Vagabond Life: Airbnb Anaheim Executive Inn

This post may sound negative at the start, but it takes a turn… so read on. After our first night at the Airbnb Anaheim Executive Inn, we decided this wasn’t the place for us. I mean, we liked the concept: take an old motel…

Wait…

Do you know the difference between motel and hotel? I wasn’t entirely positive so looked it up. Super simplified:

  • A hotel has inner corridors to get to the room.
  • A motel (derived from motorist’s hotel) has exterior entrances with parking outside the door.

Easy enough, right? Which means this week’s Airbnb Anaheim Executive Inn, is, in fact, a Motel.

Now that we understand that…

Let’s get back to the concept we liked: Take an old motel, and instead of bulldozing it or turning it into a flophouse, bring it up. North Anaheim needs less prostitution hovels and homeless camps and more family friendly places to stay, especially since many of the old motor lodges around Disney were torn down during the big remodel of the late 90s. A trip to Disneyland isn’t cheap, so having affordable, clean, nicely decorated lodging is much needed.

The Early Resort District

Walt Disney too saw the need for family lodging. He originally wanted to build places for them to stay around his new park, keeping the outward appearance in line with his vision and avoiding a carnival-like atmosphere, but the Disneyland construction costs prevented him from buying the surrounding acreage, and various business moved in to take advantage of the tourism dollars flowing into Anaheim, creating a garish hodgepodge of buildings–not at all what Walt had hoped for.

An interesting fact I learned from the City of Anaheim website where I gathered this info:

Part of the problem was that Disneyland, though successful, was still only a seasonal attraction. A small motel was the extent most were willing to invest in Anaheim. Visitors would come only during the summer and on holidays. Major hotels required year-round business to operate successfully.

Which explains why Harbor and Katella Boulevards around Disneyland became littered with shabby little motels. I remember how creeped out I was by the area on my first trip to Disneyland as an adult. I didn’t remember it being so run down and sad. The flashy motels had become scary eye-soars, with many boarded up, like this one from an Orange County Register article.

The Arena Inn, now a dilapidated eye sore in Anaheim, CA will soon be demolished for a new Hampton Inn and Suites and Convention Center. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Reenvisioning

In the late ’90s, the city fulfilled Walt’s dream of creating a uniform look to the resort area by tearing down the blighted motels surrounding the park and putting in nicer chain hotels, consistent signage, and towering palm trees. It truly is better, all the way around.

Problem is, the new big hotels aren’t exactly affordable.

Enter places like the Executive Inn.

How We Found the Executive Inn

We didn’t find this place by searching motels–because really, never in a million years would I have booked a room there. I’ve covered way too many news stories along this stretch of Lincoln, like the relocation of the homeless from the riverbed to certain Anaheim motels.

Plus, if you read the Yelp reviews… Woo wee! I’ve never read worse!

But we didn’t book through the motel. We booked through Airbnb. The listing showed a well appointed, tastefully decorated room, plus, it was cheap. Like one of the cheapest places we’ve stayed. It wasn’t until just before booking that I saw it was part of a motel on Lincoln, so I hesitated. But then other places I hesitated about–like the Broadway apartment in Santa Ana and the Hotel Peppertree in Anaheim–we ended up loving, and since the Vagabond Life is all about adventure and trying new things, I booked the room. It was only a week, right?

Monday after work, I pulled up and instantly thought, Oh man! I made a mistake booking this. The outside was not exactly impressive.

Brian, though, was already in and said it was nice. He’s usually right.

While old, the property was well maintained, and there was nothing creepy or scary about it. Nice cars. Lots of families. A few waves hello.

The Room

Room 119 lived up to the photos 100%. Plus, it was spotlessly clean.

Our only “objection” to the room (and this is super minor) were the styrofoam cups for coffee, especially after one disintegrated and spilled coffee all over the nightstand. Styrofoam cups don’t fit with our morning ritual of laying in bed, drinking coffee, and getting lost in the Internet, so Tuesday, I bought a couple of real cups, which we left behind for the next guest to enjoy. I feel weird making suggestions to hosts–like the time I suggested using better color temperature light bulbs because the greenish bulbs throughout the cabin made it feel like a prison (no I didn’t say the prison part to the host). I got crickets in return–but unlike that host, Priya was super receptive to the idea of having real cups in the room–same as she has in her other units with kitchens–and thanked us for the donation.

The Neighborhood

So what about the area, you ask? Did we feel safe? Actually, we did. The motel is completely walled in, and I said earlier, there were no clunker cars or crackheads laying around the parking lot. Just families on vacation.

I will say it’s not the best walking neighborhood, which is something we like to do and part of what we love about the vagabond life. But hey. This was a different experience, and there are plenty of great places to drive to, like the Anaheim Packing District just two miles away, a hipster food hall that’s worth checking out. Also, the Center Street Promenade in what used to be the old downtown, with shops and restaurants and a Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. The city has done a great job trying to recreate what was once there. And of course Disneyland three miles away.

So why, if we liked the room and liked the concept, did we decide on that first night we would not use this location again?

Noise late into the night. We had exceptionally talkative neighbors that first night, probably families coming home from a long day at Disneyland, plus there was an obnoxious chirping car alarm like some kid got a hold of the fob. So even though we’d booked a different room with a kitchen for September, we decided we’d likely cancel, but then…

The Turn

By week’s end, our opinion changed.

The noise wasn’t as bad the rest of the week, especially when sleeping with earplugs, and the room really was comfortable. By Friday morning when we packed out, we’d decided to keep our September booking.

Funny how that happens, huh? Start a bit negative, end with a positive.

I am glad, however, I didn’t read the Yelp reviews of the motel before booking. One 1 star review after another, talking about filth and bugs and rude staff. We experienced none of that. I don’t know if that’s because the Airbnb rooms are nicer or what, but I appreciate what Priya is doing to make this place better. From what I can tell, she has about six rooms dedicated to Airbnb (with over 600 rave reviews). The rest of the rooms are part of the motel. On the website, the motel rooms look slightly different than the Airbnb’s–maybe a little less personality, but still nice. I don’t know if she plans on turning the entire place into Airbnb or just keeping a select few rooms, but either way, putting these rooms on Airbnb was brilliant. It certainly reaches out to a different audience, ones who—like us—probably would not have booked a room at the Executive Inn of Anaheim.

Until next week’s new adventure at a house in Orange…

Later Gators!

Want to try Airbnb? If you click the link below and set up an account, you will get $40 in travel credits! How cool is that? And yes… we will benefit as well. We’ll get $20 in credits once you book a trip.

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