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This post is a continuation of our Raleigh road trip report.
In my previous post, I talked about how Mr. FAF, our son, and I traveled frugally from DC to Raleigh on a $387 budget with no travel hacking.
This time, I will talk in more detail about my first experience staying at an AirBnB and whether I’d be willing to do that again.
Stay tuned for some praise, complaints, and surprises!
Mr. FAF was in charge of planning the trip and booking lodging.
The host even offered to drive him to the airport.
I had gone on AirBnB trying to look for a nice and reasonably priced room before.
But I couldn’t decide if I wanted to rent a room in a big house for a lower price or an apartment for more privacy.
Mr. FAF spent less than 5 minutes searching for a place and chose an in-law suite for $53/night.
I asked him what criteria he used for the search. He said it was the cheapest place in Raleigh, period.
Curious, I looked through the photos and was really happy to see that the suite was spacious and had a queen-sized bed with a smaller bed.
Most, if not all, of the places I had looked at provided only one bed. I was thrilled! The three of us wouldn’t have to try to squeeze in a bed at night. Sweet!
We got to the AirBnB at around 6 PM on Friday night. Our first impression was that it was in a blue-collar neighborhood with some run-down stores and houses. I didn’t get a really good vibe looking at the area, especially at night.
We had to text the host to open the door for us since the entrance was tucked away in the back. It was a big house with a huge backyard and a two-car garage separate from the house.
I’m not sure if it was the hot weather that day, but we were also greeted by a lot of mosquitoes. All of us got a few mosquito bites on our arms and legs before making our ways into the suite.
The AirBnB was a studio with a bedroom, a full bath, and a kitchenette that came with a fridge, a convection oven, a microwave, and a coffee maker.
We double-checked how much we had paid for two nights. To be honest, both of us were a bit disappointed to see the neighborhood and the AirBnB.
Although the advertised night rate was $53, the two nights actually cost us $157.46, including cleaning/service fees and taxes. For a moment, I was hit with a pang of regret and thought that we could have rented a proper motel/hotel room instead.
At least, we would have a proper hot breakfast and wouldn’t have to worry too much about keeping the place extra tidy and clean for the host (i.e. taking out the trash, making our beds, putting the dirty towels/bedding in a certain place).
I felt a bit disappointed but assured Mr. FAF, who I could tell was not too happy either, that the place wasn’t too bad, and that we should just try to enjoy the trip. It was too late to change our minds anyway.
The next day, I went online to look up some nearby motels/hotels and found some places where we could stay two nights for a total of $140-$160. And they also came with continental breakfast and all the typical service of a hotel.
I tried to think of all the positives of the AirBnB we stayed at (i.e. living with the locals, more privacy) and ended the search. We would just need to do more research next time.
AirBnB wasn’t as cheap as I thought.
Mr. FAF and I decided to sleep together on the queen-sized bed. We made a makeshift crib for Baby FAF by putting the two sofas next to his twin bed to prevent him from falling.
Queen-sized bed for us
Twin bed for Baby FAF
I didn’t sleep well the first night due to Mr. FAF’s snoring, tossing, and turning. But I was too tired the second night and slept much better.
I checked all the windows and locked them. I was paranoid about break-ins. Safety was one of my concerns staying at a stranger’s house. Who knows what might happen when we are asleep.
I heard some noise a couple of times at night and became alert, which interrupted my sleep a little bit. But no one broke into the suite when we were sleeping. I breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the stay.
I was happy that the place came with kitchen appliances, something we might not have at a motel/hotel. I brought dish soap and a sponge and washed the containers we used to pack dinner leftovers for lunch in the bathroom sink.
We brought some Kirkland water bottles. But I didn’t want to use those bottles mainly to save money and prevent plastic waste.
I used the coffee maker to boil water for us and filled my mason jar with the water for our tour in Raleigh. I was conscious not to use water bottles and filled up my mason jar at every water faucet I could find.
Related: 10 Simple Things We Do To Save Money
Likes & dislikes
I’m fully aware that this AirBnB was the cheapest on we could find, and the quality probably reflected that. It would be so unreasonable (crazy?) of us to book a room at Motel 6 and expect it to look like Sheraton.
However, given that this was my first AirBnB experience, I do have some personal likes and dislikes I want to share with you.
1. A great variety of breakfast options
One thing I was super excited about was all the breakfast choices that we had: blueberry bagels with butter, English muffins oatmeal, grits, bananas, yogurt, and frozen pastry.
Mr. FAF particularly liked the bagels and asked if we could buy them in DC.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I just couldn’t wait to start preparing breakfast for our family.
Unrelated: My red purse I got from Amazon for $54.99, and I’ve been using it almost every day for the past 1.5 years. It’s still in good condition.
You see, we eat very simple and cheap breakfast at home (i.e. boiled eggs, black bean porridge, croissant, whole milk), so anything different and delicious was totally welcomed.
Related: Why We Don’t Order from Blue Apron
2. The extra bed for Baby FAF
I really loved that there was an extra roll-out bed in the room. Without it, the three of us would have to squeeze into the queen-sized bed.
Baby FAF likes to roll around in bed and puts his butt, legs, and arms on our faces at night, so it wouldn’t be too comfortable.
The AirBnB was an in-law suite attached to the main house.
We saw the landlord and her family a couple of times in the backyard, but we didn’t have to share any common space or deal with the noise from other guests.
We also got a taste of what it was like to live in the vicinity of Raleigh.
4. Not far from downtown Raleigh
It took us 12 minutes to drive from the AirBnB to Raleigh, so the distance was pretty good. For a moment, I thought about how nice it’d be for us to live right in downtown, but it would probably come with a heavy price tag.
1. Sketchy area
The AirBnB was located in a somewhat sketchy area of town. I took a walk around the neighborhood in the morning and saw a couple of run-down and probably abandoned houses near our AirBnB.
It’s definitely not a place Mr. FAF and I would like to move to one day.
2. Expired food
The yogurt provided to us by the host had expired two days before we got to the AirBnB. I didn’t really mind it as much since I had eaten yogurt that was one week past the expiration date.
However, I wouldn’t serve expired food to guests in our own home.
The English muffins were a bit mushy and gave off a sour smell. I couldn’t find the expiration date and just tossed them in the oven. There were no stomach cramps reported afterwards.
Every time we walked out of or to the AirBnB, we had to tell each other to walk fast to avoid the mosquitoes.
One time we forgot to roll up our car windows all the way and were greeted with a bunch of hungry mosquitoes in the car.
The huge number of mosquitoes was probably due to all the bushes around the house, the humid weather, and a huge toy pool with dirty water/debris in the backyard.
As you can see, the likes far outweigh the dislikes. At the end of the stay, I even told Mr. FAF that I wouldn’t mind our whole family renting and living in that studio to save money (if only it were in a better neighborhood and came with a kitchen).
He brushed off that idea, saying we are financially better-off now. It’s amazing how we can adjust to a new environment only after a few days.
Overall, I’d give the AirBnB 4 stars. I didn’t actually leave a review since the host has a series of 5-star reviews, and I didn’t want to be that mean person who downgrades their rating.
At the end of the day, the host and her husband have a young daughter and are probably busy with other things going on in their lives. They are almost the same age as Mr. FAF and me and are just trying to make ends meet and take care of their family.
Next time, however, we will need to look at motels and hotels as well to do a price comparison with AirBnB. I would definitely recommend AirBnB to friends and family but will also remind them to do their due diligence before booking a place.
This trip also made me think a lot about how Lily at The Frugal Gene has successfully run her AirBnB business and pulled in a great monthly income.
I have been looking into how to run an AirBnB and hopefully will become a host when the timing is right!
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