If you haven't figured it out by now, I love using Airbnb when traveling. I have stayed in some of the nicest places, some nicer than hotels, but they are always cheaper. When I refer other friends, they are always hesitant about using it, but there is no reason at all for that. Here are some tips that will hopefully ease your skepticism and hopefully make it easier when trying to find a place to stay.
1. Know What Area You Want to be in
When finding a hotel they are generally always in areas where tourist like to hang out. However, that is not the case with Airbnb. An Airbnb home can be anywhere and far from whatever attractions you may plan on visiting. I once paid a lot of money for a beautiful artists loft with floor to ceiling windows but it was in Brooklyn which was not fun when everything we had planned was in Manhattan. When we booked for Puerto Rico, I made sure our apartment was in an area where we could walk to tourist locations like casinos and restaurants. We didn't even need to rent a car.
2. Read All of the Fine Print
Yes They have hidden fees and fees vary by host. Make sure you are clear about their rules. Make sure you understand the checkout policy. This isn't a hotel with hotel service so the rules are a bit different. However, because this is not a hotel host are usually a lot nicer and more understanding. In Puerto Rico, our host had it listed on his site that check out was 1pm but he called at 10:30 am asking what time we were leaving because check out was 11. How did he handle this? He was amazing, he gave us time to get our stuff together and because he owned the entire building he let us stay in an apartment upstairs until it was time for us to leave at 1. This is not the first time this has happen to me either so they are always flexible and accommodating! You just don't want any mess ups come the time of your trip.
3. Contact and Stay in Touch With Your Host
This may just be my anxiety, but the first couple of Airbnb trips I booked I know I was mad annoying. Some Airbnb's are instant book meaning if they are available they will take your money and put you down for that date. Sometimes the host will take forever to respond but you may have already paid. One trip my host didn't respond until the day before the trip I even called Airbnb. Everything worked out fine but again you don't want any surprises.
Another important reasons to keep in touch with your host is for any accommodations you may need. The last time I visited New York our host let us check in 4 hours early and provided us with an extra bed.
In Puerto Rico our plane didn't arrive until 1am and our host made sure we were able to get in, so it's important to make sure you have a clear understanding between the two of you. After you are in, they usually don't bother you unless you want them to.
4. Don't Count Out Airbnb's That are Shared Apartments
These aren't my first choice when choosing an Airbnb but they do have their Pros and Cons...
Pros - Someone is there to offer travel advice in a new city and it's always cheaper.
Cons - The fear of sharing an apartment and bathroom with someone else.
I will also say the cons have never been a problem for me. Out of the three times I stayed in an apartment with others I never even saw the other groups. One time I didn't book the apartment, someone else took care of the arrangements and I didn't find out until the end of the trip, that there were even other travelers there. That's also how big some of these apartments are.
5. Shop Around
Message several host before booking. Some may not be available, others may take too long to respond. Always have more than one option. Do not click "request to book" or "instant book." Message your host first and ask if the dates are available then they will tell you to book it. I have made this mistake before and had to get a refund.
6. Read Reviews
This is the most important one. I often read reviews before I read any thing else. If it doesn't even have a review I won't even open it. Reviews are honest about the location, cleanliness, miscommunications, anything! The last place we stayed everybody complained about how loud it was at night and I thought everybody was just complaining until I couldn't sleep at night. They are really honest and you should trust them more than the description.
I hope this was helpful when booking your next trip! Don't hesitate to consider Airbnb or VRBO, they have beautiful options as well. I prefer Airbnb's prices and options but booking through these unique rooming options can offer an incredible and different experience. Click here and receive $40 off your first trip using Airbnb.