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I travel a lot! In fact, I travel so much I have more hotel nights per year than nights in my own bed. Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s the life I’ve signed up for. Having said this, I am getting tired of staying in hotels. I’ve started using Airbnb on several of my trips and want to share my findings and experiences with you.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a peer-to-peer website for people to list, find, and rent lodging. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities in 190 countries. It’s a privately owned company founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Francisco, California. Airbnb does not own any of the properties listed, but acts as the middleman between the property owner (host) and the guest. It processes the traveler’s payments and passes the money on to the host. Also, Airbnb acts as a mediator should any problems occur between the host and the traveler.
Advantages of using Airbnb over a hotel.
Typically, Airbnbs are in people’s homes in quiet neighborhoods and therefore more peaceful. Unlike hotels, there are no slamming doors at 1 AM when other guests return to their rooms. There is also no road noise to deal with because usually Airbnbs are not next to major highways. They don’t have a noisy air conditioner running all night long and nobody knocking on your door in the morning wanting to clean your room when you want to sleep in. Also, I found them to be much cheaper and cleaner as well. When my wife travels with me, she likes to bring her little dog along. When we stay in an Airbnb with the dog, she likes the convenience of not having to walk the dog down a long hallway to an elevator, down to the ground floor, through the lobby, and across the parking lot to a grassed area for the dog to take care of its morning business. In addition, when we stay in Airbnb’s, we find it much more convenient to cook our own meals, which not only looks after the pocketbook but our cholesterol levels too.
Things to Consider before using Airbnb.
As a traveler, you first need to create an account on the Airbnb website and complete your profile. In your profile, you need to write a little about yourself and post your picture. Next, register your payment method (Credit Card or PayPal.) Then you’re all set to start browsing listings for your destination.
- If your trip is for fewer than three days, you are better off staying at a hotel. I say this because I found most Airbnb’s hosts require at least two nights’ stay. Also, Airbnb booking fees and cleaning fees plus the nightly rates make Airbnb a less viable option financially than a one or two-night hotel stay.
- You are your own housekeeper; you make your own bed, clean the coffee pot, do your own laundry and wash your own dishes.
- Some Airbnb hosts do offer breakfast, but they are few and far between.
- It’s best to use the Airbnb app to keep in contact with your host before and during your stay.
- I don’t particularly care for shared accommodation, so I always set the filter to Entire Place or Private Room. If you are still in school, single and don’t have much money then shared may be a better option. But please be aware that most issues reported in the media regarding Airbnb have been with shared accommodations.
- Avoid overly priced listings that don’t have reviews. These are usually listings outside of the market price for a given area.
- I have found that the best and most inexpensive listings are new ones with two or three reviews. This is because the host is new to Airbnb and is still trying to build their reputation as a good host. Once their reputation is built, they will increase their pricing accordingly. I found this to be a case a number of times when I want to go back and stay at a place I’ve stayed at before.
- Read the descriptions and reviews before booking. This is very important! Make sure you know what you are getting into and then make sure the reviews back-up the host’s description.
- Avoid anything with fewer than 3 ½ stars! You will see very few listings with fewer than 3 ½ stars but if you do see them avoid them! The star system is not the hotel star system but based on reviews provided by previous guests.
- If you travel with a pet, as I sometimes do, make sure to check the “allow pets” box in the filter This will filter out the Airbnb’s that don’t allow pets.
- Be aware of the cancellation policies for each listing. Airbnb has six cancellation policies ranging from flexible (full refund one day prior to arrival) to super strict 60 days (50% refund up until 60 days prior to arrival). You can see a full list of Airbnb’s cancellation policies here.
Once you have found a place, you will need to book it. Remember, first come first served! Your host will have up to 24 hours to confirm your booking. Once confirmed, your credit card will be billed for the entire stay.
Here’s another tip
- Go ahead and make a hotel reservation that you can cancel by 6pm on your day of arrival for at least the first night of your Airbnb stay. Your Host can cancel for any or no reason at any time, and you don’t want to be left with no place to sleep, so this acts as a good insurance measure. As long as you cancel your hotel reservation before 6pm, you won’t be charged. When making the hotel reservation, double check to make sure it’s cancelable by 6pm on the day of arrival and a deposit is not required. If you have an AAA membership, most hotel AAA rates don’t require a deposit and can be cancelled by 6pm on the day of arrival without charge.
During your Stay
- Remember you are staying in someone else’s house, so abide by their rules. Treat the place as if it’s your own. If the rules say no smoking, don’t smoke!
- Be polite and respectful to your host. They have opened their home to you (or at least part of it).
- Keep the place clean. Ok, I know there is a cleaning fee but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to clean up after yourself. Both you and your host will review each other after your stay; so the better you can keep the place clean and tidy, the better your review as a guest will be.
- If you see a minor repair that you can make without much effort, go ahead and make the repair. Your host will probably appreciate it and may mention it in your review. During my Airbnb stays, I’ve repaired light fixtures, slow draining sinks, coffee pots and water faucets. These repairs didn’t take much effort on my part but my hosts really appreciated my help. As far as I’m concerned, it’s treating the place as my own. I don’t mention the repair in my review, I just let the host mention it in their review of me.
- The night before check out, ask your host if you can do anything before you leave, like strip the bed. Again, this will leave a positive impression. I have family all over the world and they let me stay with them. I always ask what I can do to help them clean up after me before I leave. I would like to be invited back to stay with them when I’m in town again. Do the same for your Airbnb host; you need a good review if you want to stay with them or another Airbnb host again. Your review as a guest is important too.
- If you have a good experience with your Airbnb host and the accommodations are nice, leave a thank you card.
About a day after your Airbnb stay, Airbnb will ask you to leave a public review of your host. In addition they will ask for private feedback that’s not shared and for improvements your host can make. The improvements feedback is shared with your host but is not made public. Most hosts like the feedback. Be honest, keep it positive and criticize constructively. Your host will appreciate it.
All my Airbnb stays so far have been very good and my hosts very accommodating and helpful. Some hosts are very detailed with notes and instructions. When I stayed in Salt Lake City, my Airbnb host had typed up a welcome book. He left this book on the kitchen table for all his Airbnb guests. This book contained all the local information for hospitals, police, recommended area restaurants and site seeing suggestions. He also left a lot of notes including a note on how to operate the TV remote control. Other hosts just give you verbal instructions. Whether on vacation or a work trip, Airbnb makes a pleasant change to staying in a hotel. You can even find and stay in some unique places too.