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How to Find and Book The Perfect Airbnb

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How to Find and Book The Perfect Airbnb

After my last post on my recent Airbnb experience in Copenhagen, I got a lot of comments from fellow travelers asking me to share my tips on finding good, safe, high quality Airbnbs. I have definitely honed my skills over the past few years and developed a solid system for uncovering some truly amazing listings! I’m excited to share these tips with you in the hopes that they help you find the best Airbnb possible.

If you like saving money (who doesn’t?) be sure to use my promo code to save $40 on your first trip with Airbnb!

Here are some examples of the gems I’ve stayed at during my Europe trips over the past couple of years. From top left to bottom right: Paris, Rome, London, and Cinque Terre (click through to view listings and see more photos and details). These are just a few of the amazing places I’ve found – I’ve primarily stayed at Airbnbs during every trip and haven’t had a single truly bad experience. If you’d like a full list of all the places I’ve stayed, drop a comment down below and let me know. I’d be happy to share.

Tip #1: Be Specific

When you’re searching for a place to rent on Airbnb, the more specific you can get, the better. Some of the things I typically add to my search filters are:

-Entire Home or Private Room (I generally prefer having the entire place to myself, but usually end up booking private rooms – though it depends on where I’m going and what kind of experience I want to have, what listings are available, if I’m traveling solo or not, what my budget is, etc.)
-Wireless Internet (a must, especially when traveling internationally)
-Air Conditioning (especially if traveling during the summer months) or Heating (in the fall/winter)
-My budget (which you select using the slider)
-Select number of bedrooms, beds, bathrooms you’d prefer

You can then scroll through the other options and choose anything else you need (Family/Kid Friendly, Washer/Dryer, etc.)

*Note: If you select the “Superhost” filter (which means the host has a lot of experience and is doing an exceptional job), Airbnb won’t show you the majority of their listings, so I recommend you notΒ do this, but instead just keep an eye out for the Superhost badge, which will show up on the listings of anyone with Superhost status. Superhost status doesn’t guarantee that a host is perfect, but it does mean that the standards of that host and listing are likely pretty good and helps distinguish them from other listings. This is what it looks like:

Tip #2: Read The Reviews

This may seem like a “duh!” recommendation, but you’d be surprised by how many people either skim the reviews or don’t read them at all. Just because a listing has a couple of reviews doesn’t mean that they’re good. Carefully read through each review, taking note of any negatives mentioned by past guests. If one person says there are too many stairs or that the toilet didn’t work, but there are 25 other reviews stating that the place was awesome and had zero flaws, take that into account. Use your own best judgment. I am incredibly picky and tend to run in the opposite direction if a listing has any less than 5 stars and less than 20 reviews, and my instincts haven’t let me down thus far. Be smart. Don’t let bad reviews slide and assume that the issues have been resolved. (They usually haven’t.)

Tip #3: Dig For Gold On Airbnb

Don’t just book the first place that looks halfway-decent. Really take the time to search through all the relevant listings to find something that will be both affordable and comfortable. It’s worth the effort, trust me. Giving in and booking a so-so Airbnb last minute will always come back to haunt you. I strongly encourage you to set aside an hour or two (or twelve, if you’re booking multiple Airbnbs), grab a drink and put on some good music, because you’ve got your work cut out for you. But I can guarantee you, you won’t regret spending the extra time doing some research. It’s worth it to end up in a comfy, safe, well-located place while traveling. In my mind, your accommodations are probably the most important part of the puzzle. Sure, you can stay in a crappy, loud hotel and still have a good trip, but dreading the place you lay your head every night really sucks. Looking forward to your lodging is such a nice feeling, and being confident in your choices is so much more enjoyable than stressing out the entire trip.

Tip #4: Double-check The Location

This is SUPER important. Especially when you’re traveling to a place you A) haven’t been before, B) don’t speak the language of, or C) are wary of, make sure you pay very close attention to a few things: the stated location of the Airbnb, the map at the bottom of the listing (which provides a general location), and, most importantly, previous guest’s reviews (which often do the best job of pinpointing how easy or hard it is to access the Airbnb via public transportation, by car, by foot, etc.) The exact address won’t be visible until after you book, so making sure you have a solid idea of the location of your Airbnb beforehand is vital.

Tip #5: Read The Fine Print

In other words, make sure you pay attention to things like House Rules (which are stated on the Airbnb listing page and cover everything from “no smoking” to “don’t use our toilet”) and the host’s Refund Policy. If your trip isn’t set in stone and you might need to cancel, be 100% sure that they have a flexible refund policy and that you can get the majority of your money back. If the listing has a strict cancellation policy, you won’t get any money back, and that could mean the demise of your entire trip. Do your research, and if anything is unclear, message the host and ask them for clarification.

Tip #6: Go With Your Gut

As with most things, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Use your brain and your instincts to avoid potentially problematic situations when traveling! This is especially true when you’re signing up to stay in someone else’s home. The majority of the hosts on Airbnb are truthful, good people (just like in everyday life). However, if you feel sketched out by someone’s overall vibe or uncomfortable after reading their host profile (which you should always do, by the way), then just move on to the next listing! Don’t ignore red flags. It ain’t worth it!

*If you find this guide helpful, please share!

How To Find & Book The Perfect Airbnb

Tip #7: Evaluate The Airbnb Host(s)

It can be tricky to interpret tone over the internet, and even trickier to do so when you’re reading a listing or communicating with a host who speaks a different language than you do. However, it is generally possible to pick up a friendly, helpful tone or a harsh, rude tone. Make note of the way a host responds to your questions, read their responses to bad reviews at the bottom of their listing, and form your own opinion. Also, if you’re a woman traveling alone, especially for the first time, I’d personally recommend looking for a female host (or at the very least, doing a lot of research via reviews and communication if you choose a male host). That’s definitely a personal preference. I’ve stayed with male hosts, couples, and female hosts, and had great experiences and zero weirdness with any of them. It all depends on your comfort level.

Shout out to one of my favorite Airbnb hosts ever, Henry in Notting Hill (seriously, if you ever get a chance to stay at his place, do it). Staying at a great Airbnb is awesome in and of itself, but a friendly, attentive host really is the cherry on top of the whole experience. I’ve gotten incredibly lucky and always had hosts that truly go above and beyond to make my stay the best it can be.

Tip #8: Make the Most of It!

By choosing to stay in someone’s home, you have the opportunity to really settle into local life and culture and learn more about the place you’re visiting. Take advantage of that! Try to interact with your hosts if possible, ask them for suggestions on their favorite places to eat or areas to wander, and live like a local during your stay. Some hosts are very friendly and accessible, and love to chat with their guests at length, share meals, go exploring with them, etc. Others are busier or less engaged and will simply leave you a guidebook or answer questions as they come up, but either way, take advantage of that resource and (respectfully) interact with your hosts and the neighborhood you’re staying in. It’s so much more fun than being cooped up in a boring, sterile hotel!

*Note: not all Airbnbs are run by individuals – it is increasingly common for management companies or property managers to be the ones running things for the actual owners – but the majority of the Airbnbs are still owned and operated by the people who live in them. You can usually tell (from reading reviews) which Airbnbs are run by management companies, as most previous guests will mention it.

I know Airbnb isn’t a perfect company, and they have a long ways to go in terms of inclusivity, messing with the housing market, etc. So this isn’t a blanket endorsement. However, I do (personally) feel that the benefits of traveling with Airbnb outweigh the negatives, so I will continue to use the service and recommend it to others. This is a big topic, and warrants a more thorough discussion, but I wanted to pop that little disclaimer in here, because I am aware that Airbnb has gotten some not-so-great publicity at times over the years.

I’m sure there are plenty of things I forgot to cover here, so please feel free to tweet me or email me any questions you might have regarding Airbnb. I’d be happy to chat with you! I hope this post was helpful in some way, and gave you some guidance on things to look out for during the Airbnb process. It’s such a unique experience, and something that I think adds a lot to your travels, so I highly encourage you to try it out! Again, if this is your first time booking with Airbnb, I have a $40 off promo code you should totally take advantage of to save some moolah! (I’m definitely not sponsored by Airbnb or being paid to say any of this, I just genuinely love using it and have had some wonderful experiences. If you end up using my code to book a trip, I do get a small travel credit in my Airbnb account, but that’s it!)

Happy travels!

How To Find & Book The Perfect Airbnb

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40 Comments

  • Reply
    Emily
    October 21, 2017 at 11:54 PM

    I use Airbnb all the time. These are great! It can be so overwhelming trying to find somewhere to start. Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 22, 2017 at 3:36 PM

      It can certainly be overwhelming, especially without any sort of Airbnb search strategy. I totally agree! Glad you found these helpful, thanks Emily πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Amanda Koh
    October 21, 2017 at 11:32 PM

    I totally agree with you!! 99% of the time I will go with Airbnb. Makes the place feel so much warmer and cosy as compared to the hotel. I’ve also met some really nice people through Airbnb and they’ve always made me feel welcomed into their home. Just that it can also be a bit of a bummer because some places are always booked so I gotta make it a point to book early! Thanks for the tips πŸ™‚ You’re right – some of them could be DUH! but I sometimes overlook them myself as well until I realise it’s too late *face palms*

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 22, 2017 at 3:35 PM

      Right? It’s just so nice to have that human connection aspect while traveling. I’ve met so many wonderful people too! It’s such a great way to truly experience other cultures while traveling instead of just hiding away in a hotel (which, let’s be real, has a time and a place…ha!) Booking early is super important for sure! Helps with having a higher number of better quality options πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Sarah
    October 21, 2017 at 10:50 PM

    Good tips! I am also an Airbnb fanatic. Haven’t had any bad experiences, but did have two hosts cancel on me in Tokyo (for the same trip!) but it ended up working out in the end because if a host cancels, Airbnb gives you extra $$ to make a new booking. Also another tip is if you have mobility difficulties, read all the reviews about stairs. So many apartments are up a gazillion flights of stairs (with no elevator). I have breathing issues and while I can walk up 1-2 flights, I rule out anything beyond that (especially with luggage). Often the host won’t state this in the description, so most of the time I find this info is in the reviews. And if it isn’t, I just ask! Hosts are typically quick to respond and quite friendly – and if they’re not, I wouldn’t want to book there anyway!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 22, 2017 at 3:34 PM

      Oh no! So sorry that happened to you in Tokyo. How stressful. Thank goodness Airbnb provides that reimbursement/help with rebooking, right? Very good tip about mobility/accessibility challenges. I can’t do tons of stairs either and ended up in an Airbnb once in Sorrento that was up about…4 bajillion steep stairs (or a nearly vertical long climb up a winding road). Thank goodness the actual Airbnb was incredible because OW. It was rough. Ha!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    October 21, 2017 at 10:48 PM

    Thanks lady!! Such helpful tips. Location is so important because they could say its close but then reviews tell you how insanely far it is. Also love the tip about being specific. So crutial. Great stuff!!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 22, 2017 at 3:32 PM

      YES. This. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about the location of an Airbnb when they then tell me they haven’t even read the reviews before booking. Thanks for reading Kelly!

  • Reply
    Brianna
    October 21, 2017 at 8:29 PM

    I’m definitely more likely to book a certain AirBnb when the host has good reviews! I’m also big on scrolling through photos. The more pics the place has, the more I feel like the host cares about it.

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 8:41 PM

      YES. Photos tell a lot. When a place has a lot of well-lit, detailed photos, I feel a lot better about booking it too. Good reminder!

  • Reply
    Daniela Fries
    October 21, 2017 at 7:26 PM

    I’ve lived mainly in AirBnB’s since 2014. Some were awesome, others were acceptable, a few were …. well, let’s say unique experiences. As long as I have good internet and can work, I adapt to almost everything. I use more or less the same methods like you, my criteria are: “wifi, laptop-friendly workspace, washer, kitchen, max US$20/night”. Sometimes, I change it a little when I stay somewhere for just a couple of days but normally, it’s my home for 10 – 30 days. And I prefer to stay with hosts who speak little or no English. Stayed with a wonderful lady in Buenos Aires who only accepted Spanish-speaking guests. Great listening practice for me as Argentinian Spanish is bit different from what I’m used to.

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 7:36 PM

      You’re a total pro! I’m so impressed. How cool! I’ve never lived long-term in an Airbnb, mostly just a couple days or a week here or there. I love that you try to stay with hosts who speak little or no English. Such a great way to immerse yourself in the language and culture and go beyond your comfort zone. I’ve always enjoyed doing that too – particularly in Italy, as I know enough Italian to get by but also just enough to get me into trouble. Ha! I also grew up speaking Spanish (had a lot of friends from Mexico and some from Cuba) so I’m sure Argentinian Spanish would be a stretch for me too!

  • Reply
    Taylor Johnson
    October 21, 2017 at 3:57 PM

    Love this blog post and you created a lot of good insights with great pictures along with them!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 6:12 PM

      Thanks Taylor! Glad you found it helpful!

  • Reply
    Anisa
    October 21, 2017 at 3:45 PM

    Great tips. I had been very lucky with Airbnbs until my last one. There was info in the reviews that we should not have overlooked. I think I will avoid anything negative in reviews in the future.

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 6:12 PM

      Oh no! Agh. I’m sorry you had a bad experience. I am a stickler for zero bad reviews, otherwise I just won’t book. Hasn’t steered me wrong yet. It can be tougher to find the really great places, but definitely worth it. Hope you get brave enough to try again!

  • Reply
    Tala Valino
    October 21, 2017 at 12:27 PM

    Your tips are on point that’s how I also find my AirBnB. I think it’s very important to read and review every word when searching. Do you have an experience of hosts cancelling last minute? This is one of the reasons why I stay away from Airbnb recently since I’ve read negative stories.

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 1:01 PM

      Yay! I love hearing that other people use similar tips to find the good listings. This method has never let me down yet. No one has ever cancelled on me or been weird at all, and I’ve stayed at probably 20 Airbnbs by this point! I think that if you choose a great host with extensive history and only good reviews, your chances of getting cancelled on are close to nil. Obviously emergencies happen, but most of the time, I think good hosts keep their word 99.9% of the time πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Dannielle
    October 21, 2017 at 12:23 PM

    This is SO useful, thank you! I’ve actually never used airbnb – I’m a bit old school considering I work in the digital world and just need the security of knowing there will be someone there to greet me at my accommodation. Maybe I’ll try it using this though.

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 12:59 PM

      I highly recommend giving it a go! It definitely takes a little more effort than a traditional hotel type of situation, and I totally understand the trepidation. Worth a shot though! If you follow these tips, you should end up with an amazing listing if you decide to try it out. I also have a great promo code on the right-hand sidebar should you give it a whirl πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Nicky
    October 21, 2017 at 12:11 PM

    Great tips that I’m sure I’ll be using in future! I’ve used Air BnB a few times, but I must admit it’s not my first choice…this has made me rethink, so thank you for that!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 12:57 PM

      Hey, to each their own, right? I totally get the appeal and ease of hotels, not gonna lie. I go the hotel route too sometimes. Glad to hear this post made you think more about using Airbnb in the future though! You never know what kind of wonderful spot you might find!

  • Reply
    Mina
    October 21, 2017 at 12:01 PM

    Very good and practical tips. Often I find myself guilty for not reading many of the reviews… Thankfully, had no troubles until now, but I have to invest more time sometimes, in order to feel really safe going to someone’s home.
    Thanks πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 21, 2017 at 12:56 PM

      I totally get it – it can be a really time-consuming process! But I’d definitely recommend carefully reading reviews, as I’ve heard some horror stories from friends and others about booking really bad/misrepresented Airbnbs. Ha! Glad you haven’t had any issues thus far though, and so happy to hear this post was helpful. Thanks for reading Mina!

  • Reply
    Alejandra
    October 16, 2017 at 4:32 PM

    This is such an amazing post! The place you stay in is really importat in a trip, it can make easier planning an itinerary and exploring the city till late hours. Finding the perfect airbnb is quite a job! Thank you Sierra for this super helpul and cool tips! You are making our future journeys so much easierπŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Sierra
      October 19, 2017 at 9:28 PM

      Thanks so much for reading Alejandra! I’m so happy to hear that these were helpful – wishing you some awesome Airbnb journeys in the future!

  • Reply
    Kavita Favelle | Kavey Eats
    September 27, 2017 at 7:41 AM

    Really great tips on finding the right AirBnB property, I think so many people overlook many of these and end up with somewhere that doesn’t match their needs.

    • Reply
      Sierra
      September 27, 2017 at 4:08 PM

      I totally agree – it seems like people who rush into choosing an Airbnb usually end up unhappy, which is a bummer! Hoping this list will help avoid some of that. Thanks for reading Kavita!

  • Reply
    Laura Harris
    July 24, 2017 at 3:48 PM

    Great tips! I’ve been a bit late to the game with airbnb but got a gorgeous 1 bed apartment looking over the coastline of Tenerife back in February. Now I always check there as well as hostels/booking.com πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Sierra
      July 25, 2017 at 7:02 PM

      Ooh, that sounds incredible! Well worth it, I’m sure. I’ve been really impressed by how affordable all the Airbnbs I’ve stayed in have been, especially for the quality I’ve gotten!

  • Reply
    Lola Mendez
    July 23, 2017 at 6:44 AM

    This is great advice that I’ll be sure to follow!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      July 25, 2017 at 7:02 PM

      I hope it’s helpful and leads you to some great Airbnbs, Lola! Thanks for reading.

  • Reply
    Rosalie
    July 22, 2017 at 4:14 PM

    Great tips! I usually search through cities months/years in advance and keep them in lists for when I do decide to visit because all of the best ones are booked up ages in advance :/

    • Reply
      Sierra
      July 22, 2017 at 11:03 PM

      I know, right? I have a bunch of Airbnb wishlists for each city too! My favorite place in London seems to always be booked up every time I check.

  • Reply
    Nikki
    July 22, 2017 at 3:05 PM

    I’m looking to stay at my first air b n b in Ireland in Nov so these are some great tips!!!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      July 22, 2017 at 11:00 PM

      Perfect timing! I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Natalie
    July 10, 2017 at 9:45 PM

    Sierra this post was AMAZING and so incredibly helpful. I absolutely love Airbnb and their entire mission but have unfortunately only managed to stay in an Airbnb once! I really want to make an effort to stay in them more frequently in my travels so I’ll definitely be utilizing your tips since I am still a beginner. THANK YOU!

    • Reply
      Sierra
      July 10, 2017 at 9:54 PM

      Yay! I’m so happy to hear that Natalie! Fingers crossed that these tips help you find some amazing places to stay during upcoming trips. Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Caroline
    July 10, 2017 at 3:38 PM

    Love these tips – definitely need to keep them in mind next time I look for an Airbnb (which I often overlook because I don’t know where to start!)

    • Reply
      Sierra
      July 10, 2017 at 9:53 PM

      It can totally be overwhelming! You’re not the only one who feels like that. Once you get a method down, it’s so much easier! I hope you find some awesome Airbnbs to stay at soon! Thanks for reading girl!

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