I had never stayed in a Homeaway or Airbnb or other home sharing property before my recent trip to Europe. My sister and her husband have, and they've always had the best experiences (they've even gone the couch surfing option while in Europe!), but I hadn't ever even considered it. At least not seriously. It all felt a little intimidating. But my experiences abroad last month on my tour were so wonderful, all of them. And so calming! After a long day in a foreign city, it was so great to retreat somewhere comfortable, warm, and homey. Even though I was on my own I never felt lonely once. Hotels can feel lonely. I don't know, sometimes that's a nice thing, but also sometimes not.

When Homeaway heard I was going to Europe on a book tour they graciously offered me free accommodations in each of the cities I was visiting. It was such a huge gift! Publicity budgets aren't what they used to be, I don't know if the tour would have been possible without it. Homeaway didn't ask for a post in exchange, but I learned so much in the process of booking + staying, and while these tips may be the most obvious tips in the world, I figured I'm probably not the only newbie here slow to try out these new kinds of things. So here are a few of the nuggets I picked up that might help another newbie sister out in her own vacation planning. Dos and Don'ts according to Me Yours Truly. You know, take 'em for what they're worth! :)
DON'T //

No. 1 Freak out. I like to tell myself no matter how inexperienced or dumb or ridiculous I sometimes feel I might be, there's almost always been somebody even dumber or less experienced. I generally like telling myself this kind of thing in any funky situation I find myself in. It is very unlikely that you are the most bumbling person alive or that your questions will the be the stupidest questions your property owner has ever heard. Odds are, somebody's been even ridiculous-er. It's a statistical probability! (But then I've long suspected that my B in college stats was an administrative mistake, so don't take my word for it :) I don't know. Does anybody else need that pep talk from time to time? :)

No. 2 Lose your keys. Or your email with the gate code. There ain't no lobby or concierge in this type of situation, so keep yer wits about you! If you do lose your keys, or can't remember the gate code, there will be somebody to help you out, you'll be fine! But generally, guard that stuff with your life and keep it all in easy reach for the sake of peace of mind.

No. 3 Pack a blow dryer. Or an iron. Or towels! Just like a hotel, they got all that. Isn't that magical?

DO //

No. 1 Plan to start your planning early. Plan for time to contact the property owners and ask about availability before booking. Some properties have immediate online booking, but most will ask you to toss out a few feelers first. Don't stress this process! Take it from a fellow introvert who hates sending emails + making phone calls: While this might sound like a lot of work, it's actually not too terrible. :) Anyway the good news is, in the process of reaching out + talking with the owners you'll be getting a ton of extra information on the places you're about to visit, and this will be immeasurably helpful in your trip planning. You will absolutely not be going into this blindly. You will never find yourself sitting on the plane worrying whether you chose a good location for all the things you want to be able to do.

No. 2 Do your research. It's best to search these sites by neighborhood, so make sure to know up front what you'd like to see, whether you'll have a car, and what kind of accommodations you want to find within walking distance. I found that a super simple "where should I stay in XX" google search turned up all the info I could possibly want. It was one of those things where the most obvious answer pulled through and made me proud to be an American Where At Least I Know I'm Free. Or something. :)

No. 3 Book your property first. Most of these property owners are so on the ball that they'll have the best car rental /spa booking / local beach / good shopping / restaurant info / whatever-have-you blah blah blah information ready for you. So find your spot, then let the rest fall into place. Save your final flight + other transportation booking for after your property booking as well. It's not as easy to wiggle around with the check in / check out times in a home than it is in a hotel.

No. 4 Plan for a little grocery shopping. Every space I stayed in stocked most of the essentials--bottled water, some black + herbal teas, kitchen supplies--most also had a six pack of beer and a jar of jam in the fridge (jam! i thought that was hysterical for some reason), but I'd always need a Diet Coke or two and some fresh fruit, and at least a couple midnight snacks. Plus, grocery shopping is a really fun way to get a peek into the local culture. I think I found the grocery stores as much if not more educational than the local museums. ;) Mayo in a tube! I don't know why that still makes me happy. 

No. 5 Bring laundry detergent tabs!!! You know, those little tablet thingers? Sized for the smallest loads possible, please. If you are packing light and plan to do a wash or two while you're away, this is important! You might be able to find this kind of thing in the local grocery stores, but I didn't have much luck in Paris and ended up spot treating my clothes with hand soap before running them thru the washer with plain cold water (worked better than I expected!). Since I was moving around a bit, a full-size or liquid detergent would have been a disaster, which is why I wanted the tabs. Most of the properties I stayed in stocked the proper soap for their machines as well as instructions for use, but this was one area I definitely could have planned for in advance, just in case. (Having lived in NYC I feel like a total laundry ninja. I can launder on the run like nobody's business.) 

No. 6 Download the apps. When in doubt, dudes, app it. So you can access addresses, codes, local restaurant info, maps and etc all while on the go. The Homeaway/Vrbo app is here. Airbnb here. What other companies am I missing? It turns out I have no clue still about most of this hahaha. #n00b

Aaaaaand that's all I got! xo and happy travels, yo!


  1. I haven't used a booking site like this before, but I feel like it would be the best thing on a trip abroad!

  2. Dwellable is also great and the app is GORGEOUS!

  3. These are such great ideas -Hanna Lei

  4. Do #4: Grocery shopping is one of my favorite ways to explore in other countries- it such an interesting slice of everyday life!

  5. Yes to #1 Don't - there is always always ALWAYS someone more clueless than you. My boyfriend's parents recently stayed in an Airbnb for the first time for a family wedding, and 3 months later they are still complaining about how there was no breakfast provided. "But it has "and B" in the name!?!?!!" "I just think if you have BnB in the name it should have breakfast! Why don't they just call it AirB?" I suspect we will never stop hearing about the travesty of having to buy breakfast while staying in a $75/night place.

  6. I understand the rationale behind why you want to stop comments, but please don't! A blog should be about engaging with your community and with no comments I think it becomes very one dimensional.

    I can't imagine having to read hateful things about yourself, but surely your true readers, and fans are worth engaging with.

  7. We've had great experiences with Airbnb, and now that we have a little tiny one, I'm curious about Kid & Coe. But really I guess I need to get around to actually planning (and saving for) a vacation 1st. :-)

  8. AnonymousMay 15, 2015

    Great tips, thank you! :)

  9. I am so glad I brought laundry tabs with me to London. They worked perfectly!

  10. I have totally seen that Paris place on Pinterest. For sure!


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