First Airbnb Experience – Risk With Reward

First Airbnb Experience In Vancouver British Columbia BC Canada

Our First Airbnb Experience Made Us Converts

We headed to Vancouver for an extended period and our first Airbnb experience.  On our previous two visits we scrambled for hotel rooms in the very busy summer tourist season. Planning this visit, we made a couple of hotel bookings as backup.  But it meant we changed hotels several times when we hit sold out days. This nomadic hotel hopping was not really going work.

We needed to find a short term rental or sublet. Several places were suggested, none of which we had ever tried before (Kijiji, Craig’s List, VRBO and Airbnb). Unfortunately we travelled on relatively short notice and needed a longer term (6+ weeks).

Selecting Airbnb

I spent hours pouring through the various options and quickly narrowed it down. We planned to try our first Airbnb experience. But we winged it a little with no experience and no real guide for first time Airbnb users.

The listings never required more than a 30 day booking (e.g. most sublets wanted a minimum of 3 months).  But there were discounts for more than 30 days. There was a complete set of pictures and a map to narrow down options in the area we wanted. And there was some security in renting through Airbnb. They did some screening, dispute resolution and provided reviews.

The first time, I found two properties that worked. I sent messages to both hosts to confirm availability.  I clearly stated our needs and asked a few clarifying questions.    Was the parking secure?  Was there a place to store the bikes we brought with us? Where was the 2nd bed in a one bedroom condo that said “sleeps 4”?

Both hosts quickly responded to my questions. And then I started to over-analyze my needs and I waffled on my choices. I lost my first choice when someone else hit “book” just after I sent my inquiry. Then I lost the other option because I would only commit to one month sight unseen and someone else committed to two months.

We droving cross country from Toronto to Vancouver while I tried to get our accommodations firmed up. Losing both of the perfect Airbnb options depressed me and sent me back to square one assessing options. We figured this visit would no longer be our first Airbnb experience.

A Second Chance at Airbnb

We wanted to start our rental mid-month when we arrived in Vancouver.  But once the first two Airbnb options were lost, there was nothing else available mid-month.  So I started back on Airbnb looking for a rental at the beginning of the next month. Short term hotel rooms were booked to carry us for the first two weeks.

When new search parameters were put into the Airbnb app, I found 5 properties that more or less might meet our needs. I was determined to not waffle this time.  I now knew both how few properties there were and how fast they got booked. All 5 hosts were quickly contacted with questions specific to each property. Within 12 hours, 4 of the 5 people got back to me. 

One was immediately eliminated. One popped to the front of the line.  They said they could take us in a bit earlier than the start of the month.  This reduced the number of nights in hotels.  And they clarified that parking could be added to the reservation.  The only thing that caused me to gulp was the price.

Ultimately the need to get settled as soon as possible won out. The host sent me a revised quote with early check-in and parking. Once booked I got a phone number for the host that we used in addition to the Airbnb email service. Our first Airbnb experience was booked!

We were delighted when our host contacted us and said we could check-in even earlier.  We were able to cancel all of our hotel reservations.

Checking Out Our Airbnb Condo

While we felt we made a great choice in our accommodations, we did commit to a place sight unseen for over 6 weeks. This certainly felt risky to us.  Airbnb might deal with anything that was fraudulently represented in the listing.  But if we had picked the wrong property, we were stuck in there for a long time or were out a lot of money to walk away.

We arrived at the condo, met our host and got wowed by the great view that was not at all exaggerated in the listing pictures! The condo was well appointed and in fact very much reminded us of our own condo in Toronto on the lake. It was great to feel at home for our first Airbnb experience.

Our host was available by email, text or phone when questions came up.  And they did! We managed to set off the smoke alarm almost every time we fried something, despite opening windows and running fans. The first time we got worried that the smoke alarm was tied right to a fire station.  At exactly that moment a fire truck screamed up our street while the smoke alarm still blared. Several times the condo needed some minor maintenance and this was arranged around our schedule. We never felt like we were on our own to deal with issues with the condo on our first Airbnb experience.

Our Airbnb Condo Was As Advertised

The location was perfect for us. The False Creek neighbourhood of Vancouver provided everything we wanted within walking distance.  We found walking and biking paths, shopping and restaurants. Public transit was a few blocks from the condo.  There were even 2 ferries that provided great coverage along the False Creek waterway.

From this location we easily headed out and explored destinations around Vancouver. This part of Vancouver was a gem that we never knew existed before this visit.

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False Creek Neighbourhood - First Airbnb Experience In Vancouver British Columbia BC Canada.jpg

When it was time to head back to Toronto, we cleaned and packed before saying goodbye to our host and handing back the keys to finish first Airbnb experience. But unfortunately we were not destined to make it home to Toronto this first time. After a minor sightseeing detour through the U.S. National Parks, we started back to Vancouver.

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But this time, we knew exactly where we wanted to stay. Contacting our same Airbnb host, we were able to negotiate a new term with them. This second long 5 week term was far less risky given we knew exactly where we would stay. The rates were even a bit lower late in the fall. Our host was flexible about accommodating our dates. Luckily they had relatives in Vancouver that took them in when their condo got rented out.

We finally left Vancouver and headed back to Toronto. We were in Vancouver for almost 4 months.  And much of the time we were in the same great condo in the False Creek area. This was a good option for us when we headed back another time.

Risk And Reward In Our First Airbnb Experience

Our first Airbnb experience felt pretty risky to us. We had never done house swapping, were not users of Uber in Toronto or had never in any way really participated in the new “peer to peer” economy. The fact that we needed to pick a place sight unseen for over 6 weeks added another level of risk. Since we were visiting to deal with a family medical emergency, even the 6 week commitment had some risk.  We really did not know when we arrived how long we needed to be in Vancouver.

But the Airbnb risk brought great rewards for us. Having a two bedroom fully outfitted condo made staying away from home for a long time much easier. The condo location was perfectly located both for us to enjoy the neighbourhood and it was close to the things we needed to do in Vancouver.

Having very flexible hosts helped to deal with some of the uncertainty and changes we encountered over our long stay in Vancouver. We would definitely try Airbnb again for a short or long stay. We now had some Airbnb experience and knew the tips to improve our Airbnb experience!

In fact, this “sharing” experience was so positive that with some urging from our son, we signed up for Uber when we returned home to Toronto. Who knows what we will try next?

Did you try something risky for your first Airbnb experience? Is there any advice you have for first time Airbnb users?

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  1. We had a great New York City AirBnB experience in mid-town Manhattan for a price far below what is typical for that area. It was a big risk, being our first time, but since it was only for about 4 nights we thought it was worth taking the plunge. After alll there were plenty of hotels to turn to short – term if it flopped. But it was terrific. The location was pure gold, the room was large which is almost unheard of in Manhattan, nothing went wrong in terms of air-conditioning, plumbing, etc. and our host seemed really caring. People have so many reasons for renting out their properties so never get stuck in a “too good to be true” skepticism. Sometimes it is too good to be true, but with AirBnB I suspect that most of the time if you choose wisely, it isn’t. (In Budapest we had a chance conversation on a city bus with a traveling American teacher who was thrilled with her AirBnB accommodations in one of Pest’s nicest neighborhoods.) Our own and other acquaintances’ experiences have panned out well and created a richer travel experience. Also consider becoming a host. It’s not for everyone, of course, but it keeps the peer-to-peer ball rolling. And we all have a stake in that.

    • Chloe, I am glad your first AirBNB experience was also so positive. As you said, if you are careful and really research the options, you can get great places. We tend to use AirBNB if we are in town for a longer while and staying put in that town. I have heard in some areas where it is hard to get reasonable priced accommodations (e.g. Iceland) that AirBNB is a great choice. I will look at that when we have trouble with getting where we want to stay. Thanks for reading the blog! Enjoy your travels. Linda

  2. I didn’t know that we could negotiate the price with the host. I will remember it for next time. I’m glad you had a good experiences while staying in your first Airbnb though. Our first was weird. The room (place), the interior, the location, everything was weird. It’s like staying at a Stephen King’s book. Haha..

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