Last updated October 12, 2019
Jacob and I are huge fans of camping, but every once in awhile we hit a point where we can’t sleep on the ground for another night. Or we just want to take a shower in a real shower without wearing flip-flops. Thanks to Airbnb, we no longer have to make the choice between a hotel or hostel, but can choose a place that actually feels like a home — because it is!
We used Airbnb almost exclusively on our last trip to Europe. It’s cheaper, homier, and more convenient than hotels, which, if you ask us, absolutely seals the deal.
Even though we’ve only stayed at a handful of Airbnbs, we’ve found a few tricks that’ll help you have an amazing experience, no matter where in the world you’re travelling.
Set up a profile
Airbnb is built on trust and mutual respect. Just like how you want to know who you’re renting from, people want to know who’s staying in their home. Aka, be who you say you are!
Once you create your profile, you’ll go through a verification process before you can make bookings. It’s pretty easy and involves linking social media accounts, uploading photo ID (your driver’s license or passport) and confirming your email and phone number.
We also recommend filling out your profile. Include a few photos of yourself where your face is clearly visible and write a short description of yourself. This helps hosts and guests get to know you and builds up your online trust. Your profile will also display reviews hosts give you, so always be a courteous guest or the entire world will know you weren’t.
Read the reviews
Reviews on Airbnb can only be left by guests that have actually stayed at the rental. If the Airbnb you’re interested in has been around for a bit, there should be lots of reviews. Always read them.
Of course, some people are just looking to complain and will always find something that’s wrong. If there are 99 awesome reviews and only one bad one, don’t focus solely on that one. However, if lots of people report that it’s messy or not as advertised, you should move on.
Guests can also be reviewed by the hosts. If you read a bad review, click through to the guest and check out what other hosts have to say about them. If they have a poor rating, it’s likely they’re just a grouch. Remember, this means you’ll be rated by your hosts as well, so be a courteous guest!
Know what you want
Unlike hotels or hostels, each Airbnb is totally unique. Do you want the entire place to yourself or are you okay sharing with other guests? Do you need a kitchen or washer/dryer unit? Do you want to stay somewhere totally unique, like a treehouse or camper van?
Airbnb does a great job of helping you find a place that fits your needs. Once you’ve selected your dates, location, and number of occupants, you can choose More Filters. This gives you a large selection of checkboxes to really narrow down your search.
Something for every budget
There really is something for every budget on Airbnb. We’ll be honest, besides loving the outdoors, one of the reasons we often choose to camp is because hotels are expensive. On Airbnb, you can find everything from $17/night all the way up to $700+/night. Use our discount code to save $45 CAD on your first stay!
When you’re searching, make sure to select a max budget and understand that you won’t always be able to tick off every wishlist item. If you prioritize certain amenities, you can usually find an awesome place for a decent price!
If you’re unsure of anything, ask the host before booking. Hosts are usually more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and if they’re not, it’s usually a good indicator of what your entire experience will be like – aka, I wouldn’t book. Always remember that hosts offer vastly different things and if you don’t like the offer, don’t book. There are usually plenty of other rentals.
If you’re traveling independently or as a couple, you can save significantly by renting a private room as opposed to an entire place. However, if you do this, make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Some things to consider are:
- Who are you sharing the house with? Some hosts will rent out multiple bedrooms in the same apartment. This means, instead of staying with the hosts, you’re staying with fellow travelers. While this can introduce you to new friends, it also means you don’t who you’ll be staying with until you get there. Not all hosts do this, though, and oftentimes you’ll be sharing the place with your hosts.
- What’s the bathroom situation like? Will you have your own private bathroom or will you be sharing with the hosts? Some hosts provide shampoo or hair dryers, but not all. Make sure to carefully check the listed amenities if these are important to you.
- What’s the security like? Does your room have a lock? Is it located in a safe part of town? Security is important to both your mental and physical well-being and isn’t something you should skimp on.
- How much access to the facilities do you have? Some places will give you full access to the kitchen or entire house, while others limit you to your room. It’s important to know what access you’ll have before you book.
- Does the host have pets or kids? If you have allergies or don’t want to stay with young kids, these are important things to know beforehand.
If you’re travelling with a large group, renting an entire house with Airbnb is usually way cheaper than renting a hotel. At $450+/night, there’s no way we’d stay at these normally, but if you split it 10 ways, it’s suddenly extremely affordable. Plus, some of the large rentals are absolutely stunning!
Some things to consider when renting an entire house:
- How many beds and rooms are there? In Europe, many beds are singles that can be pushed together to create larger ones. It’s also not uncommon for three or four single beds to be in a single room or for the beds to actually be hideaway couches. If you’re looking for privacy at night, those houses might not be ideal.
- How many bathrooms are there? If you’re staying with nine other people but there’s only one bathroom, you’re going to run into some issues.
- Is there enough room for everyone? Even though you’re renting an entire house and it says it sleeps ten, is there enough room for everyone to comfortably hang out during the day?
- Is there enough parking or access to public transportation? When you’re staying with lots of people, it can be hard to coordinate everyone. You want to be sure everyone can easily head out during the day without it being an ordeal.
Communicate, communicate + communicate!
Once you’ve booked your stay, always reach out to host and introduce yourself. Let them know when you’re arriving and how to contact you. You may not have internet or cell service when you arrive, so it’s important for your host to have this info beforehand.
Make sure you have all the contact information for your host and Airbnb before you leave home. Are there special entry instructions or directions? If you’ll have a late check-in, make sure your host knows well in advance. Most are accommodating for a late check-in, but only if you give them a heads-up. Always remember that you’re renting someone’s home, not a hotel room.
If you’re working on a tight budget, you need to know that there are additional fees that will be applied when you book.
Airbnb Service Charge
There’s an Airbnb service charge that’s non-negotiable and applied to all bookings. Some hosts will try to avoid this by asking you to pay off-site, but Airbnb is there to protect both parties and you should never do this. If a host asks you to do this, ask yourself what other things they’re trying to get away with.
Hosts will usually apply a cleaning fee to your rental. The cleaning fee cost is entirely up to the host and some will apply a hefty charge. This fee doesn’t include daily cleanings like a hotel. Unless otherwise stated, you’re responsible for cleaning your unit the entire time you’re there, including washing towels if you’re there for a long time.
Even though there’s a cleaning fee, you’re still expected to leave the Airbnb in as good condition as you found it. The hosts aren’t your maids and you’ll likely receive a bad review if you leave the place in a disaster.
Security deposits are rare, but you’ll sometimes find hosts that require them. As long as you don’t wreck the place, you shouldn’t have any problems getting it back. Always check the fine print to see if it’ll be applied to your booking.
Weekly or Monthly Discounts
This isn’t an extra charge, but rather a way to save some money. Most hosts offer hefty discounts the longer you stay and long-term travelers love these. You might even find that booking longer than you need is cheaper!
Booking isn’t always instant
These days, most Airbnbs can be booked instantly in the same way you can book a hotel. You can filter the Instant Book rentals by choosing it in the search filter. However, some hosts don’t have this enabled and you’ll need to contact them to approve your booking.
If you have to contact hosts, only send them a message if you’re actually interested in staying at their place. Always include a little bit about yourself, including why you’re travelling, why you love their place, and who you are. Tailor your messages to each host – it’s usually pretty obvious if you’re sending out a cookie cutter message and hosts don’t appreciate this. You need to be you, not some robot from the internet.
If you’re booking during high season, you may have difficulty getting a response or, if you do, the host may politely say they have no availability. This means, send out lots of feelers!
Read the fine print
We always like to be well informed on where we’re staying and what to expect. If you don’t know what you’re getting into, it’s more likely you’ll have a bad experience. Some hosts go into great details about their Airbnb and others don’t. We pass on the listings that don’t have great details.
Always watch out for any red flags as well, like curfews or different social wants. For example, some hosts love to get to know their guests and want to sit and chat while others prefer to leave you to your privacy.
If you decide to cancel, what happens really depends on the listing’s cancellation policy. Some hosts are extremely flexible and you’ll only lose the Airbnb fees if you cancel last minute, while others will cost you a large portion of the booking fee, even if you cancel a month or more out.
Hosts can choose a Flexible, Moderate, or Strict cancellation policy. The cancellation policy is very clearly marked on the listing and you should always be sure you know what it is, especially if you’re booking months in advance. If you visit the cancellation policy page, you can see exactly what each plan entails.
Although this is rare, hosts can also cancel. If this happens, the host will likely be given a financial penalty and Airbnb will help you find different accommodation if you’re unable to find any.
Airbnb’s resolution team
If your host cancels on you or your rental turns out to be awful, Airbnb has a resolution team that’s there to help 24/7 (in 11 languages)! We’ve never used it, but we’ve heard that people have lots of success in resolving their issues. Never be afraid to reach out!
Stay with Airbnb
Airbnb offers some truly unique rentals and lets you get out of the hotel district to really experience the culture of an area. What’s not to love about having your privacy and staying in a homey place?
Share your travels with us, we can’t wait to see where you stay!