I recently needed to visit Chicago a week earlier than I had originally planned and at fairly short notice. My visit coincided with the graduation season and I discovered that Downtown Chicago has quite a few schools. Add to that a food festival, a Special Olympics event, and the regular round of corporate conferences, and even with the thousands of hotel rooms, I could not find a single hotel that could accommodate me for a 10-day booking. I decided that being based over an hour away was not going to work so I looked at plan b, an airbnb rental instead of a hotel.


    However, even an airbnb rental proved a little challenging. No sooner had I sent the online request to reserve a unit than I received an email saying, sorry it was just booked. I gradually increased my budget and resigned myself to the fact that it was supply and demand driving up the cost as I spent far more than I had originally budgeted. Paul, the friendly owner of the unit I finally rented, communicated very clearly and the unit turned out to be pretty much as he had described (one of the fears I had from using this type of booking). But let me tell you more.

    Airbnb rental
    Comfy furniture at our Arbnb rental with amazing views


    What is Airbnb rental?


    Airbnb was started in 2008 and has grown to offer properties in 190 countries.  With 34,000 cities and counting, to date they say they have accommodated 25 million guests with over 1 million properties.  I had read about the airbnb concept but had not really thought it was for me. The idea is that owners of properties can rent out a spare room or an entire house or condo whenever it works for their timeframe. There are a wide variety of properties available ranging from regular flats,condos and houses to castles, houseboats, tree houses and even an igloo. By using Aibnb as the middle man, owners of the properties get the added protection of a company giving insurance coverage of over $1,000,000. Owners can set their own requirements regarding who can rent, their own criteria such as number of occupants or if pets are welcomed, and their own time frames of when the properties are and are not available to rent, pretty flexible.


    Once you register on the Airbnb website you are free to browse the available listings. When ready to make a booking you have the added security that both guests and hosts must verify their IDs through social networks plus supply official documentation such as a driving license so everyone is fully aware of whom they are dealing with. Detailed profiles are put on the website so that the renter can get to know who they are renting from and communication between the two is strongly encouraged through the Airbnb online messaging system although I found my owner also text me with additional information so I felt very much in contact even though we never actually met face to face.

    Airbnb rental
    A well equipped gym at our Arbnb rental


    How did the Airbnb rental compare to staying at a hotel?




    • Space – we had a 2 bed 2 bath unit all to ourselves, which gave us plenty of space. The extra room came in very handy, as the weather was quite bad so I spent a lot of time inside while Becky did her studies preparing for finals
    • We had a full kitchen that meant we were not reliant on restaurants to keep us going, and for a 10-day stay that was much healthier.
    • We had a tv with a wide variety of cable channels, far more than you would usually get in a hotel room so we were able to to catch up on a variety of ‘trashy tv’ programs that I so miss while living in India.
    • Our unit had a washer/dryer so again for a longer-term stay that was really useful.
    • Our host Paul had purchased new bed linens and towels for our visit
    • Through good communication with our host we knew that our apartment complex had a well-equipped gym and an outdoor swimming pool (not that the weather cooperated sadly).



    • Cleaning – with a hotel you would get daily maid service so making your own bed and cleaning up after yourself wasn’t so luxurious.
    • Supplies – two ladies staying 10 days will need more than 2 rolls of toilet paper so be prepared to buy your own supplies. As a frequent traveller I get used to having hotels supply soap, shampoo etc so be prepared to bring your own little necessities.
    • Fittings were a little basic for such a nice apartment, think more dorm room than executive suite, but were quite adequate and comfortable. Make sure you see as many pictures of the unit before booking so that there are no surprises.
    • Neighbors – in a hotel you would have some ability to complain if your neighbor’s children had screaming fits every day, sadly in our airbnb we had to put up with a ‘show’ most evenings.


    Be aware that:

    • Payment is all taken upfront at the time of booking.
    • As the properties were being booked very quickly it took a few attempts to find a property that was free and worked for our needs. The booking process is a little bit more involved that booking a hotel room.
    • Different owners set their own parameters as to what cancellation and refund policy they offer so check the small print before booking.
    • You are a ‘guest’ of the host so you do create a ‘relationship’ of some kind rather than the anonymity of a hotel booking.
    • You will need to do your detective work by reading the reviews of previous guests to check that what was offered was delivered, that the fixtures and fittings turned out to be the ones in the photos, that the cleanliness of the unit was up to standard.
    • There are a few horror stories out there when things didn’t work out but there are also plenty of success stories so read the reviews of the hosts you are looking to book with as there is safety in numbers.


    Would I book again?



    Overall I would say yes I would. That said, I visit Chicago quite regularly so I know the neighborhoods and where I would and would not be prepared to stay. I might be a little more reticent booking in a totally new location as unlike a hotel, the unit you book could be off the beaten tracks. As price is directly linked to supply and demand then perhaps at a quieter time of the season an Airbnb might be a cheaper alternative that would make it more desirable.

    Ourdoor pool with BBQ at Airbnb Rental
    Ourdoor pool with BBQ at Airbnb Rental

    A final funny note



    While writing this article I looked for the Airbnb logo to use and found that the recent rebranding had led to a few raised eyebrows on how the design had been tested in the market before being adopted. Does it remind you of anything? UK musician Brett Domino created a song to give you his opinion.

      • Mary Anne says:

        I always wondered how this worked. Thanks for sharing. May have to give it a try.

        • Sue says:

          I hadn’t really planned on using this service, but no hotel rooms kind of forced my hand. It worked out ok though so I would give it another go.

      • Kim says:

        Rentals are always our first choice. Love them! But I’ve never actually tried this. As we’re usually traveling as a family, it makes these a little hard but one time I will definitely try it! I’ve always been so curious!

        • Sue says:

          I actually think this works really well for families due to the increased size you get over a hotel room, plus cost saving would be better if you would normally book more than one hotel room (as we do now our kids are grown up) Good luck if you give it a go

      • Lisa Ladrido says:

        We have actually been thinking of buying a condo in Florida so that when we aren’t using it we can Air BnB it, new term! Ha ha! We love having kitchens so our next trip we will be checking out the airbnb app. I love that song that you posted about the logo, I was cracking up! The place you chose had awesome views!

        • Sue says:

          The Airbnb concept is an interesting one but I get the impression that most people meet the owners on key exchanges so I wonder how it would work if you were not in the location. Our guy owned a number of properties in the Chicago area so he was on hand to answer questions etc. Good luck if you do but maybe being a client first would be a good research trip for you.

      • Lauren says:

        my mother in law uses a similar service all the time, and she loves it!

        • Sue says:

          I had been thinking of trying it in New York as my daughters friends and parents had been using it all the time, but I guess I was a little skeptical so Im glad I have now experienced how it all works

      • Lauren says:

        My family is a big fan of VRBO. Since we like making our own food, we always want a kitchen while on vacation. My mom loves that we get a whole house to ourselves instead of just a hotel room. I think it’s a great deal!

        • Sue says:

          Thanks Lauren. Im glad I got to try this out as I had heard about it for quite a while now but had never really thought it was for me, how wrong was I!

      • My sister uses AirBnB all the time. I haven’t tried it yet but hope to give it a shot this summer. The place you stayed looks great!

        • Sue says:

          Thats the beauty of Airbnb, there are so many different options so there is something to fit everyones needs. Good luck, hope you find a great place to vacation.Thanks for stopping by to comment.

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