Kyle and I have stayed in at least 50 Airbnb’s in the last year alone. In fact, it’s my preferred accommodation. While hotels are nice and comfortable, its nothing like a kitchen to cook your own meals.
Besides the kitchen, I like the privacy and convenience of having your own house. When we are visiting a location for a week or longer, we always choose Airbnb.
A Gift For You: If you haven’t used Airbnb before, keep reading and follow this link for $35 off your first reservation.
Although we love staying in Airbnb’s we’ve had a few nightmares from dirty apartments and shady hosts. I don’t want to scare you away but there are some horrible ones out there.
I wrote this blog post to help you navigate the millions of listing across hundreds of countries.
Hopefully, with these tips, you can avoid booking an Airbnb from hell. Skip to the end to read about what to do if you find yourself in a terrible place.
Why We Always Use Airbnb
We can all agree that Airbnb isn’t always the cheapest option when you consider hostels. And there are some really good hostels out there especially those on Hostelworld.
Airbnb is the best because of the value you receive for the money. For $10 more than a hostel, you can get a private kitchen, dining room, and a private bathroom. Since we travel mostly as a couple, we see the price difference is non-existent.
Airbnb is perfect for slow travelers. We typically spend a month or two in a city. I don’t know about you but that is too long to stay in a hotel or hostel.
Although we travel often, we love apartments and houses that can feel like a home away from home.
How to Research Neighborhoods
The first thing to do when picking an Airbnb is to decide what neighborhood or area of town you would like to live on.
Because Airbnb is best for stays more than 2 days long, you want to be sure of your new neighborhood.
Do you prefer a quiet area or an apartment in the middle of the best bars?
Googling points of interest is the best way to see which area you prefer. You can easily see on Google Maps where you will be visiting on your trip. Do you want to be walking distance from the hottest attraction or within 15 minutes on Uber?
For example, when we visited Paris, we chose to stay within walking distance to Notre Dame because moving between attractions in Paris is easy. This area was action-packed but less expensive than areas close to the Eiffel Tower.
How to Research Cleanliness Standards
In May 2020 in response to Covid-19, Airbnb rolled out additional cleaning protocols.
Working with the former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Airbnb created a detailed cleaning protocol for the cleanliness of homes.
For hosts that do not want to use their policy, include a 72 buffer between reservations. This means that when a guest checks out, the next guest cannot check-in for 3 days.
I would prefer hosts who follow Airbnb’s guidelines on keeping the house clean and this is visibly shown on the app
Set a Budget (and add to it)
Rarely, will I ever tell you to add to your budget but this is one of those times.
Once, you’ve outlined the neighborhood or area that you are planning your stay, we can begin looking at places.
Before you set your budget, Airbnb provides a nice chart to show you the average cost of a stay (See below)
The height of the bars indicates how many stays are at that price point.
So, why do I say to add to your budget for Airbnb, because of discounts! Many hosts will offer a discount if you politely ask. If an amazing property is 10% more than your budget, the host may be willing to let you stay with a discount.
Pro Tip: Be polite when asking for a discount and have a backup plan. This works best when you are planning a long trip last minute.
Why Use Every Applicable Filter
While budget is a filter, I placed it in a separate category and first because let’s face it – its the most important.
But next important is the over 99million filters available. Seriously – 99 million and I use most of them.
Often there are hundreds of listings but I’m always looking for the best one under certain conditions.
My usual filters include an entire place, air conditioning, kitchen, WiFi, laptop-friendly workspace, and TV. Sometimes, in a larger city, I add filters for a gym, pool, and washer.
Note: I wish Airbnb had a filter for a balcony. If we all tell them, maybe they will.
Airbnb needs a filter for a balcony.
Read the Descriptions and Skip the Pictures
The most important aspect to look at for a listing you are interested in is the description.
The pictures are sometimes SIGNIFICANTLY better than the actual listing.
If there is a picture of a laundry mat but the description doesn’t say there is a washer, you know that the property doesn’t have it.
Hosts will take pictures of nearby amenities. Or are catfishing guests in the pictures and lying.
Either way, the description is where the actual information is. Don’t get so caught up in the beautiful pictures that were taken 10 years ago from a nearby roof deck restaurant.
It’s happened to me. Don’t let it happen to you.
Rarely, are the pictures worst than the listing.
But the main takeaway is to put less weight on the pictures and read every line of the description.
Why Read the Rules
This section is by far my least favorite part because I don’t like rules.
I think this tells you a lot about the host and the neighborhood/ apartment building. If there are a ton of rules, the host is probably annoying and will probably bother you on your stay.
The most common rules will have something about cancellations and pets. I don’t like rules about noise restrictions but it is common.
Some hosts have rules about visitors that you can (or can’t) have.
Reading the rules prevents disagreements later. You know all of their rules and can choose another property if you don’t like them.
Read at least 40 Reviews
Yes- 40 reviews minimum.
I admit that 40 sounds like entirely too many. It’s a lot.
Airbnb is extremely popular and it’s not common to find listings with over 1,000 reviews.
You want to read the most recent 40 because some reviews are more helpful than others. Some reviews talk about the interaction with the hosts or the neighbors. Some reviews mention check-in process or how to find the apartment.
Really good reviews even review the area in terms of access to grocery stores, bars, laundry mats, and security.
Be sure to leave a review after your stay to help the next guest.
Why Message the Host
Sometimes, I even go further to introduce myself to the host. If I am staying for over a week, I will introduce myself to the host to see how long it takes them to respond and to peek into their personality.
Usually a short intro like this – “Hi! My name is Mel and I am traveling with my husband. We are excited about visiting your city for work and fun. We work from home and enjoy a good workspace and quiet area. We hope your place is good for our needs.”
(If you are asking for a discount, it would be after this message)
If your host takes longer than 2 daytime hours to respond, they may not be a good fit. If you experience any issues and need to contact them, you will want them to be very responsive.
One time, a host ignored my messages at check-in time for over 6 hours. By the time, she responded, I contacted Airbnb’s customer service and had booked another apartment. It was very annoying to camp out at a nearby Starbucks while making calls and researching an alternative.
How to Consider New Listings
Remember when I suggested that you read at least 40 reviews? And now I’m saying to consider new listings? Yes and Yes.
So, every day there are hundreds of new Airbnb’s made available. Reviews are important but don’t completely ignore those without reviews.
If the host is a super host but a listing doesn’t have any reviews, it means that the host has multiple properties and “good” reviews on other properties.
Check out their other properties and reviews. If the others are clean and true to the pictures. You can assume the new listing is also.
This is great for finding budget options because hosts know they need reviews and may let you stay at a discount in exchange for an honest review.
This only applies to “super hosts”.
The above 9 tips on how to choose the perfect Airbnb every time, include everything you need to have the best Airbnb.
I hope this article helps you avoid the dreaded Airbnb nightmare. Check out our Instagram for Airbnb wins and big losses.