We are not backpacking. We are not campervanning. We are not camping. We are not staying at 5 star luxury accomodations and we are not roughing it. We are basically Airbnbing our way around Australia. Aside from staying with friends, we stayed in 7 different places over the last 6 weeks.
First off, let me talk about the places we stayed other than Airbnbs. These accomodations were all still more like apartments than a traditional hotel room. Everywhere we went had a kitchen and laundry. We were only in Canberra for 2 nights, so we stayed in a hotel. It was great. They left me a bottle of bubbles for my birthday and we had 2 adjoining rooms so the kids had their own space. They set up the kids’ room with candy and coloring books and an XBox. They gave us a bag of water when we left and the lobby had apples and candy at all times. There was a delcious cafe in the lobby and a nice espresso machine in our kitchen. Canberra is not an exciting place to go, so it was fun to have a good hotel. In Byron Bay, we stayed at a treehouse, which was part of a rental condo/house type of deal. I was not as comfortable here for a few reasons. First of all, they had signs all over telling us what to do and not to do and threatening fines if we don’t follow these rules. I am exaggerating with the word “threat”, but that’s how it felt. There was also a sign about “nocturnal visitors’ which I assumed meant mice and they suggested we keep all food in refrigerator. We didn’t see anything. Not even a bug, but it put me on edge the whole time. I never unpacked or felt relaxed. Finally, we had a hotel in Brisbane. This was a work thing for Wes, so it was booked through his travel people. It was right in the heart of the city and was a 2 bedroom apartment. We were on the 71st floor and had everything we needed. This was the only place we stayed where people came and cleaned. That was a treat!
The other 4 places we stayed were through Airbnb. We also found our Coogee place on Airbnb. We learned that our Coogee house is rented about 360 nights a year. The landlords live on the lower level, and plan to eventually take over the entire 2 houses for themselves. We got in touch with the owners through Airbnb last summer and told them we were interested in renting it long term (4 months.) It was not easy to get off of Airbnb to rent through them directly because Airbnb blocks you from sharing phone numbers or email addresses. The owner sent me his phone number in code (“tree” for three and “too”for two.) It worked. We got in touch and negotiated rent, etc… Luckily, it ended up being the perfect house for us. We chose it because of the location to public transport, shops and beach. It was also hard to find 3 bedrooms in that kind of a location. We were very happy and the landlords were great to work with.
When we started to plan our travels, it made sense to check out Airbnb again for the different locations we had chosen to visit. We first picked locations and planes and rental cars. Once we knew the specific dates we would be in each area, we went to Airbnb. Wes and I would each look and send each other houses that looked good. We usually sent each other the same ones. We had the same priorities. Enough beds, kitchen, laundry, location, clean, linens included. Things like that. The places where we were visiting are much cheaper than Sydney and it is not really a peak travel season either, so we found some good deals. 3 of the 4 places (in the warm weather spots) had pools which was a treat. Before this trip, I would have thought a hotel would be nicer. People clean up after you and usually there are some amenities. Turns out, I liked Airbnb much better. Having our own “house’ made us feel more settled and comfortable. It was nice to check in ourselves and not have to talk to anyone. The main thing we used to help us be successful in finding the right places was to read the reviews. It tells a lot and I think it paid off. All the houses were clean and the hosts were very friendly to answer any questions over text or email.
Airbnb houses are nice because they get professionally cleaned before you arrive. I liked when houses left a written book/guide that explains how to use everything or where to find things and suggestions for restaurants, etc… A couple hosts left a few rations to get us started like milk, a loaf of bread, bottle of wine, tea, etc… That was nice to walk in to after a long day of travels. I also liked the houses that had puzzles and board games.
I used to think Airbnb was weird. Staying at people’s houses. But it’s the same as if you rent a house on the Cape or a ski cabin. It is someone’s house and they are renting it out themselves. I liked dealing with the owners versus a reception desk worker. Owners take pride in their houses and seem to genuinely want you to enjoy their homes. That felt nice for a traveling family of 5. One house even had fruit trees we could pick from. The pools were fun since we will never own a house with our own pool…a treat for the kids and something to do on days we felt like staying home. In Coogee, we didn’t have a BBQ or outside space, so we particularly enjoyed homes with grills and yards. In Port Douglas, we definitely spent more time outside than we did in. Noosa was my personal fav because it was the closest one to shops and the water for me to get in a nice walk and a coffee. When you are choosing a house, you are taking a chance. Anyone can post beautiful pictures of their house. I think our research of the location and our priorities helped us find good ones.
Move in day was fun for the kids. They loved getting a new bedroom and checking out the houses. I always walked in skeptical. I was looking for dirt or mice or spiders. By the 2nd day, I was usually able to unpack and get comfortable. Then I wouldn’t want to leave. Speaking of bugs…not too bad. I mean, we were in the tropics and some of our houses were really IN the trees and such. In Port Douglas, we did call Wes the exterminator. Although, we let him have the day off on Father’s Day and I took over the bug killing that one day. As I mentioned, we spent almost all our time in PD outside. INSIDE, there were some tiny little ants and a few spiders. Well, there were also 2 lizards and 2 cockroaches. I ended up holding a cockroach in my hand for a moment when I was carrying some towels. In Coogee, we probably had 4 cockroaches total in the 4 months. Maybe 5. So we were used to them and somehow, the kids never saw them. The lizards are cute and welcome in our house anytime.
I feel lucky with our accomodations and will remember them all for different reasons.
Katoomba: Record Player
Canberra: Kids fun room
Carins: The Poisoning
Port Douglas: The pool/verandah
Byron Bay: Treehouse
Noosa: Location, Location, Location
Brisbane: Highrise in the city
Advice if you ever plan to use Airbnb for traveling in an unknown place: Read the reviews!
Advice if you ever put your own house on Airbnb: Don’t put insect spray in the pantry next to the cooking oils!