A decade ago, Airbnb was the tech world’s answer to the backpacker’s prayer, connecting budget travelers to couches and spare bedrooms across the globe. Things have changed quite a lot since then, with short-term rentals carving out a whole new dimension in vacation accommodations. While different groups argue for better or for worse, and while municipalities and governments struggle to adapt, Airbnb has changed the travel landscape for good.
If you’re considering using Airbnb or one of its successors such as Vrbo for your next vacation, you may find yourself overwhelmed with options, questions, and concerns. To help you plan an unforgettable vacation like an expert, here are our Airbnb pro tips.
Narrow your search to the type of property you need.
In the same way that a hostel is very different from a five-star suite, Airbnb can be classified by what they offer guests. If you’re simply looking for a comfortable place to crash after a long day of activities and exploring, you’ll find a ton of options to rent a budget room that provides you with basically anything you can get out of a motel and with the added benefit of a more specific or desirable location. For example, most big cities and vacation destinations tend to only have hotels in the most saturated tourist areas, with a few boutique options in more desirable neighborhoods. But short-term rentals can offer a ton more options in non-tourist neighborhoods.
On the other hand, one of the greatest things to come out of the short-term rental industry is the creativity of property owners in turning their homes into a destination in and of itself. The options are quite literally endless when it comes to property types and amenities for any type of trip, from full kitchens to laundry facilities to private pools and offices. Instead of paying a fortune for a large group to book multiple rooms at a hotel, travelers can rent an entire house to accommodate everyone in a much more comfortable environment.
Look for hosts that complement your trip.
If you’re looking for ultimate privacy, you can easily find an entire apartment or house that meets the needs of your travel party. The original charm of Airbnb offers an experience that hotels and resorts can hardly match – living with a local. Not only is renting a room in the home of your host the most affordable option, but you can also reap the benefits of staying in prime neighborhoods where hotels may be too expensive or inaccessible while having access to someone who knows all the ins and outs of the location, activities, and secret spots that Google searches can’t offer. Some of the greatest conversations and new friendships can also spark from staying in one of these types of Airbnb.
However, it’s essential to review the profiles of these hosts to ensure that they are offering what you’re looking for because not every host is happy to be your personal tour guide. We promise that if you take the time to seek out and communicate with hosts about what you’re looking for, you will get a truly custom experience to enhance your plans.
Read all the reviews and chat with hosts prior to booking.
On a similar note, reviews will give you a big clue as to whether the property you’re looking at is true to its description. Believe us when we say it’s worth the effort to skim through reviews and look for patterns of complaints about important things like communication and cleanliness. Communication is an important feature to look for with Airbnbs because, unlike hotels, there is no front desk that you can call if you’re not able to access the property or have an issue like a clogged toilet or leaky pipe. You have to rely on a responsive host.
Reviews will also give you insight into what you can expect from on-site hosts. For example, previous guests will generally comment on whether their host was hospitable and helpful, and if guests agree that what the hosts say about themselves and what they can offer lives up to expectations. You can also directly message a host to ask specific questions prior to booking, to get a feel for what they are like and what they are willing to offer on your trip. With the proper legwork, you can eliminate most if not all surprises and be sure you’re booking the perfect spot for your plans.
Beware of too good to be true.
There has been a lot of debate in the headlines over the rising prices of short-term rentals, causing some travelers to wonder why they would opt to pay the same or more for a private residence than for a full-service hotel. Well, lots of reasons. But first, we’ll explain why a lot of rentals are charging more than they used to: high demand, regulation, and cleaning fees.
The advent of the Superhost is a relatively new concept, and gone are the days when most hosts are just renting out a spare room or second property. While these hosts do exist (and we personally recommend them for their enduring personal touch and customer service), entrepreneurs have built huge portfolios of properties for rent – it’s big business! And with that, you have all sorts of overhead costs like property management, furnishings, stocking household items, registration fees and taxes depending on the region, and most of all, cleaning fees. We can all agree that we would accept no less than a professionally cleaned unit with fresh bed linens and not a hair (yuck) in sight. And since the pandemic, sanitization has become a huge deal. In this day in age, cleaning crews are demanding adequate wages for this type of important work and hosts are passing those costs to guests.
All that said, beware of units where the price seems too good to be true. The sad truth is that some of these Superhosts do try to cut costs because, after all, they’re in it for maximum gain. When you see professional photos of a beautiful space but the price seems too good to be true, chances are it’s a Superhost who has cut costs either in cleaning, upkeep, or customer service and you’ll likely end up walking into a unit that will disappoint you. In other words, you will get what you pay for.
Plan a trip around a unique property.
Another relatively new concept is the vast range of highly unique, quirky, themed, or luxurious rentals that have emerged as a result of the short-term rental boom. Now, instead of just looking for a property to fit your vacation, your entire vacation can be planned around a unique rental! Some very real examples include an entire ghost town in the desert with a private saloon, an estate that is entirely decked out as one giant playground of classic games and sports, a windmill, a castle, a treehouse… the list is endless.
Unique Airbnbs have become such a phenomenon that Airbnb is introducing a new ‘Categories’ feature, where you can customize your search by your adventure type such as camping, desert, tropical, or historical homes. This gives travelers the option to narrow down properties by the type of adventure they’re looking for and makes it easy to single out rentals that act as the centerpiece of next-generation travel.