Welcome to BedmaybeBreakfast! We are a community of AirBnB hosts and guests. Please join in our community and share your experience and opinion. It's FREE! Join HERE!
Road trip California! Up the Pacific Coast, down the central state: My dream vacation will become a reality next spring, thanks to Airbnb. I’ve saved $140 a month from my Airbnb earnings since March. By next March, I’ll have $1680, which will cover my California sojourn – as long as I stay at other Airbnbs.
Traveling my own state will make me a better host. Before I started hosting, I explored my own city a bit, so I could pass on helpful tips to my guests. I’ve continued to do this. But I notice that nearly half of my guests plan to explore California beyond Los Angeles. I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life, but I haven’t seen as much of the state as I’d like. I want to travel the length of beautiful Highway One. I’ve been to San Francisco, but I’ve never been to Haight-Ashbury. I think I saw the Northern California redwoods from an airplane when I was ten. Joshua Tree? I’ve never been. Morro Bay? I can’t wait to go back.
Like many travelers, I have my own offbeat destinations, too. I’ll see natural wonders and stone prisons and flower children. I really want to visit the prisons at San Quentin and Folsom, because Johnny Cash recorded albums there. That music is a touchstone of my youth. And, I need to pass through Lebec, a dusty town in central California with nothing to recommend it but a personal memory. In college, some friends and I stopped at a diner in Lebec on our way to a camping weekend. It was in Lebec, dear reader, that I realized I liked Biff better than Artie. Yes, those are their real names, and I need to see if that diner still exists some 25 years later. I do it for Biff.
I traced the route on a map and looked for Airbnbs at every stop. My first destination? Beautiful Morro Bay, where I’d visited a decade ago. The incredible Morro Rock, which stands guard in the Bay, looks serene and magical. And, nearby Montana de Oro features gorgeous wildflowers and easy hiking right off the sand.
I had certain criteria when searching out Airbnbs. My price range varied from $35 to $90, INCLUDING cleaning fee and any taxes, but not including Airbnb’s percentage. I wanted to stay close to the low end of the price spectrum but I knew that, for a 2-week road trip, I’d want at least 2 places with better accommodations. Here and there, I thought, I’d want to spring for an entire place, not just a private room, so I could catch my breath and feel like I really was on vacation. Now, should my first stop be a top-dollar Airbnb? No.
In looking for suitable Airbnbs, I realized I had a lot of specific requirements beyond just price. I wanted hosts with a lot of reviews – at least 60 -- hosts who’d been in the game for a while and had fine-tuned their hosting styles. I can learn from them. And, these hosts had longevity and would still be around next March. I also looked for listings with several House Rules – not an overwhelming list, just enough to show that the host was thoughtful and conscientious, and that she had reasonably high expectations of guests. I didn’t want to choose some place with rules like “Don’t party too hard,” or simply “Enjoy your stay!”
I looked for listings with moderate cancellation policies, security deposits no higher than $200, and low cleaning fees.
And I looked for Superhosts.
There’s a rumor among savvy Airbnb hosts that guests don’t care about that little Superhost badge. Guests mostly look at photos and price, and too many guests don’t read our full listings. Still, there’s value to the Superhost status. I know that many Airbnb hosts deserve that badge and are just short of having it, but I also think it’s an efficient way to help decide between two similar listings. If given a choice, I do prefer to stay with a host who has an excellent commitment rate and a lot of 5-star overall reviews. I’ll be traveling by myself. I don’t want to risk having a reservation cancelled.
So I decided that my first choice was a private room for $65,with Kim:
Two nights in Los Osos, just a couple of blocks from Morro Bay. On my first full day, I’ll head up to Hearst Castle. Yay! Never been there! Check it out:
This magnificent estate is a tourist destination, to be sure, but I'm okay with being a tourist for part of my trip. Hearst Castle is the stuff of Hollywood dreams.
After two nights in Morro Bay, I want to head up Highway One to Big Sur and the Monterey Bay. However, I can’t find a lot of Airbnbs in my price range, even in the outskirts of Monterey. The average price for an Airbnb in both Big Sur and Monterey is $230, and, although I found a Superhost with a private room for $69, I realized the smartest thing is to go straight to San Francisco. I’ll need the money for pricey Haight Ashbury. I can stop off in Big Sur long enough to soak in the atmosphere.
Haight Ashbury, San Francisco. Center of gravity for hippies worldwide, and home to the beautiful “Painted Ladies:” the small but stately Victorian homes, with their bright colors and intricate woodwork. In the late 1950s, poets and musicians who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere gravitated to cheap rooms in these lovely homes. Hippies followed suit in the 1960s, and the counterculture movement flourished in the Haight’s craggy streets. Those classic old houses inspired flower-child clothing of granny dresses and paisley shawls. Cool! I want to pose for pictures in front of the house where the Grateful Dead lived. I want to see where the hippies hung out!
Apparently I’m not alone in that goal. Average Airbnb prices in Haight Ashbury and the adjacent Castro district? $200. (Low-end hotel rooms run about $240.) Searching these neighborhoods, I notice a phenomenon that I’ve seen elsewhere on Airbnb: the Business Host. You've seen this person. It's the type of host who approaches Airbnb with a fundamental economic principle: Make the greatest profit with the smallest investment of money and time. We all keep this principle in mind, because Airbnb is our business, but we don’t hold onto it at the expense of the niceties of hosting. We’re happy to set out some gourmet chocolates, even though M&Ms might provide a better return on our investment. Or, we don’t mind putting off an errand, so that we can be home to greet guests.
The Business Host, however, typically has several listings and doesn’t give his guests, or his spaces, the personal touch. Looking for something in my price range, I found two such Business Hosts in Haight-Ashbury. One has six private-room listings with over 500 reviews, and there’s not a single 5-star rating for any category, in any listing. That’s hard to accomplish. I avoided this host’s listings. Another Business Host has more than 200 reviews for his one listing, but it’s a small, icky-looking room with shared bath, at $90. So, I felt lucky upon finding Superhost Brenda’s private room, at $69, with more than 200 reviews and five stars across the board. Sweet!
I have to do three nights in San Francisco, since I want to explore the Haight and the Mission District, see Golden Gate Park, and of course, visit San Quentin Prison. Maybe “visit” isn’t the right word. I don’t happen to know any inmates there. I’m going to drive by, listening to that old Johnny Cash record, and recreate in my mind the feeling of togetherness I felt as a child, singing along with my family to those prison songs. I’ll tell my host, Brenda, about that little visit. I wonder if she’ll be surprised.
When I leave San Francisco on Friday, I’ll head to Mendocino, four hours along Highway One, on the incredible Pacific Coast. I’m mindful of my budget, and this tiny cabin on a farm looks rustic and charming, but I don’t think I want to take a shower outside:
I also don’t like the idea that the host’s name is “Pegasus Farm.” (He does give his name as Steve in his profile, though.) The child looks rather sullen, too. I counted out another listing because of its three-day minimum stay, and a third listing because the host himself looked a little sketchy. Here’s a better option: a room in a beachside cottage for $75 a night.
That’s the place! I like Rhoda, even though I’ve yet to meet her. She’s one of those hosts whose personality shines through her listing.
I’m set for the first week of my trip, and after that? The Redwoods are calling, but I’ll have to stay somewhere other than an Airbnb for my next stop. Am I “cheating” on Airbnb? In my next post, I’ll let you know how I resolve this inner conflict and how I plan to get myself back to Los Angeles.
Carolyn is a teacher & host.
c 2015 by author
Jackson likes this.
You need to be logged in to comment