When family vacation rentals get weird

Yours truly, with bear and panties and cat mug.

Yours truly, with bear and panties and elf and cat mug.

For years, I’ve been an outspoken advocate of vacation rentals for family travel. When you work with a reputable (and hands-on) agency and you get a good place, there’s nothing better. But when you work with a hands-off agency or you book directly with an owner and you get an iffy place, the experience can color your entire vacation. And not in the best of ways.

We have been reminded of this truism this week during our time in Lake Tahoe. While here, we have rented a house (with another family) through Airbnb. And while we had a fabulous time overall, the house was…well…in a word…ODD.

Examples of the weirdness:

  • When we arrived, we found a pair of purple satin women’s underwear just sitting in the washing machine.
  • There were clumps of dog hair on two of the three beds (this one might have been our fault; even though neither vacationing family owns a dog, we opted for a pet-friendly house because we thought it’d be better for the kids).
  • The refrigerator was FULL of food, and the note on the counter made clear that we were not allowed to use any of it except condiments. (The freezer also was full; some of the items there included frozen bananas—with the peels—and frozen cold cuts.)
  • In looking for television remotes, we found a kleptomaniac’s stash of fancy salt-and-pepper shakers and a file folder with the owner’s birth certificate and Social Security card. (Honestly, it’s a good thing we are not hackers or identity thieves.)
  • The owner had a fascination with bears; there were three life-sized stuffed bears on the main floor, and more than 60 bear images throughout the house.

I chronicled some of the most eccentric details on my Instagram account over the course of our trip. To check them out, click here.

Again, to be clear, I don’t blame Airbnb for the shortcomings of the place we got. That said, considering the success Powerwoman and I have had with vendors such as Rural Retreats and One Fine Stay—brands that keep much tighter control over quality—I think we’ll pay more for a hands-on agency next time around.

What have your experiences been? When you opt for vacation rentals, where do you book and why?

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