Things like room service & daily house keeping are some of the luxurious perks many of us look forward to while staying at a hotel during our vacation. However, the buzz we hear about friends staying at these amazing Airbnb’s continues to grow louder –and yet these homes don’t have any of these perks– in fact, you have to make your own beds in the morning–so what gives, right?!?
If you’ve been cautiously curious about the buzz, ever wondered “how does Airbnb work for guests?” or are just plain unsure of how to find the perfect Airbnb – this post is for you!
[ And so is this Airbnb referral code for $40 Off your first stay ]
Over the past few years, my family and I have rented several Airbnbs for our vacation stays. We’ve have had such great experiences that we now actually prefer renting homes over staying at a hotel.
Renting a vacation home through sites like Airbnb have become so popular that I recently read that on some Hawaiian Islands 1 in 8 properties is listed an Airbnb or similar platform!
(Can you even imagine how incredible it might be to live for a week in a small Hawaiian Beach Town??)
( ^ ^ ZOMG! Look at my kid’s “bowl cut”. I’m so glad he lets us bring him for haircuts now–haha ^ ^ )
(Above: Mill Valley, CA)
(Above: Canyon Lake, CA)
We’ve found that renting a house in the city you’re visiting can give you a more authentic travel experience, allowing you the chance to live like the locals– which can be fun! And despite needing to grocery shop a bit and not having house keeping to make your bed, when you select the right home, it can be a much cozier place to relax in or retreat to at the end of the day.
(Above: Mill Valley, CA)
(Above: Canyon Lake, CA)
I mean getting to live for a few days in a gorgeous private home in Mill Valley with floor to (cathedral) ceiling windows and Redwoods trees literally in your backyard or waking up to sweeping valley views in Canyon Lake are experiences that hotels cannot match.
The key to finding the perfect Airbnb for you comes down to doing your homework and knowing what to look for. Now without further adieu, here are some of our very best tips for first time Airbnb renters.
Dig Deeper With Google Maps
Location is obviously the very first thing you will consider when beginning your search. Beyond just going by the city and zip code on the listing, it is important dig a little deeper and get to know the surrounding area of the home as well.
You will want to know things like:
- What is the proximity of the rental property is to any day-trips or activities you are planning?
- What stores or recreation areas are in walking (or a quick 5-minute drive) distance. Is there a playground nearby? Grocery store? Walgreens or CVS in case you need to run to get any forgotten personal care items? (When we researched the Canyon Lake home we stayed in we discovered there was an In-N-Out less than 2 miles away– which admittedly may not *exactly* be a necessity– but to this Jersey girl it was a big win…because when in Cali! 😉 )
- What is the set up of the block? It could be nice to have friendly neighbors to interact with during your stay but for some guests, having a more secluded rental is a big factor.
Thanks to Google Maps, you can easily scope all of this out with Google street view before choosing a home to rent.
Read–Don’t Skim the Reviews and Listing Details
Every rental is vastly different in not just the home itself but how each host rents the property and interacts with guests, so it’s important to pay close attention to the details in both the listing and the reviews of past guests.
Some hosts live close by and may request you meet them to pick up the keys, while others may not even be in the same state– or in the case of one of our rentals– the same country!
Today, there are many Airbnb properties are used solely as rentals, but there are also some where someone may be renting out their primary property when they are out of town or the property listed may be a guest house on the hosts main property. EveryAirbnb guest has their own preferences, so this is an important detail to be aware so there aren’t any surprises.
Now whether it is best to have a host nearby, on-site or miles away is relative to each guests preference.
It can be nice to have a host nearby in case of rare instances that may come up, like for example locking yourself out of the house. But some guests prefer a more private experience without the host stopping by.
I have experienced both and I think having a top-notch host is really all that matters. In Mill Valley, the host owned 3 different units/houses on the same property– one being her primary residence. In the morning if she saw us up and outside on the deck she would stop by and say hi or ask if we needed anything before she ran to the store. She was warm, friendly and hospitable and while we saw her around, we never once felt intruded upon.
In Canyon Lake, the host was in Europe on vacation, so we never met the host at all. We entered the home via keypad on the door and had a cell phone number where they could easily be reached (which is always important no matter what).
In the listing details, there are details you don’t want to skim over. For example, in Canyon Lake there was a gorgeous pool– but it wasn’t heated– and since we were visiting in November when it is a bit cooler, that was an important thing to know before attempting to jump in!
The reviews are just as important as the listing detail because you can pick up details that you may not otherwise have known and get an inside look at other’s experiences with the property and host.
At one Airbnb we were looking into, the host had security cameras on the outside of the house which to one guest who left a review felt very intrusive. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with outside cameras but these things are good to know in case it is something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Research The Host’s Other Listings
You may find a gorgeous property on Airbnb but it’s new and doesn’t have any reviews yet. In these cases you can search to see if the host has other properties on the site. You would be surprised at how many hosts have multiple listings. If you find another listing by that host, take a peek into those guest reviews. While reading reviews on the other properties won’t give you a full picture of this particular location, you’ll be able to get a feel for how accommodating and courteous the host is overall.
Another great tip to find reviews about a specific property is to check out other rental sites such as VRBO and HomeAway to see if the property is listed there. You may find a few reviews and deeper info about the Airbnb rental on those sites.
Airbnb Hosting Fees To Look For
Much like hotels, there are often additional charges and those charges can vary. So you’ll want to make sure you look at the fees involved with each rental on AirBnB. You will always have the 5% Airbnb service fee with the nightly rate for each rental– that is standard. However some properties have an extra cleaning fee, additional guests surcharge, and local taxes. Each of these line items can add up quickly. If you’re staying within a specific budget, these extra fees may be your ultimate deciding factor on a location.
Questions To Ask
Once you’ve found a listing you think you’d like and have read through the details, you can contact the owner about availability and ask any questions you may have about the listing. Some of this may be covered in the listing information, so be sure its not there before asking the home owner.
Below are a few questions to consider:
- If you’re renting an Airbnb with a baby, ask if the home has a crib or Pack-N-Play on site. Some homes do, others you may have to bring or rent your own.
- If you’re renting with toddlers or older kids, you can ask if there are toys and games that the kids can play with in the home? Both homes we rented had games and toys– kids love discovering new-to-them play things.
- Do you need to provide your own linens and towels? The 2 homes we rented in California had fresh linens and towels but when I rented in Wildwood with friends we had to bring our own. So just be sure.
- Is there on-site parking?
- Is there a washer dryer that you can use?
- Does the home have basic kitchen essentials such as plates, cups, utensils, etc?
- How would they like you to leave the home and where can you put the garbage?
Leave A Review
After you book and stay at your first Airbnb be sure to leave a review. It’s a nice way to say thank you, give your host feedback and to pay it forward for all of those helpful reviews you read before selecting your first Airbnb. Also, in return the host will likely leave feedback/review for you as a guest– and the more glowing reviews you have, the easier it will be to get approved for your next rental!
Have you ever used Airbnb to rent a property while on vacation?
I’d love to hear some of your experiences and tips you’d offer a newbie looking to book their first vacation home.