we just got back from two weeks in italy where we stayed in apartments through airbnb as opposed to our usual hotel hopping. as someone who spends a ton of time in hotels for the man this was a notable departure from business usual and something that we enjoyed immensely. this definitely puts a different twist on the personal travel experience almost all of it for the better.

misc observations

  • it’s really nice to get home at the end of a day of touristing to cook for yourself. i’m surprised by how much i really liked this.
  • wifi / internet access is a malleable definition for some folks. there were two places where they were genuinely surprised by the fact that yes, we did indeed want to have internet access. one was clearly something of an oversight by the owner. the other property (run by a property manager) was clearly a situation where they knew that folks wanted it but weren’t necessarily going to keep it going and provided a sub-optimal option as a stopgap. more on this below.
  • if you really want the foreign city experience, go grocery shopping. you find out what the local brands are and you find out how much of your food has been “american-ized”.
  • anything that isn’t hotel furniture is way more comfortable for reading in.
  • making your own coffee in the AM to wake up is vastly preferable to having to go to out for coffee when you’re not ready to face the world at large. do not underestimate the value of this.
  • in december, i’m pretty sure everyone in rome is out partying til 2am
  • foreign washing machines are a trip to operate and deciphering laundry soap instructions in a foreign lanugage is far more difficult than i would have initially thought.

wifi availability

pretty much every place includes wifi or internet access as one of the amenities provided. this is a search criteria in airbnb when you’re looking for a place. if you don’t have it, chances are people aren’t going to bother with your place. i get it. however, if you’re renting out a second residence or something along these lines the chances are you’re not going to want to have hardwired services turned up which aren’t actually being used.

enter the 3G/wifi dongle - it lets property managers have a couple of these lying around and provide wifi access at speeds one would find anemic at best and still claim that they have wifi/internet at the location. the rub here is that there’s no good way to tell which ones use this and which ones don’t. further if you’re in a location where the cellular coverage is poor, you’re pretty well screwed. this is what happened to us when we were in venice.

in venice there were apparently issues with the apartment we were going to stay in. the property manager who set things up had an alternate location for us to go to, but this was not in the area of town we’d requested and we found out about it the day prior to our arrival. when we got to the location we discovered that there was no wifi, this was going to be a problem. to their credit they dropped off a 3G/wifi dongle to address the issue. however, we discovered that we were in a part of venice with really poor mobile coverage. which is odd all by itself.