Unlike fellow Point Me contributor Bill and his one-and-done Airbnb experience, I’ve stayed at Airbnb many times and will continue to do so. I wanted to share some of my tips for Airbnb, and to ensure you know what to look for when making a booking.
First Things First, Airbnb Is in the Hospitality Business
Airbnb is not in the “sharing economy” business anymore. It started as a true “rent my couch or my spare room for a night” platform and evolved into a full blown hospitality behemoth.
There are now professional property managers, multiple companies, and programs that offer to optimize your listing, and other services geared toward professionals.
Sure, there are still individuals on the platform. But search for an Airbnb in a popular location like Barcelona or Florence, and chances are the majority of the listings would be from the professional hosts.
Without further ado, here are my 8 helpful tips for Airbnb on how to make the most out of your booking, and other things that I’ve learned along the way.
Don’t Think Of Airbnb As A Way To Save Money
We need to start thinking about Airbnb as just another player in the hospitality industry and approach it with the same detachment as we approach hotels. This is how I look at it — Airbnb is not going to save me money on accommodations, I am just getting a different kind of accommodation.
For me, I don’t compare a $250/night hotel room and a $150/night apartment — the comparison won’t be fair. If you want to stay in a place that feels like a nice hotel, then compare apple to apples in terms of price.
Any comparisons between Airbnb and hotels need to be honest and reasonable. You want high-end finishes, nice beds and linens like in a 5 star hotel? You aren’t going to get it a $150/night Airbnb in an expensive place like Hawaii or Copenhagen.
If you want to get a $150/night apartment in a place where any decent hotel starts at $300, then the expectations need to be in line with the budget.
When my husband and I went to Florence in March, I didn’t like any hotels in my price range. They all looked dated, the rooms were small, and the bathrooms tiny.
When I turned to Airbnb, my search brought up dozens of nice-looking, renovated apartments in the historic center. It looked like the whole center city was converted into upscale, newly remodeled Airbnb! I searched in the same price range I’d pay for a hotel, and in that case, I could get much better value for money by staying at an Airbnb.
Rent Only From An Airbnb Superhost
When I look for a property, I filter my search to “Superhost” only. Superhost status is not easy to achieve and maintain, so the hosts work hard to make sure their guests have good experiences. They often manage multiple properties or have been hosting for years.
Hosts need to have, at minimum, a 4.8+ overall rating, 10+ stays, <1% cancellation rate, and a 90% response rate.
Scrutinize Airbnb Pictures
I scrutinize Airbnb pictures like a detective scrutinizes crime scene photos.
You can spot professional photos from a mile away and a good photographer can make anything look good. I always look for the location of the air conditioner, the furniture layout, and the bathroom fixtures. If there aren’t enough pictures, or they are of bad quality, I move along. When it comes to Airbnb, I prefer to deal with top-tier hosts and professional property managers who take pride in their listings.
Pay Attention To What’s Most Important to You
One of the most important tips for Airbnb is to read between the lines of the property description and the reviews. If one reviewer said the garbage truck comes at 4:00 A.M. but nobody else mentioned this, I’d believe that reviewer.
People often are much more reluctant to tell the truth in an Airbnb review than a hotel review, so I analyze everything and read every review. If the host has other properties, I sometimes would read the reviews of their other apartments and look for signs of bad management or bad communication.
Is having air conditioning important to you? Are blackout shades or blinds important? Look at the pictures, and if you aren’t satisfied, ask for additional photos. I’ve made a big mistake of not asking the host for pictures of the window shades he said were there. When we got to our Florence apartment, I found there were no real shades or blinds in the bedroom. There was just a flimsy curtain that didn’t block much light.
I asked the host ahead of time if there were blackout shades, and he assured me that there were. Maybe it was a “lost in translation” kind of mistake, or maybe he though I meant the curtain.
We were there in March, so every morning I was awake at 6:00 A.M. with the sun. Lesson learned, next time I’ll be more careful and if in doubt, I’ll ask for additional photos.
Communicate With The Host Before Your Stay
I always message the host before I book anything to find out if they are quick to respond. It doesn’t guarantee that they are going to be great communicators if things go wrong during your stay, but if a host takes more than 24 hours to respond, I move along.
It doesn’t even matter what you ask, I ask if there’s a coffeemaker and if coffee is provided or I need to bring my own. I ask if there’s a hairdryer or an iron. Before I booked the aforementioned apartment in Florence, it wasn’t clear from the pictures if the bed was a full or a queen, so I messaged the host and asked for the dimensions of the bed. This might seem silly to some, but it was very important to me, and gave me another excuse to talk to the host before booking.
Find Out About How To Get the Key Before Booking
Some hosts may ask you to go to a rental office, a friend’s house, or a nearby bar to get the key. There are too many things that could go wrong, especially if you are in a foreign country. Ask the host if someone is going to be there at check-in time or if there’s an electronic lock. Having the process clear before you book is important.
Deal With Issues As They Arise
A thermostat broken? Water not draining properly? The cleaning person didn’t leave enough toilet paper? Message the host immediately. They might not be aware of these problems and a good Superhost would make every effort to fix the situation quickly. There’s no point to wait until the end of your stay to air grievances in a review.
Leave Honest Reviews
And finally, help other travelers and leave a detailed and honest review. It’s not helpful when guests write something along the lines of “Great apartment, Domenic is a great host and we had a great time.”
I always want to ask WHAT was great about the apartment. Was it the location? Was it quiet? Did you have good water pressure and plenty of hot water? Were the beds comfortable? We need details to make an informed decision. t
A generic “everything was great” review is not helpful, the devil is always in the details. Not everyone has time to write a 1000 word review, but even some bullet points would be very useful for future guests. This is one of those tips for Airbnb that helps pay it forward.
After reading all of these tips for Airbnb, you might think that choosing an Airbnb is too much work. But I approach my hotel stays the same way. I look at a lot of pictures, read reviews, and if I have questions, I’d often reach out to the hotel via Twitter or Facebook. I don’t like surprises and doing all this research has usually paid off for me.
I’d also recommend getting a local SIM card and the host’s WhatsApp number. I buy data-only SIM cards on Amazon before any trip abroad. You can now find a SIM that works in a whole region, not just a single country for less than $20. It could be invaluable if you need to get in touch with the host or need directions to your Airbnb.
What tips would you give other travelers to make the most of the Airbnb stay?
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