Lodging is obviously a big component of travel. The idea is to go somewhere interesting and stay there, isn’t it? We don’t like to move around every few days. We try to find a destination that we can settle in for a while, maybe even a couple of weeks.
Lots of people ask us about AirBnB. Are the places nice? Is the site trustworthy? The AirBnB people have definitely done a great job making their name a household word in the travel community, and they’ve definitely become a key part of our full time travel strategy.
Yes, we do like using the site, and we’ve been fortunate to have had no real problems in our dozens of past stays. Using AirBnB isn’t the same as using hotels, though. It’s more like the old days of travel in Europe when you arrived at the train station and a little old lady with a “Pensione” sign tried to get you to follow her to her spare apartment. You rent from a local, not from a company, and that can be a good thing and it might wind up a bad thing.
But we’ve learned to set some rules when it comes to shopping for an AirBnB place to help guard against any bad experiences, so here are our “Rules of AirBnB Lodging”.
Entire Place – we want our own entrance and space. Sometimes a destination (like London) is so expensive that even AirBnB doesn’t offer affordable alternatives. In those cases we consider a private room. You might be sharing living space or a bathroom, but at least your bedroom is private. In a shared room you might be sleeping on someone’s fold out couch!
Good Internet – we do continue to work, so it’s a deal breaker if there is no Wi-Fi. Not only do we set a filter in our searches for Internet as an amenity, but we scan the reviews about comments on the Internet. And just as we’re booking, we mention to the owner that good Internet is very important to us.
Separate Bedroom and Living Space – It’s easier to work and coexist if we are not on top of each other all the time! You can use AirBnB’s filters for number of bedrooms, but it’s best to study the pictures to check out the sleeping arrangements.
Kitchen – If we’re staying more than a couple of days, a kitchen of some sort is pretty much required. We usually just need enough so that we can make coffee, breakfast, and an occasional meal in. We get tired of eating out all the time, and when we do, having a fridge for leftovers is great. To figure out how the kitchen is stocked—microwave, toaster, electric kettle, etc.—we study the pictures.
Washing Machine – It’s nice to be able to pack clean clothes as opposed to dirty ones and not having to go find a laundromat is a requirement if we’re staying for more than a few days. Now figuring out how to use a foreign-made washing machine is a whole other story for another blog!
Cleanliness & Clutter – Some places on AirBnB look like the owners move out so they can rent it to you, and sometimes they don’t keep very clean houses! We prefer places that are setup as rentals, but bottom line is you have to look at the pictures!
Outside Space – A balcony or terrace is a must when we go somewhere warm! It’s not so much a requirement in the winter, but a nice view is always welcome.
Location – We always try to get close to old town or museums or metro lines. AirBnB shows listings on a map to help you find the right place. Of course it helps for you to know a little about the area to begin with. It also helps to read the reviews and see what people say about the area. Sometimes you can learn from the comments that the unit is in a very noisy area!
Good Reviews – AirBnB works so well because of the review system. We would have to think hard about renting a place without at least a half dozen or so good reviews. As we’ve said several times above, you can learn lots from reading the reviews. Sometimes you even learn of a great nearby restaurant or a lesser known site to see. Don’t skip the reviews!
Price – Yes, it must fit into the budget! Use the Price Range filter. And keep in mind that most places have discounts for weekly and monthly rates. And even then, you can ask the owner for a discount. Just send an Email to the home owner with your offer. They’ll either say yes or no!
AirBnB conveniently allows you to filter for most of these items. We can’t stress enough the value of the pictures! The more pictures, the better! You can tell a lot about a place by how the bed is made and how the kitchen is stocked!
After staying in a place, AirBnB sends you a link so you can write a review and also send the owner a private message. We always write reviews and try to give the owner some useful feedback on our stay. We offer suggestions like extra hooks to hang coats or towels, or we suggest adding an electric kettle, mirrors near outlets (it’s nice to see your hair while trying to style it!), and other small things that might need to be repaired.
Overall, the owners we have met are very eager to help you settle in and enjoy your stay. They want to know if anything is not right and how they can improve their listing. AirBnB make it easy to communicate with them through the site and the mobile AirBnB apps. Owners almost always encourage you to email or text immediately if you need something or have a question. Some have even called taxis for us!
We think we have our “Rules of AirBnB Lodging” down to a science, and our success with it seems to indicate we’re doing well, but everyone is different! AirBnB makes it easy for us to choose what we want where we want it, and it seems we’re always looking for the next place.