Are you still seeking overnight accommodations in overpriced hotels, shoddy motels, or hit-or-miss hostels while making travel plans? If so, it might be time to try Airbnb! Whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned traveler looking to enhance your experience, this post will share some tips for getting the most out of your next Airbnb adventure!
- My Experience with Airbnb
- What is Airbnb?
- How Airbnb Works
- Airbnb Tips for Guests
- Websites Similar to Airbnb
- Bonus: Airbnb Coupon
My Experience with Airbnb
In 2012, I traveled to Belize with my boyfriend and established an online tour booking business with a ranch that offered overnight farm stays and horseback riding tours. Ever since then, I’ve been a virtual Airbnb host, handling all bookings and correspondences for guests. I’ve also been a prolific guest over the years and now use it almost exclusively as my to find accommodations while traveling.
My experiences as both an Airbnb host and a guest have been overwhelmingly positive and I’ve never had a single negative encounter. In fact, many of my Airbnb stories have changed the trajectory of my trips to make them even more memorable than they already were. I do however have some friends who have had less than satisfactory experiences on Airbnb, which is what prompts the writing of this post. Not all listings are created equally. If you follow these tips and guidelines, and I promise you’ll greatly increase the odds of having an unforgettable experience. For hosts looking to optimize their experiences and guest interactions, check out this definitive guide to being a stellar Airbnb host.
What is Airbnb?
Founded in 2007 as a startup, Airbnb has catapulted into a company worth $10 billion and has become a trusted go-to source for finding accommodations worldwide. Today, there are thousands of spaces in over 34,000 cities listed for rent on Airbnb. There are budget options such as a couch in a shared home, middle ground options like a private studio apartment, or high-end homes or villas that can be rented. You can choose to spend just one night, or sometimes a whole month. It all depends on the listing’s perimeters.
Who might want to use Airbnb? Well, it’s become a popular option for those seeking to live like a local while traveling. It’s also great for families or large groups wanting overnight accommodations in bigger spaces. Finally, it’s attractive to travelers just wanting to spend the night in someplace that’s not a standard, boring hotel.
How Airbnb Works
Start by creating a free profile.
First off, let’s break down how exactly Airbnb works. As both a host and a guest, you have to create a user profile. Doing so is free and easy to do if you connect Airbnb to your Facebook or Google account. Be sure to fill out your profile as much as possible, and add a clear, friendly photo of yourself. The key is to appear like a real person to establish trust.
There are different profile requirements depending on if you’re registering as a host or guest, but either way, be prepared for Airbnb to prompt you to verify your ID. This is very important as it verifies your true identity, making it comfortable for hosts to trust you, and vice-versa. There are multiple ways to verify your identity including connecting your social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google) to Airbnb, verifying your contact info, and even scanning a copy of your passport or driver’s license. Below is an Airbnb profile example from yours truly.
Start looking for listings!
After you create your profile, you can then log in and start looking for places to stay. Airbnb’s search function is similar to any other hotel booking site, allowing you to search by location with a beginning and end date, and the number of guests in your party. Your first batch of search results might be quite lengthy, but you can then filter out results based on advanced criteria, such as price range, room type, amenities, property type, neighborhood, and more.
Pro Tip: In the map to the right of the search results, make sure the box that says “Search as I move the map” is checked. This way, results will filter based on where you zoom in and out on the map, making it easier to figure out where your prospective listings are located.
How to book a room
See a listing you like? Great! Click on it to get more details and see photos of the listing. After clicking on the listing, you can Save to Wish List to reference it later, or you can book the property right away. Recently, Airbnb rolled out the Instant Book feature, allowing guests to make immediate reservations, but hosts have to opt into this. That means not all listings will have the ability to book instantly, so you might have to make a reservation request and wait a while for the host to approve your request (don’t worry, there’s a time limit in which the host must respond).
Airbnb payments and fees
All listing prices on Airbnb are set by the hosts. Most prices are on a per night basis and are not always inclusive of extra fees, such as Cleaning fees (set by host), Service fees (mandatory use fee set by Airbnb; this is how Airbnb makes money), Occupancy taxes (vary, depending on the state or country the property is located in). Before you confirm a booking, all fees are laid out, so be sure to examine the final tally before committing.
Note that all Airbnb payments and monetary transactions are conducted on the website, so you should never expect to pay your host in person for the accommodation. The only exception might be paying the host in cash in the case of replacing lost keys or paying for extra amenities (this should all be spelled out in the listing’s description and House Rules).
Airbnb Cancellation Policy
If you find yourself needing to cancel your reservation, reach out to the host immediately and let them know. You can also cancel the reservation yourself by logging into your Airbnb account and going to Dashboard –> Your Trips –> Change or Cancel.
Airbnb allows hosts to choose from three standardized cancellation policies. The terms of each policy vary, so be sure to understand the terms of the listing before agreeing to it. Rather than rehash the exact terms of each policy, I’ll refer you to Airbnb’s official website which explains them all in detail.
Airbnb Tips for Guests
Now that the Airbnb process has been explained, let’s talk about best tips and practices for booking a great Airbnb rental.
1. Read the entire listing. Seriously.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of Airbnb is the ability to stay somewhere that’s not a hotel room. Sometimes you’ll be sharing a private home with the owner(s). Other times you’ll get the whole apartment to yourself. And sometimes you’ll be booking a room in an actual hotel or guesthouse. Airbnb accommodations vary greatly, so read the whole listing to get a clear understanding of what the host is offering. Also, note any possible amenities, such as parking, pool or gym access, etc. Sometimes booking an apartment in a sweet complex will come with all of the amenities to make you feel like you’re staying at a five-star hotel! When looking at amenities, check to see if added fees might apply (ie. parking pass fees are not unusual).
Pro tip: Even though Airbnb is short for “Air bed and breakfast,” not every one of its listings offers an air bed or breakfast. In fact, most listings offer legitimate, extremely comfortable beds, but only a few will also offer breakfast. Again, it’s up to you to read the listing and inquire about these things before you book a rental.
2. To choose a quality Airbnb rental, check reviews and photos.
The number one way to verify the quality of an Airbnb rental is to check past reviews. After a guest makes a verified stay at a listing, they have the option of writing a public review of the host and the rental; hosts, in turn, can also write a review for guests. The review system holds guests and hosts accountable and also gives the option of giving each other feedback. But most importantly, these reviews help other guests and hosts make informed decisions. As a prospective guest, be sure to read a few reviews on a rental to see what other people have to say. Take note of any lukewarm reviews or problems that reviewers might mention. And of course, rentals with prolific amounts of reviews of the 4-5 star nature will almost certainly be enjoyable as they come highly recommended by others.
Another way to double check quality is to judge the photos that are included in the listing. Airbnb hosts are highly encouraged to upload as many high-quality images of their listing as possible, and there are even official Airbnb photographers who snap photos of listings (a job I’ve coveted for years!). If there are bad photos or little to no reviews, stay there at your own risk.
Pro tip: For the benefit of your host and other prospective guests, try to leave a review after every Airbnb stay. Note that there’s a time limit of just a week or two when a review can be submitted, so do so as quickly as possible after your stay has ended.
3. Double check the listing’s location. The map isn’t always the most accurate.
As a guest, it is important to be absolutely certain of where the listing is located. In some countries such as Belize, physical street addresses don’t exist, so map pins may be approximate. Double check locations, and be sure you’ll have proper transportation options to reach the property.
My number one feature for selecting Airbnb rentals as a traveler is where it is located. I’d rather pay extra to stay at a place that’s right next to a travel hub (ie. metro stop, mass transit station) than be miles away from one.
4. Get directions and access information early.
One of the downsides to Airbnb rental is difficulty in finding them. When staying at a hotel, it’s easy to ask a local for directions or take a taxi. It’s not easy to communicate this same information when staying in a residential area. To combat this problem, try to get directions from your host BEFORE you start traveling. Ask for well-known landmarks and be sure you have a clear idea on how to find the property. Don’t leave this to the last minute as some hosts don’t always have immediate Internet access.
On this same note, accessing your Airbnb rental typically isn’t as easy as walking up to a 24/7 concierge desk. If you’re lucky, your host will be in the area to meet up with you and give you keys. Sometimes your host won’t be around and you’ll have to hunt for lockboxes and hidden keys to enter your rental. This can be fun or frustrating, so be sure you have a very clear picture on how to enter when you arrive.
5. Encounter a problem during your stay? Tell your host immediately.
Whether you’re facing discomfort or made a mistake such as losing a key, be sure to alert your host immediately. Many hosts want to make sure you have a pleasant stay, so it’s best to address issues quickly rather than later. In the case of a mistake such as a lost key, the host may charge a replacement fee, so be sure to handle it accordingly.
If you’ve done your due diligence and chosen a reputable Airbnb rental, your host should be trustworthy and dependable. However, if you experience genuine problems with your host and need an intervention, contact Airbnb as soon as possible. A Guest Refund Policy may even apply, but you must tell Airbnb within 24 hours of checking in. When possible, aim to resolve problems with your host in-person while you’re there, or through Airbnb’s private Resolution Center.
6. Do your own research.
As an Airbnb host, I love interacting with a wide variety of travelers. I love the Airbnb property I help manage and love helping travelers discover this gem of a place. I welcome guest questions, but I draw the line with questions that can be answered with a quick glance at a map. As a guest, don’t be afraid to ask your host to help you plan your trip. But make sure you do your own research. Read a Wikitravel or TripAdvisor article to gain some basic knowledge for yourself. Hosts are happy to help, but they are not travel agents or trip planners.
Websites Similar to Airbnb
Ever since its debut, Airbnb has continued to thrive in popularity among both travelers and homeowners. While Airbnb is still the undisputed leader in the industry, there are several other prominent options.
- Couchsurfing: Just like the name implies, you can seek accommodations in someone’s home for free. I’ve Couchsurfed immensely throughout Europe and the USA and only had good stories to tell from my experiences.
- VRBO: Short for Vacation Rentals By Owner, this site lists over 1 million different listings all over the United States. You can find everything from a studio apartment to a whole house or cabin. It’s perfect for finding accommodations for a family vacation or big group.
- Vacasa: This website offers professional rental management for over 5,100 vacation homes throughout the United States and Central and South America.
- HomeAway: A vacation rental marketplace listing over 1 million units in over 190 countries.
- Hostelworld: Airbnb can seem pricey for budget travelers. In fact, Airbnb rentals are easiest on the wallet when they’re shared by at least one other person. If you’re traveling on a budget and can’t find a viable Airbnb option, check out Hostelworld for reliably cheap alternatives.
Bonus: Airbnb Promo Code
As both a traveler and a host, Airbnb has enhanced my travel experiences. I’d love for you to experience the same. Use the promo code in this link to get a $20 credit toward your next Airbnb travel adventure. Be sure to email me and let me know how it goes!