Several people have asked me recently for tips on staying at Airbnb homes, which by now I think we’re quite pros at doing! Realizing that this might be of interest to more people, I decided to write a post about it 🙂
Looking at our Airbnb profile and list of “trips”, I see that since March 2010 when we joined, we’ve stayed in 50 places in 8 countries, and by far most of them have been since we began our nomad lifestyle in October 2015. Among those, there have only been a couple that I really wouldn’t recommend… most have been great, and there have been a number of real gems!
Generally speaking, we almost always use Airbnb if we’re not staying with friends or house sitting. Not only are they often less expensive than a hotel in the same area, but we often stay for a week or more, so we want a kitchen and room to spread out.
The key to finding a good Airbnb is to use the filters on the site, and read through the reviews. For our searches, I always filter on: Entire place (as opposed to a private room or shared space), kitchen, wifi, and 1 actual bedroom (since I usually wake up earlier than Al). For longer stays, I also filter for a washing machine, and if we happen to have a car, I check for parking availability, especially important in cities.
I normally use the map view on Airbnb in conjunction with Google Maps to find homes in the location I want, and then I look at prices. If we’re staying long, we try to find something within walking distance of groceries, and better yet, also restaurants and coffee shops! Also, if we’re staying longer than a couple days – which is usually the case, unless we’re just traveling between stops – I look for weekly or monthly discounts, which can really help us stay within our housing budget.
There’s quite a variety in how the hosts manage their property. Sometimes we have to make arrangements to meet someone to be let in, but often there’s a lockbox, or better yet a keypad lock on the door (that’s what we installed when we rented our own home out while we waited for it to sell). Some hosts have a property manager as they’re not in the area (this is what we had done ourselves), sometimes the host is staying nearby, and sometimes the Airbnb is a separate portion of the property where the host lives. (And some are just a room in their house, though as I mentioned, we don’t normally choose those – though we have done so a couple of times).
Some places are quite sparse as to furnishings and supplies, and some are more like actual B&Bs. We’ve had everything from no salt in the kitchen, to a fully stocked fridge and bottle of wine. Those are things that often don’t show up in the property description, but sometimes people note them in the reviews (and I usually do so if it’s above average). We also really appreciate it when hosts leave a paper or folder with instructions for things and recommendations for local food and points of interest – that’s so helpful!
A couple of times we’ve had to alter our plans – change an arrival or leaving date – and that may or may not be possible depending on the host’s other plans or guests. It’s just something you need to consider which is different from staying at a hotel.
We also look carefully at all of the photos – of course the host tries to show the most flattering angles, but it’s good to look closely to see whether the rooms are laid out as they sound like in the description. For example, is the “kitchen” just a bit of countertop and a toaster oven? Is there a sofa or at least two comfy chairs, not just beds and wooden chairs? And sometimes location wins out over looks… I just booked one in Stockholm for early September which looks kind of small and cramped, but it’s right in the middle of the Old Town, and was a reasonable price in an expensive city (and it had good reviews). And it was only for 6 days – we’ve decided we can put up with just about anything for a week!
And finally, make sure to be a good guest: communicate with your host (if we’re not actually meeting the host to check in, I always send a message when we’ve arrived, and when we leave), and post a review after your stay! If you have problems during the stay, let the host know via the Airbnb messaging service – almost all the hosts we’ve encountered have been quite responsive.
Sometimes Airbnbs can be… quirky. But if you’re happy to make that part of the adventure, then we highly recommend it!!
PS – Here are some of the Airbnbs we’ve liked the most, in case you happen to be going to any of these places…
Driftwood Retreat in Blenheim NZ (December 2013), where the host arranged a winery tour and also led us on a kayak tour right from the house.
2-story loft in Cape Town, South Africa (October 2016 – Sandy only), with a stunning view of the mountains. It was only 2 nights, but such an impressive place (and VERY inexpensive in US dollars).
Bungalow in Arcata CA (December 2016), a cozy little house for a month’s stay, within walking distance of everything. The hosts were great, and we stayed at another of their properties this past winter.
Quiet flat in Zagreb Croatia (July 2017) – we were only here one night, but were very sorry it wasn’t a lot longer. Next time we’re in Zagreb (and there will be a next time), this is where we’ll be…
Renovated dovecote in Letcombe Regis, England (September 2017), a beautiful space, wonderful hosts in the manor house this belongs to (we didn’t need to buy any food for two days!), and very near the Ridgeway walking trail.
Large home in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington DC (July 2018). This was perfect for our extended family to spend time together in, a nice quiet neighborhood within walking distance of the National Zoo and also lots of restaurants.