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Dec. 2, 2021, 12:01 p.m.
Reporting & Production

Airbnb’s “Home Alone” stunt is confusing me and news coverage has answered literally zero of my questions about it

I just want to know if I’d actually be alone.

Airbnb is doing a marketing thing: It appears that you plus three other people can win a one-night stay in the house in Winnetka, Illinois, that was the setting of 1990 hit film “Home Alone.” From Airbnb’s press release:

This season, fans are set to have their dreams come true with an overnight stay in the original Home Alone house. While the McCallisters are away on their annual trip (all of them but the pet tarantula, this time), four guests will get the opportunity to relive their favorite scenes from the holiday classic and let their inner eight-year-olds run free for the evening without the interruption of pesky intruders.

Big brother Buzz McCallister will join thousands of Hosts on Airbnb by opening the doors to his family’s Chicago home as the ultimate gift this month. Following the release of Home Sweet Home Alone, the all-new holiday film now streaming on Disney+, this Airbnb stay offers a trip down memory lane and an unforgettable way to celebrate the holidays.

“You may not remember me as particularly accommodating,” says Buzz, “but I’ve grown up, and I’d be happy to share my family home — my pizza, even — with you this holiday season. Just try not to let my tarantula, Axl, loose this time.”

Buzz will host a one-night stay* for up to four guests at the McCallister residence on Dec. 12 for only $25**.

Ha, that’s fun. I’m a ’90s child and have pretty fond memories of that movie, and even more, of that house! O.K., let’s be honest: Now that I’m 37, it’s really just about the house. I want to spend a night in a cozy beautiful Christmas house and pretend it’s 1990 again, just for one evening. Is Airbnb really offering me the chance to do that, all by myself or (if I so choose) three similarly minded mom friends (I am absolutely not bringing my kids)? Hmm, guess I’ll read a little more of the press release.

During their stay, guests will enjoy:

  • A cozy holiday scene with twinkling lights and a perfectly trimmed tree in celebration of the season.
  • Booby traps galore (but don’t worry — you’ll be setting them, not sidestepping them!).
  • Surprisingly searing splashes of aftershave and ample opportunity to scream into the mirror.
  • All the ’90s favorites their hearts desire, including plenty of Chicago’s finest pizza and a candlelit dinner of microwavable Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
  • A meet and greet with a real-life tarantula.
  • A viewing of the film franchise’s newest holiday adventure, “Home Sweet Home Alone.”
  • A LEGO Ideas Home Alone set to take and build at home.

“We may all be older and wiser now, but we’re never too old for holiday hijinks,” Buzz said. “So this year, spend the holidays not-so-home-alone at my parents’ house.”

This actually raises more questions. Let’s say I’d like the “cozy holiday scene” and pizza only. Let’s say I want to pretend this is my house, which definitely means no PR person hovering around encouraging me to have fun, and no visit from a tarantula handler. Also, could we actually just skip the viewing of Home Sweet Home Alone? I’d prefer to read by that fire — again, quietly.

Also, why is it only $25 (“plus taxes and fees”), you can “request” to book the stay on December 7, it’s only available Dec. 12, presumably many people will “request” to book, and yet Airbnb is adamant that this “this one-night stay is not a contest”? Isn’t this, like, a $25 entry fee?

Haha, well, I suppose it’s too much to expect answers to these questions from a press release. So let me turn to the gabillion legitimate news sites that covered this December Fool’s joke. I’m sure after reading some mainstream news outlets I’ll have a better sense of what’s going on.

NBC News:

In addition to a picturesque Christmas home, guests will get to set booby traps, similar to Kevin’s antics in the film, although AirBnB says those staying in the home won’t have to worry about fending off intruders, like Culkin did in the film.

Guests will also be treated “Chicago’s finest pizza and a meet and greet with a real-life tarantula,” according to Airbnb.

A screening of the newest “Home Alone” film, titled “Home Sweet Home Alone,” and released last month, will cap off the night.

Well, that’s just a rehash of the press release.


Perhaps most surprising is the home’s host: Buzz McAllister, Kevin’s pugnacious older brother. Buzz has apparently mellowed out enough to allow guests into his childhood home, per Airbnb.

Scoring a stay at the McAllister place won’t break the bank — again, it costs just a quarter of one hundred bucks — but it will be competitive. Booking opens on December 7 at 2 p.m. ET, but the home will only be available for one night the following week.

BUT BUZZ MCALLISTER ISN’T A REAL PERSON. So is the actor who played him 31 years ago literally going to be in this house with me the entire time that I am there? Is he going to be pretending he is Buzz and do I have to pretend … oh God, what will I be expected to pretend?

“Hey I’ve had a long day, I think I’m just gonna go to bed.” Am I seriously going to have to say that to a stranger?

Maybe the famously impartial BBC can answer this.

Guests will be greeted on arrival by Devin Ratray, who played his older brother Buzz.

“You may not remember me as particularly accommodating,” Buzz is quoted as saying in the press release.

“But I’ve grown up, and I’d be happy to share my family home — my pizza, even — with you this holiday season. Just try not to let my tarantula, Axl, loose this time.”

Other perks include booby traps, aftershave and a mirror to scream into, and 90s junk food.

No. Moving on.

Entertainment Weekly:

And on a rather meta note, Buzz adds that you can “wind down” and “enjoy a viewing of the film franchise’s newest holiday adventure, Home Sweet Home Alone, on Disney+.” Clever, clever, clever. You got us again, Disney+!

Despite looking like a mansion from the outside, the listing only mentions two bedrooms, and one and a half baths, which raises a question: How the hell did a family of what appears to be a thousand people live there? One and a half baths? For five kids? No wonder poor Catherine O’Hara couldn’t keep it together.

Haha I like the skepticism here, except it really only raises more unanswered questions about what you will be … in. Will it be this house? Surely you should know before you book four tickets to Chicago?


Booking for the one night stay will open on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. EST. No price has been set as of yet, and guests will be responsible for their own travel.

“After you’ve worked up an appetite, you can feast on all the comfort food your hearts desire, including plenty of Chicago’s finest pizza and a candlelit dinner of microwavable Kraft Macaroni & Cheese,” the listing states. “Then, when you’re ready to wind down, you can enjoy a viewing of the film franchise’s newest holiday adventure, Home Sweet Home Alone, on Disney+.

I thought the price was $25. Is it not? Speaking of the $25: Airbnb notes in its press release that it “will make a one-time donation to Chicago’s La Rabida Children’s Hospital.” Is that donation going to consist of the $25 of everyone who tries to get in on this? And OMGGGGG stop mentioning the Kraft mac and cheese.

I feel more and more awkward thinking about the handler who would have to make me the mac and cheese because there is no kitchen access.

The Chicago Tribune offers further reporting, sort of, but doesn’t explain where your handlers will be sleeping.

When guests step through the door, they’ll take in the bold wallpaper, red carpet runner and pictures of Buzz on the wall. Bask in the living room’s holiday ambience with a Christmas tree, stockings hung over the fireplace — the whole gambit. Visitors will sleep in Kevin’s parents’ room — complete with four-poster bed, father’s after-shave, vintage clock radio and old-school, big-box television. (Should there be kids, a second guest bedroom is available as well.) …

Airbnb reps said they tried to figure out the physics of how the sled scene down the steps would work, but opted to have a potential sledding excursion planned instead, a safer option. A member of Buzz’s “McCallister Security” team will arrange meals.

Does “potential” mean “optional”? It’s a stranger taking you to some hill somewhere?

“There’s no downside to this,” Ratray told People Magazine.

Airbnb did not immediately respond to my many questions. Update: Airbnb responded to my many questions by quoting parts of its press release.

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email ( or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     Dec. 2, 2021, 12:01 p.m.
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