Archive for the ‘Airbnb’ Category

….is what the chap said to me at my hotel yesterday evening.

I’ve been staying at a capsule hotel – “hub by Premier Inn” – very near to St James Park tube station in Westminster. The rooms in these hotels – there are several in London – are very small but very well-featured. They have all the required elements – bed, bathroom, TV, air-con/heating, a bit of storage space – but all very modern and very high tech, and are extremely compact.

So I returned to the hotel after a meal out, walked in, and the lights came on automatically, exactly as they should have. Rather unexpectedly they went off again about 30 seconds later, leaving me in complete darkness. I found my way back to the door and opened it, and the lights came back on. Then the cycle repeated itself.

I did some experimenting with what was happening but eventually gave up and reported the problem, and a few minutes later a very helpful and polite chap arrived to ask me what was wrong. I demonstrated the problem which elicited the response “that’s not supposed to happen….. never seen that before, in fact!”. Then he said the unforgettable words – “I’ll need to reboot the room”. He opened a small panel and hit the Reset button, at which point everything in the room just shut down. Up to that moment I hadn’t realised just how hi-tech the room actually was – lots of systems all under customer control via a control panel on the bed head (or via an app on your smartphone). There are five different settings for the lights, for example. But right then all the systems were all off. There was silence (and darkness, of course). Then bit by bit the room rebooted and the systems came back up.

Sadly, the reboot didn’t resolve the issue – 30 seconds later we were in darkness again. At that point the problem had to go to Tier 2 support, and unfortunately they weren’t available in the evening; and as a result I got a new room in which I had an excellent night’s sleep.

Apart from the problems with the lights in the original room, this was an excellent stay. I haven’t mentioned the lounge by reception. There are no tea/coffee making facilities in the room; instead, there’s a ‘hot drinks’ point in the lounge where tea and coffee are available (from a coffee machine/hot-water dispensers) 24/7. The lounge is also where the continental breakfast is available – simple cereal, sour-dough bread, croissants, muffins, butter, preserves and a toaster, and also where they put out the same sort of things as a simple buffet in the evening. The evening buffet seems to be free, but breakfast was £4. You can also get drinks – they have wine and spirits available, but you have to get one of the staff members there to serve you.

All in all, this was a much better experience than my Airbnb in London experience last year, even with the lighting problem. I shall probably use something like this again.


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IMG_0075For my three nights in NYC I stayed at an Airbnb place. This was a two-bedroom apartment on W 42nd St, just beyond 11th Avenue – so just about four blocks from Times Square, and three blocks from the subway on 8th Avenue. This was my first stay in a real Airbnb – I had stayed at a place I’d arranged through Airbnb in London a couple of months ago, but actually that turned out to be a room in a budget hotel.

So how did I find it?

First thing to say is that the location was amazing, of course. A lot of places were reachable on foot, albeit with a bit of a walk. It was maybe 20 minutes to the bottom of Central Park, and perhaps 15 minutes over to 5th Avenue. Downtown could be done on foot but would be easier on the subway. And there were plentiful restaurants on 9th Avenue just a couple of blocks away. (more…)

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In a couple of weeks’ time I shall be getting to leave for New York. As with last year’s trip to DC and Virginia, I’m spending some time on a road trip as well as having a few days in the city. This time I’m starting with five nights in upstate new York: a couple of nights in the Hudson valley, followed by three nights at Ithaca in the Finger Lakes region. (Ithaca is also the home of Cornell University, one of the so-called Ivy League schools.) Then I will have three nights in New York city.

I’m mixing up the accommodation this time. For the two nights in the Hudson valley area I’m staying at two separate Holiday Inn hotels. The first is at Middletown NY, about 75 miles or so away from the airport where I shall land (Liberty International, Newark NJ). I’ve chosen this first stop as a location that gets me away from the Newark/NYC area on the first afternoon but won’t require too much driving straight after the flight. Then the second night will be in Poughkeepsie in the Hudson Valley itself. In Ithaca I shall be staying at the William Henry Miller Inn, an upscale B&B. Finally, in NYC I’ll be staying at an AirBnB, close to Times Square. Of all these the two nights in the Hudson valley will be slightly the cheapest, at around $130 a night or so. The three AirBnB nights will be about $160 to $170 a night, while the nights at the Miller inn will be about $230 a night. Although the AirBnB isn’t cheap per se, it’s definitely cheaper than a hotel – even a budget hotel in New York city (e.g. a Comfort Inn) was coming in at up towards $200 a night, and a Holiday Inn was a bit more than $300 a night.

As with last year’s trip I’ll be flying from Manchester on United. It’s another 20-years-old 757, unfortunately. If I want anything newer and more lavish I’ll have to fly from Heathrow.

The trip starts in a couple of weeks, so check for updates about it from 20 April onwards.


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Airbnb in London

Now for something a bit different

Recently I was in London for one night at short notice, and the regular choices – Premier Inn, basically – were too expensive. So I thought I’d try Airbnb.

I booked a room online beforehand which came to £73. This was made up as follows: one night’s accommodation, £39; cleaning fee, £25; and Airbnb service fee, £9. The cost of the actual room therefore came to £64.  The cleaning fee is only charged once so this means that Airbnb is more cost-effective the longer the stay: a 4 night stay, for example, would have been (£39×4) + £25 = £181, which is £45 a night (plus the Airbnb service charge). That said, I expect there’s a weekly cleaning fee as a minimum.

The Airbnb information about the room all seemed OK but the on-line picture seems to be of a hotel front and indeed when I arrived that’s what it was – a small (single) room in a small hotel in Pimlico. It was OK, albeit a little basic. But after a slightly sticky start – it was cold when I checked in – it all turned out OK. The room warmed up later, it was very quiet, there was a private bathroom, and there was very good wifi. And it was just a few minutes’ walk from Pimlico tube station.

I got the chance to talk to the hotel proprietor the following morning. He was quite open that they were using Airbnb as an alternative channel for letting a few rooms in the hotel. These were their ‘classic’ rooms – they also had premium rooms which weren’t advertised through Airbnb. If you booked one of the classic rooms direct with the hotel then there was a room rate, plus separate charges for breakfast and wifi, but with the Airbnb approach all of these are included in the one charge. I was only in London for a few hours – from mid-afternoon one day until midday the following day with an evening appointment – and in that context it worked well. However, I’m not sure how I would have felt about it if I’d been staying for several nights as a tourist.

The other thing to say is that this wasn’t what I was expecting from an Airbnb booking, which would be a room in someone’s apartment or house, so it may not be typical. Next month I’m staying at an Airbnb in New York City, and that, I believe, will be a more typical stay. More details at the end of April when that trip is over.

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