As vacation season looms around the corner, I have had many travelers inquire about using AirBnb in lieu of pricey hotels with limited amenities and outrageous parking costs. For those of you unfamiliar with AirBnb, it is a site where property owners can post their lodgings for travelers around the world to rent. While AirBnb boasts about its unique rentals, such as treehouse properties, it has pretty much any size accommodations from a bedroom in someone’s home to villa sized houses to accommodate large families and/or groups of friends. AirBnb definitely has its perks and was my preferred lodging type for my trip to Europe last summer, however, as with any service, travelers must be mindful of some nuances that could be the difference between a dream vacation and trip from hell. Here are some tips to help make your AirBnb experience a success.
If you are not familiar with the different neighborhoods in the city where you plan to vacay, please make sure to do your research. The last thing that you want is to be stuck in the suburbs, far outside of the center of the city and away from tourist attractions, or even worst, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood only fit for The First 48. You’d be surprised how many pricey residences are being placed in “redeveloping” areas which probably won’t fit the vision of your ideal vacation. As the popular adage goes, “Location, location, location.” Also, be mindful of your preferred mode of transportation whether rental car or city transit, because Uber and taxi fees can add up if you’ve inadvicingly chosen a residence without taking location into consideration.
You’re in Paris, it’s the peak of the summer, the temperature has been consistently at 90 degrees, and as you go to adjust the thermostat in your AirBnb apartment, it hits you, the amenity box that said air conditioning wasn’t checked for your listing. That, unfortunately, is a true story, and it happened to me. Depending on where you live, there are some amenities that we take for granted, like central air. And while AirBnb requires hosts to list their rental’s available amenities, make sure that you have an idea of what amenities are important to you and VERIFY that your listing meets those expectations. Don’t assume. Some of the most popular amenities that you probably want to look for are:
24 Hr Check-In
Air Conditioning and/or Heat
Washer AND Dryer (I will save the clothes line story for another day)
Natural Air. Paris.
In the same way that we rely on Trip Advisor or some other trusty review site (or at least you should before booking any unfamiliar accommodation), AirBnb allows travelers to leave reviews on their host’s property after their stay. While all properties may not have reviews, either due to being a recent listing or being the unlucky host of unreviewing guests, to be on the safe side, stick to properties that have multiple reviews. And for my really skeptical travelers, you can even filter your rental property search results to only show rentals with a Superhost. What is a Superhost? A Superhost is a property lister that responds to guest quickly, has a 90% guest response rate or higher, at least 80% of 5-star reviews, and a limited number of confirmed cancelled reservations. The reviews are the perfect place to not only find out whether your host keeps clean, guest friendly accommodations, but some even go as far as to be able to offer you information about preferred nearby attractions and/or restaurants, hints about the easiest methods of travel (especially in cities where public transit is popular), or maybe even a warning about the pesky wireless internet in that lodging being consistently inconsistent. Reviews are your friends, use them.
I kid you not, some hosts have strange requests that you would think would scare away any traveler from staying in their rental. However, you have to remember, that some of these listings are people’s actual home away from homes, and it’s only fair to ask that you respect their rules, in the same way that you expect your house guest to respect your own. Some of the requests are minimal, like don’t wash after 10pm because it disturbs the neighbors or keep the music and noise down, but some of the special conditions can be a little more “tricky” for lack of a better word. For instance, in the rental where we stayed in Venice, the main bathroom had been remodeled using a specially treated bamboo, and the hosts left implicit instructions to be sure to not get the walls or floor wet when you showered. And many of the reviewers complained about this being quite the feat, due to the small size of the tub. Honestly, I went back and forth with my traveler companions before choosing this residence, and when we compared the affordable price and 3 bedrooms to the $600 per night hotels in Venice, we decided the pros outweighed the cons. Now, I will be honest and say that in order to not wet the bathroom floor or walls in this particular residence, we had to take something that was not quite a shower nor quite a bath and more like a mix between the 2, but hey, we saved $400 a night, so I take it.
Do I recommend AirBnb? Yes, yes, and yes, but with all things, there can be some drawbacks. While these tips should help you to make a well-informed AirBnb decision, don’t be afraid to ask the hosts any questions that you may have “before” you book. Most hosts respond within 24-48 hours, and if they don’t, you may be dodging a bullet anyway. On my trip to Europe, we stayed in approximately 4-6 AirBnb residences, and each residence was not only exactly as pictured and described, but each host was helpful when it came to knowing how and where to catch public transit and choosing local restaurants that fit our preferences. In one of my favorite accommodations in Florence, Italy the hosts even went as far as to book our restaurant reservations for us the entire duration of our stay, and most hosts usually have some kind of special treat to welcome you to their rental. And while I prefer all-inclusive resort for my island vacations, for my non-beach travels, AirBnb is becoming my preferred accommodation choice, especially when traveling with a group larger than 2. Why stick to a hotel room when you can get a three bedroom rental with a full kitchen and free parking for a fraction of the cost? If you’re hesitant or have any questions about using AirBnb, please feel free to comment below, and I will be more than happy to help in any way that I can. Happy travels!
Florence, Italy (AirBnb).
With Love and Sparkles,