If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, be it a day or since I started, you should know by now that I love me some AirBnB. It is the website I first check when I learn that I’m going anywhere. Heck, it’s the site I check when I dream about going places and wonder what kind of place I’d stay in. It’s the traveler’s version of planning out your dream house as a kid, am I right? Out of all of my AirBnB stays, my hosts have ranged from above average to spectacular. It always surprises me when I meet people who haven’t caught the AirBnB bug yet. A lot of times, I hear a hint of doubt in their voices, especially when it comes to picking a place to stay. And I can’t blame them! Nobody wants a bad experience.
Because I’ve had such a great time at AirBnBs, today I thought I’d share some things to look for when you’re choosing an AirBnB.
How to Choose A Good AirBnB
Step One: Set Up a Good Profile
Setting up a really good profile on AirBnB might not be AS important as, say, if you use Couchsurfing. But let’s think this through really quickly. Put yourself in the host position. Would you rather read about how awesome your next potential guest is, or do you prefer to not know anything about them? Invest some time into setting up a good profile! There a couple of different ways you can verify yourself as a real person too, so I’d try to do as many as you’re comfortable with.
This is a really great time to start cultivating a good guest-host match. Sure, you could have a generic traveling profile, but if you ooze your personality all over that page? The likelihood of getting a great match goes up.
Step Two: Do Neighborhood Research
For some people, it's enough to say “I want an AirBnB in XYZ city.” I firmly believe that a little neighborhood research can take a good trip to a great trip. AirBnB has started developing their neighborhood guides, but I take my search to Google and Pinterest too. Yup, I obsess about travel over on Pinterest too. I’ve found that I actually get quite a few good results. These can sometimes be geared towards people that are moving to the city, but it’s just as helpful for AirBnB hopefuls too!
My favorite example of this was my AirBnB in San Francisco. People, that city is huge. Each neighborhood also has a totally different feel. I was able to find a place in Pacific Heights (okay, Pac Heights, lest I be called uncool…), which tends to be on the higher end of the rent spectrum. Local coffee shops, yummy brunch places, and unique shopping galore with easy access to any touristy stuff I might be interested in. Perfection.
Hey, if you’re traveling to Philadelphia and are looking for someone to chat neighborhoods…I’m your girl! Send me an e-mail at my contact page.
Step Three: Examine the Listings
The search process on AirBnB is pretty straight-forward. Of course they’ve got an advanced option so you can choose filters galore. Make sure you put in your travel dates to the best of your ability. The site only shows places available for then, so it weeds out some places. You don’t want to fall in love only to find that the place is booked. Price is the other important filter for me! Be realistic, and remember that some places charge cleaning fees. My boyfriend likes to complain about this, but if I were a host I might need some cleaning help too. So don’t think they’re necessarily trying to nickel and dime you.
This is the fun part. Check out some listings in a couple of neighborhoods that caught your eye in your price range (or not, I won’t judge), and ogle all of the beautiful apartment pictures. There’s a spot in reviews that tells you how accurate the photos are that’s always nice to check. Other than that, there are some key things to look at:
- Animals: For me, any listing with a cat is an immediate no-go, unless I want to spend my trip having allergic reactions. On the contrary, any dog listings shoot right to the top. So pick your preference and take note!
- Wi-fi: Travel bloggers, you feel me on this one. If wi-fi is at all important to you, definitely make sure you check out their list of amenities!
- Parking: This is especially important if you’re driving into a city. You need to make sure there’s a place to put your car! Usually I’m a public transit gal, but my recent trip to Toronto was the first time I had to check for parking. Make sure it’s convenient for you.
- Toiletries: I know, this might sound like a weird thing to check for, but it’s going to make your packing so much easier. Some listings provide all of your shampoo, body wash, etc. etc. This is especially helpful if you AREN’T checking a bag and are not a huge fan of those tiny little travel toiletries. Towels are also usually provided, so check for that and don’t waste the space in your bag.
- How Many It Sleeps: This can get a little tricky. Some listings say they sleep 6, for example, but on further inspection, four of your guests are going to be sleeping on or near the floor. While that might be okay for your group, it is something to consider! It works the other way too. Usually, Paul and I won’t book a room that sleeps two, but in two twin beds. It’s all about what you prefer.
Step Four: Examine the Reviews
Yes, I know the reviews are part of the listing. But it’s so important, I gave it its own step. Reviews make or break a listing for me. AirBnB is doing something right, because it makes every host review their guest and vice versa. I will read through a majority of the reviews for a place before I even put it on the "maybe" list.
AirBnB has six different rating criteria: accuracy, communication, cleanliness, location, check in, and value. When you check out, you have to give a star rating for those six categories. In addition, guests leave comments as well. Read them carefully, for both fun and safety reasons.
Step Five: Reach Out to Hosts
AirBnB hosts have the option to allow Instant Booking for their places. Even when listings I love have this option, I always always always shoot them a message first. I introduce myself and any travel partners I may have with me, as well as giving them a general idea of my check-in time, especially if it’s different than what the listing suggests. Most hosts have been really flexible where this is concerned, but it’s always better to err on the polite side.. Try to put some personality into this too, because it’s the perfect time for a spark to start. This is also a great time to ask any public transportation questions if you’re a public transit traveler. When I went to Austin, this was the time that I asked about the ease of biking the city. My host was so supportive of that idea, I felt an instant connection!
No lie, I totally judge my potential hosts by their response. If they mention fun things to do already, they’re on the way to being my superstar host. One major question to ask is whether or not your host will be there during your stay. I personally love when my hosts are there, but there have been trips where a quiet getaway is preferred. Check it out and choose accordingly.
Notice that I said hosts plural. Even if you find a listing you love, send messages out to a couple of hosts. You don’t want to be caught without a great place because you only tried for one! Worst case, you can always ask unavailable hosts for neighborhood, food, or fun recommendations.
Bonus Step: Go Have a Great Time!
Bada-bing bada-boom. You’ve done your homework and now chances are you’re going to have an incredible time. Make sure when your trip is done to leave an honest review and spread the news. I just told you how important reviews are, so now is not the time to give them solid five stars just to be nice.
Now, in case you show up and things aren’t all fine and dandy, contact AirBnB right away. Luckily I’ve never had a problem with any of my listings, and your homework certainly decreases the chances of a bad match. BUT. I’ve heard that AirBnB is really great with getting you set up with a new place to stay if need be. Just maybe don’t complain if the bedding is blue but in the listing it said they were green, if you know what I mean.
Are you ready to take your first trip? Now you knew this part was coming! If you haven’t created an account on AirBnB, you can sign up with this link right here to get $20 off of your first stay. I should tell you it is a link that I’ll get $20 when you have your first stay. So we can just spread the AirBnB love all around.
- Where are your travels taking you that you might try using AirBnB? Have I convinced you? If you’ve used it before, I’d love to hear your stories!
Just throwing this out there, AirBnB did not ask me to write this at all! I'm pretty sure they don't know who I am. Just wanted to type this up because I love using it so much.