Much has been written about travelling with Airbnb, or any other similar platform for that matter. Generally, however, these are just general articles, written by people who may … or may not have stayed at an Airbnb place.
As a guest and at the same time an active Airbnb host, I would like to give you some practical tips to help you choose your perfect holiday accommodation. I don’t think they have ever failed me… and they allowed me to see a lot of the world, on four continents.
My method allows coping with the lack of knowledge and communication with hosts in other countries. Remember, contrary to what is written on some websites… few people actually want to cheat you. What is a real problem is that often our understanding of the details of accommodation differs from that of the hosts, and this is just a matter of cultural differences. Even more often… we (as guests) do not really know what we want. And most often of all… we simply have problems with communication in foreign languages. A message to all English native speakers: these guys in most cases do NOT speak English well. They only pretend they do – to attract you.
So… here we go!
First of all, choose where you want to go. Sounds like a cliché. But… is it really?
Take time to plan your holiday. What you want to do and with whom. Look for beaches, restaurants, discos… everything you need for your dream holiday. Why am I writing about this? Because you should choose your accommodation near these places.
Search the map using your checklist. The leading booking platforms offer the possibility to do a map search, why not use it? Add filters to the map to eliminate accommodation that is not available at the time of your trip, too small, too big, for smokers, without a fridge, without bathrooms, or with too many bathrooms. And so on and so forth.
By the way – you can check the prices in the selected area – and how it changes depending on the distance from the attractions (sea, mountains, centre…). Competition prices are the best indicators of the place quality.
If you have already gathered your first ideas – create a so-called „short list”. In your chosen area, find a few or a dozen pre-matched offers. Look only at where they are located and how they look. Some of them will not suit you 100%, some of the hosts will not respond quickly enough, and others will have your date already booked. Leave the ones that are worth a closer look on this list. Save them to your favourites on the portal, and put the rest aside.
Now the tedious part of our accommodation search begins: reviewing our ideas one by one. I won’t write about the obvious things, instead I’ll give a handful of hints on reading accommodation descriptions.
First of all, take a look at who your host is. Check how often and how quickly it takes them to respond to enquiries. Reject those who respond in weeks or many days… Unless, of course, you have the time and the accommodation indicated is the one and only dream place to stay.
Check whether the host is a company or an individual. Beware of companies, there are often molochs that are far from the original idea of Airbnb. You will get to know them easily, they have many different listings. „Ordinary” hosts have one, up to a few. Don’t count on personal contact with the company and recommendations of favourite places to see or best restaurants in the area.
Read the reviews. Assume that most are … slightly biased (though not necessarily false). Keep in mind that positive reviews alone do not automatically mean top-notch accommodation and vice versa (although the chances of a super deal or the nightmare of the century increase in either case). When reading reviews, look for longer statements in which guests write something from themselves, not just the standard formulas „Beautiful house, lovely host everything SUPER”. If they found the time and energy to write a long review, it means they did like it. Or they didn’t like it at all.
Read the reviews twice! Every time I had any complaints about the quality of accommodation … my first thought was … „But nobody wrote about that!”. After a second round I usually found those tiny remarks, words or phrases indicating that I was not the first one to have that problem.
Take a look at the host’s responses to complaints! We all fail sometimes, sometimes it’s just a misfortune, or bad weather. What is more important, in my opinion, is how they are dealt with.
Many hosts have more properties than one. If in doubt, see reviews and descriptions of those too!
Contrary to what some people write … you do not have to be (very) afraid of places without reviews. Provided that you carefully check other elements of the accommodation. Those who have hundreds of positive descriptions today had their beginnings too, didn’t they? And remember the Airbnb guarantees your accommodation. If something goes wrong, they’ll help.
By the way, a comment about Superhost status. Yes, this label usually means a higher price, but also a higher chance of a good accommodation. In my opinion it is not worth sticking to superhosts (even though I am one myself :D), there are also gems outside this group. It is not easy to gain superhost status, but to lose it is even easier.
Once you know to who your host is, it’s time to take a look at the place itself.
Check the accommodation description – some hosts write long essays, some others just one or two sentences and the rest is prepared in a standard layout. I rather reject the latter, I care about the personal contribution of the host. Remember, you’re not going to an anonymous hotel, but to a place where someone has left a piece of their soul! Let them show it😊
Check if the number of beds is right for you and your party. Beware of the difference between „double beds” and „twin beds” ! Unless you want to sleep with your children on a double bed.
Not all hosts have child beds, and even if they do, they sometimes don’t write about it. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask your hosts directly.
Make sure all bedrooms… have doors! Hosts can count an open mezzanine or loft as a separate bedroom. It is common, especially in Scandinavia (but I’ve experienced it recently in Greece too).
Check the size of your accommodation and compare it to the size of your group. And the size of your own home. I once slept with 3 people in a flat, which, according to the host, could have accommodated up to 12 people. Where and how they would fit – he did not mention it. It was comfortable enough for the 3 of us, but not many more. For example, there were only 4 seats at the table.
Count the bathrooms. A larger group will need more bathrooms.
And last but not least… also pay attention to the photos and maps.
Is the number and type of rooms on the photos different from the number and type of rooms presented in the offer? The most common sin: missing photos of a bedroom… or a bathroom… Of course there are positive surprises… but it happens the other way round, the missing room can be the worst and the ugliest one. As for extra photos when in doubt.
Airbnb offers hosts paid interior photography sessions. Such photos are uploaded to the site without the host’s participation, and are guaranteed as to quality – but also content. You can safely trust them. Provided, of course, that the hosts have actually used this option (and too often they don’t!)
Take a look at the neighbourhood. Lack of photos is suspicious, as are tightly shut windows pn the photos of the interior. If in doubt – search on Google Maps! Kudos to hosts who are not afraid to reveal the exact location of their place.
Check out what’s going on in the area – Google Maps is (almost) everywhere. Even if you don’t know the exact location of your place, you can try to guess it (a great fun). Maybe there’s a motorway nearby, or a beautiful rusty dirty factory… or the beach is just rocky, and the last pub has just closed.
Well… I think that’s enough for now. If the topic is of interest to you… we will continue! But remember: whatever happens, stay in touch with your host! They ( usually) care too!