Thursday, February 21, 2019

AirBnB: The Rise of the Micro Bed and Breakfast for Everyday Travel

You may have heard the college kids next door talking about the swank AirBnB they landed for spring break. Perhaps the new marketing exec at the office mentioned the vacation home his wife and he rented at AirBnB. Someone at the country club might have mentioned leasing their vacation home on the site. If you’re wondering what makes AirBnB so popular, or even what the heck it really is, read on.

While I was tucked away on the side of a mountain by a lake in a forest for five years doing embedded research, the world changed. A lot. When I left, my favorite actors – Ray Liotta and Tony Denison – were mostly known for movies. Starbucks still made you earn Green level. If you wanted somewhere nice to stay when you traveled, you had to shell out the money for a three-, four- or five-star hotel or you had to have a friend who was willing to put you up in their swank digs.

Ray LiottaTony Denison
Fast forward to, er, now. Liotta and Denison became known for TV roles – on “Shades of Blue” and “Major Crimes” respectively. I walked into Starbucks at Green Level, but I am already more than half way to Gold because I suck down coffee like a vacuum cleaner sucks down dirt. AirBnB has made finding a cute room with a view a mouse click away rather than an art.

What the heck is an AirBnB?

The “air” in AirBnB refers to the cloud – as in virtual space. The “BnB” refers to bed and breakfast – small hotels or hostels located inside someone’s home. They dot the northeast of the US. Most bed and breakfasts are the sole business of the owner and rather massive operations with eight to ten rooms to rent. As the name suggests, they include breakfast with your stay.

The newer trend is to open a micro bed and breakfast. This type of BnB offers only one to three rooms for rent at one time. The owners may or may not live there. Some do not include breakfast but allow guests use of the kitchen to prepare their own.

AirBnB provides a central database of micro bed and breakfasts worldwide. A homeowner can register with the site and offer their rental – one room or an entire home or anywhere in between. The homeowner sets the rental price. That ranges between $10 and $1,000 per night. They also choose the level of amenities although AirBnB sets minimum standards that must be met.

What’s available?

My sole experience with a bed and breakfast before this year was having watched the old Bob Newhart TV show. That inn located in Vermont was the sum total knowledge of my BnB experience. It is actually nothing like that, rather like staying in a boutique hotel is pretty much nothing like staying at Fawlty Towers. It is not comparable to anything on TV because micro BnBs are so new. One AirBnB rental is not comparable to another – even within the same price range – because every micro BnB differs in construction, d├ęcor, owners, amenities and location.

What’s available includes everything from an RV lot you can rent on which to park or pitch a tent to whole homes in the nicest neighborhoods of a city. Any city. Pretty much any country. Anywhere.
Since my three or four day trip to Oklahoma City turned into an utter fiasco of three or four months – drug out by disastrous weather, bouts of both flu viruses – one survived by me, the others by friends whose health was required for access to my stored stuff, copious amounts of work (yippee!!!) and other very random delays, I decided to make the best of it. Sure, I held up in my favorite boutique hotel for the equivalent of a couple of months. I also devoted time to learning about and trying out AirBnB. I have stayed in three different properties now to test the waters of the service. Rather than go hog wild, as my dad would have put it, I did what I think most people would. I set a budget and stuck to central locations that provided access to the majority of the city. I used my favorite little hotel as a budget cap. It’s a three-star hotel in the central city about ten minutes from the airport. It used to be a Hilton. Then it was a Radisson. It’s cute. It’s nice. It offers everything including its own outdoor running track for a rack rate of $81 per night. Rented weekly though, you can stay there for $199 per week, plus $100 deposit. It welcomes kitty cats.

In general, my AirBnB rentals cost far less than that. They ranged the spectrum of bare bones room to opulent amenities. To give you an idea of how nice a place you can rent on a tight budget, I’ve included all three of the properties in which I stayed. I wanted to be in the city proper, preferably the northwest. I did make one exception for a home in the southeastern part of the city that had rave reviews on AirBnB. I am glad I did. It was the best of the experiences, so far. Every room I rented allows pets with no additional charge or deposit required. Yes, Silly Scamper traveled with me as my little furry research assistant, so each AirBnB rental also got her small paw of approval.

The Swank Spot in Edmond

The Edmond bed and breakfast after a little snow.
My first stop lasted a few weeks mostly due to availability because no one rents in Edmond. A micro BnB in an upscale subdivision run by a Millennial couple offered one room for rent for $30 per night. They have since begun renting all three of the home’s bedrooms. Appointed in black, white and gray with plush carpeting and an ultra-modern kitchen, this smart home provided a cozy bed and simple furnishings. I’ve bedded down in two of its available rooms. Both offered walk-in closets with two tiers of hanging rods, plus floor-to-ceiling cube shelving. Both rooms offered a double bed dressed in well-appointed linens. Silly liked both since they were the right height for leaping onto easily and she curled up and slept with me on the bed each night. The first room listed on AirBnB features a television with a gaming system which I never used. The second room I rented there features a six drawer dresser. Room rental includes the shared full bathroom next door to the two bedrooms.

The couple who owns the place have a dog and a cat, both of whom lived there with them at the time.
Sunrise through the kitchen window at the Edmond bed and breakfast.
They were only allowed in the common areas of the home, but the cat continually tried to finagle his way in to my room to flirt with Silly and get high on her catnip. That provided some hilarity and hijinks. There was no breakfast or other meals, or snacks provided. I purchased my own groceries and cooked in the kitchen. Laundry privileges were included in rental, so I caught up my travel wash. Exploring the neighborhood proved both fun and safe since it’s in one of the best areas of town. I discovered a tasty Thai restaurant two blocks from the home. A few doors down from it, I picked up basic groceries. A couple of full scale grocery stores were located a less than one mile walk from the home. That’s handy if you do not want to have to Uber everywhere and you are not on a road trip.

The Bare Bones Room in The Village

Okay, people, not the M. Night Shyamalan “The Village.” The Village is the slightly less uppity neighborhood next to Nichols Hills which is, essentially the Beverly Hills of OKC. So, think of The Village as Hollywood Hills, but in Oklahoma City which – like Los Angeles – is hugely and massively spread out and pieced together from a ton of smaller localities that were annexed. In fact, Oklahoma City’s bigger. It offers up 606.4 square miles from which to choose to Los Angeles’ 468.7 square miles.

The tidy and cozy twin bed at The Village bed and breakfast.
The two story home in The Village boasted a balcony with my room. Bonus. It is winter, but it is Oklahoma, so there were actually a couple of days perfect for sitting on the balcony – one in the 50s, one in the 60s. The single bed had cozy blankets and a comforter. Silly mewed a bit each night because the platform bed was too high for jumping onto easily. She doesn’t like being placed on the bed because she’s a cat, therefore independent, and likes to come and go as she pleases. She slept under the bed.

The vast bedroom space at The Village bed and breakfast.The vast room rents for $20 per night. Other than the bed, it held only an oak Windsor back chair. The room featured a full size closet of its own which the homeowner had stocked with body wash, shampoo and conditioner for guests. It features three rented bedrooms in the home, two of which were held at the time by long-term renters. Both regular renters have dogs and the person the homeowner contracts cleaning to struggled to keep up with cleaning up after them. The AirBnB room remained clean though because the dogs were not allowed in it. All renters share the full bathroom on the second floor and the half bath on the first floor.

Again, laundry facilities were included. I did a load of laundry while there. Everyone also shared access
to the kitchen which may be where I picked up the flu. In homes where the homeowner does not live on the property, I learned it is more important for them to include cleaning supplies like sanitizing wipes and bleach wipes. All rooms shared the fridge space, too. I didn’t cook despite the kitchen since the presence of all the other renters did nothing to encourage my culinary creativity. There was an easy to walk to neighborhood of shops, stores and restaurants. The Aldi would have been a mile hike, but a 7/11 provided basic groceries with only a four block jaunt.

The Hidden Treasure in the Southeast Part of Town

I’m lucky to know Oklahoma City relatively well. I lived here for my senior year of high school. I also did both of my “tours of duty” as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Oklahoma City. That’s the domestic version of the Peace Corps, ya’ll. One of my two assignments was at Southeast Area Health Center (SEAHC) and my time there has lent me a decent knowledge of a much maligned area of the city. My most recent bed and breakfast is located about 14 blocks from my former AmeriCorps assignment, in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Hispanic district. When I worked at SEAHC, I got used to INS helicopters buzzing me as I walked from the bus stop to the health center. They did weekly buzzes to try to spot illegals. I also got to know a series of neighborhoods of extremely hard working, lower middle income individuals and families. While my college buddies were aghast that I schlepped between the bus stop and office each morning, I rolled my eyes. They were working on gossip and innuendo instead of actual, firsthand knowledge of the neighborhoods.

The cuddly queen bed in the southeast part of Oklahoma City is piled high with quitts.
The C3 Annex and the C3 Guesthouse are both located in the heart of Hispanic Oklahoma City. They overlook one of city’s largest parks with a playground, soccer fields and an activity center. You’ll find three churches, including the massive Iglesia de Dios, within a two block walking distance. You can also walk in either of two directions and reach groceries in a couple to six blocks. The C3 stands for Craven Three – the last name of the family who own both homes. The three stands for mama, Steffie, and her two children – one daughter and one son. The C3 Annex began as her Habitat for Humanity home. In it she reared her two children alone. Her now adult children help her run the Annex and Guesthouse. Her son is the handyman and repairman. Her daughter helps clean, organize and purchase for the homes. Ms. Craven turned her home into a business, plus she rents space in her current home, as well. She decorated both over time and her love of decorating shows. You’ll feel like you are visiting New Orleans. She features a skull motif and French street name prints throughout the home. She purchased, then refinished, each furniture piece. One entire wall of the hallway stands testament to the many visitors who have benefited from her goal to provide travelers with a safe, affordable place to stay. That wall features a bulletin board full of messages from all who have stayed there – tips, hellos, encouragement.

The C3 Annex features three bedrooms for rent each going for $30 per night. They’re all well-
Silly loved furniture of low enough height she could jump onto because cats are independent.
appointed, fully furnished, cozy and comfortable. Though I jaunted down to one of the grocery’s for goodies, you do not need to do that. Ms. Steffie provides bagels, oatmeal, popcorn, snack crackers, milk, juice, tea, coffee and hot cocoa for all who visit. All bedrooms come with access to the kitchen and laundry. Everyone gets use of the shared living room and dining room.

Silly loved the ottoman that matched the chair in our bedroom. Although the bed was as high as the one in The Village, it meant she could jump up onto the ottoman, then jump up onto the bed. I had a happy cat because she could cuddle her Meowmie as she slept. We both dug the huge closet we had to ourselves. All bedrooms shared the full bathroom. It is also stocked up with goodies you’d need while traveling – body wash, shampoo, conditioner. The complimentary Netflix subscription attached to the big screen TV in the living room rocked.

The Sum Up

Oklahoma City provides a huge array of choices on AirBnB. Some things are a given. The website requires its homeowners to provide each guest their own towel and soap. The bed has to be made with clean sheets. You’ll get a place that meets AirBnB minimum standards, no matter what. Beyond that, you can find a spot that suits basic needs to your most opulent, wildest dreams. Only your budget limits you. While researching for this blog, I have stuck to homes with extremely reasonable prices. I think that most people who travel frequently or need to travel on short notice probably need or want the reasonable price. I also only chose homes that allowed pets and offered free WiFi. WiFi is a necessity for getting work done and catching up on Liotta and Denison television appearances. I am currently working my way through both “Shades of Blue” and “Major Crimes,” after having left the world as we know it an addict to “The Closer.”

I also figured out through my extended trip to Oklahoma City that not everyone knows about AirBnB or my other new fav app – Uber. (That’s another blog.) AirBnB continues to grow though and as it does, it grows its usefulness. It recently added a “For Business” division making it easier to book for others, for groups and to process travel claims for stays on the site. Even some of my Uber drivers didn’t know how common AirBnBs had become.

I snuggled up in a blanket in the living room more than once at the C3 Annex. So super cozy!
So, as spring conference meeting times dawn and summer’s conventions pack your itinerary, save yourself some money. Oklahoma City provides only one example of the prevalence of micro bed and breakfasts throughout the US. You can easily find a place to stay for less than $50 per night, in many cases, for less than $30 per night. Students rejoice. You do not have to pack yourself into a hotel room like sardines in a can to afford to attend AAG, AMS, ASAA or any other alphabet soup of academia. (My friends and I had to do that. It sucks.) You can even get a meal thrown in for good measure.

AirBnB even provides you with a travel credit when you sign up through an existing member. (The link is me giving you that credit.) You get a $40 credit on your first stay of $75 or more. That means you could get a couple of free nights if you pick a cheaper place or, at the very least, one free night. You also get a $15 credit toward your first “experience,” which refers to the bike and walking tours or cooking classes, etc. the site also offers.

While AirBnB started as a spot for managing unique rentals and vacation homes, it has morphed into a business traveler’s mecca of affordable and cushy digs. Do check out the Italian villas and East coast beach houses, too, though. You could also land the perfect vacation spot. Or, use the same link to get started offering a room in your home or your whole house for rent as a micro bed and breakfast. Put it to work for yourself and others.

Carlie Lawson writes about tech, mobile and online video, entertainment, sports and fashion. She wrote for, Keysian and Movitly for a combined seven years. A former newspaper journalist, she now mostly ghost writes for her clients via her company, Powell Lawson Creatives. Invalid Inputs is her first independent, formal blog. She earned BAs in Journalism and Film & Video Studies from the University of Oklahoma. She also earned her Master of Regional & City Planning at OU. She has worked as a model since she was 17.

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