The Tiny Home, Treetop Terrace, and Vintage RV – Southern California

This isn’t the start of a children’s book on interior design, but the three Airbnb homes that Jeremy and I stayed at on our trip to California last year. When given the choice between a hotel and Airbnb, I love booking Airbnbs because I love how much more unique the experience, location, and decor are. Out of all factors to consider when booking an Airbnb, cleanliness and style are two of my top priorities. Hotels are great because there is a consistency and standard that you can expect, but I love staying in places nestled in local communities and never quite knowing what you’re going to find.

Last summer, we travelled to the West Coast for a wedding of close friends, which we extended into a vacation to Los Angeles and San Diego. As we travelled through Southern California, we spent about one to two nights at each place. Not only was each Airbnb drastically different, but we learned some things along the way. Here’s a quick look into our West Coast adventure, where we stayed, and some Airbnb tips that we learned along the way.

The Tiny Home

Our first stop was in Riverside for the wedding of our dear friends, Jason and Karis. Jeremy was in the wedding, so I actually had a chance to spend our second day exploring the area with church friends who had also flown in from D.C. One of my favorite stops of the day was exploring the gorgeous Mission Inn and Spa, which actually reminded me a bit of Disney because of the level of detail in its design. Later that afternoon, we came back to the church for the wedding, which was a sweet and joyful celebration of marriage and the gospel, complete with tacos, palm trees, and so much dancing.

For the duration of our stay, I looked for unique Airbnbs that weren’t going to break the bank. We took a chance and booked a 160 sq. ft. tiny home for two nights! From the pictures, I could tell the interior decor wasn’t quite my style, but I was still curious to know what it would be like to stay in such a tiny space. Notable amenities included wifi, a washer/dryer, air conditioning, a TV, a kitchenette, and standard kitchen, bed, and bathroom basics. That being said, the biggest thing to clarify, of course, is that all amenities were scaled down to fit the tiny home and, therefore were…tiny. The best parts of the tiny home was that it was clean, quiet, and certainly sufficient to meet our needs. One thing that we did not take into account, however, was the summer heat.

While we were in Riverside, it was over 100 degrees each day. One thing to note is that some people, like Jeremy, can handle “dry heat” because it’s less humid…but let me tell you that dry heat is very much still heat and 100 degree-plus weather is still VERY hot and incredibly painful! When we arrived to the Airbnb on the first night, we opened the tiny home door and was hit with a wave of heat similar to when you open an oven door while something is baking. It didn’t occur to us that the Airbnb was sitting in the heat the entire day without ventilation. This meant that when we got in past 10 pm, we had to turn on the air conditioning, open the windows, and wait for the heat to leave the home. By the time we were finished getting ready for bed, the air in the tiny home still felt thick with heat, but we still managed to fall asleep.

The Treetop Terrace

After the wedding, we spent the next morning at Grace Community Church with our DC church friends and had lunch at The Original Farmers Market before parting ways. We then rode out to Malibu for a sweet drive along the coast and a quick pit stop at Zuma beach. We ended the night catching up with Jeremy’s close friend from college at Din Tai Fung, which I was super excited to try because I had seen Buzzfeed’s video on how precisely they make their soup dumplings. They were pretty good, but I would still choose Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao all day, every day. (RIP to the best soup dumplings in Flushing #tears) The next day was spectacular because we took a day trip to Disneyland and had so. much. fun.  

During these two days, we stayed in a private studio located in the hills of Mount Washington. With narrow roads that wound around rolling hills and streets lined with beautiful homes, it was by far my favorite neighborhood that we stayed in. After slowly driving at night while trying to find the house number, we saw that the treetop terrace was aptly named when we saw it high on the side of the street. We were warned in the Airbnb posting that there were a fair number of stairs, sixty-five to be exact. I wasn’t sure how I would do with all of the steps, but as we were carrying our luggages up the steps, I heard a rustling in nearby bushes and, all of a sudden, my legs found strength that I didn’t know I had and I flew up the steps to the home. Nothing motivates me like the fear of contact with animals at night.

Similar to our tiny home, we had to cool down the space once we got there, but it was nowhere near as hot because it was part of a larger home and wasn’t sitting in the direct sunlight. Interior wise, the decor was bohemian themed and incredibly cute. Unlike the tiny home, this Airbnb had an actual washer/dryer, which came in handy! Amenity wise, there wasn’t a kitchenette, but a mini fridge and a small space for making coffee. For me, the only downside was the bathroom, which I felt could use an update and some better toiletries. Airbnbs can be a toss up when it comes to the toiletries that are provided and, like this one, sometimes it can feel like the toiletries provided are whatever has been left behind by other guests. That being said, I enjoyed our stay at this Airbnb and loved waking up there!

The Vintage RV

As the week came to a close, we finished our time in San Diego, where the weather was perfect. Of all the places we visited, we were most limited here as we only had a day, but we made the most of it. We first drove to South Mission Beach where we scootered down the pier and had lunch at a subpar Italian restaurant. This left us with two hours at the San Diego Zoo, which we didn’t want to miss. Despite the expensive admission price, it was 100% worth it and has certainly earned its reputation for being one of the best zoos in the country. Each habitat was thoughtfully designed and I felt like I saw the animals closer than I ever have at any other zoo. I’ll never forget ending our time riding the gondolas over the habitats as the sun set.

South Mission Beach

We knew that the vintage RV would essentially be a pitstop and a place to sleep before heading out to the airport the next morning. Out of all the places we stayed, this Airbnb was the cheapest and riskiest. However, the listing had good photos with high ratings, so we weren’t too worried about our stay.  When Jeremy and I got there, we appreciated that the neighborhood was quiet, but immediately noticed that it felt and looked a bit older than we expected.

From there, it didn’t get much better. In booking the RV, we didn’t realize that it lacked an external connection to a water source. When we arrived, we read on a sheet of instructions that the RV ran on a four gallon water tank, so quick showers were encouraged. Once we were showered and ready for bed, I was pretty displeased to find that the sheets felt sandy and had debris on them. At this point, it was too late to do anything and we were pretty tired, so we slept on top of the comforter. However, the biggest turnoff of our stay was that every time we flushed the toilet, an overpowering rotten smell flooded the entire space. It was truly unbearable and prompted us to leave the camper as early as we could once we woke up. Definitely not our best Airbnb experience and we’ll definitely be more discerning if we ever choose to book a remodeled RV again.

Overall, my favorite Airbnb was definitely the treetop terrace because of the decor and the beautiful neighborhood. However, my favorite Airbnb of all time would definitely have to be the adorable apartment that Jeremy and I stayed at in Maui. With our range of experiences, will Jeremy and I continue to book Airbnbs in the future? I think so! In fact, I dream about having our own Airbnb to set up and rent out once we settle down in one place. As we continue to travel, I am certain that we have some great stays ahead of us and can’t wait to find them!

Tips When Booking an AirBNB:

  • Consider Weather/Type of Home: The temperature of the city you’re visiting will affect the type of home you’ll want to book. If you’re anticipating scorching heat, keep in mind that unlike a hotel, most Airbnbs won’t have the AC running and ready for you upon arrival. If you need a space that is easily cooled or heated, you might want to consider a house, private room, or studio, and not a tiny home, RV, etc.
  • Identify Priorities: Location, cleanliness, convenience, and style are all important factors to consider when booking an AirBNB. Taking note of what is most important to you will help you find your best fit. For example, you may find an incredibly stylish and clean studio that’s located further away from where you wish to be. Conversely, you might find a home right in the middle of the action, but it may not be quite as cute or complete with as many amenities as you’d like.
  • Read Reviews: Listings will give you important information, but reviews from guests will paint a complete picture of what your stay will be like and may highlight details that are missing from the description of the space. (i.e. RVs not being connected to external water sources, weird smells, etc) Especially if you’re booking a unique space like an RV, boat home, or tiny house, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting into. Some red flags to look are for include:
    • Owners who do not respond well to any type of critical feedback
    • Poor communication experiences with the owner
    • Listing inaccuracies, especially in regard to the photos, neighborhood, and amenities

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