So. Here is the lowdown of my first ever experience at an Airbnb ( yeah, I was late to the party ).
It’s like home. Away from home.
Even though Airbnb is the hospitality partner for EyesForNewYork, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Two of the things I was apprehensive about were safety and facilities – I’d be living at someone’s home – what if I didn’t like them? Would I be able to eat the stuff in their refrigerator? I’d replace whatever I used but would they mind? Would my room have a latch / bolt inside so I could sleep without worrying about someone coming in? Would the loo have things like toilet paper and shampoo? ( Jamie clearly mentioned the availability of shampoo and toilet paper on his listing on Airbnb but I’m used to people not doing what they say – I’m tuned to expect the worst having been born and brought up in India. )
Jamie was a nice host – he was hardly home – but when he was, he always said hello and asked us if we needed anything. One of the great parts about Jamie’s apartment was that on Airbnb, he clearly mentions house rules, WiFi password, how things work in the apartment and you don’t really need to get in touch with him for anything at all. This was great because we went in fully prepared. )
Living at an Airbnb apartment is not like living at a hotel. There’s no room service and you don’t need to worry about using the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Depending on your equation with the host, you could convey ground rules based on your comfort level. If you’re in a new city and want to explore it, taking your own time and want to stay at a place longer than you would consider a hotel, an Airbnb apartment is a great option. Not only is it great for your wallet but it’s also nice if you’re the kind of person who likes to whip up their own breakfast. I like my eggs and bananas and coffee as a staple breakfast. At hotels I often crave my vegetable smoothies and black coffee with raw honey – luxury hotel will cater to your every whim but if you’re watching your wallet, these things are usually hard to come by.
With Jamie’s apartment, there was a Whole Foods near by : walking distance. We got hummus, eggs, beer ( you have to try the local beers – we literally tried a new one each bottle ), bananas, apples, raw honey, etc. We stayed at Jamie’s place for a week so we stocked up accordingly. I used a bit of honey from Jamie’s food cupboard and replaced it before we left the apartment. ( Luckily, we found out he’s allergic to peanuts before I offered him any from my snack-stash! )
The bathroom had toiletries – unlike a hotel, one doesn’t need to ask for replenishments – the cupboard below the sink had supplies. The BEST part, however, was the laundry. Jamie’s apartment has a washer and a drier and detergent and OMG I could’ve washed my whole wardrobe – it was so convenient. No pesky laundry fees at hotels!
Compared to most New York apartments, Jamie’s was quite large. It was one living room + kitchen, two bedroom and two bathrooms. Spacious, well lit and what spectacular views! Each time I sat down to work or drink a beer on the couch, I couldn’t believe the views. ( I even made a separate blog post about it here : NYC Views from #REDHUxAIRBNB apartment ). It was a beautiful Lower East Side location and Akanksha and I ended up photographing a couple of #CoverUp stories : Rainbow Summer and Classic Sun deck – the apartment building has a beautiful sundeck with different NYC views – you need to have Jamie with you for accessing the sun deck because it requires fingerprint access or if you can spot someone on the sun deck, you could request them to let you out.
It was a bit of a walk – an hour and a half to be precise because we kept stopping for photographs – but we walked from the apartment to Central Park too – great weather luckily!
Washington Square park is also walking distance. I do love walking but if you’d rather not, there’s always Uber.
Luckily we got a selfie with Jamie too – he’s from Sydney and who knows, we might just stay at his place while we cover Sydney Fashion Week too! Before that we’re hoping to make it to his office in New York to get a tour of The New York Times and see what life’s like there.
( We also caught some NYPD action from the large glass windows in the apartment. LES was quite exciting. )
Some of my recommendations when booking a place via Airbnb :
01. Always pick a place that has at least a handful of reviews.
02. Look at the photographs of the apartment : the ones where an Airbnb photographer has visited and photographed are watermarked on the top right side with the Airbnb logo. This means the host requested for the free photographer service from Airbnb and that person visited the space and photographed it. Sometimes hosts do not request for this service but photograph their property themselves. ( I wonder why! They should definitely get this service! A professional photographer is sent over by Airbnb for no charge at all! ) Keep in mind that when a room is photographed with a wide-angle lens, it can appear larger than it actually is – if you have a photographer friend who owns a 14mm lens, ask them to show it to you – you will have a better sense of space when looking at photographs of apartments on Airbnb.
03. When in ANY doubt at all, reach out to the Airbnb social media handles – they’re super responsive on Twitter and will even help you pick an apartment if you tell them what dates and locations. Airbnb has tons of options that can help you narrow down what apartments you’re looking for : by date, by location, by amenities ( do you want a washer / dryer, WiFi, heating, air conditioning, etc. )
04. If you’re worried about anything, you CANNOT go wrong with a SuperHost – there’s an option to narrow down apartments using this criteria as well. If you only want to stay with a Super Host, only search for apartments within that category.
05. As much as possible, book in advance. If you do book in advance, don’t forget to look at the host’s cancellation policy. Some have a strict cancellation policy, which means no matter when you cancel, 50% of what you paid is deducted. Some hosts have a moderate cancellation policy and some have flexible ones – where only the Airbnb commission is deducted. I say book in advance because most of the great places get booked WAY in advance. And Airbnb does have some fabulous listings.
06. Some of the unexpected things might be cultural / geographical. For example, as a photographer, I salivated at the glass windows and the opportunities they presented for photography. I forgot that so high up, the windows probably not open all the way – and they didn’t. So night time photography had to be assisted with covers around the lens to prevent reflections from within the apartment. Even hotel windows rarely open when so high up, so this was my bad in terms of expectations.
And finally, a recap of the links:
The Naina.co related Airbnb Referral Link.