Lots of people are talking about Airbnb because of their Super Bowl LI commercial. It spoke to my heart and really was a beautiful statement on how Airbnb makes the big world feel smaller and more familiar. If you haven’t experienced an Airbnb stay but are interested in more information you are in the right place. Today I’m going to share a few of my experiences and tips on how to best utilize this option for travel lodging.
In my opinion these 9 tips are the top things to consider and keep in mind when booking and staying with a host anywhere you might travel.
- Read the reviews. If there are no reviews you have no idea if the host is dependable, if the place is secure, clean, comfortable and if the place will live up to its online pictures. It is generally hard to verify much about a listing without some rental history. Reviews are imperative to me, especially if I’m traveling with my kids.
- Communicate with the host. I don’t use the Instant book option and always send the host a message about myself, who I am traveling with and our plans to see if we are a good fit. This gives me a chance to get to know the host a little bit and see if I am comfortable with them. It is a great tool I use to see if I get good vibes about the host and the location. I get it, vibes are pretty ambiguous but if I don’t feel good after a conversation with a host I will not book their place. My first stay was nerve-racking. I was a mess as I ran ideas of how the host could sell us into a human trafficking ring (I KNOW) or steal my laptop and a million different unsavory thoughts traveled at warp speed through my brain for the 4 months between booking and arriving at the apartment. It turned out Fernando was as nice as he sounded via our Airbnb conversations and I have stayed in touch with him ever since. He was kind, thoughtful and even helped us get to the train station when we departed. He was the kind of Airbnb host you want to stay with! Now I trust my gut a little more and always, ALWAYS, talk with the host before booking.(Fernando and the girls at the train station.)
- Figure out the total cost and understand all fees and house rules before you book. You do not want to be caught off guard by any surprising rules or extra fees. This is another great benefit of communicating with the host before booking. Because I often travel with my children it is important that I find out if a host even allows children because some do not. I am able to clarify all house rules before booking and when I am comfortable with the situation I confirm and pay. Having a record of those conversations on the Airbnb website is comforting.
- Location, location, location…and parking. The number one most important thing to me when I am booking on Airbnb is the location. In a city I want to know that I can easily get groceries, get to restaurants and if there are sites I must see while in town I want to be close to them. If you do not have a rental car your access to public transportation or ability to walk to places of interest is imperative. If you do have a rental car or if you are driving your personal vehicle (road trip!) it is important to find out if parking is available and if there is a cost associated. I read more negative reviews of hosts that unfairly blame them for a lack of parking or parking expenses. Not to be a broken record, but if that is a priority for you, communicate with perspective hosts about that issue. When we stayed in Sevilla, Spain for 2 months there was only pricey temporary parking but it was ok for us because we didn’t rent a car and walked everywhere we needed to go. On the flip side, when we were in Tarifa and Frontera it was necessary that we had a spot to park our rental car because the houses were miles from town on secluded properties. Take this into consideration!(I was so glad we had a car when we stayed in rural Frontera so having a parking spot was important to us.)
- If you are looking for an adventure and are willing to let go of expectations and enjoy an experience that gives you a taste of living in an area as a local, Airbnb might be perfect for you! If you are looking for a 5 star resort with daily housekeeping Airbnb might not be your jam. The places we have stayed have been eclectic, full of character and more like staying as a guest in someone’s home than a swanky hotel. In some situations I find that very appealing but make sure you set your expectations accordingly. When I want fresh sheets every other day and room service I book a hotel. This is just something to keep in mind while you decide on lodging during your travels. Sometimes hotels in an area can be cost prohibitive or not in appealing locations and Airbnb truly saves the day! Some of our best trips have been so because of our interactions with hosts and their neighbors and we likely wouldn’t have experienced that in a hotel.(Sometimes having more space makes spreading out our schoolwork a lot easier.)
- That being said, the most important part of staying Airbnb is the relationships. I should say “for me” or “for our family” but in reality, I think this is true for many people. Your local host may be willing to share a list of the best restaurants or special events that are occurring while you are in town. We had a special host in Granada Spain who met me where I was lost and then helped me carry our belongings to her cave (Yes, cave.). Along the way we stopped at her friend’s cave (I know…) and she inquired about a flamenco show going on that night. We got on the guest list and later that night she guided us back and we had what is possibly the most memorable travel experience of my life. That never would have happened if we stayed at a hotel. (I know, I’ve been saying that a lot…)
- Be a good guest. No, scratch that, be a great guest. I try to remember that the hosts likely struggle with the same trust issues I do. They are opening their homes and properties to strangers. I always try to leave a place in the same, if not better condition than I found it.
- Write a review. If I find reviews helpful I should contribute to the community by writing reviews myself. The review format on Airbnb is, in my opinion, extremely fair. The reviews are not posted until both the host and the guest have submitted them and both reviews are written blindly, meaning you cannot see the review of yourself before submitting one of your own. If I notice something that needs to be repaired, replaced or could make a future guest’s stay better I recommend it in a private message and not in my public review. That being said, if something is very different from the description or pictures or I feel a particular piece of information would have been helpful before I arrived, by all means, it goes in my review! If the host has undersold the location or comfort of their place I try to give details that might help a future guest understand how awesome a place is. Likewise, if I felt other reviewers have oversold the location or cleanliness I try to tactfully address that. If I have a host who is awesome I try to stay in touch. You never know when you might want to be their guest again!(You better believe we raved about our awesome cave accommodations!)
- Give it a shot. You will never know if it’s for you unless you try it! If you have reservations (the concern-kind, not the dinner-kind) book with a host in your hometown or a city nearby for just one night. This can give you an idea of the process and is a great way to get your feet wet. Looking back that probably would have helped me when I first tried Airbnb back in 2015.
If you are going to give Airbnb a shot and want to book something or host, here is a referral code to get a $35 discount on your first time: http://abnb.me/EVmg/WvtrWKHqyA
(Disclaimer: I receive a credit to my Airbnb account every time someone uses the above link to stay or host.)
Here are a few more pictures from some of my favorite Airbnb experiences.
From our balcony in Sevilla.
Totally at home.
I can’t think of a single hotel that has a view like this of Semana Santa.
Being able to cook your own meals is a money and health saver when traveling! Many Airbnb accommodations have partial or full kitchens.