There's almost nothing more frustrating, heartbreaking, and totally devastating for a travel lover than a totally horrible lodging experience. Let's paint a picture here: You've been saving up for that anniversary trip with your bae for the past six months. You've finally got your coins together and booked your flight. Now, all that's left is to find a place to lay your heads. You and your boo prefer to steer clear of traditional resorts or hotels—they're just not your vibe—so you go to one of the top online platforms for booking cool, short-term vacation rentals.
You see the perfect spot: close to the beach, great views, chic decor, and within budget. The property even boasts a high rating and self-check-in. You take out your card, choose your dates, and seal the deal with no problems, until you finally reach your destination.
Though the listing looks somewhat like the photos, the toilets and showers don't work properly, and there are seedy characters posted up around the property. When you contact the host, they top it all off with insensitivity and apathy, so you and bae thug it out for a night and leave in the morning.
Well, this happened to me.
It Was All Good... Until It Wasn't
My man and I were catfished. Bamboozled. Hoodwinked. And we had to shell out more money or even risk finding no replacement lodging at all due to the efforts of a dubious host.
On top of that, said host was also rated very highly and decided to send a nasty message about how I was jeopardizing the rating when I told the truth about my experience in my final review. And this isn't my only horror story. In the second of my top five worst lodging experiences, I had a host cancel my booking just a few days before I was set to travel, claiming that the rate I'd gotten when I booked the home was "out of date" and snarkily wishing me "luck" in finding a budget-friendly replacement during "high season."
Hundreds of dollars for the booking had already been debited from my account, and it would have taken up to 15 days to get the funds back had I not contacted the platform's customer service reps multiple times via multiple channels and advocated for myself. I got my funds back within 48 hours, but only after a lot of stress, dozens of emails, numerous chat messages, and back-to-back phone calls.
Needless to say, I had to give privately owned spaces a break for a while, and for the past few years, I've mostly stayed at traditional hotels, booking them through the usual channels (either the brand's website or the tried-and-true third-party sites.) But what did I learn? Always contact the host before booking, even if they're rated highly. (It's a great opportunity to find out more about the property, get a sense of what type of host you're dealing with, and gauge whether something could be fishy or too good to be true.) Keep those emergency funds on deck. Have a plan B, C, and D. And last, but certainly, not least, trust my gut.
While there can be amazing experiences offered by hosts on popular vacation rental sites, there are also cautionary tales that we all can learn from. Check out a few more vacation rental horror stories from travelers and how you can avoid a totally horrible experience.
Chanice took her love for travel to the next level, starting an online travel platform, Fly with Queenie, and hosting experiences in the U.S. and abroad. She's traveled to Mexico, Jamaica, and Tanzania, to name a few, and has booked lodgings and experiences via popular online sites like many other travelers. She's definitely had her fair share of both amazing and not-so-amazing experiences while globetrotting.
"I had a client who wanted me to plan a birthday trip for her and her friends to Jamaica. I wanted to give her multiple options instead of just hotels, so I checked on Airbnb as well," she recalled. "I saw a property that was in a good area, had a 4.5 rating, the photos looked good, and it had a local owner which was great because I'm an advocate of supporting locally owned properties."
Adding Insult to Injury...
Things took a turn when she contacted the host about details that she said weren't listed via the online post. "I had specific questions regarding whether it was possible to pay to have someone make an authentic Jamaican meal, as well as specific questions pertaining to transportation options the host mentioned, were available."
"The host wrote back almost immediately and basically told me I could not book the property, accused me of not reading the ad clearly, and even threatened that if I were to book, my reservation would be canceled. The tone of the correspondence was so rude and it was a complete turn-off."
Chanice said the exchange made her feel "insulted," as if she'd done something wrong by simply asking questions about the property and its offerings. She added that the host even blocked her. "The customer service was horrible, especially from one Black person to another. As someone who has a business, even if a customer asks a question that is already answered in your ad, you should be nice and courteous to them. Your tone should always be kind and friendly to retain the customer."
Airbnb has "host reliability standards" listed on its site, and they include an expectation that hosts or co-hosts "are available to respond to guest inquiries or unexpected issues that may arise during stays," and that they "should be responsive and willing to answer questions."
While Charmin never got a chance to be an official "guest," (and dodged a bullet in terms of a potential problem for her clients) she said she reported the host's behavior via the appropriate channels. "I'm not sure what the resolution was but I hope that he was talked to about the feedback I gave."
For travelers using online booking sites to book private homes and experiences, Charmin recommends reading beyond the first few reviews of a place or experience. After using her own online platform to share what happened to her, she found out that other travelers who'd actually stayed at the host's listing had issues including water pressure outages, rude exchanges, and unanswered questions. Also, upon looking further into reviews about the property on multiple sites, there were several that went into detail about issues with the host and property.
"Had I read more reviews despite the host having a 4.5 rating out of 5, I would have seen the many comments about the host being rude in person," she added.
"My advice is to also check to see if the property is listed on social media websites or other property booking websites and read those reviews as well. Even if the host has a good rating, there may be a bad review in the middle of a decent review or constructive criticism that you may be overlooking."
It's also a good idea to ask other travelers and locals via forums like Trip Advisor or Facebook groups, and see if they've ever either stayed at the property, are familiar with the host, or live near the area. While you want to be fair and make the best decision for your travel needs, it's always good to be armed with the information in order to do so.
Latrice, a Paris-based educator and founder of lifestyle platform Paris Chic Code, took a trip to Curacao a few years ago and was expecting the best at a luxurious property where she and her friend would be staying in separate but nearby rooms. "We rented this gorgeous apartment in Curacao and it had a beautiful view," she said. They'd enjoyed lounging at the beach, visiting historic sites, taking a trip on a yacht, and vibing with salsa dancing.
When Luxe Goes Left...
"After a night staying there, my friend kept complaining about itching and, after about the fifth day of our eight-day trip, we decided to lift the sheets on her mattress," she recalled. "It was bed bugs. My friend was hysterical." She added that they got in touch with the Airbnb customer service line based overseas. "We were arguing back and forth. They wanted us to take pictures of the bed. We sent them the photos and the woman said, 'That's not bed bugs.' Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do. If you want to check into another hotel, Airbnb will not be responsible for it.'"
They were devastated but wouldn't take no for an answer, so Latrice continued calling and asked for Airbnb's U.S.-based customer service. She also contacted the management for the building. "They were Dutch, and they were saying, 'Look we've never had a problem like this before. If we order a mattress, it's going to take another day to arrive. We can put you in another apartment,'" Latrice recalled. "My friend was enraged, and she didn't want to stay at that property. Then, because there was a dispute going back and forth, the management said, 'We've never had this problem. How do we know that it wasn't you who brought the bed bugs?'"
Latrice was sure that neither she nor her friend could've brought the bugs because they'd only been there for a few days and the mattress was stained as though there was an infestation way before they'd arrived. She ended up sending photos to the U.S-based customer service representative and a rep ended up offering to cover the cost of the remainder of their stay. Since her friend didn't want to stay at the same property and it would take a while for them to find another Airbnb, they decided to just book a hotel room.
She eventually got a full refund for the stay but it took months to get her money back and she had to use her credit card to book another hotel in the meanwhile.
"I didn't get my money back immediately. I'd already paid for the hotel. They credited me for the two nights that I didn't stay, for a new Airbnb," she said. "When I got back home, I got credited for the stay and the inconvenience but it took about two months for them to reimburse me for the full stay."
Despite the horrible experience, she and her friend were able to complete their trip. "In the second hotel, we had a beautiful view but we had to share a room. That was a bit of a bummer. We were annoyed by the situation and totally inconvenienced because we had to run around trying to find a hotel comparable to the original lodging we had. For the most part, it was fine. We had two days left, we had a pool and we made the best of it. If I were in a situation where I didn't have extra money or credit cards, I would've been up a creek."
Latrice's advice to other travelers who come across issues during their stay at a vacation rental is to document and report the issues immediately. "What I learned was that we waited too long to say something. We were there five days before reporting it, so it was almost like, 'Why didn't you say anything from the beginning?'" she said. "It's a very valid argument. We should have said something. She should have pulled the sheets back the first day."
She also added that though she had that experience, it doesn't stop her from booking vacation rentals nor has it added extra anxiety to her trips since. "I can't go into a hotel or lodging thinking something will be wrong. I trust that my trip will be amazing and deal with anything that might be to the contrary in that moment."
The travel tribe is sure to come through in times of need, so just know that if you've been through a horrible or uneasy experience at a vacation rental, they've got your back. Get some comfort and take heed from these stories. Be sure to be careful, diligent, and mindful when booking lodging or experiences online for your next travel adventure.
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Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
It seems reasonable to assume that new music will slow down in tempo to coincide with the fall season that quickly approaches. However, musicians, ever the unreasonable, are constantly showing us that they have different ideas. They have chosen to keep releasing club hits rather than slow tunes to get us ready for cuffing season, letting people know that while summer may be coming to an end, it may last as long as they want it to.
We are waving goodbye to summer with the new music from last week, but we might also be welcoming another week of tunes designed only for dancing. And honestly, who can complain about that? Here's this week's new music to make you move at every tempo.
"Another One of Me" - Diddy ft. The Weeknd, 21 Savage, & French Montana
Since its original recording in 2016, this song has undergone a great deal of alterations. The Weeknd previewed the new version of the song on his recent European tour, though it was originally scheduled to be released in 2020 and again in 2022. Nevertheless, with the release of this song, The Weeknd also declared that this would be his final "guest" appearance for some time, if ever. Therefore, the Weeknd sings about how there will "never be another one of [him]" again in this unique, enticing, and bold farewell. Thus, we must value him and the rest of his crew--French Montana and 21 Savage--while we still have the chance.
The musicians deliver vocal bars and complimentary rhymes on the song, which is accompanied by a drum sample from what seems like Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," as they consider their timeliness and what Diddy has done for the hip-hop/R&B community over the past few decades and on newly released The Love Album.
"Slime You Out" - Drake ft. SZA
On my first listen, it took everything I had in me not to abruptly end this song. However, by the time Drake begins to sing—heavily using auto-tune—and the beat begins to drop, there is enough of an allure to keep me listening. "Slime You Out" which features SZA is the lead single to Drake's highly anticipated eighth studio album, For All The Dogs. In the song, both musicians talk about being exploited by their ex-lovers and share their own emotional experiences.
They also disclose their malice towards their exes, as "sliming" someone out refers to using them for sex. The single and its meaning works perfectly for the duo, especially after it was revealed on Twitter (RIP) that Drake and SZA used to date back in '08--or was it '09? Regardless, this song allows the exes to focus on past relationships, even their own, as they take turns talking about ex-lovers and finally putting their years of subtle back and forth to rest.
"Lexicon" - Vagabon
Vagabon, also known as Laetitia Tamko, debuted her new album Sorry I Haven't Called on Friday, September 15, as well as her most recent single "Lexicon." Sorry I Haven't Called is a loving and tenacious album about enjoying the exhilarating moments wherever you can by understanding how you love and grieve. The album was formed out of sadness when her closest friend passed away in 2021.
It's an LP that draws inspiration from both group dance floor revelations and the enlightening calm of isolation; it represents both a creative and emotional resurrection. She claims that the record was made to include every feeling she had at the time, even when there was none. In "Lexicon," Vagabon invites the listener to let go of words and the meaning of things, as she repeatedly sings atop a bed of rhythmic noises in "Lexicon" to communicate her longing for oblivion.
"You Wish" - Flyana Boss
Last week, I had the pleasure of watching Flyana Boss open for Janelle Monáe. During their introduction, they discussed being best friends and explained that this foundation allowed them to become the artists that they desired to be. Within moments, the chemistry between the duo was fathomable as they easily played off one another and allowed room for each other to easily shine.
Though it's not a new single, the official video for the song dropped last week. In it, Flyana Boss mocks those who refer to them as "industry plants," while the song brings attention to their infamous "Hello Christ, I am about to sin again," challenge that TikTok sparked to life these last couple of months. They are strange, but in the coolest of ways, mainly because they don't wish to be like anyone else. However, it is clear that with their success others might.
"SKED" - Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry starts his song, which is almost an interlude, by outlining the reasons why he does not feel the need to trust others. He then goes on to tell people that because of their treatment and actions, he is unwilling to find a reason to comprehend those in positions of power and how they utilize their influence. He comes to the conclusion that these actions are the result of fear, and he merely declares that his adversaries are afraid before leaving it at just that. This brand-new song and its accompanying video leave the audience wanting more in less than two minutes. However, as he has stated, he's said all that he has needed to say.
"FAN" - Offset
This song is not long, and if you aren't paying attention, you won't be sure that the first minute is the same as the first 0:00 to 0:50 seconds. Regardless, when it kicks off, boy does it run and it takes off with Offset's insistence on shouting "f**k everybody" kicks in. Offset creates an entertaining video that draws inspiration from his admiration for Michael Jackson and his showmanship to demonstrate the necessity to destroy every bridge he has built since everyone is deserving of a sharp and clear "FU."
This video definitely shows how he has grown as an artist over the last couple of years, and after the grief he has faced from his cousin Takeoff's death, it only makes sense why he doesn't give a damn or two about turning his back on everyone.
"Balut" - Doja Cat
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hate how much I love Doja Cat's music. I don't want to, I've actively been resisting it. However, I must say that since her "MOO[ing]" days, she has developed into a dynamic artist, and this has only led to the creation of vibes, bops, and songs that are worth listening to. Consider her most recent song, "Balut." It is a total vibe. She boasts about her ability to create hits and her distinctive artistic range in her most recent song.
In fact, she thinks that her artistic ability is as simple as "taking candy from a baby." She is correct that it is that simple; or at least for her it is. It is difficult to believe otherwise while listening to her mid-tempo, brag-tinged tune with its smooth flow. Her newest LP Scarlet drops this Friday, and like a moth to a flame, Doja knows we will all be anxiously awaiting its arrival.
"Snooze (Acoustic)" - SZA ft. Justin Bieber
I would not have wagered a single penny that this collaboration would truly take place. But now that it has, many question whether it ought to have. Lyrically, there is nothing fresh to concentrate on. SZA continues to explain why she would be prepared to break the law and compromise her values for the person she loves, but they are still hesitant to meet her halfway. The only thing that has changed is that we now have Justin Beiber's face to place her pleas upon. When Justin Beiber and SZA join in on the acoustic version of "Snooze," they produce a silky, smooth duet that is harmonized flawlessly with daunting echoes and heavenly vocals that coo over one another smoothly.
"Peaches & Eggplants" - Young Nudy ft. Latto & Sexyy Red (Remix)
I'll give you a second to consider what the song "Peaches and Eggplants" by Young Nudy feat. Latto & Sexxy Red could be about. Yes, now that you've experienced that moment. You are correct, that is what it is about. It is all about sex—and more sex—and, well, you get the idea. Even though the song's basic structure is straightforward, it nonetheless provides a fun finish to the summer. The song's production features synthesizers, "pounding" percussion, and Young Nudy's gunshot emulation in the background.
However, the remix now has a more feminine, more confident (if that could have been possible) edge to it thanks to Latto and Sexyy Redd. No one holds back on this song, but then again, the title never implied that they would.
"Swing" - EARTHGANG ft. Benji
And when we ask them when they been at, EARTHGANG will simply say they've been over here. On the right side of things, where they have always belonged. Fresh on the release track of their newest single "Swing" for Marvel's Spider-Man 2 video game soundtrack, EARTHGANG has returned to make us move like they always have. Joined by Benji, the song is loud, with a guitar rift that sounds like Imagine Dragons' "I'm So Sorry," and simultaneously lowers the tempo to make the perfect illustration of a song fusing several genres.
The song shouldn't make sense, much as when Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar collaborated at the VMAs, yet the seamless genre-hopping makes the song engaging and ideal for the video game platform it advertises.
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Featured image via SZA "Snooze"/YouTube