Six weeks ahead of our family Christmas vacation to Peru, we booked two Airbnb listings. One was to be the same place twice for a total of five nights (with a short excursion to another place in between) and the others for a single night in Lima before leaving to go home. Fortunately, I had the sense to book a hotel for our first night in the country after getting off our international flight late at night and the hotels for our excursion were handled by our local guide.
Four days before our trip, our first reservation was cancelled. The host messaged me and said that he is new to Airbnb and didn’t know how the system worked, that he shouldn’t have confirmed the booking in the first place because he would be away leading a tour that week. Four days before our trip, we had no place for our family of seven to stay in a popular tourist destination during the holidays. The host was very unsympathetic to our situation.
We managed to find two separate bookings for the stay on either end of our stay, both at a higher rate than we’d originally had, and neither was an entire apartment like we had booked before. There were not any places left that were a single unit for a family. The first booking turned out to be a small local B&B that was nice and friendly, but not what we’d been planning on originally and at a higher cost.
While we were packing up to leave for our excursion, I got a message from our next host on the other end of the excursion that just said, “I’m sorry. Family emergency,” and the booking was cancelled. When this second one canceled for New Year’s weekend, I began to believe that they had found other folks willing to pay more or were giving the space to family or friends instead. I could be wrong. Maybe I’m just that unlucky. However, it was highly suspect.
Fortunately, the little B&B we were just preparing to leave had room for us and we were able to book privately with them and just take a refund from Airbnb on that second reservation, even though on their Airbnb page, it didn’t look like they had space that weekend. When we arrived to our last night’s location, I was very gun-shy about the whole Airbnb thing after the last minute cancellations. I had a little more hope for this place because the host was a “superhost”.
The host (who was listed as speaking English and Spanish and with whom I’d had conversations in English on Airbnb messaging) had informed me that he would be out of town while we were there and his sister would meet us and let us in. I called the sister immediately when we landed to confirm that were weren’t going to be left high and dry again. Both the host and his sister were very sweet, but his sister’s English was about as good as my Spanish, so we had a difficult time communicating.
The apartment was neat and clean, and we even had one more bed than expected. The neighborhood was a little sketchier than we expected and we had trouble finding a restaurant or grocery store because of our communication gap with the host’s sister. (Again, not her fault, but if the listing says the host speaks English, the host’s representative should too.) We managed to figure that all out, but our kids were shot by the end of the day and walking around trying to find food with three cranky kids in a foreign country is not exactly relaxing, to say the least.
That night, we decided to turn in early to reset for our last day in Lima. And at around 8:30 PM, a party started in the apartment downstairs. It seemed to be a child’s birthday party or something. There was little to no sound protection between apartments, and there were no fewer than a dozen loud voices loudly shouting and talking, including small children running around and screaming until just before midnight. I can certainly understand and tolerate some amount of kid noise. We knew there was a family downstairs in the apartment below us. But after spending the whole trip reminding my own kids about manners when there are other people in the building, the screaming children downstairs until midnight was inexcusable.
Our kids were crying because they were tired and couldn’t sleep with the noise. Our host was out of town, so I couldn’t communicate through messenger. My only recourse would be to call his sister at night and try to explain to her in my terrible Spanish what was happening and ask what to do about it. Since we were, admittedly, trying to turn in early that day, I figured I’d give them a little time. By around 10:30 PM, they quieted and we all breathed a sigh of relief… until a half hour later when they started back up. At this point, I didn’t want to call the host’s sister that late at night, so I went to Airbnb customer service who basically said, “Sorry. Should have video taped it. Hope you have a better experience next time.”
Next time? That’s cute, guys. After two last-minute cancellations on a family of seven over a holiday and a night of no sleep because of noisy neighbors at what was listed as a “quiet apartment”, there is no chance of there being a “next time”. In my tired, sleep deprived state, trying to comfort my kids to get them to sleep, video taping a party downstairs wasn’t exactly something that occurred to me to do.
There is no way Airbnb was worth the few dollars we saved. Save yourself the trouble and the headache of trying to book things last minute or the chance of getting super noisy neighbors and just book a hotel. Buy a Lonely Planet Guide for where you are headed, and check out TripAdvisor. That is how we always traveled in the past and that is how we will always travel in the future.