Tips for Using Airbnb

Let’s talk about traveling using Airbnb. Why? Because I don’t know about you guys but I’m already dying for a summer vacation.

Airbnb is an online community of homeowners who list their home/bedroom/apartment to vacationers looking for a place to stay in their city.

It’s not a site with hotels. These are real people offering up their real homes for rent. Airbnb isn’t a property management company, just real people. But it’s totally safe!

But really, how safe is it? Are the pictures they post actually the real rental? How do I know if I can trust these people?

And it might get even a little more intimidating if you’re thinking about traveling abroad, am I right?

Let’s go through the Airbnb site together. Having a friend walk you through it can sometimes ease your mind.

Airbnb – What is it? 

Their “About” page explains that Airbnb is a marketplace of rentals that helps connect travelers to “unique accommodations around the world.” You can definitely find some unique places to stay (like a real tree house in San Francisco), but you can also find some normal homes and apartments in “unique to you” locations. So they have “unique” pretty well covered.

You can literally find a place to stay anywhere. Iceland, Cape Town, Nairobi. Or keep it a little more local with San Francisco, Miami, or Detroit.

How does it work? 

Well, it’s pretty simple. You type in a destination and travel dates (or not, you don’t really have to know specific dates if you just want to browse) and – BOOM! Apartments, homes, rooms, tents, couches, tree houses, all kinds of lodging options magically appear. Airbnb shows you a map so you can see where each rental is relative to the specific city you searched. The results will also show you a price per night so you can decide if it fits your budget.

If you have specific travel dates it will show you the rate for those dates. You can click on a rental you like to learn more about it, like how many bedrooms it has, what additional accommodations are there (like a laundry room, kitchen, TVs), and the hosts usually tell you a bit about the area. You can also scroll through all of the posted pictures.

How do I book it? 

Once you’ve found a place you love and have decided you’re ready to book, confirm the dates of your stay are entered correctly and click “Book.” You’ll have to create an account your first time. Then review the charges, confirm the dates again, and leave a note for the host. Leaving a note is optional but it can be really helpful if you’re wanting some tips because you’ve never traveled there before. Then confirm payment. It’s super simple!

What’s the catch? 

You’ll only have a hiccup if you don’t review the listing details. In addition to the cost per night for your stay, you’ll want to look at the Prices box as you scroll down through the details of the listing. In this section, the host will list things like cleaning fees and additional guest fees.

Another charge that will be included when you check out is the Service Fee that Airbnb charges. This fee fluctuates based on the rental and the length of your stay. But it will always be displayed in the box on the right that shows you the cost once you select the dates of your stay.

Another thing you want to make sure you review is the cancellation policy for the rental. Each host comes up with their own cancellation policy so it will vary from rental to rental. Most hosts will also have a section in their listing details called House Rules where they list restrictions on smoking, pets, and check-in/out times. Make sure you read over those too.

Okay, but how do I know it’s safe? 

The number one best way to make sure the listing is as great as it seems is to read the reviews of other guests. There’s no incentive for guests to post good reviews so you can be pretty sure that what the reviewers are saying is how they really feel. You should also do some research on you own about the area to make sure it’s in a safe location.

Also, to make sure the host is actually who they say they are, they have the option to provide their ID to Airbnb so that they become Verified. You can click on the picture of the host in the listing to see if they are verified to be extra safe.

Another great safety feature is that Airbnb associates are available to provide support 24/7. So if you ever have any questions about your rental either before arriving or after, you can always reach out directly to Aibnb.

If you want to read more about the safety and security of booking on Airbnb, visit their “Trust” page.

Is my payment secure?

Airbnb handles all of the money. Your information isn’t shared with the host. They get paid by Airbnb – not by you. So your payment information is kept secure.

Pro Tip: Make sure you’re a good guest.

After your stay, the host will have the opportunity to review you as a guest. If you don’t follow the House Rules, the host will not leave a positive review.

Why does it matter? Well, the next time you request to book another rental on Airbnb, the new host will see the previous host’s comment and can decline to let you stay. Airbnb really emphasizes community. They provide trustworthy hosts, and it’s up to you to also be a trustworthy guest.

After your stay, review the rental and host.  

Just like the host will review you as a guest, you should also review the rental and the host.

Was the rental as it appeared in the pictures? Did the host go above and beyond and leave you a welcome gift when you arrived? Was the host available if you had questions? Were the beds comfortable? Did you like that you could walk to local bars and restaurants?

Think about what information you’d like to know before booking and try to be as helpful as possible for future renters.

Some last minute thoughts: 

I love Airbnb. It’s great for family vacations, or if you just need a weekend getaway. You can use it for a honeymoon or bachelor/bachelorette party, church or group retreat, and you can even find some homes to rent for the entire summer. The possibilities really are endless.

I also like that a lot of the prices (especially for international travel) are cheaper than hotels. And you get the feeling of really living there instead of just staying there. It’s important to do some of your own research, and most importantly, make sure you’re a courteous guest.

Happy traveling!

If you’re serious about planning a vacation, check out 7 Steps to A Vacation Savings Plan and get a jumpstart on saving for your Airbnb vacation!

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