Using Airbnb has quickly become one of our favorite ways to find accommodations on our travels. With properties in more than 190 countries, finding a place to stay with Airbnb is easier and easier all the time.
We’ve stayed in Airbnbs in eight countries from France to Denmark to Macedonia. Not only have we saved money, but we’ve gotten places to call our own and had very different experiences than if we had opted for a hotel. Trying out all these different properties gave us a good sense for how to use Airbnb effectively to have a great experience.
When to book with AirBnB
You can use Airbnb in any situation where you might otherwise book a hotel, but there are some circumstances in which Airbnb is particularly great.
You have a large group that wants to stay together
You can find a decent selection of multi-bedroom apartments and houses that can accommodate larger groups, often with a living space where everyone can spend time.
It’s high season or there’s an event going on
If hotels are sold out or rates are particularly high because everyone wants to be where you’re going, Airbnb is an excellent option for alternative accommodations. Airbnb rates may rise during special events, but they’re often less than hotel rates, and you will probably have more options.
You want a different experience
Sometimes it can be fun to venture away from the heart of the tourist drag to explore local restaurants and meet people from the area.
You’re spending more than a couple of days
If you want the option to cook or do laundry, Airbnb could be perfect.
How to use Airbnb
You can sign up for Airbnb using Facebook, Google, or an email address. Fill out as many details as possible to give potential hosts an idea of who you are and your interests. Airbnb will contact you to verify your phone number.
Then it’s time to get started looking at all the awesome places you can stay with Airbnb around the world!
The actual search functionality within Airbnb is very straightforward. You select your location, dates, and type of space (entire place, private room, or shared room). Within a couple of seconds, a map will appear on the right-hand side showing all the options and their prices in the area you have selected. You can either click on the prices or scroll through the properties that appear on the left-hand side.
Tips: 1) Click the “Language and Currency” button in the lower right to see the information in the way you’re most comfortable
2) Click the heart icon to save the property for later
Looking for Airbnb accommodations is very easy, but there are a couple of things to think about as you search.
Read the reviews and look carefully at the photos
Does what’s in the photos seem to match the reviews? Ideally, the reviews will not only be positive but will indicate that the space was just as described and pictured. You may be more comfortable with an apartment or room that has lot of reviews, but don’t dismiss a place that only has a handful as long as they are consistently good – every host has to start somewhere.
Knowing that your potential Airbnb accommodation is in a safe neighborhood is critical, but there may be other dynamics to consider, too. For instance, if the apartment is in a business area that is quiet on the weekends, are you comfortable with walking down the street alone at night or when you’re entering or leaving the apartment?
Think about your luggage
Lugging a heavy suitcase or bag upstairs on your own may be a challenge in a building without an elevator. Or you may be comfortable sprinting up a flight of stairs with a full backpack. Either way, think about the logistics when you’re committing to a property.
Review the amenities list
Every accommodation is different, so it’s important to ensure that everything you need on your vacation is available in the property you’re considering. If you want to cook, make sure the host supplies the necessities. If you need to work or just stay connected to social media, make sure there’s wifi. And if it’s summer, doublecheck the availability of air conditioning, if that’s important to you.
Read the cancellation policy
Airbnb cancellation policies are classified as flexible, moderate, strict, or super strict, and they vary based on the host and property. Make sure you know what the parameters are before you get ready to book.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions
You can contact the host to clarify anything you may need to know.
How to be a good Airbnb guest
When using Airbnb, it can be easy to forget that you’re in someone’s home, especially if you have the place to yourself.
It should go without saying that it’s important to be respectful of other people who may be sharing the space — whether they’re in the same apartment or just the same building. Many hosts will note in their Airbnb posting whether smoking, inviting guests in, or other behaviors are allowed on the premises. Abide by their requests in the same way you would want people to respect your home. This also means not using items in the house unless you’re sure you’re allowed to (i.e., they’re included in the listing or otherwise OK’d by your host). If you’re sharing a space with your host, let them take the lead on how much conversation to have.
After your visit, Airbnb will ask you to review your hosts. It’s important to leave feedback because it helps the host possibly attract other visitors and it lets other Airbnb users know what to expect from the property. You also have the opportunity to leave direct (non-public) feedback to the host about anything you choose. At the same time, the host has an opportunity to leave feedback about you which is visible the next time you’re booking on Airbnb (see above about the importance of being a good guest).
What I learned
Local cell service is key when meeting your host
Whether you’re sharing accommodations or have your own place, it’s almost always necessary to meet with your host to exchange keys. If you’re in your home country or have an unlocked or international cell phone, this will likely be quite easy. But if you’re on the road without cell service and you or your host is running late, it might be a challenge to coordinate. Roaming fees are real, y’all.
The host you expect may not be the one who shows up
You will probably exchange a few messages with your host before your arrival. The person that you correspond with may or may not be the person who meets you, and you may not know that ahead of time. Unless there’s something that makes you uncomfortable, roll with it and know that it’s not uncommon. Often, owners have family members, friends, or property managers meet you instead. (Out of my eight Airbnb experiences, I’ve only met the person I expected to meet 3 times.) Chances are, things will be great. If not, let the host and/or Airbnb know immediately.
The “extras” will vary
Some hosts will leave binders and brochures with directions for household appliances, locations of great local restaurants, and other things worth knowing about the area and your accommodations. Others will be a little less thorough. Some homes will have basic spices, coffee, bottled water, and other nice-to-haves, while others will be a bit more bare. You can find out from the host beforehand or, again, roll with it when you get there. Don’t expect every situation to be the same and ask questions in advance if you need something specific.
Appliances are not the same in every country
I spent an hour figuring out how to work a French stove and even longer trying to determine how to wash my clothes. But it makes a good story and is one of the unexpected, humorous benefits of trying out a different kind of accommodation.
What to Bring
When staying in someone else’s home (or room, or apartment, or yurt, or houseboat, as the case may be), there are a few small things you can bring along to make it feel more like your own.
- Earplugs – You may not need earplugs. But if you do, you’ll wish you had them.
- Corkscrew – Because when you need a corkscrew there never seems to be one around.
- Power strip – There are never quite enough outlets. With this power strip, you’ll have all the regular power outlets you need. Plus, it has USB port for easy phone charging. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll also need an electrical adapter for the outlet.
- Laundry detergent – Access to laundry facilities can be a great benefit of using Airbnb. These single-use detergent packs are the perfect size to carry with you.
- Spice carrier – Your Airbnb kitchen may not have the normal spices you like for cooking. Everything from salt to garlic powder can be easily stored in this container. No more wasting money on a whole bottle that you only use once and then have to leave behind.
If you’re signing up for Airbnb for the first time, you can save up to $55 using this link.
Have you ever used Airbnb? How was your experience?
Wednesday 12th of July 2017
I've been twice this year in Airbnb apartments and I appreciate a lot our guests took time to print a bunch of pages with visual instructions on how to operate washing machine, a/a or even TV.
I always travel with this power cube (http://bit.ly/2tdGX8a) (with 2 usb plugs), thanks to which we charged everything at one time during our stay.
Thanks for the post!
Wednesday 12th of July 2017
It is so helpful when there is a guide to the appliances! We have spent hours trying to figure out washing machines in France, Macedonia, Norway, and Greece -- that's a lot of different languages and even three different alphabets.
Wednesday 9th of December 2015
As an Air B'n B host I'd love to have guests like you all the time, considerate and aware! A helpful article for those who are thinking of trying this an an alternate source of accommodation. To note: to avoid paying the exorbitant Air B'n B fees, try finding the place that you are interested in on their site - and then looking elsewhere. You may find the same property, for the same price, with no booking fees. I know that Air B'n B will tell you that this leads to an unsafe transaction but from my experience the communication on other sites is usually easier (again, from the perspective of a host and guest). Of course, the same precautions need to be taken that you would take with any Internet deal.
Monday 14th of December 2015
Interesting insight. Thanks, Catherine.
Monday 30th of November 2015
To be honest, I've never used it before, so thanks for all tips!
Tuesday 27th of October 2015
I love Airbnb for longer stays (around a month) -it really lets you explore a local area and feel at home. Plus, it's easier to locate a place than looking on long-term rentals boards. However, as a solo traveller, for a short trip of a few days I don't always find Airbnb to be good value for money - because of the Airbnb fee and any extras like cleaning fees. However, I have pledged to try more Airbnb for my general travels so thanks for reminding and inspiring me :) Pack a corkscrew - yep, best tip of them all!
Tuesday 27th of October 2015
You're right about the fees, Jo -- they can push what looks like an affordable nightly rate into not being a very good deal. Just another reason why doing research is critical. In the places we've used it, it still worked out to be more convenient and affordable than a hotel.