Some two years after I first began writing about AirBnB.com--that ultra-successful service for finding short-term apartment rentals--I actually became an AirBnB user last month. In fact, I became such a user twice. I stayed with my daughter in a two-bedroom apartment in Portland, Oregon, for two nights ($130 a night for the two of us); and then did the same--again using AirBnB--for two nights in Seattle, Washington ($120 a night for the two of us). Since we would have easily paid a total of at least $300 a night for two small hotel rooms, we figure we saved at least $700 some-odd dollars.
And you know what? We had a far better stay in our rented apartments than we could ever have had in a standard hotel.
Pauline and I were on a 15-city, nationwide media tour publicizing the re-launch of the Frommer travel guides (30 high-quality titles are now in the bookstores!), and we were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of staying in multiple hotels on that trip. We also thought that, true to the message of our Frommer guidebooks (which have always stressed value far more than the competing guides), we should be constantly cost-conscious in our travel expenditures. Pauline had already used AirBnB.com for several earlier stays last year, and also used it for a stay on her own in Sacramento, California, prior to joining me in San Francisco for our joint appearance at the important Book Passage book store.
When people traveling by themselves use AirBnB.com, requiring only a single bedroom, they usually end up staying in an apartment house, in a spare bedroom of an apartment owner who remains in residence during their stay. Apparently, when they require two bedrooms, as we did, they are assigned to a two-family house in a residential neighborhood.
That’s what we received. In Portland, we stayed in the upstairs residence of a two-family house, while the owners remained in their downstairs house. In Seattle, we stayed in the downstairs house of a two-family residence, while the owners remained upstairs. In each city, we had a spacious living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms. And though the homes were modest ones in modest neighborhoods, their owners had supplied them with all sorts of nice touches: a great many books in various cabinets, brochures for enjoying the attractions of Portland and Seattle, instant coffee, sweeteners, and milk in the refrigerator, movie videos for playing on the television set, a laundromat machine in each of the two houses, too many other thoughtful devices to mention. The beds were good, the linen freshly changed for our stay (though not changed every night, obviously), Wi-Fi was had for our laptops, and there was everything else you can name. The stay was fully as comfortable as any hotel would have been--and yet at less than half the price!
Now you have to make some concessions. We were several short blocks away from a commercial area in Portland (although that area contained a Stump Town Coffee Roaster shop for our breakfast, the name denoting a would-be competitor to Starbucks that is already beginning to expand nationwide; we were in the historic first outlet of that chain). And we were several blocks away from restaurants and groceries in our Seattle neighborhood.
After calling for a taxi to take us to our media appearances in Portland, we finally decided to rent a car in Seattle (and also realized that we would have needed a rented car in any event, even if we had stayed in a hotel}.
But by living in a residential neighborhood, we had a glimpse of life in Portland that we never could have enjoyed in a commercial hotel; we had fun the first morning in Portland talking to the several hipster types who patronized the Stumptown Coffee Roaster, and who shared their outlandish views of numerous public issues with us.
We also discovered, as hundreds of thousands of American travelers are learning, that the comforts of a spacious apartment are well worth the occasional inconvenience of living in a residential neighborhood away from the bright lights of a city’s downtown area.
I now am a firm advocate of apartment living while traveling. And when I urged our book-tour audience to purchase one of our brand-new Frommer Easy Guides for their next trip, I felt as if I were speaking with fellow residents of Portland and Seattle. I was no longer an outsider residing in a hotel; I was a neighbor!