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 not 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!
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!)