Vineyard Views in Sonoma: Flipkey Apartment Review

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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

Flipkey review- listings in Healdsburg

FlipKey search results in Healdsburg. You can refine by date, price, and amenities.

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

Flipkey review- deck

The apartment’s deck.

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.

Flipkey review-living room

Flipkey review-kitchenFlipkey review -bedroomWe appreciated the little details like providing a picnic basket, the fluffy blanket on the couch, and lots of homely touches like cushions, books, and DVDs.

Flipkey review-living roomThe best thing was the incredible views of the vineyards and hills which we could enjoy from the deck, and through the big windows in the living room, bedroom, and even from the jet bath!

FlipKey review: Vineyard view from the jet bath

Vineyard view from the jet bath

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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12 Comments

  1. I just looked at the site. Almost exactly like Airbnb. One issue I have: if you insert your dates they’ll give you prices on a nightly or weekly basis. Ie. Not the period I requested. If you click on an apartment it gives a price for the period I asked for. But they should have ‘monthly rate’ or at least ‘rate for period requested’ as an option on the main page.
    But at least they show a price – peeve of mine are all these sites for furnished apartment rentals. You click on them and they quote nightly rates and if you want to get more info you have to contact the agent or owner. Screw that.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    Reply

    • Unfortunately Airbnb is the only apartment site I’ve found that lets you search by the monthly rate. I wish more of them did as it can be very different from the nightly rate.

      Reply

  2. Interesting post. We’re slow travelling and have been mostly staying in Airbnb apartments along the way. Nice to see some competition and I’ll check it out and compare.
    I’m with you on pre-payment – Airbnb does the same and I think it’s something they could approve upon. I’ve read that the Airbnb owner gets payment 24 hours after I’ve checked in. So Airbnb sits on my money between the day I book to the day the owner gets payment. Almost like a bank. They should take a book out of booking.com which has become my favorite hotel booking site just because they don’t charge until you’ve checked in (or out).
    Frank (bbqboy)

    Reply

  3. I still need to make it to the US to see the many vineyards available there, the ones in France and Italy were beyond gorgeous. My hometown, Cape Town South Africa is home to some of the most incredible wines in the world, and that’s completely without bias, their reputation precedes them. Food for thought, or in this case, WINE!

    Reply

    • We love Californian wine country. Beautiful and great wines, although they are a lot more expensive than European wines. We really want to go to Cape Town!

      Reply

  4. I know this is a review of Flipkey and the particular apartment in which you all stayed, but I’m also interested in your race experience and that you are able to incorporate running and entering races (and post-race showering) into your world travels. I don’t find much about any regular extracurricular pursuits and hobbies in the writings of perpetual travelers. It’s almost as though people traveling want to avoid mentioning having regular habits. I think I see different aspects of places I’ve traveled when I’ve incorporated running, and some of my favorite photographs are from my running expeditions. I’m going to sift through your previous posts to find other running references.

    Reply

    • Yes it’s the same kind of thing with a different choice of apartments/houses. Nothing was available for our dates on Airbnb so it’s worth checking other sites like FlipKey to see more options.

      Reply

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