Before I recently went away for three whole weeks (sigh), I was a diehard hotel fan, the more luxe (and affordable - duh) the better. But since my trip to Jamaica, I'm realising that the hype behind airbnb is more than well-deserved.
Despite its overwhelming support both in the blogosphere and in 'real time' - I have acquaintances who've sworn they will never stay in a hotel again, all while furiously swiping through their airbnb app to show me some of the admittedly impressive locations they've stayed at - I wasn't quite convinced when the BF suggested that we use the holiday home rental service as an option for our stay in Jamaica. Due to my work level, I have succumbed to only taking one holiday per year; last year was just a week in Barcelona. Don't get me wrong, I know that for some people even one holiday is a luxury, but in my world, where I dream of five vacations a year, one was pushing it, especially when it came to stress levels. I was also lucky enough to travel widely in my former life as a style editor, and it made me realise that I am someone who needs to get away, to simply do nothing. So, once my parents (kindly) booked a holiday for 11 of us (more on THAT later) I was set on booking Geejam or the Trident Hotel. Yes, I wanted to explore the places that my father had grown up (Ginger House, Port Antonio), but I also wanted that moment of bliss when you're lying poolside sipping a Pina Colada luxuriating in the fact that you don't have to do a damn thing for the next few weeks.
However, the fact that we were looking for a place to stay rather late in the day meant that the above luxe options just weren't gonna happen - not even close. So I caved and started browsing our options on airbnb. I think it's the Trip Advisor effect that makes us vet tons of reviews before we book anything these days, and I instantly loved how almost every airbnb listing had several reviews. It's a little bit like online dating; you soon become very used to swiping swiftly past listings that don't meet your criteria. By the end of a short swiping session we decided on a rustic-looking treehouse kind of structure called Bamboo, that was set on a property called Mango Ridge ( you can read my airbnb review here or wait for my official review next week on NGK). We booked 10 nights and were instantly able to communicate with our host. Images and reviews all turned out to be accurate and we had to wonder why we hadn't tried airbnb before.
By the second week of our trip, we realised that we needed some 'us' time - I love my family to bits but do I want to hang out with them every single day, having to consider the needs of 11 people? Nope. So what did we do? We went straight back to the app and booked three nights in Negril within 20 minutes. It was probably less than that to be honest, and soon the host of Somewhere West, Angi, was asking us what foods we liked to eat and if we needed transport arranging.
Once we arrived at our second airbnb site, that was it. Walking into Starina, our apartment, we got that instant hit of bliss. Seriously. We did not leave for the next three days, apart from mealtimes - and we didn't need to do the beach, as the apartment's salt water pool was placed directly above the rocks, so close that the waves would fly up and hit us in the pool. It was amazing, and I'll be posting a review blog next week. (I can't direct you to my airbnb review as it hasn't gone live yet, but will add it as soon as it becomes view-able.)
A major plus of staying in someone else's home (or their rental business: more and more homes that you see on airbnb aren't actually where the hosts live) is the fact that many of them are on hand to give you real, firsthand advice on where to go and what to do. I imagine this could be a great positive option for those travelling alone. It's great to have someone tell you the places that on't be rammed with tourists - unless that's what you want of course - and depending on their level of interaction, you might find that your host might even give you a ride to the local shops (like Angi at Somewhere West did), or escort you on a entire day of sightseeing (some may add an extra charge for this, so make sure you read all of the info provided on each listing first).
I know I'm probably a little green when it comes to airbnb, but I wanted to share my thoughts as someone who lives for luxe - when I can afford it. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely looking up some indulgent hotel and spa options for our next trip in March (NYC for a week then California for two), but we're also stopping off in two or three airbnbs along the way. I've already got my eye on an amazing Art Deco property in Hollywood and an architectural stunner in San Francisco. I think, in the past, I had assumed that airbnb would be like staying on your mate's smelly couch, but I now know that, in fact, it's something that makes me think twice about leaving any kind of mess behind! No room service here. And that's alright.
What have your airbnb experiences been like? Or are you a diehard hotel-lover 'til the end? If any of you have some must-see, do or eat suggestions for Cali do please share in the comments!