Our First Airbnb Experience Sucked, But Here’s Why We’ll Do It Again.

Creaky floors, rotted out ceilings & half-drunk Gatorades does not a nice home make!
Creaky floors, rotted out ceilings & half-drunk Gatorades does not a nice home make!

Last month, my husband surprised me with a last-minute, one-year anniversary trip to Nashville. He picked the dates, booked the flights (upgraded to first class with miles!) and even got us amazing seats at the Rodriguez/Brian Wilson concert. I was floored.

Since he did all that heavy lifting, I figured finding a fabulous hotel was the least I could do.

And then I checked out the hotels. Anything nice was at about $499 a night. The crappy stuff? More like $399.

A mortgage payment for three nights in Music City? No thanks.

So I hit up Airbnb.

This is not my first ride on the vacation home rental train. I’ve used VRBO probably a half-dozen times (including for my bachelorette party in Palm Springs. HIGHLY recommended!). I’ve loved most of the places I’ve stayed, but a few were a little strange. For example, a New Orleans apartment appeared to have three bedrooms online, but actually just had three beds in one bedroom… oh well, it was just me and a few lady friends for the weekend and we kind of loved it.

I scoured Airbnb for an apartment that would fit our needs. We wanted something private (renting a room in someone’s home is not for me), convenient and cute. Because it was so last-minute, there wasn’t a whole lot available, but I did find three options.

The first was an East Nashville attic apartment, where we could walk to a few of the restaurants I wanted to check out. They were asking about $100 a night. Awesome. I wrote the homeowner, Chad, a note, explaining we’d be in town for a few nights for our anniversary, and asked if the apartment was available.

I’ve literally sent dozens of emails like this while using other home rental sites. Airbnb was a little different, as it required I set up an account before they’d forward my email to the homeowner. Okay, fine. So I set it up, including my credit card number.

My email to the homeowner went through. As I composed a second email to another homeowner, I got a response from the first:

Wait, what?! Nooooooooooooo!

There must be a way to ask a question before handing over your cashola to stay in a perfect stranger’s home, right? RIGHT? Whatever the case, I did it wrong.

While I could’ve emailed Chad back to say, “I didn’t mean it! Can’t we just talk for a sec first?”, I had a lot going on. It did feel pretty good to just have a place booked and not have to think about it anymore.

So I let it ride.

We arrived in Nashville late Friday evening, grabbed dinner (more on all our food & party adventures in an upcoming post!), and arrived at the house around 11 pm. After climbing the steepest flight of slippery outdoor stairs with our bags, we dialed in the keypad access code. Boom. Access granted!

We fumbled around, looking for a light switch, banging our shins on a TV stand in the process.

Finally, I found a lamp.

I flipped the switch.

Everything was illuminated.


Well, it did kind of look like the photos, except one very specific thing: the ceilings were maybe seven feet high. And crumbing. With insulation poking out here and there. The floors in the kitchen and bathroom were tiled, but the rest was the original hardwoods, which weren’t necessarily an issue on their own… However, in this attic apartment, the hardwoods were about two inches lower than the tile, which meant serious toe-stubbing opportunities every time you entered the kitchen and bathroom.

Feel the romance!
Feel the romance!
Nice job with the caulk in the upper right corner!
Nice job with the caulk in the upper right corner!

The hardwoods were also creakier than an arthritic 92-year-old man’s knees. Not ideal, considering the first thing in our hosts’s “welcome note” stated IN BOLD CAPS:


Happy Anniversary, honey!

Trying to lighten the mood, I said, “Hey, it’s kinda cute.” My husband, bless his heart, responded with a, “Are you serious? This place is weird!”

He was right. It was really, really, weird.

Careful cropping...
Careful cropping…
hides insulation dropping. #poetry
hides insulation dropping. #poetry

I immediately started doing the wrong thing: checking out other similarly-priced Nashville rentals on Airbnb. There was an adorable tiny home, a whole bungalow with a great backyard, and tons of granite/stainless steel kitchened condos. I’m sure I hadn’t seen them the first time around because I’d locked in our travel dates. I was comparing my craptastic Airbnb to amazing ones that weren’t even an option for our last-minute trip. But that didn’t stop me from feeling like a total jackass.

Our host had left us a candy bar and travel-sized bottle of Jack, along with a note saying there were “free water bottles in the fridge.” We opened the fridge. There was a half-drunk Gatorade and some old sandwich meat.

At least the bedroom was cool, clean and dark. I hopped in t, and ccccrrrreeeeeeeaaaaaaaak!

Literally the noisiest bed in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping.

The next morning, we woke up, got a delicious cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Then, we visited RCA Studio B, the Country Music Hall of Fame, went out for tacos, returned to the apartment, changed our clothes and headed to the Rodriguez and Brian Wilson concert. Once the show wrapped, we went downtown and hit up some honky tonk bar.

The following day and a half were much of the same.

We probably spent 20 hours in the crappy Airbnb, and 92 percent of that time was sleeping. The other eight percent? Getting ready to go somewhere. We ended up saving hundreds of dollars staying in our fine-but-nothing-special apartment. That meant more money for food, which I can always get behind!

It wasn’t the fabulous anniversary accommodations I’d hoped for, BUT our trip to Nashville was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. We had so, so, sooooo much fun. Proof that what really matters is the company and the adventures you have along the way, even if it means stubbing your toe in the middle of the night.

Airbnb is a gamble. But even if it’s not perfect, it’ll probably be good enough. However, next time (there will definitely be a next time!), I’ll make sure I really like the place before I even inquire.

* * *

Please share your worst hotel/apartment/hostel/motel in the comments… ‘cuz I know you want to!

PS Get $25 off your next Airbnb booking.*

*This isn’t a sponsored post, but they did give me a referral link to pass along savings to friends. Soooo… knock yourself out!

PPS Here’s the fab place we stayed in Palm Springs for my bachelorette. Plus, the 7 Non-essential (But Really Nice to Have) Items I Never Travel Without.

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Comments (14)

  • Liz Collins 5 years ago Reply

    We love airbnb! The reviews are helpful and you should read them and leave honest reviews. The host will review you as well but you don’t see the review until yours is up.
    We have a place on airbnb too and people are picky and specific but honest about what they don’t like.
    Stick with it and try again. You get what you pay for but it is almost always significantly less than a hotel and in fun areas and with a kitchen or washer dryer which can be nice.

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Agree! I felt the need to be nicer than I wanted when I wrote the review, but I was honest about being disappointed. Next time, I’ll spend the extra $50 a night 🙂

  • Claudia Richman 5 years ago Reply

    A friend of mine has been staying at AirBnBs for over a year as his primary residence. He’s got some great stories: http://yearbnb.tumblr.com/

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Cool! Can’t wait to check that out.

  • Jen S. 5 years ago Reply

    are there sheets? are they clean? this type of thing gives me anxiety….are we sure it’s ok?

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    It was clean! Or at least as far as I could tell. Nice towels, clean sheets. Really, that’s all you need.

  • Lizzie 5 years ago Reply

    Oh man, I’m sorry you guys had such a weird first Airbnb experience, especially on your anniversary! I’ve stayed at Airbnbs in three countries and all have been at least as good as advertised, but I guess statistically speaking there are bound to be some lemons in there. So maybe you got yours over with right away and all your future Airbnb stays will be fantastic. 😉 It’s worth another shot, I swear.

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    We are actually trying it again next month in Indianapolis. Excited– this place actually seems great.

  • Arika Lycan 5 years ago Reply

    Just a tip- when you’re looking at a potential listing, there is a little link option that says "contact host", where you can send a message without incurring an automatic booking. 🙂

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Yes, I just now saw that very little link! Dammit! Thanks!

  • My first Airbnb was weird, too! The ad did not make clear the fact that my room was down the steepest/narrowest spiral staircase known to man, or that it wasn’t legally a room – the ceilings were 5’8", and if I had brought my 6’2" boyfriend with me, we wouldn’t have been able to stay in the room the guy claimed "accommodated two."

    My next experience with Airbnb was AWESOME. The guy whose place I stayed at in Atlanta was fab. I had the whole place to myself for less than $100/night, AC on 65F the whole time I was there, we had smoothies together in his home (my place was the basement), and he lent me a bicycle. A+

  • creole wisdom 5 years ago Reply

    Sometimes you can only laugh! This reminds me quite a bit of Matt’s and my "Hotel Avalon" experience in Fort Lauderale. It was so horrendous that it didn’t even deserve photos. It’s all about perspective and yours is great… more money for food and fun! We have the rest of our lives to insist on the Four Seasons 😉

  • Meagan 5 years ago Reply

    I ALWAYS read comments first but I totally understand how airbnb can be tricky!

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Yeah, I messed up that first experience. Live and learn!

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