Make the most of your Airbnb experience with these helpful tips!

Airbnb has taken the concept of sleeping on someone’s couch and turned it into a business concept that has made a big impression on the travel industry. It has become a lodging option that many avid world explorers swear by, and for a good reason. The opportunity to stay in a castle in Ireland, a bamboo Eco Cottage in Balia yurt in Colorado, or a house carved into the caldera cliffs in Greece have all become possible with a simple click of a button.

Many travelers are learning about Airbnb and giving it a try for themselves. And no matter how you look at it, renting a whole house on the beach or staying a little studio apartment is, sometimes, just the option needed when traveling with family, pets, or for extended periods of time.

So you can make the most of your next trip, we did a roundup of the top 10 things to know before you stay in an Airbnb.

1. Be Very Specific in Your Property Search

Be as specific as you can with your search to get not only the best match for your needs, but the best value for your dollar. If you need more than one bedroom, search “private room” or "shared room." If you have pets, search "pet-friendly" options. The same goes if you prefer a smoking or non-smoking unit, free parking, Wi-Fi, full kitchen, etc. Basically, the more detailed, the better.

2. Read the ENTIRE Listing

This is a big one. There are often things in the fine print that are very important—some hosts charge fees for things like heating pools, laundry access, and pets, while others have what amenities are and are not provided and things like air conditioning are not a given with an Airbnb. READ EVERYTHING!

Tree house in Atlanta, Airbnb, secluded

Secluded Intown Treehouse, Atlanta | Courtesy of Katie and Peter (via Airbnb)

3. Know the Cancellation and Refund Policies

Owners set their own cancellation policies from Airbnb’s levels of policies: Flexible, Moderate, Strict, Super Strict, Super Strict 60 Days, and Long Term. Some hosts allow for cancelations and offer a full refund up to 24 hours beforehand, while some want 30 days. If a host cancels your reservation, you will always get a full refund. Read your host’s refund policy before you book to make sure you can get a refund if something comes up or is not what you expected.

Here are a few general tips to remember as far as refunds go, three categories of "Eligible Travel Issues" may qualify you for a refund:

  • The host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing.
  • The listing is misrepresented (ex: number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities).
  • The listing isn't generally clean, is unsafe, or there's an animal in the listing that wasn't disclosed prior to booking.
  • Airbnb has its minimum quality standards as well as what qualifies as a travel issue posted online.

bathtub, towels, opening to garden

Courtesy of Pixbay

4. Look at ALL of the Photos, Thoroughly

Photos are really important because you can see exactly what you're getting into. Look closely to see if the photos match the descriptions of the property in the listing (photoshop is a scam, folks). Also, not all hosts are real, so if a property looks too good to be true, do your research. While we want to believe everyone is honest, and Airbnb does a good job of weeding out the fakes, it does happen.

5. Read ALL of the Reviews

We cannot stress the importance of reading reviews and looking at the star ratings that other tenants have left. Looking at how recent the reviews are is a good idea, as well. This is where you will learn about possible issues, tips about the property and host, and things about the surrounding neighborhood. 

Reviews are the only way guests have to give and get organic feedback for an Airbnb property and reading more than just the top few will give you a fairly deep insight into what the host and property are like. Hosts are going to want to share positive feedback whereas previous guests will share honest insight and experience. You know the reviews are legit because guests must go through their verified Airbnb account to post reviews.

6. Research the Area

One big difference between staying at a resort or hotel and staying at an Airbnb is that hotels are usually located in main areas, have ample parking, and grounds crews. Airbnb’s are often located in residential neighborhoods, so there can be parking restrictions, noise restrictions, rules about what kinds of pets that can be had within the city, etc., all of which may affect your stay. Keep in mind, every place will get a negative review or two (hey, you can’t please everyone), but if most reviews are positive, it's likely a good deal.

Using Google Street View to check out the neighborhood is also a great way to get an idea of where you will be staying and what kind of area it is.

7. Know the Airbnb Rules

There are a few non-negotiables with Airbnb. One of them is that guests have 24 hours to report a problem. If you check-in and the place just is not what you expected, you need to let Airbnb know within two-four hours to get a full refund form them. After that, you must negotiate with the owner to see what if any accommodations or refunds they are willing to make for you. First-time users may not know this and can find themselves stuck in a bind if things go south. Another thing to remember is that hosts have 72 hours to fix problems like broken appliances, spotty Wi-Fi, etc. before Airbnb will step in to mediate and resolve an issue.

8. Be a Respectful Guest

This is always the best course of action when you stay anywhere, and Airbnb is no different. Be respectful and courteous, play by the host’s rules, be courteous to neighbors, all that good stuff your mama taught you. With Airbnb, hosts can sometimes charge extra cleaning fees if they feel the place was left too messy or if guests violated the rental agreement.

swimming pool outside at dusk, airbnb

Courtesy of Pixabay

9. Always Communicate Through the Airbnb Site

This is your official paper trail of what happens with your stay start to finish. It is also your way to guarantee you are dealing with an actual approved Airbnb host and not a third-party app or scam. It's your link to the company so make sure all contact goes through Airbnb’s channels, even if your host wants to text or call you, as that they send a message through the service as well.

10. Ask Questions BEFORE You Book

Ask all your questions before you book, this will avoid frustration or surprises later. It also gives you a chance to see how quickly a host will respond; if they take over 24 hours, this may not be a great sign. You also want to ask about fees for things like pets, extra guests, cleaning, and one-time fees, etc. Establishing this connection with the host before you book will help set the tone for your stay and can ease concerns both sides may have about the other.

Airbnb has changed the way we travel, and we love the possibilities that the service brings for possible vacation locations and visiting out there and unusual spots. Most of the time, it's a great experience, and with a little bit of research and forethought, you can enjoy your trip without any hiccups. If you have never stayed at an Airbnb, follow our tips the next time you plan a trip!

What do you think about Airbnb? Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb and had an unforgettable experience? Do you have any tips or must-know information for a great stay that we missed? Give us the scoop in the comments below.