We learned some valuable lessons last year after transitioning from RV travel to traveling via Airbnb. We learned to read between the lines in Airbnb listings so that we don’t end up with a dump. (Two helpful hints: Insist on no less than a “5” for cleanliness, and be suspicious of anyplace described as “quaint” or “rustic.”)
We also learned that we needed to pare WAY down on the amount of stuff that we haul with us.
It’s A Learning Curve
This time around, we decided to trust that our Airbnbs will have most of what we need for daily life. We also figure that we’ll be close enough to good grocery stores so that we don’t have to bring along a fully stocked kitchen.
It’s an adjustment. Traveling for so many years in an RV meant that we had everything just the way we liked it. This winter trip is going to be the deciding factor in whether we stick with Airbnb travel or invest in another RV.
What got left behind: The coffee grinder and gooseneck electric kettle. Almost all of our pots, pans, dishes, and cooking utensils. My CALM mug, which has played an important role in my life for years. The gigantic electric cooler. The gas grill. My hair dryer. Eric’s pillow (no way was I leaving my pillow behind). Sheets, bath towels, kitchen towels, cloth napkins, placemats, and throw blankets. My guitar. Kettlebell and dumbbells. Tools.
In case you’re wondering why in the world we had all of that stuff with us last year, it’s because we sold our truck and trailer in Gainesville, and unloaded everything into our Airbnb. It was an eye-opening experience, LOL.
What We Brought
We allowed ourselves one medium-sized (25″) suitcase each. We’re sharing one tote bag of shoes, and one tote bag of jackets. Last year, we had three times that amount of clothing. It was ridiculous.
For entertainment and to get some ideas, I watched some videos and read a few articles on packing light.
The New York Times recommends the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rule: Five sets of socks and underwear, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one hat. But that’s for a weeklong trip, and we’re going to be away for two-and-a-half months. And we need clothing that takes us from winter to summer, because even though we’ll start off with chilly temps, we’ll have 85 degree days in Florida, even in February.
I pulled clothing out of my drawers and closet at home and started mixing and matching with the intention of creating a minimalist wardrobe. And then I added more. And more. Finally, I decided to just bring whatever I wanted, as long as I could fit it into my suitcase.
I have at least 20 various tops and 9 various bottoms plus 2 dresses and more. Some of you expert long-term Airbnb travelers are undoubtedly laughing. But it’s a LOT better than last year. And it all fits into my suitcase. (Barely.) I guess I’m not really a minimalist at heart.
Other Stuff We’re Hauling With Us
We have one medium tote box of kitchen necessities that holds a ceramic non-stick egg pan, our favorite wooden spoon, and a good chef’s knife with a built-in sharpener in the sheath. We also brought our fish spatula. I’m telling you, if you don’t have a fish spatula, get one. Fish, burgers, chicken, vegetables, tortillas…anything a regular spatula can do, a fish spatula does better. (Update: One month into our trip, we’ve added an OXO vegetable peeler, because all of the veggie peelers in Airbnbs are crap. And a small bamboo cutting board, because every Airbnb has horrible plastic cutting boards.)
We brought a small selection of what we consider essential herbs and spices (adobo, chili, cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, oregano, smoked paprika, saffron, good salt, and a small pepper grinder). Stuff for making pour-over coffee. Basmati rice, quinoa, gluten-free crackers, honey, dark chocolate, fire roasted tomatoes, coconut milk, tuna, Earl Grey tea and jasmine green tea. Another small tall tote box holds olive oil, balsamic vinegar, gin, tonic, and one bottle of wine at a time.
We have two small coolers (one folding) for carting around the basic goods that we always need for breakfasts and lunches (butter, cream, eggs, feta, spinach, lettuce, corn tortillas, and kombucha) and fixings for at least one dinner so that we don’t have to shop immediately when we arrive at a new locale.
We left most of our condiments at home. The other night, Eric asked, “Where’s the mango jalapeño barbecue sauce?” We haven’t been able to find it in local stores, so from now on we’ll add it to the small cooler that holds the items that made the cut (avocado oil mayonnaise, dijon mustard, kalamata olives, pickled onions, raw sauerkraut (we eat it every day for the probiotics), salsa, and tomato paste in a tube).
We also have a small lunch cooler with our trusty stainless lunch boxes. They have accompanied us on countless hiking, biking, and kayaking adventures. Now that we no longer tow our kitchen behind us, we make lunches before we set off on a travel day. We usually eat lunch in the car at a rest stop because we can’t abandon Magnolia. But at least we have decent food.
Of course, we also have all of our toiletries, herbs and vitamins, and a first aid kit. And our computers, cameras, Kindles and the tangle of cords and batteries they require. A water filter pitcher. Exercise bands. And our bikes and bike gear.
It’s a lot. But unlike our experience in Gainesville, everything fits into the car with room to spare, and we can even see out of the back window.
Magnolia Is Her Own Category
Magnolia has more paraphernalia than both of us put together. She travels with her cushy pet carrier, small folding screened catio, folding multi-level cat tree, scratching post, litter box, litter, blanket, her preferred wet and dry cat foods, treats, and toys.
She deserves all of it. She’s such a good little traveler.
Our first stop was Bluffton, South Carolina. We visited for nine days last May, and spent quite a bit of time exploring the charming, historic downtown and surrounding area.
We stayed in the same Airbnb as last May, and it was just as nice the second time around. The location, a short walk to historic downtown Bluffton, is perfect.
We were only in Bluffton for four days this time, and spent most of our time with our friends Ed and Diana. They know all the good birding spots in the area. Like most of the country, it was cold in early January, and there weren’t many birds to see. Nonetheless, we had fun exploring. And we had a great time spending cozy evenings enjoying delicious meals together.
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Our next stop was St. Augustine for a week. We’ve visited St. Augustine several times and have always enjoyed it. This time, we stayed in nearby Vilano Beach.
I’m adding “eclectic” to my list of adjectives that warrant suspicion when booking Airbnbs. Our apartment was huge (two bedrooms!), comfortable, and reasonably clean. But there was WAY too much stuff in it, and it was scary to open any cabinet, closet, or drawer. We’ve stayed in a couple of Airbnbs now where the owners apparently have serious yard sale and thrift store addictions.
On the surface it was cute. Just don’t open the cabinets, closets, or drawers.
A Relaxing Visit
We loved the location. We walked a couple of blocks to a peaceful beach and the Vilano Beach Pier. It was wonderful at sunset watching the dolphins hunting fish and the twinkling lights of St. Augustine across the bay.
In previous visits, we’ve done everything we’ve wanted to do in St. Augustine (the historic fort, the lighthouse, the distillery tour, Flagler College, Memorial Presbyterian Church, the Lightner Museum). We’ve explored the historic downtown on foot, by bike, and by trolley. This time, we enjoyed strolling the historic and beautiful city, but stayed far away from the overly touristy area around St. George Street.
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S. It has a lot of “oldest” things, from the oldest house to the oldest street. I love the Spanish architectural influence.
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We chatted with locals in shops off the beaten path. We went to the Saturday farmers’ market where we enjoyed delicious arepas while listening to the weekly music jam, and bought a linocut print from a local artist. We ate yummy tacos at Osprey Tacos and had a superb dinner of fresh mahi at Caps on the Water at sunset. We visited my sister in Jacksonville for a wonderful reunion and lunch, and explored the trails at lovely Washington Oaks Gardens State Park and Mantanzas National Estuarine Reserve.
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It was a full, delightful, and relaxing week. We’re getting back into our traveling groove.