Looking to spend less on your next trip? Skip the hotel, and give Airbnb a try instead.
Airbnb is an online platform offering properties that are often much cheaper than hotel rooms-and there are options available for every budget. If your first priority is saving money, you can opt for a dorm-like shared room. On the other hand, if you can afford to splurge, Airbnb also offers fantastic deals on luxury accommodations.
The booking process can be a little tricky, so check out the following tips for a smooth Airbnb experience, including tips for navigating the site so you find exactly what you're looking for.
Unlike hotels, many Airbnb properties are located in quiet suburbs. It's nice for getting a feel of what life is like for locals, but you could end up wasting too much time and money on transportation to the areas you're hoping to visit.
Airbnb won't give you the exact address of any property before you make a reservation. However, they will show you a map of the neighborhood and highlight attractions, bars and eateries nearby.
Google the neighborhood before you book. Popular neighborhoods often have their own entries on the local tourism website, Wikitravel, or TripAdvisor, and Airbnb itself often provides a neighborhood guide of their own for major cities.
The reviews on the listing also often provide useful details on walkability, public transport, noise levels in the area, etc. Read on for more info on the rating and review process...
Every listing on Airbnb has a review section, where past guests provide a rating and include comments about their experience. It goes without saying that the better the rating, the more likely it is that you'll enjoy your stay.
Reviews may mention that the host likes to take guests rock climbing on his days off or that the host is a foodie who offered amazing restaurant suggestions. On the flip side, the review may warn that the host is disorganized, non-responsive, messy-and possibly not a good fit.
Follow your gut. If a property has zero reviews, you may want to spend extra time making sure everything else about the property fits your preferences to a tee.
If you'll be staying for at least one week, you may be able to get a discounted rate. Some Airbnb hosts specify their nightly, weekly and even monthly rates on the listings. Others just have the same rate no matter how long your stay is. When you search on Airbnb, the system will automatically show you the weekly or monthly rates based on the dates you enter.
Pay close attention to the rates. Many properties charge cleaning fees and extra person charges, while others simply do not. You'll want to keep an eye on extra fees if you're aiming to keep costs as low as possible.
To make an Airbnb booking, you will send a message to the host and wait for a reply to arrange the details of your stay. Alternatively, you can "request to book" a listing and wait for the host to confirm it within 24 hours.
The problem with this system is that some inactive hosts don't update their availability calendars and take too long to reply to messages. If they don't reply within the allotted 24 hours, the request is a bust.
Be sure to include a friendly message with your request to book. Many hosts prefer to know as much as possible about guests before granting access to their homes. This goes for your account profile as well.
If the listing you're after doesn't offer the "Instant Book" feature (described in the next slide), pick a few different alternatives and send messages to all the hosts. This way, you won't waste too much time waiting for any one host to reply, and you'll be ready with other promising listings if your favorite one doesn't work out.
You can avoid dealing with unresponsive hosts altogether with Airbnb's Instant Book feature. With Instant Book listings, there's no need to send messages back and forth, because your reservation will be instantly confirmed. To spot Instant Book listings, look for little lightning icons next to the prices on Airbnb's search results page.
If Airbnb shows you too many listings to choose from, make use of the search filters at the top of the search results page. The default filters let you choose your price range, travel dates and preferred type of property.
Always be sure to select the type of property you're after-this includes whether you're interested in having the whole place to yourself, or if you're willing to share.
To narrow down your search even more, click the "More Filters" button. You'll see options to filter the search results by neighborhood, amenities, and whether Instant Book is available.
Any house rules are usually spelled out in the listing. It's important to remember that Airbnb vacation rentals are private properties, so there may be stricter rules than you're used to. For example, my Airbnb host in Japan asked that we don't wear shoes inside and that we sort the trash according to the city guidelines.
After your stay, your host will be asked to review your account based on how good of a guest you were during your stay, so failing to comply with the house rules can affect your ability to secure bookings in the future.
Don't assume that you'll get toiletries, Internet access, and a TV in the room like you would at hotels. Many Airbnb hosts provide amenities to make your stay more comfortable, but these amenities can vary greatly from property to property. Read each listing closely and ask your host questions when in doubt so you'll know whether to pack some towels, linens and toiletries for your trip.
On the flip side, some listings provide facilities beyond what hotels typically provide. For example, you may get free access to a kitchen, laundry facilities or an outdoor area where you can have a barbecue. One Airbnb property even gave me free access to a shelf full of items left behind by previous guests, including unopened cans of food and even bus tickets!
You'll want to consider whether the presence (or absence) of certain amenities helps you justify the cost of the property or not.
Airbnb properties don't come with a full staff of professional hoteliers who are available 24/7. If you arrive without making prior arrangements with your Airbnb host, you could find yourself locked out with your luggage for hours before your host can come to let you in.
When you make a booking, pay close attention to the check-in and check-out times. Ask your host questions about when and how you can access the property (and how you should leave it when you go). Some hosts prefer to be there when you check in for safety reasons. Others put their keys in mailboxes or under mats so you can check in and out whenever you want.
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