Airbnb: Tips and Tricks

I've used Airbnb almost a dozen times, both within the United States and abroad. When I tell this to people who have never used the website before, I get strange reactions. The most common one is, "You stay in a person's home? While they're still living there? Isn't that awkward?!" I was a little nervous after booking my first Airbnb stay almost two years ago. I was looking for lodging near Radford, Virginia, to see my brother graduate from college. I found a great listing for a private room near Virginia Tech, and the host was a lovely local with great reviews. For only $50 per night, it was a steal. Luckily, my experience was great. My host provided water bottles, snacks, clean towels, toiletries, and breakfast items in the morning, and she made me feel completely comfortable in her home.

But not all Airbnbs are created equally. I do have some "horror" stories, but none of them are that bad. While in Paris, I stayed in a cluttered studio with a broken bathroom door that wouldn't close. You could see a clear view of the toilet from almost any angle in the room. With two people staying in the studio, that was not ideal, ha! (Our host was really sweet, though, so that sort of made up for it.) There was also the apartment in Dublin with a broken shower (I had to stick my head under the faucet to wash my hair), and the studio in Baltimore that didn't have AC in the middle of August. East Coast humidity is no joke.

So, how can you avoid a bad experience and book an awesome Airbnb? Here are five tips that will help you have a great Airbnb experience during your next vacation.

1. Read the reviews.

This seems obvious, but read through as many reviews of the property as you can before booking. Travelers mention all kinds of valuable things in their reviews, like if the WiFi signal was strong, how reliable the host was with communication, and if there were any inconveniences. If you choose a property with mostly 4-5 star ratings and thoroughly scope out the reviews, you'll probably have a good experience.

2. And read the through the entire listing.

This also seems obvious, but I skipped out on this step once, and I paid for it. The previously mentioned studio in Baltimore with no AC in the middle of August? Well, that was my fault. The listing said there was no air conditioning, and there were multiple reviews that mentioned the uncomfortable heat. However, I was blinded by the great price/location. Luckily, the host was understanding when I explained to her that I was in Baltimore for medical treatment and couldn't deal with the stifling humidity. But I could've avoided the hassle of trying to find a last-minute hotel if I had read through the listing properly.

3. Do plenty of research on the city you're visiting.

Before you pick a place to stay, make sure you research districts and neighborhoods in the city you're visiting. You might find a gorgeous apartment for a great price, but later find out it's in a run-down area. When I stayed in an Airbnb in Los Angeles, I thought the price was too good to be true. And it was. Knowing nothing about the area, Hollywood *sounded* amazing, but the location sucked. Our host told us to watch our backs walking around after dark, which wasn't the warmest welcome. We also didn't realize parking would be nearly impossible to find, so we ended up paying $20/night to park our rental car in a sketchy lot down the street. 

4. Ask questions before you book.

Are there specific things you're wondering about, like proximity to the airport, if you can do on-site laundry, or if certain places are walking distance? Ask the host! Every host I've ever messaged has been kind, informative, and willing to help. This is the easiest way to get direct answers to any lingering questions you might have.

5. Hang out with your host. 

My best Airbnb experience was in Corofin, Ireland. Our hosts were super friendly and cooked us a huge Irish breakfast in the morning. We spent two hours eating, discussing the differences between Europe and the United States, and enjoying each other's company. By the end of our visit, they felt like family. If you have an opportunity to hang out with your host, do it! Ask them about their favorite local spots and swap travel stories over a beer or a glass of wine. Spending time with a local is one of the best ways to get to know a new city.

Airbnb might be a little intimidating at first, but after you use it once or twice, you'll be hooked! Just follow these tips, use common sense, and keep an open mind. Chances are, you'll have an awesome trip.

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Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb? How was your experience?