I can’t count the number of places we have booked on Airbnb personally. We’ve found one-month apartment rentals in Cape Town, Belgrade, and Lagos when we wanted to slow down. I remember receiving our first Airbnb discount code like it was yesterday, and since then our travels have never been the same.
We realize that scoring that perfect Airbnb may not be as easy to first-time users, so we wanted to share a few of our Airbnb booking tips for you! Let’s talk about the sharing platform first.
Love or Hate Airbnb?
We have a love/hate relationship with Airbnb.
I hate Airbnb because of damage the sharing economy has inflicted on the housing market. Five years ago, getting a one year lease may have been an easy and affordable affair. Now, it is common to purchase property as an investment to rent on Airbnb or even sign a lease. With Airbnb, landlords are able to double or even triple what a monthly tenant would pay. So it’s easy to understand the appeal of renting short term. I mean if you were a homeowner would you rather get $800/week for your property or have a long-term tenant for $1200 a month?
It has resulted in rental prices around the world sky-rocketing. I recently found a one-month basic apartment rental in Nicaragua for $2000, in a country where the average salary is $400 a month. That doesn’t sound right to me. Airbnb also charges guests 12% to use their platform, and 3% to the host. For the hosts, I think this is a great deal because sites like Booking.com and Agoda charge 15-20%. As an Airbnb user, 12% can really tack a lot on to the total cost of a rental.
To top it all off, my Airbnb customer service experience has been horrendous. I can’t speak on behalf of a host, but again as a guest, you don’t have much authority when it comes to problems with your rental experience. What started out as two guys renting an air mattress in their living room, has turned into yet another impersonal company. Along the way, it seems they lost sight of the customer.
That being said, we have been in and out of dozens of Airbnb rentals. Almost all of them were tremendous experiences. Airbnb gives travelers like us an easy and viable hotel alternative. As long-term travelers, we actually prefer to stay in an apartment or house as it affords us all the amenities of a home. That means we can cook, watch TV, wash our clothes, sit at a comfortable desk, and feel at home. It is a more comfortable and personal way to travel.
When traveling with a family or group we can all fit into a home, rather than multiple hotel rooms. A massive plus as it now allows people to socialize and enjoy their trip together. Yes, it was possible to find rentals before Airbnb, but not with the ease and assurance that their website brought.
Airbnb places you in touch with locals, much more than a hotel has ever provided us. We’ve had drinks, lunches, and long chats with some of our Airbnb host. They also provide a local’s insight into their region and almost always share a small part of their home with us.
It’s those reasons that we recommend Airbnb on our site. To people like us, that value a “home” when they travel and want to integrate with the community it continues to draw us back. For now, we can not replace it. Which is why we want to offer an Airbnb first time coupon so you can decide for yourself what you think.
Tips to Score the Perfect Airbnb
Check your settings
The first thing you to want to do when you begin your search for an Airbnb rental is to make sure your settings are correct. I know this sounds simple, but even we have messed up the settings on Airbnb’s platform and travel is our life (our job really). First, put in how many people you will be traveling with so you don’t book too many or too few beds. You may notice that the price may increase with the more people in your party.
The big thing here is determining if you want an entire place, private room, or shared room. We almost always want our own apartment. Entire places typically cost more than a private room, but we never feel comfortable staying in someones home. However, we have made the mistake before of booking an entire apartment based off a properties photos and description only to find out it was actually a private room in their home. So do your due diligence!
Set the dates
This is your chance to set the dates you need. Many hosts will offer discounts for stays longer than a week, and if you’re staying longer than a month you may also see a discount. Airbnb automatically includes this discount in the final price.
Set your price point
Airbnb gives you the option to set your price maximum with a line graph.
Check the location
Many times when you start playing with prices and getting pickier with your Airbnb rental Airbnb’s website will automatically widen your location search. So, pay special attention to the map and location details of the places you are looking at so your rental is exactly where you want it.
Turn off Instant Book
Airbnb has implemented a super annoying feature called “Instant book.” Meaning when selected you are only seeing places that you can instantly book greatly limiting your search results. Airbnb’s interface automatically switches this on for you so make sure to turn it off.
Decide if you’re okay with a cleaning fee
Many Airbnb hosts add a cleaning fee to their rental. I’ve seen cleaning fees range anywhere from $5 to $85 per stay. To me paying a $50 fee for a one to two night Airbnb rental is not okay, so I will disregard a property when I see this. Longer stays are easier to justify a cleaning fee, and it all depends on the total price a night.
Cameron and I have managed to receive glowing guest reviews over the years as we leave Airbnb’s clean when we leave. This actually has given us a bit of negotiating power and we sometimes ask hosts to knock off the cleaning fee if we promise to leave it the same way we found it. However, as a newbie Airbnb user, this may not be possible.
No matter if you are paying a cleaning fee or not you should still keep your place like you would want your home to be kept. These are private homes and apartments so treat them with respect.
Make sure there are reviews
The number one thing I look for when choosing an Airbnb is reviews and a plethora of them. Generally, we try to book Airbnb’s with at least 10 or more reviews, but even that is on the low end.
We have only booked one place before with no reviews before and it was a total gamble that turned out to be fantastic. The good thing is when a property is new and doesn’t have any reviews the host may lower the price for the first couple of guests. Everyone has to start somewhere!
Read the reviews
Now that you’ve found a place with a lot of reviews you need to actually read the reviews. Make sure they are positive and that good things are being said about both the host and the actual property. The longer we are staying at a place the more in-depth I will analyze.
The bad thing I’ve found about Airbnb is that the review system is a little manipulative. With Airbnb, you often have face to face interactions with the owner – which is great – but it means that people are less likely to leave bad reviews and notes when they should be made. It’s hard to meet a friendly person and then complain about things that should be noted.
Also, Airbnb gives the host the option to review guests it means that guests are less likely to complain when they feel they should. When you are reviewing a Marriott or Hyatt you are more likely to go into detail about complaints and negative experiences, since the receiving end isn’t an individual. Just keep that in mind when you’re looking at reviews.
Look for a Superhost
If you are super wary of booking an Airbnb then consider switching on the “Superhost” function when searching. Superhosts have to maintain a high response rating, be an active user, glowing reviews, and never cancel on guests. Super hosts generally charge more for their status but you get what you pay for.
Read the description properly
Read the description of the place you are considering. I always make sure there is internet as that is important to Cameron and I, but the description can tell you many other things. Also, pay attention to the check in and check out times since you’re arriving at a real person’s place. So checking at 2 am after a long flight may not really work for Airbnb and you should opt for a hotel that is open 24 hours.
Check the cancellation policy
If you think there is any chance your trip could fall through try to book a place with a flexible cancellation policy. Many hosts have a non-refundable cancellation policy and if you book one of these and have to cancel Airbnb will not be on your side when it comes to a refund.
Message the host before you book
I never, ever instant book a place. That’s because I like to message the host and tell them about us, why we are traveling there, and any details about the trip. This is my test to make sure the host is responsive and personable. It also helps answer any important questions regarding our trip.
Request a discount
If you are staying for a week or longer you may be in the position to contact the host and ask for a discount on the price. They don’t have to say yes, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Good past reviews don’t hurt your chances of getting a discount either. We often request special rates from hosts – especially in the shoulder or off seasons. If it’s mid-summer and you’re booking a place at the beach you probably won’t be able to score a discount.
Consider the fees
It’s worth noting that Airbnb charges guests a whopping 12% “Service Fee” on top of the rental price for using their service. This is in addition to the 3% they are charging the host. The fee is unavoidable if you are booking through their platform.
Of course, you can message the host and try to take things into your own hands, but you’ll realize as soon as you try this that Airbnb’s platform blocks out all emails, social handles, and phone numbers to prevent this. It’s also worth noting that if you do take things off of Airbnb to reduce the fees you lose any right to contact Airbnb if there is a problem – this goes for both the guest and the host.
Call Airbnb as soon as there is a problem
If you realize there is a problem once you check in to your new place don’t hesitate to tell your host first. If the host doesn’t resolve it quickly then don’t wait to contact Airbnb. You have 24 hours to notify them of a problem and they should help you get it sorted.
Without further ado here is your Airbnb coupon code
Hope you guys have an awesome travel experience whether you decide to go with Airbnb or not. If it’s your first time, here is a $40 Airbnb discount code from us to you!
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