Tips for planning a great trip with Airbnb plus our weekend adventure

Tips for planning a great trip with Airbnb.

We spent this past weekend in Provo enjoying family and celebrating my little sister’s graduation from Brigham Young University (Go Cougars! Thomas and I both graduated from BYU too!). I really wanted to stay in a house instead of a hotel so that we could see each other a bit more and so I booked a house using Airbnb. It was quiet the adventure so I thought I would share it with you so that you can learn from my mistakes as well as give me some tips! This isn’t sponsored, just meant to be helpful.

Here’s the clan on graduation day!

Tips for planning a great trip with Airbnb

A little background. The graduating sister and her husband live in a tiny one room apartment. My older sister who has 5 little boys lives in Idaho, my mom and dad live in Kentucky, and we live about 5 hours south of Provo and have our own 4 kids. We planned on all staying at a hotel this weekend but the more I thought about it the less I liked the idea. We would need to put the kids to bed and then at least one adult would be obligated to stay in the room with the kid while the other adults tried to gather and mingle in another person’s room. I get to see my parents one or two times a year so that time is precious. A hotel wasn’t going to work so I started looking at vacation rentals.

Airbnb (like air with “bed-n-breakfast” behind it! Do you see where they get the name?) came to mind because it’s getting more popular! I know lots of people who have used it and loved it. It’s essentially a website that connects people with a space to rent with people who want to rent that space. You can search by location, price, number of room. There’s a small processing fee that Airbnb the company takes, about 10% of your total bill, and then more details will depend on the individual listing and rental. Some people will want you to pay more for extra people or have a cleaning fee. You just have to read the details to see what the total will be (this is very obvious, there aren’t really hidden fees).

Thomas and I used Airbnb in 2012 to find a room to rent in Perth Australia. I went with Thomas on business but we wanted to stay 2 extra nights to visit an island for Thomas’ birthday. There was no way we were going to stay in the same hotel the company had put us in (way out of our budget) so this was perfect. Just the two of us stayed in a single older woman’s extra bedroom and we paid her like $100 a night or something. She was wonderful and helpful, and what little time we were actually in the room we really enjoyed.

Fast forward to last weekend… it was not quiet the same experience.

First up, things I wasn’t expecting when I rented this house. The home was a bit of a dump. The carpets were super stained, there was a hole in the floor of the kitchen that the dish washer partially covered, the light switches were some old touch panel and they only worked half of the time, and our bedroom (right off the living room) didn’t have a door! The pictures on the site where pretty strategic in what they did and did not show.

Here’s the kicker though, I thought it was a vacation rental but it was actually a private residence that is rented out when people want it. I obviously knew this was an option through airbnb (this was the set up in Australia), but I just didn’t gather that from this listing or the photos. We got there late at night after an exhausting day of travel and a restaurant mishap that had us waiting for food for over 2 hours, I was exhausted. We walked in and I almost cried. There was food in the fridge, pet hair on the couch, and it was only clean to an extent (not to be rude but I’d call it “single man” standard of cleaning… I’m just clumping that into a stereotypical single man, not all you neat and tidy ones). I had no idea it was not a vacation rental and living in someone else’s house was just not what I had been expecting. It’s a little weird to think you can stick something in the closet to find it full of someone’s things. I had planned it and felt like I had pretty much ruined the weekend for everyone else staying there (my older sister and her family and my parents). One of the beds downstairs was essentially just in the storage closet (not much of a thirst bedroom) and so my parents ended up sleeping on the floor in the living room. Not ideal when you could have been staying in a hotel.

The morning light and a little sleep helped my view of things. The house was old, had lots of quirks, wasn’t as clean as I would have hoped (I didn’t shower while we were there because I was too weirded out), but on the flip side, it brought us all together. The living room was large, we didn’t worry too much about the kids eating in the carpeted dinging room because it was already stained, and it had a nice hot tub and grill. We set the hot tub to like 95 degrees and all the kids played in it like a giant bath. It was so fun! The yard was amazing and fun to explore. The house was “pet friendly” so my sister was able to bring her dog and not pay a sitter (plus we adore Roy and were glad to have him), and the view was stunning. It was high up on the mountain and you could over look all of Happy Valley. On top of all that, we planned a graduation party and were able to invite people we wouldn’t have had time to see or be with. We had almost 35 people at the house on Friday night. I brought up lamb and pork chops that my dad grilled, we all made sides, we had homemade ice cream and brownies. It was a party fit for a college graduation and one that wouldn’t have happened in a one bedroom apartment or hotel room.

Looking back, I would have asked more questions and probably stayed somewhere else, but I for sure would have rented a house with my family again. The price was maybe $20 per family over what we would have paid at a hotel and being able to enjoy that hot tub and have a party made the small extra expense worth it.

I’d still recommend using Airbnb to you, but you need to know what questions to ask so that you can really get an idea of what to expect before you get there. When inquiring about a rental I would ask the host (the renter) the following questions.

1. Is this (room, house, apartment) solely used as a rental or is it your private residence? Will you be onsite during my stay or will you be leaving the premises?

2. Your listing says that you are pet friendly. Does that mean you have pets on the property too? (I knew the house was pet friendly but it didn’t cross my mind that that also meant the owner had pets of his own.)

3. Ask about the amenities that you are excited about to make sure they work. Sure they might have a grill or hot tub but that doesn’t mean they will be on or in working order.

4. Inquire about instructions for things like the TV, DVD player, and wifi (and password).

5. Ask if the property is cleaned professionally or by them. You could say, “I see there’s a small cleaning fee. Does this mean the house is professionally cleaned before or after each booking or do you personally do the cleaning?”

I think asking the right questions will really help you to know what to expect and to see if the property is what you are looking for on your trip. Airbnb does has a refund option (perk of using a service) if you really need to, which is nice to know.

One day Thomas and I will turn the barn loft into a little vacation rental of sorts. We think 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a little kitchenette will fit up there perfectly. On weekends we don’t have friends and family coming to stay in it we hope to use Airbnb to list the space for others.

And here are a few more pictures from the weekend.

Tips for planning a great trip with Airbnb

The new Bean Museum on campus was pretty and new but we felt like so many animals were missing compaired to the old musuem. Thomas was so sad he didn’t get to see his favorite giant walking stick bug. I’d still go and take your kids, it’s a fun place.

We also went to the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point (it’s by the gardens and not in the village just FYI) and it was AMAZING!!!! I highly recommend checking it out. I was hoping to be in and out in 2 or 2.5 hours but we ended up staying for 5 hours and wishing we had more time. Seriously, if you are any where near it or planning on being near Salt Lake City anytime soon, this is a must see. I was so very impressed. They had the most amazing things to do and every single things was hands on. I could right a whole post just about how neat this place was. Do pack a lunch though (they don’t care if you bring in outside food!) because the cafe was only ok for the cost.

All in all it turned out to be a great weekend. I’m grateful we could see my family and enjoy extra space to really be together. My kids are already asking when we get to do it again.

Tips for planning a great trip with Airbnb

I hope this random post gives you a new option for vacation rentals if you haven’t heard of Airbnb and helps you to make great informed decisions.


And do tell. Have you used Airbnb? How was it for you? Was your rental a private residence? Can’t wait to here!

PS- I didn’t show pictures of the house or post the listing because my goal is not to ruin this person’s reputation or rental. It might have been perfect for someone else, this is just my opinion. This is meant to be a broad “and now you know” post, not a “don’t ever rent this” one. I hope I came across as such. You use your best judgement when renting and roll with the hiccups as they come. Tis life!

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I have a lot going on, and I’d much rather spend my time enjoying my messes than fretting about what I’m going to make for dinner. Over the past few years, I’ve nailed down a few strategies that helped me keep my kitchen running like a well-oiled machine, so I started Bless This Mess to help other mess-loving parents solve the nightly dinner delimma—no stress, no drama, just really great food your whole family will love. Read more...

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I’ve had good experiences with VRBO.

I third using vrbo. Dabbled in both airbnb and vrbo and always way more impressed with vrbo! AndI love you.

I second the comment about using (vacation rentals by owner). We’ve used it three times now and all the places we have stayed have been nice and clean. Two places in Provo and one in Washington, DC. Definitely try it!

Please make sure you eave a DETAILED review on the homes page on airbnb to warn future travelers. Those reviews have really helped us choose homes to stay in. We’ve never used airbnb. We’ve never been let down with VRBO or and have used each of those sites several times. Home rentals are so much better than hotels, and usually we can get at least a condo, if not a home, for the same price as a hotel, but with SO many more amenities (the kitchen ALONE is worth a ton when you have a family!).

Thanks for the tips! Asking questions before hand is super important- I’ve used VRBO a couple times and once was great, once not so much because t wasn’t cleaned well enough. That makes all the difference! I did leave a review stating the facts of what I felt wasn’t accurately portrayed on their site- I hope you can do the same for airbnb, I’m sure others would appreciate it! There’s nothing like the feeling that you let everyone else down through your rental pick 🙁

I would totally recommend VRBO. I’ve used it a lot and never had any issues, especially since I read all the reviews and often contact the owner before booking.

Ugh, I totally can relate to the disappointment and feelings of responsibility of booking a mediocre sub-par place. About 15 years ago, before there were many Internet reviews, I booked a B&B for my parents’ anniversary that we re-named “Musty Basement and No Breakfast.”

I had never heard of Airbnb. We have used twice for large family vacations. Both times the houses were beautiful and well kept. We love how having a house lets us all stay together (6 adults and 9 kids).

Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.