When I first started traveling, Airbnb was my immediate go-to. I forwent traditional hotels in favor of cheaper and less fussy accommodations. I still do today. I mean, why would you spend ridiculous amounts of money for less than special hotel rooms? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Not when there are less expensive options. Less hoity-toity. More bang for you buck. That whole ordeal. And sometimes, you really only need a place to sleep.
I’ve been using Airbnb since 2012. That’s not exactly a long time, but it’s long enough for me to gain ample experience to formulate an approach to the alternative booking website. I hope you’ll find it useful.
For me, an Airbnb listing should do three things:
- Provide comfortable and safe alternative lodgings
- Be cheaper than a standard hotel room
- Have a host that is easy to contact, easy to understand, and accommodating
Here are the guidelines I’ve developed over the years to help me get the best Airbnb experience possible:
More reviews = more accuracy = better experience
When choosing a listing, consider ones that have a substantial amount of reviews already. In addition to the star ratings, focus on listings that have a good number of reviews on them. More reviews mean two things: 1) more information for you to accurately determine if the place is a good match for your needs 2) the property is often available. Also, consider the length of time the listing has been up. If a place has fourteen reviews and has been up for three years, there is a good chance your request to book may be denied.
Have a plan B, C, D, and E
Speaking of being denied, it happens. Best to keep your options open even once you think you’ve found the perfect listing. Unless the place is an “Instant Book,” you’ll still need the host’s approval for your stay. To make things easier, I usually create a Wish List for each destination I’m searching for. That way, if my request shouldn’t get accepted, I have an entire list easily accessible. Of course, an even easier solution is to send out requests as you find them. Doing so will increase your chances of approval and will also prevent anyone else booking before you with the same dates.
Make sure you’re not overpaying
My general rule: if the nightly rate is higher than the area’s average hotel room (or the equivalent to the place you want from Airbnb), cross it off your list. Unless you intend on splurging on a penthouse apartment or private island, there’s no reason to pay more than what you would ordinarily pay in the area. It’s also important to make these judgements based on your needs. Of course, a private 3-bedroom home on Airbnb might cost more than a 200 square-foot hotel room.
Look for the “Super Host” Icon
This advice goes without saying. These hosts are “super” for a reason. Look for them. Contact them. Chances are you’ll have a good experience.
Be weary of the “Instant Book” Icon
An “instant book” listing doesn’t necessarily mean it belongs to a “super host” or that it somehow guarantees you to have a perfect experience. All it means is that you’re not required to contact the host before booking. For me, I prefer to contact the host regardless. It’s courteous, and you get an immediate idea of the type of communication you will have with them during your stay.
Photos are your friends
Photos may lie. This is true. But no photos or only few should be immediate grounds for elimination. A good host should have nothing to hide. They should be happy to provide multiple photos of their property from different angles and time of day. So, if a listing advertises two bedrooms and one bathroom, those rooms should be photographed and included in the listing’s gallery. If not, there is something to question.
Skip Airbnb if you just need a room for one night
With the exception of some listings, many are maintained by regular shmoes like you and me. That means they’re usually the ones cleaning after guests, putting things back where they belong, taking an inventory, making sure nothing is damaged, and meeting up with the next guest. The process, I imagine, isn’t a quick one (unless they just don’t give a sh*t). Many listings prevent having to do this every day by requesting a minimum number of days you must stay. If the host doesn’t require a minimum, it’s still something to consider, especially if you only need a place to sleep for the night. For those circumstances try a cheap hotel/motel room or a bed at the nearest hostel. I follow this rule mainly as a consideration for the hosts. Not to benefit me.