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.
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:
WE LIVE DOWNSTAIRS AND CAN HEAR EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON IN THIS APARTMENT!
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.
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.
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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.