Did you know you can find a self contained apartment or house using AirBnB? Many people think AirBnB is for young people looking to sleep on someone’s couch or rent a room in their house (similar to a Bed & breakfast, but not always including breakfast) as this is where AirBnB got their start. However today using AirBnB to find an apartment or home you can have all to yourself is just as common. And using AirBnB when you travel is easy.
Add in the other AirBnB benefits such as flexible check-in and check-outs, a local host, wi-fi and more often than not kitchen and bathroom essentials (think salt, pepper, oil, plastic wrap, etc.) that many vacation or serviced apartments don’t have and it is a good option. And often it is more affordable than the alternatives.
And because these are usually homes of real people, many are in residential areas which provide an opportunity to experience a destination more like a local than a tourist staying at a hotel. How about a great apartment in Paris near the Eifel Tower or an apartment with a river view in Chicago?
Using AirBnB When You Travel
Anyone can list their home, house or spare room on AirBnB. As the site has grown safeguards have been added including verifying the identity of all users, this includes both those listing accommodation and those renting.
It is a social site, where both hosts and renters can review each other for other users to see. If someone is a bad host, pictures are inaccurate, the listing is not as promised, or issues don’t get addressed it appears rather quickly in the reviews. If someone is a bad guest, this also will appear rather quickly in the reviews.
To get started you can search without an account, but if you find something you would like to inquire about or book, you need to open a free account. You can use this referral link and receive a $25 USD discount on your first stay.
Searching AirBnB for the Perfect Accommodation
Simply nominate your destination and hit enter. This basic search will return all accommodation options for that destination. This may be thousands of listings so refining your search can save you lots of time.
Some common filters to narrow the results:
- Dates, enter something close to the time you will be traveling, this eliminates already booked properties.
- Number of guests: this will accurately display the cost for the number of travelers entered.
- Type of accommodation: entire home/apt, private room, shared room.
- Then you can click on the more filters button and further refine your needs-
Neighborhoods, Amenities (kitchen, wi-fi, washer/dryer, A/C, most of the common ones are there). Tick all that are important to you. If you can’t find what you want you can always change these to make them less restrictive.
- Lastly you can specify a budget amount.
This will then return both the listings and a map displaying where the listings are, which can be helpful.
If you want to save your listing, create a shortlist of favorites. You need an account to do this, but it is a great way to manage listings of interest or in different locations.
Inquiry and Booking on AirBnB
Okay so you have found a couple that look interesting, what now?
- Read the reviews! They will often tell you things not in the listing. Was it noisy? Is it really in a good location? Was it clean? Check-in smooth?
- Look at the pictures. Know what is important to you- if you want a shower do you see one or is there only a bathtub? Want a table to eat at or a place to work? Do you see one? If there isn’t one shown in the pictures, chances are there isn’t one there. It might be helpful to create a checklist and look for the same items in each listing.
- Has the host taken the time to tell you about the apartment, location and things to do? This is part of them “selling” their property to you.
- My advice is ALWAYS contact the host and ask a question. Doesn’t matter what it is, you can ask about arrival, transport from the airport or train station, check-out, or how far it is to something you want to see. Why? You want to open the lines of communication and see how responsive and helpful they are. Also see if there are any language issues, your host and you may not speak the same language. You will be staying here, if something goes wrong will they respond quickly and be helpful? Or will it take days to get an answer and then be less than helpful. Remember there is no front desk to go down and ask; this person is your local host.
- Always check the cancellation terms.
Tip: If you are flexible, many hosts offer a discount for weekly or monthly stays. A month long stay in some locations can be substantially discounted.
We have stayed in some AirBnB properties for a month for about the same cost of 5-6 nights in a hotel room. And had much more room and been more comfortable. As we like to cook when we travel, we always look for a kitchen. This can provide us with an opportunity to go to the local markets and shop at the grocery store. We also prefer a space to work from that is comfortable. Using AirBnB can help you stretch your budget much further. If you like luxury hotels, tack a couple of nights on in a different location at the beginning or end of the trip.
Booking on AirBnB
Okay you have found your perfect accommodation, corresponded with the host. AirBnB takes care of the payment. Unfortunately you pay when you book it, but the owner isn’t paid until you check-in.
Once you have made the booking you need to make arrangements with the host for check-in and check-out. (You can discuss this when you make contact with the host in your inquiry, then you are just confirming in this step.)
If someone is going to meet you there, be respectful of their time and either be on time or let them know you are running late. If you are going to obtain keys from somewhere make sure you have instructions. Also check the instructions for how to get there. It is amazing what some people provide for directions or instructions for key pick-up. Also, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, if you don’t have a mobile phone that works in that country telling you to call is not going to work, or email or text or anything else.
If on arrival you find there are some issues, contact the host first. If you can’t resolve it, contact AirBnB, they can help you out.
Our Experience Using AirBnB
Using AirBnB frequently saves us a lot of money and allows our travel budget to go further. We have had some wonderful hosts. Really helpful and considerate people who go the extra mile to make sure you enjoy your trip.
This may be as simple as a welcoming bottle of wine or providing breakfast provisions, maps and tourist brochures. Or concierge activities like arranging transportation, translating for us, letting us check-out late in the evening to catch an overnight flight, someone to ask questions, printing a document or even taking us on a walking tour of the neighborhood and showing us their favorite places.
We have had a few hiccups- usually around check-in (thus the advice above!), but nothing that has ruined a trip or stopped us from using AirBnB again. We have used the site for close to five years now, all over the world, and we have only had to actually leave a property once. For this AirBnB got involved including refunding our money.
The issue, since you are dying to know, was the listing was inaccurate and we had booked for a month. For a week, we might have been able to stick it out, but we were paying way too much for an apartment that lacked the basics (a microwave is not a kitchen in my book) and did not have the amenities represented in the listing. This was my own fault as I was in a hurry and made an exception to the “see it in the picture” rule and instead took the owner’s word for it. Had this been a hotel I had prepaid, I wouldn’t have had any recourse. The property we moved to was excellent and probably a better choice anyway so it all worked out for the best.
One of the things I really like using AirBnB is the ability to find a place with plenty of room, a kitchen, work space and a great location. It makes traveling much more pleasant and allows us to experience a place more like a local than a tourist. When we travel with others, be it friends or family, using AirBnB enables us to find a place we can all be comfortable in and still have a place to share some time together. A BBQ, a home-cooked meal or a game in the living room is sometimes much better after a hectic day of touring than having to find a restaurant and go out yet again for something to eat. We can still eat out when we want but it gives us a lot more control over our budget and diet.
If you haven’t tried AirBnB, hopefully we have convinced you to give it a try. For your first stay, you can use this referral link and receive a $20 USD discount on your first stay.
Have you used AirBnB? What has been your experience using AirBnB when you travel? Or do you have any questions we didn’t cover? Just leave a comment below. We will answer.
I’ve good and bad experiences using Airbnb. But I still prefer to stay in the hotel though. Airbnb unit usually hard to find compared to hotels
Great article. We’ve been using AirBnB and other rental sites for several years now. We always rent a full house or apartment. We made mistakes the first time and now follow pretty much the same suggestions as you’ve given. My biggested word of advice is only deal with people who respond in a timely manner and answer your questions. We got burned for our cleaning deposit on the first rental and since then have walked away from any potential renters who don’t act professiionally — no matter how good the place looks. And we always leave an honest review.
Vanessa, that is sage advice. Alarm bells ring for us also if there is a lack of or slow response to queries. And it is important to leave honest advice as a review. We find that owners are sometimes unaware that there are minor issues with their properties and leaving honest feedback ensures these matters are addressed. Thanks for your comment.
We had used few times Airbnb and most of the times, it was not pleasant. Home was crowded with more than 8 guests in different rooms and the kitchen was always full and the owners will always in the kitchen etc. We quit using the service since.
Marc, I have to say I have never used it for a shared house, not my travel style. I find it great for finding apartments! We have stayed in some great neighborhoods. I am just wondering what were the reviews like for those places? And I hope you left an honest review, so the next traveler knew what to expect.
I think AirBnB is great mainly to live like a local and also to have access to a kitchen! It’s important while traveling as a vegan to have a kitchen, just in case I can’t find meals in a restaurant…at least I could get groceries and cook something for myself 🙂
Spot on Lauren. I like that we don’t go out to a restaurant for every meal. And you have total control over your diet. Thanks for your comment.
AirBNB is great! I always use when traveling with family. It’s so much easier when you have multiple people with you. Plus you get to have moms cooking one more time haha!
Joe. It definitely keeps the cost down of there is a family. And the home cooking keeps the cost down.
I have a love / hate relationship with Airbnb. It’s great for getting close to the action like in London when we were to Field Day, there were no hotel close to the park – an Airbnb apartment solved that. We also stayed in an airstream in Austin through it! I do see it increasing in price over the past three years and trying to get something in Austin for SXSW this year was ridic price wise – the owners know how and when to make their money!
True Gemma, but if the price keeps going up then people will just stop going. Hotels do the same thing I’m afraid. Thanks for your comment.
I have never used AirBnb. As a solo backpacker, I either stick to youth hostel or rarely go for couch surfing. Its nice to know how AirBnb works, I am gonna try AirBnN in Argentina this May.
We’re as bit old for couch surfing, preferring to rent out the whole apartment through AirBnB. Thanks for your comment.
Marta Cunha Grilo
AirBnB is amazing! I recently used it for the first time and it was a wonderful experience. Congrats for the great guide you have here.
Marta, I’m glad AirBnB worked out for you. And thanks so much for your kind comment.
Vedante | The Lavish Nomad
I am yet to use AirBnb for my travels.. I’ve been reading so much about it.
Well when your ready you have this guide to help you manage it. Thanks for your comment.
Been using Airbnb for a while (both as a host and as a traveler) and I enjoyed it! Aside from being able to find unique accommodations, aribnb, I guess also teaches us to trust people. I love its concept and how it’s been improving rewards and safety policies. Great tips you have here! love all!
Good to hear the point of view of a host. You make a great comment about the trust factor. Thanks for your comment.
Ive only used Airbnb once and I loved it! Our hosts were super nice and the house was affordable and clean. Nice tips!
Janna, I’m glad you had a good experience with AirBnB. And thanks for your kind comment.
I have yet to use an AirBnB even tho im traveling almost full time… BUT I am sure I will run into it one day. I usually use VRBO..check it out.. less room rent more privates but still good.
Hi Kimberly. We have used VRBO in the US. It is good also. I don’t find it as good outside the USA and it can be more expensive than AirBnB. Thanks for your comment.
This is a great guide- I’ve yet to try out AirBnB and I will most likely be using it during my upcoming trip to Iceland. I have to say the platform is very user-friendly and I’m looking forward to living like a local during the trip.
You will love Iceland Natasha. We did use AirBnB in Reykjavik. It was much cheaper than a hotel and we got a kitchen so could have a couple meals at home which saved a lot of money. Thanks for your comment.
Thanks! Those are great tips. I may be using one this summer in Nashville so good to have a guide to follow.
Melody, glad we could help. Enjoy Nashville. Thanks for your comment.
I love Air BNB and have always used it when traveling with my family. These tips are amazing and would add it to my AirBNB cheat sheet! Thanks for sharing! Xx
Trisha. Thanks for those comments. It’s so good now that we are not just restricted to hotels.
AirBnB is the best! Depending on where you go, it can be super affordable when compared to hotels in the same area. Even when it’s not the most affordable option, it’s one of the most unique experiences you can have in an accommodation. I wish more people used Airbnb over choosing hotels. Thanks for spreading the Airbnb love!
Tracie, I have been shocked how much cheaper it is than hotels in some areas! Amazing and it is a great alternative. And yes sometimes I just want more room and a kitchen so it is a great alternative to a hotel. And for us it means we can cook and shop like the locals!
I’ve looked at AirBnB a few times, but I’ve never booked. I haven’t found it to be cost effective for solo travel. I think I’d do it for group travel though. What if you’ve never stayed and therefore don’t have a guest rating? Is it hard to get the host to accept you?
It’s not really difficult to rent with no reviews- you can use other things to credential yourself, i.e. social media. Also you might look for a host without many reviews (but good pictures and communication) They will also need to build their reviews so it could be great for both of you.
Very interesting post 🙂 I’ve used Airbnb twice and it was a really good experience, I’ll probably do it again soon 🙂
AirBnB is our preference now. Thanks for your comment.
I have never used Airbnb for the reasons you stated above. Maybe we should have tried but we went the timeshare route instead. I guess we are not that adventurous!
Timeshares work well for some people and AirBnB hasn’t bee around that long either! The beauty of it is there are so many options these days you can find something to meet your needs. Thanks for Commenting
I have never used airbnb yet. As a solo traveller i have not had cause to. Thankyou for the detailed insight. Now i am more aware of the pros and cons.
Dave, Glad you found it helpful. For those that haven’t used it, there is always a bit of the unknown. You may see the need to use it one day in one of your destinations. Thanks for your comment.
I’ve used AirBNB about 4 times now. The experience has always been good, or better than good! I always pick a place with a high level of details included so I know what to expect in order to avoid the risk of bad surprises. The reviews are so helpful too to better understand if a place meets our needs! It has often been a way to chat a bit with locals and get tips to visit the area, I love that.
Well done for writing this complete guide about the system.
Thanks Eloise. We are very happy with AirBnB for all the reasons you have mentioned. I think the best advantage is getting the local’s tips.