like we had just forgotten to turn off the lights in the rest of the apartment. It was torture trying to get to sleep. And believe me, I’ve tried to use a sleep mask, and I can’t.
I don’t expect any Airbnb hosts to actually change their approach to setting up their Airbnbs. After all, there’s no incentive. People keep booking them, and if you’re only staying for a few days, most of these issues might not even be on your radar. But we’re staying away more and more because it’s not a pleasant situation, and honestly, it’s starting to wear on me.
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