Getting Trapped in an Airbnb | Building the Empire

In this episode, my family gets trapped in an Airbnb near Palm Springs.

Getting Trapped in an Airbnb | Building the Empire | The Darwinian Doctor

Last week, my family spent President’s Day weekend in Palm Springs, fixing up our vacation property. To save about $20,000, we’ve decided to paint the interior and exterior of the property ourselves. Since committing to this, I’ve been dutifully watching paint spraying tutorials on Youtube and buying tons of paint supplies like tape and plastic sheeting.  

But aside from issues like general lack of painting skill, we’ve been running into another issue with these renovation trips: lodging.  

Our vacation property’s hot water heater has been offline and most of the house is covered in dust, which makes it not suitable for sleeping. I know there’s a trend out there for cold water baths and showers, but I just can’t get on that bandwagon.  

So each time we spend any length of time in Palm Springs, we’ve been getting an Airbnb of our own for the night.  

Read more: A Pool in Palm Springs | Building the Empire

Airbnb vs Hotels

My family loves Airbnb because it allows for our kids to sleep nearby, but in a separate room. Honestly, it’s vastly superior than when we’re all stuffed into the same hotel room. We did that once, and my wife said she’s “never doing that again.”  Even if our kids have their own bed, unless they’re in a separate room, they just won’t go to sleep.

But affordable suite-type hotel options in Palm Springs don’t seem to exist.

So now, every time we decide to go do renovations in Palm Springs, I scour Airbnb for a suitable home or Airbnb apartment to borrow for a couple of nights. 

It’s actually been very valuable experiencing rentals as an Airbnb guest. It helps us see what elements are important in the Airbnb listing and helps us learn how we should run an Airbnb.  

Choices are limited

One issue with this situation is that due to local laws governing short term rentals in Palm Springs, it’s hard to find an Airbnb that allows one or two night stays. Generally, they’ll all have minimum stays of 3-4 days to maximize profitability.  

Another issue is cost.

Palm Springs short-term rentals are expensive!

Over the past year, short term rental data site AirDNA shows that the average daily rate for an Airbnb in Palm Springs has risen to over $500 a night. This is driven by a number of things, but mainly it’s just supply and demand. Palm Springs real estate is expensive, and there’s a lot of demand for short term housing due to the events and festivals that happen in the High Desert.  

Combined with the short term rental boom of the pandemic, average nightly rates have really risen a lot.  

This high expense is in direct opposition to my general tendency to cheap out on hotels, so it’s been rough for me. 

Desert Hot Springs

The only affordable option I found for lodging this past weekend was a house just north of Palm Springs in an area called Desert Hot Springs. If you’ve ever driven to Palm Springs from LA, you’ll recognize this town as a relatively remote area mostly filled with wind turbines.  

It’s actually a very pretty sight, especially around sunset:

Desert Hot Springs wind turbines | Getting Trapped in an Airbnb | The Darwinian Doctor
Desert Hot Springs wind turbines

The Wind Farm House

We found an Airbnb there that was only $350/night, so we jumped on the listing and reserved for two nights. The property was a small 3 bedroom, 1 bath home right up against a unique backdrop of wind turbines. It had a handful of five star ratings and there were no red flags or poor reviews. It was technically in a residential area, but there were literally only three houses on the street. Overall it seemed like a remote but quiet neighborhood with few local residents.

It was clean, tidy, and didn’t have any crazy house rules. Basically it had everything we needed for our brief stay. There was no pool or hot tub, but we didn’t need or want that kind of amenity for this type of trip.

The wind turbine house

We did have a bit of a hiccup getting through the front door. The previous guests had left the wrong key in the lockbox, so we had to wait about 45 minutes until the Airbnb host sent the cleaner over with a spare key. This experience alone makes a great case for why you should always have a smart lock to access your vacation rental.

Things were fine during the first night except for some next door neighbors who were throwing a loud party. But the next day, things changed.

The wind storm

The wind picked up a lot as we were going to sleep on the second night. It was so strong that a number of times throughout the night we were awoken by the sound of gale force winds hitting the house. I honestly wondered at times if the windows would cave in, or perhaps the entire property would just fly away with us in it.

When I woke up in the morning to check on my car, I noticed that the motorized sliding gate leading to the street had been blow off its rails. I tried to push the gate back onto its rails, but the continued gale force winds and the weight of the metal gate were too much for me to move with just my own hands.

Gate off the track!

Trapped!

My cell phone barely worked, but I had enough signal to contact the property management company, who dispatched a handyman to help. Unfortunately that guy was driving from Los Angeles. So we spent the next four hours trapped in the home. It would have been totally tolerable if the internet worked, but for some reason the wind storm knocked out the internet also. I won’t lie — It was a little torturous that we couldn’t scroll social media or work on our blogs while we waited.

Luckily we had leftover food to eat and some downloaded movies on the iPad for our kids to watch. 

Rescued!

Eventually the handyman arrived with another helper, and the three of us managed to use a 2×4 to wedge the gate back onto its tracks. We made our escape, but didn’t have enough time that morning to do any more work on our vacation home.  After checking in with the construction, we headed back to Los Angeles.

Conclusion

While we weren’t harmed, getting trapped in an Airbnb for four hours ruined our plans for the day. I did reach out to the rental owner, mostly as an experiment, to ask for a partial refund. Overall we had a good experience, and I didn’t think such situations warranted a full refund. Although some things went wrong, the customer service from the short-term rental company was responsive to our needs. We haven’t heard anything back yet, so I’m not expecting any refund.

While I wouldn’t say we had a great time, I also wouldn’t say it was one of the worst Airbnb horror stories I’ve ever heard. So while I won’t be leaving the most positive review, it also won’t be an overly negative review either.

Just know that if you’re staying in an Airbnb in the middle of a wind turbine farm, it might be windy. Really windy.

— The Darwinian Doctor

Have you ever gotten trapped inside an Airbnb? Comment with your stories below!


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