For Memorial Day weekend we had a 3 day trip to Santa Barbara planned. We were going to meet my Aunt from LA and spend the weekend exploring the area and we were all really excited about it!
The first thing that went slightly wrong was my Aunt forgot about it and double booked for the weekend! Oops! Oh well, we could still have a really nice family vacation.
We made good time getting out of the Bay Area thanks to our new favorite travel hacking strategy and we made it to the coast just in time for a beautiful sunset! We were feeling pretty positive when we rolled up to our AirBnB just a little past 10.
The first problem we ran into was difficulty finding the address. Google Maps struggled a bit and we ended up parking in a couple different places and getting out to confirm addresses.
Once we found the apartment, the host had instructed us to enter a code at the gate. Red flag: there was no gate! We confirmed and double confirmed that we were at the right address and then called the host. She didn’t answer so we left a voicemail, sent a text, and sent a message through the AirBnB app.
The lack of gate was really giving me a bad feeling. I knew that the host had multiple properties and I suspected she had gotten her wires crossed.
As we waited we poked around and found a key under the mat to let ourselves in. I had expected a bare bones 2 bedroom apartment because that’s what I had paid for, but it was totally trashed! There was cocaine on the table and knives spread around the apartment, there was gross underwear lying on the floor, and the toilet looked like it needed more then a good cleaning with bleach.
The host finally returned my call and confirmed that she had mixed up which property we were staying at. Evidently the apartment hadn’t been cleaned since the last time it was rented. She clearly didn’t know what to do so she hung up and offered to call me right back.
We immediately started looking for a hotel. At this point it was after 11 but we were pretty wired. The kids, of course, slept through the whole thing.
Instead of a call back I received a text from the host offering to pay for a hotel for the night and get the property cleaned in the morning. She also offered to just let us stay for free that night. In retrospect, the the first option would have saved us some money, but we were feeling pretty wigged out and we asked for a full refund and planned to find accommodations for the weekend elsewhere.
The host agreed and airbnb offered an addition $50 credit if we booked another property instead of requesting a refund. Nothing available was less then $400/night so we requested a refund.
Finding Alternative Lodging
We used Priceline’s “Last Minute Deals” to find a 4 start hotel for $165 + taxes. After taxes and the mandatory $28 “Hotel Fee” (?!?) we ended up paying $228.97 to stay at Kimpton Goodland in Goleta.
The hotel was very hip but not the most comfortable for a family of 4. They did provide a rollaway bed for the children and we took full advantage of the pool the next morning.
When we arrived home and reviewed our credit card statements, both the hotel and Priceline charged us the full amount! I’m in the process of working this out with Priceline, but I am not a happy camper.
As soon as I got up Saturday morning I started browsing Priceline for a place to stay that night. Prices had gone way up! I ended up selecting the 1 star Cabrillo Inn near the beach in Santa Barbara. This was probably our first 1 star ever and after taxes it cost us $260.99! This meant that we had already spent our entire refund from the 3 night airbnb and we had still had one night to go!
We spent the day checking out Mission Santa Barbara and playing on the beach before we checked in and took a family nap. Afterwards we splashed in the pool a bit, headed to State Street for dinner, and then played on the beach at sunset.
Although I was super grumpy about paying this much for a 1 star hotel, it ended up being our favorite one! The pool overlooked the ocean and was heated to a comfortable temperature, and they had the most imaginative breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen! They had twinkies, several kinds of rice krispies, and quiche, but only one of each item! Weird. My Dad thinks they must have a deal with a neighboring restaurant where they get the leftovers from the night before.
We really did have a great time splashing in the pool here and, even though it wasn’t as glamorous as the Kimpton’s, we felt like we fit in a little better and weren’t disturbing everyone with our fun.
The room was very basic and we could hear every work of conversations held outside our room, but it was the cheapest we could find and we all slept well.
Sunday we spent the day exploring Santa Cruz Island and made the decision to get on the road afterwards. We had been planning to spend all day Monday driving home with frequent stops at beaches and Missions, but we decided we could start that from a little farther north where the hotels were cheaper.
We switched over to Expedia to find a hotel and discovered I had a credit for $23.75! Score! I selected a 2 star Motel 6 in San Louis Obispo and paid $119.74 after applying my credit.
The Motel 6 was exactly what you would expect, very bare bones, but reasonable. The craziest thing was they don’t provide shampoo in the shower! You have to pay extra! We didn’t and just stayed dirty. 😃
It was just a short 10 minute drive back to Pismo Beach in the morning, so we were able to get a good in-land price and still have access to the shore!
We really did have a great trip, but I was bummed to have spent an extra $120 that was not in the budget! Plus, we had expected to have separate rooms from the kids and instead we were crammed together every night.
I reached out to AirBnB to complain about the experience and they have provided a $50 credit that I can use anytime in the next year. It doesn’t completely close the gap on the extra $120 we had to shell out, but it helps.
So the million dollar question, would we use AirBnB again?
Prior to this trip, we had stayed with AirBnB 10 times. These stays were a combination of private residences and single rooms in someone’s home. We even used AirBnB for a month long stay while our house was being renovated. We have always had wonderful experiences and have decided we will continue to use them.
With one caveat, I will definitely think twice before booking an AirBnB during a surge pricing weekend. There’s just too much risk that if it falls through at the last minute, we could fall victim to outrageous prices again.
Also, Chris and I are about as laissez-faire as couples with young children get. I will stop recommending AirBnB to my Type A friends after this!
What do you think? If I’ve somehow convinced you to try AirBnB for the first time, use this link for $40 off your first stay. I’ll get $20 and maybe I can slowly make up for the extra money I spent on this trip! 😂
Tips to Avoid this Happening to You
Read reviews thoroughly!
Some people will leave 5 stars but mention in passing something that might be a big deal for you. Likewise, someone might leave a 1 star review complaining about something seemingly minor. People are different and have different expectations and trigger points.
Pay attention to how many reviews have been left.
This particular AirBnB only had 7 reviews whereas others we’ve stayed at have had 45-200. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, since I’ve stayed at 1 property with only 4 reviews and we loved it!
Note that AirBnB will not allow you to leave a review if you do not stay at the property, so we could not leave a review after this experience! Cancellations by the host will be listed with the reviews though, consider these red flags!
Confirm right before your stay.
On this trip I reached out to the host the day before to let her know what time we’d be arriving. Next time I’ll include more specifics in my confirmation. ex. “Just wanted to let you know that we’re planning to arrive at xxx address as scheduled on xx/xx date at xx:xx time. Please provide any details needed to access the property.” If I’d done that, I don’t think any of this would have happened.
Anything else we could have done differently? How would you have reacted?