With the Light comes the Dark. So goes our travels and our adventures in staying at and finding lodging around the world for a family of 4 and using sites like AirBnb. *FYI, AirBnb is awesome!
Not everything is always awesome, even on a really good day. Today I’m sharing our first bad lodging story. It’s been almost 10 months of traveling the world and we have been pretty damn lucky so far in terms of horror stories that we’ve heard others have regarding lodging issues.
So, yesterday we shared some of our day of traveling from Rome by Train and then Bus. The entire journey took 13hrs.
Alex is wearing a medical boot because she re-injured her foot and Shawn gave her his Bronchitis (which he is almost done with) so she was also coughing the entire way.
I’m 6 months preggers and if I sit too long on our travel days I end up with (so do Alex and Sam) swollen feet, ankles and calves. It’s super fun but nothing a good night’s sleep won’t cure.
Anywho, We’ve booked 1/3 of our Travels with AirBnb, Booking.com and Hostelworld pretty evenly. Currently, in Europe, we find that AirBnb gives us the best price and most bang for our buck lodging wise so we’ve been using them this leg of our Journey.
Occasionally there will be a slight mix up with an amenity not being all it’s cracked up to being or the place being listed a bit different than expected but on the whole, it’s been great on all of these sites…
Until we scheduled our lodging in Gallipoli Italy.
Gallipoli is on the inside ‘heel’ on the boot of Italy on the Ionian Sea. It’s a beautiful city with gorgeous beaches and more touristy with Italians than with those from other countries.
We booked 8 nights in a 3 Bedroom Condo with a gorgeous view of the sea (just across the street actually) with Wifi, 9 beds, Air Conditioning, everything we’d need.
We’ve all been in the same room for the past 10 days so I booked this place, while still in Spain, knowing that we all would love our own spaces for a week. That, to us, is luxury.
I found a big steal. The place I found was only $26 a night, no extra fees or deposits or anything. I always look at the fine print before I book anything because I don’t want something to come back and bite me in the butt.
I asked to book the place as it was about $20 a day under our daily lodging budget after taxes and fees. The Host replied back the next day but the price was about $300 higher so I sent him a message asking why.
He said that the price was per person at $26 a night because it was a luxury apartment. He talked it up and after looking at other options online for anything in Gallipoli with at least 3 bedrooms and Wifi (our #1 requirement as Alex has daily conference calls and Shawn and I work every day)
We agreed upon a price that ended up being about $1 a day more than our daily lodging budget but we’d saved a bit here and there on other lodging so we went for it.
When I asked the Host to send me the new price on AirBnb so we could confirm everything he said that he would just post it for 99 Euros on the site and then the rest we could pay in cash at the property.
We’d never had anyone do this before and in my message back to him I said as much and mentioned that we could do it all through the site. I felt like the messages were lost in translation though as he doesn’t speak English and we don’t speak Italian. We were using Google Translate to converse.
So, we just went for it. It was easier to do it then continuing to go back and forth and I didn’t want to lose this place. We paid the 99 Euros via Airbnb and planned to bring cash with us. We were all so excited for this leg of our trip. Our own bedrooms, the Beach, Wifi for working and a gorgeous view from our place.
A few days before our booking in Gallipoli the Host messaged me via What’s App – outside of the AirBnb inbox system.
He wanted to know when we were coming into town so they could plan to meet us for our Arrival.
I wrote that we arrived in Gallipoli from Bari (another city) by bus at 8:10pm and that we would be at the property shortly thereafter as we just would be coming from the bus station in town.
I thought we were all good to go. At that time he also informs me that his Uncle would be the one to greet us instead of him. No Problem. That happens all the time, especially during odd arrival times.
While we were waiting for our bus from Bari to Gallipoli I received another Text from the Host.
He wanted to ‘remind me’ that I also needed to bring the 200 Euro deposit!
After going back and forth in numerous messages I told him absolutely not. We were not paying a deposit as there was nothing listed on AirBnb about this and so we weren’t paying it.
He has the nerve to tell me that ‘it’s standard’ and ‘normal’ and ‘expected’ to pay a deposit. I explained that ‘sometimes’ it’s expected but only when posted on AirBnb’s site of additional fees.
I again stated we would not be paying this and that this was his error so too bad. He relented and just asked us not to break anything – like the TV. Um, okay.
AND…then he messages me a reminder that the unit doesn’t come with sheets or any bedding. Just the top bed cover as seen in the photos.
Who travels with Sheets? He said that other people just sleep on the tops of the covers and that’s good as the place is warm and you don’t need blankets.
Whatchu talking bout Willis?
This message sent me a signal that this stay might be a real problem. I told Shawn about it all and he thought we should just continue on with our plans and that everything will probably work out like it always does. My gut though was telling me “Danger Wendy Robinson!”
Once we arrived at a random Gas station just outside of Gallipoli (nice move bus company) we got in a taxi and I messaged the Host that we were about 15 minutes away – right on time.
I didn’t hear back from him right away.
The taxi dropped us off at the Address listed on the AirBnb site and in our Check in Information BUT – there was no unit at the address listed.
I messaged the Host and said we were at the address and wanted to know where his Uncle was. Were we in the right place? This is an entirely big and annoying issue in and of itself. They had the wrong address listed and then the 2nd address we went to (per the host) was also wrong because…get this… the address has 2 addresses but only one that is searchable on maps. That took 40 minute and 2 taxi rides including a call from our driver to the host.
He told me that I was supposed to arrange our arrival with his Uncle.
Again – WTF?
Um, not cool. We went back and forth because he never gave me his Uncle’s contact information and he said we weren’t expected until 10pm.
WTF WTF WTF????
Now I’m HOT. Alex is miserable, Sam is super tired, Shawn is seeing where all this is going and I’m about ready to rip someone a new asshole and probably cry because I now have Cankles from traveling and I’m pregnant and do have some hormones that normally wouldn’t send me into tears.
I was swearing whilst typing but not in my texts as we still needed a place to sleep you know, and it was dark out, we’d all be up since 4:30am as we had a 7am train to catch that morning. We were all fading.
He gave me his Uncle’s What’s App number and told me to call him, which I did.
His uncle was a real charmer – not. He spoke good English telling me that he didn’t speak English (what?) and that he was at the gym and could I just text him because his English was bad.
I got right on it and let him know we were in Gallipoli and how soon could we expect him?
10pm. No bending. He was in a spin class and was not going to be there until then.
I messaged the Host (the nephew) back and asked if there was a way he could get to us earlier and explained about our daughter being sick, a foot in a boot and my being pregnant and all of us being so weary after a long day of travel.
Nope. Can’t do it. He doesn’t live near Gallipoli. I really don’t like these guys.
He then told me to calm down and just sit there and wait for 1 1/2 hours and then it will all be worth it.
I don’t know about you but I don’t like it when people tell others to calm down. We were texting and it wasn’t like I was writing in all caps ‘yelling’ at him – although if he was near me he would’ve heard lots of bad language.
I talked to Shawn and said this was bullshit and that I wanted to find another place to stay for the night and just wanted to be done with these guys as were all just so tired.
He convinced me that it was just 90 minutes and then we could get in and head to bed.
I might have growled ‘okay’ to him along with some swears but I can’t 100% recall.
So, we put all our crap next to the door and crossed the street to sit on the Cement Barriers between the sea and the road in front of the flat.
About 15 minutes into our wait Fireworks went off near the peninsula of town. That distracted us all for about 3 minutes.
When you are waiting and have nothing to do in the meantime, time goes by so slowly. Sam kept pacing around and fidgeting as a normal 15yr old boy would be doing. Alex just kept hacking and looking miserable. Shawn kept coming over to me to make sure I wasn’t about to implode. Nobody wants Mom to implode. It’s bad for everyone. Even if it’s not directed at them – don’t let Mom implode.
I told Shawn that when the Uncle arrives that he needed to do most of the conversing as I might lose my shit on the man if anything else comes up – again, no one needs that at 10pm after a long day of travel or anytime really.
The Uncle arrives at 10pm. He was super intense and seemed very aggressive towards us. Later, Shawn and Sam commented on how he was showing his masculinity by basically squeezing their hands as hard as possible.
Not a great sign.
Shawn is handling things initially as I was waiting for the next ball to drop. I started off by just observing until I had to get involved.
We get all our crap up the stairs and open the door.
This was not a luxury flat. It was fine but nothing special for sure. He started turning on the lights and speaking Italian on the phone and to us at the same time.
Sam showed us that there was a nice big Cockroach in the Hallway next to me. I mean, we are used to Cockroaches from our travels in SE Asia but this is the first time we’ve seen one since then – in our ‘luxury flat’.
Bedroom 1, 2 and the TV room. Wait! Where’s the 3rd bedroom?
FML. Don’t implode Wendy – keep it together for the sake of your family.
No separate 3rd bedroom. No 9 beds. The only couch is a sofa bed and that is that 3rd bedroom. And remember, there are NO sheets or bedding except the nice bed covers in the photos – right?
All that the beds had were pee covers. Not even mattress covers. PEE COVERS! No nice bed coverings like in the photos.
Alex gave me the “Um, I don’t want to sleep on these beds look.
No towels or pillows either. FUN!
Shawn gave me a look like – we can still make this work. He was trying hard to be positive so we could have a happy ending. He’s my rock although sometimes too much of a peacemaker. I have a very low bullshit meter and I was at my limit.
SO, I asked the Uncle for the Wifi Code.
He shrugs and says – NO Wifi!
OMG. Head is exploding. My mouth is doing everything it can to not come unglued on this guy. Shawn is no way done with this whole situation too and gives me ‘the look’ to say and do what I want.
I showed the Uncle HIS AD on AirBnb which states that there is Wifi and Internet Connection, Sheets and basic ammeneties and 3 bedrooms with 9 beds total. I counted only 5 beds.
While translating on Google he says there are 4 of us, we don’t need more beds or bedrooms and No Wifi, too bad.
I didn’t even confer with Shawn – I just said – We can’t stay here. I wrote that we would like to just call it even for what we’ve already paid and just stay the night tonight and look for a new place in the morning.
He said No. Why you ask?
It’s because he lives an entire 5 kilometers away and it was too much trouble to come back the next day to get his key back.
If looks could kill he’d be totally dead right now. I saw Sam, Shawn and Alex’s faces that were looking at me like – she’s gonna lose it on him. Instead, I just calmly told everyone we were leaving and to get their things and explained to the uncle that we were out of there.
The kids were stressed out wondering where we would sleep, and when, and how and – just all of it. They were relieved to not be around the uncle as he was a total dick though.
I was eerily calm and collected but Sam and Alex kept looking at me as if I could start crying at any time. Nope, wasn’t going to happen. I was going to get this all fixed up as we all needed a happy ending.
Once we got outside I searched for the closest lodgings on Google Maps. I called the closest one, a 2 minute walk away, that showed a nightly fee of about $100. He didn’t speak English but said that he could meet us there in 5 minutes to see about a reservation that night.
What a good man. He runs a B&B, Hotel Salento Palace. I again used Google to translate what we needed and pleaded with him to bring the price down to 100 Euros as it was showing on Booking.com for 170 Euros a night for 4 people. He relented as it was now almost 11pm and took pity on us because I told him, in brief, what we just went through.
Boom. we had a great place to sleep for the night and a bonus was that they have an awesome breakfast every morning.
This was the view from our large deck the next morning… Not too shabby right?
We got to our room, quickly got out our essentials and everyone got comfy and settled.
I searched for a NEW place for us to stay in Gallipoli that was within our budget and literally found the very last place in the area we could afford.
It wasn’t 3 bedrooms, it was One Queen and then Bunk beds – the kids least favorite, a kitchen, and all the basics along with Wifi. It wasn’t what we had planned but we were grateful to have found it.
The next day I called AirBnb as I was on a mission to get my money back and also make sure that no one else went through these jokers. It wasn’t AirBnb’s fault of course but they needed to know about these guys.
I spoke to the nicest Case Manager, Allen. He listened to my entire story. Again, all I wanted was our money back as we’d never before complained nor cancelled a reservation nor asked for any money back. I told him I would email him all of our Text conversations for their records and he already read the AirBnb inbox messages about the hosts jilting them for their fees.
Allen went above and beyond for us. Not only did he refund our entire bill he also refunded us our 100 Euros for emergency lodging the night before.
So, I cried. All my emotions from the night before came out at the breakfast table with the kids and Shawn all looking at me worried.
Again, we are budget travelers. We need to budget. Every time we go off budget it affects everything. So, to have this money back, even just being $250, makes a difference to us. Especially in the Spring and Summer months when our cyclical business is at it’s slowest. Every penny counts.
We were all so relieved and happy and ready to move past the unpleasantness from the night before and move on with our lives.
Shawn and I always tell the kids, and believe this fully, that when stuff like this happens, there is always something better around the corner.
There was. Our new little place is set away off the street (in a gated compound) and is only 2 blocks from 3 of the best beaches in all of Gallipoli. Our other place was not near beaches but was more in town. We get Free Beach chairs and an umbrella at the public beach using a card our new hosts gave us, we have some crappy Wifi – but it does work (albeit at a snails pace) a clean and secure place with Air Conditioning (Oh, I forgot to mention they lied about that at the other place as well) and there are ZERO Cockroaches here. We are surrounded by all kinds of fruit trees now and we are all very happy.
Sam and Shawn even have free bikes to use. They had both been planning on renting bikes in Gallipoli – Sam has been talking and talking about it for weeks now – and they are just here for our use anytime. They’ve already gone on a ride and assured us that we are near the best beaches.
Again, with the light there is also darkness but – how you handle the dark times determine how long you sit in that void.
We have a great life and through all the ups and downs all four of us learn a lot along the way.