How to Use Airbnb Better and Avoid Surprises
May 18, 2018
Airbnb is one of those services that is a leap of faith from your ‘normal’ way of booking accommodation but, once you’ve done it once, you’ll never look back.
It is incredibly easy to save money by renting other people’s unused things. Airbnb do this by allowing people to rent out their extra space — from a spare room to an empty home — to other people.
Airbnb: A Hotel that Doesn’t Restrict You
Finding a hotel that lets you check in before mid afternoon is rare. Finding a hotel that isn’t the temperature of molten lava can be challenging. Finding a hotel doesn’t smell like a dusty carpet that’s been covered in bleach is expensive. And finding one that’s comfortable enough to live in for a long period of time is difficult if not impossible on a budget.
Airbnb offers the ability to find a place to stay that feels less like a university dorm for tourists and more like a home.
Getting the most out of Airbnb can be tricky. But it’s not hard.
Define What Matters
Before you start traveling, you’ll want to come up with a list of what you need in order to be happy.
Remember: long-term travel is very different from a weekend stay. Something that might not bother you on an overnight stay, such as a shaky internet connection, will be a big problem if you’re there for a fortnight.
Be honest with yourself about what you need in order to feel at home. For me, the list is pretty short:
- I want an entire place to myself — shared rooms are not conducive for a peaceful nights sleep.
- The bed needs to comfortable with no ‘end to it’ (so the feet at the end of my 6ft 2” body can hang off the end).
- The WiFi needs to be fast and reliable — without it, I can’t work (or upload the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken that day).
- Temperature control for the room is essential — I can’t sleep when I’m too hot. The option of having an open window is a must.
- The location needs to be within walking distance of both good restaurants and coffee shops.
- Having a washing machine in the unit is ideal since I only have 5 days’ worth of clothing (in a pinch, I can do without this).
- The room needs to have space for a travel cot (away from a burning radiator).
Everything else is negotiable. By figuring out what my non-negotiable items are, I can quickly remove options that would stress me out while I was there.
Set Your Filters Appropriately
Airbnb has a very simple search interface, but if you’re not paying attention it may look like you’re only able to search for a date range and what kind of room you want.
If you click the “more filters” button, though, you can filter by amenities ranging from wireless internet and air conditioning to a gym or a doorman.
Do you like to cook? Make sure they have an oven.
Traveling with a dog? Check the “pets allowed” filter.
Using the filters, you can quickly exclude any listings that don’t meet your needs.
Confirm the Non-Negotiables with the Host
After filtering down the listings that definitely aren’t what you’re looking for, you’ll probably have a few additional items on your list that you need to verify. Send the host a message to ask any clarifying questions or to verify information about the listing.
For example, I always verify wifi speed before committing to a place by asking the host to run a speed test.
Other things aren’t selectable by the filters, such as the size of the bed, so you’ll need to check with the host about that as well.
Get a Feel for Your Host Before You Book
Once you’ve decided that a place is probably a good fit, Airbnb encourages you to book immediately — don’t do this.
Instead, use the small “contact the host” link below the “About This Listing” box to send a message to the host — including the dates you want to book — without making a commitment. You don’t want to put money down before you’re sure the host is responsive and able to answer any questions you have clearly.
Read the Reviews
Both the person renting the space and the person who owns the space are encouraged to review each other after a stay, so you’re able to read what fellow travellers thought about the space.
Reading reviews can help you spot potential problems before you book. Keep an eye out for red flags like issues contacting the host, problems with amenities that you care about, or comments about the general neighbourhood.
The number of reviews (and cumulative ratings) are also a good indicator of whether you’re dealing with someone who frequently has renters or if it’s someone who may lack experience in dealing with guests.
I’ve stayed with both types of people and enjoyed the space, but there’s something to be said about the comfort of booking a listing with dozens of five-star reviews.
Find Your Ideal Hotel-to-Home Ratio
There are certain aspects of the hotel experience that are really pleasant: knowing your room will be cleaned each day, having fresh towels, and so on.
If you ask for it ahead of time, you can often arrange to have the good parts of a hotel-like experience in your Airbnb rental.
One thing to be aware of is cleaning. A lot of rentals don’t have a cleaning service, so if you’re staying for longer than a couple weeks, you’ll either have to clean it yourself or work out a deal with the owner to provide cleaning services.
I usually ask if there’s a cleaning service, and if not, I’ll arrange with the landlord to have the place cleaned every week or two while I’m staying there.
I didn’t do this at my first couple locations, and it sucked. I hate mopping floors and changing sheets, so I’m more than willing to pay a little extra to have it done for me.
Alternatively, you could offer to clean the unit in exchange for a discount or some free additional extras (such as fresh milk and bread delivery).
Speed Things Up with a Message Template
You can save time by creating a template for contacting hosts that introduces yourself and communicates your non-negotiable items.
For example, here’s a message you could send to each host before you book:
My wife and I have been looking at your listing, and we love it!
We are spending much of June on our honeymoon, traveling around your beautiful country, renting Airbnb apartments in the cities we want to visit.
We’re both so grateful that people like you have opened your homes to travellers, because without you, our adventure wouldn’t be possible. So thank you!
We’re very interested in renting your apartment, but I wanted to ask a couple questions first:
First, we both work from our computers and will be working while we travel. Since our jobs rely on an internet connection, could you please let us know how fast and reliable the wifi connection is at your apartment?
If you’re not sure how fast it is, could you please search Google for “speed test by ookla” and click the first result? On that site, click the “Begin Test” button to check the connection’s speed.
Second, since we’re planning to stay for an extended period, we’re interested in negotiating additional cleaning fees so we could have the apartment serviced every two weeks. Would that be a possibility?
Thanks again. We’ll look forward to hearing from you!
Harry & Megan
Save (More) Money
If you pay £900 per month in rent, that’s about £30 per night to stay in your own apartment. (This, of course, isn’t even the full price you pay to live in your apartment.)
A hotel, by contrast, is probably going to cost at least £80 per night unless it’s, well, gross.
Airbnb has never failed to find me a place to stay that was cheaper than a hotel room, and I’ve nearly always found a place that costs similar per night to my living costs at home.
But it turns out you can save even more by being on top of your booking and taking advantage of Airbnb’s price breaks.
Longer Stays Cost Less
By default, Airbnb shows the cost of a listing per night. For example, a certain listing costs £62 per night if you book it for six nights.
However, if you book the same listing for a week, the cost drops to £51 per night.
If you book for a month, the cost drops further to £41 per night.
Not all Airbnb listings have breaks for longer stays, but when you search for longer stays, the ones that offer breaks are easy to spot by their lower prices.
Book Way in Advance for Better Cheap Options
Unlike a 100 room hotel, there’s normally only one of each room/place, so when it’s booked, you’re out of luck.
The nice listings with low prices will be the first to go, so if you’re sure of your travel plans way ahead of time, you should book early to make sure you’ve got your pick of the best locations.
To help manage your travel expenditure, you may want to apply for a short term loan from LoanlineUK, to help with your down payment/deposit. Apply at www.loanlineuk.net and we will try to find you a lender that is willing to help and our service doesn’t cost you a penny.