Airbnb continues to grow in popularity as an alternative to hotels for both business and leisure travel. More travelers are discovering the convenience, affordability, and charm of living like a local. Instead of having just a handful of hotel options for your destination, now there are dozens of house or apartment options. Many of them downright opulent. Here are seven steps to make your first Airbnb experience amazing.
1. Know your lodging requirements and set a budget
How many guests will be staying in your rental and how much do you want to pay per night? Are you looking for a standalone house or apartment or do you simply need to rent a room? Do you want to bring your furry friend along? If cooking is something you want to do, a well-equipped kitchen will be needed. Don’t forget about amenities such as Wi-Fi, washer/dryer, parking, air conditioning, swimming pool, etc. The AirBnB website and app have convenient filtering options that allow you to quickly mark your requirements and narrow your search.
Tip: Create a Wish List of properties that appeal to you. Then you can go back and compare your favorites. But make sure and save them for later, even after you’ve chosen a property and booked. Once in a while, a host will cancel your reservation. It doesn’t happen often, but if it does, you’ll have some back-ups already saved to your wish list so you can quickly find an alternate property. And don’t freak out if this happens. It’s disappointing but a small price to pay for using a really great service.
Airbnb provides a comprehensive but easy to use search tool.
Having a map view is a great way to identify a property by neighborhood. Just keep in mind that property markers are general, not exact. But at least you can choose which neighborhood, district or arrondissement you want.
2. Inspect the photos
Some properties may only include five or six home interior photos. Sometimes they’ll even include random pictures of a palm tree or backyard pond or some birds. This is a bad sign. It makes you wonder, “What are they hiding? Where’s the bathroom photo? What does the kitchen or bedroom look like?”
Others might provide more photos but the shots are dark or fuzzy, perhaps taken with an old flip phone camera, or the room is messy. Another bad sign. You’ll know the better locations because they’ll have ample (and nicely shot) photos of every single room and hallway on the property, from multiple angles. In other words, total honesty and transparency.
Check out the two following groupings of photos. Can you spot the difference?
In the photos above, do you notice how this host provides a lot of great photos from different angles, including a layout diagram? And they didn’t overdo the neighborhood shots. They kept the images focused on the interior.
In the photos above, this host shows minimal interior photos, including blurry photos and one sideways photo. They also duplicate images and add irrelevant shots of tourist activities. Unless these activities are in the immediate vicinity, it appears like they’re trying too hard to create interest. They fail hard in our opinion.
Occasionally, the photos seem to imply that the person lives there full time and just rents their home upon occasion. This is usually obvious because you can see closets full of clothes, toothbrushes in the bathroom and slippers next to the bed. We’ve stayed in Airbnb’s like this before, and it’s not a big deal if the host is a tidy minimalist. But we generally look for places that appear to be primarily for Airbnb guests. This is just our personal preference.
3. Research the neighborhood
Just because a property came up in your search for a specific city doesn’t mean that it’s located in the city center. Do a little research to understand the neighborhoods. Are you looking for something within walking distance to the tourist sites and public transport? Do you want to be in the center of nightlife, or do you want a quiet cottage in the suburbs? Choosing the wrong neighborhood can ruin a stay. You might think a cavernous loft in a converted warehouse looks cool, but it might be in an industrial part of the city with little transport and few restaurants. This will leave you feeling isolated and blowing through your transportation budget on taxis. You can simply conduct a Google search, such as, “Best neighborhoods in Budapest.” Or wherever.
Tip: Combine Airbnb Map View with Google Street View. Even though most Airbnb accommodations do not show the exact address until you’ve reserved, they will show a general location. This will give you an idea of the neighborhood and you can use Google Street View to check out the location for yourself. If you’re looking to stay in a city environment, you might want some creature comforts nearby. Is the area pedestrian-friendly? What about cafés, shops, and markets nearby? These visual cues give you added confidence in a specific property.
In the image above, notice how only the general location is indicated? You can search the area using Google street view to see if that neighborhood suits your needs.
If you haven’t used Google Street View before, simply Google a city, click on maps, zoom into an area of the map, then drag and drop the little yellow man figure onto a street (as indicated by the green arrow in the image above).
Google street view gives you a glimpse of the neighborhood. This might seem like overkill for some travelers, but doing the extra homework on where a property is located can help ensure you won’t be disappointed later.
4. Read the reviews
Take a few minutes to read what other guests have written about the place. Reviews will give you insights into the best features of the property and areas for improvement. You can also find out about the responsiveness/friendliness of the host and quirks of the neighborhood. Often you will get recommendations of great restaurants and cafes. The more reviews, the better! When we see 20, 40 or even 80+ reviews, we feel more confident. When there are less than 10 reviews, we tend to shy away — unless the property is a new listing and looks amazing, then we’ll take the gamble.
Tip: Look for the small badge next to the host’s profile photo. This indicates that they are a “Super Host.” It means they are a trustworthy Airbnb host with a good track record.
Reviews are an excellent way to help ensure a property is worthy of your picky tastes.
5. Communicate with the host
Once you’ve selected a property, you can contact the host for availability (if their property isn’t “Instant Book”). Be friendly and responsive, ask questions, and share why you will be visiting. The host may have some great tips to prepare you for the trip.
Provide the host with your anticipated arrival and departure times. Update them if these change or if you are delayed. It is best to email/text them when you are 30 minutes from arrival so they know when to expect you.
Tip: Reserving is an easy click, but be sure you review the cancellation policy!
6. Respect the house rules
Remember that you are a guest in a private property. Read the house rules that are listed on the website. Many properties are located in neighborhoods that have noise ordinances or are surrounded by local residents. Be mindful of those around you. If you break something, inform the host. Be a good guest. Hang your wet towels, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and take out the stinky trash. Leave the property in the same condition as when you arrived.
Tip: Remember, the host will be writing a review of you as a guest. This will be seen by future property hosts next time you want to use Airbnb. So always be respectful or you may find hosts rejecting your request to stay in their home.
7. Write a review
Once your fabulous stay is complete you will be prompted to write a review. Take this opportunity to give honest feedback on the property and the host. Maybe everything was perfect, even better than in the photos. If so, write that. If you discovered a fabulous café or market, put that in your review.
Tip: If you have some disappointments or minor annoyances during your stay — such as a lack of towels, dull kitchen knives or a shower full of hair upon arrival — don’t publicize it in your review unless it’s something really egregious. Just send the host a personal note afterward, so they can correct it for the next guest. Some hosts rarely visit their property, so they employ cleaning staff to tidy up after each guest. Which means they are often completely unaware if the home is left dirty or needs repair, and they’ll appreciate receiving a personal note from you so they can correct the problem.
That’s all. Follow these seven easy steps and your first AirBnB stay will be amazing. And it won’t be your last!
(Footnote: In case you’re wondering, we have absolutely no affiliation with Airbnb. We’ve just used them for accommodations all around the world and really like their service!)