Travel Fail! What happens when Airbnb goes wrong?

The moment is here! I’d been planning these seven days for months on end; booked the flights as soon as they were released, scored an awesome Airbnb deal by reserving my dates months in advance, firmed up a kick-ass ‘Best of Iceland’ itinerary with whale watching, Geothermal Spas and self-drive tours… Hell, there’s no such thing as over-planning, I had each day perfected… It was my wedding week; It was going to be epic!

…She says, instantly cursing her travel plans.

Friday afternoon we arrive into a perfectly sunny Reykjavik, pin point our centrally located apartment, find the keys, give ourselves hernias dragging our oversized ‘wedding ready’ suitcases up three flights of stairs, unlock the door and beam into our Icelandic ‘home from home’. It was light, airy, cute and quirky, it was pretty *great* actually.
“Hey! Just checked into the apartment! Looks really lovely! Thanks!” – I thumb into my Airbnb Messenger…

Because on this one *special* occasion, we’d gone against my usual minimalist approach and packed everything short of the kitchen sink, we spent the next hour or so happily ‘nesting’; unpacking hiking boots, wedding dresses, suits, wooly jumpers, champagne, oodles of product, shampoos, hairsprays… Finally calling it done, we prepped our ‘sightseeing’ rucksack, keen to familiarise ourselves with the streets of Reykjavik and grab a well deserved post-flight hot dog…

Keys? Camera? Water bottle? Check!
Locking the door, my phone buzzes in my hand and on my home screen flags up a notification from Airbnb …

“Hey, Just had a call from the police…”

Wait. What. What. What!
“Oh shit, Jamie?” What had we done?

I scramble for the keys again to open the door desperate to soak up some stronger wifi to read rest of the message. Seriously, were we too loud unpacking? Had a neighbour complained?

Worse; “…the police have said they are shutting the building down on Monday, a problem with the fire department, you need to move out Sunday night… I’m really sorry.”

Christ… We just got here!
All I could think about was my dwindling budget, and in horror allowed myself to wonder just how much a last minute hotel room would cost in this tiny capital, in peak season, in a destination that I knew was crazy popular right now.

I could see three options; either I’d be spending my wedding night teetering on bunk beds in a mixed-dorm hostel room, I’d have to lump it in a slightly grim two star hotel on the outskirts of greater Reykjavik or I’d have to shut my eyes and start praying as I hand over my credit card to fork out for a seven-night stay in the Radisson 1919 on a jacked up rate.

Now, I’ve traveled enough to understand that sometimes you just have to keep your cool, suck it up and roll with it, but with my nuptials looming, I may have gone a little Bridezilla…

“We will sort it, I am talking to Airbnb…” Flashed up another message.
How?! What’s Airbnb going to do? I want to stay here! It’s what I paid for, I’d had it booked for ages… I was now getting seriously grumpy. My iPhone was being seriously useless, the screen was too fiddly, wifi too slow and I couldn’t figure out how to contact Airbnb aside from sending them a crazed tweet; “Help me! How do I call you?!?!”

My behaviour was far from helpful, but I’d been up since 5 am and my dream wedding really was off to a dismal start, the way I was feeling I was one problem away from spitting the dummy out, stamping my feet and throwing a full-blown hissy fit in the middle of downtown Reykjavik. Bridezilla at my finest. Nice!

In my panicked state, I bundled up my rucksack again and made a beeline for the tourist information office. “I need the police station please?” I breathed. It was a ten-minute walk away so I set off on a sweaty power-walk down Laugavegur.

Overreaction? In hindsight, yeah maybe. I’m not sure what I was expecting to say either, I had it in my head I could appeal the decision, ask them if they could let me stay the week, or at least if nothing else, I’d hear it from the horses’ mouth… I don’t know! But mostly I figured they wouldn’t let me sleep rough on the streets, right?
Well, I never found out what I was going to say because the police station in Reykjavik shuts up mid-afternoon on weekdays and doesn’t open at all over the weekend.
I was literally (and stupidly) attempting to find a back entrance to the station via a gated access area when I got a phone call from an unknown number…

“Hey there! Is that Michaela? it’s Cole from Airbnb, your host has been filling us in in the situation and I’m here to guide you through…”
Despite initially being a little surprised and relieved to hear from someone, I was still kind of skeptical.

“Don’t worry we’ll help you out with getting your refund on this place and then look to finding alternative accommodation, I’ll work on finding you a couple of options and email them across to you” 
We both hung up, I relayed the information across to Jamie and we both hopefully waited on Cole’s email.

A few minutes later a message landed in my inbox from Airbnb with two options around our budget. The cover pictures looked a little dull but I dutifully scrolled through their profiles determined to keep an open mind.
Dingy, dark, shabby. No doubt it would look even more unappealing in the cold light of day… Nope, can’t do it… “Jamie, look! This one doesn’t even have a shower!” I wailed!

Getting my guard up again, I messaged Cole; “Call me please!”

The phone buzzed. I felt like a spoiled brat trying to explain to Cole that they weren’t good enough. “…it’s my wedding and I just feel that they aren’t right for the holiday I was meant to be having… I’m sorry, I can’t afford anymore but I can’t stay there either…” 
I braced myself. Expecting to be told to like it or lump it, I was surprised when they got it straight away.
“I’ll have a word with my supervisor…” he sympathised.

A quarter of an hour later Cole gives me another bell with the best damn news I’d heard that day. “I’ve got it all approved, because it’s your wedding we are going to place you in another flat and arrange to credit you with the difference, plus we are going to work it all out on our side so you don’t have to worry about a thing…!” 
Airbnb then proceeded to approach a host of a lovely one-bed apartment on my behalf to see if she was happy to take me in, I then just needed to follow-up with a message to introduce myself and finally simply click to ‘accept’ the flat whilst Cole worked his magic on the other end.
A few hours ago I was freaking the hell out, trying to bust into a police station and cursing Airbnb, now I was just feeling a tad foolish that I’d ever doubted them and I was singing their praises from the rooftops. Genuinely, that was above and beyond what I expected!


Moral of this blog? Calm down. Always. I didn’t gain anything from getting in a tizz, and be patient, hindsight tells me if i’d have stayed put for another half hour I needn’t have gone on a mad one to the other side of Reykjavik!
And that ultimately Airbnb are actually *seriously* impressive when it comes to customer service!

If you’re interested in booking up your Airbnb adventure click here.

And if anything happens to go awry it’s comforting to know that you have people like Cole on the end of the phone making sure your travel plans stay epic. 🙂

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Writer of This F.P. Planet travel blog. Proud dachshund mother. A Real weakness for craft beer and cheese boards...

16 thoughts on “Travel Fail! What happens when Airbnb goes wrong?

  1. I am so glad it worked out for you, Michaela! That would definitely freak me out too – especially on wedding day! Airbnb is what I use 99% of the time when traveling and I haven’t run into problems so far, but I am happy to hear that you received an excellent customer service from them. I hope everything from that point onward went perfectly well for you in Iceland. 🙂


  2. This is really good to hear, as I just watched a documentary about Airbnb which included many horror stories where they didn’t react quite so well!


  3. This was so interesting I’ve always wondered what happens in incidences where something beyond the hosts control happens!


  4. OH my goodness! What a stressful way to start your wedding week!! I can’t even imagine. I would have been in tears instantly!! I’m so glad that Airbnb stepped up and took care of you guys. That’s awesome 🙂


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