When I was originally planning this trip, I knew I wanted to have a wide variety of lodging experiences. I wanted to stay at old motels that had been on Route 66 since the beginning. I wanted to book a hostel on the beach. I also wanted the comfort that comes from a familiar name and a hotel chain. But as I was planning my route, I was coming up short in Oklahoma City. For whatever reason, (maybe late booking or an event in town) there weren’t a lot of available rooms for the night we would be passing through. Hotels with available space were either way out of my price range or way out of my comfort zone. So, being the digital native that I am, I looked to a more millennial option.
I’d heard about AirBNB from the many travel blogs I frequent. I’d heard great stories about staying in guest rooms in coastal Italian villages with a generous host who spoke little English, but made travelers feel like family. Yet, I was apprehensive. Agreeing to stay in a stranger’s guest room with nothing more than a few five-star reviews (from other strangers) and a first name to go off of sounds more like the beginning of an episode of Criminal Minds than the start of an epic road trip. But the site seemed to have pretty high accountability standards. Every guest and host leaves a review detailing every aspect of their experience from a user’s friendliness to their cleanliness. And so, with just a bit of leftover apprehension, I booked a night in an apartment that looked close to the area of OKC I wanted to explore (Bricktown). The host was only charging around $70, but after AirBnB’s service fees, it came out to $84. As soon as I booked, I received a message from the host, Nico. He was friendly and welcoming, and I was feeling good about my decision. Until I read the last line of his message: “I have a cat, so if you are allergic to cats, please do not stay with me.”
I am very allergic to cats. Although I was *pretty* sure I could survive one night in a bed covered in cat hair, I knew I’d be miserable. I was a bit irked that this was the first mention of cats, since I obviously would not have booked a room for myself in Cat Hair Hell if I had known. So after a bit of back and forth with the host (he was very apologetic), I tried to find a way to cancel my reservation. Since my host had set his cancellation policy to “Strict” when he registered, there was no way I could cancel and receive any money back. I’d like to note here that AirBNB was very unhelpful on this front. Their FAQ and Contact Us pages were basically dead ends. After receiving no help from the site, my host graciously agreed to meet up in OKC and give me the cash back.
After quickly booking another room (in a very unique loft apartment owned by a young Stanford grad), our original host suggested a place to meet up. He worked for Devon Energy, a large corporation in downtown OKC. According to our almost-host, the tower where the company had their headquarters was the tallest building downtown and offered the best views of the city. Only employees and their guests were permitted on the top floor, and Nico offered to give us the grand tour when we met up to get our cash.
It was a really cool experience. Although the day was pretty overcast so the views weren’t great, it was fun to get checked in by security and given special access to something most travelers wouldn’t get to see. Nico told us a bit about the city and the different neighborhoods we could see from our bird’s eye view (50 stories up!). On the way back down to the lobby, Nico graciously refunded my money, including the extra fee taken by Air BNB. Although, I was initially hesitant about using the service, my AirBNB OKC experience turned out to be a unique, unplanned adventure. In my case, it was the people that made all the difference and provided me with an experience I never would have had if I’d found a hotel.
So, if you’re considering AirBNB for your next trip- do it, and do it for the experience of meeting people. It may not give you the exact location you want or complete privacy, but it will give you an opportunity to meet locals and have unique experiences. If it hadn’t been for Nico, we wouldn’t have gotten to see OKC from above. If it wasn’t for our actual host, Karl, we never would have tried out this amazing waffle place before we left (Waffle Champion. Best waffles I’ve ever had). Those little side trips weren’t something we could have done on our own, and they ended up making our trip.
Originally posted on In Search of Americana.