Things to Know When Using Airbnb
Airbnb can be a great tool for making travel easier, more pleasant and less expensive. Rather than staying at a hotel and paying hotel prices, you can often pay substantially less for more space and usually have a better selection of locations in larger cities.
Narrow down your initial search. There are a lot of listings on Airbnb, especially in larger cities. If you search for all listings in, say, San Francisco, you’re going to have more results than you possibly can process.
A better approach is to start with specific searches. Narrow down the number of guests, how much space you’ll need (a private room or the entire place), your budget and even a more specific location. That way, you can start off with a small pool of relevant results and then expand your search range if none of those match your needs.
Look for verification. Photos that are Airbnb-verified are a huge plus, as are verified hosts. Photos that aren’t verified might not necessarily reflect what you’ll see at the property, whereas verified photos have been vetted by Airbnb and are usually professional shots. Having said that, though the Airbnb-verified photos are guaranteed to be images of the property, keep that in mind the professional lighting and angles might make the property look better than it is.
Similarly, Airbnb-verified hosts have been verified by the service to be legitimate people – in other words, the actual property owners and managers. Without such verification, you may be caught in a situation where a host makes pledges he or she won’t keep.
Before booking, send a message to the host. Don’t just instantly book a promising site. Instead, send a message to some of the most promising hosts, introducing yourself and your reason for travel, along with a few questions such as whether the host will be nearby during your stay and so on. The best situation is a host will be nearby but not stay at the property with you (some hosts intend to stay in the residence with you, which I find unnerving). You’ll get a quick sense of the attentiveness and thoughtfulness of the host with his or her response.
Don’t start off with a list of specific demands, either. That’s a great way for a potential host to ignore you because you won’t be worth all of the extra hassle. If you have an important request or two that won’t require a ton of effort from the host (like handicap accessibility), you can ask, but if you demand 12 fresh towels and a mint on your pillow, you’re begging for conflict with the host. That’s not what Airbnb is all about.
For your first time, lean toward a property with more house rules. Some properties will make a lot of upfront statements about cleanliness and other issues regarding the property, while others might be more lax. For your first time, choose one with more rules. The property is likely to be more expensive if you choose that route, but it’s also more likely to provide a great experience for your first Airbnb stay.
This isn’t to say that properties without rules are somehow bad, just that they can provide a more variable experience, sometimes with unexpected surprises that can throw a new Airbnb traveler for a loop.
Check for reduced extended stay rates. If you’re staying for a week or longer, don’t calculate your costs based on the stated daily rate. Look at the description page for each listing, and see if it lists a rate for weekly or monthly stays. Many properties offer this, and they sometimes amount to two days per week free or several days per month free.
If you don’t see a weekly rate, don’t hesitate to send a message to the owner regarding a better rate for a week’s stay or a month’s stay. Many owners will happily negotiate such a rate, as it ensures income over a longer period.
Be courteous and respectful of the property and the host. If you ever plan on using Airbnb again, it is well worth your time and effort to establish a positive reputation on the site. The way to do that is to treat the property and host with respect and courtesy. Don’t trash the place. Clean up your messes. Be kind and reasonable to the host without being demanding.
A guest with a good reputation and stellar reviews on Airbnb is more likely to find accommodating hosts and have a great experience on a repeated stay in the future. All you have to do is be a decent guest during your first Airbnb stay – and each subsequent one.
Airbnb is a great tool for finding cheap places to stay on vacation and business travel, but it pays to take your time, interact with the host and be courteous and respectful.