AirBnb 101 – A Guide for Using AirBnb and Having a Good Experience

By now, I am sure you have heard the good and bad of staying at an AirBnb… But I am sure you know more about the bad side of AirBnb. I am sure you have heard everything from unruly and racist hosts to homes that were a complete dump compared to the online pics and description. Well I am happy to say that I have used AirBnb 6 times in the past 4 years and I have had nothing but good experiences.

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Here are my methods to securing a good place to stay when using AirBnB:

SuperHost

I only book with hosts that have a ‘SuperHost’ rating. To be an AirBnb ‘SuperHost’, the host must consistently have 4/5 or 5/5 reviews from all of the guests they’ve hosted. However, I know this tactic may not be fair to new AirBnb hosts that don’t have a lot of reviews. Also, I would say look for ‘experienced’ SuperHosts. Some hosts may have only hosted 5 people and each rating has been great, which isn’t a bad thing. But when I see a SuperHost that has hosted 100+ people and they still have their SuperHost rating, now that is outstanding and tells me their place may be worth a try.

Location, Location, Location

I just read someone’s post in a travel group about this phenomenal property that they booked in New Orleans. Upon arrival, the property looked the same way it did in the pics, however the owner wasn’t as honest when he described the neighborhood as “safe and friendly”. There was an abandoned property next door that the host forgot to mention. Needless to say, the girl describes seeing open air drugs sales and drug use in the abandoned house next door, a fight broke out  and the cops came and there was a huge commotion. This location probably wouldn’t be desirable for anyone.

I say all of this to say, get familiar with the location of your AirBnb. Although they don’t send you the actual address until you’ve booked the place, you can use their map to see the approximate location. Do a Google search on the neighborhood. Do you know someone from the area that can tell you a little something about the area/neighborhood? See what businesses are in the neighborhood or how close it is to beaches/shops/public transportation. I know researching these details can take a lot of time however, I promise the effort is worth it so you can avoid arriving to a total dump and then needing to find last minute reservations elsewhere.

Read the Reviews

This goes along with my ‘SuperHost’ recommendation. Please take time to read the reviews. I read the description the host has given of their space and the locale and then I compare that with the reviews provided by previous guests. Most reviewers will make note of how responsive the host was when they initiated contact or if the home looked the same as the posted pictures. Most reviewers go into great detail about their stay and what they really loved and things they didn’t like. I usually take time to read at least a few of the most recent reviews, like within the last 3-6 months, to make my determination.

Ask Questions Before Booking

AirBnb allows you to make contact with the host prior to booking their place. I say, ask ALL of the questions that you want to in order to feel comfortable. The hosts will often ask questions of you as well. They want to know why you are visiting… they are usually trying to find out if your travel is for work or leisure and how many people you are traveling with to, of course, determine the type of guests staying in their property. Let’s be real, no one wants a bunch of party animals staying in their home that have the potential to leave it as a complete dump upon departure.  In my AirBnb past, I have had good luck with asking questions about the home or the location or getting recommendations for kid activities in the area. These kinds of questions help to build a rapport with your host and often times I have found that they were willing to do little extras to accommodate me during my stay.

Signs of a Good AirBnb Host

Like I said, I haven’t had any bad AirBnb experiences (*fingers crossed*). But, there have definitely been little things that have made certain hosts really stand out. At my Myrtle Beach, South Carolina rental, the host left fresh flowers in my room and left a variety of teas and fresh coffee each morning for her guests. She also was very personable. She sat and talked to me one day for a couple of hours about her family, the surrounding area, etc. In Milan, Italy, our host left fresh breads and plenty of Nespresso pods for daily coffee. (yes, this made me happy because I am a coffee lover). She also had a table in the corner that was choc full of maps and pamphlets for things to do in and around Milan. She had bus schedules, train schedules, and a list of restaurant recommendations. Our host in Havana, Cuba was probably my favorite. Upon arrival, we found out that our rental fees also included breakfast each morning (this was a first). We had fresh bread, fresh fruit, freshly squeezed fruit juice, coffee/tea, eggs (cooked any way you requested) and a meat (usually ham). This was an awesome deal, the food was good and fresh, and it alleviated the headache of trying to find breakfast each morning of our 8 day trip. Also, since she had a housekeeper that was a fabulous cook, for an additional $10/day, you could have a home-cooked lunch or dinner prepared upon your return. She would ask you to choose your meat in the morning (she would choose how to prepare it) and she would present a host of side dishes and dessert to go along with it. See my Cuba post for more info on this rental.

Whether I am traveling solo or with my kids or friends, I am an “Off the Beaten Path” kind of traveler. I always choose to experience the local shops and restaurants vs. the all-inclusive American hotels that don’t offer anything authentic. Not to mention, the food at the hotels is expensive and never great. I hope this post will encourage you to try something different in your future travels. Trust me, it will be worth it… and your pics and experiences will be much more memorable.

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