Airbnb is now advertised everywhere from tube stations to the cinema, however back in 2012 when I was embarking on a road trip in America it was a little known service that felt adventurous to use. The style of accommodation on offer suited my travelling style perfectly: it was cheap, I got to reside in neighbourhoods that I might not otherwise have stumbled across and staying in someones spare room also meant that I could meet new people and utilise their local knowledge.
My first Airbnb booking was in Cleveland, though not a city I would return it was a perfect introduction to service. Arriving downtown I hopped on a bus to one of the city’s suburbs where I got a glimpse of how the locals lived before arriving at a family home with an extremely warm welcome, not just by our hosts, but also a huge fluffy cat and dog. Exhausted from our travels I joined our hosts Bobbi and Mark for a glass of wine before heading off to bed. The next morning I awoke to a spread of fresh bread, eggs straight from their hens and lots of local fruit and jams to help ourselves to. After spending that day at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I made my way to one of the many local restaurants that I had been recommended by the couple. Tucked away down a quiet unassuming street, the place was small, family run, community driven, friendly and served up some incredible dishes as unbelievably reasonable prices. To varying degrees, this kind of warm welcome and excellent insider knowledge that I have experienced throughout our three years using the website.
If staying in a strangers spare room does not appeal to you there is also the option of renting out an entire place where you get your privacy but again have the benefit of a local host on hand to give advice. There are also a large variety of property types available on the website, I have stayed in everything from a mattress on the floor in a converted attic in Amsterdam, to a Penthouse suite in Las Vegas.
Here are my top tips for an enjoyable Airbnb experience;
Before you go:
- Make sure your profile is up to date and if you have friends on the service get them to recommend you – a lot of the time people are renting out their homes so are judging you as much as you are them
- Contact the host before booking – it is polite to introduce yourself before requesting to book, also people are way more likely to say yes to your booking request if they get a feel for who you are beforehand
- Check out the hosts reviews and approach to previous guests
- Read the description thoroughly before booking – The guidelines make sure you are a match for the house rules and being aware of the cancellation policy means that there are no nasty surprises if you change your mind
- Do not do transactions outside of Airbnb, it leaves you open to fraud
- Remember to add the cleaning fee and deposit into the price
- Be friendly, not formal – reserving Airbnb is different from booking a hotel, people want to get a sense of who you are before they agree to letting you stay, so be yourself, not a robot
- Have a contact number for your host
- Each host takes a different approach so if you expect something like breakfast or food to be available ask in advance to avoid disappointment
- Be communicative with your host about getting keys – for most people this is a way of making a little extra cash around their everyday lives so let them know when you plan to arrive and understand that your host may not be available 24/7
- Though I have just totally sold you Airbnb remember here are other services out there such as Home Away and Owners Direct
Once you arrive
- Remember you are in someones house, so be respectful – whether you stay with someone or rent out the entire place it is important to treat the accommodation with respect, there are no maids to clean up after your mess and also your host will have to face the neighbours once you leave
- Ask questions about what to do during your stay – Guidebooks are great but nothing is better than current local knowledge so don’t be afraid to ask for advice
- Don’t make too many plans beforehand as your host may want to take you places or have suggestions – Some of my best moments using Airbnb were when the hosts spontaneously took me out for a drink or asked me to join them for dinner, if your itinerary is hugely packed then you may miss out on these opportunities
- Remember it is not a hotel so you may not have some of the same luxuries
- Be prepared not to be in the centre of town and to use local transport
- You are also being rated and your behaviour may affect your next booking
- Airbnb customer support are there to help 24/7 so do not hesitate to call if there is a problem that your host cannot resolve or something goes seriously wrong
Basically, make sure you fill in your profile, read the description, do your research, be communicative and be nice.
Have you used Airbnb? What was your experience?