We love hearing from you. Please continue to send your notes and cards. They are great and we always get a thill from receiving them. Online reviews are okay, but nothing conveys a thought like a good old fashioned letter or card. Thanks again.
Although for many decades travelers have been welcomed into the homes of relatives and friends and offered the couch as a cheap place to stay, it was not until this decade that this tried and true option was revolutionized by the internet. With the advent of Craigslist, Airbnb, and similar sites, almost anyone and everyone is offering up couches, spare bedrooms and even entire homes for rent as a hotel alternative. While the notion of renting a room in a friendly owner’s home may at first glance seem appealing economically, there are a few words of caution to be offered before you jump in head first.
Renting such accommodations pose risks to both pocketbook and safety. Here is why.
Hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns are almost universally regulated by local governmental authorities. Local statutes provide for minimum safety and health requirements. Establishments must has work smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, operating fire extinguishers, emergency exit lighting, and posted fire exit plans. I operate a B&B here in Chicago and can personally attest to the fact that each year we get a thorough inspection by the fire department, by the department of buildings, and by the department of health. If we don’t take appropriate measures to protect the safety and health of our guests, we do not get to operate.
Now compare those protections to what you get when you rent a night on a stranger's couch. Has that stranger devoted the same concern and resources to your safety and health? Do you know what you would do in a fire? How would you get out? Is there anyone on-site that can help you in an emergency? Is the location, building and apartment you are renting safe? Remember, you are staying in an unfamiliar city in an unconventional alternative to a hotel, motel or B&B. Ask yourself if the potential savings is truly worth the additional risks posed.
You should also be extremely alert for the potential financial pitfalls of renting such accommodations. If you send money to a stranger you found on the internet, is there going to actually be a place for you to stay when you arrive? Sites such as Craigslist are fertile ground for scam artists of all types. They will often go to great lengths to make their scams appear legitimate with wonderful photos of fantastic abodes near all the sites and available just when you are looking to travel and at unbelievable prices. Beware, they are often adept at making you part with your money. Check out the business and ask for references. Legitimate places to stay in most cities like Chicago has a website, a Facebook page, are on Google+, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Determine how you will get a refund if all is not as promised. Because of recent scams and problems with unregulated vacation rentals, many jurisdictions have adopted new local laws that require registration and licensing. Check the locale you intend to visit and check with the local tourism bureau or visitors center for further information.
Traveling to a new city is always an adventure. Make it a pleasurable, memorable one by heeding these few words of caution.
One of the many things I love about living in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago is that the local shops offer a unique shopping opportunity where you can always expect the unexpected. Yesterday, I had the chance to pop in to Brownstone Antiques and Collectibles at 5234 N Clark Street. What greeted me at the door was indeed a one-of-a-kind find: two 5 foot tall Indian chief lamps. They are simply awesome and I struggled all day to think of who among my friends would just have to have them. Unfortunately, I came up empty handed. But I want someone to have them and give them a good home for the next 75 years of their life. They are just too cool not to be shared.
The shops of Andersonville frequently offer opportunities to find objects like no other. Here, there are few chains and instead we have a collective of merchants that are devoted to bringing the community and our visitors that special gift like no other.
Shop local. Shop Andersonville.
Ok, just a few thoughts that I want to share about lodging and hotel alternatives in Chicago. Recently, there has been an explosion of available options. You may have heard of AirBnB.com or you may have come across one of the many advertisements placed on the vacation rentals section of Craigslist. It seems as though everyone has a couch or a condo to rent by the night or week. In large part, this has been driven by both the need for alternatives and present market conditions in real estate.
I found it interesting to learn about the impetus behind AirBnB while at a Inman conference in San Francisco. The idea was launched by several guys who literally wanted to see if there was a market for renting an air mattress to area visitors. Well, there was and the site took off from there. Now AirBnB has vacation rentals around the world. Similarly, even a cursory review of Craigslist vacation rentals will reveal hundreds of lodging options from a lowly couch to luxurious condominiums with all the benefits of home away from home.
I must offer a few words of caution to those considering one of these two alternatives. First, know what you are getting. Ask if the party you are renting from is reputable. Are you turning your money over to a stranger? What protections do you have? What would you do if you arrive and the property is not available, is not as described, or worse , the whole thing is a scam. Craigslist is replete with those offering multiple ways to help you part with your money. Is the property safe, secure, etc...
In Chicago, as of 2011, vacation rentals must be licensed. Ask for that information before you do business with any rental property owner. And, that goes for AirBnB rentals as well. Just because they are listed on that site doesn't mean they are licensed. MANY MANY MANY rental operators are not licensed and by doing business with them you are at risk.
A better alternative is to consider one of Chicago's many Bed & Breakfast options. Chicago licenses all B&Bs and to get this license, the establishment has to undergo a thorough inspection by the buildings depatment and the Chicago Fire Department. Each year the properties are re-inspected. Additionally, reputable B&Bs are members of the Chicago Bed & Breakfast Assciation http://www.chicago-bed-breakfast.com. Check with that group to find links to all Chicago B&Bs.
Chicago has many alternatives to the traditional hotel, but exercise caution in making your choices. Always ask if the benefit of saving a few dollars is woth the risk of a ruined vacation or visit.
Word is that Andersonville will be getting a new restaurant. Jerrry's is an existing eatery that will be opening up a new location in the former Star Gaze building at 5419 N Clark Street. The menu posted online at jerryssandwiches.com looks quite interesting