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9 Tips to Make Your AirBnB Stay Successful
I love a good hotel, but sometimes I find the experience limiting. However, renting from a private owner isn’t without its foibles. How do you know the photos will live up to reality? How can you tell if you’re dealing with a legit, honest person or a crazed scammer? And what if the place is infested with mice and smells like stale Virginia Slims?
Never fear, here’s a few ways to ensure your AirBnB stay is a success.
1. Big Names (like AirBnB) Count
When it comes to vacation property rentals, go with a reputable company. What I love about companies like Homeaway and AirBnB is the fact that they make payment much more secure. For example, AirBnB serves as a buffer between host and guest, handling all the money. Your host doesn’t get paid until 24-hours after your reservation starts. That means if something is truly amiss, you can contact AirBnB for a refund. HomeAway offers their bookings with confidence guarantee for no additional fee. Also, rest assured that with these larger companies, your credit card information is secure (or as secure as it possibly can be).
Of course, you still need to be sensible about advance payments. The rule of thumb? Paying someone you don’t know or trust with cash or an equivalent, like PayPal or Western Union, is a big risk. If something sketchy happens, a credit card leaves you with a trail as well as recourse to get your money back.
2. Read the Entire Listing & Ask Questions
Make sure the space, house rules, and hosting style match your needs. Sure the apartment can sleep 10 people, but how many in bedrooms versus couches? Will the owner (or another contact) be reachable and in the area should something go wrong? Is the neighborhood safe to walk around, and just how close is the nearest business district? You might also want to ask about potential hazards: I have a friend who recently stayed at a property that could only be accessed by steep outdoor stairs. It was fine for her and her husband, but maybe not so great for older couples, or people traveling with kids.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions—most hosts don’t just look at guests as dollar signs. They want you to be happy during your stay. The success of their rental hinges upon your good review. Additionally, if you have any specific expectations or special needs, ask your host ahead of time.
3. Is the Property Accurately Depicted?
It’s not always easy to tell, but here’s a few ways to tell if the property is especially legit. AirBnB often sends professional photographers to snap images of properties. If you’re a glass half-empty kind of person, that might mean the images look better than real life. However, if you’re a glass half-full type, that means a representative of the company physically went to this property and verified it themselves. They’ve taken time to personally look at and document the space.
For extra security, look to see if the booking site has given any sort of status for the property. For example, Airbnb has a “superhost” status. That way, you know that the host of the property has a minimum standard they’ve met.
4. Don’t Get Too Attached
You found the perfect property! Before you start envisioning yourself cooking in the spectacular gourmet kitchen, double-check that the place is indeed available. Just because the website’s calendar says the property open doesn’t mean it really is. This happened to me twice this summer, where the booking site said a great house was available for my dates, but after emailing with the owner I found out they hadn’t updated the calendar and we had to go elsewhere. Buzzkill!
5. Extra Fees
Your place may change extra for additional guests, pets, excessive utility use or a cleaning fee. Ask about what expenses aren’t included in the nightly rate. Some of these may be negotiable, some not. But before you get worked up about a $200 cleaning charge, keep in mind that probably means the place was professionally cleaned before your arrival, which is always a good thing.
6. Read the Reviews
Really, really read all of them. Some people are complainers by nature and will never be satisfied with anything; others will likely sugarcoat everything. But in general, you should start to see patterns in the reviews of an AirBnB or VRBO rental. If many people say the bathroom was dirty, guess what? The bathroom is probably dirty. If a lot of people comment on how great the location is (and by the way, they have really excellent coffee included in the kitchen)? It’s probably great option.
7. Remember, this is not a hotel.
You’re booking a home for the flexibility, more authentic local experience and in many cases, to save cashola. So remember it’s not the hosts job to be your concierge, reservation desk and housekeeping services. It’s rude to expect them to sit around all afternoon, waiting for you to show up, so be courteous and communicate any delays in arrival. Also, if the amenities aren’t exactly to your liking, understand it’s a tradeoff. If you need turndown service, daily maid service or spa-quality shampoo and conditioner, maybe you are better off staying in a hotel. Things aren’t going to be perfect, and if you keep an open mind, that’s no big thing. Embrace the uniqueness of the experience.
8. You’re being rated as well.
In my rock and roll days, I trashed plenty of hotel rooms. Okay, not really. But there’s a big difference between being an annoying guest in a hotel versus an AirBnB. You are staying in someone’s home, so be courteous. Take care of the property with the same regard you’d expect at your own place. No parties without asking first. If you break something, say something. And don’t leave a big mess behind. You get to review and rate the property, but your hosts will also be rating you—meaning any future home rental opportunities are informed by what a great (or obnoxious) guest you’ve been in the past.
9. Trust Your Gut.
Something seem…. off? Then it probably is. Why take a risk and ruin your entire vacation? If your hosts takes too long to respond, doesn’t answer questions in a straightforward manner or expects you to pay in cash or do anything you’re not comfortable with, walk away. Vacations are supposed to be fun, not overly stressful.
And speaking of overly stressful… sure, renting a house might save you money. But it is really what you want out of a vacation? A hotel near some great dining options (especially ones that offer takeaway!) might be more of what you’re actually looking for. Is it really a vacation if you’re still cooking and cleaning up after everyone? Sometimes I am cool with that, other times I want to fully relax. What’s right for you is 100 percent your call!
What are your thoughts on vacation home rentals? Share in the comments!
Other articles you might enjoy:
Travel’s Biggest Rip-Offs
5 Unique European Hotels
8 Amazing Suites & Penthouses
This Post Has 14 Comments
I love using Home Away and have rented various styles of properties in North America. I have not used AirBb. I agree with Samantha. Stay with the big name companies because they do have an image to uphold. If a price from an ” individual” seems great it’s probably too good to be true. I’ve been disappointed with 2 non HomeAway rentals. I thought my traveling companions were renting through HomeAway but they had found “deals”. They were filthy, not as described and we had no oneti complain to.
Good advice Samantha!
My husband and I returned from a 2-month Europe trip a month ago. We have learned to love home and apartment rental. Not only do you save money, but no one is knocking on your door, partying in the hall, taking elevator rides or coming in very, very late. We had 90% great experiences, stayed in charming places, and met great hosts along the way. We are late risers, so the first food of the day was taken in ‘our space’, and we enjoyed locating the grocers and markets to provide the right mix for our week-long stays. Here are a couple of caveats — do not fill your pantry with food. Get stuff you KNOW you will eat, cereal, sandwiches, meat for one or two meals. Some hosts leave herbs and salt and pepper around, others clean out all food-stuff between guests. Do not spend a lot of money on food you will leave behind. Also, be sure to ask about stairs, lifts, and transportation options, especially if you are not driving. We ended up in a tiny studio in an extremely convenient location in Paris, but it was up six flights of stairs. Yes! Six! No lift. I highly recommend VRBO and HomeAway!
I stayed with AirBNB in Paris and then a year later in Amsterdam. In Paris I stayed with a family and had a bedroom. Had a lovely time, but less privacy. 2nd time, I rented the whole studio apt for myself in Amsterdam and I loved it so much more. I loved the privacy, coming back after being on my feet all day seeing the sights and I could really unwind.
We’ve used VBRO several times and have had wonderful luck! It’s so nice to have a “home” to stay in.
I’ve used AirBnB 3 times now (with a 4th coming up this summer) and have been very happy with all 3. I did exactly what Samantha recommends…read every review (or at least the last several months’ worth) to see what the real experiences have been. I also leave a detailed review, including any quirks (good or bad) that I would have liked to know so other folks do. Lastly, I keep in mind that I am staying in someone else’s home and treat it accordingly. Looking forward to this summer’s 4th AirBnB experience 🙂
Love an apartment! In Paris and Lake Como most comfortable. No cleaning people, eat when you want, relax as you please.
Some of my favorite stays in Italy have been apartments! I love being able to truly utilize the outdoor markets, such as the Rialto. We are using a company in Venice this summer called Views on Venice. They get fabulous reviews and we will have an altana (rooftop terrece). So excited!
Airbnb has changed my life. I guess in 2007 i have ones book a vacation rental in Western Australia, then later i thought of listing my house which is located in Perth. I did that in 2009 and that entirely have changed my life. Now LP Stays is helping me to earn good. Thank you Airbnb
Great advice and tips. Our first airbnb stay was in Haarlem near Amsterdam and it was lovely.
We have our next stay booked for Copenhagen next summer and have already had some nice communication with the owner.
In both bookings we found that the available calendar on the site was not accurate for several listings. We thought we had 2 or three places booked and then got email from the owners that they weren’t available.
It is lovely to live like a local when possible so we appreciate this option.
I’ve been using VRBO and Homeaway for over 10 years and most recently airbandb. I have a formula that has never let me down. I’m an avid reviews reader. Before I rent, a rental must have 10 or more reviews with at least a score of 4.5 out of 5. I also cross reference rentals on other sites, if possible. I also speak with the owner/agent via phone or email before renting. I’ve been extremely happy with my experiences. My family and I prefer to rent now than stay in a hotel.
We have stayed in VRBO/Home Away properties for years. While some have been better than others, we enjoy NOT being in a hotel. Last weekend, we stayed in our first and likely last Air B&B. The difference is with VRBO you are in a rental property. With Air B&B you are in someone’s home who has moved elsewhere for your stay. So, there was almost no room in the closet, we were sharing the fridge with their food, working around their toiletries in the bathroom. We were in a small town in Maine and the options were minimal so we chose to go the Air B&B route. If there are other options, we will choose those over Air B&B in the future.
Ask the host to show you how to work things around the place. That way your not freezing at 1am due to the previous guest turning the whole apartment heating unit off or standing naked and freezing trying to figure out the shower 🙁 This was my first AirBnb experience and it was really all my fault because I just didn’t think ahead.
Don’t forget to ask the host to show you how to work things around the place. That way your not freezing at 1am due to the previous guest turning the whole apartment heating unit off or standing naked and freezing trying to figure out the shower 🙁 This was my first AirBnb experience and it was really all my fault because I just didn’t think ahead.
This post is spot on! I know as I both use their service and have a home in New Hampshire listed on both AirBnb and VRBO (Homeaway). While I like AirBnb much more, both services provide major benefits that smaller companies won’t. Samantha’s comments/recommendations are on spot also regarding someone’s home! Someone is hosting you so respect their rules and property. The rules are normally posted with the listing so do your research ahead of time and know what to expect. Our long term plans after retirement are to AirBnb our home(s) in the US and go to Europe for 6 months and AirBnb/VRBO through Europe! Good post Samantha!