5 Tips for Booking Your First Airbnb Stay
I booked my first Airbnb stay last month when we went to Memphis. This may seem a little late in the game but in the past we have only traveled places where we already had somewhere to stay. Even our trip to the Cayman's was spent at a relative's vacation house!
Since our stay in Memphis though, I've booked a few more stays in Chicago, New Orleans, and a return visit through Memphis. I admit I spent a lot of time looking before I booked. When it comes down to it I need more than a clean bed. For me an Airbnb needs to be aesthetically pleasing but still more cost efficient than a traditional hotel. Here's a few things I like to keep in mind, both obvious and not.
Airbnb charges at the time of booking.
This can be both helpful and not. On the upside, you've paid for your stay well before your trip. Unfortunately that also means you can't save up for it and pay up once you're there like a traditional hotel. You may also miss out on the specific Airbnb you favorited because you had to wait a couple weeks before you could afford it. This includes the room/house cost, cleaning fee, and any deposits upfront.
Make sure you read the cancellation policy and additional fees.
Maybe you have the money and want to go ahead and secure the Airbnb you want. This would be a good time to read the cancellation policy. Things happen and if you're booking months in advance you want to be clear on what happens if you need to cancel. These policies vary between Airbnb hosts and while most are fairly flexible, some will cost if you need to cancel.
The additional fees section is very important for similar reasons. You may be deciding between two Airbnb's of a similar price but one might have a crazy (think upwards of $1000) deposit or a large cleaning fee. On the upside, if you're booking for a week, many offer discounted weekly rates to take advantage of.
Research the Neighborhood.
It's not uncommon to hear gunshots in my St. Louis neighborhood. If a neighborhood is a little sketch, I won't immediately be deterred. It's important to know your own comfort level though. Several factors should be taken into consideration when choosing a neighborhood in an unfamiliar city.
-Are you traveling solo?
-Will you be walking the neighborhood a lot?
-Where are most of the attractions you want to see located?
-If you're traveling without a car, is public transport easily accessible?
One of the best things you can do is ask someone who lives there or has visited. When choosing a neighborhood in Chicago, I had originally looked near downtown. We're planning on going to a museum, Millennium Park, and a lot of places in a nearby neighborhood. We ultimately chose Hyde Park per a friend's recommendation and to eliminate the added expense of paying for parking. I was also able to find an Airbnb that was a little more budget friendly. Often times, the host will be upfront in the listing about the neighborhood. It doesn't hurt to just ask either if you're unsure.
Identify what's important to you.
The great thing about Airbnb is that you can book anything from a room to a treehouse to a whole mansion. You need to know what you really want out of your stay. Here's a few things I look for:
-Lockbox/keyless entry. As an introvert I'm not looking to meet my hosts, I strongly prefer to let myself in and come and go as I please. A lot of listings don't make this clear but reading reviews will usually give you a good idea of what to expect. They'll usually say things like "I didn't have the pleasure of meeting the host" or more obvious like "The lockbox instructions were clear and made check-in a breeze."
-Aesthetically pleasing aka doing it for the 'gram. Simply put, I want to stay somewhere that looks better than my apartment. I want to look at the photos beforehand and get excited about my trip. This is a purely superficial need but it's important to my personal experience. I don't want to feel like I'm crashing in the house I lived at in college. On the other hand, I don't want to stay in a high rise apartment that has a completely hotel feel.
-I always check Entire Place in the filter options. Let's go back to the introverted thing. I don't want to feel like I'm staying in a stranger's house or talk to them. I really don't want to share a bathroom with some randos or have company on my romantic getaway. If you are outgoing and on a budget though, by all means book a room or couch. This is about what is best for your needs.
-The price needs to be within my budget. If there's a really luxe hotel for cheaper than an Airbnb in the area then I'll stay there. This often isn't the case though. I've found if you do enough searching, there's always an option or two that really stand out.
Read the guidebook and reviews!
Most hosts will leave a digital guidebook. While I may not want to have a one on one conversation, I completely appreciate their recommendations. It is their neighborhood after all! Our Airbnb in Memphis also had a physical chalkboard with some recommendations listed by proximity to our booking. Our host's recommended picks happened to match up pretty well with my list of possibilities but it helped make a few decisions.
The same goes for reviews. Often times guests will point out nearby places in the neighborhood or amenities not listed in the description. Some hosts will leave you use of bikes to get around, snacks, wine, and coffee. Our Memphis booking had a Nespresso machine and pods. My boyfriend isn't a coffee drinker so more for me :)
Bonus: If you haven't signed up with Airbnb, you can get $35 in credit towards your first trip when you sign up through my link www.airbnb.com/c/ginnyc853
The listing featured in this post can be viewed here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9605818