What’s your view of Airbnb? Until recently I wasn’t sure about it. Spending the night in a stranger’s house? Sleeping in their bed? Eating their cornflakes? Nope, not for me. Until, that is, we needed to go away at short notice – and with a baby in tow. We needed space for a high chair and a travel cot. Room for him to crawl around. Somewhere to wash bottles and prepare food. A hotel really wasn’t going to cut it.
I searched everywhere online for a place to stay. My needs were pretty simple: self-catering accommodation in Southend-on-Sea, that was available at the last minute and didn’t look like the set of a Hammer horror film. Apparently this was equivalent to requesting that Kanye West perform at your birthday party. A tad unrealistic.
Reluctantly, I fired up the Airbnb website on my phone and almost immediately stumbled upon a stunning Victorian house that was available and – bonus! – looked unlikely to harbour any serial killers.
We packed our bags and off we went. (When I say this, what I really mean is we vastly underestimated the logistics of going away with a baby and almost divorced in the process).
After a long drive in fraught silence punctuated only by incessant wailing – the baby, not me – we arrived. Suddenly the tension dissolved and we found ourselves standing in the stylishly tiled hallway of what felt like our very own boutique hotel. Beautifully designed, clean and spacious, it was a relief to find the quality we were used to alongside the functionality our lives now require.
When I thought about staying in someone else’s house I imagined their belongings everywhere and a sensation of trespassing. I was relieved to find this wasn’t the case. While signs of the owners were evident, I didn’t feel they dominated the space and the house felt much like all the other self-catering accommodation we’d stayed in previously but with the added benefit of prosecco in the fridge and Nutella in the cupboard.
It was lovely to have the opportunity to experience living in a house (rather than a flat the size of a postage stamp) as a family and I’m pretty sure it went some way towards convincing Mark that we should at least consider moving to the area. We viewed a few houses while we were there and it’s amazing what you can get for your money compared to London. One house had an actual balcony overlooking the sea. I mean. And I wonder whether we’d have felt so at home in the area had we been staying in a hotel or in more sterile self-catering accommodation? The fact that the house had the owners’ stamp on it and evidence of people living happily outside of London (I’m told that’s a Thing) made us much more likely to consider following suit and putting down roots locally.
One thing I really liked was the fact that a friendly and familiar face was only ever a phone call away and we had the backup of Airbnb to support us should anything go awry. When we had trouble getting in to the house at nearly 10pm the owners were available to assist us immediately and they told us to get in touch any time. They also offered to give us some tips about the area when we mentioned potentially moving there. In the least creepy way possible it almost felt like going to stay with friends without the hassle of actually having to be sociable at 8am in the morning.
So if you’re considering trying out Airbnb but feel a little reluctant I’d whole heartedly recommend it. Obviously you need to do your research but the process of finding a place that met our needs was so much easier than I imagined and the experience of staying in someone else’s home was very positive.
This post isn’t sponsored but if you’re planning to visit Southend-on-Sea any time soon and like the look of our accommodation, you can find it here.