Over the last seven or so years, my wanderlust has gone from non-existant to overflowing. Like most people, the two things that stop me from travelling more are time and cost.
In terms of cost, accommodation is usually our biggest travel expense (after shopping). I’m hardly an outdoorsy kinda gal (except for yacht-outdoorsy, Cannes-beach-club-outdoorsy, or parked-on-the-roof-at-Westfiend-’cause-its-Super-Saturday outdoorsy) so camping is a non-starter for me. From time to time I’ve battled travel anxiety so having some space thats not shared with others to chill is a must. The travel destinations I crave most are typically cities (with excellent shopportunities) rather than spots off the beaten track. All of these factors make for super expensive holiday accommodation…until Airbnb came along.
While staying in hotels is great, Airbnb is nearly always a more economical option – not just for price of accommodation, but also access to a kitchen and therefor the ability to prepare a few meals at home. (This is also awesome if you have food allergies and are finding the local food tricky to navigate!) We have stayed in Airbnb accommodation in Paris, London, New York, Vienna, Zurich, Lyon, Nice, Milan, Venice, New York (a second time) and on the Gold Coast. We have only ever rented the ‘entire place’ (rather than just a room) sometimes its been just JS and I, other times we’ve been staying with friends.
How Airbnb works
As you likely know, Airbnb enables home owners to rent their accommodation to traveler for short term periods. This may be a bed, a room, a granny flat, an entire residence or even an entire island! All properties are advertised through the Airbnb website. Buyers and renters create a profile and have their identification verified. To rent accommodation you either contact the Airbnb ‘host’ or make an instant booking (not all properties are set up for instant book, it’s up to the host). You are then able to liaise directly with the host on details for your stay and exchanging keys etc.
After your stay, you and your host can leave each other private and public reviews to help build your credibility as guest and host respectively!
How the money bit works
Typically your Airbnb costs will be made up of a per night fee, a cleaning fee and occasionally an extra person fee (i.e. if you’ve got three people staying in a place for two). When you make a booking, Airbnb charge you for the full amount of your stay, excluding the bond. Airbnb hold this money until 24 hours after your scheduled check in. This gives you a full day to contact Airbnb if there are any issues with the property not matching the description and enable Airbnb to freeze the payment to the host until an outcome is reached.
My basic understanding is that most Australian travel insurance companies recognise Airbnb as legitimate accommodation and your Airbnb stay is therefore covered. To be certain, check with your travel insurance provider.
In our 10+ stays, we are yet to have a bad experience! I put this down to a bit of luck, but mostly following some very specific guidelines when booking an Airbnb! Here they are!
1. Know where the centre of town is
Nothing worse than getting to your accommodation and discovering it’s not near the action. Do your research ahead of time to find the city centre and make an informed decision about how close or far you want to be from there.
2. Use the advanced search features
Airbnb will initially let you search on location and dates. Use the ‘room type’ and ‘more filters’ drop down menus to select how much privacy/sharing you’re open to and the facilities you’re after (Wifi! Parking! Kitchen! Aircon!).
3. Only consider properties with reviews… and read all the recent ones
Properties with a bunch of reviews are obviously a much surer bet than a property with none. Reviews are made after check out and posted without the ability for the host to alter them, only to respond, so it’s likely they’re genuine. Airbnb also posts an automatic note as a review when the host cancels a stay, listing how many days ahead of the trip they are cancelling.
Reviews are a great spot to discover the extra details a host may not have listed, i.e. that the apartment is at the top of a super steep hill. Or there’s a supermarket on the next block which is extra convenient. You also get a sense of what the host is like in the comments, I saw one listing where a guest had given a polite but unfavourable review of a property and the host’s response was so horrendous! No way were we going to stay in his property!
4. Check all the costs
When you’re searching via the map (i.e. by moving the map around and seeing what properties show up) Airbnb will show you the per night rate. When you click into the listing you’ll be able to see the additional costs which confirm the overall price of your stay.
4. Check the ratings for any other properties the host rents
On each Airbnb listing, you’ll see four menu items at the top, one of which is ‘The Host’. Clicking this will take you to a brief overview of the hosts then you can click again to access their full profile. This will show you if the hosts have other properties, how long they’ve been hosting, an overview of their reviews. A source of much information!
6. Ensure everything you care about is pictured
On occasion Airbnb hosts have the tendency to fill their listing with photos of the local area, rather than specific photos of the property. Make sure there is a picture of every room/facility that’s important to you to ensure there are no surprises on arrival. For example, when travelling with friends, we were looking for properties with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We found a bunch of properties where there were pictures of one bathroom only. I’m sure the properties had a second bathroom, but without being able to see what it was like, these went to the reject pile. My general philosophy is to presume that if it’s not pictured, it’s not present.
7. Know the local Airbnb local regulations
A quick google of <the city you’re visiting> + Airbnb + legal will give you an indication as to whether there’s any restrictions on Airbnb in the city your visiting. The laws/regulations around Airbnb are likely to impact a host and not guest, but it’s best not to be caught by surprise. For example, there are restrictions on short term rentals in New York City which put Airbnb firmly in the grey zone. We’ve been asked by hosts to say we’re friends of the guest if any neighbours spark up a conversation. This hasn’t happened to us and we didn’t really mind, but I could see that bothering some people.
8. Check out your surrounds
You won’t receive the exact address of the Airbnb property until you book, but the map on the listing will give you a general sense of where you’re located. I usually tap those streets into google and go straight to street view to get a sense of what the area is like. Are there lots of restaurants near by? Are you in the thick of a residential neighbourhood? Is the area run down or super luxe? Street view reveals all!
9. Check in with your host a few days before you arrive
Often your host will be contacting you a couple of days out to make exact arrangements to meet or to confirm your trip, and if not, suggest you contact them. This will put your mind at ease that everything is awaiting you and also earn you good kudos for guest communication!
10. If you’re still nervous, have a back up
The first time we Airbnb’d we were nervous about how it was going to work out. So we researched a few alternate hotels/apartments nearby that would be suitable if it all when south with our Airbnb. This has never happened! But it put my mind at ease ahead of our trip.
11. Leave a review
What surprised you about the property? Be sure to leave a review to give others the heads up on what to expect. I think it’s always helpful to share not just how the property was, but how the entry process worked and what you found and liked nearby.
This is not a sponsored post – just sharing lessons learnt. I know travel planning can be a bit tricky, we’ve found Airbnb a great way to get the price of holidays down, find some extra space in holiday accommodation and live like locals. I’ve got myself so in the mood for travel writing this post I’m off to make myself a little travel wishlist now!
You can have $50 off your first trip of $100 or more by signing up via this link!
Are you and Airbnb fan? Have any extra tips? Tell us about your experiences in the comment below!