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How to Have an Airbnb Experience That Doesn't Suck

Insider Guides Epic Stays
by Amelia Hagen Jan 20, 2017

While I’m WAY past that crucial hostel target market age, I still love to stay at nice ones to meet people and get travel tips. However, when I’m traveling to more remote places where hostels are not an option, Airbnb has saved me! I hear complaints all the time and after having so many great experiences in multiple countries, don’t get it. SO, here are my best recommendations for finding an Airbnb rental that will bring you over to “The Dark Side.”

1. Research which neighborhoods are safe and focus on those first.

This helps narrow things down. How far are these from your transport hubs? If you want to experience the local nightlife, do these locations factor in? Airbnb allows you to zoom in on areas to see what listings are located, how much they are, and whether they are Instant Book ones.

2. Book well in advance.

If you know your destination and dates and want a good Airbnb, I strongly suggest booking two months in advance. You’ll have more options to choose from, increasing your chances of staying closer to or exactly where you want without having to break the bank or stay some place not-so-safe.

3. Know your peak seasons.

These, along with, special events will fluctuate prices as well as expedite the best places filling up. For example, check when major festivals or national holidays are so you won’t be surprised if you come across many listings with minimum night stays. August is peak in Europe and February is peak in New Orleans due to Mardi Gras. Also, double check the weather patterns and seasons. Despite the low rates, I personally wouldn’t recommend the Philippines during typhoon season

4. What type of experience do you want?

Filter for “Entire home” if you want privacy and some guarantee of a creep-free environment. Filter for “Private room” if you want to get to know your host (and are okay with rolling the dice on the situation being potentially sketchy), and have a more fulfilling cultural experience.

5. Superhost?

Look for a tiny gold medal logo with a blue and red ribbon to indicate a Superhost. These hosts have a crazy number of reviews along with very high quality reviews. I stayed with a Superhost in Brazil and she’d only been listing on Airbnb for about 8 months. If the host and listing rock, this gives them extra credit and it’s a guaranteed winner. Relatedly, when you see a cost approximation on Airbnb for example, for two nights, it may say, “This is a rare find. X’s place is usually booked.” This is another excellent sign that you probably want to book this listing ASAP.

6. Do not skimp on reading the reviews!

Read them all to a.) ensure you’re not staying in a dump and b.) to check that the host isn’t going to go nuts if there’s some sort of mishap or miscommunication. Do have a look at the One-stars. Some visitors may be whiny, but if there are one or no-stars for something that’s a red flag that you should read and judge for yourself.

7. How communicative is the potential host?

Airbnb shows how quickly hosts and guests reply to messages through the site. The faster and more frequent, the better, especially when you’re sorting out arrival details and making sure you can get into the accommodation without a problem. Also, look for the lightning bolt symbol for instant book — this usually denotes a professional operation.

8. Look for photos with Airbnb’s verification watermark.

This reveals that a professional Airbnb photographer took the snapshots and what you see is what you get. The more photos, the better, as they can allow you to see how clean the accommodation is. Keep an eye out for fresh plants in the apartment. This often suggests that the place is lived in and isn’t some under-the-radar hotel operation. Is the bed made in the photo? Do the photos feature the same room and appear to have been taken with some old flip-phone? Does the listing have absolutely zero pictures of the interior? These are additional red flags.

9. How is check-out going to work?

Discuss this with your host when you’re picking a place. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because no one is checking in right after you. Other times, it does and it requires coordination of cleaning, baggage storage, etc. Afterwards, be conscientious about your own review, pointing out that hosts can give you bad ratings, and that this will impact your future ability to get nice rooms.

10. Make a wish list!

If you can’t decide on a place but have found a bunch you like, make a wish list in your account and label it with your destination, like “San Diego” or “Barcelona.” You can also share these wish lists with anyone joining you on the trip so they can weigh in on the final decision. Lastly, when you look at a listing page, you can see how many other people added it to a wish list.

It’s all about managing expectations here. If you do your due diligence in picking a place and utilize the tools Airbnb provides you (yes, this may take some time), you’re more likely to book a listing you’ll be happy with. Happy Airbnb hunting!

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