Breakfast with a view from the balcony of our Airbnb in Oia, Santorini.
When you want to travel a lot, Airbnb can be very handy. It is our go-to choice for accommodation as we can choose from such a wide range of options when it comes to style, pricing, and location. Generally, we will only choose hotels if we know we will be arriving at an odd hour or if we just need it for an overnight layover. We may switch to a hotel if an airport is far from the city.
I love the concept of Airbnb and with the new addition of experiences, it’s getting even better. We have met so many interesting people, saved tons of money and stayed in some unique places.
I have had quite a few people ask me about my experience with Airbnb. A lot of people hesitate using the service because they may have heard myths or negative things about the service. I have gotten questions about cleanliness, safety and how to know if you will actually get what you’re seeing. Now that I have stayed in quite a few locations, I can vouch for the service and share my Airbnb experience. Below you can find my top 5 hacks on finding the best Airbnb options for you.
The hotel room window from the rare time we stayed at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain
Location is everything. It’s what can make or break a trip. Having to commute into a city or back to where you’re staying can be a pain. Having to travel a distance back and forth not only cuts into your travel time but also deters your experience. Some of the best times we have really seen a city come to life with locals has been post-dinner, simply walking back to our apartment.
Consider the neighbourhood, do some research, and note down the distance via google maps on how far it is located from everything that you want to see. Can you walk instead of taking a cab, Uber or metro? Go with that option! When it comes to pricing out your accommodations, make sure you consider this. Yes, it might be $10 or $20 cheaper per night, but that may just be what a return metro ticket may cost! If you end up staying out past the time of the last train, that $20 will go straight to an Uber or a cab!
While staying in Paris, we were a 3 min walk away from Champs-Elysees and we only paid about $90 for our Air BnB apartment! Yes, it was a tiny attic apartment, the size of my bedroom in a building that had no elevators, but we were able to really stretch our time in the beautiful city of love because we didn’t have to worry about leaving early enough to make it back in a safe and affordable way.
So yes, location is key. Also weigh out your options and remember, if you’re only staying there to sleep, it doesn’t have to be the largest place on the block!
This ridiculously tiny attic-room Airbnb apartment just steps away from Champs-Elysees in Paris
The reviews are golden. They will help assure you that you have made the best choice. It’s obvious I know, but it’s easy to get caught up in beautiful photos of the apartment or the views and lose sight of checking all the details. I tend to choose to go with an Airbnb super host or a room that has racked up a decent amount of reviews. I look for how much the host communicated, for someone who went out of their way to ensure their guests have had a good stay and genuinely great reviews from others who have stayed there already.
There has been a time or two where I have seen bad reviews crop up within more than 20 good reviews and in this case, I generally ignore them. If the ratio of good to bad reviews is significant, it is likely that one person may have been upset about one thing and decided to just write anything out of anger or disappointment. These are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Every so often, I have also booked places where there are only a few really good reviews. Obviously, there are new people opening their homes to travelers on a daily basis and I like giving them a chance. The great thing about Airbnb is that they will back you if you have any issues. Their customer service is amazing and they are available on Twitter 24/7!
This beauty of the bedroom in our Airbnb apartment in Tulum, Mexico
Keep in contact with your host, ask questions and don’t be afraid to reach out. If I have the time, I usually reach out to the host with questions before I book their place. If I am in a crunch and the cancellation policy is flexible on Airbnb, I will book and then ask questions. My top things to usually ask are how accessible the place is by public transportation or if they can store my luggage before or after my official time there. I usually will take the last flight out of somewhere in order to maximize my day and I need to know in advance that I won’t have to worry about lugging my suitcase around while I am out and about!
Hosts are great to speak with. They can assist with organizing activities, accommodations or just providing local favourites for dinner. Let them know if you will be arriving early or late, exchange contact info in advance and let them know that you are excited to stay at their place and appreciate them opening up their home to you. You want to make them comfortable with who you are and why you are traveling. Remember, this is their home and just like you would want to know who is stepping into your place, they do too!
I really did not want to return home after this breathtaking view from our Airbnb apartment in Oia, Santorini
The Fine Print
Look at the fine print. Everything you need to know is laid out on the page. Know exactly what you are in for so that you are not greeted with a surprise as soon as you enter. If you were expecting a full bed but are presented with a sofa bed, chances are it was already stated on the page. Hosts are generally very clear with what they offer as part of the price and what you will be charged for. As an example, when traveling in Europe, many cities have hotel taxes that are paid outside of the reservation. This is for large hotels as well as your Airbnb stay. Hosts will put this in the description so it is handy to have cash on hand to give them before you leave.
To the right of the page, you can see a breakdown of the full price. There are cleaning fees and service fees so use this as a guide to calculate your total cost before sharing the listing with all of your friends! The fine print is also where you’ll discover if your host provides a free breakfast – always a treat in my option!
Our free breakfast in our Cappadocia Airbnb. A room within a fairy chimney cave.
Know your needs. Not your wants. If you are using Airbnb, it’s likely that you are into saving your money for experiences and eats vs. your accommodations. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay at a nice place, but think about what you really need. Yes, a room with a view would be fabulous but how long are you really staying there?
If you’re on a go-go-go sort of trip then you really don’t need to spend on the view. For example, in Santorini, we knew we would spend time in our apartment, enjoy the view and relax so we opted for something a bit more pricey and we made sure it was worth the spend. On the other hand, on our recent trip to Tulum, we knew the room was to sleep in and most of our time would be spent on the beach or sightseeing. Although the room didn’t have any fancy views, it was pretty trendy in decor and was actually quite nice.
I have loved each and every one of my Airbnb stays. I make sure to use their wish list feature to start building a list of potential places I want to stay. I then filter through this list based on all of the above points. So far this method has worked well for me and I am quite excited to step foot in our next Airbnb room!
Do you have any tips on using Airbnb? I would love to know! Please share in the comments below 🙂
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