When I was planning my first half marathon I had visions of staying in a cute B&B a few minute’s walk from the race start line. No worrying about parking or portaloos, and I’d be back in no time for a shower afterwards. When I finally committed to the race six weeks before I realised this wasn’t going to be possible—everywhere was booked up. My run was in Healdsburg, a pretty and rather posh town in Sonoma wine country, about an hour north of San Francisco. Prices are high here, especially on a Saturday night in October (harvest season) when there’s a half marathon in town.
I really wanted to stay as close to the starting line as possible, but affordable options were limited, even when I widened my search to a short drive away. Then I remembered that vacation rental website FlipKey had offered us credit to try them out. FlipKey offer apartments and houses for rent all around the world—our favourite way to travel, so I was keen to take a look.
FlipKey didn’t have many options available in Healdsburg, but one place I did find seemed ideal. I realised that an apartment would be better than a B&B after all, as I’d be able to make my own dinner and breakfast before the race, and have a place to relax afterwards.
Booking with FlipKey
The rental listings include a description of the property, photos, a map, availability calendar, rates, and amenities. It’s also linked with TripAdvisor so you can read reviews from previous guests.
Once you’ve entered your dates check the sidebar for the total price. This will be more than the listing rate as FlipKey charges a 10% booking fee, and (in the US at least) tax is additional. The apartment we were interested in cost $256 a night including all the fees; comparable to the cheaper B&Bs in Healdsburg, and we’d have access to a kitchen and much more space.
The booking process with FlipKey was easy—I didn’t even have to create an account to send a message to the owner of my chosen property. As always with vacation rental sites it’s best to check availability and ask any questions before you go ahead with the booking process, as calendars are not always kept up to date by owners.
The owner got back to me quickly to confirm availability and I went ahead and made a booking request. The owner had 24 hours to confirm the booking and then my credit card was charged for the total cost of the stay, and I was sent the full address and contact details of the owner to arrange check-in.
Free cancellation was available up to two weeks before, and if you pay through their website (as I did) FlipKey offer a Peace of Mind Guarantee where they will reimburse you if you can’t get access to the rental or it doesn’t match the description.
When I paid for the rental I also paid a $250 damage deposit which was the only issue I had with our FlipKey experience. As we booked six weeks before our stay the deposit came out of our account then and wasn’t returned until two weeks after we left. Holding the deposit for eight weeks for a three night stay seems a bit excessive and I’d prefer the deposit to be taken from my account a few days before the stay. Not all rentals charge a deposit (check the rental fees section), so this is not always an issue.
The apartment we rented was a five minute drive outside Healdsburg in a very quiet neighbourhood. It’s the in-law unit on the lower floor of the owner’s home with a private entrance. It’s very spacious with a large living/dining/kitchen area, separate bedroom with attached bathroom and large walk-in closet, laundry room, and deck.
It was the ideal place to stay for my half marathon. The bed was comfortable for a good night’s sleep; I cooked my pre-race pasta meal in the small kitchen; the deck was a great spot for post-race yoga; and I certainly appreciated the jet bath when my legs began to ache. We loved watching hummingbirds and deer from the deck, and snuggling on the couch watching films.
Simon captured the hummingbirds using the slow-mo video on his new iPhone 6 and his Vine got featured on Mashable!
The only issue we had during our stay was a problem with the WiFi, but as the owners live upstairs they were responsive and after a few hours it was fixed.
It was hard to drag ourselves away from that view after only three days and we’d love to stay here again if we ever return to Healdsburg. We were impressed with FlipKey and will definitely add them to our list of sites to check when looking for apartments on our travels.
Thanks to FlipKey who sponsored our stay in Healdsburg.
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