Wondering what is Airbnb and why should you use it? Well, then you’ve come to the right place. With tips on booking the best Airbnb even in the prime locations of Airbnb San Francisco or Airbnb Orlando, here’s everything you need to know about Airbnb.
I’ve always been an avid vacation rental user. I wrote a post last year on tips for choosing the best vacation rental and today I’m going to be sharing tips from expert Airbnb users on how to get the best Airbnb rentals the first time even if you’re an Airbnb newbie.
I’ve stayed in Airbnb locations in San Francisco, Tampa, Dallas, and other parts of Florida and can definitely say it’s a great way to save money when you’re traveling on a budget. But first, let’s back up.
What is Airbnb?
If you want the full details, you can check out the Airbnb website. I’m going to give you my point of view as an Airbnb user. Airbnb is basically people renting out a room or a whole house to make a little extra money. Unlike most vacation rental websites, most Airbnb properties that I’ve stayed in are actually houses that people are living in.
This isn’t always the case as we’ve stayed somewhere that is more of a vacation rental, but often times when you book via Airbnb you are booking a room in a house someone lives in that they have either vacated for a long or short period of time. You stay in someone’s house at a discounted price, while they stay somewhere else.
I tell you that because the first time we stayed in an Airbnb we expected it to be just like a vacation rental – bare, impersonal, and setup just for guests. It was the opposite; the guys who owned the property left when we showed up, and it was obvious they had been working there up until the moment we arrived.
I was a little thrown by the idea because we weren’t prepared to have their food still in the fridge or to have their work setup in the living room, but once we got past the shock of it all, we had a great experience.
How Does Airbnb Work?
It’s pretty simple actually. You just go to the Airbnb website, search for a particular location with filters like private room or entire house, and find a place that works for your needs.
Some of the rentals are Airbnb instant book where you can book right away and some are ones that you’ll need to submit your request and get approval from the hosts before your booking is confirmed. Airbnb takes care of all of the money exchanging and serves as a place for communication between you and your hosts.
Why Airbnb is a Great Option
We travel a lot and booking hotels everywhere gets expensive, but that’s not the only reason Airbnb is a great alternative. We’ve used it numerous times for these reasons alone:
- You can save a lot of amount of money compared to a standard vacation rental or hotel room
- You can find places to stay in locations that don’t offer many standard lodging options
- Airbnb’s Customer Service Team guarantees that you’ll have a good stay or you’ll be taken care of
- You often get the chance to interact with and meet your hosts/locals
- You can book as small (a single room) or as big (an entire house) as you need
- The option to book an entire house gives you a kitchen, a gathering space, and room to play
- There are often options available last minute so they’re perfect for pack and go travel!
Tips for Booking the Best Airbnb Locations
There are a lot of people renting out spaces on Airbnb and there are definitely ways to make sure that every Airbnb stay is a great one. I polled a number of my travel blogger friends to get their tips on using Airbnb so you can be assured these tips really do help.
1 – Ask questions
Communicate with the host and ask questions before booking anything. Ask about the bed arrangements, ask if there is WiFi, ask if there is parking, etc. Don’t just rely on what’s already written in the system, ask to make sure if it’s something important to you.
We once rented a two-bedroom that ended up being a one-bedroom and a little office with no door, which didn’t work as a bedroom for us with a two-year-old. If we had seen pictures of the rooms beforehand, we probably would’ve stayed elsewhere with two actual bedrooms. This room just couldn’t keep our toddler in.
Once you’ve decided which property to book, don’t end the line of communication. Typically the host either lives in the area or is very familiar with the area and can give you good ideas for places to eat, things to do, or other tips you may not have thought about. Use their knowledge to your advantage.
2 – Stick with superhosts
Airbnb gives you the ability to search for properties by superhosts, or hosts that have proven their reputation as hosts through at least 10 hosted trips that year, a 90% response rate, five-star reviews, and low cancellations. The first couple of times you book through Airbnb stick with superhosts so you know you’re getting a seasoned host, it really does make all the difference.
Once you’re more comfortable with the process, branch out to other hosts, I mean everyone needs a chance to prove themselves at some point. Just make sure to communicate with them beforehand.
3 – Use Airbnb reviews and recommendations
If you’re going to use Airbnb in a big city like San Francisco or Chicago, ask around to see if anyone you know has been recently and used Airbnb. Just like with anything else, personal recommendations are huge and can give you that extra assurance that a host or property is a good one.
If you don’t know anyone personally, always read the Airbnb reviews to see what people say. If multiple people say the WiFi was spotty or the rooms were dirty, it’s probably a safe bet that those are real issues.
4 – Double-check cancellation policies
Airbnb allows hosts to select one of five different cancellation policies (excluding long-term) and they’re all a bit different in terms of what is refundable, how far in advance you need to cancel for a refund, etc. For instance, if a property has a flexible cancellation policy you can cancel and get a full refund (minus fees) up until 1 day before your arrival.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum is the 60 day strict where you will only receive a 50% refund if you cancel 60 days before your arrival. For the properties with super strict cancellation policies, make sure you’re definitely going to stay so you don’t lose money.
Airbnb Customer Service
So what if you follow all of the tips above and something still goes wrong? The Airbnb customer service team encourages you to try to resolve your issue with the host first but if that doesn’t work, the Airbnb customer service team is fantastic.
We recently ran into an issue where there was a computer glitch with the location of the property we booked; the location on the listing didn’t match the actual location provided after I booked.
The host didn’t think it was an issue and wouldn’t let me cancel without keeping half of my money but the Airbnb customer service team looked into it and refunded everything, including all of the service fees pretty much immediately because they recognized the glitch.