Vacation Rental Horror Stories That Will Make You Want To Stay Home

Photographed by Poppy Thorpe.

As much as you may love being able to stay in a home away from home while traveling the world, vacation rental experiences do occasionally go awry. And, more often than not, when the experiences do go bad, they go really bad. The only redeeming thing about having a vacation-ruining stay is that you at least get an entertaining story out of it. We asked real travelers to share these exact stories, and unsurprisingly, many delivered.

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Ahead, you'll find six vacation rental horror stories that will make you want to be extra vigilant about reading the reviews next time you book a stay anywhere that's not a hotel. From creepy hosts to plumbing problems, and yes, many, many bug encounters, these are some of the worst vacation rental experiences real travelers have had.

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My sorority sister planned an epic weekend-long bachelorette party in Santa Monica. We had talked for a few months about all the details, and the girls narrowed it down to one super cute Airbnb. Well, my friend lives in a different part of California and arrived early with someone else from the state. By the time I landed, my phone was blowing up! This place was infested with COCKROACHES! So, needless to say, the girls enacted plan B and booked a new Airbnb and sent the address.

When I arrived, everything was great, they had moved in, cooked tacos, and started popping bubbly. We get back on day two from an epic boat trip and it turns out that the owner of the condo we stayed at was ILLEGALLY hosting Airbnbs in several units of the same building. We found this out because the people staying below us got a visit from the city and were issued a citation and told to vacate the premises. It was ridiculous! How do you go from one roach-infested house to an illegal stay? But to make matters worse...we ran out of toilet paper that last night. Seven girls. Three toilets. No paper! — Kimberly, 30

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"My friends and I rented a house on Block Island for Memorial Day weekend. We had thought it would be much warmer, but Memorial Day isn't actually that hot. As it turned out, we were the first renters of the summer season. The host claimed the cleaning crew had been there prior to us arriving. While the house itself was relatively clean, I noticed a giant spider in the downstairs bathroom. Someone killed it, but I am terribly afraid of them so I was keeping an eye out. We went into town for dinner, came back a little tipsy, and were watching some TV when I heard my friend get his boyfriend to go into their room and then the vacuum went off. The rest of us went to check it out and they were vacuuming dozens of spiders out of their room. This, of course, sent me into a drunk panic so we paraded around the entire house with the handheld vacuum. I kid you not, we had to kill hundreds of spiders. Big, little, every kind. It was disgusting and horrifying. We went to bed thinking "Okay we killed them all. This is fine."

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The next morning we were woken up by roosters at the crack of dawn. They lived on a farm across the street and just wandered over. They became my friend's nemesis for the entire trip. To the point, he was out there one morning in his underwear in the driveway fighting a rooster to leave us alone. They never did. They came up to the windows and squawked every morning. It was terrible.

About halfway through the trip, I woke up to a bad bite/sting on my knee and assume the spiders are back and eating me alive. Nope, it was a giant hornet in my bed! My friend rushed in when I was screaming and smashed it with my eyeshadow palette. None of the colors broke at least. A couple of us also went to the farm across the street to go horseback riding and let's just say, the people running the place may or may not have been on meth. We did not ride horses that day. Oh, and my friend found out his uncle had died while we were trapped in the spider house. Not a great time. — Meghan, 34

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Last summer, I did a two-week vacation in Europe where we went from Iceland to London to Amsterdam to Paris. We Airbnb'd the whole way and had a great time, except for Paris. Upon arrival, the small flat we rental was adorable. Just big enough for a queen bed and a small table with gorgeous windows that opened up to a shared courtyard. There was no kitchen and just a tiny bathroom. Everything was going great until an indescribable smell started seeping in. I tried to ignore it, but Paris oddly had a day where it was close to 90 degrees outside, and the smell was awful. The source was the bathroom. I tried to spray perfumes and such to mask it. No luck. Then the smell started coming in through the small sink in the studio. I opened the bathroom door to see what was going on, and a spider the size of a small dog went running across the floor. I screamed so loud that the French neighbors definitely thought the American was getting murdered.

Well, the next day, after I had recovered from my trauma, I went back into the bathroom to shower. Something about the lack of ventilation mixed with the heat caused mushrooms to full-on sprout OUT OF THE WALLS. Yes, there were multiple mushrooms sticking out of the seams of the shower. Needless to say, dry shampoo was my only option that day. We promptly checked out after the owner quit answering our messages about the mushrooms." — Kimberly, 27

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My parents, sisters, and our boyfriends all met up for a weekend away in London (I'm British!). My parents booked a place for the weekend. During the weekend away, an estate agent just let himself into the property and started showing people around, as the property was for sale. While my family and I were sitting around eating pancakes. My mum did shoo him out though.

The really grim bit is that by the end of the stay, we realized that six of us (out of eight!) had bed bug bites. Then a couple of days later — the symptoms take a while to develop — my boyfriend and I realized that we had caught scabies. The room we slept in was in a damp basement, and there was no other way we could have caught them. It was horrible — so itchy and the treatment dried my skin out so badly it blistered for weeks. To top it all off, the host never responded to our further feedback or messages telling them about the scabies. I've had great experiences with Airbnb, but can't quite trust my parents to book them anymore! — Laura, 23

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Where to begin? I was going to the San Francisco area for a conference, and the friend I was supposed to stay with backed out at the last minute, leaving me scrambling to find a place. The only place I could afford that was available looked kinda sketchy even on the listing, but I couldn't be picky. It was a futon in the living room of the host's apartment. The host was nice enough but didn't tailor her idiosyncrasies to having guests over — the TV in her room was always blaring, even when she wasn't home. The carpet was filthy. She said the shower was clogged, but that she was going to "run down to the store to get drain cleaner." She was gone for a few hours, and when she came back, there was no drain cleaner. I showered with gross water rising up to my calves.

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The neighborhood was quite dangerous, and even running from my Uber to the doorway of the building after dark was nerve-wracking. All night there was screaming and fighting echoing in the street below. At 3 a.m. the second night, the phone started ringing, and the host didn't answer it. There was some sort of audio caller ID, and it said "Calling: Richmond Police Department." Why were the cops were calling her at 3 a.m., and why wasn't she answering even though she knew she had a guest, and it was disturbing them? It was just too weird. I ended leaving a day early and just crashing in a friend's hotel room when her roommate also left early and freed up a bed. Luckily, I didn't spend too much money on such a sub-par experience, but I've learned to not cheap out on accommodation. — Lucy, 31

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